Denis Sulta on his Scottish tour and new EP
Ahead of his upcoming Scottish tour, we speak to Denis Sulta about his massive year and his new EP. He also compiled a ten-track New Year's Eve playlist of some of his favourite tracks for your listening pleasure
At the end of a year, many of us look back and wonder what we’ve achieved, what we’re doing with our lives and where we’re going from here. For Hector Barbour, though, his achievements are right there in black and white.
Under his musical guise Denis Sulta, this year has seen Barbour take on his first ever BBC Radio 1 Residency, host his first ever Sulta Selects show at London’s Printworks and join Ninja Tune to release his latest EP, Aye Spoake Te Sumwuhn & They Listenhd, as well as continue to play gigs and festivals all over the world. It’s safe to say he’s had another busy and pretty successful year in 2019.
A very jet-lagged Barbour calls us from his Glasgow flat, shortly after returning from a stint of gigs in the States and South America. He’s preparing to head to Glasgow record store, and Scottish institution, Rubadub for an in-store performance to celebrate the vinyl release of his new EP. In the early days of his DJ career, Barbour worked as a store assistant in the record shop, so it feels very much like coming full circle.
To round off another phenomenal year, Barbour is returning to the homeland for a five-date Scottish tour, beginning at Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s on 16 December and concluding with a massive show at Glasgow’s Barrowlands on 22 December. In between he’ll also be playing at The Tunnels in Aberdeen, Mono in Dundee and The Ice Factory in Perth, leaving barely a corner of the country unturned. “Probably like three years ago was the last time I did something like this I think,” says Barbour, in between yawns.
“I don't really remember the last time I did a Scottish run – I'm very excited,” he continues. “It's gonna be brilliant because, you know, there's one thing about going all over the world and playing to 25+ thousand people or something but it's kind of nice to be able just to come back and play these old venues that I haven't had the chance to play in a long time.”
For the opening night at Sneaky Pete’s Barbour will be flying solo and playing all night long, but for the remainder of the dates he’ll be bringing some pals along to join him. When discussing the concluding Barrowlands show, he seems particularly excited. “I can't believe it. I'm playing at the fucking Barrowland Ballroom,” he says. “That's the coolest thing ever… My dad was like ‘who the hell do you think you are, The Pogues or something?’,” he jokes.
Barbour throws in a few not so subtle hints that queer clubbing collective Little Gay Brother will be joining him for the Barrowlands show, having worked with them a few times in the past. “They did my Sulta Selects at Riverside and we travel together quite a lot,” he says. “They're just absolutely hilarious people and they're just the most incredible dance troupe. I mean, not only do they just stand for all the right things, but they're just the fucking most lovely people and that's the main thing that I love about them.”
It feels very much like this year has been about Barbour getting back to himself, and it’s also evident on his latest EP. Barbour has described Aye Spoake Te Sumwuhn & They Listenhd as his most personal work to date, with some of the tracks on it dedicated to people in his life – Matthew, Joseph and Dan all receive shout outs. For it, Barbour decided to work with esteemed record label Ninja Tune, who he describes as “a platform that can support my crazy ideas.”
One of these was his vision for the artwork. It demonstrates the two sides of Barbour as Hector and as Denis Sulta, which he has spoken about in the past, and represents one side as a kind of devil on his shoulder, dressed in red and masking his face. “There's lots of things to be taken from it I guess but realistically it was just a composition I quite fancied using,” says Barbour.
“It's no secret that I'm a Francis Bacon fan and I've always wanted to do something that had much more of a kind of oily, textured background and that sort of aesthetic,” he continues. “I wanted to have a kind of androgynous feel to it and I wanted it to be like the dark side of my personality as the one with the back turned... with the stronger, kind of more fabulous done up Hector with the slap on.”
The two are “one and the same,” he says, but have arrived at a place where they are able to work together rather than against each other now. And when it comes to making music, there isn’t one particular perspective he turns to during the writing process either. “I never write music in a sense that it's going to fit under a certain label or category, so to speak,” he says. “It's all just from an emotional point of view.
“All the music I make is based on an emotion that I'm not really able to talk about or articulate through words, so that's kind of how I tend to figure out the only way to express it,” he continues. “That's sort of the way I create music, with no particular agenda other than to express emotion, through the wonderful medium of electronic music,” he laughs.
It’s difficult to imagine Barbour having a more successful year than this one, but now seemingly at peace with himself he’s heading into the new decade with a more positive outlook. As he says: “It doesn't matter whether it'll be Rubadub, whether it'll be Parklife, whether it be Sneaky Pete's or whether it be a smelly couch at four in the morning, as long as you approach anything in life with a positive attitude, chances are it will be a positive outcome.”
Denis Sulta plays Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, 16 Dec; The Tunnels, Aberdeen, 17 Dec; Mono, Dundee, 20 Dec; The Ice Factory, Perth, 21 Dec; Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow, 22 Dec; Aye Spoake Te Sumwuhn & They Listenhd is out now