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Stefan Sullivan for Happy Clinic: on having his cake and eating it too
March 3, 2011, 7:40 am
Filed under: Art, Life!, Music | Tags:

I was once in this writing program where each week I was asked to write an introduction for myself.  This introduction always had to include three truths and one lie about me and my life.  While everyone in the program knew that their introduction possessed a bit of fiction, the audience was none-the-wiser.  I always felt a bit devious–certainly cunning–for the chance and ability to dupe the audience, as well as my fellow program members.  Hell, it was my life to play with.

But since that writing exercise, I’ve always been wary of autobiography–wary of autobiography and its potential to be fictionalized.  So when I started poking around the Happy Clinic website and Stefan Sullivan’s biography in preparation for our interview, I was aghast.  In remembering the three-truths-and-a-lie exercise, Stefan’s biography seemed a model of excellence.  How could one man truly be a Poly Sci and Russian graduate from Middlebury, hold an Oxford PhD about the Jesus figure in 19th century German philosophy, be an NGO operative in the war zones of the Caucasus, a well-published Washington based journalist, an internationally well-received author, and co-releasing an album all before the age of 50?

In an interview with Stefan, Joerg Plath makes the point that Mister Sullivan’s life has been “so turbulent that it easily suffices for two persons.” Touche, Joerg.  Stefan’s response to this point is something along the lines of–and I’m really paraphrasing here–instead of taking too much from one facet of his life, he nibbles and moves on.  Stefan has his cake and eats it too.  This has allowed him to have many fleeting, yet deeply impactful experiences.  It has allowed him to establish a life where the truth itself is a bit devious, and there’s plenty of material to play with.  Cue Happy Clinic, Stefan’s collaboration with musician, composer, and engineer Claus Bühler.

In our interview, Stefan talked about how the ephemeral and ecstatic moments of his life have remained in his consciousness, almost begging to become elegies to their own passing.  The result of this is Memory Mound, an album penned by Stefan and composed and performed by Stefan and Claus, with guest artists including Cecilia Colombo, Julius Krause, Scott Albert Johnson, and Gregg Robins.

Memory Mound is an often upbeat and slightly off-kilter homage to hedonism.  To date, the duo have a music video for the first track on the album, Lokomotiv.

Stefan is as much a storyteller as he is any of his other professions.  Listen in for his recollections of brushes with Thai sex tourism, losing his moral compass, and what it’s like to finally lead a “rather pedestrian life.”

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/zar205/public/Stefan%20Sullivan.mp3]

Zoe Rosenberg

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