Dave Seaman Official Website · The Balance Interview Home Music Tour News Contact About Shop 9 May 2024
The Balance Interview

During my recent trip to Australia, I managed to sit down with those lovely folk at Balance for an in-depth chat about my recent mix compilation for them with Quivver.
Here’s the interview in all its uninterrupted glory…

Dave Seaman: The Balance Interview

‘Let’s begin anew.’ That refrain signals the start of Balance presents Dave Seaman and Quivver. It’s a prognostication from American spoken word artist Ursula Rucker which possibly serves a dual purpose: a subtle signal at the global cesssation of the COVID shutdown during which this Balance project was spawned, and the dawn of a new creative collaboration between two titans of the progressive scene.

Regardless of your interpretation, this release will pique your interest for progressive house. This 2CD compilation is a masterclass in detail: the way acapellas are utilised; how each calculated mix soaks into the next; the expert pulling of emotional levers. It’s apparent that each decision underwent a rigorous checks system to achieve the perfect… well, balance.

This is the sound of 60+ years worth of dance music experience coalescing into a compelling new benchmark. Of course, this is all by design and in no small measure assisted by, as Dave Seaman explains, the extra time COVID afforded to everyone.

‘We’d actually agreed to do a Balance compilation that was scheduled for release in 2020 but just as we began work on it, Covid happened and the project was put on hold for a while as we all tried to figure out what the hell was happening. We picked up the idea again at the beginning of 2023 so yes, Ursula’s rally cry to “Begin Anew” seemed a very apt way to open the album.’

This marks only the third occasion that Balance has commissioned a group for mix duties: SOS’s epic 2008 mix and Fur Coat’s moody 2015 take. As solo artists, Dave Seaman and Quivver aka John Graham require no introduction, but this project unveils them as a duo. So was it the Balance mix that sparked this collaboration?

‘Yes, that’s right, us teaming up was an idea that was suggested specifically for this project. It just seemed to be a win-win for everybody. It would give John and I chance to join forces both in the studio and on tour. A two-heads-are-better-than-one / strength in numbers type of deal. We’ve known each other for a long time, have a similar musical outlook and always got on well, so it just made sense for all concerned.’

On paper, their combined powers seemed like a no-brainer. With all the time in the world to sync creatively, the proof indeed emerged as anticipated: in a peerless pudding that had four years to perfect. Rooted in a foundation of mutual respect, it’s safe to say that this duo works. However, it’s always fascinating to explore how artists collaborate and the unique qualities each member contributes to the new union. What is the dynamic like within this team?

‘Well first and foremost, John is obviously a very skilled and accomplished producer and I’ve always been a big fan of his work. We’d signed many of his releases to Selador so had already worked with each other in that capacity, so it was an exciting proposition for me to collaborate in the studio together. I’ve always enjoyed the collaborative process when making music, it’s always seemed like a process that’s more fun when shared.’

‘And then, when it came to the Balance album, I’d previously worked on more mix compilations over the years than John had, so could bring my experience to the table there and so on and so on. In fact, in all the many aspects being an electronic music artist in 2024 entails, we just seem to compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses.’

It sounds like John might be your new Brother In Rhythm? (Sorry… couldn’t resist.)

‘Ha! Well, John is definitely my new regular studio partner that’s for sure but I do still do work with my original musical other half, Steve Anderson as Brothers In Rhythm. We’ve been collaborating on live orchestral shows for a few years now for Lush in Northern Ireland and are about to bring that concept down to Australia later this year, plus we have recently discussed the possibility of getting back into the studio together again so Brothers In Rhythm is still an ongoing project. Watch this space.’

Consider this: many tracks on this extensive, 30-plus tracklist were sourced during COVID as exclusives for this project – that includes eight tracks featuring yours or John’s name in some shape or form. Now consider the broader impact the pandemic had on global art. 
It’s plausible that the period’s restless energy subtly manipulated artists, leading them to infuse their music with more melancholic tones. If so, it would be intriguing to learn if this shift redirected the project’s overall emotional content from your initial vision.

‘I think the main thing that affected how the Balance album eventually came out was the fact that John and I had much more time to develop a closer working relationship. Had we stuck to our original plan of releasing in 2020, the partnership would still have been very much in its infancy, whereas 4 years later, we’d had time to really find our feet together musically.’

‘Certainly, I think the quality of the finished album benefitted from the delayed release. I’m not so sure if the style of the music would have been so different. That’s hard to say really. Maybe it did consequently turn out a little more melancholic due to the Covid effect.’

Whether or not COVID is behind the melancholia, at times the project certainly carries a wistful tone. Particularly on the first mix, which is the more emotionally vibrant of the two. It’s masterfully set up with an inviting opening. As tension builds throughout the first stanza, it culminates in the first official peak with tracks from Enamour and Four Candles.

Notably, the tubular bells-inspired vibes from Enamour is paired with the ‘Closer to Closure‘ acapella from Carlos Barbero & Dom Fricot. Here, your ability to mine more potential out of a moment is an inspiring move which elevates the Enamour original to new heights. When adding acapellas, is this typically planned or more of a chance discovery during the mixing process?

‘It’s always been an instinctual thing for me when a mix would benefit from adding a vocal. When making a mix album, listening back to the overall experience from beginning to end over and over again is crucial. It’s one of the most taxing aspects to be honest because it’s so time consuming listening back to 2 x 70 minute mixes repeatedly maybe 30 or 40 times or more.’

‘But that’s when you really hear the bigger picture as a whole and get a feel for where and when certain parts of the mix may drag and need an edit or need an additional element to keep the flow tight and engaging and this was the case in point here. It just felt the right time to introduce an accapella over ‘Merge With Dust’ so I set about trawling through my iTunes for possible suitors.’

‘It actually didn’t take too long to find Closer To Closure to be honest, which believe me, isn’t always the case! Dom Fricot’s vocal had always been a particular favourite of mine and with it being on Selador, made it an easy one to license.’

The first blow-your-speakers moment arrives in the form of Stas Drive’s ‘Bipolar,’ delivering the intensity of a Boeing turbine bass drop before seamlessly transitioning into Einmusik’s bittersweet ‘Walensee’. Next, your own ‘Mushroom Embargo’ shifts towards a darker tone, before Ben Archbold ‘Psychedelic Halo’ shepards us back to the light. This tension and release interplay is a key feature throughout the mix. Did you intentionally select tracks to craft these emotional dynamics, or did the final result evolve out of the available selection of tracks?

‘I think the music shapes and dictates how the mix unfolds. If it feels right, just go with the flow has always been my philosophy. But, again, it’s when listening back to the mix as a whole that you can hear if something is missing or equally, if you’ve overdone something.’

‘Essentially, you’re making one big audio collage and can sometimes get too caught up in the details of a particular section. It’s not until you stand back and look at the bigger picture that you can see the wood for the trees. Or hear the wood from the trees as the case may be!’

The first track developed for this project is “Make This Disappear” which truly stands out as a melancholic banger. Interestingly, you provided the backing vocals on this track, marking a first in a career spanning over three decades. Now that you’ve ventured into vocals, will you be reaching for Autotune more frequently?

‘Ha! I don’t think there’s going to be too many professional vocalists out there worried about my late arrival into their domain!! It certainly wasn’t planned.’

‘I just started humming a backing vocal idea while we were working on the track which was in a register too high for John, so he just suggested I record it to see how it sounded and as you pointed out, thanks to a little help from autotune, it just stuck. It’s not my only vocal appearance on the album actually, the mad chant on Mushroom Embargo is me too! haha.’

Amazing. Well you certainly channelled something there as the mad chant sounds authentic! We read that it was a track that needed to marinate for a while before your backing vocals clicked the last puzzle piece into place. There really is a fine line between tweaking something to death and knowing when to step away. Have you developed any effective habits for recognising when it’s best to take a break from a creative endeavour (for its own survival)?

‘I think it’s just a case of when you hit a stumbling block that keeps on proving to be seemingly impenetrable, then it’s best to just move on to something else for a while. Open up a different project to keep the creative flow rather than get stuck in a cycle of frustration.’

‘It’s amazing how often the solution to the problem is then glaringly obvious when you return to it with fresh ears. And there’s always something else that needs doing that you can turn to so you can retain a positive mindset. Even just going off and listening to some other music for a while can do the trick for me.’

John mentioned that you sent him some lyrics you had written earlier, which he then used to experiment with some vocal ideas. Perhaps influenced by the tumultuous years from 2020 to 2022—a period we all wished would vanish—the lyrics for “Make this Disappear” are especially haunting, adding a profound layer to the production. It’s also fascinating to learn that you maintain a journal brimming with lyrics?

‘Yes, as a former magazine editor, I’ve always had an affinity with words and am constantly scribbling them down as they grab me. I’ve kept notebooks for years full of couplets and potential titles and such. They do come in handy during the creative process. The Rockets and Rainbows track that John & I released on Poker Flat last year was made up of lots of various random couplets that I found amongst my incoherent journal ramblings.’

Ending on a high note, mix 1 closes with Just Her‘s uplifting track ‘Lifted,’ imparting a totally optimistic feel. However, mix 2 marks a dramatic shift, adopting a more serious and arguably darker tone. Like mix 1 it starts with a menacing build-up towards the moody James Harcourt remix of your track ‘YoHo,’ which sets the tone for what’s to follow.

As the mix progresses, tracks from Gai Barone ‘Thinking Together,’ Dee Montero ‘Sensei,’ and your own ‘Operation Magpie’ add melodic light to the darker edges. Here we reach our favourite part of the project. It’s a more cerebral stretch, featuring standout tracks from (again) Stas Drive ‘Hold Me Tight,’ the jeremiad tone of ‘Conditional‘ by Axel Giova and Larrosa, and the haunting ‘Verlaine‘ by Jamie Stevens and Kasey Taylor.
This part of the mix encourages introspection, a yin to the first mix’s yang. It’s been a while since a DJ mix has had such a profound effect on us. Did you set out with this intention, or did the mix’s thematic direction evolve more organically as you developed it?

‘That’s nice to hear! As a general rule, I’d aim for the end of CD 2 to reach some sort of climax for the story to finish in a blaze of glory as it were but again, the music dictates this to a certain extent. Getting all the parts of the jigsaw to gel together so they don’t feel like separate pieces and maybe even make the finished article greater than the sum of its parts. That would be the holy grail of the mix compilation.’

Well, you can rest easy knowing you’ve created a finished product that is greater than the sum of its parts. As noted, some of those parts include contributions from two Melbourne legends, Jamie Stevens and Kasey Taylor, which underscores your longstanding connection to the city. This connection also encompasses a close bond with the late Phil K, whose loss deeply affected many in the community. What aspects of Melbourne have made it such a special place for you? Additionally, could you reflect on Phil K‘s legacy and how his presence influenced you both personally and creatively?

‘I fell in love with Melbourne from my very first visit in 1993 and have now lost count of the amount of times I’ve been back. Kasey & Jamie are just two of the many long lasting friendships I’ve made with the people of Melbourne who are the main reason it’s always felt like something of a second home for me.’

‘I met Phil with Anthony Pappa on that first visit 30 years ago and they both made a huge impression. Anthony continues to be a close friend and of course, I miss Phil greatly. He was a special human. Always a joy to be around, he had an uncanny knack of making you feel better about yourself and life in general just by spending time in his company. He was one of the true good guys taken from us way too soon.’

You conclude mix 2 with a closing track that doubles as a project highlight: Ron Flatter’s ‘Ovid‘. It stands out as one of the more unusual progressive cuts in recent memory. Its strange, atonal quality grabbed our attention and demanded repeated listens. Ending on such a deeply resonant note leaves a lasting impression well after the music has stopped. It feels realistic, almost grounded in our current unsettled times. Given this backdrop, how optimistic are you about the future of society and the music scene in general?

‘Yes, it’s fair to say there are way too many very worrying things going on right now. In fact, I can’t think of a time during my lifetime that the World has felt so uncertain and unstable, certainly not since the Cold War days of the 80s. But there are also lots of positives that we should not lose sight of.’

‘The more of us that reject division, negativity and hate and choose to embrace and spread love, harmony and positivity, the better chance we have all getting through these difficult times. Let’s face it, what else can we do but keep our own house in order and lead by example.’

Wise words Dave! All we can do is spend time with our friends and family. On that note, have you checked out your Myspace page recently? Don’t worry we did! Your top 8 Friends are Audio Therapy, Glasto Dance Village, Anthony Pappa, Stel, Danny Howells, Renaissance, Guy Ornadel, Chad Jackson. What would be in your Top 8 favourite things of 2024 today?

Oh wow. That’s a good question. Good to see though that, with the exception of Audio Therapy, those 8 friendships from almost 20 years ago have all endured!

‘But let’s think, my eight top things of 2024 so far would be Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things, Leeds United’s promotion challenge, Alex Gartland’s ‘Civil War’, RadMac’s BBC 6 Music weekend breakfast show, my new musical side project with John under the alias Ewan Hoo’s Army, Central Otago Pinor Noir, True Detective Season 4: Night Country and regular vinyl deliveries from the postman.’


More news

Partners & sponsors
Join my mailing list
Cookie policy Privacy policy