We chatted to the articulate and worldly Seven Davis Jr ahead of his Australian tour for Let Them Eat Cake on Jan 1.
We spoke about his first experiences with music, and the process of breaking free from his early perceptions about life. Well worth a read.
What are some of the earliest experiences with music you can remember?
I grew up in church, so church music was my first experience with music.
For those unaware, you were being groomed for mainstream success in gospel music from a young age. We now know that it wasn’t quite for you and you eventually wrote your own path. There is quite obviously a large portion of this that has carried on through your music. Is there any gospel, soul or jazz related music that currently inspires you today?
I still listen to gospel, soul and jazz. Mostly classics or oldies. Too many to name. I watch a lot of live performances from great vocalists on YouTube. I’m a vocalist first and I study techniques. Recently I’ve been kind of obsessed with gospel legend Karen Clark Sheard, live videos. Also, Sia Furler, about as pop as I get, I think her voice is incredible.
Tell us about that discipline of being trained as a professional musician and even as a professional producer. A lot of people in that position tend to get the creative juice pressed out of them due to tending to creative needs of others rather than their own. How many years of this did you have to go through before you decided to step towards something that sat right with you?
The whole first half of my life it went on. Discipline as a vocalist and producer so, extra strength. Shoot, it still goes on now. To learn what I’ve learned, you have to take a lot of I guess abuse, a lifetime of it. People putting you down to build you up. People will underestimate or insult you in one sentence and then ask you to do work for them by the end of their next sentence. Definitely then and especially now. So in a way, my “disciplining” is on going, even though I’ve evolved into my own. For me, it’s important to always remain a student at heart no matter how much skill acquired.
Going to techno/rave parties in your younger years was your musical catalyst and gateway to the world of electronic music. What are your most vivid and exciting moments of experiencing that culture from the bay area in the 90’s? What artists from that time influenced your early music the most? Were there any other things besides music that influenced you from these parties?
In the past, I was a dancer. There are tons of dancers in the Bay Area. I fell in love with house, more dancing to house than listening to it, at first. Mark Farina and Green Velevet were my favs to go out and dance to. When they were in town you bet I would try to be there. Overall it was the combination of everything. The rave community really helped me come out of my shell and break free of some of the religious conditioning that had been troubling my open mind then.
What is your typical routine to making music at the present? You tour a lot around the world, does this eat into your studio time? Or have you had to adapt and work with a more portable set up. What equipment is most commonly heard on your tracks?
I hate tech talk but.. I’ve cut down touring, and after this Australian tour I’m disappearing from the planet for a while. Not really but kind of. All the music everyone has heard so far came from me, alone, in my zone, recording. No one gave a shit about me before, so I had no interruptions in the studio. Being on tour surrounded by both lovely and nightmarish characters, makes it tricky to find that space but thankfully, I’m able to regardless. I did recently change everything and started working in all new ways and with more organic instruments. No specific routine, I let it “speak to me” and go from there, one thing at a time.
Most producers usually have a pretty decent network of close working industry friends. Do you have a strong support network of producers/ staff people around you to help and inspire your journey?
Music is my friend. I thought I had friends when I made the song “Friends” on Classic. Yet the more success I reached, the more of those friends turned on me or became negative critics or verbally abusive or I guess jealous. I’ve also trusted the wrong people on my past team set ups. People who did damage and rightly deserved to be fired but left me with a bad rep in some places. Regardless, yes I’ve actually found steady friendships in a lot of my mentors. I can humbly call music legends I’ve grown up listening to, friends. Like if I need them they are there for me, for real, non music related even.
You recently released your Universes LP on the prolific Ninja Tune Label. Tell us a little bit about how you got onto them and the process behind making that album?
Well, I still don’t know the exact story of how Ninja found me. I had trouble with my old team members withholding information. So details are a blur. Glad we linked. I had actually started thinking of the Universes conceptual idea in the past, around 2010. When it was official that I would release debut album, I wanted to use the same process I used for The Lost Tapes Vol 1 (IZWID) recorded in 1999. That music was made from me locking myself in the bed room for a few months with keyboards, drum machines and a 4 track tape recorder and experimenting, but with a conceptual direction. So with “Universes” I did the same thing in bits at home studios I set up between London, Amsterdam and Los Angeles, only with laptops, midi boards and live bits and loops I had stored up between 2010 to 2014. The last song on Universes was recorded on New Years Eve 2014.
This will be your first time playing around Australia. What are your expectations of your upcoming tour? Anything that you would like to do more specifically whilst you are here? Any preconceptions of the music scene down here?
I just want to have a lovely time and hope people enjoy having me there! If I can leave with a few new friends and tons of great memories that would be nice.
Jan 1 2016 – Let Them Eat Cake, Werribee Mansion VIC