NEW Mashine Music from David Mash
David Mash is an artist, futurist, educator, and much more. As an integral figure at the esteemed Berklee College of Music and a long-time advisor to several world-class musical instrument companies, Mash has not only created his own memorable works, but also contributed greatly to the careers of other musicians and to the development of the music technology we use.
Mash’s new Mashine Music album, Chapters, is available with an exclusive presale offer at Artistco. This captivating collection represents several chapters in Mash’s life while blending elements of jazz, rock, electro, and world music genres into a unique sonic novel that only he and his friends could craft.
Available May 15-30, 2018: Chapters EXCLUSIVE ARTISTCO PRESALE
- FREE album download for fan & VIP members during presale ($5 download for fans after presale ends)
- First three members to join David Mash’s Artistco as a VIP win a Mashine Music coffee mug
The Man Behind the Mashine
Artistco: How did you get into music making?
Mash: I grew up in Detroit, where Motown was starting, and in a musical family. My mother was a child prodigy—a classical pianist and harpist—and in her later years, she also led choral groups and did most of the arranging for those groups. The house I grew up in had three pianos and my mother’s harp, but as much as she loved music, she really didn’t want her kids to be musicians. When I was seven years old, I watched my teenage sisters and their friends going crazy for Elvis, and I asked my parents if I could take up the guitar. Not believing the guitar was a “real” instrument (this was 1959) she let me, and she used her connections in the Detroit music scene to get me lessons with great teachers. By the time the Beatles arrived in the US, I was already a decent player and owned an electric guitar and amp. My voice had not yet changed, so I could sing Paul’s high parts, and I found myself playing in wedding bands with older, more advanced musicians. That started my lifelong love for performing.
Artistco: Your music fuses elements of jazz, rock, techno, world music, and more. Are there any other artists that helped shape your sound?
Mash: So many greats influenced me, although I don’t think my music sounds like theirs: Chuck Berry, BB King, Jimi Hendrix, and Jeff Beck were my guitar heroes. Later when I got to Berklee and got into jazz, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Mike Gibbs, Carla Bley, and Joe Zawinul really opened my head and ears.
Artistco: You’ve achieved an incredible amount as an educator and technologist. Can you tell us a bit about your journey at Berklee?
Mash: I arrived at Berklee in 1973 when there were about 750 students. I had already done three years of undergrad studies in Michigan (for pre-med), had been gigging for almost 10 years, and started a private teaching practice in the Detroit area when I was 15. In the next few years, enrollment at Berklee grew considerably as the guitar boom matured and more guitarists wanted to study there. Bill Leavitt, the chairman of the department, asked me if I would consider teaching guitar at Berklee while I was still an undergrad student, and I said sure. When I graduated, I began teaching full-time, teaching arranging, harmony, ear training, guitar, ensembles, and eventually jazz composition. All the time I was also working with a band I started called Ictus, for which I was also the main composer.
Unfortunately in 1977, I lost the use of my left hand and had to stop playing guitar. I decided to take up synthesizer because at the time synths were monophonic, so I could play with one hand, and use what little movement I had in the left hand to move knobs and sliders. I was also fascinated by electronic sounds, and had always searched for new sounds through my guitars and effects pedals. Fortunately, my career as a performing synthesist began to take off as Ictus began to play more gigs. I also met David Friend (president of ARP and a Berklee trustee) in 1977, I bought an ARP2600 as my first synth, and also began my my work consulting for synthesizer companies. Those connections led to work at Kurzweil and a friendship with Bob Moog, who was VP for engineering at Kurzweil.
One thing led to another and in 1982, Berklee Provost Bob Share asked me to design a new major in performing with synthesizers; this birthed the Music Synthesis department, which is today known as Electronic Production and Design. In 1986, I had a surgery to repair my left hand, I was once again able to play guitar, and began searching for ways to combine my guitar and synthesis work. This eventually led to my collaborations with guitar builder Robert Godin and king of the transducers, Larry Fishman.
By the end of the 1980s, I was becoming interested in how technology could be used to support teaching and learning music in addition to being used in the composition and production process. In 1989, I became Berklee’s Assistant Dean of Curriculum for Academic Technology (BADCAT) with the goal of integrating technology into the curriculum and the teaching and learning processes. I also took a leadership role with Berklee Press, and was thinking of how we could move into electronic publishing and distance learning. In 1996, I became Vice President for Technology, brought Dave Kusek (who had started Passport Designs) on board, and we launched Berklee Online. My last title at Berklee before retiring in 2017 was Senior Vice President for Innovation, Strategy, and Technology.
It was a 40+ year career that allowed me to work with some of the most talented teachers, staff, and students in the world, building new approaches to teaching and learning music, using technology to widen and deepen our impact. I feel incredibly blessed to have had that opportunity.
Artistco: What inspires you about technology? What are your thoughts on how tech shapes creativity, or how creativity shapes tech?
Mash: Bob Moog once said that in every time, musicians always used the latest advances in technology to inspire their music making. From using new hand tools to hollow out wooden logs for drums, to the complex mechanics of the piano, technology has always allowed creative people to further their artistic explorations. I personally find that tools that craft interesting sounds, control other sound sources, and help perform parts beyond my technical ability inspire me to create and to and search for my own unique musical identity.
Artistco: What do you consider the most important technology to happen to music making?
Mash: No doubt the DAW was the single most important development in the last 30 years, as it allows musicians to integrate synthesized and acoustic sounds into one environment where composition, orchestration, arranging, and performance come together in the act of music production. Well, it sure changed my life…
Artistco: What was your biggest takeaway from your time working with musical instrument brands?
Mash: I had such a great opportunity to work with the great innovators of electronic music and synthesizers; Bob Moog, David Friend, Mr. Kakehashi of Roland, Ray Kurzweil, Katoh-san of Korg, and then the next wave of music technologists like Chris Halaby of Opcode, Peter Gotcher and Evan Brook of Digidesign and so many others. In every case, I saw people who were focused on building new tools to inspire us with new sounds and capabilities, and to love listening to what came from those relationships.
Artistco: Can you tell us about how Chapters came together?
Mash: Since retiring from Berklee, I have spent almost every day making music. The idea for Chapters came to me in fall 2017; to produce music from the three distinctive chapters in my musical life and bring them to life with the latest tools, as well as to return to some of my old favorites. Those three chapters are the Ictus years (1976-1982), the Mashine Music years (in 1983 I wrote music for a band of friends that attempted to marry acoustic and electronic instruments into a sound that was neither of them, but a new amalgamation) and my current, post-Berklee chapter. MCR (Motor City Roots) has a special meaning for me because it was the first original composition I ever actually wrote down and scored…now this is the very first recording of it, and it’s off to start its own life 45 years after being written.
Artistco: How did you get that interesting arpeggiation happening on “Inner Spaces”?
Mash: One idea I had for Chapters was to use software versions of the hardware I used in Ictus for this recording. So I started playing with arpeggiators in the software synths, but from my guitar rather than the keyboard. In “Inner Spaces” I used the Arturia CS-80v synth to arpeggiate the notes I was playing on the guitar (using my custom-made Godin Montreal Premier with the Fishman TriplePlay pickup and software). I then mixed in the guitar sound to create the effect you hear at the opening of the song. It’s actually a good example of how the technology can inspire you to create something you might not have done if you hadn’t had the tools.
Artistco: What drew you to Artistco?
Mash: In the 1970s and ‘80s, I had really focused on getting my music out, both in concert and via vinyl and CDs. The recording industry was still controlled by large major corporations that controlled the means of production, distribution, and promotion. Without a label, you were hard pressed to make a record (pun intended). But since the ‘90s, the cost of production tools like the DAW have democratized the industry, so the means of production is in the hands of most artists. And with the internet, distribution and promotion became available to all as well. But, how do you find your audience? How do they find you? That’s the big question for artists today. Artistco has a unique approach to this problem, and I’m excited to see it grow and thrive, with fans helping artists find more fans, and artists helping other artists find new fans. I think it is a great idea, and I wanted to be a part of it from the start. I was also lucky that Artistco was starting up just as I was starting this new chapter of my musical life!
Artistco: What do you envision as the future of music creation and distribution?
Mash: I hope that artists will continue to explore new sounds and tools, create exciting new musical expressions, and that fans will find their way to this art. I think artificial intelligence will be helpful in helping fans find new music that they will enjoy, and for artists to reach new audiences.
Artistco: Thanks again for taking the time to do this, especially as you’re recovering from recent surgery. Has this event had any effect on your perspective as an artist, educator, person?
Mash: I have endured a lot of medical issues in my life. The use of my hand was lost for 10 years and then somewhat restored by a surgery in 1986. In 2007 I broke my back, and after I was finally able to return to music making in 2009, I created my double album Decades (available to my Artistco fans). But his new challenge is the first in which I actually have had to face my mortality. While it is becoming more commonplace and safer all the time, open heart surgery is serious and my spirituality is the source of my inner strength now. I expect that there will be new music as soon as I am able to get back to the studio! I can’t wait to hear what comes out!