TRACK #1: “Tantric Race” from “Aqual Measure” playing in background.
Bruce Gall (BG): Hi, my name is Bruce Gall and welcome along to a rather special Sunday synth this week. On the program not only will I be talking to Dave Pearson but I will have the honour of being the very first to play Computerchemist’s new album, “Aqual Measure”. And whether you like EM or rock music, I really think you’ll like this.
So, we’re just listening to the rather tantalising opening section to the first track on Aqual Measure, it’s called “Tantric Race”, and I’d like to welcome back to Sunday Synth for the second time this year, Mr. Dave Pearson.
Dave Pearson (DP): Hiya Bruce, how’s it going?
BG: It’s going great. Thanks very much for joining me again, so we last spoke in July this year, and we covered your career and influences, and since then I guess you’ve been pretty busy putting the finishing touches to the new album?
DP: Yeah, that’s pretty much of an understatement actually! I’ve been working on it really since January this year, when we did that special it was still quite under way, about half done, you know what I’m like, a bit of a complete-finisher.. it takes ages to get the thing together!
BG: Of course, this is your second release in the space of a year isn’t it, because “Landform” came out about this time last year?
DP: That’s right, I seem to be doing them about once a year don’t I, it’s becoming a bit of a regular thing now, you can almost set your watch by them, that’s the way it seems to be happening!
BG: So Dave, tell us a bit about the opener, “Tantric Race”. Quite a quiet opening section, but after about three and a half minutes it really bursts into life and it more or less sets the scene for the rest of the album.
DP: Well, it was really a bit of a tip of the hat to Manuel Göttsching, someone quite influential, one of the founding members of “Ash Ra Tempel”. I really liked his guitar playing style, there was an album he did back in 1974 called “Inventions for Electric Guitar” – an awesome album, if ever you get chance to listen to that. What I liked about it is he’s basically doing Berlin School – but on a guitar! I thought that was a fantastic concept. On the whole album if there is synth it’s very low in the mix. The whole thing is built around beats with echoed guitar, a bit like the sort of playing Gilmour does from time to time, but (Manuel) did a whole album of it! So, what I was doing there, was the same kind of construct, getting the bass guitar taking the place of the bass sequencer run. Rather than using the sequencer to get the 4/4 timing, it’s a bass guitar, with a bit of a delayed echo. Then, building up over that, you’ve got the other delayed echoes synched to it for the other guitar parts, so it’s building up this very classic Berlin sound, but, on guitar rather than synthesiser.
BG: Well, the last time we spoke, we actually mentioned some of your influences, and many were from the world of rock music, and you’ve certainly gone over to the heavier side with “Aqual Measure”.
DP: Yeah, it get get a little more guitary didn’t it! Even though I said it wasn’t going to!
BG: It’s a continuation from “Landform” though, isn’t it, where we had tracks like “Darklight Drive”, it’s just a continuation of that album I think?
DP: I think what happens is I pick up on something I’ve done previously and kind of build on that, so in a way, it is a logical progression, which shouldn’t come as too great a shock from people who have listened to “Landform” but may come as a bit of a shock to those who’ve gone straight from “atmospheric” to “Aqual Measure” and missed out the middle albums…
BG: Jumping from the first to the last you might say…
DP: It might be more like “tantric shock” I think! (laughs)
BG: Well obviously, you’re involved in the whole album, everything, are you?
DP: The artwork’s done by angiewoman, that’s been a regular occurrence for the past three albums. I did the artwork for “atmospheric” myself, it was a bit hazy and stuff and did the job, but I’m not really an artist, so I left it in the hands of somebody who could do a far better job.
BG: There is that connection between the last 3 albums isn’t there?
DP: That’s right, I’m trying to bring that out, in that the first one was about the atmosphere and the air, the second album was all about energy and fire, the third about the land, and earthly forces, and this (new) one’s really got quite a watery theme.
BG; At this stage in your career Dave, that’s four albums in now, do you still find it easy writing? You seem to be in a rich vein of form artistically just lately now.
DP: it really just seems to flow out – there are times when you feel you’re up against a bit of a block, but other times when it just flows and you just can’t stop, and when I’m in that sort of phase I just go hell for leather and see what comes out the other end.
BG:So, did the amalgamation of electronic music with rock influences come naturally or have you been developing it, because there seems to be a stronger link between the two styles as the albums have gone on?
TRACK #2: “Danube Flow” from “Aqual Measure” playing in background.
DP: I’ve had the guitars in there from day one but they are becoming more and more vocal. I suppose the playing style is improving, it’s getting a more relaxed kind of feel. If you look at my record collection it’s pretty much 80-20 rock to electronic, so rock is a huge influence for me. I really like the TD period where the guitar was very prominent, the sort of style they had in the late ’70s with albums like “Green Desert” and the “Encore” album, live sets, that sort of period. I think that was the closest that TD got to with that crossover rock style, so in a way it’s trying to get those two forms together, and it’s gone pretty much more guitary than synthy, hasn’t it?
BG: OK Dave, talk us through track two, “Danube Flow”. Is this based on a personal trip?
DP: It is indeed. The very same trip we’ve taken a couple of times already from Hungary to the UK and back again. For about 3/4 of the journey through Europe you’re actually following the track of the Danube. As you know, the Danube flows all the middle through Hungary, it then goes all the way through the middle of Austria, and then pretty much goes all the way through the middle of Germany till you get to the bit where the Rhine is. So it’s a journey for me, and it’s a beautiful place as well, in this huge valley most of the time, watching this really sedate river that you know turns into this giant thing by the time it gets to Budapest.. it was otters playing in it (in Regensburg) that got me thinking about the track, just flashing around in the water and sunlight, an amazing sight.
BG: Is this a cruise ship or?
DP: No, it’s actually the road system, everything follows down really the path the Danube makes through the valleys, it’s all autobahns all the way – and yes, I have played autobahn all the way too, much to the annoyance of the wife!
BG: Not only guitar on the album of course, drums are very prominent too, on “Aqual Measure”. Who plays on the drums on this, it’s not electronic drums, is it?
DP: It is! It’s all electronic.
BG: Really? It is?
DP: It is!
BG: Wow! That’s incredible!
DP: It’s all samples. They’re actually played live by myself, I’ve got a very old Yamaha plastic drum box with half the drum pads missing, I used that to synchronise it up to the computer. I’m actually playing a collection of samples I found that are actually free to download as well. I do a lot of post-processing to try and mix it in the same kind of way that you’d expect a traditional drum set to be mixed, so that makes it sound more acoustic and less electronic, I suppose.
BG: It sounds fantastic. Well, you think what the old electronic drums sounded like to what we’re hearing now…
DP: You mean like the “da-da-da” sort of thing! That’s about the exact tangential opposite isn’t it.
BG: Amazing! That’s really taken me back, that has! That’s “Danube Flow” from Computerchemist. Coming up for a short break this morning on ARFM, this is Sunday Synth with Bruce Gall, and my very special guest today, Dave Pearson.
BG: Welcome back to this Computerchemist special, and before I continue my chat with Dave about CC’s new album, “Aqual Measure”, I thought it might be a good time for anybody who is unfamiliar with older CC albums to give them a little bit of an insight into previous tracks. SO, from 2007’s “Icon One”, this is “The Message”.
TRACK #3: “The Message” from “Icon One”
BG: So, that was from 2007’s “Icon One”, and “The Message”. Back now to the present day – Dave, track 3, “Mirage”, is a bit of a paradox to some of the other tracks on the album. Where did the idea for this one come from? Talk us through that track.
DP: Although the album’s got a watery theme, this is like the opposite of water, isn’t it. You’re in the middle of the desert, you think you see something flicker in the distance, all oasis-like, but when you get there, it’s vanished again… and that was pretty much the track. It’s that sort of thinking, that it starts off all shimmery and hazy, and builds up to this very “in your face” sort of thing, but then just… disperses back into the dust again.
BG: Yeah, and again, with this piece you’ve managed to build the tension throughout the track. It’s a bit of a musical interpretation of a story.
DP: I guess it’s not like “poppy” stuff is it. You can’t really do verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle 8-finish.. well, you could… but it wouldn’t sound right, would it. Subconsciously, a lot of them start with a theme and build up on that, and then gradually disperse again!
BG: Like so many independent artists, I don’t suppose you have the luxury of dozens of people working for you, so on top of having to organize everything else that goes into releasing a CD, you still have to write and record everything, in what seems like a relatively short space of time between albums.
DP: Yeah, I suppose because you don’t have that bureaucracy you can concentrate on getting the things done. A lot of the delays are down to politics with a lot of recordings, but it’s not just that – the artwork, getting the whole thing out there, it is quite labour intensive, but I’m working it full time at the moment, pretty much 24/7.
BG: So, let’s hear track three from Computerchemist’s album “Aqual Measure”, this is “Mirage”.
TRACK #4: “Mirage” from “Aqual Measure”
BG: Right, we’re back with Dave here. This is “Aqual Measure”, probably my favourite track off the CD. You say it’s inspired by David Gilmour’s “Let’s get metaphysical”, is that right?
DP: Yes, I really love that track, blending that symphonic sound with that raw guitar sound. There’s a bit of “Underwater Sunlight” in there as well, a TD album I really liked that had a lot of piano in it. I just wanted to do something orchestral, something that just builds from the bottom and just keeps building and building until it reaches a crescendo, and then subsides, to build up again.
BG: It’s a track I wasn’t really familiar with from David Gilmour. Which album was that from?
DP: That one was from “About Face”, one of the middle ones he did, midway through his solo career.
BG: It’s a very dramatic piece though. I have heard it recently, really nice. And halfway through, it changes to a much more laid-back sort of feel, doesn’t it, which I thought was… I’m not talking about David Gilmour now, I’m talking about “Aqual Measure”! (laughs) It was brilliantly constructed, because you get the feel it’s building to a crescendo, as you say, then it falls back into a very “hey man” sort of feel. I love these sort of timechanges. It’s like a track within a track.
DP: Yes, and at the end you’ve got that rising series of tones, it’s loosely based on a construct called the “risset series” of rising tones. Again it’s something I always wanted to do on something, like a staircase that you never get to the top of, so at the end it’s getting lighter and lighter, and thinner and thinner… and it just sort of fades… in an upwards kind of way.
BG: OK then, let’s listen to “Aqual Measure”.
TRACK #5: “Aqual Measure” from “Aqual Measure” in background
BG: So, you were of course relating earlier about Uwe Cremer, appearing on this track, on guitar, who provides that much heavier edge to it. How did you two meet?
DP: It was all through myspace I think. He contacted me after “Icon One” had come out, we’ve had a pretty regular correspondence after that, and this year we just upped the ante a little bit. I was very impressed with his guitar playing, a different kind of style but still in the same sort of mould, so I think we complement each other quite well. I invited him to guest guitar on the title track and it’s turned out pretty good. It’s a different style to me, but at the same time it meshes, so I think it works out really well.
BG: Was there a mutual liking of each others music?
DP: Definitely. He tends to play more organic music, in the same kind of style of what Uwe refers to as “Krautrock” although I’m a bit loath to use the term because I’m sure some people might think it’s a derogatory thing. Well, he’s 100% German so if he’s OK with it, then I’m OK with it!
BG: I thought that too, when he spoke to me a few weeks ago, when I was playing “Level Pi” music. I wasn’t sure about “Krautrock”.
DP: It has got that negative connotation somewhere in it, and I think at the time, in the ’70s when there were a lot of labels selling this very cheap music it became very second rate in the eyes of the English – but of course, it wasn’t, it was more daring and experimental than a lot of other stuff around at the time.
DP: We were driving though across to the UK, as you know I live in Hungary now, earlier this year and we actually stopped over at his pad for a few days on the way back, so that was quite good, he’s got a great Fender, a couple of very nice keyboards, and it was at that point we decided we’ll be doing a collaboration as the next project, so that will be a proper joint collaboration album, where we’ll both have input into the keyboards and guitar side.
BG: But the recording side of it, was that done separately?
DP: The recording for “Aqual Measure”, yes, I’d already laid down the bottom line for it, I was hunting around trying to find something that sounded good. I knew what I wanted, it had to sound Gilmoury. It had to have that sort of edge to it, and I knew Uwe did that. So it was a case of “Hey Uwe, do you want to have a go at this?” and yeah, this was the result, it all worked out very well.
BG: That’s the title track to the new album, “Aqual Measure”. Join me after this short break for the final two tracks, and a bit more of a chat with Dave Pearson about this fantastic new album from Computerchemist. This is Sunday Synth, on ARFM.
TRACK #6: “Standing Waves, Standing Still” from “Aqual Measure” in background
BG: OK Dave. Next track is “Standing Waves, Standing Still”. Explain that title.
DP: “Standing Waves” is a term in radio, it’s the frequency at which things resonate, and “Standing Still” is just a play on words really. The whole thing is more of a journey than the other parts, more a loosely connected series of shorter sketches joined together with small interludes, so it’s a musical journey if you like, even though it’s not saying that in the title. Er, did that make sense?
BG: Not at all actually. I’ll listen back later.
DP: It’s like vocal LSD when I start talking, isn’t it! (laughs)
BG: There seems to be so many different layers to Computerchemist tracks, Dave, especially on a piece like “Standing Waves”. How long did it take to record that piece, I mean, it lasts nearly fourteen minutes?
DP: This was recorded over several months. In the middle you’ve actually got the Köln underground, because I like to do a lot of field recording as well..
BG: Is that what it is?
DP: So in the middle of it, you’ve got that “EEEEEE” noise… that’s the sound of the Köln underground, it’s a scary noise, like the sound of a Tie Fighter with a loose wheel that needs oiling, it’s… scary… and I loved it. I had my PDA phone on me so I just did some recording in the underground, a fantastic sound, and it sounds much better when you’re actually in it!
BG: That’s great, I love little snippets of information like that.
DP: You might actually hear a little bit of Uwe in there as well, because he was in the same carriage as me!
BG: Now once again, on this particular track, there’s a bit of a lull in the proceedings, which is great, because speaking personally, you think “hello, what’s going on here now? What’s going to to happen next?”. You know, with ordinary music you know exactly what’s coming, but with Computerchemist you don’t really know what’s coming, do you?
DP: I like the idea of musical surprises. Rather than something you know is predictable. When you read a good novel, you want a good twist in the end, don’t you? You don’t want “Oh yeah, I know who did it” right in chapter one, do you? So I do like that idea of musical surprise. One of the bands I quote as one of my influences, although it really doesn’t come across at all,is The Mars Volta, who have this incredible knack of putting something dynamically unexpected in the middle of a quite ordinary track, that it completely catches you – some of the bits make you jump, I hope I don’t get that far with it, but I really like the idea of the surprise, it keeps it interesting and makes you think what will happen next.
BG: Where now for Computerchemist, now that this latest chapter in Computerchemist history has been written?
DP: In terms of recording, I don’t think there will be another Computerchemist album for next year. What I will be concentrating on the joint project with Uwe, we’ll keep you posted on that. To get those same but different styles together, we’ve already tried it once on “Aqual Measure” and I consider that more than a success – it’s absolutely brilliant. So we’ll be doing a whole album, pushing a few musical boundaries so don’t expect straightforward EM with a bit or Rock. We don’t know where it’s going to end up so that’s the beauty of it really!
DP: I said last year that I’m looking at gigging at some point, I’ve still got to get that together, really now with four albums under the belt it’s time to jump into a van and start trying to put a couple of venues together, so watch this space.
BG: That was “Standing Waves, Standing Still”. Now before we carry on, Dave has very kindly offered some superb Computerchemist prizes in exchange for a very simple answer to a question, which Dave himself will now pose.
DP: Here’s the question: what was the name of Computerchemist’s first album? Don’t forget, your star prize is going to be a box set, signed, and two runners up prizes of Aqual Measure.
BG: Okay, there you go, now if you were listening closely then you will have heard the answer to that question during our chat earlier today. If you missed it, then logging on to Computerchemist.com will give you the necessary information, and believe me, for the effort it will take to answer that simple question the prize is quite outstanding, all four albums. So, have a go, you won’t regret it, and you’ll treat yourself to the superb sounds of Computerchemist.
BG: And so, to the final track, Dave, “Atlentic Rift”. Based on, I’m guessing, the changing faces of the earth’s surface?
TRACK #7: “Atlentic Rift” from “Aqual Measure” in background
DP: Absolutely, yeah. You’ve got this great undersea divide that’s constantly pulling apart. Africa and America are moving apart at the rate of 4 inches a year, or something like that, and as it’s doing so there is this gigantic pressure underneath all of these plates that are constantly tearing apart the middle of the Atlantic. Although most of it is underwater there’s only one bit you can actually see, and that’s Iceland. Well, and the Azores. So there’s this great, huge power, tearing away constantly, and over time it’s very gradual, all murky and gloopy, then suddenly, you get this huge explosion, and I was really trying to get that across in the piece of music, the fact you’ve got this building, building pressure, and suddenly, release… this huge, spuming volcano of magma, and following it, it just subsides back again, like it never happened.
BG: When this track lets rip towards the end, does this signify the collision of continents?
DP: That would indeed be the pulling apart of continents, and it’s that huge WHOOSH of all that pent-up pressure underneath, seemingly without end, just releasing with power. And it’s that that I was trying to get across, muscially. If I ever get raound to a video for it, it will probably have volcanoes in!
BG: It is a fantastic piece of music, it really is. While I remember, Dave, where can listeners find out about your music?
DP: I’m all over the place, so to speak! The main site is at //www.computerchemist.com where you can find links to all of the releases, you’ll find me on myspace as well, http://www.myspace.com/computerchemist and also on facebook http://www.facebook.com/ccfansite.
BG: I managed to do it, so anybody can! Dave, thanks very much for joining me today on Sunday Synth ARFM and look forward to hearing future music from you.
DP: No probs Bruce, and just a reminder, the new album “Aqual Measure” will be out on cdbaby as well.
BG: That’s brilliant. Thanks a lot Dave.
DP: Thank you Bruce!
BG: And just a quick reminder of the question Dave posed for you – what was the title of Computerchemist’s first album?
BG: The dramatic finale to the new album from Computerchemist, “Aqual Measure”, that one was “Atlantic Rift”.
So once again thanks to Dave Pearson for joining me today, and remember, do have a go at the competition, email your answers if you could to firstname.lastname@example.org and if you could head it “Computerchemist competition” that would be great.