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POP FIX EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Grammy Nominated Music Producer, Dave Darling

by Erin Darling 29 May 2009 332 views 7 Comments E-mail Erin Darling

Dave Darling, in the flesh

Dave Darling stands next to the stove in the kitchen of his Valley Glen home, stirring the steamy contents of a large pot. Spicy aromas of roasting peppers and tomatoes waft through the Spanish-style kitchen. “I hope you like chili verde,” says the Grammy-nominated producer and musician as he peers through black rimmed glasses. “I don’t have any real hobbies because I work a lot, but I can cook and ride bikes. That’s about it.”

Darling’s 30 year career encompasses forming a band, releasing three albums, and grabbing three Grammy nominations for producing music for acts like Tom Waits, Queen Latifah, Brian Setzer and Jack Johnson. But right now the musician is relaxing at home in tan cargo pants and a white tee shirt after finishing a long recording session with Kid Rock’s protégé, newcomer Ty Stone.

Grammy-nominated "Wolfgang's Big Night Out"

Grammy-nominated "Wolfgang's Big Night Out"

The dawn of new media has caused the days of recording studios, big production and booming budgets to dwindle. While some recording veterans might try to put on a happy face when asked about the future of their industry, Darling prefers to keep it real. Extremely real. When asked where the future may lead, his response is, “the poorhouse.”

Darling began his musical career at age 13, playing the bass in his middle school orchestra. Observing his talent, his father also bought him a guitar. From the first moment he gripped the instrument he knew he was past hope and cure; music was the love of his life, and he was quick to find that it didn’t exactly hurt his love life either, “A few years later I realized that if I played the guitar at parties, that’s when the chicks started coming around,” Darling says.

After high school, David began working as a session guitarist for commercials, films and records. In 1989 he formed his own band, Boxing Ghandis, who were signed to Mesa and Atlantic Records, made three records over the next seven years, and toured with Dave Matthews Band, one of the best-selling music acts of the 90’s.

Boxing Ghandis "Howard"

Boxing Ghandis "Howard"

He then started a “glam/industrial” band called 58 with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue-fame. But after wrapping up their first and only record, Darling’s career path diverged. Musicians and recording artists began to ask Darling to produce their music, which is exactly what he’s been doing for the past 11 years. His unique insight and approach to music production has kept his career afloat in the competitive waters of the music industry.

“I try to get the artist’s vision recorded and on to a medium as opposed to the nuts and bolts style that other producers use,” says Darling. “For me, it’s more philosophical and little less technical,” a mantra that recording artist Janiva Magness can relate to. A respected blues and roots vocalist, Magness just finished her ninth album with Darling.

Although their recording session is over, Magness and Darling still keep in touch, because of the mutual respect they share for each other and the friendship they’ve cultivated. “Dave is very respectful of me as an artist,” Magness says, “I’m grateful for that mutual sense of admiration.” The result of this admiration was an album that they are both proud of. “A favorite moment for me was at the end when we were listening back to the mastered recording and I realized we had made a truly funky record,” Magness says.

Janiva Magness "What Love Will Do"

Janiva Magness "What Love Will Do"

Regardless of the value in collaborating with a producer, modern technology and the internet has allowed and even encouraged artists to record, produce and release their own work, making the role of record companies and producers less important. Carol Duboc, CEO of Gold Note Music, Inc. says that her recording company and record label has had to make major changes in order to continue to sell music. “So many people are buying downloads now that the smaller record stores and even stores like Borders are having trouble and are ordering less music. Many labels are not pressing up as many CDs. Some are only selling digital downloads.” Although this has made purchasing songs easier for the consumer, it’s also emphasized that a good single is far more important than a good record.

What makes a good record? In Darling’s opinion, it’s completely relevant to the music style. “If it’s intended to go on the radio it has to sound current, and it needs to fit the narrow criteria of what’s actually played on the radio. If it’s a more of an artistic record, the idea should be that the artist’s vision is captured and amplified.” Darling is 100 percent committed to making sure the job is done right. “A producer’s job is to make sure that the record is as good as it can be, no matter what it takes.” Darling  jokes, “Babysitting, psycho-analysis, drug dealing, bartending, being a musician. I’m not kidding! Whatever it takes.”

Dave Darling

Dave Darling

Darling is currently working with up and coming music acts including a band you’ve heard on Grey’s Anatomy, Until June, and the aforementioned Ty Stone. Despite the barrage of artists he’s produced, his 58 record with Nikki Sixx remains his favorite collaboration. Although Darling was responsible for both creating musical content as well as producing it, he says the record provided a stress outlet. “Motley Crue was bogged down on ‘Appetite for Destruction’ and it was grinding to a halt. I was finishing my last Boxing Ghandis record, and we weren’t getting along either. Nikki and I decided to take a break and do what we wanted. It was the most fun I’ve had on a record,” Darling explained.

When asked what he thinks will happen to the future of the recording industry, Darling says, “I think it’s just about over,” with an element of pessimistic honesty. “Music itself will always be important, but as far as a viable business? It’s less and less so with 900 channels on your television and the internet becoming the main form of entertainment.” Darling has experienced the effects of the weakening recording industry firsthand, as the budgets for creating records descend.

But for now, Darling’s just thankful to have a job that he actually likes, “Not once has it ever been boring,” Darling says. “You get to sit with somebody and talk about how they want to be perceived by everyone that hears their record. Ever. It’s really a huge, beautiful thing.”

Boxing Ghandis “If You Love Me”

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  • Jezebel said:

    Love the article,the music,the Ghandis and especially Dave. He keeps it real!!! Keep rocking!

  • Steve said:

    Rock on that song is sik

  • Tom said:

    sick article, lady!

  • Christopher Cornish said:

    Great Article Erin,

    Awesome Music Dave,

    Good luck to both of you,

    It seems like you’re both headed for great things

  • floosey said:

    You mean to tell me that there are actually genuine musicians in LA that dont hide behind the synthesizer ala Brittany or are manufactured ala boy band style. How refreshing!!!

  • Pete Alexander said:

    Great article Erin!
    Interesting life, Dave!

  • Sabra Kiani said:

    Great Article Erin,
    I watched Dave in his beginnings with his first guitar (from a pawnshop) and listened to his first original music between stints of moto-cross racing in Santa Cruz (which I didn’t watch - it scared me to death). This young man has grown steadily and with an uncanny dedication to what he loved best and an unwillingness to do anything just because it was “in”. Always original and with a wonderful depth of feeling. Glad I was around to see his beginnings and glad to still be here to see what happens next. I love you Dave, Sabra

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