I’d like to introduce Dave, aka Lavalamp! Dave just had a birthday a few days ago! Happy Birthday Dave! Since I joined MacJams Dave has been a consistent supporter and always has some good things to say. He’s active in MacJams both in posting his own music, working in collaborations and listening and commenting on the music of others. Truly one of the nicest guys you’ll meet on MacJams!
Dave’s artist page can be found at: Lavalamp
So without any further delay lets find out about Mr. Lavalamp!
Let’s start with a little bit about yourself. Give as much information as you feel comfortable giving:
Well, first of all my name is David Armbruster and I am 38 years old. I have lived here in Germany for 11 years as an English teacher in Dresden. I also do voice over work for a film company in the region, just commercials and promotional stuff. I have been married for 12 years (my wife is German) and I have 2 kids ages 3 and 11. I’m from Los Gatos, California in the San Francisco Bay Area. I studied Radio Broadcasting at a small college in the bay area, but I really didn’t work that much in that field after school. I also studied Fire Science at another school and was working for the State Forrest Service before coming to Europe. (But, that’s a really long story.)
How did you choose the user name Lavalamp? Does it have any special significance?
Good question. When I joined this site I could have just used Dave1 or Dave2, but I used to have a lava lamp near my computer and I just thought that would be a cool name to use. That’s all really. No hidden meanings.
How did you end up in Germany after being raised in California? And do you eventually plan to return to the US at some point?
Well, I moved here in 1997 because of some family issues on my wife’s side of the family. She had a better job than me at the time and she was more comfortable having the baby, we were expecting at the time. I got certified to teach English over here and found out I was quite good at it. We only planned to stay for about 2 years, but one thing led to another and we decided to stay. I lived in Efrurt, Germany for 4 years and here in Dresden for 7 years.
Of course I come back to visit my family about once a year. I’m going to be back at Christmas time this year. There are really no plans to come back to stay, though.
I miss watching football on Sundays, my friends and family (of course) and good Mexican and Italian food plus good seafood. (San Francisco has the best food.)
Peanut Butter, too. It’s not the same here.
How is the musical environment over in Germany where you are? Are there some good bands you’ve heard? Music stores?
German language music has made quite a come back here. I like “Wir sind Helden”, which means, “We are heroes”. They have a nice blend of pop and rock. Tecno and pop seems to rule over here in Europe, but rock is doing very well. On the radio, you hear tons on English language music. They have great music festivals in Dresden. So, if you like live music, we have a pretty cool scene. I played acoustic guitar at a few shows for a female singer friend of mine at some coffee houses, but I don’t really have the desire to perform live.
By the way, I have posted one German language song on MacJams,
Über’n großen Teich (w/Hannah B)
Tell us about your musical background. Did you study music? If so tell us about your experience.
I played trumpet and baritone in Jr. High School for a couple of years. I was pretty good, but didn’t like it much. I got my first guitar, a cheap Yamaha, on my 16th Birthday. I still have and use it, by the way. I took one or two lessons and another guy showed my how to string and tune the thing. Then, I just learned from friends and some Beatle songbooks. My best friend and I basically learned from each other and we decided to write our own music because we had difficultly learning “real” songs.
A year or so later, we formed a band with a drummer friend ours and we got another friend to sing. (I was too shy to sing then.) We sucked in the beginning, playing our own tunes and a few Doors songs at parties that got broken up by the cops. We went on for 7 more years and got very good. Our band was called Homage to Wattage and we played around San Jose and the area. We even got paid! But, because of school and life we decided to break up, leaving me the only member. We played, what turned out to be called grunge.
Life went on. Then in 1995, shortly before meeting my wife, I started writing songs again. I’ve always looked at myself as a songwriter who happens to play guitar. I also learned bass and drums in the band days. And I taught myself piano.
In 2003 and 2004, I stared putting down my songs properly on Pro Tools at a buddy’s house. R.C. Brown, a buddy here in Dresden, got me back into recording. I even post a few from those sessions on MacJams.
Tell us how you go about creating music.
Nothing unusual. I just play around on the guitar or piano, create some chord progression and then make up a melody or phrasing and lastly write some lyrics. I love word play. On occasion, I’ll get a tune in my head and write the lyric around it, and then I write the music.
Then I record it on a tape recorder quickly (to get it down). I record on GB. I usually lay down a basic drum track (I can’t use the metronome, it disturbs me.). Then, I record rhythm guitar or piano, then bass. After that, I’ll play around with different drum loops. Finally I’ll do the singing and backgrounds and lead guitars. And from time to time I will use a little Apple loop here and there, just to fill it out.
I have a Les Paul, I use a no name bass, a cheap Yamaha keyboard and an electric acoustic guitar, also no name. And what ever else I can get my hands on.
Tell us a little about your music setup both software and hardware.
Oh no! I have quite the poor man’s set up here. I use GB and I have a Mac-Mini. I use a 21 Legend Guitar Signal Processor and an iMic as an interface. I’m not very technical, but I seem to make it work.
How do you mix/master your music? What do you listen for?
That’s the hard part. I record in a flurry. The mixing takes forever. By the time I’m done, I’m sick of the song sometimes. I really struggle with getting the vocals right. Also, I find it hard to get acoustic guitars right. I think I usually do a good job with the bass.
Do you have any hints to give newbies on composing, recording and publishing their music?
I think my strength is lyric writing. The worst thing you can do in this department is to try too hard or try to sound “smart”. Don’t use big words just to sound intelligent. Just let the words flow and it will all make sense in the end. Don’t post your best songs at first. Build up to that. I put many of my better song up very early and they didn’t really get heard much.
I don’t have a clue how to get published. I’m open to any ideas myself. And I don’t think I’m qualified to give any recording tips. (Don’t use too many tracks, though.)
What are your musical aspirations?
I never got into this to be a performer or a singer. I just love writing songs. So, I hope someone would be interested in my songs and record them. I just want to be a writer. I’ve written many of my songs with a female voice in mind, believe it or not.
Tell us about your musical inspirations?
I’ll give you the short list : The Beatles (especially Lennon), Bob Dylan, The Pixies, Elliott Smith, Cold Play, The Minutemen (back in my punk days), Harry Nilsson, Ridd Sorensen (for pushing me) and Vic Holman (for helping me). And all my favorite MacJammers.
Do you think that the age of the Internet and digital music has helped you with respect to creating music? If so why?
Of course, it’s so much easier than recording on a crappy 4-track. Before the Internet you would give a demo to a friend and he’d say, “That’s nice.” Now hundreds of strangers can give you feedback on your music. If I had this when I was 19, I would have never stopped recording. (Is that a good thing or bad? I don’t know.)
I don’t mind people using pre-recorded loops, either. I sometimes experiment, too.
Tell us your thoughts on MacJams. Are there anythings you would like to see done differently?
MacJams is a perfect place for someone like me. It’s a great place to bounce off ideas off of some really cool people. I initially joined just to present my songs, but people started to enjoy the songs as is. So, that pushed me a bit to make better demos. I don’t really like the home page of MacJams, it’s a little boring. And I wish the “Music List” were longer, so we wouldn’t have to go to other pages.
Sometimes people take it too seriously in the forums. They can get so dramatic.
Are there any MacJams secrets that you would like to share? Like how to get along, find artists, chat window short cuts?
Don’t post a bunch of songs all at once. They will go lost and unheard. Wait about a week between posts. Respond if someone comments on your song. Just a simple “thank you” is enough, plus it’s polite. Be constructive in your criticism, that’s why we post, to improve. Don’t blow smoke and B.S. people. Ask questions in the chat room. Find people who have the same musical interests; make contact to them.
Any final comments that you would like to add?
Not really. But, I’d like to thank Vic Holman and Bob Dorsey (Five Extra Arms) for taking me under their wings when I stared here. They helped me a lot. Also, thank you Mark. I’m flattered that you asked me for this interview. Hope it wasn’t too boring.
Could you please provide the artist names for a few MacJams artists that you would recommend to a newcomer?
Could you please select and provide the MacJams link to three of your tunes that you’d like to ask readers to listen to?