Hometown Heroes: Soulcas
Well folks, our final Hometown Hero has already arrived! We started this series as a fun way to show how many cultures go into making an international team like ours; how many hometowns of all kinds contribute to one wider EMEA community. And now we’re closing things out with Dom “Soulcas” Sulcas and his hometown of London.
You might not think it, but London is a pretty unique hometown in the world of esports — especially the FPS. London is a large, world-class city, around 9 million people strong. But the UK as a whole is spotty in terms of delivering FPS talent, such that it’s a steadier bet to see a Swede, a Finn, or a Russian on an international EMEA roster.
And Soulcas, for his part, is unique for a pro player and a Londoner. His father came over from Lithuania in the 90’s, making Soulcas a second generation Brit. His dad was a bit of a DJ in Lithuania’s underground music scene, and took him to gadget and game fairs when he was younger. That background has made Soulcas one of the more worldly, creative, counter-culture, and hipster pros I’ve interviewed. He could probably give you a good tour of London too.
So I did a bit of sleuthing on social media. We'll see how good I did. Are you from southeast London?
Can you tell me a little bit about southeast London, where you grew up? What the neighborhood was like?
So I was born and raised for like the first seven years and a park called Croydon, which is kind of like South London. It was the same place where Link basically grew up. Fun fact, we were actually born in the same hospital as well. So it's like, small world.
I don't remember too much about, like, the neighborhood [of Croydon]. I think [when] I was seven or eight, I moved to a part called Welling. It's more Southeast. [...] I think it was quite a quiet neighborhood.
It's like a big high street with some big stores and some restaurants but there's nothing too too crazy. My neighbor’s basically like a park in a way because right next to my house there’s literally a huge park. So every now and then I'd go there and walk around, chill.
Welling, looks like it’s a little bit more suburban.
And also, it looks a little more historic.
Yeah, I think that's kind of what [most] parts of UK are like. It looks very, you know, old, historic-looking type buildings. When you go outside of London, that's the kind of vibe you get in most places.
That makes sense. Yeah. You know, as an American, I think it colors my perspective a lot. Europeans are like, “Oh, yeah, there's just like a church from like, 500 years ago over there.” And we're like, “That's older than our country!”
[Chuckling] Yeah. It's very — how do I say it? — like the landscape and the layout of the buildings and the roads is so different to the US because the US is more open, you have bigger space. [...] Whereas London, even the UK in general, it's kind of more cramped, like, the houses are very together, you know, they're not as big. Everything's just smaller overall. [...]
When I went to America for the first time, I went to Chicago because my cousin lives there. [...] It was kinda weird just looking at it, it was just huge open [lawns]. The neighborhood, it was just like what you’d see in the movies. [...] I remember wanting to learn to skate. There [Chicago], you could just go on your street, your neighborhood and practice. For me [in London], there’s no room. It’s either your backyard or you go to a park.
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There's a lot of skateparks and skate culture in the US. I think [space is] one of the reasons why [the US has so many good skaters]. [...] It’s cool you went to Chicago, because that’s in my eyes the best American city. I think it’s one of the cities in the US that's more similar to Europe, as opposed to like, if you went to like LA. LA is the most American city on the planet.
[Laughs] It does seem it from the outside, yeah.
From the inside too. [...] You sort of grew up in this suburb that’s pretty close to London. [...] How often did you find yourself going into London, proper?
As I got older, quite common. When I was younger, like every now and then, with my parents, either to go to Hyde Park, or even Camden Town, where it's like a bunch of markets. It’s very hipster, that area, it’s very cool. It’s quite different. I like it. As I've grown older, I've definitely gone more and more and especially since being with my girlfriend, we go very often just to walk around and do stuff.
Within London, there’s a pretty massive music scene. Especially for electronic music. What was it like growing up with that?
As I got older, I realized that, damn it's kind of cool knowing that most big artists that you want to go and see, they will perform in London. You're not somewhere far away so you have to, like, travel hours and hours and hours on the train to get there. My appreciation grew a lot more.
The first ever artist I saw live was Lil’ Peep. It was very nerve wracking, going to a concert, because I didn't know what to expect. [...] I was there with a friend who was with a few of his others, and I was like, “being a bit taller would have fucking helped.” Sometimes it's really hard to see because I always end up having some guy that's like seven foot tall in front of me. I'm like, “Please!”
Yeah, one of my best friends is like 6’4”. And I tell him that there needs to be, like, a little zone, a little pasture, for the tall people.
[Laughing] Exactly! One hundred percent.
Because they have, very much, this tall, big people energy. “I'm gonna push to the front!”
They're always at the front! It's like, bro, if you're at the back or the front, like, it doesn't matter. It's the same thing, you can see, even if at the back.
Any artists you’d recommend these days?
I kinda go in phases. Now I’m listening to the earlier rock I used like in the early 2000’s. [...] I’ll say Brakence. Yeah, his latest album [Hypochondriac] is actually incredible. Every song is one hell of an experience.
Do you think that's where your love of music came from? Did it come from growing up in London? Or do you think that's more something that assisted it?
Assisted it. Probably regardless of if I was in London or not, I would still be very heavily into music. It was always something where I just enjoyed it. Even different genres, and just all sorts, it's just something I always had a love for. It's something I always fell back on when it's a stressful day.
I went to DC for college, coming out from Indianapolis, where it's like, it's kind of 50/50 if a US band will stop by. [...] But when I was in DC, I remember taking the Metro all the time to really popular, big, and old music venues. It's a really different vibe. It's really cool.
What was cool as well: I remember [once], my dad asked me, “Oh, which venue you goin’ to?” I was like, “Brixton Academy, 02 Academy.” And then he was like, “Oh yeah, I remember when I went there when I was younger. When we first came to London.” I was like, “What the fuck? That’s so sick.”
I remember also [...] when my dad was younger, back in Lithuania, he was also into DJing and stuff. He would go to these more, like, underground, almost illegal, parties where it's [at a] secret location. Apparently he saw Aphex Twin live. I didn't know about this, and I listened to [Aphex Twin]! [...] I remember he showed me he had this big DJ kinda station thing he had. I was like, “Where did this come from? Why didn't I hear about it earlier?”
That's really neat. So, is your dad a first generation immigrant from Lithuania?
Yeah. He moved when it was like 19 — agh — 90 something?
Did you go back to Lithuania at all? Do you have any ties to that country?
Yeah, actually, I went back for [last] Christmas. Before that I basically [hadn't gone] to Lithuania [since] COVID. So it was quite a while. Usually we go there quite often because basically [...] we have no family in London. They’re all in Lithuania, so we used to go there every summer or every other summer. [...]
[However] I only grew up here in London and I never really had too much time to spend [in Lithuania]. I remember when I was younger, my Lithuanian, it was decent. It was okay. I feel like as I grew older, it didn't improve, because I wasn't really going there too much and it was kind of hard to learn. When I speak with my parents, it’s sometimes a mix. I’d mix in Lithuanian with English.
I know you talked about Camden Town, but do you have other favorite parts of London?
I do. There’s an area called Boxpark. It's also like, kind of like Camden Town, where it's kind of hipster. There's this area where it's like a bunch of shipping containers that have been transformed into bars and mini shops. [...]
And apparently your business has to perform really well within like the first three months otherwise you literally just get swapped out for another small business. It's this very unique thing where it's like a bunch of small businesses that open up there [and change around].
But also Central Oxford Street is super nice during Christmas, because they put up these kind of flying angel lights in the main road and it's super nice at night. I just really like, overall, London architecture. That's something I'm always fascinated with at night walking around.
SoHo is a really nice place too and right next to it is Chinatown – and there’s really cool places around there.
Isn’t SoHo famous for something?
Yeah probably gay bars. I think that’s one thing.
[Laughs] I thought that was Brighton.
Yeah Brighton is as well, actually. But I remember when you walk into SoHo, there’s like one where instantly it just turns into a bunch of gay bars and some more unique kinda things. It’s definitely a different area. I like it.
Did you also go to uni[versity] in London?
I went to uni in Northampton, which is like three hours up. When you look at England, it's actually like, right in the middle of England. Now that is a quiet town where nothing happens. If it wasn't for uni, there’s actually no reason. [...] I was very close to going to uni near where I lived, a place called Greenwich. It's a really nice place.
And then speaking of the UK scene in general, you know, we've talked about your roots in it before and how deep those go. Do you think it influenced how you play or practice at all?
I don't think the UK scene really had a playstyle or an identity. The period I was in, it was in a very weird place. UK CS, before I played CS, was a lot more on the international level, back in Source. But when all those [Source] players kind of stopped playing I think we lost the identity. Because I know other countries that have tons of identity, like Turkish players are very aggressive in the game, like they just go run and peek stuff. I think the UK [scene] mainly had a lot of toxic people. [Chuckles]
But these days, how do you feel the UK valorant scene is doing? Do you think it's going to stay stronger than in CS?
I mean, right now even in CS, there’s a [strong UK] team — Into The Breach. I know two of the players quite well, Thomas and Cypher. I went to LANs with them when I played in CS. It was very surreal, seeing them up there [in the Paris Major], having their stickers and stuff. But I think other than that, I would say the UK in Valorant is doing a lot better [than in CS]. Maybe not as much as it used to be when we had the old Liquid, you know, the four UK guys. But I still think there's like a decent amount of UK players doing very well.
Have you been following Into The Breach or Fnatic’s run at all?
Every now and then, when there's big [CS] tournaments, basically Majors, I watch them. This Major I've been really quite interested and invested. I think it's probably because it's the last CS major and also Mezii [on Fnatics roster] is someone I knew quite well. So seeing both of those teams [ITB and Fnatic] in the majors also made me want to watch it.
Were you torn at all when Liquid and Into The Breach were playing?
Yeah. I remember, I was watching Liquid and I was like, damn, I really want them to do well because they were 0-2 down in the Challengers [Stage] and they managed to rise all the way back up to the top. I think that was so sick. But yeah, I dunno, I was kind of torn. I was like, whatever happens. I don't mind. I won’t complain.
Are there any words you want to say to your British brothers at the Major?
Honestly, just keep killing it. I dunno, it’s just so awesome to see, like the growth. They broke out of the UK scene — it was very hard to escape the UK black hole. The only way you get out is you either play for stats on HLTV to look good or your team magically somehow becomes good on the international level and that was very rare. There was like one team that did it and it was Endpoint back in the day.
Speaking of words, what are your top 3 favorite British slang words.
Damn. I remember I started to teach Ayaz [nAts] some words. [...] There’s all these slang words I’d never use unironically. I just use them as a troll. I've taught Ayaz to say, “butters.” It basically means ugly, in a way, and I told him to say it to Eamon [the team manager].
Top 3 slang words, that should be calm, long, and peak. Calm is like okay [or] alright. Long would be used as kinda like a can't be assed - nah, that's long. Peak would be used when it's kinda like that's unlucky for someone "He's having to work overtime, that peak for him"
I also hear this really weird thing about London, which is that there's a ton of foxes…
Yeah that’s true! Even my girlfriend, she's from Birmingham, one time she saw a fox. She’s like, “Oh my god, it’s a fox!” I’m like, “Huh?? Have you not seen foxes before?” Especially where I am, there’s Foxes everywhere.
That's surreal to me. I've also read that they're like pests. They’re like deer for you guys.
Yeah at night they just do this, like, squealing sound. My God, it sounds like they've broken their foot and they’re squealing. It sounds awful. It’s just their noise, it's just — I dunno — how they speak to each other.
I’ve heard people say that why people had these legends about forest spirits and ghosts and stuff is because of the noises foxes would make in the forest. [...] Recently, you guys have moved to Berlin, and you're living there? How do you like Berlin?
I think it’s super nice. Some parts do remind me of Lithuania. Just the architecture. [...]
I really like the whole vibe of Berlin because, you know, it’s a place where, even in terms of like, who you are as a person with [your] outfits and stuff, you can just wear whatever you want and no one's gonna care. No one's gonna judge. I think that's so awesome. Like, I love that. It definitely has a deep culture, even with music and fashion and stuff.
Also nAts and Redgar are really talking up the doner kebab in there.
[Exasperated] Oh, my God, I don't hear the end of it. I mean, it’s definitely really nice [but] there's this place that nAts really just goes on about and raves about. [In a low, Russian accent] “Dom, come to Hakiki, it's so good.”
I remember I went and I was like, “Eh, it’s okay.” [...] The place ordered from later [Doner 21] was super nice, it was really good.
This is something [a friend told me] what kebab place you like is a point of contention In Berlin.
Yeah. I’m rooting for Doner 21, that’s my go-to spot. [Chuckles]
Writer // Austin "Plyff" Ryan
Graphics // Felipe Braga