Interview with Dave Watkins [Bianca Wieck]



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00:00:01 - Creation of Music with the Dulcitar

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Partial Transcript: BW: Hi, this is Bianca Wieck, it is Friday, November 25th, and I am interviewing Dave Watkins, a local musician in Richmond. So what music did you create for Good Day RVA?

DW: Um, the music that I play is kind of heavily-based on the fact that I build and modify
a lot of the instruments and equipment that I use. And I am a solo performer, so I work with electronics and looping devices so I can make things more interesting than like, you know, some guy just playing an acoustic guitar and that's it. The music, well the instrument I play (thank you so much) is called a dulcitar and it's a combination of a guitar and a traditional Appalachian dulcimer. So the music itself kinda ranges somewhere between some sounds that sound like traditional Appalachian folk, but from there it can go pretty crazy into something like a rock sort of thing, or like a minimalist, modern classical sort of world, and sometimes it's just ambient soundscapes. So it's kinda all over the place, but it's mostly, you know, it's experimental but it's not hard to listen to. And, most of the time it has familiar sound even though the instruments and some of the equipment is kind of weird. A long, drawn out way to say what it is, I'm sure, but...

BW: So how did you get started then with that kind of music? What led you to that?

DW: Um, well I grew up playing guitar, and in 2007 I kind of accidentally found this instrument the dulcitar when I was on tour with my day job with the Richmond ballet, and I began working that into my live performances, and it just slowly, well actually, fairly rapidly sort of took over, um, because I was really stoked on playing it, and the audiences were like, what is that thing, people were pretty excited about it, because it was something they hadn't seen before, and once again it doesn't sound weird, but it does sound ever so slightly different, so that kind of took over. And so started doing that and then started doing looping with that and then I decided that I wanted to have a broader type of sounds so I began building electric ducitars based on that original acoustic dulcitar that someone else had made. So it's been just this long process of having ideas and trying to chase after them and like figure out the sounds that I wanna create and also combining electronics to make things dynamic and interesting, not just like, I don't wanna be one of these looping performances that just like loops one thing and solos over it for like five minutes, so I try to make it dynamic and interesting- have a flow, and you know, take the audience on sort of a musical journey as much as possible.

Segment Synopsis: Dave Watkins discusses his background in playing the Dulcitar and how he modified it into an electric version to create unique, intricate performances.

Keywords: dulcitar; dynamic; instruments; interesting; musician; self-built

Subjects: dulcitar; lively and unique performance; unique music

GPS: The location of the Richmond Ballet
Map Coordinates: 37.53868, -77.4418
00:03:22 - Music Community of Richmond and Good Day RVA

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Partial Transcript: BW: So then how did you get involved with Good Day RVA?

DW: So, you know, I can't remember exactly how I met up with those guys, um, I think we just kind of generally met just through going to shows in Richmond, I think that Chris Damon and a few of the other guys that like have seen me perform, and I think just over time we became friends, we're not like, it's not just like, hey do this thing I do this thing, we're all really close friends. And I think that's something to be said about a lot of the Richmond music community, like, here and there it's both, you know, oh this music's really good but also like I just like these people. So it kinda works out, but, we just began talking about, they wanted to do a video of me. They had done, I guess the first thing, one of their first ones was the Hoodie and the Mystic video, and everyone in Richmond got really stoked on that. They also did one for Nellie Kate, who's a good friend of mine. So just through knowing all these different musicians we just kind of got closer and then, you know, we talked about doing the video for a long time and then basically what happened was that they had been granted access to the GRTC Bus Depot, which had been then abandoned for a little bit, and then it got turned into this street art project where they have, I guess it was the Richmond Street Art Festival, which brought a bunch of Richmond and artists from Richmond and abroad in to do murals and you know, different street art, graffiti, and all that. And then that whole space was just covered with art, and that space was about to be turned over to developers that bought it and have now turned it into condos and apartments and that. And now it's all been over-painted and it's all grey and boring and really kind of sad. But so they had this really small window where I guess the previous owners were like, yeah you can do it, we can let you in between this time and this time, if you want to do it. So they were kind of scrambling to see ho they were gonna get music-wise to perform and do that video. And I think they talked to a couple other people that couldn't do it, and then they're like we could do it with you, and I'm like that would actually be the perfect place to do live performance, it we're gonna record a video, I think that would be a really fitting atmosphere.

BW: Awesome, so then- (drinks coffee)- what was then that experience like with Good Day RVA?

DW: I mean, it was great, like, you know, once again, they're friends so we were like, it was late November when we got access to it and um, so I was in the middle of either doing a show or no, I think it was, no it was earlier in November and the ballet was performing that weekend so Chris called me and was like, hey we have this short window to do the thing and I'm like, I have this morning on Saturday available from like 8 am till like noon and then I have to go across town and run two shows for the ballet. So, we could do that morning if you want to do it, just knock it out. So it was a hustle to get in there early, to get it set up and, which everybody like, it's cool because there's sort of anyone's guess as to how many like camera-operators will show up, and there's like 12 or 13 people there with cameras, so we have like all this coverage. There was a drone they set up in like the opening shot, it has some amazing drone shot, and then they also do Super 8 film, and that's something that Chris will go back in usually after the video's been captured, and give footage of the surroundings the video was shot in, get that process and add that back into the original video. Which is a really nice touch, that there's a kind of balance of like really good modern digital footage, and this kind of nostalgic, low-quality, but unique film footage. So yeah we got in there, set up, figured out where we were gonna be. A lot of times they have to bring in generators to power everything, because they'll be out in the woods, in the middle of nowhere where there is no power, but luckily there was still some power left in that building so we were able to just patch in and do things. So set up took maybe like the first hour and then we basically just went for it and we did 3 takes, I think we used the 2nd take. Because the whole concept with what they do is that they want to have it be a live performance, it's not a music video in the traditional sense where, you know, you have the recording from an album and then you have the band or whoever like setting up and lip-syncing to that. It's like audio on that video- what I perform live, like 100 percent no editing, just mixing. So there's like a lot of pressure for the musicians to nail it, and one of the things that's tricky for me is that I didn't have a window to prepare, but also what I do is mostly improv when I perform, but I wanted to make something that was, um, repeatable if we had to do multiple takes. So the idea I had was I would just like, start the song the same and use like, a delay effect, which creates an echo which is like a specific rhythm, that way even if I did stuff that was different for each of the three takes, the tempo of each of the three would be exactly the same. So if for some reason something got really messed up, and we had to take like footage from one performance that would go over, the playing and the rhythm and everything would still be spot-on. But yeah, we ended up with I think was the second take, it worked out well, all the footage was real good. It was wild like it's not from my point of view it's not too much different than performing a live show. But for everyone else to be aware of each other, for all the camera operators to be aware of where everyone is, so no one is like getting into each other's shots. There's a lot of communication that has to happen at the beginning of a film shoot like that. Once again, since it's all friends and volunteers and people doing it because we love Richmond and we love Richmond music and I mean, Virginia in general, because it's, Good Day RVA has been a really good showcase of Richmond music for the most part. But also they've filmed in other locations outside of Richmond. I think it's a really unique and kind of important thing because it documents both the Richmond music scene but also it documents places at a certain time. And they've had a unique, you know, history of locations where things they've either gotten in before something was like, destroyed or taken over or completely changed or they did a video, what was it, it was the "Have a Nice Day Cafe" or something? I can't remember, but it was this venue in Shockoe Bottom that had been, like for years it was a famous concert venue, and it went out of business so they got in there and it was all disheveled and like really ragged and tense and it was like the perfect place for that specific venue. So they have a really good way of like pulling the location and it almost turns into a character in the video. It becomes a really unique part of the music and that documentation of the music. I'm just rambling- you can edit anything you want, yeah.

Segment Synopsis: Dave Watkins describes how close the Richmond music scene is- as his friendship with Chris Damon allowed him to connect with Good Day RVA. Additionally, he elaborated on how communicative the process of creating a music video is.

Keywords: community; editing; repeatable; unique; video

Subjects: Richmond music scene; friendship amongst community members; music community; music video

GPS: The GRTC Bus Depot.
Map Coordinates: 37.54952, -77.47254
00:12:22 - Artistic Integrity

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Partial Transcript: BW: No worries, ok so then, um, with regards to the videos, how much artistic integrity were you allowed to keep? Or did they have a lot of directions?

DW: I pretty much, I don't know if they have bands come in for other videos, but because of my work schedule, I think I told them at the top like, I know your work, do your thing, I'm not worried about like seeing a bunch of edits and giving the OK on it. I think I saw one edit before they wrapped it up and I was like, this is great! You know, so I, as much as possible in a collaboration like that, if I choose to work with anyone I'm gonna like work with them because I know they do strong work. And Good Day RVA is across the board, all the videos they've done have been top-notch. So, and since the one I've done they've done a ton of great videos since then, so yeah like I wasn't really worried about having any artistic control over the actual what it looked like, I was concerned about the music but I was lucky enough that the take, or at least one of the takes out of 3 was like pretty rad so that was the only decision that I really made was, OK we're gonna use take 2 with the audio and then y'all do your thing with the video.

Segment Synopsis: Dave Watkins elaborates on the concept of artistic integrity and his total trust in Good Day RVA.

Keywords: artistic control; edits; takes; video

Subjects: artistic control; integrity; videos

00:13:55 - Integrity with Non-Profits and the Music Community

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Partial Transcript: BW: So then, have you worked for any for-profit music organizations in Richmond?

DW: Um, not in any sense like that. I mean, other than like getting paid to perform sometimes, I've not really done anything where my music has been like used to make money for other people, um, occasionally I've allowed companies to use some of my music as like background music for a promo thing, but that wasn't even- well there was one in Richmond and then like a couple the happened outside of Richmond. But that's sort of like, once again like friends or like, you know, more like there's a re-planned Lumber company that wanted to use my music in a background capacity in a commercial but that's really it. What, I'm trying to think if there really is anything... I mean yeah mostly it's, I perform, I also do some recording for other bands, so that's, but that's all like kinda independent and really DIY and not high-budget or anything like that. I don't know, I've not really thought about it, I'm not really sure like if a big corporation or organization approached me about using my music or having me perform for something how I'd operate, I mean I really hope that I would not just, like I don't just want to take money, so like, because I need to make money. I noticed that, I don't need to make music to make money, so I really try to have some standards as far as what I do with my music, so I'm not gonna like work with an organization that I don't believe in just to make money.

BW: Do you think that a characteristic of the music community in Richmond in general is that integrity?

DW: I think so, I mean it depends, because some musicians, it is their livelihood, and I'm never gonna sit here and say that they shouldn't try to make a living, even if that money is coming from a questionable source, at the end of the day, you know, you gotta make a living and if you're taking money from somewhat questionable sources and then like turning it into art and like putting something good back into the community, then there is some peace that I can make with that, for sure. But yeah I think for the most part, especially in this day and age, I think artists and musicians are pretty self-conscious and are pretty aware of what they're doing and, you know, even if you have a small following as a musician and an artist, you still have a following. So you do have a responsibility for the things you promote and the people you work with and what you're doing- how you operate and how you exist. I think it is important to have some integrity and set an example as much as possible. I try to, and there's more I can do, I kinda always feel like I can never do enough but I could always do more in that regard. But yeah I think in general, you know, I'm sure there are some exceptions, people I don't know personally, but a lot of the musicians I know personally and I am good friends with do have some pretty high standards as far as like what they want to do with their music and what they will not do with their music.

Segment Synopsis: Dave Watkins broadens the concept of integrity to not just his own life as a musician, but to the for-profit sphere as well as the music community of Richmond in general.

Keywords: integrity; livelihood; musicians; non-profit; operate; responsibility

Subjects: awareness of responsibility; integrity; making a living

00:18:05 - Personal Effects of Good Day RVA

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Partial Transcript: BW: So I just have one final question, and that's what do you think was the effect or the benefits or the detriments of Good Day RVA creating this video for you?

DW: I mean I think it's totally been beneficial, that video, I don't know how many hits that has on YouTube and I don't think it really matters honestly but, let's see, while I look that up, but I mean it's been like whenever I need to like book a show or if I'm maybe reaching out to do a show out of town especially, it's the video that I send out as an example of, this is what I do live. So if you are questioning whether or not you want to book me at your venue, this is a live performance and this is what I will sound like. So in that regard it's amazing to have such a high quality video that captures both the audio, the audio recording is stellar and then the video is just so well put together too that it's something I'm really proud to be able to send off, you know, I don't have to send off, me performing in my little studio space, like on a cell phone so people get an idea of like what I'm doing. And I know on there and I've talked to Chris and some of the other guys involved in Good Day RVA and it's one of their favorite videos, and I also I think Chris said that it was the video that they use the most footage from the take that I actually performed. So, like some of the other videos they'll use more camera footage from multiple takes of a song, but that one they just had so much good footage. So I think that they figured out it was something like, all but maybe 10 seconds of it is like, me performing straight-up. So there's only like a couple little unique shots that they kinda spliced in to, you know, put the polish on it. But yeah, it's been, there's been no detriment. There's nothing, no negative to having that video, like, at all. Especially I mean I could go shoot my own video and I've done that, or I could pay people to do a huge shoot like that, and that would cost- I mean honestly if you were going to pay people, if as an artist you were going to hire a video crew to come in and do a shoot like that, it would be thousands of dollars, so to have people that are willing to do that work to capture and document the Richmond music community, I think that's just totally a huge benefit to our community.

BW: Well, thank you so much.

Segment Synopsis: Dave Watkins elaborates on how Good Day RVA has benefitted his professional life.

Keywords: Good Day RVA; benefit; music community

Subjects: Good Day RVA; benefits of music video production