Band Spotlight: Sunn O)))

By July 19, 2019 July 20th, 2019 Band, Spotlight

In our next Band Spotlight, we catch up with Tos Nieuwenhuizen, synth player for doom metal icons, Sunn O))) to discuss the success of ‘Life Metal’, as well as what success means to him on a personal level.

S] How are you today Tos, what are you up to?

T] Right now on tour with Bon Jovi! Well actually along for a bit of that ride with my truck driving girlfriend, we haven’t spent much time together lately with all the on the road stuff, Sunn’s been quite active this year and so are Motorpsycho, who I’m doing tech stuff for. Call it a holiday.

S] What is inspiring you right now, outside of music – think family, places, people and art for example?

T] That’s a tough one to answer, as music has always been my motivation for life. It makes me work and enables me to live and to travel. Depending what the inspiration is needed for. The people in Sunn and Motorpycho I’ve known for over 25 years and the way they go about keeping their bands going and interesting I admire, you know, the longevity, it’s half a life time.

I’ve been learning myself about electronics in order to get a grasp on the things I was making sound with, started with a 1945 textbook on electron tubes (given to me in 1990 by Steve Melkisethian of Angela Instruments who ran a great music store in Washington DC) and ended up with a tube amp repair operation and several tons of electronic relics that will keep me busy for the rest of my life. A tube brings something as  abstract as electricity to life and the science and history behind it and also of sound, the world as a vibration, the nature of physics, all these phenomena that can be explained before you need any god, that for me is inspiration too

S] How are you feeling about Life Metal’s reception so far?

T] Good man, we wanted to make the record be more of a representation of the band’s live-experience instead of the layered productions of before, and I think we succeeded in getting across some of the joy we had creating this thing. ‘Positive’ has been a frequently used adjective.

S] What would you say the band’s biggest challenges are in 2019, after what many would consider a legendary career? 

T] For 2019, we still have to do tours in the US in September, Europe/UK in October, a small series of performances in Berlin and Amsterdam, for which both Atilla and Hildur will come out so we can do material from Monoliths and Dimensions and Life Metal. We’ve performed live with Hildur before but not with the new material, so there’s a challenge there . . . also the companion album to Life Metal titled ‘Pyroclasts’ will be released i believe in October. Quite a lot of activity, for me personally it’s always a challenge to keep up with Steve Moore my fellow keyboard player, he’s amazing. Testing 20 cabinets and about as many amps can be a challenge if you don’t start soon enough, which is usually the case.

S] As a part of the band since 2005, how do you look back at works like ‘Black One’ now?

T] I haven’t contributed or listened to those first five albums enough to say more than that they were prototypes for what we’re doing now. I was asked to play the keyboard in 2005 and have played most of that material live. We used to have a setlist with nine song titles with drones in-between and honed it down to 2-3 ‘sections’, the music became more dynamic and the rhythms slower.

S] You’ve fortunately inspired doom/drone bands all over the planet, but how do you personally define success?

T] As for a band? To keep going, keep it interesting for players and fans, providing a group of people with an income and opening peoples minds to otherworldly sounds. Going from thinking it to doing it is success

S] What advice would you give to emerging musicians that are looking to make a dent, as you have been able to do? 

T] There ’s about a 100 years of recorded music (other than the music written down in the centuries before that), that has inspired the music you got triggered by, learn to listen, get a grip on your instrument. I’m trying to say it’s hard to come up with something that hasn’t been done before but if time and vision coincide there you go.

S] Thanks so much for your time!

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