Dirtyphonics & Sullivan King: this collaboration was always going to happen.
Both proud fusionists from their earliest tracks, Dirtyphonics and Sullivan King have consistently debunked pigeonholes and always expressed a love for their metal roots. Since emerging in 2014, Sullivan’s shreds have gradually developed from textures in his breakthrough tracks such as Pure Evil with Jauz to the centre-piece white knuckle peak of tracks such as Till We Die (with Kayzo) Lockdown (with Matt McGuire) and Break The Rail on Dubloadz’ album earlier this year.
Dirtyphonics’ love for merging styles goes even further back to the late 2000s with Vandals’ brazen D&B / house switch (a now common technique that was near virgin territory back in 2007/8) before proudly showing their true metal roots with their perennially blazing metal/drum & bass meltdown Walk In The Fire.
United by a kindred vision, it’s no surprise that Dirtyphonics were one of Sullivan’s earliest inspirations and they’ve been supporting his releases since he first emerged. After years of talking and planning, their schedule stars finally aligned earlier this year for a session in LA’sc 17 Hertz studios, the same building where Metallica recorded The Black Album no less. The session spawned an en-mass jamming session and writing approach neither party had experienced in previous electronic collaborations; real guitars, drums, pedals, amps and probably some sweat and blood, this was a far cry from swapping patches and send over project files. Instantly feeling they had plenty more fuel in the rage tank, they knuckled down and created a whole body of work: the six-track bass/metal behemoth that is Vantablack.
Teased last month with the furiously switched-up lead track, the full EP is out now on Monstercat. It ranges from the immense theatrical dynamics of Hammer to the cosmic odyssey Roam by way of the tribal toxicity of Timbale and not only reinforces a tradition of fusion that goes right back to rave’s most formative chapter when OG metal/rave converters The Prodigy opened up Their Law with iconic shreds, but builds on it again.
With Sullivan’s star rising astronomically and more metal references popping up than they have in the last few years – from InsideInfo’s Revenance to the gnarly textures and rifle kick rolls on a lot of PhaseOne bangers – could Vantablack help to galvanise and accelerate a new chapter in metal and electronic fusion?
Dirtyphonics (AKA Charly, PitchIn and Julien) and Sullivan believe there’s a whole world of ideas and creativity waiting to happen between the two worlds when done with the right ‘zero-fuck’ spirit. We called up headbanger HQ to find out more…
This collaboration was on the cards since day one, right?
Charly: Definitely. Fusing metal and bass music is something we’ve done for a long time. It’s a root we all share and we met Mr King a year ago and knew straight up we’d be able to make something. We had a studio session, wrote a song in a day and we knew it had to be more than one song.
Sullivan King: It was a totally different vibe to collaborate. Most the time you start a collaboration you end up discussing patches and drums and passing things back and forth. But this was more like how a band would do it. We were just riffing on guitars and really jamming and knew we needed to do more than one track. I’ve been following these guys for as long as I can remember so it was really cool feeling to have that vibe and for it to work so well.
Charly/PitchIn when did you pick up on Sullivan? Around the Jauz collaborations?
PitchIn: Exactly then. Pure Evil had that 4/4 crossover between electro, dubstep and was super heavy. That switch is still insane to play now. It’s so much fun to surprise the crowd with it. I think we’ve played every tune he’s put out since then. We knew we’d have to work with him.
Charly: We also fell in love with his hair. Even before the music.
Sullivan King: It’s funny because me and Jauz were kids straight out of school and putting dubstep out and the Dirtyphonics were the first people to support my music. They’ve had my back since day one and it makes this situation even cooler.
There’s a few years between you, so what metal did you connect on? Old or new?
Charly: We share a few classic references but during the process Sullivan would introduce us to new bands we weren’t familiar with because we’re not as close to the metal scene now. The same when we’d pull out older tracks he didn’t know about so there was a cool transaction of metal knowledge. Obviously there’s the universal shit like Metallica and it’s funny that the first studio we wrote in was the 17 Hertz studio which was the One On One Studio where Metallica wrote the Black Album. That sparked even more energy into that session. Like we have to do this. This is bass music, we’re going to write it, we’re going to add this massive metal layer to it. Deal with it motherfuckers.
Sullivan King: That could have been the EP title: Deal With It.
Here’s my reference point… Machine Head. Especially on those opening riffs on Navigator
PitchIn: Yes! This is my shit!
Sullivan King: When we first started the session PitchIn was like [adopts French accent] ‘okay guys we need to make it like Machine Head’
So many bass artists come from metal don’t they? What do you think is the strongest parallel? The attitude, the aesthetic, the energy, the zero-fuck factor? All or none of the above?
Sullivan King: All of the above. The energy both genres bring to a live show and bring out of people. The communities are similar in terms of what they want and how they react. Crucially it’s all about really heavy music.
Charly: Although I think the moshpits in the EDM world are a little tamer than the metal world.
PitchIn: You can drink tea in an EDM moshpit!
Interesting… I think the metal mosphits have more of a traditional code of moshing honour because it’s been done for years but not all bass headbangers have got that yet. There’s less camaraderie in some EDM moshpits. It’s more just about the headbanging
Sullivan King: I think it depends on the environment. Some EDM shows you get the PLUR vibe where people aren’t quite in that raw, aggressive moshpit vibe.
Charly: There is definitely a code of honour in metal shows but intensity in the metal world is bigger, heavier and more aggressive than in the EDM world. As you say, there’s a tradition in metal because it’s been around for 50 years but electronic music, especially ones where you mosh, are a very new thing. There is still much be learnt.
PitchIn: The most important thing is that it’s a good vibe and it’s fun to be in there.
Yeah man. Metal or EDM, mosphpits are very pure. It’s physical, you’re all in the moment together and feeling that intensity. No one’s getting their phone out in the moshpit, taking a pic or getting distracted by anything.
PitchIn: That’s so true. You’re all there for the music. Everyone is there in the moment and when it’s a metal show you all know every note, every lyric, every drum break. You’ve got your moves all locked down and ready. And all that tension and aggression ready for you to release. It is very pure.
So we’ve got six tracks on the new EP. But it sounds like this collaboration could continue indefinitely…
Charly: We’re not done yet. Let’s just say the energy is still very strong.
Can you feel a thirst for more fusion happening from the crowd here? Metal and bass have had these special moments since the rap metal crossovers in the 90s but they don’t last too long. Are you feeling a new interest in metal and bass experiments?
Charly: It’s weird because electronic music has played a huge role in metal especially in the industrial style with Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. So those blends have been happening since the early 90s and that proved that metal is about the energy and vibe and not just about the instrument.
Sullivan King: Definitely. And I think there’s been more of an understanding of how that energy is translated in different way. From the fans, too. There’s a huge interest in this style and there have been so many one-off collaborations recently so it definitely feels like it’s the right time. That’s why the EP happened really. Not just one-off collaborations but a record that sets the bar and a precedent. It’s a whole movement to be explored and not a cliché or a gimmick but something that deserves a lot more focus.
Charly: It’s also really cool to approach writing in this way. It’s not just sitting in front of a screen, we recorded the guitars live, a lot of the drums live, we used amps, cabinets, mics, pedals, a lot of tools most people don’t use in electronic music production today. Plus a lot of old recording techniques.
Sullivan King: It changes your mindset because when you’re recording live you have to really nail it. You can’t go back and change the guitar tone easily or quantise the guitar. You have to do it right and it pushes you to get the best tone and sound. You’re in the moment and you have to focus on the details in that moment. It’s quite dramatic.
Realness. No tweaking!
PitchIn: That’s so important for us. Having that realness makes it authentic for fans of both styles. It’s a big thing when you make that connection between metal and electronic music. The switch when we were younger for us coming from metal was a very big thing. When you were into metal back in the 90s you definitely did not queue for club nights. It was very housey and very sunshine. The Prodigy, Pendulum started the crossover and brought us from one musical world to another. If you’re going to bring the worlds together, this is the level it has to be done at. It’s a big responsibility to introduce metal kids to dubstep and dubstep kids to metal.
Sullivan, are things as tribal now as they were in the 90s?
Sullivan King: There’s definitely still a stigma of certain music if you’re into a particular style. EDM kids think metal is gross, metal kids think EDM is cheesy. You’ll always have those staunch fans who are very loyal. But what has changed is how producers and musicians are much more open this type of experimentation because there’s so many more resources available. It’s a lot more accessible, so you can experiment with a lot more ideas. And the same for music fans. I guess back in the 90s you had to really invest in being a metal kid and buy your denim and your patches to sew all over it and go to shows and punch people in the face and have a great old time.
Sounds like you were there man!
Sullivan King: I was there in spirit, right? But yeah there isn’t that same degree of uniform or having to dress in a particular way because of a style of music you’re into. Not as much as there was back then.
Charly: But the most important thing, back then and now, is to never give a shit and always try new things. And when you do this, you open new doors for people who didn’t think they even liked this.
Sullivan King: That is the coolest thing ever. When I do a show there are always those two guys who come up at the end and they’re like ‘bro! My homie only listens to Attila and Whitechapel and I had to bring him to your show and now he fucks with you so hard oh my god!’ It’s that perfect little sugar coat on every show I do – how there’s at least one metal kid who’s getting turned onto EDM or the EDM fan who hates metal getting into metal. That’s an amazing thing man, and it’s happening more and more right now…
Photos: Oh Dag Yo