Who is Dr Pudding? Why is he named Dr Pudding? I didn’t get around to asking this in my interview, but I’ve got a theory. Puddings, whether they be savoury Yorkshire puddings or sweet Break-and-Butter puddings, puddings are lovely, squidgy things, balls of hearty expansion that settle your stomach. Dr Pudding is a human man, whose body has also expanded since conception in utero (all be it a lot more slowly than a pudding; no baking powder), an expansion leaving us with a lovely warm human being who makes stomach-settling music.
Dr Pudding, or David Bryceland, came into the Loose Lips world through his productions for Lapis (released on our in-house record label), warm beds of chords made by synthesisers which feel oddly organic, as if their keys, casing and wires are all made from the same tree at the end of the doctor’s garden, a balance reflected by his radio shows on Threads, which mix Afrobeat, Jazz and Funk. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops though; he plays the drums in a Russian language post-punk band that he ensures me is ‘noisy and chaotic and maybe aggressive’, and is also behind the now-streamable soundtrack to psychedelic horror movie Imperial Blue, but warmness still feels like the basis of Dr.Pudding, a feeling underlined by deep, warm voice and the real good-person things that he does outside of music.
But this piece is about music, so I’ll skip the first section of our discussion and start off with an anecdote I presented about 9 minutes into our chat. It relates to a playlist/article that Dr Pudding made last year for Loose Lips, sharing 10 songs that follow the flow of a day, rising and falling in energy. This was back in the heady days when groups of up to 8 people were allowed to meet outside, and one September evening my friend and I came across such a group drinking and smoking by the side of the Thames. As we walked past them my mate said ‘ayyy!!!’ to their rowdiest member; she worked at the same coffee shop as him, or rather she organised their stock. We hung out with them for hours after that and had a really strange night, we were on very different vibes and towards the end I was very ready to leave but didn’t want to be rude to the squad. Once we finally got back into my mate’s flat, I grabbed the aux chord - minding to keep the volume down as his walls are very thin and his neighbours are old - and put on Dr Pudding’s playlist. The first track, Siyabulela by Asher Gamedze, was like a banana pancake laced with aspirin (btw aspirin is made from the bark of a willow tree), absolute perfection. So thank you for that, Doctor!
Dr Pudding: Yeah it’s probably one of my records of the year, the first time I heard it, it just melted me. I duck back into it whenever I can, it’s a beautiful track, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Will: Do you remember how you were introduced to it?
Dr.P: I think I was scrolling through Instagram - I’m always checking out record labels seeing what’s new, finding new artists and trying to immerse myself in as much new music as I can. It’s an exciting time at the moment, with all the music platforms, it’s a really nice way to hear music you would never normally hear. But yeah, it grabbed me instantly and stuck with me, the vocals are gorgeous, I think it’s a South African band with Bristol connections, but sometimes when I play out, it’s a very nice song to open a set with.
W: It’s a very different experience finding something that feels interesting and then going off and enjoying it, taking it out of that analytic setting of staying up to date on music, and going into the more intuitive, immediate activity of just putting on something that sounds good in that moment, my story being an example of that. Is there any way of listening that proves music to you, a place where you like to test music out?
Dr.P: It depends on what the music is like, if it’s the production and how it sits, I’ll listen to it in my studio. If it’s a banger, it’ll be playing it out somewhere. Also, there are some tracks that I’ve become obsessed by, in which case it’s just everywhere I can, headphones on the train, walking around, whenever I can squeeze a listen in. The song itself can trigger a number of responses, even if I like it, there are different listening experiences that can cement a song’s weight.
W: Yeah there’s a big difference between earworms, and tracks/albums which you don’t feel the need to listen over and over again to appreciate, maybe you had a really focussed listening session and one day you’ll return to it again when you’re in the same state. When listening in your studio, do you tend to close your eyes, have you got a beanbag in there?
Dr.P: Ha ha ha, I’ve got a big sofa and an armchair, I sit in that when I’ve finished a mix, I’ll come out of the mixing chair and sit in this big leather armchair, take a few steps back from the speakers and it’s a different acoustic. It’s quite a dead room, it’s very controlled, so that flat response means you can hear it a little more as the artist, mixer, producer and mastering engineer all intended. It’s sometimes less flattering than a good hi-fi, but it’s quite honest, and that’s a lovely thing.
W: I recently bought this great ambient record for my girlfriend named Concentration Patterns by C. R. Gillespie, which comes with its own diagram for a suggested listening position, so that the sound has got to bounce off a couple of walls to get into your head. Sometimes you can actually think about music in a basic, literal sense; how much intensity do you want in the low and high ends of your space, and how thick do you want those intensities to be. Sometimes I’ll enjoy music less because of artistic expression and more just because they’ve done the drums how I like the drums to be done, knowing how to use a space.
Dr.P: It reminds me of what they did with Bowie’s voice on Heroes, they had this old Weimar-era ballroom in Berlin converted into a studio, they put him in one corner and give him one mic, and put another mic in the opposite corner. They triggered the far away mic to only come on when he was singing above a certain volume, so when he really opened up his voice it would open up the gate, you would hear the voice bouncing around all those walls before it got there. That room sound allows the music to fill that space, it’s a reaction between the listener, the performance and the space.
W: You see THAT reminds me of something I saw in the Song Exploder show on Netflix, they have an episode dedicated to Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, where Trent Reznor talks about a really intense scene in a David Lynch film, one that involves an abnormally loud radiator, it’s just a radiator but it causes such discomfort, it communicates a room that’s too quiet, where something’s wrong, very different to a big grand hall that’s there for pleasure. He used that kind of skin-crawling tone at the beginning.
Coming back to Heroes, what you said leads neatly into something I wanted to ask about Possy, the track you produced with Lapis. You seem to be relatively focussed on instrument-based music, or music that has has the 60s/70s element of a band going into the studio and making something of it, rather than making something from scratch as you have. Possy isn’t the sound of you recording live instruments, but it also doesn’t quite sound like a synthesiser, it’s almost like a moody sonic setting, an atmospheric background what shies away from view. Since that song is all about community and communal feelings / support, is that something you thought about when choosing the sounds?
Dr.P: Tasha (Lapis) and I had been working together for a while, trying out different things, experimenting to find a sound that she felt expressed her, and a message that she wanted to get across. She had gone away on a trip for a few months, driving around Spain or Portugal, and done some recordings when she was away, she’d done some of the beats and bits and pieces, drums, synths, some guitar and a rough scratch vocal recorded on her laptop. The demo was already a really lovely piece, and then we ran it through a lot of analogue equipment, we brought everything back out of the box, out of the software, to give it that warmth, putting that pumping quality into the drums. We used vintage equipment to give it that thicket weight, and we took the time to track the vocals and record them through nice valve mics, letting everything touch the circuit boards. One of the main ideas, in empowering Tasha to express herself, was her getting her own software and seeing what happened when she put her hand to production, it was a really big learning experience for both of us. She focussed on that on her trip away, and the sketches of Possy were what she brought back.
W: The type of artist you’re describing is very much my favourite type, it’s kind of like a singer/songwriter, but better described as a creative force. The recordings aren’t trying to make a jam (though that’s part of it, it is technically pop music), but it’s also about creating a distinct character that reflects the person that they are. Being involved in the production feels really important to that, be it Marina and the Diamonds co-producing her third album Froot or FKA Twigs solo-producing some tracks on her debut album. It’s a cool way of songwriting, as opposed to the more generic ‘I’ve got a bunch of beats, let’s see which one works for you to do vocals on top of’, that second process feels a bit too explicit, the process feels less exciting, making lyrics to go with the beat, it really shows when there’s more of a to-and-fro.
Dr.P: Yeah it can be a bit impersonal, and lacking in purpose.
W: Which is why it does work in genres that have a pre-ordained purpose, like with commercial Hip Hop, it’s usually a pre-made beat with vocals added on top, and it’s a clean ergonomic genre, it’s all got to be hard enough to play in the club and the vocals need to be distinct enough to get the artists’ charisma and story out there. But then it feels corny when artists are doing that same process, but they’re not trying to make something that’s danceable or empowering to the listener, or something that fits into Hip Hop’s story of the ego bracing against a hostile world, so suddenly that creative process makes less sense.
Dr.P: Sometimes it can sound good as well, but there’s a joy in the music maker from bouncing ideas off someone, until you reach the point where it feels good. Tasha’s voice is so warm and lovely, and it was nice to draw on our influences, we played each other a lot of music, and sat and talked about life, and figured out what she had to say, musically.
W: I guess a lot of those conversations covered the song’s main subject, is it something you two had talked about a lot before? I don’t know much about your connection.
Dr.P: Most of the lyrics were written when she was away, that idea of group dynamics and shared experience relates to her trip. She was about 20 or 21, it was those beginning feelings of adulthood, when you’re out of the family nest or the family womb, and you’re exploring the world with a group of friends, and there’s a different communal idea in there. We talked about those experiences and their impact, but mostly she had the lyrics formed, she had it together.