The mind of Matt Hughes is like a zen kaleidoscope: seemingly never at rest, but still calm and focused — riveted into an amalgamation of creations in different mediums, working each one out in his head and putting them either down on paper or into the DAW software, like a conveyor belt of imagery, ideas, and expressions.
Hughes is perhaps best known by his artistic moniker, Sonny Dulphi. He’s been an idiosyncratic fixture around the local music scene for about 5 years now, having debuted with his first EP in 2016. He’s consistently created atmospheric composites of electronica, hip-hop, and space-funk, with candid lyrics that exorcise very specific or even abstracted forms of angst. But Sonny Dulphi’s always had his creative pen dipped into two specific inkwells — so, along with music, he’s also been a visual artist, graphic designer, and now, aspiring comic book artist.
“I’m really an illustrator by trade, and I’ve been working on my first graphic novel,” Hughes reported. “It’s a full-fledged, thick, paperback. I’m drawing it, coloring it, writing it, and then I’m scoring the music that serves as its soundtrack. It’s gonna be big.” When we called Hughes, he was particularly radiated with exuberance, having recently returned from the current MARVEL Comics exhibition at the Henry Ford Museum. From a very young age, comic book culture was a formative influence on his imagination and creative pursuits, and served as something to strengthen the bond between him and his father as a shared passion.
“I was indoors a lot in my younger days, trying to fight off boredom, and so I would just pick up random skills,” said Hughes. “Now, I’m so much more in touch with my artistry, and those ‘random’ skills can now flow and mesh together. Everything I create comes from my inner child, even the brooding stuff. It’s about the stream of consciousness. I’m in the lab — I’m at play!”
Dulphi has been performing around the scene for the last handful of years, but obviously, like all artists, he’s been safely quarantined and unable to do in-person shows. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s missing that! “I enjoy performing, though. I enjoy the artistic side of performing live.” But he’s said that even his most exhilarating concerts usually conclude with him inconspicuously blending back into the crowd, essentially turning down all that keyed-up energy and channeling it into a meditative state, secluded from the stage. “I think the quarantine has kind of shown people who they really are. And me, I’m a thoroughbred, honestly — I wanna be in the lab. I haven’t skipped a beat.”
Dulphi’s persona and proclivities have decidedly freed him from ever being tied down by one genre or category. He can rap, he can compose instrumental electronica and trip-hop, but if he’s working on the graphic novel, he might be listening to something else entirely like, say, heavy metal. Hughes said he’s just being sincere, he’s just letting his pure inspirations come out and that happens to form an elegant but raw alloy of “…all kinds of weird shit,” when it comes to his art. And Hughes likes it that way.
We should mention that he’s been developing a third creative side to complete his Zelda-like triforce, and that’s stand-up comedy! “Mic’s have been slowly opening back up, safely, but yeah — I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for about 18-months now, and it just felt like something I was naturally good at. I’m kind of a walking cartoon-character anyway,” he said with a chuckle. “So, it’s just me!” His lyrics have already demonstrated that he has a way with words, especially when it comes to summarizing moods and experiences — but the stand-up side simply finds him leaning in to the levity.
Does it ever get overwhelming though? Balancing all of this? “When it actually ever gets tedious…, ya know, drawing backgrounds, coloring panels, filling in wordings, I always just come back to the realization that I’m creating this whole, lush world, with people in it who have actual feelings and who are going through some shit. The book is going to focus on issues of racism, and stepping into ‘adulthood.’ I feel like that’s a thing all millennials can relate to, like, ‘…what is this ‘adulthood’ thing I keep hearing about?’”
Hughes described the book as a “dark comedy, sci-fi superhero origin story” set in Detroit, that will combine all of his passions, like “hip-hop, the Golden Age of comic books, pro-wrestling, music, all of it! This project is all part of a transformation I’ve been going through, to where I’m able to make happier music, to where I’m figuring out the kind of man I want to become, and also figuring out that there’s pain to life, but there’s also beauty to life…. So, I’ve got a lot of writing ahead of me.”
And, of course, drawing! Stay tuned for more from Sonny Dulphi!