Manchester based producer and electronic musician Nick Donovan creates ambient and sonic sounds under the name DEADBEAR. Recently he graduated with a PhD in contemporary art, composition and programming, and now has taken his own love of technology and combined that with several complex forms of crafting beautiful music. Last year Deadbear released his chill and experimental EP Wabi Sabi on Art Is Hard Records featuring collaborations with Alex Hewett of Egyptian Hip Hop, and Ellen Davies of /please/. Currently he is working on a debut album expected later in 2014, and has released several addictive remixes of reworkings of Grimes, and Barbarossa. Please enjoy and download DEADBEAR’s debut EP Wabi Sabi available now, and purchase the accompanying 16 page zine that connects the electronic soundscape visually.
DEADBEAR was kind enough to create exclusively for musicisart a guest mix featuring remixes of Cashmere Cat, Grimes, BANKS, and more. The sensual selection is a perfect way to start your week as it keeps an alluring vibe throughout its 25 minute duration.
DEADBEAR Sensual Mix March 2014
Lorde – Ribs (Ryan Hemsworth Remix)
Moebius’ Travels (Julien Mier Remix)
BANKS – Change (The Chainsmokers Hot & Steamy Edit)
Azealia Banks – 212/Calvin Harris ft. Kelis Bounce – Bounce (DEADBEAR Remix) (Unreleased)
SPAZZKID – Morning Swim (Turbo Goth Cover)
Grimes – Be A Body (DEADBEAR Remix)
Bok Bok ft Kelela – Melba’s Call
Cashmere Cat – With Me (LCAW Remix)
Please share your earliest memory involving or creating music.
DEADBEAR: My earliest memory of music is being sat on my dad’s knee listening to The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Del Shannon with his huge headphones weighing heavily on my head. I never studied music at school but got on to do a music degree through an audition. I couldn’t read music, I just performed and brought in some early recordings I’d done of my band. If anything, university never formalized a process for me, it just opened me up to more music. In my final undergraduate year I joined a laptop orchestra and wrote a small opera using laptops, strings and some gamelan and chance-based stuff. Education is what you make of it, I guess and it’s important to be hungry for all knowledge and experiences.
Who are some of your greatest influences?
DEADBEAR: There’s so many. I love Bjork and Kate Bush, they have both been pillars of my musical life for so long now. Others include Four Tet, Ryan Hemsworth, OOIOO, Grimes, and I love James Taylor (One Man Dog is probably my favourite all-time album). I’m also really enjoying the new Patten album at the moment – Warp stuff has always been key for me.
If you had to explain your music to a stranger, how would you do so?
DEADBEAR: I always say it’s ‘weird dance music’– that usually gives people an idea, but if they probe me a bit more I’d say electronica.
When you’re working are you fully involved in what you’re doing or is your mind already planning ahead?
DEADBEAR: I’m always fully immersed in it, I can never think more than a few bars ahead. One of my personality traits, I’ve been told a by others close to me, is that I commit wholly to something or not at all. It’s the same with music.
On average, how long does it take for you to create a song?
DEADBEAR: It can vary but I think I’m a slow worker. Some songs have taken around 3 months to make, whereas others can take a just a few days. I like to revisit and hone everything I’ve made – sometimes it can be difficult to let it go and master the tracks.
Which albums do you credit as having the biggest impact as far as your life and creativity are concerned?
DEADBEAR: Bjork’s Vespertine had a huge affect on me when I was a teenager. It was like hearing electronic music in a setting I’d never considered: it was very personal, and domestic in a way – like electronic chamber music. She collaborated with Matmos for that album, another favourite of mine. That album showed me that electronic music could be intricate, full of meaning and heartbreakingly emotional – even if some qualities of the music were cold and sterile. Similarly with Bowie’s Low, that had a huge influence on my thinking on the relationship between music and place (as he moved to Berlin to make it). I’m currently in Paris writing and recording material for next record, actually.
If you could have a drink with one musician, living or dead, who would it be and what would you like to ask them?
DEADBEAR: I (probably along with a million others) would love to have a drink with John Cage, and I probably wouldn’t have to ask him anything, that man was full of absolute gems.
What do you hope people take from your music?
DEADBEAR: This question is so hard to answer. If a song can be meaningful in any way to someone I think that’s as good as it gets. From my perspective the music I make as DEADBEAR is the only music I’ve made and ever thought “Yeah, that really captures and expresses how I feel.” For example, I’ve tried writing lots of love songs on guitar and piano, but they just don’t capture the essence of that feeling or experience for me anymore, so if anyone can listen to my music and hear something they felt previously unrepresented in themselves in pop music that would be the best.
Please share your exciting projects coming up.
DEADBEAR: I’m writing and recording my debut album right now, and I’m collaborating with a couple of artists who I really respect and feel inspired by. I think that will most likely drop late 2014. As DEADBEAR I’ve not performed live yet, I’m working out how I want to do it and with what – I think it’ll be late this year that I’ll do a debut show. In the past (for my PhD) I designed and programmed a few controllers/interfaces using Wii remotes, depth sensitive cameras and even an antique globe, so who knows what I’ll use, haha. For the first live dates I’m working on a visual show with a programmer friend which is already starting to look really exciting – it’s all live coded from the ground up and manipulated through the music itself. I expect I’ll do that at the tail end of this year. Aside from that I’ll probably do a few remixes/mixes between now and then, that’s a different outlet for me. Remixes allow me to be a little more ‘party’ and danceable which I enjoy.
Tell me about a favorite experience thus far in your career.
DEADBEAR: I think dropping the first EP (Wabi Sabi) and getting it out there was my favourite time. It was a fairly long process and I wanted everything to look and sound right. Just getting reactions from people I knew, and strangers too. It was a nice thing for me to release something like that into the world. My first BBC Radio 1 play was pretty nice too haha.
It’s not easy to be an artist. What would your number one suggestion be for someone who wants to do what you do?
DEADBEAR: Never compromise on anything. If there’s a quicker, less expensive, less time-consuming way of doing something that impacts the work in a negative way then stay away from it. Just wait, be patient, save up, sell something or learn new skills. I guess the other thing for me would be asking yourself honestly if you would like something you have made, if you stumbled across it online or wherever. Being objective is hard, but it’s important to try and acknowledge those niggling doubts you have about something – you’ll usually be right.
Any favorite words to live by?
DEADBEAR: There’s not really a maxim I live by. I’m a little superstitious though and do believe in karma. I suppose the main thing I always try and remember is ‘be the person you want to be’ – life will be over in flash and everyone deserves a shot at being someone they like.