I was born in the 1980s. I have reason to believe my father may have been a house spider, but I can’t know for sure. When I was small, I wanted – at various junctures – to be a skeleton, a deer, a woman, and a film-star of the 1930s. I settled for being an artist because I reckoned it was the closest I was going to get to being transformed into any of these things.
We only ever had classical music in the house, so I was a true novice when I made my first recordings at 15 or 16. They were mostly tape loops, echoes, and things. At the time, I’m sure I thought they were hit singles – and perhaps they would have been, on Neptune – but texture came to me before song structure.
I made my first song-based record between 2006 and 2008, and I named it *The Sweet Used-to-be*. It was mostly about unrequited love and sexual dysfunction. I think there may have been some religion in it too, and some anthropomorphism. I don’t really remember, and I ‘d be shy to listen to it now. It was a strange experience drawing attention for the record, and being called upon to explain it – and to perform it. I had made it in a vacuum, after all, and I hadn’t been aware that there was another way.
I decided, when it came to making a second record, that I would make one about the things that I really enjoyed, rather than the things that were a burden to me. So I made a record about ghosts, skeletons, animals, magic, and spectral landscapes. I called it *Haunted!* and I released it in October 2009. There is no carnality on the record. There are other kinds of love, of course – platonic, commemorative, and anthropomorphic – but I wanted to open imaginative doorways rather than poke at bruises. Making the record, I turned inward to my imagination, and I found it a profoundly liberating experience. I only had to invite myself to be free with my ideas. In so far as I’m able to be, I’m pleased with the result.
As somebody working with music, I’m often asked to name ‘influences’, and I find it difficult to respond. There are many people whose work I’m interested in – at the moment I would choose the music artists Laurie Anderson and Arthur Russell, the visual artists Franz Marc and Helen Chadwick, the writer Shirley Jackson, and the poet e. e. cummings – but I could never trace a precise trajectory from anybody else’s work to my own.
Because I also work in visual art, and because I write, I’m never sure of how to describe myself. When asked, I tend to glower at the ground and mutter something about being a ‘polymath’. I sometimes think the most difficult thing about my work – particularly *Haunted!* – is how un-difficult it is. When I work with music, I see myself fundamentally as a pop musician. I can’t help but feel that people would have a lot less trouble categorizing my work if they were less squeamish about using the word ‘pop’. Having said that, though, I don’t really mind being the ghost that comes tapping at the window. If they won’t let me in, I can just draw them out onto the moors with me.
*Portrait of David by Pauline Rowan
mp3: ‘The Red Elk‘, taken from the album Haunted!