Saturday, December 22, 2012

Q&A with Justin Elswick (Sleepthief)

Justin Elswick’s musical project Sleepthief presents the very best of what electronic music can be: creative melodies woven by haunting voices over percolating rhythms, and lyrical sophistication that verges on literary. As an independent artist, he’s mastered the finer points of soundcraft and elevates his art form more and more every time he releases something new. His creations provided an aural backdrop for me as I wrote JOE VAMPIRE: THE AFTERLIFE, so much so that as I wrote, I realized that music as Joe defines it is exactly what Justin creates with Sleepthief

It had to go in the book.

And Justin was awesome enough to let me reference both him and Sleepthief as Joe and Hube’s main influences for their own musical compositions.

This guy is golden.

I wanted JoeFolk to know more about the man behind the music, so I sent him over some questions. He’s also a full-time lawyer, and he took time out of his schedule to throw me some fantastic answers. Take a read. 


Lawyer by day, musician by night-ish…how do you balance the two? I need the creative side to relax my mind and really open up emotionally--so it is just a regimen (like working out or any other thing that you have to make space for in life). The music is kind of essential and based on a natural impulse inside of me, so it has to come out somehow.

Self-taught, or studied music? Largely self-taught; I studied theory in a college class, but I write everything just based on what chords sound good to me.

Favorite composition by you (and why):  Probably "Skimming Stones" because I feel that it translated a lot of personal sorrow in my life at the time, and made it something that was positive. (“Stones” is my favorite, too…it’s a beauty.)

Favorite composition by other: The Longships by Enya.

A single-sentence description of what music means to you: Mathematics, sound and emotion all rolled in to one.

Dream collaboration with a figure from the past: Rachmaninov 

And present: Lisa Gerrard or Liz Fraser

Music is in your head/hands at all times, or only when inspiration strikes? Mostly all the time, but only the good stuff happens when inspiration strikes.

The music stops for a minute, and Justin does this: Waits impatiently to hear the music re-start.

Globetrotter...what country is next on your “must see” list? I am going to try and see Turkey and Cyprus in 2013. But I would love to see Australia, New Zealand and China.

Other upcoming projects: Working on an entire new side project with Coury Palermo and Zoe Johnston that we will be recording in the spring. It will be all new music and somewhat different than Sleepthief's sound. Also, I am working on Roberta Carter Harrison's solo album and new Sleepthief material as well as Spythriller tracks with Caroline Lavelle and Israel Curtis.


Music this fantastic is borne of passion, for sure, and it shows all over Justin’s work. If you haven’t discovered him yet, now’s your chance. He releases a Christmas track every year, and has them all posted up at Soundcloud, and videos for viewing on YouTube. There’s another one coming this year, so follow him on Twitter, go the Sleepthief page on Facebook, and treat yourself to his work His is music to own. 

I know this to be true for many authors: music makes our writer brains function properly. It’s a genuine phenomenon, and in my case, Justin’s tunes put me in the proper mode for wordworking. They’re magical. Without him doing what he does, I would not be as proficient at what I do – or as happy doing it. 

Very sincerely: thank you for your music, Mr. Elswick, and thank you for being a part of the JOE VAMPIRE universe.

It's a true honor.

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