Mike Sullivan - Guitar - 2004 - Present
Michael Sullivan is the guitarist for Chicago instrumental trio Russian Circles. Created in the wake of the demise of his beloved Midwest math-rock ensemble Dakota Dakota, Russian Circles immediately gained attention for their dynamic compositions, wide tonal palette, elaborate finger-tapped riffs, dexterous live guitar loops, and sheer sonic force. Their debut album Enter (2006) developed a strong enough cult following that they were handpicked by bands like Tool, Clutch, and High On Fire for opening slots on their tours. Subsequent albums Station (2008) and Geneva (2009) boosted the band’s popularity both at home and in Europe. Based on their growing fanbase, Russian Circles landed slots at prestigious festivals like Bonnaroo, Fun Fun Fun Fest, and Roadburn. Throughout the band’s steady rise, Mike Sullivan’s imaginative guitar lines, pedalboard savvy, and compositional expertise was the guiding force of the instrumental group. Not surprisingly, outlets like Premier Guitar, Guitar World, Total Guitar and Guitar Player all quizzed Sullivan on his set-up, technique, and creative process.
The new decade has seen even greater success for Russian Circles. Their three most recent albums Empros (2011), Memorial (2013), and Guidance (2016) have not only cemented the band’s status as the preeminent post-metal act in the U.S. and Europe, but have helped expand that fanbase in markets throughout Asia and Australia. The band has had the chance to play prestigious stages Radio City Music Hall and Millennium Park in Chicago. Furthermore, headlining sets at esteemed underground rock festivals like Belgium’s Dunk!, London’s Desertfest, UK’s ArcTangent, and Orange County’s Psychofest have bolstered the band’s reputation as an international institution in the realms of forward-thinking rock music. Even mainstream outlets have latched on to Sullivan’s dramatic guitar work. The Empros track “Mladek” was picked up by NBC Sports for their Spring ’14 campaign and was so popular that the network commissioned Sullivan and the band to create original music for future seasons. Sullivan’s reinterpretation of the network’s trademark three-note chime has been used in their advertisements ever since. Sullivan also lent his guitar skills to the 2015 breakthrough album Abyss by American Gothic-noir songwriter Chelsea Wolfe.
DIG BOSTON INTERVIEW WITH MIKE SULLIVAN
Chicago instrumental post-rock trio Russian Circles are an incredibly loud band. When guitarist Mike Sullivan, drummer Dave Turncrantz, and bassist Brian Cook get together, the decibels are raised to massive levels, the syncopation is tight like a double knot, and the senses are surely going to feel something.
Read the full interview on Dig Boston.
Russian Circles’ eighth full-length studio album, Gnosis, is officially out via Sargent House. It’s a record that was very much shaped by the COVID-19 shutdown, the band forced to embrace new approaches to songwriting with the prospect of touring put on hold. The result finds them leaning into their heavier tendencies while still maintaining the wide sonic landscape the instrumental three-piece is known for.
Guitarist and founding member Mike Sullivan answered some questions for us regarding the record’s sound, the writing process, recording in two different locations and touring with some of heavy rock’s biggest names.
Full Interview via newnoisemagazine.com
“It’s not an ‘Yngwie’ sense of classical,” Russian Circles’ guitarist Mike Sullivantells us. “It’s more symphonic. Especially with layering and looping. You can create something you can hum, that can be stuck in your head – not just thrashing.”
Clunky genre labels like post-rock, post-metal and instrumental progressive sludge have always done Russian Circles a disservice. There’s a classical feel to their arrangements – just not in the way you might think. Their eighth album, Gnosis, is as crushingly dense and devastatingly emotional as ever, sweeping between heavy, droning textures, pummelling riffs and gorgeous clean passages.
Full interview via guitar.com
How wild gear changeups, Irish guitar lessons and "way too much" Boss Metal Zone helped Russian Circles make their heaviest album yet
Mike Sullivan details working with Kurt Ballou on Gnosis, how the band's gear theft impacted his guitar rig and why there's no such thing as bad tone