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Pulseradio fundraising event





Not every DJ becomes a gig-playing world touring DJ slash remixer slash producer.... some figure out a way to fullfill their own dreams and take hundreds of other like-minded talented individuals along for the ride, and end up with an audience of millions. Enter Todd Davies, stage right. I first stumbed across this multi-talented charismatic fellow though his enormously successful online radio station, pluseradio.net which was broadcasting live DJ sets from five continents, and quickly became a fan of Todd and his site - especially his hysterical interview with Orbital (read more about that experience, below). Pulseradio is still going strong, though Todd since moved from New York back to Sydney in his native Australia, where he recently celebrated his 33 1/3 birthday with, what else, a fantastic party featuring Pulseradio DJs that was broadcast around the globe! You can tune in 24/7 to listen online, but first, read on to find out more about this pioneering force in online - and live - electronic music.

How did you get started in music?

My brother was a guitarist. I'd tried various instruments, but none of them really gelled. One day I found a drumkit in my lounge room and had a crack at it. I fell in love instantly and bought a kit as soon as I could. I've been addicted ever since and still get a huge grin on my face every time I play.

Did you have any formal music education?

Studied piano for 4 years, and guitar for a year. Never really got the hang of it until I started playing kit. Most of what I've picked up has been through playing with and watching red-hot players. I played in an experimental band for a few years with some red hot young heavily trained horn players. These guys were the hired guns that the international touring acts use, and used to use our band to push the boundaries. It's hard not to get good playing with guys like that. I had some lessons from Susie Ibarra (New York drummer of the year, plays with Zorn & Derrick Bailey)... each lesson took me about 6 months to get what she was saying - super advanced stuff... light years out. An old hippy gave me a few lessons early. He gave me great advice... don't show 'em all you've got, keep it in reserve. Less is more... more or less.

What other kind of training/education have you had?

Degree in Business, Post Grad in business start ups, Charted Accountant (equivalent of a CPA) as well as a US Qual in governance stuff. Drumming is all about being able to count. I can now count to 4, which comes in very handy (although 7 and 5 and 3 are also important on a lot of stuff I play).

What are a few of your current and all-time favorite records and artists?

Big fan of most things from the late 60's and 70's and anything jazz from 1959. James Brown, Parliament, P-Funk, Funkadelic, Zappa... and then anything derived from there... Axiom, Laswell, Praxis, a lot of difficult listening stuff and I listen to jazz as much as I can. All the prog stuff comes from here. I also love a good pop melody and anything that's super funky and makes your hips move. I pretty much tune out everything I hear except rythym and melody. I played songs for 4 years that I still don't know the lyrics to - I just never heard them, except on the harmonies!

What was the 1st record you ever bought?

I think it was Kiss, Double Platinum. I think I was about 7... still have the record, it's a classic. Rainbow Connection by Kirmit the Frog was another, I've still got that on vinyl and drop it at parties when people are looking particularly off their chops... the crowd reaction is hilarious as everyone starts looking at behaving as if their 8 years old again and swinging each other around the room. (Last time I dropped it in New York the whole party stopped when it finished and demanded that I play it again!).

Where and what was your 1st gig as a DJ and how did that happen?

I'm more of a performer / songwriter / producer than a DJ. I used to do a show on Pulse Radio which showcased new white labels under the name "DJ Trainwreck". The tagline was "Great new tunes, really crap mixing". I play the occasional gig, but I wouldn't call myself a DJ. My first gig as a drummer was at in a tiny town with a population of 15 people at a thing called "the Body Abuser's Ball". I was 15 at the time and totally clueless, so I went up to the middle of the dance floor during the break and waited for all the hot chicks to come and want a piece of me.... I'm still waiting. If anyone's interested, my number is {deleted - Ed).

Where are some of the biggest/wildest/your favorite places that you've DJed?

My favourite dance gigs were beach and backyard parties when I'd just sit in with the DJ and lay down some grooves to fire up the crowd. I heard once that drums move the feet, bass moves the feet and guitars, vocals and keys move the mind. I've spent 10 years working out how to get every set of hips moving on the dance floor from a kit... and it works a treat. With a band my favourite gigs were at CBGB's Gallery in New York (this is still my favourite venue). There's been some bigger gigs with about 5,000 people, but the small ones are always the best, particularly CBs. It's such a legendary venue - they get the best bands in the world there, and we were honoured that they let us play, let alone have us back and rate us so highly.

Do you play regularly now? Where and when?

No gigs at the moment, most of my favourite musicians are in other countries or cities, so it's hard to get the chemistry right with new people. I've been very spoiled to play with people who are amazing creative players and right on my wavelength. Playing with the right people is so important. I definitely found this out when I was in a dance/triphop/industrial band in New York called Digital Daddy. Triphop hadn't hit there yet so my drumming sounded weird to them. They kicked me out of the band "for being too funky". That really tweaked me - I asked if they could put it in writing!

How did you end up in New York in 1999?

I was in an amazing music scene in Fremantle in Australia, but it was getting too closed for me. I had 2 bands which were both the darlings of college radio, but I was getting complacent and had to get out. I was working with a consulting company and a gig came up in New York, so I took it. At the time the only American I knew was my boss and I was 36 hours from home. It was tough. 12 months later I was the global product manager of the fastest growing consulting practice in the fastest growing consulting firm in the world and kickin it with Pulse Radio at night. Talk about the land of opportunity!

You used to be in a band called Inertia... what kind of music did they play?

Inertia was one of he first dance / breaks bands in Australia, which crossed over from an indi / manchester style through to a breaks meets Underworld kinda feel. The lead singer (who eventually set up Pulse Radio) asked me to play bass, on the basis that even if I couldn't play it when I started he liked my attitude (we'd played in a band together before). It worked out great - at my last gig with them I played bass for the first set and drums for the 2nd (the drummer was out of action, I had to fill in and work out the parts on the fly). It was an awesome time. Interia ended up becoming huge in Australia... they played regularly to small crowds as well as gigs in front of 10s of thousands of people, and having their tracks as backing for major network TV shows down here.

Do you still play in bands? What instruments do you play?

My favourite band which I still play with occasionally is one called Aquashack (look it up online). It's as quirky and cool as they come. We all live in different countries, but get together every few years to tour and record. The chemistry in that band was phenomenal... I had a guy I knew come up to me after a gig and tell me he was going home to have a hard think because seeing us had made him realise that he'd forgotten why he started playing music in the first place. (He's just been signed to a major). We had a whale of a time and never took ourselves too seriously. We played all over the world together (London, right across the US and Australia), and loved every minute of it.

I recently did a skate punk project for a laugh. I don't play skate punk, I play funky dance music, so it was a real challenge. The gimmick of the album was to put 4 guys in a room together who had never met before and try and produce an album in 7 hours. The ground rules were that we weren't allowed to bring in any material or have anything written before we came in. It all had to be improv and recorded first take. We wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered 20 songs in 6 hours (the bass player thew a tantrum and left for an hour). We made a docco of it, but I'm keeping that under wraps, it's too outrageous. (It was a recording, we were all hungover - see comments later).

While in NY you started an online radio station - tell us about it and how that happened.

I got back in touch with the Interia boys and they told me about the Pulse concept that they wanted to launch in the US. I got so excited about it that I wrote a business strategy for it, flew to Australia and demanded to be let in. The quote they still remember is "You guys are sitting on a gold mine... but not without me." 12 months later I had a team of 30 in the US, we were doing gigs, broadcasting from 10 cities, winning international awards, and this week I just got made Managing Director. I've been having a ball!

Was that you hanging out... "eating caviar with the Playboy writers and Victoria Secret models back stage at A list events"?

That would be part of "having a ball". Media's a great gig. I even nearly got to meet Jen Warner.

Why did you leave NY?

My day job was getting stale and that was my ticket to stay in the country (visas are hard to get). I lived a block away from World Trade Centre and got "displaced" when the national guard took over my building, so without a home for 3 months I was pretty unsettled. It seemed like a good time to get back down under to stop neglecting my family. I'm currently down here on the other side of the country neglecting my family...

Would you ever live anywhere other than Australia again?

I've got itchy feet again. There's nothing quite like rocking up in a country where you have to start again, and seeing what you're really made of when the chips are down. Berlin could be the place - the music, arts and culture there are wild, and on the edge. That always appeals to me... but New York could always lure me back. If the right opportunity came up I'd have my bags packed in a heartbeat.

What exactly do you do at Pulseradio now?

I've been doing the Regional Manager role here for about 18 months, which was pretty similar to the gig I did in New York. The gig is to build and coach the DJ team, show them how to get profile and help them get on their way, get the word out about the station and do whatever it takes to raise enough money to keep us on air. We've just found someone to replace me in that role and I'll be taking over the Managing Director gig, which is all about working out what the future is for the network and making it happen. That'll be a big challenge, but a lot of fun too. It's such a great concept to work with and such a cool ethic.

How many people are listening in at any given moment? What about daily?

We get about 3,000 - 4,000 listeners a day. Due to the distributed way we broadcast, it's hard to know exactly how many listeners there are at any point in time, but there's typically about 100 we know about at any point in time, which is on par with college radio.

Geographically, where do you have your most listeners?

Most of them are in the US and Australia - that's where we're most active. We also get listeners from all sorts of obscure locations. We seem to have a lot of listeners in Poland at the moment.

What's the hardest part about running an online radio station?

Cash. On the Australian scene, we're the only major one still going and on the international scene a lot have folded. We're sticking around, but it's never easy... so please forgive us for the occasional sponsorship announcement and plea for your cash!

And the best?

The things you can get away with that you can't do with normal radio. We can set up and broadcast from a venue in 20 minutes, we've got DJs who broadcast live from 30 cities around the world... and you can ask them stuff in the chat room while they're playing. That's really cool and is a great way for people to get to hear what's happening at the bleeding edge in different places. The normal record company channels will never let you do that without media like ours... you'll have to wait for a release calendar. Sometimes the labels don't like it much when we preview stuff scheduled for release in a country 6 months later, but hey, we need to get the freshest stuff out to our listeners so the music can evolve... right?

Have you ever had any major technical or human meltdowns where the station went off the air - or rather offline? What happened and how long did it last?

Just about everyone of our crew has melted down at some point from going too hard at Pulse (either working or partying). Fortunately there's now about 250 of us, so we can back eachother up. We have the occasional technical glitch, but fortunately our tech guys are legendary, so they get sorted out pretty quickly, even if it involved phoning mobiles in 3 countries to do it!

What about interviewing/writing... when did you start doing that, how did it come about, do you still do it?

When I got to New York I was going through guestlist withdrawals. I had a 6 night a week entertainment habit I had to service, and being from an Australian band wasn't going to cut it. Getting amongst it on the basis of writing was a great way to do it and to mix it with some big names. We don't do content anymore, but occasionally I guest write for sites and mags which I think are cool (such as Resident Advisor and in Australia, 3D World Magazine).

Any really memorable interview moments?

The Orbital interview just after 9/11 was a great one. I've got this theory that you always play at your best when you're really hung over... Paul & Phil agreed with me on this and it was a real laugh. After 90 minutes with them we were still carrying on and I'm pretty sure Phil was tempted to hit the pub with me instead of doing the gig. When you're touring scarred, you can spot someone else who is, and it's pretty hard not to let the stories flow. Most of my interviews ended up having this kind of flavour to them. (That piece, "Don't do it for more than 5 weeks can be found here - http://www.pulseradio.net/main.php?p=535)

Do you produce or do remixes?

The last album I produced was at a studio called Pink Noise in New York. We were recording an album and the band had to leave town and I got to produce it. It was the first album I'd produced so I got to do a lot of things I'd never got to as a band member on other projects. The album was called "demo for a record deal"... the concept was to strip back all production and make it so swampy that a record company producer would fall over themselves to do something with it. It's a pretty timeless piece... I really enjoyed throwing a few dance music production techniques at a raw semi-accoustic rock n roll album. We never released it, but the bootlegs seem to be popular... I must get me one.

Huge clubs vs. intimate venues - do you have a preference and why?

Intimate, every time. CBGB's gallery is such a cosy venue that you can talk to members of the audience without a mic. I really enjoyed the interplay, including saying hi to everyone as they came in, and knowing that you've got their very personal attention for every note and inflection. Nothing gets lost in the amps or gates or effects. You can't help but play at your best in places like this. Rock & dance music are a pretty loud dialogue... it's nice to be able to whisper occasionally.

Describe a perfect night out you've had recently.

I had a gay room mate in New York who told me that the secret to a "top night" is to "talk crap and dance like a girl." Guaranteed if I do both of those things it's an awesome night. If one or both are missing, you may as well stay home. I have a lot of awesome nights. :)

What are your current personal and career goals?

At the moment I've got a day gig in the Exec of Australia's largest publishing company, it's a great gig and media's well and truly in my blood now. I wouldn't mind running a record label or starting up a magazine as my next paying gig. Something small would be fun. Most of my friends are scattered all over the world, so I need to come up with a plan that requires me to follow the seasons around the world, so it's always spring and I can get to hang out with all my cool friends and fund some touring without selling out, catch some waves and generally hang out. Not sure how to do that yet, but I reckon I'll have it worked out pretty soon. Once you've moved around a lot, it's hard to stay put, you're always a nomad... it's such a large part of our culture in Australia, you've got to go walkabout occasionally. We crave stability occasionally, but not for long.

What would you be doing right now if you weren't involved with music or the internet at all?

I'd probably be heavily involved in environmental activism or human rights. I've done a fair bit of work in this area and I'm always getting asked to get more involved. It's very tempting, and at some point, pretty likely.

Thanks Todd :)

-- interview by Jennifer Warner


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