Knowing “the dude”
I’ve been blessed by God to know a lot of people who are worlds smarter, more creative, and just super cooler than I. In Michigan, especially, there seems to be this strange sort of enclave of cats that just vibe.
It’s a shifting pack, with people running off and leaping in to the rest of their lives on occasion. A few years ago, before my fetish with camouflage, I lived in a house with Santino and Dave. Santino, as you may know, was a college chum of mine, whom I worked with to get a small film company started. By the time I was free from school and had moved to Michigan, my place there had evaporated, but I was determined to give Grand Rapids a go, regardless.
Our other roomie was David Vandervelde, a musician. I’ve been testing the waters, asking if people know the name in the intervening years between my time in “the house” and since. Seth (see, at right) gave me a link to Buzzfeed where my boy Dave is starting a bit of a following. He was the featured gig on Christmas day on Daytrotter.
I say “my boy” ’cause Dave and I became good bros in the months I spent losing my soul in the frozen Michigan wastes (note for future biographers: “lost soul” metaphor plays off of Michigan winters and the fact that this was the time Salmons entered in to his pact with the Army).
Life pre-Dave was much less melodic. I “liked music” as much as the next guy, but being around Dave made it electric. It started slowly at first, having just met the kid. He’d play some records for me (records, mind you, not that CD crap, he still knew where to get vinyl). Pretty soon I helped him glue carpet to a back, musty corner of our basement in that house–creating a super-poor-man’s studio.
Our house was a huge, three-story Sears and Roebuck catalog house–the kind you see all around tracts of the GR cityscape, built back in the ’20s. It was in a crummy part of town–drugs and all that, so rent was dirt cheap. The house was comfortable enough, so long as you didn’t mind 50 degrees as the highest maintainable temperature and the occasional door kick-in from the locals.
We kept things sparse inside, partly because only Sonny really had a job. I was mooching off of my savings and Dave was just working on projects/gigs. Dave had a girl in the next town that kept him busy, but he was home a lot, and let me in to part of his world.
Down stairs, through twisting piles of broken crap, around a corner and through a make-shift wooden door, was the music room. The ground was saturated with Styrofoam pellets, a result of our attempt to cut and add additional sound proofing to the carpeted walls. The glue fumes from said prior carpeting lingered for weeks. Heaps of excess carpet lay bunched up in free corners, supposedly to soak up more noise, but really was there since it was as good a place as any to store swaths of cut-up cheap-o rugs.
Dave had a few toys he had imported from his time with the folks. The kid was only 18 and so was still a youngin’. So was I for that matter, just 22. He had his drums, a couple of guitars, an analog synthesizer, a couple of keyboards, a couple of mixers, and a few amps/speakers. It was definitely the mother lode of loot if anybody came bursting in. Luckily it was stashed away downstairs in the labyrinth and out of sight.
The cool thing about Dave was that he played everything. He was practically a one-man band. He’d stay downstairs for hours, laying down a drum track, laying down a guitar track. Then keyboards. Then vocal. Then another vocal. Then he’d mix it. Then there would come more tweaking. It would grow and grow, eventually morphing into this amazing sound. The great thing about the whole setup was even though next to the basement might have had a 30-40 percent drop in noise because of our awesome walls of carpet, upstairs, everything was clear as day, since the sound just pipped out of the vent systems. Whoops.
I would go down and listen sometimes and sometimes he would wrench me from the PS2 to hear something. It was almost divine to hear the raw earth of sound molded and shaped in to a melody, then sparked to life with his voice.
And it wasn’t just his music that knocked me out, but his passion for it. He would sit there and make me hear it. We’d go through a bit of song again and again. He would explain how analog systems added depth and richness to the tones. He’d play me a bit on a digital toy–sounded the same to me, but he’d sit in ecstasy when we hit the analog. “Hear that? Aaaaah!” For him it was more than just notes, or catchy tunes, it was life. There was a heartbeat in his notes. Music was his pulse.
Granted, that was his earlier stuff, and in the snippets I’ve heard since, I can tell he’s developed a lot since then. I’m just proud of the guy, you know? It’s damn cool to see someone start to get recognition for something I believed in years ago. I hope he makes it–not in any mainstream, MTV sense–Dave hates that crap; but that he’ll get some props with a community that digs his approach. I sure do.
Moreover, if he does become this big guy, it’ll be a trip to say I lived with him, not that people believe name-droppers much anyway.