David Baker - Interview
Posted by Hunter on Thu, 07 Jun 2012.
David Baker, founding member and singer of Mercury Rev, Studio Engineer, is back with "Variety Lights", and he's one of those musicians who is utterly compelling. Sure Mercury Rev achieved more commercial success with new frontman Jonathan Donuhue, but I actually missed Baker's style. In fact after the split from Mercury Rev, I was waiting to see what he would do next, I hoped there would be a slew of his material, unchained. That didn't quite happen. He did release an album under the moniker of "Shady", and he did some sound engineering work too, but he was uncharacteristically quiet.
So a press release floated in to my inbox, "Variety Lights", then I noticed the name "David Baker". I may not always get on with his material, but I certainly appreciate his approach and style, and well, I was keen to get a few words from the man himself!
Central Flow is out in June. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired some of the tracks on it?
There was a period some time back when I was feeling a lot more depressed and miserable than even my standard operating level due to major events that were happening: my mom passing, the 'wars on terror', the wars on honesty and decency and lack of love for others that brought on all that road rage that was in vogue... crappy people at my work and so on.
And at the height of despair, my girlfriend, Julianne, started to really encourage me to spend more time doing what I love. One step at a time. Making sounds, singing and writing and just experimenting. This was around the time I met Will. He was someone who had a passion for vintage synths and was persistent or consistent or both. He kept coming over so we started slowly, almost like hobbyists experimenting, but before we knew it we had music and then songs.
While the songs are all different approaches and moods and subjects--life after loss-Oh Setting Sun; speaking out-Silent Too Long; Marriage and Love-Establishment--the inspiration for it all, the reason is my Julianne...and, well, also our puppy, Penny.
Has owning your own studio, "Over the Trees", allowed you to experiment more, and in your own time?
It certainly has made it easier to do many things I was not allowed to do in the years when I was recording at some studios. Especially with Midi and linking synths and expanders. When I first started recording years ago, I would go in a studio with the same desire to connect everything and just see where it goes, but the per-hour price tag made it hard to do often.
A number of people are saying that the music industry is in a bit of a mess and that it's struggling. What are your views on that?
There are always two ends of the spectrum in what people call the music industry. The big flashy money end that is always there in the main stream to make a quick buck, maybe at times more trivial or trendy fashion-based. And then the other end of the spectrum-- maybe more long-term at times, historic, underground or passionate committed-music-fan based end..where collectors and enthusiasts are, by human nature more underground. They will buy a tshirt at a show, buy the vinyl, go to the show collect the setlist. That is the same and maybe bigger and better than ever.
What do you think about talent shows that make people into "instant stars" such as The X-Factor or the new show on BBC 1, The Voice?
I suppose it's like asking a chef if he resents Gordon Ramsey making stars out of random competitors in Hell's Kitchen. It probably does not matter in the end to the chef. It's just ratings and it's all the same.
I definitely think that Tom Jones is a great singer, just ask Elvis. I would like to meet him one day so I will not say anything about The Voice, which I have not seen anyway.
Do you ever get a bit anxious before a show or the release of an album?
Sure, I am human. But that also can be useful energy.
The benefit of hindsight is always great. Is there anything you would do differently if you could go back in time?
Ask more of people than I did.
Make more records.
Thank you David!
His answer to the first question gave me a moment of understanding, and given his undoubted talent and an earnest approach to his craft, I certainly wish him well! It's great to see him doing interviews again too.
Find out more about Variety Lights here: http://www.facebook.com/VarietyLights