Rob Sullivan

York drummer and artist Rob Sullivan is releasing his first album titled Traditionalist. 

Interview by Jane Howkins.

You’re about to release an album titled Traditionalist, under the name of ‘Sully’. What can you tell us about it?

It’s nothing major – I just wanted a benchmark and a goal to hit. I’m of the distraction generation so I made a pledge to sit down at the computer with Garageband for a few hours and adjust samples, mess with kicks and snares, and play producer. The first couple of years of making beats/producing were pretty painful, even Kanye admitted this in an older interview. But you get more efficient, and learn to know which samples to chop, what the right effects are, how to mix properly, and how to use all the plugins. The name was just something that came from me being right/Conservative-leaning politically, and because I believe we’re at an inflection point for the arts. Liberals have generally controlled music and movies for the past ½ century and I wish conservatives would make more of an effort to produce more non-classical/non-country music. I sense that a change is coming and hope this is a Donnie Darko album – it gets ignored for a few years then turns into a cult…

The music on the album would probably be best described as being within the ‘ambient’ genre. Is that something you’re particularly into, or is it a new interest for you?

It’s relatively new, I started listening to guys like RDJ (Aphex Twin) and Squarepusher a couple of months ago and enjoyed the sound, this lead me to the likes of Autechre, Luke Vibert, u-Ziq and Boards of Canada. I like a bunch of ‘90s electronic/drill and bass type stuff where the Amen or a James Brown break is chopped up, sped up dramatically and sounds chaotic with a load of moody synths in the background. For a long time I’ve been into guys like Bonobo and especially DJ Shadow, obviously his groundbreaking older material but also his more recent stuff (The Mountain Will Fall), and some of the Californian producers that are putting out heavy instrumental beats – I like trap instrumentals generally but can’t stand the lyrics or content so wanted to play around with some of that too.

Who/what influences you, and are there any acts you would recommend our readers check out?

All the artists above plus people like Underworld, Leftfield, Crystal Method, Orbital, Groove Armada, Ceephax Acid Crew, Burzum, Andy Stott. Old school hip hop – J Dilla, Madlib, RZA, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, if all you know is modern rap (Drake, Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and so on), you’re missing out. In terms of more unique acts, Alex G is a really talented songwriter, good work rate (couple of albums a year). For hip hop too, look no further than Homeboy Sandman, I sampled his acapella on FDA Will Pay.

You’ve recently been drumming alongside Harrison Rimmer and Gaz Rowntree in the Harrison Rimmer Band. How did that come about and were you a fan of Harrison’s music beforehand?

I’ve known Harry since I was about 3 years old, we went to Rossall together in Fleetwood for primary school and have stayed very close friends since. When he was about 12 he started getting into guitar and I had a hunger for drumming so after going through the initial learning pains of being pretty terrible (the usual drummer stuff – no technique, bleeding fingers, thumb joint being destroyed) we started writing songs at about 14-15. We both liked hard rock/grunge so it tended to be that type of sound and we’ve kept going on and off since then, doing initial gigs in Blackpool. I met Gaz in 2015, and got along really well with him, he’s a cracking bass player and bloke and it was a no-brainer to get him on board with the band, it adds a major dimension to the songs.

We actually saw you perform together at the Basement at one of your first gigs as a group. Do you have any more gigs coming up with the band?

Currently nothing planned, we’re on a mini-hiatus, we’ve all got a million different commitments in different parts of the country and abroad at the moment. Gaz has actually pulled a Tom Delonge and started chasing UFOs in Selby.

Do you have much of an impact on the songwriting, now that you’ve been performing with Harrison for a while?

They’re Harry’s songs really, he’s written the guitar parts so I keep mostly to the drumming. Nothing is fixed though, if I hopped on the bass and came up with a good riff, we’d use it.

You also performed with a band called The Deep in the Derby area. What can you tell us about the band and that period of your life? Would you ever want to reconnect with The Deep?

Yeah it was fun – I was in Derby for about 7 months in 2015 at a new job and met Eric the bass player through JoinMyBand. I checked their stuff out on YouTube and it was solid so I got in touch with some clips of me playing and we started rehearsing at SoundHub in Belper and booked a few gigs. Nice having a female vocalist too, meant we could cover things like Massive Attack. I stay in touch with Eric and Jack (the guitarist) and would play with them again, but the location is the issue.

We hear you have started Djing. How did that come about, and is there anywhere in York our readers can see you perform? What sort of music do you like to use when Djing?

To clarify, I have been DJ’ing a couple of months but am still on the hunt for an initial gig. Looking at the Northern Quarter bars in Manchester but would take a bigger venue if the opportunity presented it, somewhere like Joshua Brooks or Antwerp Mansion (got to be ambitious!). I’d be down with playing anywhere in York, small or big, love the city. My three main areas are really hip hop/funk & soul, techno and house (deep, commercial, soulful). I’ve been leaning more towards the latter two recently.

You’ve clearly had quite a varied musical career so far. Do you have anything else planned for 2017, and what would you like to work on next?

I want to focus on DJ’ing mostly for 2017, but more production too. I have visions of putting together a live electronic band in Manchester, playing frenetic/ambient Aphex/Squarepusher type stuff with some classical musicians and others but have to find the right people and make it profitable, not sure if the demand for such a thing exists yet. Production wise, focusing more on techno, a different beast to the 4-5 minute stuff I’ve been doing, and the workflow in GB isn’t great, so I might just get a ghost writer like Avicii or David Guetta do. Short answer –

Any last words for the fans?