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“Atomos“, the second majestic album of the collaboration between Dustin O’Halloran and Stars Of The Lid’s Adam Wiltzie has been published a few days ago. Dustin O’Halloran talks about how the project got started, its creative process and its future persèectives.
How did you and Adam first get in touch and how do you realize you wanted to make music together?
We met in 2007 in Bologna at a Sparklehorse concert. At the time Adam was playing guitar with Sparklehorse and my good friend and sound engineer Francesco Donadello from Giardini Di Mirò invited me to the show. We ended up meeting back stage and talked mostly about being Americans living in Europe , but later shared music with each other and became fans of each others music.
Adam mostly worked on ambient music, while after Devics you become a composer: how do your artistic experience and personalities find a balance in A Winged Victory For The Sullen?
It has always been a really natural balance and one we found very quickly. I think we both have spent a lot of our musical lives exploring different sides of music.. and when we started making music together it was easy to give each other space to do what we do best. Adam is great at creating space and finding what is essential in a piece.. and I think I am good at building melodic structures. And I think we both have learned a lot from each other… as now with the new record its hard to say who did what part.. it’s all mixed now. Sometimes I play a guitar and he plays piano.
Who is “the sullen” of your band name? Any reference to a mood of your music when choosing the name of the project?
Well for us the sullen represents the slow part of our music.. the space and minimal parts we create.
How has your personal and working relationship evolved between the two albums?
The first album was a longer journey over 2 years ..slowly working on the album and traveling to different acoustic spaces we wanted to capture on the album. We recorded the piano in an old church in Berlin, the strings in the old DDR radio studios in Berlin, we traveled to Udine to record on a beautiful Fazioli piano and in the end mixed it in a 16th century villa in Ferrara where Francesco Donadello built an analogue studio. It was a time when we didn’t know where the music was going to take us.. and we were becoming friends.. and finding great food! I think that what we learned from making our album “Atomos” is that our first record was not just a one off and we have more to explore.
Has there been some important difference in the creation and recording process of the albums?
“Atomos” has been a very different experience from our first album, first because we wrote the entire record in almost four months. But we also didn’t know where this record would take us , only that we knew it would first serve as the score to Wayne McGregor’s dance piece. We worked together in both of our studios in Berlin and Brussels, but also recorded some bits with Ben Frost in his studio in Reykjavík, Iceland, and finally mixed again with Francesco Donadello in his new analogue studio in Berlin. Our creative process is always a little mysterious to us.. somehow we always end up in different places from where we start. The main difference this time was we had some inspiration to start with from Wayne.. he had a strong concept of innerspace and outerspace and the formation of atomos, so we had a place to begin.
How much important are the places where you record your music?
I think mostly the acoustic places have been more important than the locations ( cities) . When we write the strings or the piano.. we always envision a certain acoustic reverb and we try to find a place to record to capture this in a real way.
“Atomos” started from music for a dance performance: are you interested in the association of your music with different forms of art?
This was both of our first experiences working with dance.. and honestly we never thought anyone would ever dance to our music! But it was a very liberating creating music that we know would have another visual element to it…and somehow dance seems to lend itself so natural to music. Wayne McGregor was such a great collaborator in the way that he gave us so much freedom to work the way we do and also inspire us to explore new worlds.
In the first album, a track (“Requiem For The Static King Part 1”) is dedicated to the memory of Mark Linkous, which has been a very important artist but made quite different music: does other artists’ music have an influence on the one you create?
Mark was an important artists as if it was not for him we would have never met or made our album . He died during the making of our first album so it seemed only right to dedicate the first album to him. I think as a musical influence we both can agree on Gavin Bryars. On our first tour we did an arrangement of his classic piece “ Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet” which is such a powerful piece of music.
Is there a specific goal or a given time for the A Winged Victory For The Sullen project?
We have never made any plans with this project for the future. .we originally wanted to create one song.. and it turned into an album. But I think as long as we feel compelled to create music together we will continue…but we don’t make plans for the future.. I think it’s what keeps it feeling vital. We only do it for the love of it.
And what place does A Winged Victory For The Sullen occupy now among the other project you both run?
I think A Winged Victory For The Sullen has become an important project to both of us. We didn’t really plan this..it’s just happened. But its been a really rewarding project so far …and I think because the music is really something only the two of us can create together it feels it has a life of its own. Its what I am interesting in doing at the moment… so I follow that.
What do you think of the increasingly growing “modern classical” releases floating around? For what a definition might mean, do you like it?
I think everyone needs labels and I’m not sure if its right to try to put a label on it as everyone is working in such a different ways. I feel our music has as much to do with electronic, ambient, rock, experimental as it does classical… it’s all a mix of influences and experiences. Personally I have always been composing and interested in composition so it never felt like I was a part of some trend… I was just continuing what I was interested in musically.
Did you both have references to classical composers when approaching the project? Do you feel its results close to some classical stuff?
We never really thought about it that much… Adam has been working with Stars Of The Lid for many years developing these special guitar sounds and I have been working on piano compositions so its really a mix of what both do. Our new album “Atomos” is maybe a departure from that in the sense that there is less piano and less guitar and we worked more on string arrangements and sound experiments.
What do you think about the way music spreads nowadays through the web?
Its good in most ways that you are able to reach so many people and the artist is more in control artistically , but obviously no one really makes much money in making records anymore so it’s a double edge. People expect you to tour and keep making albums… and how is this supposed to happen on no budgets? We are lucky as we have other projects that help us keep A Winged Victory For The Sullen going. But I really feel for new artists and the struggle it is to survive and continue making music.
Are you going to play your music live? Would you like to do it with an orchestra?
We have a pretty extensive tour planned that will take us all over Europe, USA and Australia. We always play with three to five string players.. but last year we played with a full string orchestra in Brussels and would be great to do it again!