"Taking a Moment to Download -- A Discussion With cEvin Key"
Prepare for a data dump of the human sort, with Download's third album, simply and logically called III. cEvin Key (founding member, with the late Dwayne Goettel, of Skinny Puppy) can be found hard at work at the studio - is he ever not in the studio? "Pretty much not," cEvin chuckles. "Right now I'm doing a remix for a German group called Neu, from the '70's - remember them?" Indeed!
"It's a tribute album and a bunch of people are doing versions and you're not allowed to sample from the originals - you have to redo the song. I'm doing a song called 'Hallow Gallow'".
The cover brigade - Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Can, Gary Numan...
"Skinny Puppy, even!" notes cEvin with just a bit of humor.
Yes, this DJ a while ago recalls being sent a killer little twelver by the name of "Dig It" that changed her preferences in electronic music. "Cool!" says cEvin. "Apparently that did that to a few people!"
Chatting about a telephone call that comes in leads to lawyers, legalities, and Logan's Run (in the novel, remember the lawyers and congressmen adorning the trees as fatal decoration?). The new album is a soundtrack - like -- is that intentional, or is it a result of all the sounds that are used?
cEvin explains, "It's an interest of ours -- no doubt about that. The intention on this was to focus more on the music. There was less chance for distraction with vocals so i think the mind gets an opportunity to take this music and and apply it appropriately in many different ways. I think there was an obvious groove influence on it that was not really around on previous records because we never really got an opportunity to play like this. There were some obvious attempts at trying to zero in on a different theme, and whether they would be applicable as soundtracks, now that's the next step."
Thinking about that as well for someday?
"Always! That's really my goal someday, to team up with some suitable-minded filmmakers. It's almost come to the point where the music now is so much of a one dimension without the image. With Daft Punk and people making videos of the nature of these days, its starting to open up everybody's minds to the idea that you can just go wander off in any direction with anything. It's part of the music -- part of the art. That'll eventually become hand in hand."
Music melded with media...
"The computer is going to open right up!" cEvin claims. "Now that we can see that the rickest guy in the world is sitting behind a computer, we can see the future of the information highway. Even when i was a kid...remember when we used to have only twelve channels and it was black and white TV, and we would run over to the house of the first people who had color TV just to see what it looked like? It's the same thing with the computer -- in twenty years we'll be looking at each other on the computer screen and say, 'Here, smell this!'"
If we can ever get the various platforms and technology to jive!
"Well, Dwayne and i...i remember in 1986 when we first started working on computers to make our music, we started joking about one day we'd be recording everything on computer, and we'd have digital audio! We thought it would be fifty years, or thirty years, but here it is already just ten years later."
Despite all the new gadgets and formats, cEvin and Download are still resurrecting a lot of the older machines.
"There's always been a regular collection of synthesizers we were using all along, but last year we reorganized the studio and rewired everything to an optimum setup. Everything i've ever bought is basically in its most optimum state for it to work. Most of this album composed using the old original Roland, ARP Analog gear, with pedals and everything. It was really an attempt to get back to the basics. Half the synths that came out between the DX-7 and before that, the player interface was not thought about as much as the quality of sound. Now at least people are coming around to saying that most do want to tweak the filter and want to play with the sound as they are creating it. At least with the JP-8000 and the Annex and all sorts of great synths that have come out in the last year, we're getting back to hearing a lot more intuitive music as a result."
Creativity back in the hands of the musician as opposed to the Vegas jock with the cheezy Casiotone!
"You can start with the preset," cEvin laughs, "but then you manipulate it into something that's totally different. That's the fun of it, really!"
A bit away from the dark, yearning character of the Download albums and other projects, as if something was lost...
"On this album, for sure." cEvin accedes. "I think we always touch base with it. We always say this is the 'for Dwayne' album, for Dwayne, for the loss of Dwayne. Phil said that to me after making this album, and i said 'Yeah, there's a lot of crying and wailng...' --we're sad-- there's no doubt about that--and it comes out in the music."
It's a grieving process --"yes, it is!" cEvin states--and it touches the hearts of people. Everyone who was into the scene was stricken at the loss of Dwayne. Nowhere near the level of cEvin of course, but at the same time the feelings can be communicated through the music and be a cathartic process.
cEvin comments, "I've recieved so many positive emails from people. Thousands of emails regarding Dwayne--it was really good." An instant medium of communication! "It's amazing!" exclaims cEvin. "I have to say i used to type a lot with an old typewriter and send off letters, and that's how we actually started in the days of Skinny Puppy, with an old system of tape distribution with cassettes. It was started by this guy named Alex Douglas who released this little booklet called 'The Contact list for Electronic Musicians.' CLEM! It was totally valuable book at the time--everybody was in it and everybody contacted each other and exchanged tapes, and that's how we all met."
The Internet before there was an internet.
"Exactly. That's exactly what i was about to say. The internet reminds me a lot of that scene, just connected now. You don't have to put a stamp on and you get the same excitement from people wanting to communicate. It is inspiring to see how amazing that is. I get emails from everywhere and it surprises me that they get through. Africa...all over the place. When i went over the Amesterdam, i wanted to see if i could look up my site--subconsciously, i was wondering 'Does it work from Europe?' Its just right there!"
Herded electrons get corralled and become messages of love and concern and interest from family, friends, and colleagues...Its gratifying to see technology which has been so cold for so long suddenly being used for warm, human purpose. People can get together and make pretty things with machines.
cEvin explains, "With the writing of this album, it was a huge collective between myself and phil western and Anthony valcic. When we were working together on it, everyone was out to make a part that we couldn't really determine where it came from. We wanted to try to make sounds and parts that would inspire the person to take it to the next step, which was something we were doing with Skinny Puppy, but we weren't able to keep the musical mainframe theme there. Once the vocals and lyrics came along, it would really determind the direction where the music would go, so then the flavor would always end up that way. But this way, with the theme building up with the music as the game and saying how far can we restrain from filling this up, because you can do that really easily with music--the collaborative efforts of everyone works really well. I'm really open to collaboration, being in the freeform position i'm in now. Before, i was pretty monogamous with Dwayne, but now i work with quite a few different people. Every lineup of download has changed with each record. I just finished putting together an album i've bee collaging together for about four years--its called Music Fur Cats. I guess you could call it a solo album, even though it has Dwayne on it, and Genesis P Orridge and other assorted people. It's one of the most insane records i've put together!" (laughs) " The reason i had originally put this together is that most, if not all, of these songs were pieced together from stuff that was done on the ancient analog gear. I had an inkling of a liking for certain things about these parts that couldn't really fit in anywhere else. For quite some time i was painstakingly editing the pieces--well anyway, its an album like that! i dig it! ((gotta love him)) It's comming out on Metropolis Records in February."
Ripping and running...
"i'm going to california...visit friends, maybe think about living there instead of here. It rains like hell here in Vancouver...for three weeks at a time...years even! I'm in one of those periods where i don't know what i want to do--the stuff i do is kind of middle of the road. I'm hoping to get into a situation--i'm going to change my life and the things that i do so as to provoke a change in what i'm going to be writing. That's just for me and my own challenge. The next album that i plan on doing is the Teargarden and once again that's an acoustic album for me. It really goes back to my interest in what Edward Ka-Spel and The Legendary Pink Dots and i are capable of. Its a complete headspace and i have to get into it and absorb it for a while. i really want to do the most amazing Teargarden album that i can do for this one."
A self-kickstart is sometimes just what one needs.
cEvin continues, "it saves me in some way, because the last Teargarden album was the first recording i did after Dwayne died and i was really thankful for that--that i could make an album that to me was so babylike. It was so completely infantile in some ways. its melancholy and its very pain drenched for me, that record. I'm really happy with it, and now to get back to it again and to make another statement. I feel much better and much more alive again and i feel much stronger. Once again, i get the chance to tie into my own headspace and my own emotions. Its really an important thing. Download and every other thing i do--its really the big, loud statement--how far can we take this. Its not about 'What do i feel?' Download and all of the other related bands are the paintings that i would make as a person, while Teargarden is more like my personal diary."
Its good to share--and be able to share--to weather some of the curves life throws. That cEvin can and does allow people to see his emotiones and her "personal diary" are the needed steps for him and others to heal through sound. From him comes inspiration. "Cool, thanks!" cEvin offers. And we offere him thanks in return.