David J on his new LP “An Eclipse of Ships”, SXSW and his favourite apps…
David J, godfather of goth and founding member of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets, chats about the inspiration behind his new solo album, “An Eclipse of Ships”; his SXSW appearances; which iconic actor he’d memorialize after Bela Lugosi; and his favorite apps.
If you want to hear David J’s new album, “An Eclipse of Ships,” but can’t make it to Austin for his three SXSW shows (March 12-16), you’ll have to wait till spring. The acoustic album features musicians on violin, acoustic piano, Rhodes, stand-up bass, mandolin, oboe, percussion, and a bevy of acoustic guitars. It’s a celebration of women — some known to the artist and some conjured up in fantasies.
David J’s time as founding member of death rock band Bauhaus (“Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” “Dark Entries,” “Kick in the Eye”) and split-off group Love and Rockets (“All in My Mind,” “No New Tale to Tell,” “So Alive”) prepared him for a sustainable solo career filled with plenty of innovative material like “I’ll Be You Chauffeur,” the first No. 1 single on the newly formed alternative charts in 1989. His soon-to-be released memoir, “Who Killed Mister Moonlight? (Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction),” which chronicles his 35-year career, will come out later this year.
Tell me about your SXSW album showcase.
It will be an exclusive gig, because it will be the only gig that I’ll be doing with the band that actually played on the record. The lineup consists of standup bass, percussion, and violin. I will be featuring songs from the album, plus a couple of other, older pieces.
And you funded the album with a Kickstarter campaign?
Yeah, we had a great Kickstarter campaign, and all systems are go.
In the old days, fans would pay for their music post-album release, and now they’re asked to pay ahead of time. Is that putting the cart before the horse?
No, because it’s a product of the times. Going back to when I started, the situation was you’d be signed to a record label, and the record label would put up a certain amount of money, which they called tour support to get you up and running on the road. Then you’d get an advance for the record. But it is rare to get that these days. If you do, it’s not enough to fund the project unless you’re a big-name band. But the great thing is it cuts out that middleman, and that support isn’t coming from a label that has a vested interest and is run by accountants. It’s coming directly from the people who are into the music and want to support the music. So it’s a very heartfelt and soulful thing, and I love that.
I read that “An Eclipse of Ships” is a return to a more acoustic sound.
The songs dictate the instrument and the feel and the approach. I started off with one song. I didn’t even know it was going to be an album. It was just a song, and more grew from there, so it was just a very organic process. It’s always been the case with all my bands. It’s the music that’s in you, and it just comes out and finds its mode of expression, naturally.
What are some of the themes that you explore on the album?
It’s a celebration of women. There are a lot of love songs. Some songs are about particular women, and some songs are more general. And again, I didn’t plan it.
What does the title mean?
It’s a play on ships that pass in the night. One of the subjects wrote me an e-mail that contained this line: “We have an eclipse of ships,” which alludes to that line about brief encounters.
You created the “V for Vendetta” soundtrack for the original graphic novel. That story has had such a huge impact on culture, especially considering how the Guy Fawkes mask became the must-have accessory of Occupy protesters. What were you thinking when you saw Occupy protesters wearing those masks?
I was highly amused, and it’s further evidence of the pervasiveness of [co-writer] Alan Moore’s cultural impact. We recorded a song called “This Vicious Cabaret,” and I extended it by recording a soundtrack to an imaginary film.
You are the godfather of goth. Any thoughts on the scene today?
It has its longevity and still goes on. Sometimes it’s pleasing, and other times not so pleasing.
As part of Bauhaus, you memorialized silent-era horror star Bela Lugosi with “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” If you were to remember someone new in a song, who would that be?
That’s an interesting question. The name that immediately came to mind was Peter O’Toole, who’s recently deceased and much loved by me. I just think he was the quintessential charming, rather rakish English gentleman and a very loveable, roguish figure. It’s the same reason my band is called David J & the Gentlemen Thieves.
I’ve been thinking about hats a lot since Pharrell wore the much-talked-about, vintage Vivienne Westwood hat to the Grammys. In one of your most iconic videos as part of Love and Rockets, “No New Tale to Tell,” you wear a pretty striking chapeau. How did that hat end up in the video?
Well, I was thinking about the performance of the song, and it occurred to me that it suited a preacher. There was something about the lyrics that it was almost like a sermon. So I donned the hat to suggest that kind of character. It came from the lyrical content of the track.
I know you create art, and I know you DJ a lot. Do apps enter into those art forms for you?
Not really. I’m pretty old school as far as DJing or art. I don’t use computers as part of the working process to make the art nor when I DJ. I love to spin vinyl or maybe CDs. I like to be really hands on and really feel it, and be old school.
What are your top five apps?
1. The thing I love and the most amazing use of technology is Shazam, because I soak up music like a sponge, and I hear a song and don’t know which song I’ve heard. Now I can turn Shazam on and instantly download it.
2. I like 8mm, the little movie app, especially that you can set it to a film noir or 1920s look.
3. A brilliant one is Koloid, where you take a photo, and your phone becomes a tray with the chemicals in it like in a photo lab. You can move chemicals around and concentrate it on certain points to make them denser. Then you freeze it. It’s a very ghostly effect, and I love it.
4. It’s great to have a guitar tuner; I have a few of those. I haven’t decided on one yet, though. [Check out guitar-tuning apps.]
5. I use iTalk, because I can do demos on the fly if I get an idea in a hotel room for a song. I can just record it on my phone and instantly send it to the band.
- 3/12 Valhalla
- 3/14 Gingerman Pub
- 3/16 Joe’s Crab Shack
by Josh Rotter March 13, 2014