Published Dec 07, 2009It took Dayve Hawk a few monikers to settle on a name for his music after the dissolution of his band Hail Social. Weird Tapes, Memory Cassette, Memory Tapes ― they all found him enough attention to build him the kind of buzz overnight that most bands spend lifetimes desperate to achieve. And yet instead of playing the game and capitalizing on all of the praise countless blogs and publications gave him, Hawk simply just did his thing without taking the bait. Under Memory Cassette he threw together a couple of highly sought after EPs. As Memory Tapes (the name he will commit to… for now), he put out one of the year's most revered albums, Seek Magic, as well as remixes for everyone from Britney Spears and Phoenix to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Gucci Mane. Exclaim! caught up with Hawk via email (he doesn't actually have a phone) to see what's up with all the secrecy, why he isn't pursuing success and what happened with that rumoured Michael Jackson remix.
How do you differentiate between Memory Tapes, Memory Cassette and Weird Tapes? Can you explain what you feel are the differences?
Weird Tapes was instrumental and I sampled other peoples' records. Memory Cassette was based off of recordings I had made in high school. Memory Tapes is all new stuff, no samples or old demos.
Did you work on each project separately?
A lot of it was pretty random and just done for fun but once people started paying attention to what I was doing I had to start answering for the mess I was making. Memory Tapes was my attempt to simplify things but it's usually perceived as yet another project.
Have you put a cap on how many aliases you'll use?
That was the point of Memory Tapes... to bring all of my output under one roof. If I use another name eventually it'll be a way out!
You've said that you feel "like a grandpa" and out of touch with music, and yet Seek Magic couldn't be any more contemporary if you tried. How does that happen?
It's kind of like how people always ask me "What's with the '80s influence?" and my answer is just that I grew up in the '80s... How could it not be an influence? I always get the impression that some critics think an artist's influences must be contemporary because they fit the times, but really we just identify the times by looking at a large group of people who are all coming from a similar generic place. People of similar age/culture are inevitably gonna be relatable to one another. At the same time I think the perception of artists has more to do with the audience than the artists themselves. On my record I used a hang drum a lot: I love the sound and it's very sad and rainy to me. However, the sound is not that dissimilar to a steel drum, so a lot of people who were listening to things like Air France heard this sound and thought "Oh, more Caribbean beach music" and so I became a part of that. It's not a negative to me but I think there are constantly things like that where assumptions get made and it just becomes part of your identity regardless of your actual intentions.
The guitars on "Plain Material" really stand out to me on the album. You're a fan of classic rock, was that your moment on the album where you just decided to indulge in some riffing?
Well, the end of "Bicycle" is a guitar solo, nothing more indulgent than that! There's actually a lot of guitar on the album though I guess not as blatantly strummy as "Plain Material" is. I really don't think a lot about stylistic things, I just do what seems right and that's how that track turned out. I don't think of my music as electronic so using guitars doesn't seem all that meaningful in any way.
Can you tell me a little bit about "Treeship" and how you came up with song?
Well, I was asked to make a mixtape for Rough Trade and I didn't want to. I asked if I could do something original but I decided to use the mixtape form instead of writing proper songs. I wrote the whole thing piece by piece and recorded it in the form that it was released, just doing a bunch of different passes for each new bit. I'd like to do more things like that.
You were giving away songs from the album on your Weird Tapes blog. I take it then that you don't have a problem with giving your music away for free? Do you compose music strictly to give away on your blog?
I'm just impatient; at any given time I'm usually sitting on an album or more of new material so it gets tough waiting for proper release dates. I think I'm also cynical and don't expect that anyone will buy my records! I'm pretty terrible at "career" decisions. It's hard to care about success... I'm not sure I believe it's possible.
You're often viewed as a recluse and an enigmatic, mainly because you're not putting your face out there for everyone to see. Are you just trying to live up to your high school status (http://www.quarterlifeparty.com/memory-cassettes-dayve-hawk-is-most-mysterious/) or are you just not bothered to get sucked into the grind of promoting your music?
It's just my nature I guess... I don't think I'm all that mysterious myself: there are pictures of me out there, I've done interviews. I really don't have any desire for personal attention though so it probably just translates and people take it as some sort of reclusive persona. I'd just like a sort of blue-collar music career: make tracks, release tracks, make more tracks.... I don't ever want to be THE GUY.
How did you get involved with Sincerely Yours? They seem very finicky about what artists they release. How have they been to work with?
Well, the TTA guys are friends with Patrik who runs Acephale so it was through him. They are cool and always have nice things to say about my stuff. I really like Sincerely Yours as well as Acephale so it's nice, good to be with people you respect.
And how did the deal with Acephale come up?
Patrik initially approached me back when I was doing the Memory Cassette stuff and it's continued since then.
I read that interview you did with Pitchfork where you said you don't have a phone and can't drive. Have you made any progress on either of those?
Not yet... I may need a phone if I start doing shows.
Will you be playing gigs?
I'm considering it. I'm only one person and I play everything on my record so I'm not sure how to go about it. I will probably have to suck it up and embrace technology... Honestly, I'm not sure why people want to see me play live. A "band" has chemistry... but me?
I was a fan of Hail Social. What happened with that band? Did your solo work affect the band's demise?
No, Hail Social broke up a long time ago. The other guys all wanted to go back to college and get proper jobs. I am committed to having no future!
I noticed you remixed the new Yeasayer single. Have you done any remixes lately? Did you end up doing one for Michael Jackson?
I've done a few recently: Gucci Mane, Tanlines, Phoenix, Babe Terror, Dem Getaway Boyz, Silent League. I have no idea when any of them are coming out though. I did do one for Michael Jackson but it was rejected by the label. I was kind of happy cause I wanted to do it but didn't like the idea of the release; so I got my cake and didn't have to eat it.
What's next for you?
Anything I do will be as Memory Tapes. Makes it easier. I'll have a new record or two in 2010 and maybe some shows.