“preface” (by Louis)
Louis Davy recently released an EP called Jack : The Drummer With The Heavenly Eyes on the Headphonica net label. I really like the organic texture and feel of the tracks. I contacted Louis, who was happy to answer some questions I had about his experimental groove project.
Tell me something about your latest Headphonica release.......
This release is made up of a collection of tunes that I worked on over a year or so and form my first EP. I wanted to explore the themes that inspired the authors of the songs titles; Baraka, Kerouac, Sartre and Fanon. Its all recorded by myself, played by me on basses & percussion with a few special guests; Gareth Pope and Tim Hook add guitars and some vocals by Mia & Dana Djundi on flute. Along with a few choice samples of Kerouac.
What is behind The Dharma Bum track?
"But now I was three miles into the industrial jungle of L.A. in mad sick sniffling smog night and had to sleep all that night by a wire fence in a ditch by the tracks being waked up all night by rackets of Southern Pacific and Santa Fe switchers bellyaching around, till fog and clear of midnight when I breathed better (thinking and praying in my sack) but then more fog and smog again and horrible damp white cloud of dawn and my bag too hot to sleep in and outside too raw to stand, nothing but horror all night long, except at dawn a little bird blessed me." Jack Kerouac - The Dharma Bums p.101-102
The Dharma Bum is a piece of music based on the writing of Jack Kerouac, particularly the novel The Dharma Bums. It is a piece of music that attempts to deal with one of the recurring themes of Kerouac's writings, that of inner conflict and a personal spiritual quest, issues that are recurring in this novel of dualities. All samples taken from the Verve Recordings 1990 CD album Readings by Jack Kerouac on The Beat Generation.
I like the track called Preface, which author is that one based on?
"in the tradition, always clarifying, always new and centuries old
Boosheee dooooo doo doooo dee
DEATH TO THE KLAN!"
The title of this extended piece comes from the Amiri Baraka poem Preface To A Twenty Volume Suicide Note, though the piece deals not so much with this poem as it does with the life and work of the author. Basically, I think Baraka's poetic voice is unique and shows aspects of genius. On the other hand he's said some pretty controversial stuff, though at least he's never been anything but honest with himself and everybody else in saying exactly what he thinks. You make your mind up.
I hope this makes some sense of what I was trying to do and maybe turns you on to Baraka.
Nausea is a great track Louis, probably my favourite on the EP. Is this based on something from Jean-Paul Sartre?
"For the moment it's the jazz that's playing; there's no melody, only notes, a host of little jolts. They know no rest, an unchanging order gives birth to them and destroys them, without ever giving them time to recover, to exist for themselves. They run, they hurry, they strike me with a sharp blow in passing and are obliterated. I should quite like to hold them back, but I know that if I managed to stop one, nothing would remain between my fingers but a vulgar, doleful sound. I must accept their death; I must even will it; I know few harsher or stranger impressions." Jean-Paul Sartre - Nausea p.36-37
This passage of the novel was of great influence during the composition process, particularly for the final section, where the layering of the five separate bass parts is intended to portray this sense of nausea due to the rapid attack of notes and disorienting layering of complex polyrhythms. It is such a great book, I really wanted to use the bass to create a whole soundscape of texture and tension, the feeling of isolation, using nothing but my bass and layering up the tracks. At the time I was making it I was studying the Beats and their influence on music. I had always been a fan of Kerouac but this turned me on more to WS Burroughs and his cut-up style which you can see echoed in so many different forms of music today, broken-beats, samples, electronica, hip-hop, the list goes on. Anyway, these all stem from that period. All the tracks are influenced in some way or another by writers, mainly the beats, and their struggles with identity.
Thanks for that personal artistic expose Louis. So how long have you been making music?
I have been making music now for over ten years. I was a fairly late starter, not getting my first bass until I was 16, playing in bad rock groups, playing all kinds of shit before getting turned on to jazz and experimental music when I went to college. I took up the double bass, eventually falling in with some amazing free players in Lancaster who influenced me heavily. Stephen Grew, Mark Waterman and Dean McPhee. We had a tight little group together called The Exploding Suns who used to gig around and get all kinds of great guests in to play, like my friend Martin Condit who is a great musician, working in electronica mainly but also as a sax player. He's got the darkest sounds this side of the apocolypse! Following that I went to Leeds University and started working on my own compositions about 2 or 3 years ago, just fooling around experimenting with different ideas and scrapping 90% of them, before getting an iMac running Logic and really getting comfortable with the sounds I wanted to produce. It's a constant learning cycle which I love, every new discovery opening up new doors for me......and so here I am!
Who would be big influences on you musically?
The three guys I named before (Stephen and Dean both have Myspace pages and really should be checked out), Dr John has such an amazing background of music, his early Voodoo influenced stuff is amazing & really influenced my tune Preface and his later more traditional New Orleans piano style is great too, really influenced by the 'Fess Longhair who is GREAT with capitals and should be taught to everyone as the real inventor of Rock n' Roll. Thelonious Monk for his angular rythms and off beat badness, Miles Davis forever evolving, John Coltrane - his mastery of his instrument and the way he could express through it was phenomenal, Squarepusher, Loka, Jackson & his computer band, Skalpel, Cachaito Lopez, the bass player, has grooves beyond belief, Ruben Gonzalez tore up the piano something rotten, Steve Reich, Sun Ra..... the list goes on and on and on and on! Also writers, like those mentioned, artists and sculptors. The battle with your own mind is a great starting point for so many novels and pieces of music, I really wanted to look at it with my own work. I'm a big reader and find constant inspiration in all kinds of novels and poems, maybe surprisingly as most of my music is instrumental.
How did you get connected to the headphonica label?
I think they requested me as a myspace friend and said they liked some tunes and I kind of hopped on board with them. There are some top artists on their site. They seem to know their shit and have been a great help sorting out this release.
Are you planning to play any gigs?
I do a bit of live playing with other groups but I'm hoping to get some new gear to enable me to replicate my compositions in a live setting. Most of my tunes, particularly the stuff I'm working on at the moment, is based around my double bass, but being without a car at the moment makes any live dates pretty tricky. I've just ordered an Electro Harmonix looper which should be really good fun and make the prospect of gigging live a much more realistic prospect.
So are you a bit of a techie.....a gear head?
I do like my FX but they aren't the be all and end all. Having said that I'm currently building my own clone of a rare seventies type fuzz which I can't wait to use in with my new toys! It kind of helps to keep fresh, experimenting with different equipment.
This is very true. What about you Louis, what are the things that you feel have influenced you as a person?
My grandad was an amazing artist and a great human being so he was a huge influence early on in my life, always helping and encouraging and making me look at mistakes as potential crossroads rather than dead ends. My wife-to-be, Bryony, is the strong one who kicks my arse into gear and makes me get on with life rather than letting it drift on by. I have a really tight set of brothers who help drag my head out of my hole when it needs to be and are a constant source of joy to me. Being positive and able to enjoy life really helps me to free my mind up to other areas which help in the composition process.
So, do you have any plans for the coming year?
My plans are dominated by my impending wedding this summer! Really excited about that. I..ve got a scratch DJ friend, Shaolin Monkey, who plays all kinds of funk/northern soul/hip-hop playing so it should be a good party! That is followed by a month backpacking round Cuba which should be so inspiring. I have always loved Cuban music so I look forward to taking more influence from there and incorporating it into the project after next. I'm thinking of some different directions to take my music, but I imagine its going to be fairly sample heavy with plenty of bass and chopped up beats.....they make me smile!
Whats cooking music wise?
I've been working on a collaborative piece with Noah Rott, a really talented pianist, from the headphonica label for one piece.
Also I have been working on solo double bass pieces as well as a few experimental/minimalist/electronic/phasing pieces that I'm quite excited about. Hopefully I should have all of these ready for release by mid-autumn and have a live show sorted out by then too so I can get out and about showing it off!
You can get hold of Jack : The Drummer With The Heavenly Eyes from the Headphonica Net Label as afree download. Louis has a myspace too, which you can find here.
Thanks Louis, and all the best to you and Byrony.
Artwork by Tommy Neuwirth and Jo Burnell
preface by Louis is licensed under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.