The bio on the Dead Voices on Air web site proclaims, ďUsing improvisation and sound layering as a source for their music, DVOA blends processed sound from primitive instruments and toys into rhythmic structures or dark clusters of ambient sound. The result is music for the eyes. This is not ambient chill-out, nor is it music for wallpaper. It is organic, eclectic improvisation, cut up and spat out. Either framed into short pieces of music or rough blocks of noise. Panambience is the term coined that perhaps frames this approach most adequately.Ē Usually most bios should be taken with a grain of salt. But in this case, it is nothing but the truth. If I could add one work to the above self-description, it would be evolutionary.
Dead Voices on Air is certainly a misnomer for the music, as it is very much alive, fluid, pulsating like a heartbeat, flowing like a mountain stream. Each album is different from its predecessor, yet at the same time clearly evolved from the previous one. Who is the musical mastermind behind such sounds? Mark Spybey.
I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the genius himself before his Double Door show in Chicago.
NMD: Whatís the story behind the one month delay for the latest one?
Mark Spybey: We included a live track on it. There was a sample on it that I wanted to get clearance for it. Itís the first time Iíve ever used a sample. When we went to get clearance, it wasnít as simple as it worked out.† So we decided to edit the sample out. That took a little bit of time. Plus I was on tour, so itís really difficult to organize those things when youíre [going] from city to city.
NMD: Youíve been on tour since May, late May . . .
MS: Yeah, a month.
NMD: Howís it going so far?
MS: Really good, yeah, itís been really positive. I think the Pink Dots and I, to a certain extent, share the same kind of audience. And we get on together very very well. Weíve known each other for years. Itís very nice to tour with them.
NMD: What can the listener expect to hear thatís like the previous albums of yours, or different. On the new one?
MS: Itís quite different really. What happened, is about a year ago I started to work with some Germans, these guys called GAVOOM. It was kind of audio/ visual, kind of computer project. I did some music for them which I ended up using for this album, because I really felt that it was more akin to where I wanted to go with DVOA. When I say that I did music for it, it was just me. I was the only one doing the music. Itís really mine, Ďcause at various points over the last year, Iíve worked on this record. And Iíve included different people Iíve been working with. It features some of the guys who I was touring with last year. And it also features people Iím working with now, like Nils Van Horn from the Pink Dots, the saxophone player from the Pink Dots. And a drummer from Holland called Bradley and Frank who is the sound guy from Legendary Pink Dots. So Frank basically produced the records and we had a lot of fun doing that in Holland.
Itís an electronic album, really,† but it included all sorts of real instruments like saxophone, flute, drums, guitar, bass. But itís definitely got a very kind of electronic feel to it. I donít think it sounds like the album before that which was Piss Frond. Itís quite different.
When we were playing some of these tracks live with the drummer, people said it almost got a jazzy kind of feel .
NMD: Oh, interesting.
NMD: Do you still work as a therapist in your downtime?
MS: Not at the moment. Iíve moved back from Canada to Europe. And in the process, Iíve been doing music. So Iíve taken off six months basically.
NMD: So when you do your won work as a therapist, do you incorporate your own music into the therapy sessions?
MS: No, no, you know, the job sounds quite glamorous, but itís not. I think generally speaking, we have a sort of conception of therapy as being kind of an analytically think. People on the couch, or whatever, and doing very exciting things. But the reality of it is, Iíve always worked in long term psychiatry. People Iíve [worked with] for many many years. I do the sort of nuts and bolts kind of work. Getting people back into work, or getting people back to a semblance of having a qualityóa certain element of quality to their life.
NMD: Do you foresee yourself going back into that?
MS: Yeah, I do. Itís a well-paid job.
NMD: How does your work as a therapist factor into your own creative process?
MS: Well, [someone] once said, that I worked with, that their kinda glad that I have an outlet, because it probably helps my work as a therapist. Itíve always done music and Iíve always worked. So the two things have gone together. But I think, if anything, itís reinforced my view that many people are very creative, very talented, but they donít necessarily have an outlet for that. So its reinforced my own belieft, my own creativity. Itís a very sort of dynamic process.
NMD: Absolutely, Iím a writer myself. So I know how that goes.
MS: Itís funny Ďcaue being on tour is one of the most, probably one of the least creative places to be. Because thereís so much downtime, so much doing nothing time. I think to myself,† Oh, I should be writing or doing this or doing that, but you just end up looking out the window or sleeping. [laughter] Or searching for food.
NMD: Yeah, foraging.
MS: Yeah, in truck stops, itís kind fo hard.
NMD: Yuck.† So where have you relocated in Europe? Back to England?
MS: Well, eventually itís going to be England, but Iíve been in Holland for the past six months.
NMD: And Iíve heard a little rumor that youíre wanting to move to the country?
So what is it like to experience a live DVOA show?
Well, let me transcribe some of my notes hastily jotted down at the Double Door on the 22nd of June, 2000.
Sound check and warm ups Iíve always thought to be a surreal experience. Especially when they involved more than just drums and electric guitars. There is something raw and naked, spontaneous yet not, about such sound. Iíve been to many, but never have I felt such creative energy in the air as tonight.
As DVOA sound checks, it becomes closer to play. There is a levity on stage and in the air. Yet, soundcheck is still a serious time and it is ultimately treated as such. Positioning of the lights is the final touch before opening the doors.† Now, the stage is set and now we wait.
At 8:15pm, the faithful stream in.
8:40pm: The dub takes on a jazz fell despite the ambient-fusion music in the background. The club is amply full. All the scant bar stools are occupied, still plenty of room to mingle.
At 9:00pm, Dead Voices on Air attack the stage. Aimee Lane, the femme fatale folk singer-guitarist, is the ďopeningĒ act. Just one little song. Miss Lane has a wonderfully earthy voice as she strokes her well-traveled acoustic guitar. Then Mark Spybey and his cohorts took on the intimate crowd at the Double Door.
Nils Van Horn (saxophonist from the Legendary Pink Dots, yes! Doiní double duty on this tour!) sported an electronic instrument played with the mouth. I donít know if this is some commercially produced item, or if it is a Nils or Spybey invention. The former would surprise me more than the latter possibility.† Spybey could barely be seen as he played behind his mixmaster keyboard-computer, etc set-up in the center of the stage.† The bass was deep and true, rattling my gutsóoh yeah. Partial credit there goes to the wonderful sound system at the DD.† Aimee played with a big jar of bubble soap. The concentration on Markís face was deep and intense as the music progressed and grew in intensity. ďEmulatorĒ.
The next song was dark, electronic, techno, houseówell, you say, how in the hell could it be all that? Truly is there much difference betwixt the latter 3 styles? Ė anyway, enter the saxes. Yes, two! A single note blown from 1 mouth via 2 saxophones.
Nils also picks up the flute in the third piece, while Mark does vocals. The chemistry is magic. The song is dark, mystical, gothic, with a distinct new age qualityólight and airy, akin to Dead Can Dance during their more graveyard oriented moments.
Piece number 4/5, Aimee plays her acoustic for an interlude, if you will. The flute soaring above, pure. Think Jethro Tull (for the uninitiated to DVOA).
Number 6 was a dance tune with aural effect assaulting your body.
Number 7 introduced the electric guitars into the vibe: Scott, the touring guitar. and guest and good friend Eric Pounder. Nils wails on the alto sax for this one. Heavy duty bass vibrates the club.
The eighth song features feminine vocals and Ryan Muir is introduced as the drummer. Everything is fluid, symphonic, one might even say improvisational. Noise, but with a purpose. Chaotic, yet controlled.
Yes, that describes DVOA and Mark Spybey.
The 2000 release by DVOA is rescheduled for August 8, 2000. I canít wait!
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