Ahead of the release of his debut solo album ‘Monkey Brain’ on Friday, and his performance at DIY Alive Festival this weekend, we got Baby Dave (aka Slaves’ Isaac Holman) to give us a track-by-track run-through of his first solo LP.
“Monkey Brain is collection of tunes written from shortly after a debilitating mental breakdown at the start of 2019, up until now,” Isaac explains. “Around half of the tunes on the record co-produced by Damon Albarn who also plays various instruments throughout. I don’t know where this project would be if it wasn’t for him and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him and observe his wizardry. It was a proper game changer for me. Thank you for your patience, it shouldn’t have taken this long but ongoing issues with my mental health have made putting this record together incredibly challenging. Here we are though, we got there in the end. Can’t wait for you lot to hear it.”
I Love Gardening
Originally the plan was to use clips from Gardener’s World because I really wanted Monty Don’s voice on the record. When I was at my worst mentally, Gardeners World was one of the few things I could watch without spinning out. Then I got a job as a gardener which helped me massively. Anyway I don’t reckon we would’ve been able to clear the copyright so I asked the good people of Instagram to send me voice notes about why they love gardening and we made this out of them.
Too Shy For Tennis
After a long, lonely stint of not being romantically involved with anyone, I started chatting to this girl, and maybe the second or third time I met up with her, she asked me if I wanted play tennis with her. At the time I played it cool and said I would, but in reality, I was terrified. Another time she asked me to go bowling with her and I felt the same deep anxiety. This is a tune about that. We’re good mates now and have since played tennis together. There wasn’t really a great deal of musicality in this tune until Damon Albarn blessed it with his piano and other sounds and made it what it is now.
Me and my mate Lucy were in her car one day driving through town. As we went past this restaurant she used to work at she pointed at this bloke out the window and said “that man once told me I was a beautiful Princess but a terrible waitress.” And I just really liked those words, so I saved them in my notes and went home and wrote m a little tune about it. She actually sings on it too. She’s not a singer but I wanted her voice on it and I think she smashed it.
Me and my mate Lucy (the same Lucy) were on the bus from Brighton to Tunbridge Wells and I decided to challenge myself to make a tune on the journey. This is that tune, about that journey.
I was laid up in bed with shingles when I started making this tune. I was in a bad way mentally and physically and wanted to make something about how I was feeling. Then I was bored one day in lockdown and recorded the washing machine bit as a joke and put a little clip of me doing it on Instagram. I was pleasantly surprised by the response. People were really into it, so I kept it in.
Clarence’s Dead Dad
It’s too long and weird of a story to try and condense down for this. If you really wanna know what it’s about, ask me when you see me and I’ll tell you. Originally it was a weird little acoustic tune but when I was in the studio with Damon we totally reconstructed it. I bought the same synth he used to make all the sounds on it, hoping to recreate them live, but I don’t have a bloody clue how he did it. If anyone wants to buy a Moog Phatty, I’ve got one for sale. The Burt Reynolds intro was put together by my mate James Grant, who’s mixed and mastered the record.
This tune’s about meeting up with a girl you’ve been chatting to on the internet and the anxiety that comes that. Talking to fill the silence, feeling like you’ve fucked it by saying something stupid. It’s got a GarageBand flute solo at the end which I’m quite proud of. Damon on the Wurly again making it sound lovely.
This is a love song about a very special boy. I can’t tell you who it’s about just yet, but you’ll see when I release the video. James Grant on the intro outro business.
Gen Z Baby
This tune’s about my girlfriend who’s almost seven years younger than me. One day, me, her and her 3 year old daughter were mooching round the shopping centre when the little one wandered into Menkind (formerly known as the gadget shop) and we followed. I saw this keyboard and bought it out of curiosity, it was only 30 quid. I took it home and wrote Gen Z Baby on it. Basically every sound on the tune, including the beat loop, is off that keyboard.
This tune’s all about finding pleasure in the sound of someone’s voice. There wasn’t really a lot going on in this tune until I took it to Damon, he really brought it to life with the bass and the Wurly. I think it’s my favourite tune on the album.
Don’t Ever Change
I started writing this tune on a night out when I ended up at an 80’s night at the Tunbridge Wells Forum. I stood at the bar watching a load of 50+ year olds dancing and singing and having the time of their lives and I felt inspired by their spirit. That’s what the first half of the tune is about. The second half is about my best mate Jack. He’s the funniest man I know and he has the biggest TV I’ve ever seen. I love him dearly.
When I was having cognitive behavioural therapy I was introduced to the term ‘monkey mind’. It’s originally a Buddhist term used to describe a chattering mind that won’t keep still, constantly jumping from thought to thought, driving you mad. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this to some degree but with the right set of ingredients it can get really out of control. I wrote this tune when I was right in the thick of it when and I knew it had to be the title track.
Baby Dave is playing DIY Alive Festival which takes place on 23rd-24th April. Head to diyalive.com for more details.
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