Computerchemist is Dave Pearson, formerly of the UK, now living in Hungary. He makes very active electronic music with elements of progressive rock much like Tangerine Dream did in their heyday. Beyond that I knew little, so here’s another interview where I’m finding out about Dave along with the rest of you.
Reading your home page, and your sites on FaceBook and MySpace, it looks like you’ve been into music for quite a long time, yet your solo career seems to have taken off rather recently. Why the seemingly sudden regular output of electronic music?
I’ve been pretty musically active through the years, but after I stopped the band circuits in the late ’80s I’ve been mainly jamming in the studio, not really compiling any permanent recordings. I hate to use the old cliché of “work commitments” but sadly the music did take a back seat for many years over my day job. I discovered MySpace in 2006 and thought it would be cool to put some of my older stuff on there, and was literally quite stunned with the really positive responses I was getting, to music which is very definitely in the “old school” mould and certainly not the sort of music which may seem more predominant on social networking sites! I got approached by a record company with a view to including some tracks on a compilation CD project, so I penned some tunes especially for that (“Flight of F”, “Dominos Lament”). The project never materialized, but I thought it would be a waste just to throw this new work away, so I fleshed out another couple of ideas I had at the time, and ended up pretty much with a whole album – “Atmospheric”. The track “French Game Idea” was a last minute add-on, UbiSoft in Quebec were interested in using some of my work in a game, so I included this “musical swatch” on the album. So that was my first album wrapped, and having received a very favorable reaction, I’ve managed to produce one every year for the past 4 years. What helped with this considerably was giving up full-time work in 2008 and moving to Hungary, allowing me to concentrate pretty much 24/7 on my music.
What is it about electronic music in particular that is so appealing to you, and why do you think EM fans are so passionate?
For me, one of the reasons is that it’s “Musique sans frontières” – it doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to music from Germany, or Spain, or Brazil, or Japan, because EM has the ability to transcend borders in a way that very few other genres can, with the exception of classical instrumental music possibly. So you get to hear a lot more styles of music from a lot more different places than you would find being limited to a language barrier, it just makes it so much more accessible. I personally like the driving sequencer music typified by late ’70s TD, Schulze and others. Maybe it’s because EM not only transcends borders but it’s also quite unique in the number of different permutations of styles, from drone to virtually prog, and sideways to dance, and out to experimental. But it’s also, in the main, “intelligent” music too. You don’t just get a quick 3 minute “fix” like you would with pop music, it’s music to be experienced, and contemplated, and thought about. I guess that’s one of the reasons why EM fans are passionate about their music. It is refreshing to think that the genre is still so active after 40 years too – it would be nice to think in future times some of the more dominant contributors like Froese and Schulze may well be rolled into the “classical” 1900’s composers for a listener in the 24th century, as just another variety of musical expression.
You also have quite an affinity for rock, and that shows in your music as well. What would you recommend as the quintessential Computerchemist track that really shows what you are aiming for in blending rock and EM, the one that really hit the sweet spot for you?
It’s a musical journey of constant discovery (and re-discovery) that I’m on, and one that I hope the listener will accompany me along on too. As such, there’s no “one” track for me that says that’s it, that’s the one. I think it’s a state of mind – if I actually thought I couldn’t better a track, forever, I might as well just stop right there! So yes, each album has a favorite for me personally, but what I find even more intriguing is everybody else seems to have their own favorite, and they all seem to be different answers depending on who I ask!
How much gear do you currently have? Do you mostly use actual synthesizers, softsynths, or a combination of both?
I sold my last “actual” synth a few years ago. It’s all virtual “VSTi” synths, softsynths, that you hear on the albums. I use Cubase SX3 as my DAW, with an 88 key master keyboard and a motorized midi controller surface.
The guitar work has been a mixture of e-guitar and real guitar on the first 2 albums, but the last two have been “real” guitar through and through. For the guitar I have a customized Behringer with Fender lace pickups and Sperzel machine heads, routed through a valve preamp, gate compander and into an external soundpod. There’s also a long neck Yamaha bass I use on some tracks, like “Tantric Race”.
The drums are all processed, individually sampled and layered hits from real acoustic drumkits, played live by myself on a Yamaha drumpad kit or via the master keyboard through a VSTi sampler. There’s definitely not a single loop on any track!
The great thing about going virtual is the fact that there’s very little kit to lug around – in fact I can play a live set now with just a laptop, the keyboard and surface, the soundpod and a guitar!
How do your musical ideas evolve? Does a tune pop into your head, or does it start with an idea, or do you just go into the studio and start playing?
It depends. Often it’s a case of sitting down, laying down a good sequence and then getting into the groove. Sometimes I may get an idea when I’m away from the equipment, so then I need to try and remember it! A lot of the longer tracks were evolved over a period of time, I find it’s best to lay down as much as I can, then see what can be pruned back to make it more aesthetically pleasing – so it’s composing first, then arranging, and then often iteratively going back and doing it over again… and again….
Your previous interviews talk only about your music. What other interests or passions do you have, or is music far and away the main thing?
My other interests tend to be, maybe somewhat unsurprisingly, mostly based around the computer too. I especially like FPS gaming, flightsimming and mapping. I’m very passionate about maps, especially old maps. I can quite literally get lost in a good map for hours, there’s something so compelling about the format! How the ancients saw the world, how we see the world. I cycle a lot too, and always carry a GPS logger to map my journey. I’ve been contributing to the open-source mapping project “open streetmap” over the past 2 years mapping the town I now live in – when I first moved here two years ago it was uncharted territory, now it’s looking pretty good. http://www.openstreetmap.org/?lat=47.1837&lon=18.449&zoom=13&layers=B000FTF
if you’re interested!
Do you have a family, or maybe pets, living with you? What do they think of your music?
My wife and younger daughter live with me in Hungary, my eldest daughter is living in the UK. Although EM may not be their favorite genre they are always interested in what I’m doing and give me lots of support and encouragement.
Have you done any live performing? If so, what has that been like, and what do you like best about it? If you haven’t, is that a possibility in the future?
I was with quite a few bands in the ’80s, all of which used to gig quite intensively, and which I enjoyed immensely. After a long gap, this year I’m starting to play live again – I have been invited to perform as the opening act at E-Live in the Netherlands in October, with more follow on venues to be announced soon, which I’m really looking forwards to. What do I like about it? Well, you can’t beat the atmosphere and ambience of a live set.
When people find out you are a musician and ask what kind of music you make, what do you tell them?
It’s….. actually, that’s a good question. I seem to defy pigeon holes. There again, I’m not a pigeon! I have been, and I’m still being influenced by so many artists from so many genres, that even I would struggle to find a single category – but the huge range of “EM” seems to fall mostly upon what I do!
Why Computerchemist? (which is a really cool name, BTW)
Thanks! The chemistry, as they say, is in the computer… as all the tracks are composed and played inside the computer, the only “real” instrumental input being the guitar, it seemed like an apt name 🙂
Thanks for the interview Dave; looking forward to the next album!