Music Interview: Nic Olsen – Atom Man, Or Into The Abstract, Old Son

June 4, 2020

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Nic Olsen is no stranger to the South African music scene. He was one of the frontmen of popular SA band Perez and has written multiple hit songs such as The Parlotones’ Push Me To The Floor and the Perez hit Picture Perfect. His new single, Atom Man, is released as part of his solo project, SonOfOld.

SonOfOld started developing as a solo project between the first and second Perez albums. Around 2008, Olsen released two albums with German indie label, Little Teddy Recordings. Third album The Wolf Album was released after Olsen‘s time in The Parlotones . On this record he was joined by well-known German drummer Florian Schanze and for a short while SonOfOld became a two-piece rock band. The Wolf Album was recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini and, although it enjoyed critical acclaim, SonOfOld went into remission when Olsen relocated from Germany back to South Africa in 2011. Olsen continued to contribute to The Parlotones and Kahn Morbee‘s solo material and apart from a brief reunion of Perez at Splashy Fen in 2018, there was not much performing going on at all.

Things started to change in 2019 when Olsen met producer and drummer Tom Hughs. He decided to record a self-titled fourth album, now available on pre-save from The album was recorded over a two week period in Olsen‘s house and once the first mixes became available and shared with friends in the music industry, it became apparent that this album was special.


“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?

There is no specific album, song or era of music that led to me becoming a musician. I have been influenced by a variety of sounds as music has always been a part of my life. I was really into the Hollies when I was at pre-primary school. My favourite tracks were Carrie Anne; On A Carousel; Bus Stop and Stop Stop Stop. This, no doubt, had an influence on me.


Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?

My initial musical interests were firmly grounded in melody, which I considered to be paramount. Over the years though, I have learned to appreciate lyrical content far more and have discovered the art in lyrical phrasing and expression and how powerful this can be.


Name one song you wish you’d written or one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?

Songs are, for me, bigger than the writer. The song is already there, it just needs to be articulated. Sometimes it takes a few minds to unlock the sound. I cannot say there is a song I wish I had written but one that sticks is Lennon’s Across The Universe, credited as Lennon/McCartney. “Nothing’s going to change my world…” – enough said.


Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?

I currently believe in the whole picture. Melody is not just the notes, but the rhythm and phrasing of the lyrics. The process of writing for me, though, is spontaneous and primarily based on improvisation – I am unaware of the process as it unfolds.


The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (selling CDs from a box in your car or similar) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.

I have no idea how to sell music. The last record I put out was in 2011 and so much has changed since then. I am currently playing it all by ear with a little guidance from my friends.


What is the story behind Atom Man – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?

I wrote the song around 2009-2010, perhaps later, and first jammed the song with Florian Schanze, the drummer I was working with at the time. We played it really fast. I  like the track because it has no obvious chorus and the lyrics are rather abstract, which most likely comes from having nothing meaningful to say. I remember being a little wound up by some political issues at the time.

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