By Jeff McAllister
Thereâ€™s something obnoxious about calling a live show an experience. But every now and then, itâ€™s the only description that makes sense.
â€œReady for a religious experience?â€ A fragrant, pony-tailed man muttered my way minutes before a Flaming Lips show in
Quincy, Washington. His words here made sense.
â€œItâ€™ll be an experience,â€ I told my friend at 16, when we shelled out what seemed like an eternity in lawn-mowing wages to see a Bob Dylan we both knew could no longer sing. In hindsight, it certainly was not.
The difference is something tactile. Not simply an incredibly tight set that proves the musicianâ€™s organic talent, but some- thing that tickles the senses in ways a home-entertainment system cannot. Sweat, lasers, sound so loud itâ€™s hard to breath. Wizardry not even Scorsese can reproduce. Longwalkshortdock, the pulse- throbbing, brain-fucking, audio-visual show by Dave King is what oneâ€”even begrudginglyâ€”would call an experience.
â€œPeople tell their friends: Youâ€™ve got to see this guy, he acts like a fucking crazy person,â€ King says, explaining the hype- cycle surrounding his music. The 30-year-old Nelson, B.C. native claims we live in an A.D.D. generation and it takes a truly in-your- face presence to really engage a crowd. Kingâ€™s brand of electro is disarmingly aggressiveâ€”the marriage of Kingâ€™s early love of video games and heavy metal. Although he really got into electronic mu- sic at 15, King began experimenting with the medium much earlier; he learned to loop on a Casio keyboard in order to trick his mom into thinking he was practicing piano, when he was actually playingÂ Nintendo.
â€œFor the record, I probably should have fucking practiced,â€ says King. â€œI would be so much more ace at keyboards if I hadÂ learned it at a young age.â€
Years later, King takes things more seriously. He boasts over a decadeâ€™s experience in sound design and music production. King holds two degrees from the Art Institute of Burnabyâ€”one in Music Recording and the other in Production. What began as found sounds threaded together with vintage synthesizers has grown to include a clusterfuck of instrumentation: guitars, computers, drum machines, and Kingâ€™s own vocals. Heâ€™s a live performing artist, rather than a DJ; on stage King performs his own work, rather than remix- ing sets. Each track is constructed out of sound produced via liveÂ instrumentation in real time.
One side effect to putting on such a spectacle is that LWSDâ€™s live set is almost a distinct entity from his recorded albums. â€œItâ€™s sort of a blessing and a curse in the way that I made my name with [the show],â€ King says. â€œAt home I make so much different shit that people never get to hear.â€ The problem with hosting one of our generationâ€™s best dance parties is that thereâ€™s no room for King to share slower tempos and more experimental tracks. â€œStop fucking with us,â€ is a common reaction King gets from the crowd when attempting to deviate from whatâ€™s expected. â€œWhat are youÂ doing?â€ is another.
â€œIt would be great to one day have my name represent a wider range,â€ King says. He hopes to articulate this with an upcom- ing double record of whatâ€™s been described as headphone music. At the time of our interview, Kingâ€™s sitting on at least 30 to 40 new songs, the result of â€œtouring [his] balls off,â€ and feeling obliged to bring something new to every stop. It takes a dozen phone calls for us to finally connectâ€”most calls go through to Kingâ€™s voicemail.
â€œHello, you have reached the Mental Health hotline.â€
But perhaps the most notable change to LWSD over the years has nothing to do with sound at all. Rather, itâ€™s the 10-projec- tor rig, loaded with original content and designed by Tim Hill of RIM Visuals, King has begun to haul around on tour. In whatâ€™s been referred to as a partnership, the two perform their specific roles together on stage. King blends genres while Hill blends perspec- tives, creating something more akin to a sonic Cirque de Soleil. In a world where live performances are rapidly becoming one of the few remaining ways for a band to generate income, King admits that heâ€™s fortunate to be one step ahead of the crowd.
This September, Longwalkshortdock will close down Rif- flandiaâ€™s Market Square stage at 12:30am on Saturday night. These headlining opportunities are becoming a regular for King, whoâ€™s also held high-profile slots at this yearâ€™s Tall Tree Music Festival and the Rock Pit Stage of Shambhala. Kingâ€™s success is testament to the importance of standing out; even in a struggling industry, originality is rewarded. The boy who once controlled polygonal figures onÂ screen now extends his command to crowds of thousands.
Jeff McAllister is a regular contributor to this magazine. Check out his blog at wearemosaic.ca.Â