By Jeff McAllister
There’s something obnoxious about calling a live show an experience. But every now and then, it’s the only description that makes sense.
“Ready for a religious experience?” A fragrant, pony-tailed man muttered my way minutes before a Flaming Lips show in
Quincy, Washington. His words here made sense.
“It’ll be an experience,” 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 musician’s organic talent, but some- thing that tickles the senses in ways a home-entertainment system cannot. Sweat, lasers, sound so loud it’s hard to breath. Wizardry not even Scorsese can reproduce. Longwalkshortdock, the pulse- throbbing, brain-fucking, audio-visual show by Dave King is what one—even begrudgingly—would call an experience.
“People tell their friends: You’ve got to see this guy, he acts like a fucking crazy person,” 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. King’s brand of electro is disarmingly aggressive—the marriage of King’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 playing Nintendo.
“For the record, I probably should have fucking practiced,” says King. “I would be so much more ace at keyboards if I had learned it at a young age.”
Years later, King takes things more seriously. He boasts over a decade’s experience in sound design and music production. King holds two degrees from the Art Institute of Burnaby—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 King’s own vocals. He’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 live instrumentation in real time.
One side effect to putting on such a spectacle is that LWSD’s live set is almost a distinct entity from his recorded albums. “It’s sort of a blessing and a curse in the way that I made my name with [the show],” King says. “At home I make so much different shit that people never get to hear.” The problem with hosting one of our generation’s best dance parties is that there’s no room for King to share slower tempos and more experimental tracks. “Stop fucking with us,” is a common reaction King gets from the crowd when attempting to deviate from what’s expected. “What are you doing?” is another.
“It would be great to one day have my name represent a wider range,” King says. He hopes to articulate this with an upcom- ing double record of what’s been described as headphone music. At the time of our interview, King’s sitting on at least 30 to 40 new songs, the result of “touring [his] balls off,” and feeling obliged to bring something new to every stop. It takes a dozen phone calls for us to finally connect—most calls go through to King’s voicemail.
“Hello, you have reached the Mental Health hotline.”
But perhaps the most notable change to LWSD over the years has nothing to do with sound at all. Rather, it’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 what’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 he’s fortunate to be one step ahead of the crowd.
This September, Longwalkshortdock will close down Rif- flandia’s Market Square stage at 12:30am on Saturday night. These headlining opportunities are becoming a regular for King, who’s also held high-profile slots at this year’s Tall Tree Music Festival and the Rock Pit Stage of Shambhala. King’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 on 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.