Subba-Cultcha Meets “BackLight”

Published on December 22nd, 2012

Carl Davis is a man of many talents.  When Subba-Cultcha asked what his role within “BackLight” was his response covered a variety of areas including keyboardist, creating the drum and musical sequences and last but not least a little singing from time-to-time.  It’s an impressive repertoire from the man from Omaha who’s out on the roard visiting more venues than a door to door salesman.  We caught up with Carl to talk about all things BackLight and find out more about what drives his music.
SC – How are you?  Where does this Q&A find you?

CD – I am doing fantastic…thanks for asking. On break, in a small coffee house in San Francisco, hyped up on caffeine, and trying my level best make it through the rest of the day on four hours of sleep.  As usual, I spent the better part of the night and wee hours of the morning working on some new songs.  Guess I shouldn’t complain since the deprivation was self-inflected and for a good cause.  My apologies in advance if any of my responses are less than coherent.

SC – How did the recording sessions for your latest release go?  Did you achieve all you’d planned to?

CD – Awesome but as usual I felt like I could’ve used a little more time to tweak things a bit more.  Time flew by so fast  despite the days and hours of prep which shaved off quite a bit in the area of pre-production  however, before I knew it I had to wrap things up and vacate the place.  Although this was the case, I learned quite a few things I can use next time around to better improve my use of the time so ultimately all worked out for the best in the end #workinprogress!  As for achieving all I’d planned to, for the most part yes but afterwards I had my typical list of “wish I would haves” and “wish I wouldn’t haves” which never seems to come to me until days or weeks after the session.  It usually goes like this…I’m in the car listening to the tracks or songs for the nth time and I’m like…what was I thinking…why is the kick-drum so loud or handclaps would have been really nice there, and the list goes on…  If you’ve ever noticed and wondered why I have multiple versions of the same song out there…now you know one of my secrets.   It seems like time is never on my side when I am recording and a race against the clock due to a rather limited budget but hopefully that will change in the very near future if I can get signed…shameless hint for any record company folks reading!

SC – What goals did you set yourself before you started recording?  Did you do anything differently this time?  If so, why?   

CD – Get everything down on “tape” and budget enough time to experiment/play with audio and instrument effects.   I did.  I carved out as much time as I could squeeze in to experiment with audio and instrument effects for each of the tracks…something I have been dying to do forever. I liken it to cooking, another one of my passions, in that adding the right seasoning in right places and times can make the difference between something that is so incredibly delicious you can’t get enough of it or something you may consider along the lines of good but missing something.   I am on a quest for the incredibly delicious!

SC – What do you feel are your own limitations when it comes to creating/writing music?

CD – That’s an easy one…translating what I hear in my head, sing in my car, or sing in the shower into music.  It would be fair to include being able to set aside enough time to create, the technical know-how needed in order to convert everything into Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) speak (my current creation aggregation platform of choice), and battling self-imposed deadlines/pressures to release tracks/songs every couple of weeks. Yeah…I think that about covers it.

The good news…and there is some…is that I am getting better in a majority of the areas as time goes by.  Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot I can do when it comes to carving out more time in my schedule because like most aspiring artist, I have a day job to support my musical habit, pay bills, etc. and have to work within schedule confines.  That said, spending what limited time and energy I do have learning to convert what I think, feel, or hear in my head into DAW speak really seems to be paying off for me.  Of course it’s not happening as quickly as I would like…but it’s happening.

I switched DAWs about three or so months ago with the goal of taking my music to the next level (BlackLight 2.0) and to be honest there’s a learning curve I still need to get past.  I’m sure if I could be a little more patient and watch tutorials and read the manuals I could cut the learning curve down a bunch but it’s really hard sometimes to pull back from creating.  Most of the times I just want to get in there and create even if it means fumbling around a bit and possibly losing valuable time.  Wow…hearing me say this has self-inspired me to do at least one tutorial a day because I know in my heart-of-hearts at the end of the day it’s what I really need to do.

SC – What do you consider to be your best 3 songs, and tell us the inspiration behind them?

CD – Good question…at the moment I would have to say Blowfish, House of Loom, and Get Up with the disclaimer that all are still very much works in progress.  The work in progress disclaimer goes back to my earlier mention of my list of “wish I would haves” and “wish I wouldn’t haves.”  It is growing for all three but I have not had a chance to make changes yet.

I’ll go ahead and start with Blowfish…my latest creation. Not sure if I can completely nail down the inspiration for this one but what I can tell ya is that prior to its “birth” three bottles of Guinness were consumed.  In a nutshell, I came up with this one while goofing around in my home studio and experimenting with different rhythms/beats, sounds, and the like.  Next thing ya know…there it was.  It is also fair to say that elements from various styles of music and tracks I heard in the past and internalized were definitely part of the overall inspiration.  Not sure I could tell you which ones because I’m not sure I know myself.   Whatever the case, I think if you listen really hard you can hear the Guinness inspired parts!

House of Loom another fairly recent creation was inspired by two fun and soulful dancing bartenders at a local hotspot I love to hang of the same name.  Not to sound too weird but it was inspired by imagining how they might dance or move to it.  In that, when I finally made it back to the confines of my home studio I immediacy started playing with a baseline, beat, and melody line I could picture them dancing/moving too.  After saying that I’m not quite sure I’ve excelled above sounding too weird.  Let me put some more color around and possibly redeem myself.  A lot of times when I am creating I try to picture what the DJ would be doing at certain parts, how the crowd would react, what the “glow-cord” dancers would be doing, and the like.  Imagining these things really helps me to create and feel what I am doing.  Finally I would like to add that I love to dance, grew up dancing, and also approach it from that perspective.

Get Up was inspired by an internal conflict regarding a tuff choice I had to make between doing nothing and doing something and it became my call to arms to get up and stand up for what is right.

SC – What do you love and what do you hate about life on the road? Tell us your funniest tour experience yet?

CD – What I really love is meeting new, fun, and interesting people, traveling to new places, and new adventures.  Okay, maybe I over used the word ‘new’ a bit but nothing could be further from the truth.  I love the new.  I guess the funniest story I can recall would have to be me completely loosing track of time at a very fun venue next door to the club we were playing while on break and nonchalantly wondering back to the club where we were playing and finding that the band had started without me.  Oops!!

SC – How would you describe your own/bands sound, or what do you hate being labeled as?

CD – I would describe the sound as a blend of styles ranging from House, Industrial, Trance, Dubstep, and a few others depending on the day or should I say mood I’m in at the time.  I have so many loves and passions when it comes to styles of music and I think these come out in my music from time- to-time…some more so than others.

I really hate limiting myself to doing one particular style or type of music and do not think I do for the most part.  That said, I have noticed that I sometimes go through “periods” where a particular style seems to dominate what comes out creatively.  I think this follows with who I am as a person in a lot of ways when it comes to music I like to hear at the time.  For example, I may be digging on House for a month or two, like other styles in between, shift gears to something completely different, and then shift back.  It kind of seems like a mood thing to me best I can tell.

Although I mention not limiting myself to one particular style, that was not always the plan.  In fact, when I embarked on this journey many moons ago my plan was to do trance as you may have guessed from my Twitter page (BlackLight Trance).   However, I quickly discovered that it’s hard to control which direction your creative wind blows.  So rather than try and force it to blow in a particular direction I decided to flow with it instead and see where it carries me.  So far I like!

SC – Who is currently moving you musically at the moment?

CD – That’s kind of a tuff one because I went turtle a couple months back and basically stopped listening to other artists with the exception of those I’d hear at my favorite dance spots.  Unfortunately in those cases more times than not I’d have no clue who the artist was.

SC – What album changed your life and why?

CD – Without question The Who & The London Symphony Orchestra’s Tommy recorded in 1969.  What a masterpiece…I truly love the amazing combination of a fantastic story told through vocals, delivered by incredible artist performances, dreamy synth work intertwined throughout, and the unbelievable symphony orchestra & orchestral choir orchestration wrapped around everything.  All I can say is…WOW.

SC – If you could erase one single/album from history (your own or someone else’s) which would it be and why?

CD – Hmm…what an interesting question….can’t say I can think of a one I would erase from history.  I’m from the school of thought that good or bad everything serves a purpose.  I feel the same about work I’ve done and consider pretty crappy.  If nothing else it serves as a reminder of growth, evolution, and the like.  Okay…that sounded kind of cheesy but it’s the way I look at things. So, I say let all singles and albums remain no matter how crappy they are.

SC – A rumour you’d like to start about yourself, or one you’d like stopped?

CD – No rumors I’m aware of that I’d like to stop…thank goodness…so I’ll go ahead and tackle the question of one I’d like to start.  How about, BlackLight is a rising star with a lot of potential who’s looking to get signed in 2013.

SC – The revolution comes, who would you like to be first against the wall (and if you’re feeling particularly bitchy, a second, third, fourth and so on…)?

CD – That’s an easy for me…no one would be first, second, or otherwise.  It is my belief that you should practice forgiveness.  Granted it’s easier said than done at times but that’s what I believe and practice in my own life.

SC – Best piece of advice you’d give to aspiring musicians, or the best piece of advice you were given when you started?

CD – The best piece of advice I would give aspiring musicians is to practice as much as possible, master your craft in all ways possible, embrace opportunities that allow you to grow musically even if painful, make marketing & promotion your friends and do so as much and in as many ways as possible, take the good with the bad, keep your chin up in the face of failure or rejection, don’t stop believing in yourself, don’t sell yourself short no matter how tempting, and always be on the lookout for opportunities.

SC – If you’re in a car going at the speed of light, and someone turns the headlamps on, would they do anything?

CD – Ha! Where did this one come from?!?!  Regardless…I love it.  Without phoning a friend my answer is No.  It is my understanding that if you were actually going the speed of light, assuming that were possible, time would stop entirely and nothing could or would happen. Did I win? Ha ha!

SC – What are you favourite tracks on your iPod/in your cd collection and why? In no order. 

CD – This is a really tough one since there is so much great stuff…anywho, here’s my shot at it.  I should mention that all of the songs I chose are also tied to memorable times in my life and/or experiences and therefore have additional significance.

Out of my Mind by SOHO. – First and foremost, I really love the band and their awesome style.  I first fell in love with their music after hearing No Hippy Chicks and picked up ‘Goddess’ the album it was on and soon discovered ‘Out of my Mind’ which was also on the same album.  When it comes to the why…I would have to the incredible combination of lyrics, vocals, harmonies, and music which really move me.  I never get tired of listening and singing along with it.

It’s My Life by Talk Talk – I have always been a synth enthusiast and lover of songs that have what I would consider a perfect blend…subtle in most respects but out front in others…the lyrics and vocals are nothing short of incredible and it is one of the first songs recall dancing to back in the 80s.

Over the Shoulder by Ministry – I have always been a longtime fan of industrial and this song in particular embodies all the elements that made me a fan.  Everything from the ambient drums, cutting synth work, industrial clatters and clangs, to very cool and powerful vocals.  Also, it brings back fond memories of attending the Twitch album release concert in Chicago at Medusas back in the late 80s where I got to hear it live.  Talk a about an experience.  One of the things I will never forget is that I got to see my first Fairlight CMI up close and in action.  For a syth nerd like myself it super cool!

Amigos by Styles and Breeze -  I stumbled across this song completely by accident and immediately fell in love.  Awesome dance beat, music, and chorus with a meaningful message that will be stuck in my mind forever.

Last Chance on the Stairway by Duran Duran – I have been and still am a longtime D&D and Nick Rhodes fan.  When it comes to this song, I especially love the bass and synth work and without question the vocals rock.  Aside from what I love about the song musically, it is one of the first I listen by the band and I fell in love with.

To check out the BackLight tracks: