Somebody’s Watching Me : Daniel Davies Talks Uncertainty, Spies, And Charlie Christian

Musician and composer Daniel Davies has kept busy the last six years. I’m sure he was pretty busy before that as well, but since 2015 Davies has been a regular collaborator and band mate to John Carpenter and Cody Carpenter. Working on three full-length LPs, an album of reimaginings of Carpenter’s most famous film music, singles, and the score to the David Gordon Green Halloween film(a second will drop this October.)

Besides all of the work with the John and Cody Carpenter, Daniel has released three solo records and a score for a documentary since 2018. His most recent album, the ethereal EP Spies, was just released a couple weeks ago via Sacred Bones Records. I had a chance to sit down and talk to Daniel Davies on the phone about his most recent releases, Spies and 2020s Signals, his connection to artist Jesse Draxler’s work, obelisks floating in the sky, and listening to Charlie Christian as a kid with his dad, Dave Davies.

J Hubner: Before we get into the new record, I wanted to ask you about last year’s Signals. I thought it was an amazing album. How did artist Jesse Draxler get involved in the album?

Daniel Davies: So Sacred Bones have worked with him before and they released a book of his art, and I got that book. And there was a piece in the book which is what the album cover became. And I was just starting to write the album and I really connected with that piece. And I wrote “Beyond Megalith” with that artwork in mind. I asked if Jesse was interested in coming to the studio because I thought it would be nice to do an image with each song and each song inspired by an image. Because he works the opposite the way, he makes art being inspired by the music. This is me using the art to make the music. He came in and liked the song and liked the idea, and I went to his studio. He’d been working on this sort of style, which he normally didn’t do and it came out really well.

J Hubner: One of the concepts of the album was uncertainty, which seemed very apropos in hindsight given how 2020 turned out. How did you land on that concept?

Daniel Davies: Well, there’s a different uncertainty. Well, I feel like that all the time(haha). In terms of Signals, with those obelisks floating in space in Jesse’s work, the uncertainty there is it’s not supposed to be there. There’s a monolith there and we don’t know what it is. Over time, we just live with it. Over time I become comfortable with that. That’s the kind of general feeling I wanted with that record.

That’s just a kind of a theme that I like. I like having those conflicting sounds in songs.

J. Hubner: I think you hit the nail on the head. There’s two different types of uncertainty working there. Having to deal with change, like this monolith hanging in the sky. It’s scary at first, but then we sort of come to terms with it.

Daniel Davies: Yeah, it forces us to change. And that can be a positive change. It doesn’t have to be a downer. And that’s okay. There can be hope there, too.

J Hubner: So now you’ve got Spies. What made you interested in the idea of being watched and surveillance.

Daniel Davies: In the beginning of lockdown when the streets were just quiet. You know, you’re just walking in the street and you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up and it feels like someone’s there. Or that feeling you get in your car late at night and you think someone’s in the back seat. I don’t know, I just thought about it and liked that idea. What does that mean? Why am I having that feeling? What can I do with that? The pieces start with that concept, but as I write them they evolve into what they become.

J. Hubner: Did you want to work with Jesse once again?

Daniel Davies: Yeah. I had written three of the songs and sent them to him and had the concept of spies and who’s watching and why. He sent me two pieces and this was the one I connected with the most.

J Hubner: I love it. It looks amazing.

Daniel Davies: It fits perfect. His art is incredible.

J. Hubner: It’s like some bizarre puzzle piece.

Daniel Davies: It’s like we don’t know why and we don’t know who. That’s what I love about it.

J. Hubner: With Spies you were working with strings this time around. Is that something you’ve worked with before?

Daniel Davies: On my records it’s the first. John Spiker that I work with, he plays bass for the John Carpenter band and he helps us mix the records, he knows some great string players. Cody Carpenter helped me orchestrate it, then we put the pieces together and then they came and played. I just wanted that kind of, where you can’t tell if it’s a synth or a string. Kind of an electro-acoustic sound, where you don’t always know what the sounds are.

J Hubner: So with a year at home isolating in 2020 and film projects on pause, you made the most of it by working on solo music. What did you find yourself listening to for just enjoyment?

Daniel Davies: You know, we have a small child here so we listen to a lot of 70s soul. It’s something different. I’m also excited to go record shopping again. They just opened Amoeba here so I’m excited to go there.

J Hubner: You listen to any jazz?

Daniel Davies: I like to listen to old Charlie Christian albums. I used to listen to that stuff with my dad when I was a kid. So on Sunday morning I like to put on Charlie Christian records. I also listen to a lot of French 80s music.

J Hubner: Oh, like French synth pop?

Daniel Davies: Yeah. I enjoy it. I can’t understand what they’re saying, but my wife speaks French.

J Hubner: So you can just ask her what they’re saying.

Daniel Davies: Yeah.

A friend of mine started a record label called Forager. They’ve found obscure folk music from the 70s, and I’d just listened to that.

J Hubner: So what’s up next for you?

Daniel Davies: The next project, John, Cody and I have a movie coming up that I can’t say what it is just yet.

J Hubner: That sounds exciting.

Daniel Davies: Yeah, I’m excited about that. We’re always working on stuff, experimenting. Between gigs is a good time to experiment. See what we can use next time.

‘Spies’ is available now via Sacred Bones Records. Buy it here.

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