by Steven Ashford
Traditionally seen in fictitious novels and super hero comics, or those dealing with psychosis, alter egos can be hard to juggle when dealing with one opposite moniker.
Now take underground garage rock micro-legend, Mark Sultan, who has played music under the following aliases: Needles, Krebs, Von Needles, Skutch, Bridge Mixture, Kib Husk, Noammnn Rummnyunn, Blortz, Celeb Prenup and BBQ. Together it sounds like a creepy concoction of characters in a demented and deranged freak show.
One thing constant about Mark Sultan that breaks free from the barriers of the “traditional” alter ego is that his mindset has stayed the same. Throughout numerous bands and collaborations, Sultan has been a heavy-headed, overtly strong-willed and opinionated man whose life perception is very anti-authoritarian. He knows what he wants, and most importantly, he flat out doesn’t give a shit.
But there is also a unique charisma about the man. Sultan plays the drums and tambourine with his feet while simultaneously playing guitar and singing. He has a set of pipes that bellow with a feel-good, doo-wop deliverance that would make your grandparents croon. Mark Sultan is, in fact, a one-man band with quartet capabilities.
Hear Nebraska: Is War on Rock ‘n’ Roll your first live album that you have released, whether it be solo or with collaborative efforts?
Mark Sultan: Well, it isn’t a live album, in the traditional sense. It was recorded “live” – as in, there are no overdubs — “off-the-floor,” stream-of-consciousness… so not “live.” If that is a live album, I have recorded many other live albums. Traditionally, I don’t think I would release any live stuff. And I don’t know why not.
According to Sultan’s press release, War on Rock ‘n’ Roll was a “one take/first take live recording at Clube Berlin one night in September 2011.” You can download the album for free and read his manifesto here.
HN: How does the dynamic of your live show stand out compared to simply listening to your recorded material?
MS: Well, luckily I am able to record with or without overdubs, so I can keep songs simple or make them bloated. Live, as a one-man set up, I am pretty restricted, but I am mostly able to transcend the idea of the song in any format, because I try to play it with my heart, not my head.
HN: I hear there is no predetermined route to your shows. What can people expect from a Mark Sultan show, if anything at all?
MS: Well, if you expect nothing, stay home. I don’t need people coming in hating what they don’t know. Expect one guy sounding like four. And expect a show based solely on how he feels at the moment. Expect a lot of shit to be made up on the spot. Expect actual human emotion. If this bothers you or makes you question your “manliness,” stay home or seek counseling.
HN: When and how did the idea of a “War on Rock ‘n’ Roll” come about for you? Was there ever a certain boiling point of resentment you felt needed to be addressed?
MS: I think I resent a lot of stuff in life, but let’s not confuse that with bitterness. Shit has to change sometimes. People are always afraid to rock the boat, for fear they will be ostracized from whatever team gives them solace. I am not making shit up here. My scene is fucked up. But nobody has my back, ‘cause they don’t wanna lose prestige. And I am OK going in alone.
HN: Why is it necessary to have a manifesto that gives reasoning behind the whole idea?
MS: It wasn’t necessary, but I thought it would be funny, or possibly make someone think a bit, or elicit some emotion.
HN: You may have one of the most extensive resumes in rock ‘n’ roll regarding different bands and collaborations. How do feel about playing alone and what are some of the biggest challenges that come with a one-man band? I know you’re hesitant about calling it a “one-man band.”
MS: The problem is that tag (one-man band). I am not some dude with no songs and a funny costume when I play alone. I can play headlining over full bands. How you present your music should not dictate being pigeon-holed, or I would have to compare Venom to The Police. There are many challenges. I have to be responsible for everything. But I want that. I have to take abuse. But I like that. The songs are imprisoned in inescapable boundaries. But I crave that. And then there are so many upsides about obvious freedoms.
HN: After playing under so many aliases and monikers, has “Mark Sultan” proven to be as easily recognizable to fans who’ve known you as “BBQ” or any other stage name?
MS: No, and I like that. I like being hard to find. I want someone to make an effort to hear my stuff as I make an effort to get it out. It’s a mutual respect and a little game, a secret handshake.
HN: I read awhile back that you were in the midst of writing a couple books. Are those still in the works? What are they about?
MS: I was writing books basically about the vulgarity of existence. I’m back at writing next month, new stuff.
HN: What else do you work on outside of music?
MS: I invent, cook, write, paint, dream, fuck, shit and sleep.
HN: What is your take on Nebraska? Have you ever played here before? If so, is there anything that stands out to you? If not, do you have any presumptions about Omaha or Nebraska as a whole?
MS: I have been fortunate enough to have traveled all over the world. If there is one thing I now know it’s that preconceived notions are dangerous and stupid. I don’t believe in what media tells me. I go with no prejudice and try to glean what I can from experience. I am excited to go to places I may not know much about. Khan and I played OK a while ago, but it was in and out. Omaha, I have fond memories. Both had great people, I can say that much.
Steven is a Hear Nebraska contributor. Do you think you can outdo Sultan? Reach Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org.