He toured with The Kinks when he was two weeks old. He spent his teenage years with John Carpenter’s family. He’s played with Lemmy and he has a huge collection of synthesisers. Welcome to the world of Daniel Davies
“It’s more about the three of us hanging out and getting to play together,” says guitarist and synthesist Daniel Davies. “It’s fun and that’s the best part about the whole situation.”
He’s talking about working with John Carpenter and his son Cody on three of Carpenter’s studio albums, the instrumental ‘Lost Themes’ and ‘Lost Themes II’, plus ‘Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998’, for which Carpenter re-recorded his most well known film themes. But Daniel Davies’ link with the iconic horror director stretches way beyond the world of music. He happens to be John Carpenter’s godson and spent a lot of time with Carpenter and his family when he was growing up. So how on earth did that come about?
“Well, I was born in London and my dad is Dave Davies from The Kinks,” explains Daniel. “I think how it happened was my dad wrote a letter to John saying, ‘I love your movies and it would be great to hang out sometime’. Something like that. They eventually met, maybe when my dad was on tour, and became good friends. We wound up moving to LA, where John and his wife Sandy lived, and my mum and dad asked them to be my godparents.”
Daniel adds that, during some “family troubles” when he was a teenager, he went to live with Carpenter and his wife. He says that involved, among other things, “watching movies every weekend”. And what about the stereo in the Carpenter household? What sort of stuff were they listening to?
“John loves The Beatles. We’d spend a lot of time driving around listening to The Beatles. We’d also listen to ZZ Top, Metallica, ABBA… all kinds of stuff.”
Unsurprisingly, music has always played a large part in Daniel’s life (“I was on tour with my dad from about two weeks after I was born until I was probably five or six”) and he notes that a range of instruments were always readily available to him, from both father and godfather.
Wrap parties with jam sessions that, as children, he and others could just “jump in and play” further fostered his musical interests, and seeing both Davies Senior and Carpenter play guitar jolted him into picking up the instrument himself. He had a knack for it too, going on to tour with numerous bands, including Mötorhead. Did he have any significant encounters with Lemmy?
“He was a nice guy. Very aware. I remember being worried at first, because if he didn’t like your band then you’d be thrown off the tour. So he checked everybody out to make sure they were playing up to his specification. It was the loudest music I ever heard in my life, insanely loud, almost painful. It was really great. He was fun.”
Now here’s the thing. For Daniel Davies’ debut album, ‘Events Score’, he’s swapped out his guitar for an army of vintage synthesisers (and some soft synths to help along the way). His arsenal includes an Oberheim Matrix 6, a Roland Juno-106, a Roland System 1, and even John Carpenter’s Minimoog Voyager.
Heavily influenced by sci-fi, the eight sonic soundscapes feature electronic mutations that evoke far-off worlds. ‘Single Machine’ could score a scene of an android in the rain, looking sombrely upon a dense, neon-filled city; ‘Shadows Alive’ is perfect for an alien stalking a long metallic corridor, dragging its claws against the walls as it lumbers forward. Daniel says his love of synths really bloomed when he was working on ‘Lost Themes’.
“I love experimenting and figuring stuff out,” he says. “So for me, part of ‘Events Score’ is about finding out what synths do what. I like that every machine has its own character and they go in and out of tune. I like that you can plug them into guitar pedals and you’ll think of ways of doing things that you normally wouldn’t consider.”
Doing away with the familiarity of the guitar and diving straight into the world of electronic music is a brave move, though. Especially for your first solo album. For Daniel, part of it is about broadening his musical horizons.
“I can sound like an orchestra if I play all of the different synths. I love that. I can expand the sound, whereas I can only go so far with the guitar. At the moment, I’ve got into trying to blend the guitar with the synth. It’s just kind of trying to find a balance in it, so you don’t know where any of the elements come from, it all just sounds like music. I guess at the end of the day, I just love playing synths.”
And where better to expand on that love of synths than working on a film soundtrack with John Carpenter? It’s little wonder Daniel is excited that the ‘Lost Themes’ crew have reunited to soundtrack the upcoming ‘Halloween’ sequel, which disregards all the other eleventy billion films and takes place 40 years after the 1978 original. Although there’s a lot he can’t talk about (although he does reveal they have recorded a new version of the theme), Daniel says ‘Halloween’ fans will not be disappointed with the music.
“We used a mix of vintage synths with some new stuff. Some of the music is based on and inspired by the original, but some of it is totally new. It’s a bit of everything.”
Disregarding his own link with John Carpenter, it must have been quite something to work on a franchise as famous as this?
“What’s cool is that I get to work on the music with the person who created ‘Halloween’ and then carry it on to its next evolution. I mean, there’s nothing really more you could ever want from it. We have a great time working together. John has done so many movies and had such a cool career, so to be a part of that and see how he works, that is great. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Looking to the future, Daniel Davies and both John and Cody Carpenter go on tour in October, plus Daniel has another soundtrack lined up and he’ll be starting work on his next album, which will be more guitar-based, before the year’s up. Bored of synths already?
“No,” he laughs. “It was pointed out to me during a show that I’m playing all these heavy guitars and someone said, ‘Why don’t you do more of that?’. And I thought, ‘Yeah, why not? I just did a full synth record, I could do a guitar record’. I don’t know, change it up a little bit. But there’s no grand scheme to it. Whatever I get inspired by, I just go with it.”
‘Events Score’ is out via Lakeshore/Burning Witches