In a new and increasingly regular series, T3 interviews the stars about their lives, their tech and whatever it is they happen to be plugging and are hence available for interview
Ex-Eurythmics man David A Stewart (Dave to his friends) is one of rock’s leading beards, and a workaholic. He’s currently promoting a new app, a new album, a new book and a whole new way of making mega bucks. But never mind that – what’s his favourite smartphone?
The Ringmaster General (album), Business Playground Technology (book) and Creativity (app) are all available now from Dave's website - www.davestewart.com.
T3: So what are you plugging?
David A Stewart: Well, there’s the album and before the English tour I’m playing live in America. I’ve got a TV show I created going on prime-time ABC in America – that’s like, don’t know what you’d call it here, Channel 4, BBC2 – and then two movies. A lot going on.
T3: Tell us about the album.
DAS: I go to Nashville to make my albums, and so it’s the same Nashville band, but then I’m doing a duet with Alison Krauss who’s – believe it or not, I was shocked to hear this – won more Grammys than anyone else in history; 27. It’s like a continuation of The Blackbird Diaries, my other album, and I recorded it in this really amazing studio called Blackbird. It has loads of English equipment. I mean, really old 1930s limiters,
a thousand vintage microphones, and
we get all the old amps and all the old compressors. It’s a great touch. My studio
in LA is the opposite of that – the mixing
desk is all automated.
T3: What’s the coolest thing in your studio?
DAS: I would say my Blackbird Duesenberg guitar. Google ’em…
T3: What’s your favourite gadget ever?
DAS: It’s one my brilliant engineer Ned invented. It’s “Dave’s Idea Generator”, a nice, tiny wooden box with a red button. It has a USB connection to my laptop and bingo! I open Word or an e-mail, press the button and the ideas start being typed out.
T3 What was the first gadget you bought?
DAS I got this thing called The Wasp, which was the first portable synthesiser. It was monophonic, had yellow and black keys, and you could alter all the settings – the filter sweeps and everything. I carried it around with me in my suitcase. It used to keep switching itself on and everyone was going, “What’s that noise?” [Makes whirring noise].
T3: Did you use that in Eurythmics?
DAS: Oh yeah, if you Google it you’ll find pictures of us with The Wasp, and I had this thing that went with it called The Caterpillar. And I had this thing that went with it called the Caterpillar. You could plug ’em together and sequence things up.
I used to use all the early drum machines, Roland 1, and then the Drummatics came out. It was only that big [demonstrates small thing], a silver drum machine that you could program, and that’s on some early Eurythmics records. I went technology mad from that point on. It was, like, anything. And crazy stuff – I made a whole album with synths that took up half the room. Huge, the first, sort of, real programmable sounds. Every variation of Linn drums.
And then what happened is that I got fed up with it all, and went back to recording real instruments. Now I’ve got a great balance where I go to Nashville and I record all of that, and then in LA, wherever I’m doing stuff for film or whatever I’m doing, at my fingertips I have just about every possible variation of every futuristic way of recording.
T3: What’s your most recent tech purchase?
DAS: My kids get most of the cool new stuff. I’ve got a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl, and they’ve got the most. I can’t even operate what they’ve got! My house is wired for sound and I have a thing that’s my own cloud. So all the music from my studio appears on the cloud, so I can play it and send it to any room in the house.
DAS: Oh, there’s an app right which is quite cool, which I’m doing. This event downstairs, it’s to do with, this kind of thing that was launched in America. Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton launched it. The app, it’s made by a company called SoFit. What’s quite cool is, you walk with it, and it sort of monitors your walking. And when you’ve walked a mile, it goes ‘ting!’ and you’ve won a medal, like an Olympic medal, and you get ten points. And the ten points you can download a song, or whatever. The music you’re getting, it’s being paid for by sponsors when you download it and then the music is going to a charity.
But the great thing is you can walk around with your mate. But you might be in Birmingham and he might be in New York, and you can hook up and say ‘Ready, start, go!’ And you start and you see him walking as well so it’s kind of motivational –you’re walking with your mate, even if he’s in South London and you’re in North London and it’s six o’clock. So, to keep fit, it’s more fun when you see your mate: ‘Oh, he’s going a bit faster than me!’
T3: And, obviously, I can see you have got an iPad. Do you have apps that you use on a daily basis?
DAS: Oh, yeah. Hang on, I can’t see with these sunglasses – th’y're polarised so I can’t see my screen properly. Well, I use all sorts of crazy sh*t for music. I was making a tune on this earlier today, so, you know [plays a beat on Garageband].
T3: How much has this changed the way you compose?
DAS: Well, it means I can compose on the plane; you go on Garageband on the plane.
T3: Do you use apps for music, too?
DAS: Oh, yeah. I use all sorts of crazy sh*t for music. I was making a tune on this earlier today, so, you know [plays a beat on his iPad]. I can be on the plane and use GarageBand. Did you hear the Gorillaz thing?
T3: The album they did on iPad?
DAS: Yeah, they used MorphWiz, it lets you sit with earphones on and write a song and then you can play it into a huge system.
T3: Are you into social networking?
DAS: Ooh, yeah. Me and some pals have created something that’s going to alter a lot of stuff about the web. I wrote a book called The Business Playground, a business book, and it’s in ten languages right now.
[Brings up app on iPad]. So this is my book, as an app, you see. It has games in it; these are games. You can play the CEO game or whatever [background music plays]. You have to pick a character – that’s me, that’s you [starts to play game]. You have to hop – we invented something else. But then, you see, you spin this [roulette wheel sound]. You have a certain amount of time to pitch things to the CEO, so you have to think…
But in that app, the most amazing thing is this: study a page, and highlight a word, any word you want, and it’ll build a webpage about the word, usually in seven seconds. I can then publish that webpage and if anybody buys anything from it, I get paid. Every word in my book, I can get paid for – not from the book, but people buying things inspired by the book.
T3: Is that a new thing?
DAS: It’s a revolutionary thing, yeah. Nobody’s ever done everything like that before and it’s only in my book. I can make it work with any word... What I’m showing you is actually like a mini-Facebook environment. This is total revolutionary thing. That’s an economy, laid over the top of the web. So I suppose that’s the best gadget. I co-own it.
T3: Okay, here are the big ones: which games console is best?
DAS: PS3! But I have high hopes for PS4 having a PS Eye-type device linked to a smartphone and other stuff that’ll make kids and parents go bonkers for different reasons.
T3: Can you remember the first person that you decided to follow on Twitter?
DAS: The first person I tried to follow? Yes, it was – oh, what’s his name again? I’ve known him for years and years and years, he’s a comedian, he’s a playwright, he writes books, he’s an actor. Stephen Fry. He was the one who told me about it.
T3: And are you an iPhone or Android man?
DAS: Neither. I use an iPad and a very old BlackBerry. Pretty cool, right?
T3: What gadget would you invent if you could?
DAS: Well, it’s coming, actually. They’re gonna make a drink – it’s not exactly a gadget – where you can just, like, drink this one drink and you’re sober. I get Scientific American all the time, and New Scientist, and they’re bringing it out. It’s gonna stop a lot of traffic accidents. Cos it’s a big problem at the moment, with binge drinking, and people get killed in car crashes. And the simple thing, rather than breathalyse people, is drink that, wait for ten minutes and it just all wears off.
T3: It’s a brilliant idea.
DAS: But it’s not really a piece of technology. I’m very interested in nanotechnology – tiny robots that can go inside your body. They already have ones to monitor your heart and all of that stuff. But I think it’s going to get more and more refined and detect things very early on, so that people don’t get into years of illness when it could have been avoided very early on.