Energised with a core of disco sensibilities and house, This Soft Machine (perhaps slightly misleadingly) is in fact one man: Tom Sullivan. As a DJ and producer, he has plied his trade keeping you moving on wave after wave of funk, without taking your heartbeat to a 150 beats a minute (“aargghh tachycardia help!”). To accompany his hour mix of jams and basslines, we interviewed Tom about his musical upbringing (including time in a screaming indie band), LSD-fuelled videos and literary influences.
This Soft Machine – It’s Operational is out now on Eskimo Recordings and available from most major online outlets. Grab the tracklist on Mixcloud.
First, our usual icebreaker, what’s your first musical memory?
East Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Byron Bay with my Dad. I guess it was around the early/mid 90s.
This Soft Machine, firstly I have to ask if there is any form of inspiration from the cult band The Soft Machine. If not why the name and what is the inspiration?
I’ve always been fond of Soft Machine as a band but they have no real influence on me musically. The main reason for the name of my project is the book by William S. Burroughs – The Soft Machine. When I was recording the project in the studio I had just finished reading The Nova Trilogy from Burroughs. The three books had a big influence on the lyrics and the theme of the tracks I was recording. The term “This Soft Machine” basically refers to the human heart and its mechanics.
Before getting onto your music, your videos which are surreal and trippy (I am still in a trance from the video for ‘Horixon’!). Why the choice of animation as a medium?
This goes back to the Burroughs influence again: Abstract / Cut Up. To put it simply…a journey. I’m also a fan of LSD.
So let’s get technical. ‘It’s Operational’ has been recorded using analogue gear. Why the preference?
I decided to record everything in this project. Everything you hear was recorded in studio. It’s extremely time consuming but rewarding. I grew up being a musician that played instruments in bands and I didn’t want to stop doing that because of the genre or scene I’m a part of. I’ve also learnt a lot about the studio recording process and production that I wouldn’t have learned if I just sampled another people’s drums / percussion.
Can you name a track from your back catalogue, which encapsulates not only This Soft Machine but Tim Sullivan as a man away from music?
Going back in the catalogue of related music…let’s just go back to my band from I was 17 years old. I played bass guitar in this one. As for TSM tracks, ‘This Place Was Meant For Me‘ is a favourite of mine.
Can you name the last time you heard a track and thought “shit I wish I had produced that”?
I enjoyed the Jaakko Eino Kalevi record Yin Yang Theatre on Beats In Space.
If This Soft Machine was a book what would it be and why?
The Soft Machine by William S. Burroughs. It’s obscene. It has no rules and it’s fun.
Can you remember the last time you had a conversation that had a direct impact on your music? What was it about, with whom and why did it have an impact?
The conversation was about if I should I spend $1000s on going into the studio to record this project. It was with my mother and I did spend that money on recording.
You don’t do many interviews so tell us something that would surprise us about either Tim Sullivan or This Soft Machine.
I’m a day-care teacher that looks after 1-3 year olds.
You are having a house party who’s on your line-up?
Good friends + good music taste + good weed = house party.
What’s the oldest record in your collection and what memories does it evoke for you?
I have a pretty big collection of Morrissey and The Smiths vinyl. I lived in London from when I was 18- 21. In retrospect it was the best time of my life. Dancing at indie clubs to The Smiths was a big part of that. My 7” copy of The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out would probably be close to being the special one.
What new / young talent should we be keeping an eye on at the moment?
TV Baby from New York. I’m pretty sure they aren’t a “new band” but they’re new to me. Their latest 7” on Deus Records is brilliant.
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us [where and how you recorded it, the idea behind the mix and any standout tracks you’d like to mention]
1hr 04mins of jams. Recorded at home supported by red wine. Peech Boys is a classic. Tyler Pope’s remix of Lauer is something special too. I’m always a sucker for a good bass guitar. The mix has a bunch of tracks I’ve been DJing out lately too.
What’s coming up on the horizon we should look out for?
Hopefully a new record. I’m sitting on four or five tracks that are almost done