Since his arrival in 2017, Sullivan King has been transforming the landscape of electronic music with a fiery stylistic collision that marries the potent, bass heavy wallop requisite of the genre, with a deft showcase of his rock and metal DNA.
Equally proficient with a guitar draped over his shoulder or commanding the crowd from behind the DJ booth, King's creative vision is far more than some contrived angle to differentiate himself as a musician and producer. Cutting his teeth as a guitarist, then finding his voice on the microphone, Keaton Prescott opted early to fully immerse himself in the culture - making music was never intended to be a hobby or even a profession - this was life.
Driven by that kind of all-in commitment and wired to be especially meticulous with his craft, Prescott's creative persona in Sullivan King began to develop. Fully understanding and embracing every element of the songwriting process, Prescott's ingenuity segued into a creative evolution that flourished as his skill and identity converged.
Compelled by the energy at the core of both rock and electronic music, Prescott's stage amalgam in Sullivan King boldly marches into a modern era of music that continues to see genre lines blurred, boundaries defied, and communities galvanized with the same kind of appreciation that fuels Prescott to keep his foot on the gas. HIs recent signing to scene authority and forward thinking banner Hopeless Records marks a pivotal moment in what has already been a stellar professional showing for King.
The first page of the Hopeless Records chapter of King's masterpiece enlists Aaron Glllespie of Underoath for the introductory track, "Dark Love". A tidal wave of sound packaged into a 3-minute single, Sullivan King's ability to steer the ship as a songwriter resonates in impressive fashion and underscores his thorough understanding of both the EDM and rock world such that he can articulate himself this fluidly in both.
Eager to share his vision with the world, King detailed what is in the works and how his unlikely blend of genres is indicative of the overall health of a scene that thrives in thinking outside the box.
You’re an artist that has played arenas. You’ve held court over massive crowds. Having said that, do you feel like this new Hopeless records era for Sullivan King is an reintroduction of sorts and how exciting is that for you?
King - There’s something correct bout that and there’s also a different perspective that I have about that. The mountain of dance music is little easier to climb in getting to that arena level. It’s not like you have to have a huge radio hit because It’s just a little more geared toward the live element than like the listenability. Getting to that 10, 15-thousand cap place, I’m obviously not heading those but you know I’ve played festivals of 20, 30, 40 thousand people, we’ve done stuff like that but the runway for that is way different than say, putting together a band and having to get a huge record deal. The Hopeless side of things is like, oh shit, we’re bringing in a certain sound to that sort of face in the EDM world and now it’s like how can we almost translate it to the other side where it’s usually like, the other way around right? Now it’s kind of this fun experiment of like, ‘alright we’ve got to arenas in this music’ but how do we now do that in the rock space and have it make sense because it’s a completely different animal.
Avenged Sevenfold, Thrice, Enter Shikari, Silverstein, the Used - signing with Hopeless seems like very strategic move given the label’s alumni.
King - For me, it wasn’t as much of a strategic thing in the sense of like, ‘this is going to push my career to the X point,' obviously that is a part of it but the real reason is because of the people you just named. That is something that is such a validation in being able to do something different while still getting the acknowledgment from a label that I grew up loving the bands that they released and the scene that they built. It’s just kind of like, I get to contribute to that while also getting to shine a new light on the music that I’ve written over the last 2, 3 years that didn’t necessarily fit into the discography at the time. It's getting to widen that scope of what you can do with heavy music. I think that’s the main reason for doing it.
Underoath really differentiated themselves by utilizing electronic elements in their arrangements years ago. How fitting was it that this first outing was a collaboration with Aaron Gillespie?
King - It was like everything that I could’ve asked for. When It came to talking with Hopeless about the record and it actually happening, it was a huge pinnacle point of people that were already bringing in electronic elements. The thing that I think it’s interesting for people to recognize is that it’s not just bringing in electronic elements, it’s actually like dance. A dance show is totally different. It feels totally different. And that’s what we’re doing, keeping a consistent groove and keeping a consistent tone that feels more seamless whereas electronic elements of stuff, it’s just like the sonic portion of it. But there’s like an actual live aspect to this music and that is what gets me excited. Giving that to his audience in the sense of that it’s going to feel totally familiar. People are really excited especially because it’s an Aaron song and it’s coming from that world that just felt really natural.
Guitars in electronic music is one thing but live drums… that’s a bit of a game changer. How tough was that to execute and was there any concern that live drums wouldn’t translate as big sonically on bass heavy music?
King - If people are thinking about it then there has got to be a way to just do it right? It was the number one thing to try and figure out how to make it work and sound good and not come off as this totally jostling thing to your ears when you switch over from the dance drums to the live drums. How do you get to be really cohesive and natural. Underoath had already done that well. There are a few other people that have as well. It’s something that in the future I want to incorporate into a live show so I am trying to do my best to gave it translate in the music so that it can get there for the stage eventually.
What has the transition been like in going from rock-influenced electronic music to electronic-laced rock music? You handle the entirety of the production so I’d have to image there is a bit of an adjustment.
King - The thing that I had to really get used to is that you have people that are like, ‘he’s doing electronic music with rock,’ or ‘he’s like a rock guy with electronic stuff in his music’ and I had to just build the narrative of, ‘No, this is just MY music.’ We can find whatever name we want for it like rocktronic or whatever. Spotify made a playlist called ‘rocktronic’ and that is where a lot of my stuff is on there and I’m just like, ‘If you want to call it that, alright, great.’ There really isn’t that name for it yet and that’s been the thing that I have had to adapt to. Whatever people wanna call it for them, then that is what it is because it’s been so hard to be like, ‘it’s metal, dubstep, rock, dance music.’ There is no label for it yet… at the end of the day, it’s just ‘loud as fuck’ music. That’s what I like to call it.
For those that have experienced an EDM event live and a metal show live - the translation makes sense. For those that still see the world in black and white, what are the parallels between the two worlds that resonate for you?
King - There’s definitely a demographic for it. There’s a really good podcast that Misha Mansoor (Periphery) did with a guy name Mr. Bill and they talk about that. They talk about the difference between and EDM show and a metal show. You have EDM guys that you can go play a friend of your’s song that isn’t out yet or isn’t released or hasn’t been heard yet and you are basically testing for them to see if it sounds good and you are in front of 5000 people. That’s a crowd that’s really experiencing a song for the very first time and that is a feeling that I don’t think you will ever get at a metal show unless it’s just something that is different in a song that is a variation of a metal song that a band already has. For dance, it’s different.
If two bands were friends and one band showed the other their music and that band went out, learned the music and played that song that wasn't theirs, you would never get to play a show ever again. You would be called out and that would be the end of your career if you stole someone’s song. But that is totally cool in dance music. That’s encouraged. That’s what is always going to be different about it. What brings them together is less about the music and how things sound and more about spectacle of the event.
Heavy, aggressive rock music seems to be in this period of renaissance where the genre lines are really getting blurry. Where do you feel like you fit into that changing landscape?
King - Everyday is a different song and a different learning curve that comes with it and trying to keep up with all these guys that are so much cool shit. It’s forever evolving. Every month it gets less and less stale it seems like with rock music. So many people are getting to do so much more and collaborate with more artists and I think that the big thing that is happening more. You can equate to the power of the internet or that fact that we have been home for however long or whatever. I just think that it’s the collaborative change that is happening. You’ve got I, Prevail with Joyner Lucas and granted we’ve had stuff like that before with like Linkin Park and Jay-Z but it wasn’t as accepted as just like, ‘These guys are dope and let’s just go work and see what happens’.
There’s not as much of a gatekeeper, elitist mentality except for those few lurkers on Facebook that have to talk shit on every post. It’s getting more and more acceptable to collaborate and try something new - Especially with how often people are able to release now. There was so much pressure with like, ‘your next album has to be your best because your not going to get a chance to write another one because you are going to be on the road for two years.’ Now you can go on the road for six weeks, go home, write and record a song in a week and put it out and tour because of that one song. That allows people to evolve faster instead of having to wait for these huge periods. That has been amazing and that is really what is going to help music in the long run.
You’ve been very vocal about your admiration for Eddie Van Halen. You’ve cited him as being the artist that pulled you into the universe of rock music. Did his passing effect you differently as an artist that cited him as such an influence?
King - If it wasn’t for Van Halen and Eddie I wouldn’t have been a guitar player. I wouldn’t have starting singing and I wouldn’t have started producing and so on. I will forever credit them as the reason why I said, ‘oh shit, this is what I am going to do for the rest of my life and there is nothing that is going to stop me from it.’
You know, when it happened I was on my way to work with John Feldmann, who is a very legendary producer in the scene. I showed up and I was just holding back bursting into tears because it had literally just happened 20 minutes prior. Twitter had exploded. And he was like, the exact same way. You could tell he had probably just been crying a bit and shed a few tears about it. So we just kinda sat and talked and then went a wrote a song that is actually going to be my next single.
We are going to lose these people eventually and its important to just always continue to remember why we do music and remember the moments of why that guy made me do this. I am just going to continuing pushing the boundaries the way they did and that is the most I can hope for.
Your music seems to thrive off the energy of a live setting. Has this extended intermission in live shows slowed the stream of inspiration for you in terms of writing new material?
King - When you are on the road all you want is to be home for two months straight so you can just write whatever the fuck you want and not have to worry about it whether it’s going to be played out over the summer by other DJs - I got twelve months of that. It definitely changed, not as much how I write but just what I got to write and concentrate on. I was pulling inspiration from things like moreso being at home and what I saw in my daily life. That’s kinda where I put that attention with the writing for sure.
For me, it was like, as much as it sucked and took however much time it was to get to a point where I was going to finally go do my own huge headline bus tours around the country and I was touring the world going to different countries and playing festivals but you know man, I spent 20, 25 years from birth until then working to get to do something like that so I’ll wait another year or two if I have to. I’ll just wait out the time. If it takes ten years, then I’ll see people on the road in ten years. That’s cool. I’ll be there. It’s what I want to do.
Obviously 2021 is still up in the air, but is the plan to continue to trickle new releases or hang tight and see how touring pans out?
King - I am not holding a damn thing back. I didn’t spend this amount of time to just hold back 30-whatever songs. I’m going give people the music they deserve whether there is touring or not. Whether it means we have to play it in livestreams then that is how we get to play it because if we don’t get to tour, this music gets out to come out and I’ll just write more music. I am just going to keep doing that until we get to go do it. It’s will be a hard time picking which songs to play live when we finally do get to do it thats for sure. It’s doing it because you love it and not because there is some gameplan. That is what its going to come down to.
"Dark Love" from Sullivan King featuring Aaron Gillespie of Underoath is currently available via Hopeless Records - HERE