By Will Brown
Mark Sultan is returning to New Zealand this week where he'll perform four shows throughout the country -in Dunedin, Queenstown, Wellington and Auckland (see full tour details below).
I have the chance to chat with Mark Sultan ahead of his arrival where we discussed his upcoming tour, the differences between Mark Sultan and his pseudonym BBQ, and his forthcoming album.
How are Mark Sultan and BBQ different?
I think the BBQ stuff... the first intention I had and the first way I did it was to do a live recording off the floor, maybe one take or maybe two, of one man band stuff. I did no overdubs and just did everything live. It was just completely spontaneous.
And then when I started doing Mark Sultan stuff I thought ‘I can't be disingenuous and say I'm BBQ if I'm doing overdubs'. So I went under Mark Sultan for that. Ultimately it's the same thing, and I go on tour and the one-man band stuff ultimately ends up being Mark Sultan anyway, there's no real reason. So it's just absolutely poor decisions... all the time... 24 hours a day...
You've been described as the best ‘One Man Band' in the world and I've got to say a pretty accurate description...
I think that quote is obviously weird; I would never be the best at anything. And I don't like the idea of competition. I can be very good at what I do and I'm very pleased that I'm better than I have been in a long time.
Who were your influences when you first became a musician?
I first started playing drums when I was about 11 or 12. My folks didn't have much cash, but one year they scraped together to get this really trashy budget drum kit. I was really into the drums but I would play it like a guitar, like I had no idea how to play drums.
My influences at the time, I listened a lot to Led Zeppelin and Jon Bonham thanks to my cousin. I tried to learn Led Zeppelin but realised that ‘Oh my god, I could never play like this'. And then BOOM, once Punk hit me I was like ‘I can really play punk, I know how to do this'. When I was 12 I had this really spazzy punk band and we'd do it really really fast with yelling and screaming, and then break into something random like ‘Barbara Anne' or some weird surfy thing.
That was the stuff that influenced me then but when I really got into making records and touring and stuff I was listening to a lot of music. When I finally realised I could sing I was listening to a lot of RnB stuff - The Falcons from the 60s and a lot of random one off '45 guys. So many bands and so many people influenced my soul to make this stuff. I hope I can pass this on and carry it on.
When did you realise that you could be a full time musician?
Quite honestly, I'm not the most stable individual. I have a lot of problems like anybody. I was a smart kid but I guess a bit loopy and weird and stuff, but I realised at some point during my schooling that; as much as I would have liked to pursue some college years and have an admirable profession, I just couldn't... I hate authority and rules.
When I first started playing music it allowed my mind to relax. I found who I am and it's like a drug... I need to be doing this and it keeps me sane, happy and alive. And then when I'd have to go back to work I'd be like ‘Oh my god, I hate this!', and I'd break stuff and get fired. All the stuff that rejects do I guess.
But then I realised I could do this (music), even if it means like being homeless. If you let dreams fall by the wayside and let the love die, then your spirit dies with it and I never wanted that to happen with myself.
You were last in New Zealand in 2013, what do you remember about that tour?
It was a very disastrous time. I'd been booked to do shows in Asia and Australia, and solo in New Zealand. Long story short, we ended up not getting paid and by the time I got to New Zealand I was not in a good mood and wasn't able to enjoy New Zealand the way I would have liked to. And on top of that there was some kind of weird storm happening, so a couple of shows were cancelled and a town got flooded... everything was going wrong.
But I did very much enjoy the country. Being Canadian, and I hope no one takes offence to this, but I felt at home.
I see you're going to Queenstown this time so maybe a little sight seeing while you are there?
Oh yeah, that's something I'd love to do rather than just play and run.
And you have a new album on the way?
Yeah, the album has been a bit delayed because in the States there's a backlog with the vinyl pressing. All these artists that have audiences that probably don't care for vinyl... just doing vanity stuff.
Where did you record it?
I recorded it at my home in Germany... in my basement on a 4-track... essentially just live. I had to do some vocals after the fact, but most was done in just one take. It's very very basic rock n roll.
Following the tour and album release, what's your plan then?
When I recorded this album I just had two or three mics set up to the 4-track. Now I've accumulated a lot of old German microphones, so I want to experiment with all that stuff. And I've been invited to do some recording with some other labels in the States. I'll be doing some stuff with King Khan and will be touring a lot. So I'll be doing stuff (laughs). Keeping my mind active and my soul active.
Mark Sultan NZ Tour
Wednesday 29th July: Chicks Hotel, Dunedin
Thursday 30th July: The Sherwood, Queenstown
Friday 31st July: Bodega, Wellington
Saturday 1st August - Whammy Bar, Auckland
Tickets via Under The Radar