Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie

Stars Of The Lid and A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie talks us through his formative influences

Photo: Julie Calbert


“I’m not from a musical or artistic background at all, I’m from a sports family. My godfather Chuck McKinley won Wimbledon in 1963 and I grew up wanting to be a professional tennis player. I really didn’t care about anything but tennis until I was about 16. I was a really good junior, I was nationally ranked in America so had a lot of potential. I’m around the same age of Andre Agassi. I remember when I was eight and he was playing in a tournament in Florida, he was already killing everyone five years older than him. You kind of knew that, ‘OK, no one can stop this guy, he’s gonna be professional’, but the rest of us, we all develop and change, some kids develop really late because of their physical attributes. Pete Sampras didn’t come on until he was 16 and that was after I’d already quit. You have to practice and work on it all the time, it completely consumed my life. It’s such a beautiful sport, I truly love it and I still miss it.”


“When I was, I guess, seven or eight the film ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ came out. I went to see it and although the movie was OK, I was completely fascinated by the five-tone motif they use to communicate with the aliens. The soundtrack was the first record I ever bought. I begged my mum to go to the record store so I could buy it. It was basically the only record I had for a long time.

“I’ve always loved movies. There was that moment after tennis where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, but I was still so young, I don’t think I really knew what the hell I wanted to do until I was 30. But liking film and thinking you’d like to make music for film, it doesn’t tend to happen just like that. It takes time, years of making records and building a reputation.

“Then slowly people I knew, like Jóhann Jóhannsson, started to get some work, and then other people in our little circle began to pick up projects. It’s so strange and slow moving and suddenly here I am scoring films. I’ve never had a hit record, I’ve always been a pretty underground, anonymous person. When I think back I don’t even realise how I got here because it happened so organically.”


“It’s nice to do different things. Composing and creating music means you don’t just have to stick to one thing. Composers who make film music, that’s all they get to do, I get to make records, I get to go on tour. Jóhann hasn’t been touring so much lately because he’s been working on bigger and bigger films, which take more and more time. I was talking to him a couple of days ago, we were playing in Belgium, and he said, ‘You know, I’d forgotten how much I love just being out and playing concerts’. It’s just these random moments in time. These happy accidents that happen. We’re both lucky that we get to have these different avenues for our creative process.”


“There are quite a few friends who have influenced me. Since meeting Dustin [O’Halloran], who I work with as A Winged Victory For The Sullen, and then moving to Europe a few years ago there’s all these guys you keep running into like Ben Frost and Tim Hecker and Volker Bertelmann. We’ve all become strange comrades. Even though we’re not making the same kind of music, maybe we are influencing each other in a weird way. The nice thing about it is we’re all very supportive, it’s not competitive and we generally like what the others are doing, which is really good because, unfortunately, there’s a lot of competitive bullshit that falls into the art world. There is some good in the world, believe it or not, it just doesn’t feel like it anymore.”


“Moving to Europe and living in Belgium, living in this old environment, was really inspiring. The architecture, the art museums, things like that are very inspirational for me. You can just feel the history, which we don’t have at all in America, everything just looks like a mall. So culturally I love it, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to America if I have a choice. I feel quite comfortable in Europe. It was really good for me, I’m glad I did it. At the time I didn’t really know what was going to happen. You just felt something tugging at you, that you needed to move east and so I did.”

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