One of my favorite finds over the last year or so has been Listening Center, the solo work of New York’s David Mason. I first picked on LC from the Ghost Box Study Series, and have been keeping an ear open ever since. Mr. Mason is just about to release his second full-length, Cycles/Other Phenomena, on October 1st, and I thought I’d get in touch and get a little more background.
OU: Can you tell me a little about your setup and approach to composing?
LC: The setup has always involved a core of analogue instruments – synths, drum machines – on Example One, there was also bass guitar and various percussion…On the Cycles/Other Phenomena album it was limited to synths, sequencers and rhythm boxes, mostly from the late 1970s, which have tended to push the sound in a particular direction. Some of the pieces on Cycles were recorded directly to cassette; it was mixed using mostly bucket-brigade delays and spring reverb. The approach to making pieces usually consists of improvisations which gradually solidify into a harmonic/melodic structure through reworking. At the moment I try to record entire songs in a single take, with all the instruments working in tandem.
What are some of your influences/why did you get started making music?
I started out with a spontaneous interest in jazz drumming at an early age – my father had a wide collection of music, and I would always play along to records to practice. Drum set is still my main instrument, and I am greatly influenced by the music of Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, and Ed Blackwell, to name just a few. I studied music at the Cologne Conservatory, and became interested in organ music, and gradually electronic music. In New York, these influences expanded, and eventually I discovered the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which led to a great interest in the music of Broadcast, and artists affiliated with the Ghost Box label. That opened up another world of music, that of the lost, the forgotten, the (re)imagined. I also derive great inspiration from some current artists working in the analogue realm, such as Martial Canterel.
How did you end up getting involved with the Ghost Box guys?
When I was making my first album – Example One, I sent some of the music over to Ghost Box – they have been a great source of inspiration since the inception of Listening Center, and so it was a logical step to make contact. I felt very honored that they took a shine to “Titoli”.
Is there a underlying theme to the new album, or recurring motifs? any particular inspiration for the album or songs?
The theme of the album relates to Cycles, as they occur in sound, form, nature, and biography, to an imagined perception. I was inspired by the idea of performing everything live, with analogue instruments, so that each piece would be time-stamped, and have a distant, but warm feeling. There are a few minor motifs which occur throughout the album; the first is the main figure in Cycles – a polyrhythmic suspended loop which is varied somewhat in Extension. Another would be the kind of aleatory figures derived from sample and hold circuits which occur in Focus On Movement and Unspecified Tension.
Do you perform live at all, or any plans for shows or tours?
Yes! There have been recent performances in NYC at the Clocktower Gallery, Queens Museum and Cameo, and there is a week-long residency alongside Hessismore planned for mid-November at Nublu.