Although primarily an illustrator, Sirkut Son’s creativity has spilled over into the world of music where he creates post-punk, electronic tunes that would give the best in the business a run for their money. We spoke to him about how he combines illustration with music and how he finds his new life in Berlin. As well as, of course, his newly released album Photo Sensitive.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is John Rooney and I’m from a place called Derry in Ireland. I moved to Berlin about two years ago and am a freelance illustrator by trade but love to create music along with a bottle of wine when I have a spare Friday night.
How would you describe your sound?
Taking elements of an expansive ambient, cinematic, futuristic sound into a foreboding cold-wave, post-punk direction.
Sirkut Son is a stage name. Can you tell us why you chose this very cool name?
Thanks :) I don’t remember where it came from exactly, but it used to be the working title for the demo of ‘You Have Used Me For Long Enough’. My previous alias ‘Hauer’ was just too annoying to say with my accent so I decided to change over to ‘Sirkut Son’ instead.
You were born in Ireland but now live in Berlin. What are the biggest differences between the two places?
Berlin is a very vibrant and mostly open-minded place with a lot of interesting gigs and events going on. Apartments are just about affordable for someone like me. I think Ireland could certainly open up more in terms of culture and dealing with social injustice, but I do miss the green countryside and the warmth of the Irish people. Ireland is also so much windier and rainier.
You have spoken about how you wanted to get away from the wealth divide in Ireland. Have you managed to do this in Berlin?
Yes, to a certain degree, but some of the same problems also exist here. Thankfully, I am able to earn just enough to get by.
With this in mind, if you were prime minister, what laws would you make?
It sounds cliched, but everyone should have the fundamental right to a roof over their head, have enough food not to go hungry and access to free medical care. I would also have greedy landlords catapulted.
Berlin is known for its electronic music scene. Is this an area that you take advantage of?
I haven’t really had the chance yet to be honest. Covid has slowed everything down in terms of live music but I hope I can attempt some sort of gig soon enough. There’s a lot of nerves and anxiety to get over before singing for the first time in from of a crowd too.
Do you find that the city influences your sound?
I’ve lived in cities all my life so no doubt they have a major influence. I’d love to attempt some sort of retreat to the countryside and see if the music changes at all. In saying that, the song ‘Chamonix’ was inspired by the mere sight of the French Alps.
What else has been a big influence on your life?
I have very emotional attachments to memories so I would include good times with friends and family, but also painful and traumatic experiences too. I’m from a place with a lot of bad history which is hard to shake off.
I am very appreciative of the fact I’m able to pursue and make a living off these creative professions but I guess I have a wee bit of guilt along with that, as not everyone is able to do so. From that it’s pretty obvious that conservative Irish culture has had a somewhat negative influence but maybe that depends on how you look at it.
Can you tell us about your latest album Photo Sensitive?
It was written and recorded towards the end of my time living in Dublin before I left for Berlin and I think this is very apparent lyrically. I brought all the demos to producer Sean Corcoran and he really helped me shape them into the final songs, as well as encouraging me to sing all the vocals myself. That was something very new to me.
All in all, I feel it is a very accomplished collection of songs and I’m proud of all the work put into it.
What is the best track on the album?
The track Chamonix stands out mostly for me as it was the last song I wrote and remember best. I got invited to draw a mural in a pub in Chamonix a while back and it was an amazing experience. The song is about being somewhere you want to be in life and looking back on how you got there. But not literally.
You have previously spoken about how the track Spelling and Grammar is influenced by sci-fi films. What is it about Sci-fi that you love?
I love that with a sci-fi film comes a vision, imagination, and special effects, and this is usually accompanied by some sort of interesting musical score. I like the way the filmmakers are able to create their own fictional world that we can escape into for a few hours. I suppose I also have a sentimental attachment to a lot of these films I’ve seen as a kid growing up in the VHS age.
What are some of the sci-fi films we should be checking out?
You may regret asking me that :) Well I’d say anything by John Carpenter in the 1980’s, Blade Runner, Moon, Dark City, The Keep, Enemy Mine, Dredd, Repo Man, Society, Another Earth, The Blob (from the 80’s), The Beyond, Solaris, Stalker. The Platform was a great modern sci-fi film. I could go on…
You have also said that it is inspired by post-punk. Who are your all-time favourite post-punk bands?
Fugazi were my favourite band for many a year, I also love At the Drive-in, Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd, Wire, Cocteau Twins, Killing Joke, Joy Division. There’s a lot.
How has the lockdown affected your work?
Surprisingly, it’s been fairly steady all the way through and if I don’t have work on then I create a project for myself anyway. I haven’t been able to write any music due to a lot of illustration work coming in. In fact, I am just finishing an animated segment for a documentary on climate change for Irish television, and it’s been very tiring.
You are also an illustrator and make your own videos. Was there a time in your life when you felt like you had to choose between music and art?
That’s a good question as I’ve never even thought about it before. Illustration always has the top priority, but I’ve always found time for music. I hope I never have to make a decision like that.
Do you think we now live in a world where we are combining different art forms and identities aren’t so separate anymore?
I think artists are becoming more independent and taking their creative endeavours into their own hands, and it’s producing some class results. Personally, I did it out of necessity, but it was way more enjoyable than I thought. Maybe the advantage of the decline of the record industry is that people have more freedom and choice to combine the different skills that they have. But I do find it’s nice to involve other creative people in your process.
What can we expect from you in the future?
It’s been financially difficult for me to get songs recorded and produced but I have been working extra hard on artwork recently so once it’s over I am going to finish a bunch of new demos and hopefully compile them into an EP along with some DIY style nonsense-art videos sometime in the near future.
Check out more about the music and illustration of Sirkut Son on his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.