The Internet may be ‘killing the music industry’ but it’s giving us some brilliant, insular weirdos along the way

Photography by Simon Leak

Photography by Simon Leak

The Internet may be ‘killing the music industry’ but it’s giving us some brilliant, insular weirdos along the way

Along with all the terrifying potential consequences of technology-driven music consumption – a peerage for Simon Cowell, compulsory adverts in choruses, Ellie Goulding: The Videogame – there will no doubt be some changes that are as exciting as well as scary and super futuristic. Thanks to the written-to-death phenomenon of web 2.0 (the phase in internet development halfway between 1.0 and 3.0 in which people slowly begin to use Facebook and Wikipedia more than porn sites), we’ve been given a whole heap of brilliant new music that would have otherwise been taped over or left to rot in attics. This is because the dawn of file sharing has revealed a teeming mass of nervy bedroom musicians, now given the freedom to air their art without the torturous rigmarole of forming a band, performing night after night for peanuts and crumbs of appreciation, before getting signed, dropped, killed and then eaten by EMI. Whether it’s the dubstep that leaked out of hot-boxed bedrooms in Croydon or riotous no-fi from Brooklyn lofts and LA basements, our current musical appetite has been lead from the back by reclusive, brilliant weirdos.

Sitting opposite me in Jaguar Shoes’ basement is Dayve Hawk. He’s soft-spoken, considered and friendly with just a trace of reclusive, weirdo brilliance and last September, as ‘Memory Tapes’, he took the latest, most impressive, forward-thinking and fantastic-sounding step in a thirty year dialogue between guitars and synthesizers.

“Basically I was doing Weird Tapes and I was doing the, umm, the Memory Cassette stuff,” says Dayve, delving back in time “and both of them were sort of half-assed. There was a lot of samples and it was really just me fucking around but when blogs started picking up on it, labels came and wanted a record.” Hence Memory Tapes and ‘Seek Magic’, a shimmering debut that sewed together dreampop, low-key beatscapes, and euphoric space disco; a masterpiece that gatecrashed autumn with the promise of a painful, sunless winter. In fact it’s so good that it’s been re-released this month on special colourful vinyl.

Before the cultish hype set in though, and paid for the dye and the forthcoming tours, Hawk erratically released free mp3s on his blog as Weird Tapes and Memory Cassette for anyone who cared to listen. By virtue of them being quite good, they didn’t go unnoticed and he quickly caught the ears of Diplo’s Mad Decent (who’ve got him remixing jobs with Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Gucci and Britney Spears), DFA and countless other hip labels.

Just as the interest in him has followed a similar pattern to successful bedroom-compiled hip-hop mixtapes – the kind of organic, passive marketing that T-Mobile suits would sell their nans for – so the album itself is doused in a bedroom aesthetic; a self-contained 40 minutes, it’s deeply personal, evocative, and yet feels isolated and disconnected. In common with the best bedroom music, from Burial to Sparklehorse, it sounds like being alone and, when Dayve describes his hometown, you can understand why.

“It’s a kind of semi-rural area of New Jersey. Generally New Jersey is extremely populated, with stripmalls and it’s kind of a Hellscape. But the area I’m from is the Pine Barrens, which is all just pine trees, and cedar lakes, things like that, a bit like Twin Peaks, so I wouldn’t say I’m in the middle of some sort cultural scene or anything out there,” he laughs. “My whole family lives in the laundry room of my in-laws house. I have a pile of synthesizers and guitars and things in the corner and that’s my studio so it’s definitely a sort of bedroom project and it’s not a very happy record.”

Where does that come from?

“Me, being a miserable bastard,” he laughs. “I mean I don’t think of myself as a very easy-going, happy-go-lucky guy, so I think it comes from my basic personality. That’s why the whole ‘Chillwave’ tag has never seemed right to me.”

Chillwave, a word he says with thinly veiled contempt, is not something he has listened to much. He doesn’t listen to much new music at all. ‘Seek Magic’ might sound at least partially indebted to the endeavours of LCD Soundsystem and Animal Collective but Dayve attributes it to a lucky triangulation of tape music, classic rock and freestyle.

“There are no record stores round me, but when I was a kid I had a little plastic Fisher Price record player. Anytime I’d be at somebody’s house I’d go find their parents’ vinyl down in the basement, things they had bought in the sixties and stuff. I used to sneak them up into my coat or whatever and take them home. So I like a lot of that kind of old, electronic music, yeah, Stockhausen and Steve Reich, Terry Riley. I feel like a lot of the dance music influence comes from a roller-skating rink, which in the town that I live in was kind of the closest thing to a nightclub when I was a kid. For some reason they played a lot of electro and freestyle, like Connie and Lisa Lisa, which I’ll always have a soft spot for. Then there was maybe in the 90’s a Tommy Boy comp. called ‘Perfect Beats’, you know and things like New Order.”

Where his heart really lies though, plain to hear in Memory Tape’s vocal harmonies and occasional forays into down-tempo funk, is in guitar music from a more innocent time. “I’m a sucker for things like, I don’t know, fucking ‘Stairway To Heaven’! Ha, ‘Close to the Edge’ and that. I love Fleetwood Mac and I like Hall And Oates a lot too. The thing I like about that sort of thing is I really like 60’s pop music and those euphoric choruses. Modern music, when the chorus comes in it seems like ‘This is extremely easy to memorise’. I like music that leads to a peak, that doesn’t just seem designed. Modern pop music seems designed; it might be catchy but it’s also annoying, older pop music seems genuinely inspired.”

He does have a few nice words to say about the accompanying contemporary background though, and the new, enabling distribution methods that he can thank for selling-out his three January gigs in the UK, his first ever shows.

“It’s cool because we do have this culture in place now where you can make music and it can get out instantly, it’s almost like the 50’s or 60’s where you’d cut an acetate and take it down to the radio station and they’d play it the day that you’d cut it. I think as horrifying as it is for record labels, I think in the long run it’s good for music.”

Is there a chance interest this system has garnered him ruin though? It’s hard to think how his brand of distanced, melancholic music will survive the transition to live shows. At the Luminaire the night before this interview, Memory Tapes deal with the problem by creatively re-clothing the record and lacing it together in a different formation.

“I went back and rearranged the entire record, I looked at it kind of like a DJ set and remixed every track, recorded myself playing new keyboard parts and everything, then we play along to that.”

He says it wasn’t his favourite of these first shows as he was on a stage, something that, like awkward chatting between songs, he learned to hate in his former band, the synth pop outfit Hail Social. The Luminaire gig ended with a reprise of fan-favourite ‘Bicycle’, winding to a halt long after Dayve and his drummer have left the stage without saying a word. You get the feeling he takes the bedroom with him.


Originally published in issue 14 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. February 2010

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