DAV!D&CLARA is an independent electronic-industrial music act out of the Phoenix area. David Castillo aka DAV!D, while CLARA is David’s computer! Castillo was inspired to become a musician and write songs after seeing Gwen Stefani’s music video for her 2004 solo single “What you waiting for?”.
David says that he is heavily influenced by 1980′s music and vocally self-taught, and by singing along to Roisin Murphy’s “Overpowered” album. The artist who also writes all his own lyrics and composes the music is also motivated by Nine Inch Nails. A few months ago, DAV!D&CLARA released his (their?) album “Emotion Machine”, which took 2 years to reach completion. In recent exclusive interview David Castillo let us into his world…
David Castillo: I began writing songs about 10 years ago. Looking back on them they’re pretty bad in comparison to what I write now but everything has its place. I wanted to become a songwriter after seeing Gwen Stefani’s Video for her single “What you waiting for?. I remember the day, I just began writing like crazy since.
2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
David Castillo: That is a complex question. I loved singing along with songs I heard when I was little. “I saw the sign” was a huge impact on my life, so was “Livin’ La Vida Loca” but who wasn’t affected? J . But I will be serious. When the Tomb Raider film came out, my sister bought the soundtrack, which would begin my exposure to Nine Inch Nails with the song “Deep”. When she first bought it I was afraid to listen to “Deep” if you can believe that, but now it’s still apart of my life. By the time I was 12 I had heard the Beatles “White album”, I had heard “Dark Side of the moon” they are truly the greatest albums but they didn’t inspire me to make music. Gwen Stefani’s video for “What you waiting for?” a light went on inside of me and it’s never gone out. Gwen Stefani inspired me to be inspired, and to look at my world differently and to write what I feel. It sounds crazy, if you feel that way it’s time for us all to look back at “Love.Angel.Music.Baby”. Then I came into contact with Richard X and his first album “Richard X presents his X-Factor, Vol.1”. It was huge for me. After I heard “X-Factor” I knew I wanted to produce my own music. Through him I found Irish singer Róisín Murphy. Richard X had produced “Pandora” and “Parallel Lives” on her album “Overpowered”. From there I fell in love with her music and would sing along to it, excessively. I’m made up of a lot of inspirations that I realize and that I don’t realize.
3. Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anybody you’d like to collaborate with?
David Castillo: I am listening to a lot of Sky Ferreira lately, her album “Night time, My time”. It grew on me. I’m listening to a lot of Madonna, the “Music and Lyrics” soundtrack, the Grease soundtrack, Kelis, a lot of 80’s electro and Ebm particularly Nitzer Ebb.
I would love to Collaborate with : Gwen Stefani, Trent Reznor, Madonna, The Neptunes, Natalia Kills, Sky Ferreira, Joss Stone, Goldfrapp. It’s a huge list so I’ll stop here.
4. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased. And which is the one piece of hardware or software you’re still looking to buy now?
David Castillo: The first piece of musical equipment I bought was the music program I use on CLARA. It was spring of 2008 I was working a pretty good job at a concession stand. I had just got my check on a Friday and I got off early. So I drove to one of my favorite electronic stores and was actually shopping for a photo editor when the one I use was on sale. It was the last copy on the shelf, I had heard good things, so I took a plunge and spent $38 dollars on it. I haven’t been disappointed since.
I’m always looking for great recording equipment and upgrades that I can do to CLARA. Right now I’m hunting down a good light weight cooling pad. I blog and make music a lot so CLARA will be on for hours at a time.
5. Tell us something about your current hardware/software and instrument setup?
David Castillo: I don’t like to reveal secrets. But my program is quite similar to Pro Tools. I hate to be so secretive but it’s my choice.
6. Solo studio work and music creation, or interacting with an audience in a live environment, which do you prefer and why?
David Castillo: I prefer both. When you’re behind a computer by yourself making a song, it’s magic. But when people hear it live, it’s another kind of magic. We all speak through what we create, and that’s where a crowd is needed. Not that they should shape your opinion, but it’s good to know what engages people.
7. How did the idea of the name DAV!D&CLARA come about?
David Castillo: That is a great story. When I first began writing music I didn’t think of a stage name, or a alter ego, it was just writing songs. When P!nk came out with “I’m not dead”, I thought it would be cool to put a “!” instead of an i. So I did it. I went for a few years with that name. Clara’s original “body” had crashed and I was reprogramming a new hard drive. I was really depressed, but I flipped on the TV while programming. The movie on was “Back to the future part 3”, a character in the film was Clara Clayton. I thought it was a very beautiful name. I decided to name my computer that. It wasn’t until 2011 that I began using the name DAV!D&CLARA.
8. On which one of your songs do you think you delivered your personal best performance so far, from a technical and emotional point of view?
David Castillo: I’d have to say all of the songs are my best in their own way. But if I have to pick, It would have to be “Go with the flow”. The song started the whole idea for the Long Play “Emotion Machine” I was having a horrible week when I decided to write it, I was having major image issues and confidence issues and it was a beautiful way to tell myself and others to just love who you are. Vocally it is one of my strongest performances. From a technical view “Go with the flow” is amazing because it’s only 2 chords throughout the entire song. It’s the lyrics that give it the power it possesses.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making DAV!D&CLARA’s music sound the way it does?
David Castillo: Pure magic. The kind you get when your hair raises and you feel a buzzing sensation in the back of your scalp from pure excitement. That is the ingredient.
10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
David Castillo: Joy isn’t how I’d describe my music. Joy is part of it, but doesn’t completely describe it. Passion is nice, but it doesn’t always last. Pride is okay, but it would get me into a lot of trouble (and it has in my past). Desire also doesn’t describe my drive to stay making music. Anger has no place in my life or my work. Love is the emotion. I love music. It’s the reason I began, it’s the reason I’ll go on. If we have love, we don’t need anything else.
11. Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
David Castillo: What I love about being an independent artist is that I get to make my own rules. I can write what I feel without prejudice or control from another person. The money is a problem, booking shows, attracting fans, keeping consistent traffic to sites etc. But those problems aren’t enough to make me stop.
12. Tell us something about your songwriting process. What usually comes first the lyrics or the music? And on which instrument do you compose?
David Castillo: I always use a drum kit and synthesizer. My process? It’s virtually impossible to pinpoint, control or describe. The song comes to me. I actually once had a song come to me in a dream. I still have that song.
13. Do you consider Video essential as a support to your music and how to you go about producing your videos?
David Castillo: Yes and no. Since Adele came out with her infamous album, I feel that music needs to speak for itself more than using a video. I think that the current music industry uses product placement way too much. It blows my mind that a song is actually made to promote a brand of shoes?! Crazy. I think live shows, and online promotion these days do a lot more for an artist than videos do, and that social media isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I believe you have to put yourself out there and work hard. However videos are essential. If I had the money I’d create more high production ones, but I will make do with my video editor on my phone.
David Castillo: Best piece of advice was to follow my heart. With that advice, I also haven’t followed it completely. If I had I’d be living in California by the beach performing songs on a side-walk (which is still something I consider even now).
15. At this point, as an independent artist, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit the your future (for example increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, bigger live gigs etc…)?
David Castillo: I think more live shows is what I’m aiming for. Like a huge audience. I’d love to have back up dancers and maybe some retro lights going (feel free to laugh). Truthfully, I just want to get more fans and to keep those fans happy with content, photos, music. On my music production , it isn’t studio grade. I mastered and mixed the songs myself. I’m learning my own way and I’m happy with what I’ve made. Don’t let that imply that I wouldn’t use a professional studio technician to make my songs sound amazing. My dream is to have someone like Mark “Spike” Stent work on my songs. I think more media exposure would be nice, but time will tell.
16. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
David Castillo: Every person on any social media platform, whether singer or not determines their fate and future by their actions on and off of the internet. Look at who’s topping the charts right now. Iggy Azalea worked very hard and now she has a song that’s reigning on top of the billboard singles chart. Katy Perry’s early career days weren’t a fairy tale either, but she worked hard, kept a smile, and she’s very successful.
Regarding copy and paste artists: I hope I answer this correctly as I don’t fully understand. Years back a meme online went around making fun of Skrillex and the program he uses which uses a copy and paste technique. Technically I am a copy and paste artist. I make a composition on a computer program. I make a verse hook chorus, then I copy and paste it to make the rest of the song. I don’t appreciate the shade being thrown at electronic musicians for this practice. Back in the 1950’s rock and roll was called “jungle music” that promoted “degrading sexual practices, and promoted a loose lifestyle” something to that tune. Like when rock and roll opened a new era, I think that these new music programs are opening up a new era of music. People shouldn’t be so quick to judge us. It doesn’t stop people talent from emerging. What I stated early is true, each person determines their fate and future by their actions.
17. Is the music produced on “Emotion Machine” exactly where you want your sound to be today? Or in retrospect, would you change anything on or about the Ep at all?
David Castillo: When I first made “Emotion Machine”, the idea was that it would be a “test” album” for me. The music on it is exactly where I want to be musically. It’s diverse but still electronic and industrial sounding, with a touch of dance. The only thing I wish I would’ve changed was my approach to releasing the album. I wish I had done more promotional work, but I’m still happy with it.
18. What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie songwriter/performer, in your quest to achieve your goals and any solid commercial success?
David Castillo: I think gaining more fans is a barrier for me right now. Finding fans who will buy music is also a problem, but again it isn’t enough to make me stop. I have a tumblr account where I spew off opinions about political issues, gets me in trouble. But I have opinions, I’m human and it’s who I am.
19. What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
David Castillo: I am not prepared to write songs with other people. I’ve tried. But it doesn’t work. I’d consider writing a song for someone else, but I would only do it if my song would get great exposure. My songs are my babies.
20. Tell us about any new projects or ideas you will be working on in the near future, and how fans can connect with you?
David Castillo: Right now I’m just working on “Emotion Machine”, but I write songs all the time so eventually I’ll be releasing something else. But there aren’t any active plans right now.