Tech Lives: David A Stewart
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?
Best Music Gadgets 2012
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!’