Memory Tapes interview: “Figuring it out as we go.”

13.06.10 Words by: Charlie Jones

One of last year’s most pleasant surprises was ‘Seek Magic’, the debut album by Memory Tapes , a joyride to a wonderland where every avid music listener’s teenage memories came to new life.

Followed by remixes for a wide range of artists, from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Phoenix and Yeasayer to Gucci Mane, Britney Spears and even Michael Jackson, the buzz surrounding the stay-at-home bedroom producer from New Jersey is still going strong.

Although Dayve Hawk is famous for not having a phone, the miracles of modern technology allowed us to catch up with him and talk about being in the spotlight, playing his first live shows and the upcoming second album.

‘Seek Magic’ was mentioned in nearly all ‘Top albums of the year’ lists. How did the adulation make you feel?

I try to keep my head out of it. Even positive attention tends to make me feel uncomfortable.

That’s surprising because it seems like many artists need a lot of reassurement and positive feedback in order to feel right about their own work. So all the praise did not change the way you feel about your music at all?

Well, it feels good that people like the music but my need to feel ‘right’ as you say has more to do with my own expectations. And I’ve yet to do something that I think is good enough. I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I always want to do more.

How are you getting along with being in the spotlight now, seeing that you have been an anonymous bedroom producer before?

I honestly don’t really feel all that in the spotlight. I know people are paying attention to what I’m doing but I don’t get the impression I’m at the top of the pile or anything.

Did the whole buzz bring along any major changes in life or your relation to making music?

Not really, the only real change has been there are greater requests on my time so I feel a little more frantic trying to work and do all the things I’d like to do.

Before you went on your first tour across the states and Europe, you mentioned that you don’t really like to play live, mainly because you are not really a ‘show man’. Your performances turned out great and you got great responses. How do you feel about playing live shows now?

I still prefer recording. At some point I’d like to find the time to really develop the live show to the point where it’s something I’m more confident about but as it stands we’re still sort of figuring it out as we go.

You are famous for not having a phone. Would we have any more luck asking for your number now?

I still haven’t got a phone. I keep saying I’m going to but it hasn’t happened. Every time I’ve got the money to buy a phone I tend to spend it on music gear or my daughter.

Speaking of gear, something that really makes your music stand out is that you are perfectly combining electronic and organic sounds, while people can usually only handle one or the other. Which instruments and synthesizers are in your arsenal and do you use any software?

Instruments: guitars, amps, pedals, bass, real drums, samplers and computers. Synthesizers: Nord Modular, Elektron Sidstation, Future Retro Revolution, Moog, MPC, Linndrum and Wurlitzer electric piano.
Software: I use Kontakt a lot.

Let’s talk about the new album. Late last year, you said it will be more pop song oriented, has shorter songs and is partly influenced by 60’s pop. How far is the album from being finished and did you stick to the original plan?

The album is basically done and it still fits that description to me. Not sure what everyone else will think.

That’s great news, is there a release date and a name yet?

We’ve talked about October but that may change and I haven’t decided about a name yet.

Where is it going to be released?

Well, hopefully worldwide, I’d like it to be a little less of a clusterfuck than the first one!

Are we in for any surprises such as special guest stars?

I think the music itself is going to be suprising to some people. It’s considerably less electronic sounding than ‘Seek Magic’.

You mentioned your childhood and growing up in your neighbourhood as influences for the first album. Is it still the same for the new album?

Not as specifically, but I’m always going to be drawing from my personal history. I think this record draws a lot from the freedom I felt when I discovered music as a kid.

After the success of the album, you have made countless remixes. The next step might be productions for other artists. Is this something you are interested and is there anyone in particular you would like to work with?

I’ve been approached by a few artists to possibly produce for them and it’s definitely something I’m interested in. I always say if I could work with anyone it would be Elizabeth Fraser but that’s not going to happen. I’m sure there will be interesting collaborations in the future though.

Film maker Spike Jonze has shown lots of love for Memory Tapes and your track ‘Walk Me Home’ is essentially a 17 minute epic horror movie score tribute. How about composing a movie soundtrack?

I’d love to but it hasn’t come together yet. I may just have to make the movie myself!

What would your movie be like?

Maybe if Black Sabbath had made Metropolis. That’d be my perfect movie.

Sounds like a killer combination! Do you have any experience in making films then?

Nothing worth mentioning. It’s certainly not something I’d do alone!

You haven’t been to a lot of shows throughout the last years, so I am wondering: who are you especially interested in seeing live?

Joker and Mount Kimbie.


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