Progress Report: David Lynch
Name: David Lynch
Progress Report: One of the world’s greatest living filmmakers and purveyors of fine coffee calls up to talk about his soon to be released debut album
In case you didn’t know, David Lynch can basically do anything. In addition to having directed some of the most visionary and profoundly influential films of ALL TIME (Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Fire Walk With Me, Mulholland Drive), the acclaimed filmmaker is all-around jack of all trades, creatively-speaking. He is an accomplished painter and visual artist, an actor, occasional furniture designer, cartoonist, daily weather reporter (via his hyper-dynamic website), and full-time coffee salesman (he has his own signature blend, available via davidlynch.com/coffee). It should come as no surprise then that the word “musician” now be added to his repertoire. For years Lynch has experimented with music and sound design in relation to his films (he was responsible for much of the music involved with Twin Peaks, eventually producing and writing lyrics for two subsequent Julee Cruise albums), but it wasn’t until late last year that Lynch actually released music under his own name (the single “Good Day Today” — an amorphously upbeat bit of electronica showcasing Lynch’s own distorted vocals). However, this fall Lynch will finally release his first full-length album — a mysterious affair recorded among friends at his own home studio in Los Angeles. Details on just exactly what a full-length David Lynch album will sound like and what guests might be involved are still mostly being kept under wraps, but I was still thrilled when Lynch called me up to discuss the pleasures of making music and have a nice chat about the weather.
DAVID LYNCH: Hey Cole!
STEREOGUM: Hey David. How are you?
DAVID LYNCH: Very good.
STEREOGUM: Are you in LA?
DAVID LYNCH: Yeah. In Los Angeles. Where are you?
STEREOGUM: I’m in Brooklyn.
DAVID LYNCH: Brooklyn, New York! Wow! How’s it out there today?
STEREOGUM: It’s about 100% humidity and it feels like it will rain at any second…but it doesn’t. It’s a little soupy here in Brooklyn.
DAVID LYNCH: Wow! That sounds just terrible.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, it’s pretty gross.
DAVID LYNCH: Well we’ve got humidity. We’re not laughing at you these days. We’ve got humidity too.
STEREOGUM: But it seems like you guys are more equipped for it in someway. I don’t know. People in New York are freaking out right now with the heat wave. I saw two people get into a slap fight yesterday on the subway. I think just because it was hot.
DAVID LYNCH: Yeah it makes people crazy. Humidity is a terrible terrible thing. I heard that around this time in the summer, just after June, there’s some kind of thing coming up from Arizona and it’s kind of like thunderstorm kind of thing and it blows up here and brings in humidity. Otherwise it is a really dry heat in LA. It cools down at night. It’s a desert climate. It’s beautiful, but Arizona is screwing things up.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, the dust storms down in Arizona are really frightening.
DAVID LYNCH: I never heard about this dust storm.
STEREOGUM: It was a few days ago. There were a bunch of really dramatic photos of it. It was a giant black cloud of dust that swept over Arizona and if you were inside of it it was like night time. People had to turn their headlights on in their cars or pull over because they couldn’t see where they were going.
DAVID LYNCH: Wow! What would cause that?!
STEREOGUM: Well, they have been in a drought forever.
DAVID LYNCH: So the first big wind would lift the top soil up?
DAVID LYNCH: It’s just like the dustbowl.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, total dustbowl.
DAVID LYNCH: Which way was the wind blowing? Because the trade winds, they blow west to east. Our wind will meet you in a couple of days.
STEREOGUM: Towards Phoenix?
DAVID LYNCH: From where though?
STEREOGUM: From the south, I guess.
DAVID LYNCH: If it was blowing towards Phoenix from here, then it was going the right way. If it was blowing from Texas to Phoenix than it was blowing the wrong way.
STEREOGUM: It was intense looking. It’s funny that I ended up talking to you today, I just unearthed a box of VHS tapes from my high school days. One of them was an old copy of Industrial Symphony, the performance you staged with Julee Cruise.
DAVID LYNCH: Heavy duty! That’s great.
STEREOGUM: The tape looks like it’s been through a war, but I still have a VCR. I’m gonna watch it again.
DAVID LYNCH: Well, you gotta check it out. That was filmed in Brooklyn, where you are. It was in front of Brooklyn Academy of Music. Me and Angelo did that and it was a great … but a super intense night and two weeks prior.
STEREOGUM: You only performed it the one time?
DAVID LYNCH: Well we did two performances in one night and then they let us do a third performance, because they were filming it for the thing that you have. They let the camera people come onstage and get shots they couldn’t during the live thing. I think it was Francis Coppola’s cousin or something. There were five or six crews shooting 16mm for that thing and it was quite an event.
STEREOGUM: It’s really amazing looking. I was obsessed with that when it came out. I can’t remember how old I was when I bought it — at a used record store in Oklahoma City, I think — but there was something about it that was just unfathomable to me. I lived on a farm in Oklahoma at the time. So I was like, “this is happening somewhere in the world. Somewhere in the world people are getting to come and see this and I need to be wherever that is.” Also, I just thought it was really, really weird.
DAVID LYNCH: That’s really cool. That’s really great.
STEREOGUM: I was aware that you were making music because I had heard the single that came out last year … but I didn’t know that you were working on a full-length album.
DAVID LYNCH: Neither did we.
STEREOGUM: Obviously you have had a big hand in making the music in your films for many years, but at what point did you decide to make music separate from that? How did that happen?
DAVID LYNCH: Well, like you said, it sort of snuck up on me. I always say Angelo Badalamenti brought me into the world of music, and through working with him, starting with Blue Velvet. You know, the whole thing, I always wanted to have a studio to experiment with sound. Then, I’m working with Angelo and when we’re working in studios it just was such a dream. It just was so much fun, and just a dream. It was like a magnet, but I still wasn’t making any music; but I was involved with producing, writing lyrics, and working with Angelo. One thing led to another, and I finally built my own studio. It’s like a dream room. You can mix films, you can show films, you can make music, you can mix music, and it’s just like the field of all possibilities with sound. It’s just a dream room. Sound effects became more musical. I played the guitar, which started as a sound effect and then it started turning into music. We started experimenting with music from the very beginning. You know, we’ve got lots and lots of stuff and we were headed towards doing an album, but this whole thing of the song “Good Day Today” and “I Know,” — the songs on the single — happened to be some of the best recordings. It opened up a door to kind of like, “Okay. This is now real time and we’re going to do an album.” We got 14 tracks and they’re all mixed and mastered and ready to go.
STEREOGUM: Do you have an ETA for when you think it will come out?
DAVID LYNCH: I think it’s going to come out, Cole, in the fall. Either October or November, I think.
STEREOGUM: Wow. So soon! How is the process of making music for you? Do you have a particular way of working?
DAVID LYNCH: Yeah. Generally speaking, it starts with a jam, and lately it’s been me on guitar and Dean on drums, but Dean also plays bass and he plays keyboards. So, it starts with a jam and what is known for everybody in music, if you have a certain sound, and you have a certain beat, it just means a certain thing has got to come out. It’s just the strangest thing. So out of a jam, you find a thing and then that thing either is the thing or it starts leading to the thing. It’s a magical, magical process and so rewarding, so much fun, but that’s how it goes.
STEREOGUM: Was the process of making the record particularly laborious, or did it happen pretty easily?
DAVID LYNCH: It might take time, but the word labor isn’t really a good word. It’s fun work. And you know there’s no money in music so it better be fun.
STEREOGUM: I guess for the sake of techy nerds who would be interested; do you tend to record with computers and then play around with the sounds digitally?
DAVID LYNCH: Yes yes yes. Big time. Dean, the guy I’m working with, is a Pro Tools jock and he wears special tennis shoes and does the thing.
STEREOGUM: The two songs on the single you released last year are — in a lot of ways — very different from each other. How would you characterize the music on the record?
DAVID LYNCH: That’s a really good question. The thing about this record is it started more in the direction of the song “I Know,” which is one of the two sides. We sort of thought of the music as having roots in blues but this would be like modern blues. So that’s what started driving the boat and if things got a little bit pretty or something like that, they’d end up trying to go to somewhere else. This was more raw and more blues oriented and it was like a bad car engine, but with sophisticated guts. But now that the album is finished, I’d say it somehow went away from that. There’s different things going on. I think it takes somebody more like you to say, “Oh this is…” I don’t really know what name it is. But it grew out of that original thing, which we would say was our take on modern blues.
STEREOGUM: Are there certain things lyrically that you find yourself preoccupied with? Recurring motifs? Or was every song was sort of its individual crazy journey of its own?
DAVID LYNCH: I guess the word crazy is apropos.
STEREOGUM: It’s so interesting, obviously you’ve worked in a lot of different mediums, from making films, to making music, art, painting, to designing things. Do you you find that the way you approach a creative project tends to follow the same kind of path no matter what it is you’re working on? Does it activate the same part of your brain?
DAVID LYNCH: I always say that ideas … everything starts with an idea, but in music, with a jam for instance, if you set it up … like we’ll find chords and a certain tempo and say, “Okay, this is what we’re going to work with.” Once it starts going, then I say, it’s kind of like action and reaction or a flow of ideas. Because it’s happening, it’s talking to you, and you’re acting and reacting to whatever’s happening and it’s a beautiful and magical thing. Suddenly, you’ll get an idea to do something that you never thought you’d do, so it’s setting things up for discovery I guess.
STEREOGUM: Do you imagine creating visuals to go with any of the songs?
DAVID LYNCH: Yeah maybe. I think, when music finds a real nice home — a visual home — it’s like the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
DAVID LYNCH: But when it finds a bad home, it’s not going to happen.
STEREOGUM: That is a tough thing that not enough people pay attention to. We don’t watch music videos in the same way as we used to but when you marry those sounds to a certain look, a certain visual, it’s hard to separate them in anyone’s mind after that. Do you have other people’s voices on the record or do you do all the voices?
DAVID LYNCH: I’m not at liberty to say … but I do vocals.
STEREOGUM: How is that for you? Obviously you have done more performative things in the past. You’ve acted and been in things; but how is it to hear your own voice in a song?
DAVID LYNCH: It was a huge, huge thing. You know, Cole, I’m not a musician and I’m not a singer, but I play music and sing. It’s very strange.
STEREOGUM: Can you imagine some scenario in which you’d perform these songs or present them in a live setting?
DAVID LYNCH: Like what the people say, I have a good imagination, but I can’t imagine that.
STEREOGUM: It could be terrifying. It could be a really interesting experience though.
DAVID LYNCH: That’s why people take drugs, musicians, I’m sure of it.
STEREOGUM: To be able to perform?
DAVID LYNCH: Yeah, to go on the stage in front of people. You’ve gotta take some heavy, heavy drugs.
STEREOGUM: You know, when it comes to performing these songs, you could do something really theatrical. You wouldn’t necessarily have to be in it. People wouldn’t even necessarily need to see you. You could be behind a curtain with a puppet or just levitating over the audience.
DAVID LYNCH: You mean do a film thing?
STEREOGUM: Or something along the lines of an Industrial Symphony thing.
DAVID LYNCH: See Cole, this is the only way it could happen. This is something that we are going to be looking into.
STEREOGUM: Well, I think you should do it.
DAVID LYNCH: Bless your heart man. It’s interesting, like you said, that you found that VHS tape and we are talking about this.
STEREOGUM: It’s fortuitous timing. I guess having a studio — or a place that you can work connected to the place that you live — does make things a lot easier. Are you good at creatively multitasking, maintaining and working on a lot of different projects at once? Or are you the sort of person that needs to do one thing and finish it before moving on to the next?
DAVID LYNCH: Well when you’re doing the thing, the secret is to do it as close to 100% as possible. Now, the phone could ring, and you could take the phone call, and I always think you could take the phone and then someone is on the phone, this beautiful girl, and you have to give that 100%, and then you get off the phone and try to do something else and you have to give that 100%. So, it’s kind of like you can do all the things. There are certain things, like a film. You really can’t get too much involved with other things. You owe it to the film to stick to it and it’s a long process and you have to get in there. But there are other things where it’s possible to make music and paint I think, and do some other things at the same time without short changing any of them.
STEREOGUM: The music you have worked on for your own films is, in its own way, really iconic. It really takes the film to some other place. I think it’s amazing. You can’t imagine Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks without also hearing that music in your head. Listening to the two songs you released last year, it’s clear that you can really create the cinematic experience for someone just with sounds. Is that a concept that you were interested in exploring with making music?
DAVID LYNCH: Yeah, and it’s the same thing in painting. There are some painters that they do not want to tell a story. It’s a thing. There’s no story. I like story, even if it’s a short story. I like something to kick in a thinking or dreaming process and I think that the music, to me anyway, it has stories and you can’t say, maybe sometimes the story is more obvious. Music is so abstract, even if it’s an abstract story you don’t say what it is. It kicks in something and it becomes personal.
STEREOGUM: That’s the beauty of it. You can create your own story. Some people don’t want to create their own story, but I like that idea. Can you say what the record is called yet?
DAVID LYNCH: No.
STEREOGUM: Fair enough. You are someone who has really taken advantage of the internet as a creative medium. I’m assuming that once this record is out, people can see more of this music reflected in your website?
DAVID LYNCH: I would think so. Yes, for sure.
STEREOGUM: Will you get to design some sort of special packaging for it?
DAVID LYNCH: I’m going to be working on that. We’ll see what happens there.
STEREOGUM: I’ll let you get back to work then. Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to talk with me.
DAVID LYNCH: Cole, it was good talking to you.
STEREOGUM: Thank you. I’m really looking forward to hearing the whole record when it’s done.
DAVID LYNCH: Bless your heart. When you get it, please, like everyone I’m sure tells you, sit down, crank it, and get into it.
David Lynch’s full-lengh album will be out this fall. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and explore his amazing website: davidlynch.com.
And watch the video for his first single, “Good Day Today”: