INTERVIEW: L.A.-Based Electro/Indie-Rock Artist, Simulated Sun
Hi Dave, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been very well, thanks for asking!
Can you tell us more about “Tannhauser Gate?”
I certainly can. I’ve always been a huge Blade Runner fan, ever since seeing it as a teenager. Roy’s final monologue is iconic, and always moves me to tears. I had always wondered about the places he was referring to. What is the Tannhauser Gate, and what are the C-beams that glitter near there? That title had been written down in a list of potential song titles for a very long time. Then one day I stumbled upon a little song idea that I had recorded years prior, and I spotted Tannhauser Gate on my list of potential titles. Almost as a joke, I started singing to myself “Tannhauser Gate! What’s going on at the Tannhauser Gate?” But I kind of liked it, and I began writing lyrics about Blade Runner, specifically about Roy himself. I used lines from the movie, especially the single most iconic line which became the chorus. I wanted to validate Roy, in a way, as his struggle with mortality is one that we all feel as part of the human condition.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Just the movie itself. I wanted to pay homage.
The single comes off your new EP, Ignition – what’s the story behind the title?
Ignition is a term that we use to describe the birth of a star. Once a gas cloud has compressed under the force of gravity such that there is enough energy for fusion to begin taking place, the star is born, so to speak. We also use this term to describe the moment that a nuclear fusion reactor becomes self-sustaining. Given that the band name, Simulated Sun, is a term that could be interpreted either as the project title for a fusion reactor, or a literal computer simulation of a star, the title “Ignition” seemed apropos in signifying the birth of this project.
How was the recording and writing process?
Writing and recording this was all new for me. I’ve never had a project by myself like this, so I’ve never been the sole songwriter, or made all of the decisions on my own in the studio. Writing this first batch of songs was just about getting acclimated and gaining confidence, not second-guessing my instincts. Recording was unique in the sense that I did each track to completion, one at a time, tracking and mixing and getting the finished product before moving on to the next song, which is something I’ve never done before.
What was it like to work with Dan Long and how did that relationship develop?
I met Dan while I was playing drums in The Lonely Wild, they had worked with him before I joined the band, and then I worked with him when we recorded our single “Holidays.” That was probably my favorite thing that TLW had ever recorded, from the drum tones to how we crafted the synth parts, so when I decided to record some tracks on my own, he was the first person I thought of.
How much did he get to influence the album?
I’m extremely thorough, and a bit OCD with preparation, so most of the details in terms of composition were already set before I went in to track, but Dan is a really great objective set of ears, and I trust his judgement. So I’ll plan more layers than should be on the track, and then I play parts for him and go “Is this too much?” When he says yes or no, I usually default to that. He also had some great suggestions for tones and effects and things of that nature.
How much did Blade Runner play on the writing of this whole record?
Blade Runner was obviously the sole inspiration for Tannhauser Gate, and science fiction in general informs the aesthetic I’m going for with all of my music, but the other four tracks are about other things.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than on your own?
Absolutely, and in a previous project I was in called Plus, there were three of us always writing together. Our skill sets were so specific and complementary that it eventually became a chore, because all three of us were needed to finish any particular song, and disagreements really slowed down the process. This is the first time I’ve done everything myself, ideas from start to finish, writing lyrics, and also lead singing, so I’ve really jumped off the deep end here.
How do bands like Holy Fuck and Frank Zappa influence your writing?
Holy Fuck is a huge influence even if it’s not immediately apparent in this first batch of songs. When I first heard their debut LP I was blown away, and I’ve seen them live a bunch times since. Any act that takes dark electronica-inspired rock and performs it 100% live is definitely going to be something I’m interested in, and I love their live energy. Zappa is an influence not quite as much stylistically, although I love his music, but more in terms of compositional ambition. I’ve always felt limited in what I could write while in projects with my peers because we never had the cumulative technical ability to pull certain things off, but here I’ve hired ultra-talented young players just like Frank did, specifically in order to remove that limitation, and play modern music with that slight progressive/fusion bent to it, just like I’ve always wanted.
What role does L.A. play in your music?
The only specific way Los Angeles influences my music is that when I’m writing, I’m thinking of how it will sound live, and when I’m thinking about that, I’m envisioning the venues where I will likely play or hope to play soon. I know how those rooms sound and I know what it feels like to be on those stages, so I’m writing for those rooms.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Each song is different. “Tannhauser Gate” is about Blade Runner. “Zero-Point Energy” is a musing about theoretical physics and simulation theory. “She Feels” is about my wife. “The Emergence” is a sonic poem about humankind entering the Space Age. And “Castles” is actually a pre-existing song from that project.
Any plans to hit the road?
I would love to! Just gotta drum up some interest and get the funds. I miss being on the road, terribly.
What else is happening next in Simulated Sun’s world?
Ignition will be released on May 10th, so I’m just hoping to play some good shows and make a little noise in the LA scene here! Two more music videos are in the works, and I’m going to be devoting more time to writing very soon, so I should have a whole batch of new material ready to record by the end of the year.