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INTERVIEW: DAV!D&CLARA – Inside The Machine!

Formed back in 2004, the alternative electronic music duo of DAV!D&CLARA, made up of singer, songwriter, producer DAV!D (David Castillo), and his trustworthy computer CLARA, have since released a series of critically acclaimed singles and albums. Their latest album is “CONFESSIONS OF THE MACHINE”, which has been raking up a series of important streaming numbers.  We stopped by David Castillo for another update from his personal mindset.

1. We’ve reviewed most of your recordings, and even interviewed you a couple of times, so on this occasion we’ll go a little further into your relationship with your music. Describe your sound in five words?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): For no reason at all. There’s no reason I should be making music, but I am. I don’t know sheet music. I can’t play actual instruments. Everything I’ve done is by ear. I knew what I liked and went straight for it.

2. What are the differences in performing your vocals vs. instrumental music? Which of the two comes easier to you?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): Sometimes I come up with a melody. Sometimes I make the music first with no lyrics. Can’t gauge it.

3. Do you start your song with the lyrics and narrative first, or is it the music and a tune that pops up first in your head?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA):  Again, it’s a toss-up. Sometimes I start with one. Sometimes another. Trying to figure out the why would take the fun out of it.

4. In what ways do popular songs from the radio influence your music, creative approach and production decisions?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): From what little I’ve allowed myself to hear of today’s mainstream, I don’t care much about it. The mumble rap, the endless stream of trendy pop thot girls and boys, and when did the line between pop and country music become so vague? It’s not even interesting enough to demand a second play. I do applaud their PR teams for making pure crap seem successful. I will say I do love some new heavy metal coming out lately, but the pop sphere and all the award shows are a joke. This album – Confessions of the Machine – I played around with auto tune on a couple of songs (“Dreaming of LA”, “Repair”, “Confidence”). But from my approach, I’m doing it in a mocking way. What I’m saying is I’m not hiding the auto tune in these songs, I’m playing with it. But in the mainstream they try to sell us that these pretty faces can sing, and one live vocal performance proves the sweetness was only from a skilled sound engineer with million- dollar sound processing. The last time I listened to the radio was when Gwen Stefani had “Hollaback girl” out.

5. Putting aside the accolades or criticisms that fans or the media may afford your music, what’s the one thing about your music you think people overlook or misinterpret most often?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA):  That it was intended to sound industrial. Or that I was deliberately trying to steal from Trent Reznor. It just happened. I adore a strong heavy, screaming bass line. Anything less is weak, and I try to make sure nothing weak makes it into my creative process.

6. Do you have a particular hobby or activity outside of music that you use to rejuvenate your creativity or inspiration?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA):  Rest, good diet. Making sure I’m stretching and exercising. That really does help.

7. What’s your favorite ‘guilty pleasure’ pop song?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): Lindsay Lohan’s “XANAX”. I know it’s a leak, but it wows me. I wish she’d drop the actual version. I can listen to it for hours.

8. Name us a band or musical artist you love, that you think we probably haven’t heard of (but definitely should)?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA):  Richard X? You probably have heard of him. His album “X Factor Volume 1” is amazing and inspired me to make music. Tiga, Roisin Murphy. I hope y’all have heard of them.

9. What drives your decision to continue pursuing your musical career more than anything else?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA):  Because it is who I am. It’s not a career, it’s an identity. An identity I’ve been afraid to put on. Now I see getting older that the other roles I’ve tried on were the masks. I was a preacher, I was a criminal, I was someone working two jobs with no future. But DAV!D, the artist, the performer, that is me. Because when I immerse myself in it, everything just goes right.

10. What do you think about when selecting tracks for an album? Do you try to curate for a specific theme, do you try to create a central story?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA):  The central story is pushing myself to make the best song I can. Like this last album, pushing myself to combine electronic and classical elements, and it made for an amazing combination.

11. Your latest album “Confessions Of The Machine” is raking up enormous stream numbers, tell us what lyrically and musically drives the core of that recording?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): Lyrically it was really discovering myself. I’m nearing 30, and once you really accept that it makes you buckle down. It made me go “am I serious about music?”, so that’s when I made the decision to invest my time and effort into making music. And the result is astonishing.

12. Do you typically test your new tracks in live performances prior to an official album release, to see if people will like the tracks?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): I don’t test my tracks to a live performance. I test them in my daily life. I keep the demos, and listen to them and pick out details I do or don’t like about them. Weeks can go by with little effort just doing volume checks. This last album I found to be very helpful at the gym. This wasn’t purposely. I would upload the files to my phone after work, then listen to them while doing exercises and it made for an intense experience. I’d find myself lifting heavier, running faster, and going longer. The final track listing was reviewed for 3 weeks before the official release from my distributor. I knew it was 20 tracks but it was a full picture, not just a moment captured by a single. Collectively a full experience. I trust myself, and the result from listeners has been amazing. Stats show this album, this one, is on more than 1,200 devices worldwide. 1,200 phones have my album saved on their respective app or music service. That blew me away.

13. What is your personal favorite track from the aforementioned album, and why?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): Ha. Nope. I can’t pick one. Each one captures an entirety of a feeling.

14. Do you think albums are a better representation of you as an artist than individual singles? Why or why not?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA):  I think singles are a waste of time. Perpetuated by artists who aren’t creative enough to come up with a decent album. Some can tell a story with a single, I prefer to do it with an album.

15. Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the story behind each of your songs?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): Yes and no. Yes, if they choose to know the exact story behind the song, I’m happy to tell it. But them enjoying the song and creating their own memory with it is also important.

16. What’s the most exciting part about putting a new song together for you?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): Just the wow factor. To remember how I started and how far I’ve come. Or to stroke my ego. Ha.

17. Your sound is so unique and your songs are easily identifiable. How are you consistently stepping outside of the box and keeping things your own?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA):  I have to say thank you to several people who have been helping me. Not that I took their work and didn’t credit them, but they help me in many ways. They teach me to not be afraid, to trust myself. I have learned over time, applying my ear for music to my own has really helped me grow. Not being overly critical, but being honest. To be able to tell myself “that one is great”, or “this one needs more work”. That’s helped me.

18. Do you have any tips to help new artists find their niche?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): Work at it. You can’t just demand that someone find it for you, work for it.

19. How long does it usually take you to complete an album like “Confessions Of The Machine”? Do you work on it daily, or have a fixed writing and recording schedule?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA):   Again, I can’t describe it. I can’t explain it. It’s like the moon, the sun, the stars and the sky. It just is. It’s here. Period.

20. Some artists believe this a golden age for electronic music and we’ll be looking at the songs from this era the same as we look back at tunes from past eras of musical excellence for various genres. What’s your take on this thought?

David Castillo (DAV!D&CLARA): I find that statement laughable, as the pool of artists are merely ripping off from music’s past. Even I’m guilty of that. Every generation has produced its “golden” defining moment. There is nothing golden about the crap on the major charts, especially the United States Billboard. The charts aren’t filled with the musical talent of this generation, but they are out there. This generation has its own artistic Bowie equivalent, if you can find them. It’s like Spotify’s discover playlist, it can help you find the true artists. Listen to them. Buy their material. Support real art. Don’t take the herd mentality and just take what’s given. Find it, and never let it go.

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