UK alternative rock legends, Sulpher finally return with their new album, ‘No One Will Ever Know’ in August, and it’s been a while since we managed to catch core members, drummer Steve Monti and guitarist/vocalist Rob Holliday for a chat, so…here they are now, talking (and bickering) about each other, new music and the music industry in its current form.
S] Hi guys, so err, what took you so long?
Rob] I have no idea what you’re talking about! It’s pretty much been due to a lot of touring commitments for many years with The Prodigy and Marilyn Manson, as well as Monti becoming a father, plus also having to fund it all totally ourselves. It’s been a real labour of love for us, with a few ups and downs on the way, but now we are finally here to present it to all.
Monti] We’re perfectionists! Also, I’ve been waiting for Rob to get his vocals right!
S] What have been the biggest challenges in pulling this whole record together?
Managing to get together to work on the material, and also as I mentioned before, funding the entire operation ourselves. We really wanted to make sure we were totally happy with the songs and album in full with no outside influence. Once we were at that point then we started to look for a label who understood us and really wanted to get behind this.
S] What are a couple of the most personal tracks on it, and why?
Most of the songs are not that personal but there are a lot about the human psyche and also how relationships fail with deceit and lies. I find it all quite sad how people behave to each other, ‘You Threw It All Away‘ and ‘Tomorrow‘ are probably the closest songs to me for those exact reasons, you think you know someone when in fact you actually don’t know anything about them.
S] What gave you the drive, and belief to finish it – like take me back to where you were, and what you were doing when the decision was made?
We always knew we would eventually finish it, it did at times seem quite daunting trying to actually finish tracks – we would get so close but then have to take a month off due to other commitments, then have to come back and try to get back into the mood of a certain song and that’s not always easy. We always have a lot of ideas but always seem to want to try to take the tracks to another level, always changing and trying to perfect them, so find it admittedly hard to let go and say, “Okay, this one is done let’s leave it”.
As far as where we were, and what we were doing. I think actually myself and Monti were in the studio in one of our song finishing dilemmas and all of a sudden it was done and I actually said, ‘Fuck man can you believe it! Monti, do you realise that it’s actually done.’ His face looked as shocked as mine and I think he may have said, ‘Are your sure, really sure, you don’t wanna go back in and change anything else?’ and I think we made a cup of tea, and called the mastering place! Monti also said to me, ‘You do know no one else would put up with you like I do don’t you?!’
Monti] For me, leaving the tracks for sometime kept bugging me, I’d listen from time to time and think, ‘this is madness we have to get this finished and out!’.
What are the biggest challenges facing you as artists now?
Rob] I just think that there are so many bands and talented people out there now, that the market is so flooded, massively flooded, and to come out with anything interesting that sounds different is quite a task. Also, to finance everything yourselves isn’t always so easy! Young bands starting out have it super hard. It’s a long old road kids!
Monti] No one wants to pay for music anymore and a challenge for me will be sitting in a clapped out transit van going to a gig haha but I’m up for it!
Rob] Transit? I thought our manager was getting us a gold plated tour bus and a private jet?!
What do you both love, and hate about working with each other – what would you say each other’s strengths (and weaknesses are)?
Rob] Well, I pretty much hate everything about Monti! Yeah! I can’t actually think of anything I like about him! His strengths are on the rowing machine as that’s all he ever talks about. Nah seriously, Monti is great – he’s so fast at getting up great sounds and as a programmer its so easy to work with him, as any ideas I throw at him he’s got something up and sounding great within minutes and I’m an all over the place kind of ideas person, so I think I fry his brain sometimes with my hyper-ness when we are recording.
Monti] Rob’s Strengths are winding me up while I’m on the rowing machine, and tearing a near complete track apart back to the start! Rob’s got a good ear for cool…not much gets past his pointy ears!
Rob] Pointy ears? I don’t have pointy ears do I? Fuck man, now I’m gonna have a real complex! You must be mistaking me for Spock from Star Trek, he’s a Vulcan for anyone who doesn’t know!
How do you feel about the development of the music industry over the last decade or so?
It’s a crazy situation how things have changed with labels and the internet, I’m actually indifferent. There’s good and bad to how it was and good and bad to how it is now. Like I said, the market is so flooded so I think its hard to break through for a young new band for sure, but I guess if you’re great at plugging social media, you can also become an overnight sensation just from being on YouTube which I do find quite strange.
Monti] Yeah, there’s not much money around these days for music, in the 80s & 90s everyone seemed to have a deal, with good advances of money. It’s just not there now, so we have to think different. Having said that I’m not a Spotify hater. I love the fact that we can access all this music immediately. It used to cost a big lot of money to record albums, not to say it doesn’t anymore but we all have access to computers and can record a whole lot cheaper than before.
What is your attitude to success in life, and in the context of the music industry these days?
Rob] Money doesn’t buy happiness EVER, always be honest and true to yourself and others! Also, true to your music, and never become complacent. It’s not a good look.
What advice would you both give to new artists starting out now?
Rob] Never give up! Ever! And don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re not good enough or never gonna do it, or have any sort of success. Just keep going. You may finally get there and have the last laugh! Fuck the haters, and fuck the backstabbers too.
Monti] Believe in yourself, and stay on it.
S] Where do you both find motivation outside of music? Think specific people, places, movies and things like that?
Rob] I’ve always been into Tim Burton, and also films like The Shining, anything with an edge. I value people with good hearts and lovely souls. Places? Anywhere warm with sunshine. I guess I live in the wrong country for that! Motorbikes – it’s just pure freedom! I love riding my motorbike!
Monti] For me, It’s mentoring younger musicians and artists.
S] What would you like Sulpher’s legacy to be?
Rob] I find “legacy” to be quite a pretentious term. We just do what we do, and if people like it, then that’s perfect. We would love to leave great quality music behind. Why are you asking? Are you secretly planning to murder us?
Monti] I was gonna murder Rob if he made me revisit some of these tracks! Bleeding ears!
S] What has been a defining moment for you both, in your respective careers?
Rob] I think we have both remained pretty humble and level headed since we didn’t have any overnight success or become child stars! I’m from the background of paying your dues man, from 16 years old playing in bars then getting into a more popular band and so on – but ya know, I think playing for nothing and making no money and driving for hours and sleeping on top of equipment in the backs of vans builds character, for sure! its not an easy business. Some people are super fuckin’ lucky , and I mean really fuckin’ lucky especially talentless people who get lucky or come from money, that’s the bullshit side of the music industry as I’m sure we all know.
It’s always word-of-mouth moving me into all the different bands I’ve worked with, obviously highlights would be the fact that I got to play in some great high-profile bands like The Prodigy and Marilyn Manson and playing in front of those size audiences is an epic experience when you’ve worked your ass off your whole life for music! Coming like I say, from paying our dues, but for sure because of that it’s kept my feet on the ground and my attitude humble.
Monti] Personally, I’ve loved switching from just playing drums in bands to writing, messing around with a portable studio, and realising I could write and produce track as well as drums!