Monday, July 14, 2008

David Weir

David Weir

David Weir is a composer and a musician, a student and a teacher. He describes his collage work as a kind of anti-war political mashup, though not in the traditional Bastard Pop sense. I've heard a lot of collages over the last few years which take recordings of the voice of GW Bush, and other politicians, using them to comic effect, and/or to create political messages... Weir is doing similar things but in a much more thoughtful way than I've found to be the norm.

There are tracks to download at his website, where you can find out more about this Australian cut-up artist, HERE.

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with David Weir...

*Name: David Weir

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Downloading Dissidence: Music to Mobilise in the Age of iPod.’ That formula of ‘catch phrase: other little bit elaborating on catch phrase’ is a dead give away that this is an academic project. In non-academic arenas I’ve been calling it ‘The RogueSounds Project.’ Joey Skagg’s recently posted a feature article on the project under that name.

*Do you use a pseudonym? RogueSounds. This was inspired by Noam Chomsky’s book Rogue States.

*Members: Just me (David John Weir). I used to be a guitarist. Then I became a singer, then a songwriter, then a producer, programmer, bass player - whatever. Now I don’t kid myself that I’m any of those things – but I do them any way.

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: I’m confined solely to the digital realm – through circumstance rather than principle. All of my precious vinyls got left in the sun when I moved interstate. Ruined. If I did own a reel to reel tape player I’d probably still be drawn to the editing possibilities that the digital platform allows – although what people have done with tape is incredible. In fact, maybe tape manipulation facilitates better art. The unlimited ‘undo-ability’ of digital audio perhaps makes for a more ‘disposable’ attitude. The ‘mistakes’ that are clicked away in an instant, might, in a non-digital environment, be incorporated to create something more tangential, more contingent. I suppose there’s less ‘risk’ during the creative process with digital production. You withhold the risk until you actually submit the mix to a listener. Then you face the music like everyone else.

*Another genre descriptor: I’ve been calling what I do ‘political mashup.’

*Why you use this descriptor: It’s not strictly mashup at all, in that I don’t blend existing recordings of songs. The mashup element is in the conflating of two separate texts – the political speech narrative I construct, with the music backing I compose. I like the ‘mashup’ term because it suggests to me the postmodern sensibilities that typify the current age: ambiguity around authorship, collage, a proclivity for mixing genres and the appropriating of cultural texts to create new texts. My pieces are obviously political. Mashup as I hear it is not ostensibly political at all. It’s been politicized by the copyright issues it raises – and these of course are complex, and I think, profound in what they reveal about power structures and the pervasiveness of their influence on everyone.

*Location: I live in the Tweed Valley, Northern New South Wales in Australia.

*Original Location: I was born and bred in Perth, Western Australia.

*What is your creative/artistic background: I played in several bands in Fremantle/Perth before realizing that I needed to create from behind the scenes if I was going to get anywhere. I’ve been successfully behind the scenes ever since, still ‘getting’ rather than ‘being’ there. I’ve composed music for film and theatre and even taught high school. Now I’m doing this PhD.

*History: I discovered the guitar in 1977. I’ve been earning money as a musician since 1986. I’ve been creating political mashup since 2004, when I decided to go back to music school and do honours.

*Born: I was born in Perth, Western Australia in 1960. My parents arrived from Newcastle, England in 1959. Apparently, no one bothered locking their cars in Perth back then. Things have moved on.

*Motivations: The post 9/11 period has seen the politicization of a lot of artists. The sense of shock following the attacks was fairly universal I believe. Even as the smoke was still clearing you could hear beating war drums fading in. Australia’s prime minister at the time, John Howard, was a backward looking conservative; big business friendly – and a close personal friend of George W. Bush. He appeared to be committed to following the lead of the ‘war president’ no matter where it was heading. This dismayed and embarrassed many here, who felt that such a degree of hatred focused upon a whole nation (or a whole economic/social paradigm) demanded at least some self reflection, not just by the US but by all of the so-called first world. And there were voices (even in the US, where national pride and the sense of ‘security’ were severely dented) calling for a measured reaction, a pause to ponder the possible roots of such tragedy. Those who were calling the shots wouldn’t countenance these responses, typecasting pleas for caution as traitorous attempts at appeasement by leftist excuseniks. The media, instead of challenging increasingly dubious government allegations of hidden weapons and grave and imminent threats, fell obediently into line. I thought it would be fitting to capture some of this media wall paper and construct alternative messages from it. It allowed me to not only express my dissident views in relation to the war on terror but also hopefully highlighted the media’s complicity in government attempts to justify their actions.

*Philosophy: My 2004 production, Collateral Voices – from which Mass Distraction is taken – was really channeling my grief for the people caught up in the war on terror; not only the ‘collateral casualties’, but the soldiers also. I saw all of the victims as either cannon fodder or ‘disposable’ bystanders who had the misfortune to be in the way of the ideological agendas of duplicitous people who held a lot of power. While Iraq was being ‘democratized’ into a rubble-strewn hell hole, Australia was taking a hard line on refugees, locking them up in high security penitentiaries deep in the desert. A climate of heartlessness seemed to have descended upon us. Collateral Voices reflected that climate. My latest work – the RogueSounds stuff - is quite different. It encompasses a broader range of contemporary themes - war on terror, climate change, hegemonic global capital among them. These are all political issues in the end; they inevitably come down to the question of power and how it regulates populations through instruments like the media and the judiciary, inculcating value systems that ‘normalize’ violence, grooming unquestioning complicity to endless consumption while legislating in ways that serve corporate interests over the public. All of the stuff that culture jamming is in resistance to really. I’ve discovered a lot of other anti-war political mashup online – some of it really cleverly done. Practitioners of the art enjoy considerable agency in the construction of meaning. My problem is that, from what I’ve heard, this agency is generally deployed in acrimonious ways. The attack and ridicule gets very personal. While this is understandable – and sometimes very funny – in the end maybe it’s just a case of shooting the messenger. All of that bile aimed directly at Bush might be better channeled into rethinking the entire political/social structures we’ve created, with all of their rules and assumed ‘truths,’ prominent among them being that violence is a legitimate way to resolve grievances. I’ve tried to take another line, imagining the iconic political figure of President Bush having a sort of ‘awakening’ in which he does reflect upon the violence and misery his decisions have propagated. This reformed character is born in The Redemption of George W. He’s a work in progress, appearing in other pieces as an advocate for peace and honesty. I’m not sure where he’s headed yet.

*How would you like to be remembered: I don’t know if I’m ready for that quite yet. I’d like my work to be thought of as an attempt to utilize technology creatively in the quest to envision a less violent, more equitable world.

*Web address:

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