Interview David Ward: ‘I’m Just Trying To Soak It All In’

Ambitious musician discusses his ‘Golden Future Time’ LP and explains why concept albums are no bad thing.

Concept albums have a bad reputation. Overblown, overwrought and the domain of prog rock bands dressed as wizards. For every ‘White Album’, there are a dozen ‘Music From The Elders’, ‘Metal Music Machine’ or, worse, Billy Idol’s ‘Cyberpunk’.

But get them right and they’re something pretty special. Step forward David Ward who has treaded that fine line to perfection. His new album ‘Golden Future Time’ is a concept album in the classic sense of the word. Two sides with two very distinct feels – so distinct in fact that it can be very hard to believe it wasn’t two different artists responsible for each.

Hailing from Vancouver, Ward has been compared to many different artists. Indeed, the first half of the record sounds like Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley; the second Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. The singer himself is obviously reticent to be pigeonholed. ‘I hate to put too many labels on it,” he says. Not that that would be easy – ‘Golden Future Time’ is the kind of sprawling album that will stop you in your tracks.

And that’s not all – he’s also been making a documentary about the alternative music scene, talking to industry luminaries like Martin Mills.

You’ve been compared to so many artists, from Stevie Wonder to Pink Floyd – how would you describe your sound?
I think most musicians dread this question, especially when you strive to keep evolving - the thought of packaging it up too succinctly feels like you’re prematurely putting a box around it all. Of course, the comparisons from others are all very flattering.

I listen to and am inspired by everything from classical to hip hop and at some point in the spectrum of all of these genres the lines start to blur. I’m just trying to soak it all in, churn it up and see how it comes out.

You’ve split the album into two definite halves – was this intentional from the start, or was it something that happened along the way?
A little bit of both, I think. It was clear fairly early on how this record would divide itself lyrically and musically.

What inspired the idea to create the album in this way?
I love the idea of having two different experiences on either side of a record. The Isley Brothers did this brilliantly on ‘The Heat is On’ - up tempo funk on one side and smooth soul ballads on the other. Dividing up ‘Golden Future Time’ definitely made for a clearer story of this record.

Do we dare to use the words ‘concept album’ for it?
Haha! Sure. Why not? From the very beginning I had a clear intention of what I was writing about. Everything I was reading and experiencing at that time was sifted into this album. The whole record is about the fear of loss and the need for ideas that are bigger than us to preserve our hope and innocence.

The first half is seemingly inspired by Radiohead, while the second half is Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Is it hard to marry all your influences sometimes?
In a live setting it has often been something I have worried about - how to take an audience between different musical worlds, from dance floor groove to spooky, cinematic prog ballad - but I think I’m learning to put a bit more trust in myself and my audience. It’s all music and it’s all coming from the same place.

Is there a song that means the most to you on the record?
‘Be Here’ was special in that it came together in one take in the studio with my pianist, Mark Wilson. I had written that piece on the guitar and sent it to him over email with a few notes on how I thought it fit in the piano spectrum. We hit the studio without having ever played it together. It felt a bit like magic.

You mentioned the challenges you’ve faced as an independent artist and you’ve also been making a documentary about the alternative music scene/industry. How did that come about?
I had started a local concert series here in Vancouver Canada called Wachu. We brought Jeanette Wilkinson from Redbud Films on board to add a video component to each concert. Together we created a series called Spotlight On where we asked the participating artists questions on timely, relevant topics in the music industry. We quickly realised we couldn’t keep squishing these segments into 3 - 4 minutes and so created a larger format to explore these ideas in.

What’s the one thing you’ve taken from the film? Do you feel optimistic about the industry having done it?
It seems the further down we dive the further away the bottom is. In a way, you have to feel optimistic about the industry if it’s the market in which you are going to make your career. We have talked to so many incredible people at all levels and positions in the independent scene and it has truly opened my eyes to the plight, the joys, the varied wisdom, and the importance of each of these roles. I think it has made my existence in this whole mystery a little more comfortable.

Golden Future Time by David Ward

David Ward’s new album ‘Golden Future Time’ is out now.

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