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Darryl Baser - Darryl Baser Newsletter Interview

30 Jul 2018 // An interview by butch181

Dunedin musician Darryl Baser has played with some of New Zealand's favourite musicians and has even toured the South Island with a couple of Australians. With a new album in the pipeline, he spoke to Muzic.net.nz's Alex:

You released a cassette and 7” prior to 1997 and then went on a bit of a sabbatical for around 17 years. You’ve mentioned struggling with writer’s block being a reason, but was it still difficult to stop the creative process for so long?

Yeah, writer's block, but more so confidence and perfectionism. I didn't feel anything I did was good enough to record; neither the writing nor the playing. I played live around Dunedin a bunch but was for the most part working, trying to be a good husband, and a good father. Kind of failed at all of it for a while. Glad to say I'm now a pretty good solo father. Out of the handful of songs I wrote over that period, some still get played and one written in July 1997 is scheduled to appear on my sophomore LP #SecondSelfie.

During your time away from writing music, you’ve been writing reviews and music columns. Has this work been beneficial to get over that writer’s block?

I found the more I wrote for a living the fewer words I could put into songwriting. I also found everything I was playing- on the odd times I did play -sounded pretty samey. I was pretty uninspired, although I was pleased and proud that I got to record an Anti-US-Invading-Iraq song with the University of Otago Gamelan, for a masters' student's work as I recall. 

You began recording again when you had a smartphone capable of recording sound. How exactly did that come about? Does being able to record things yourself make it easier?

Yup, so an 18-year marriage ended in May 2012, and I found myself. Sometimes I liked what I saw. In 2012 or 2013 the word 'selfie' officially became a word, it became the basic concept for the RawSelfie LP. I was raw and kind of fascinated with how people could take photos of themselves, so I began taking pictures of myself to try and get past always seeing my faults and bagging my own appearance.  I began living life again, going out and meeting people. I became more inspired to write songs and record. I decided I could ditch perfectionism, following advice from a couple of good friends. 

One old friend, Arno Loeffler, was launching Zelle Records from his home in Austria, and he agreed to put out my debut LP if we could crowd-fund it. Thanks, PledgeMe, and those who pre-ordered etc. Over a period of about 9 months I recorded songs live in my little St Kilda flat; sometimes very quietly as my sons slept in the next room. When I had 8 songs I didn't gag when I heard, I took my phone to Stephen Stedman who converted the files from .3gp to .wav and worked his magic. 

Dunedin artist Sarah Flourish snapped a photo of me being a dick and made an awesome woodcut, which became the front cover image, while another Dunedin artist Ewan McDougal kindly let me use 'two pot screamer' on the back cover. Super talented designer Alex Gilks put the cover design together. Copies are now all over the globe, even distributed in NYC by Hamish Kilgour of the Clean, which totally floats my boat.

Your first album released since your hiatus was titled RawSelfie, reflecting on the image-conscious younger generation. Your upcoming LP has the working title Second Selfie. Is it following along the same theme?

Yes, #SecondSelfie further extrapolates the theme, especially the title track, which includes the words "it's astounding how many tries it takes, to get the perfect second selfie." I'm taking time with Second Selfie, bouncing ideas off people, looking to record some tracks with a band, and some solo. I've sent demos off to a couple of electronic music producers with the brief of “play, have fun”. 

I believe the songs are stronger and more melodic. I've had some voice coaching from an opera singer, who gave me warm-up routines, and a greater understanding of presence and breath control. I'm finally gaining the confidence to hear my recordings and not cringe, hearing only the faults. It's only taken nearly 30 years of playing.

How has the music industry changed over the last 20 years?

That's a question and a half.  Well, I remember making a MySpace page around 1998/99 at Arc Cafe on dial-up internet and putting mp3s online took 30 minutes. Record companies still ruled 20 years ago. Sure, it's always been about money making for the big players, even more so these days. In the mainstream music is a product, 90% about how much money the corporations can return to shareholders. However, with social media and streaming sites, there's a huge proliferation of music out there. It takes so much to get any traction. Any cut through. With a bit of social media knowledge, one can grow a fanbase quite well, but it takes work and networking. 

How has your music evolved over time?

Well, I began playing the drums as a kid, eventually playing drums in a couple of bands in England in the late '80s, then finally picked up a guitar in 1990 at age 20 and continued writing words and tunes. I had notebooks full of primitive songs with tunes written on Casiotone keyboards. I fronted a band in Gisborne in 1990, moved to Hamilton in 1991, took up playing solo and busking, moved to Dunedin in March 1993 and haven't looked back. 

Being dyslexic I was never scholastic, but enjoy learning through conversation and immersion, asking dumb questions etc. It's kind of similar to music. I found some courage from somewhere and began asking people if I could organise a night at a venue and get them to play too. I've returned to some experimental roots and have been recording industrial machinery, birdsong, and those bloody awful auto checkouts, with the idea of playing around with a sound canvas. In recent years what I listen to has grown and hopefully, it'll be reflected in #SecondSelfie.

What does the future hold for Darryl Baser?

Well if I can get Second Selfie out by the time I'm 50 I'll be very happy. I'm looking forward to collaborating with others, like I haven't really done before, and hope some collaboration and maybe even a noisescape will appear on Second Selfie, along with solo guitar, voice numbers, and a handful with a band.

Where can we find your music or upcoming events?

I'm really looking forward to playing with Peter Jefferies at Moon on August 18th. He's playing a totally solo piano set. One of my favourite memories of the Empire in Dunedin was seeing Peter on the Electricity LP tour when he was belting the electric piano so hard it was bouncing. He's a formidable and passionate musician, and I'm under no illusion that I'll need to play out of my skin to be an adequate addition to the bill. The evening is being opened up by Marineville frontman Mark Williams. 



Then on August 25th, I'm playing at the Grainstore in Oamaru with Paul S Allen and Bronwyn. It'll be a first for the three of us. Paul and I have backed Bronwyn on a few tunes (him on bass and me on snare and percussion). Paul and I have played in Dunedin a bit, playing song tag, he plays a song then I do, then him then me, and so on...I've got a gig at Dog With Two Tails on September first with Shakes and Mandy, and Henry Phillip Wilson, and am putting a show together at Lyttelton Records on October 6th.

About Darryl Baser

He was made in England, born in Wellington, and grew up in Turanganui-a-kiwa (Gisborne).

Recent history - working on a follow up LP to 2016’s #RawSelfie which was recorded in 2013 on an LG Optima cell phone in a series of live takes in a St Kilda flat.
So far #SecondSelfie is being tracked on a lap top using audacity, where baser is recording layers of guitar, bass, percussion, voices, and in some cases found sound.
Right, here’s the older history.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Darryl Baser


Year: 2020
Type: EP

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