Inner turmoil and tension is coiled and churned into a hauntingly beautiful ambient sonic patchwork by Ypsi-based sound sculptor Sonny Dulphi. His latest batch of recordings, Agony or Orgasm, dropped online last week.
We’ve had our ears bent in the direction of songwriter/lyricist/guitarist/producer Matt Hughes (a.k.a. Sonny Dulphi) for a couple years now. He has a sensibility for splicing leftfield hip-hop beat production with neo-psychedelic guitar wails, trip-hop haze, and atmospheric electronica. Most distinctly, he tends to let the raw, instinctual ID drives of his heart, his mind, and his emotions, spill out into a beautifully messy mosaic, concentrated into 4-minute arrangements of dreamy textures and spacey vocal FX.
A song is typically the realm where one smooths out the dark, conflicted, taboo, or anxious corners of ones personality – but Hughes, as Sonny Dulphi, has a way of processing this eccentric, daydreamy, and sometimes bluntly earnest way of laying it all out. So we picked his busy brain about these newest songs….
INTERVIEW: SONNY DULPHI
I imagine your creative process is trance-like. Almost meditative, but almost in some sort of pure state of focus and fascination. Can you talk about whether that’s true, what it’s like for you…and how and when you first became captivated by unique and strange sounds/distortions…
Sonny Dulphi: You’re certainly not wrong. In everyday life I tend to have a very short attention span, my brain is usually zipping from one thing to another, but for some reason when it comes to music everything slows. I’ll find that initial chord, lick or sample that just takes me somewhere. Maybe it’s space or a forest or somewhere I can’t really verbally describe, but these places all have a sound that I’m trying my best to transmute into something sonic. And my love for strange sounds all started with underground hip hop. Guys like Madlib, MF Doom, and J Dilla would sample these crazy songs from all over the place, French fusion Jazz and Japanese Prog Rock, etc.. These crazy hip hop samples would take me to these new places, and I wanted to be able to travel there myself, so I started my journey down this road. Also Jimi was a gigantic influence in terms of guitar work and being willing to try new things.
What emotions, thoughts, or circumstances wound up guiding or influences most of this new record for you? I guess this question would be lyrical-focused, and we’ll get to music in a sec….
Sonny Dulphi: This album was largely about stepping into manhood, the positives and the negatives of it, the pain and the pleasure of it all. Over the year or two proceeding this album I was stepping out of my comfort zone and learning a lot of hard lessons (most of these lessons dealing closely with my romantic relationships). The lyrics on this project are basically me running through how I’ve been effected by these lessons and trials.
Tell me about a song like “Dark Hadou…” That translates to ‘wave’ in Japanese? Because ‘dark wave’ is an evocative term that, for me, comes close to capturing what you do with arrangements of beats, guitar and any other cosmic instrument you’re employing…
Sonny Dulphi: I’m a huge Street Fighter fan and Hadou, which, yes, does mean ‘wave…’ is a power source that some of the fighters use to release their own energies. The dark side of this force is called Dark Hadou, it’s unstable and fueled by rage. For me however that song came more from a place of sexual frustration.
I also imagine you work on a lot of this at night – because it seems dreamlike. Talk about capturing that dreamlike, fever-like, contemplative sound….
Sonny Dulphi: Certainly tones of nigh time solitary contemplation were at play. And night time is when I feel most like my true unencumbered self’ when I can gather my collection of feelings and transmute them to music. Also my music is largely driven by images in my mind, so the dreamscape isn’t a big leap away by any means.
It’s intense, these frank self-examinations…. Can you talk about the cathartic ways in which creating this music provides insight, healing, or anything else.…?
Sonny Dulphi: These songs are basically therapy sessions I hold with myself, where I look in the mirror and go “Ok. This is what’s going on with you, how do you feel about it, what are you gonna do about it.” Where the 1st half of the album deals with new sensations that my sexuality is bringing up, the second largely deals with the fall out of that. The loneliness and frustration when that stuff comes tumbling down. Honestly, making this album has helped me grow and learn from myself. It’s taught me that honesty with oneself is the only way to truly get better and become solid on my own two feet.
After the experience of making this record – how do you think you might be approaching the next batch? How did this experience change you?
Sonny Dulphi: The beauty of the whole thing is that I just let whatever hits me hits me. All of this is so fresh that I’m really not sure what’s next, but I do want the next album to be more positive. Mentally and emotionally I’m in a much better place than when I started this album. Part of me did legitimately hate myself, but making this album and art in general really did help quiet those voices.