Sunday, March 1, 2015

Neil Davidson 13 Questions

Neil is a guitar player which also means improvisation, composition, art work, writing and associated tangents. He is based in Glasgow in Scotland. His work currently focuses on Asparagus Piss Raindrop, DVELL and various collaborations with: Mariam Rezaei, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Michael Duch, Arild Vange, Liene Rozite, Anneke Kampman and Fritz Welch.

with Arild Vange

In Asparagus Piss Raindrop composition, contingency and collaboration blunder against counter intuitive approaches to live performance. Muris was a Norwegian forest cat who knew how to count, but only in euros. Liene Rozite and Neil are this thing and produced the organ piece Which is Ugly But Moves Like a Tango for the Edinburgh Art Festival.

DVELL is the Norwegian theatre project based in Trondheim wherein Fernando Pessoa and improvisation converge in a group of impossible subjects. This Theatre company grew out of Neil and Arild Vange's long term friend / writing / sound project - thanks to Heike Lies. Neil also plays in Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, Yolk of Blood, The Final Five (with Armin Sturm and Fritz Welch) and With Lumps.


He has performed in small and large (GIO) ensembles with musicians such as Tatsuya Nakatani, Michel Doneda, Fred Frith, Keith Rowe, Evan Parker, Satoko Fujii, Steve Nobel, Maggie Nicols, Olivier Toulemonde, Nicolas Desmarchelier, Luke Fowler, Barry Guy, Maya Homburger, Tom Bancroft

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?

Starting to be a musician is, I think, not interesting. What’s more compelling and relevant for me now (today) is to think about the reasons for continuing to be a musician. It’s horrible, and highly good at the same time. It’s a process, an active route through listening.  Conceived of like that, I think there will always be reasons for doing music. But I prefer, or rather I give more weight to the reasons that come from other people, the ones I work with, the ones who are involved in some way. I play sounds in relation to other sounds for a reason, to find out what they are, what they can be. Not to identify myself as a musician or something idealistic like that.

To be fair I don’t think the word ‘musician’ is adequate. And I don’t like to separate myself off from people who work with sound in other modes, from other forms of sound production that broaden what it is to listen and behave, live in relation to sound. Now that I’ve said that I think the breadth of what music can be should be re-emphasised. That’s often at odds with what people expect it to be, that’s something that’s reinforced every time someone asks me what kind of music I play and I never have a reasonable answer. I often have an answer, just not a reasonable one. 

Improvisation by Neil Davidson (guitar and objects), Rhodri Davies (electric harp), Jane Dickson (piano), Patrick Farmer (objects, electronics & open CD players) and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither).

What do you recall about your guitar learning process?

For long periods of time nothing much happened; practicing, listening, playing some things. And then on occasion these routines or habits throw up some new ability or technical resource that was never there before. I think I’m interested in being surprised by myself or being alert to catching on to when things suddenly open up into a new area. Mostly, technically, I taught myself by listening to people playing, not just guitarists, in fact not so often guitarists. Drummers, wind players, other string players. But I learned the important relational music stuff playing with people and reflecting on what we did together. Figuring out why I would play a particular thing or in a particular way is much more interesting. When I work with people we almost never talk about technique or specific sounds but always about context, the effect the sound will have, the function of a particular way of interacting. And when I teach music, that’s pretty much the only focus. 

Dream your perfect instrument

I don’t remember dreams easily. Or, if a dream is an idealization, I’m more interested in negotiating imperfections. But I’m as charmed and seduced as much as anyone might be by resonance, by a generosity from the object. Sometimes a more withdrawn instrument (or person) suites a different kind of process, it depends. Those dreams I do remember tend to be the late ones, the ones that are concerned with keeping you asleep, constantly deferring gratification or keeping some arbitrary thing elusive so you stay in the process of dreaming and not wake up. Maybe a good instrument should do that.  

What is your relationship with other disciplines such as painting, literature, dance, theater ...?

Everything is connected. I work in a theatre company in Norway, have a lot of working connections with visual artists and I write from time to time. And in each case the forms involved end up being shared, translated, re-integrated somehow or other, one way or another. Conceptually, music is often the last place I look to for motivation or a reason for working. 

Where are your roots? What are your secret influences? 

This question is a nightmare. 

What would you enjoy most in a work of art?

Nothing. Or perhaps, looking to see what the art work is excreting, what’s it’s shit. And how it displays or doesn’t display this (all the things pushed aside by the art work, all the errors that get covered up…). 

If you could, what would you say to yourself 20 years ago, about your musical thinking?

At that time I was listening to a lot of music that relied on social or technical resources that I didn’t have access to. Things like people to form bands with or play with, recording equipment etc. And those were quite basic obstacles, but only if you want to make certain kinds of music. Broader horizons would have helped. A lot of what lead me to the music I make now was figuring out that what I was doing sonically (back then) could be a form in itself. That it didn’t need to be couched in a song or a set or whatever, it didn’t need captured and rendered repeatable for it to be sufficient. That took far longer to work out that was necessary. But pre internet, and without anyone around to show the way to join the dots between more obscure musical forms and processes it took a long time. That’s not a regret, but some really simple ideas can take a long time to stumble on. And in the end you need the right people to stumble with.

What memorable responses have you had to your music?

Katheryn Elkin, an artist based in Glasgow who does highly good Robert Ashley impersonations said after an Asparagus Piss Raindrop performance that the smell at the end of the piece was really intense, very sexual. The piece was called The Scented Jackhammer, which was based on spurious ideas about how it might be possible to travel underground using scent as a way of disrupting the molecular structure of rock or whatever. So we felt that we’d really nailed that one. 

Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?

My friend Liene Rozite. After careful consideration I think she’s the best one. To be fair I’ve been collaborating with her for a long time so that’s maybe not a proper answer to this question. As a child instead of making prank calls to the Latvian Embassy in Stockholm she made prank calls from the Latvian Embassy in Stockholm. I think something of this comes across in her playing and it’s pretty great. She’s very conscientious about power though so it doesn’t get out of hand.

However, to see the question through to its proper conclusion, I could perhaps speculate on other people that the two of us could collaborate with so here’s a provisional list: Clarice Lispector (she would stare at people whispering until they cried while Liene and I would play long, quiet tones), any musician from any given Thomas Pynchon novel, Galina Ustvolskaya (on indoor fireworks and mallet)… 
I’m starting work with Anneke Kampman from Conquering Animal Sound and ANAKANAK on a new project tomorrow (which will probably end up being a synthesis of the three imaginary collaborations above). And I’m in the crypto conceptual science fiction anti band Asparagus Piss Raindrop so it’s not like I’m stuck for the best people to work with…

What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?

People have, in general, been kind enough not to give me advice per se but to burry their insights and wisdoms in rather more obscure forms and incantations. That’s how it seems from here because I can’t remember anyone giving me advice and I imagine I’d be quick to forget any given to me. It seems reductive to give advice, assuming it’s meant sincerely. “Do well”, said Joe Beggs from Ardrossan. I’m trying. 

What gear and tools do you use?

Well there’s a piece of stone from the beach in Trondheim. That one has a pleasing granular quality. It’s dark grey, glitters, and leaves dust on the guitar. It also acquires a bronze residue from the strings. The first stone I used was from a beach near Lisbon, which is much smoother, less abrasive and gives fewer overtones but there’s less attack. Liene gave me a new white stone some months back and it’s pretty intense. I’m still breaking that one in. There are some dowels, not sure what diameter, maybe 4 or 5 mm. These are roughly 30 cm long (not sure if that makes a difference). Two butter knives; one is thinner and more resonant than the other. Two scrapers designed for removing paint or wallpaper, each with a different ‘pitch’. Maya Dunietz gave me a special Alvin Curran pipe.

It’s much easier to hold than those little copper things that get left behind by the plumber, the ones you find when you lift the floorboards. I use fingers as well as picks depending on the situation. Lastly I have a Jackson flying v guitar that I hardly ever use but there was a boy called Jackson who used to live in Glasgow and worked in a venue that I play in quite often called The Old Hairdressers and he went to most of the weird music things that happened in Glasgow. Somehow he ended up being a kind of indicator of the merit of being involved in weirdo improvised or experimental music. I’m not sure how but it seems important that he persists, so to speak, and that I can acknowledge this by now and again playing a very uncomfortable and impractical guitar (it’s internet-art orange). 

What do you like the most about being a musician?

Getting into impossible situations with the best of people. Covering the floor of Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik with blue slug trails while hunched underneath sheets of black cloth accompanied by the sludge metal bass drones of Michael Duch, for example. Like all virtuosic endeavors it took months of preparation but in the end when it became clear just how much the ABBA tribute band audience that had been circling us had disliked the piece and, probably, us (we had no idea they were there what with being under the cloth), that’s when it all pays off. 

What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?

Yolk of Blood is a deconstructed death metal band with lyrics from Julia Kristeva’s The Powers of Horror and Valerie Solanas’s Scum Manifesto. Originally it was with Julia Leititia Scott, Liene Rozite,  Fritz Welch but we keep adding more people. We’re working on that with a great deal of excitement and mirth. Our first gig was at a roller disco and ever since then we’ve been trying to get back to that peak of incandescent abject irreverence. 

Solo playing is an ongoing thing, few concerts, fewer recordings but it feels like it’s getting somewhere interesting just now. 

Asparagus Piss Raindrop will be performing somewhere in Europe in the next year or so. We just finished a residency in Transmission Gallery, Glasgow where we developed and performed four hours of material so we’ve got a lot to build on from there. 

And I’ll be going back in Norway in the autumn hopefully, to do some school tours, work with Michael Duch and Lemur again, and develop new work with DVELL (theatre project). And then projects with Marima Rezaei, Sebastian Lexer, Jane Dickson, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra

Selected Discography

2003 Happy Rabbit - Age of Wire and String CDR
2003 Age of Wire and String CDR 

2003 Christoph Reiserer & Neil Davidson - Spring Music From Glasgow  

2004 Munich / Glasgow GIO + Evan Parker
FMR Records 
 2005 Jellyfish 
 Deluge & Guitary  D&G 008

2005 Wolves on Fire 
trio with Peter Nicholson - cello and Jamie Allen - electronics

2005 Which way did he go? GIO + Maggie Nicols 
FMR Record

    2006 Raymond MacDonald :: Neil Davidson - Flapjack 
FMR Records  FMRCD190-i0106   

2006 Grain   
Creative Sources  CS 074 

2007 Raymond MacDonald, Tatsuya Nakatani, Peter Nicholson, Neil Davidson, Nick Fells - Aporias
Creative Sources


2007 Falkirk GIO & Barry Guy - Witch Gong Game II/10 + Free Improvisation 
FMR Records

2008 Separately & Together Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra / London Improvisers Orchestra 

2008 Therscan - solo acoustic guitar download from 7Things

2008 Una MacGlone / Aileen Campbell / Neil Davidson - Cave  
 Iorram Records  KY115   

Woads In No One Free Download here
2008 Woads In No One / Woads In No None   
Compost And Height   

2008 Raymond MacDonald / Neil Davidson - Carnival   
Iorram Records  FR280   

2009 Musica de ir ao o cou - Age of Wire & String 
C30 Cassette Anathema Sound 

2009 Metamorphic Rock - Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra with George Lewis
Iorram Records 

2009 Raymond MacDonald, Satoko Fujii, Neil Davidson, Natsuki Tamura, Tom Bancroft - Cities   
Nu-Jazz Europe  NJGLA0509-2    

2009 Una MacGlone / Nick Fells / Neil Davidson - Próximo   
Iorram Records  AA122    

2009 Entre Nous - Aporias Trio - Neil Davidson, Tatsuya Nakatani, Raymond MacDonald 
Iorram Records 

Neil Davidson | Broach (07:28) Loseless | MP3
2009 Broach - solo acoustic guitar on 
Compost & Height 1st birthday compilation 3x CD-R

2009 Ernesto Rodrigues, Neil Davidson, Guilherme Rodrigues, Hernâni Faustino - Fower 
2009 GIOpoetics - Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra with Ernesto Rodrigues and Guilherme Rodrigues  
Creative Sources 2009 Natal dos Experimentais Cronicaster 
2009 Proximo - duo with Nick Fells laptop
Iorram Records
 Free Download here
2009 Jez Riley French & Neil Davidson - Photographic Score Duet # 1 
Compost And Height 

2010 Do Not Send To Tweed  
Cathnor Recordings  CV010 

2010 Nick Fells and Neil Davidson - Goya

Flac MP3 CDR also available 
2010 String Quartet.
Liene Rozite - flute, Neil Davidson - guitar, Nicole McNeilly - trombone, Michael Shearer - clarinet.
Never Come Ashore

 2010 Ernesto Rodrigues, Neil Davidson, Wade Matthews - Erosions ‎  
Creative Sources  CS 172
2010 Arild Vange / Neil Davidson - From Annerledes Enn And Fjordarbeid ‎ Aschehoug  

 2011 Liene Rozite & Neil Davidson 10 ping Boring 

2011 With Lumps- With Lumps
Fritz Welch - drums / percussion, Neil Davidson - acoustic guitar cdr  

 2012 With Lumps (Neil Davidson / Fritz Welch) - Lumps for Lovin'  
Never come ashore

2012 Wandelweiser und so weiter - various artists  
Another Timbre 

2012 Michelada Miseries Part II - Muris With Lumps 
(Neil Davidson, Liene Rozite, Fritz Welch)  
2013 Arild Vange, Neil Davidson, Kyrre Laastad, Frode Eggen - Alltid Ei Anna / Improvisasjon Person 
Never Come Ashore    

2013 Aileen Campbell, Neil Davidson, Nick Fells - Forms 6 Trio  
Never Come Ashore    

2013 By The Water By The ‎ 

2013 Do Not Send To Tweed Part II .  
Solo acoustic guitar recordings from 2010

2013 Stupid Techno
Self Released

2013 Sarah Hughes - Accidents of matter or of space
with Rhodri Davies, Dimitra Lazaridou Chatzigoga, Jane Dickson and Patrick Farmer Suppedaneum 

 2013 Choi Joonyong, Hong Chulki, Neil Davidson - Balloon & Needle Live At The Club Room In Glasgow 
University Music Department ‎Never Come Ashore

2014 Neil Davidson & Michael Duch - Oera 
Consumer Waste.