John Davis is the bassist in the live Electronic Act from New York “NERVE” that creates a new hybrid in contemporary music by cross pollinating intelligent DJ Culture (broken beats/d’n'b/nujazz, IDM etc.) with improvisational concepts of jazz. NERVE performs “reverse engineered electronic music” in REALTIME! (no DJ’s, drumloops or sequenced beats. everything is performed LIVE by drums, bass and keyboards).
What have you been up to recently?
I’ve been really busy in the studio, working on a number of records, including Janek Gwizdala’s new record, an EP for Xander Duell, the newest Dub Trio record, and mixing an electronic/dubstep record for John Blackford (Bot Records)… Also been doing a weekly residency at Nublu in NYC with Nerve.
What gear are you using at the moment with Nerve?
With Nerve I play either my ‘78 Jazz bass or my Fodera Imperial 5 string fretless, and both are strung with D’addario strings. My pedal board is the heart of my setup and sound, and it consists of: Boss OC2, Zvex Woolly Mammoth, CopilotFX Orbit, Subdecay Noisebox, Bug Brand Bugcrusher Micro, Moog MF101 Low Pass Filter, WMD FatMan, and a Line6 M9… I use a Moog MP201 to control the Lowpass filter, and other pedals. Amps and cabinets are Aguilar, and I use an AG500sc into a DB212 around town.
How do you think your approach to effects differs from your average musician?
For me effects aren’t just something to flavor the sound, or subtly change the texture, rather they are a means to creating totally different sounds, and opening up the possibilities of modular synthesis to allow tones far beyond the typical range of the electric bass guitar.
What effect do you feel is key to your sound?
Boss OC2… I’ve tried other octaves, and that one just does it for me. I could do a gig with just that one pedal, for sure…
Are you finding the M9 doing a lot of processing? Obviously the main core to your sound is OC-2, Mammoth and LPF but all the additional stuff that is then done to it, how are you doing it
The M9 is handling A LOT of duties… detune, pitch shift, pitch vibrato, ring mod, tap delays… a ton of the stuff on these EP’s has a lot to do with the M9… then there is fun post stuff with hardware and plugins… basically just total mayhem whenever possible!
Does your approach with Jojo and Nerve differ much live from the studio?
Not really… I use my live rig in the studio, and our method of composing for the most recent EPs has been driven by improvising, and then sketching out a form and playing it down live. Granted, such things as overdubs or taking the time to refine a part or a sound are luxuries not afforded live (as we improvise most material on a given night), but the basic process is the same… live it is just more immediate.
Is there anything on you GAS list at the moment?
Hmmm… some of the new CopilotFX boxes look awesome, but generally speaking, I am usually looking for ways to streamline my setup so that I can think quickly and play expressively with my bass and pedals. I have some custom pedal ideas, and am talking to some builders about them.
What plans or projects have you got lined up for the future?
Nerve is going to be touring a bit this summer and fall in Japan and Europe, as well as doing more playing in town. I’m always super busy in the studio recording, mixing or producing records, so there will be a lot of that. I’ll also be riding my Vespa as much as possible!
Do you have any tips for any aspiring electronic musicians?
Learn to play all styles of music and learn how to use a modular synthesizer.
Thank you for your time John and we wish you all the best for the future.
The latest Nerve release is available from http://nerve.bandcamp.com/
See John in action:
Interview by Steve Taylor (bassist of Our Innocence Lost & avid hair spray enthusiast)