Name: Dave Davison
Occupation: Guitarist, singer
Current release: In 2009 Dave Davison, as part of the experimental rock formation Hey!Tonal, recorded a fascinating self-titled album of instrumentals filled with raw riffs, layered guitar textures, impetuous rock power and mindbogglingly complex studio wizardry. Written with the drums as a point of departure, the music is in constant motion, occasionally pulsating wildly, at other times peacefully oscillating. The entirely organic juxtaposition between post rock and dreamy electronica, between the violent thrust of hardcore and passages of almost ambient sensibilities (captured in the magnificently ambitious key piece “Kcraze”) make for a sweeping listen that sounds as stimulating today as it did the day it was released. Hey!Tonal sadly never recorded together again. Instead, the formation splintered into many different directions, bands and solo projects. Davison, right after the end of the band, founded Maps and Atlases, a group which shaped experimental tendencies into instantly accessible songs with beautiful vocal harmonies. The legacy of their one glorious collaboration, however, lives on.
Hey!Tonal is now re-released as a 2XLP via Computer Students. To celebrate the occasion, we conducted interviews with almost all musicians involved in the making of this album.
[Read our Kevin Shea of Hey!Tonal interview]
[Read our Alan Mills of Hey!Tonal interview]
[Read our Theo Katsaounis of Hey!Tonal interview]
[Read our Mitch Cheney of Hey!Tonal interview]
Recommendations: Two novels from recent years that I would universally recommend are: Colson Whitehead’s 2019 novel The Nickel Boys and The Overstory, a 2018 novel by Richard Powers. Both works are masterfully written, very relevant and resonated with me deeply.
If you enjoyed this interview with Dave Davison and would like to know more about his work, visit the Facebook profile of his current band Maps and Atlases.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing and playing music as a child, on my sister's guitar, emulating her before I had a real sense of what a musician was or did.
Its draw was partially to share something with someone I cared about, but there was also something inherently interesting about the act of making noise. I bashed on cans for hours with pencils until my room was covered with wooden shards. I certainly didn’t do this because I was creating anything or trying to impress any one- in fact it was incredibly irritating to everyone in proximity.
I think I was partially just drawn to very basic act of making noise.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I think my main creative challenge in the beginning was a desire to “tell” rather than “show” as a creator. I am not a person who wants or needs to communicate answers to anything and my best creative works are dialogues, evolving and full of uncertainty, as opposed to messages that I am passing down.
Like the evolving uncertainty of the creative process, the purpose and need for creation is an always changing challenge and struggle to address.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I have always kept gear to an absolute minimum for various reasons, but buying a Loop station pedal around 2008 or so was very important as a tool for writing. I almost never use loops live, but in writing I value it highly.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I have a very fixed schedule, but I try to create space for freedom in creative endeavors. I have a hard time demanding myself to create something meaningful, so I try to be mindful of collecting inspiration and returning to it.
In the actual a more rigid mindfulness of time is required, but the necessity of creating space for the unexpected is still important.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
For me, being lost in movement yields the greatest opportunity for creativity. A long walk in particular feels like a meditation and a reset. Movements like walking provide their own rhythm as well.
Another added benefit of mobile creation is the anonymity of transience. If you are walking down the street and singing/ talking to yourself, other people only have to tolerate a second of what you are working on as you pass.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Scents at concerts are extraordinarily evocative of my early experiences attending shows. The smell of certain types of incense at a venue immediately transport me to seeing punk shows as a teenager.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I try to use music and writing as an opportunity to illuminate my own experience in a way that feels meaningful, but without necessarily synthesizing that experience into an overt political message. I want to create works that provide room for connection and interpretation, not works that demand listeners move toward a specific political action.
That being said, through an honest attempt at creating art that connects listeners, I hope that the possibility for political progress in the form of a more accepting, curious, empathetic, and inclusive world is possible.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music’s ability to transcend language has always been one of its greatest appeals to me. It is such a gift to have something accessible to us that connects us so profoundly to one another and to people of the past.
The mystery of music’s trans-semantic ability makes further elaboration on this question impossible.