Dave Stewart is a musician and record producer best known for his work with the Eurythmics. Stewart has written songs with many famous musicians, including Bon Jovi, Gwen Stefani, Mick Jagger and Bono, and cites as one of his strengths his ability to coax personal stories from his co-writers. He is currently working on music and lyrics with Glen Ballard for Ghost: The Musical, which will debut in the West End in 2010.
Dave Stewart: Hi. I'm David Allen Stewart, and I'm a cultural engineer.
Topic: The Internet.
Dave Stewart: Well, the Internet right about 12 years ago was a revelation when I discovered what it did. And my imagination leapt into, like, what it possibly could do, and would do. And right about 1995, '96 maybe, I created my own sort of version of a YouTube channel called Sly Fi, the Sly Fi Network, I called it. And I was running around telling everybody, "Oh, this is it. Look, we can all have our own T.V. channels."
And I made all these crazy programs with Damian Hernst and The Edge, Bono, and Deepak Chopra, and I had them up, you know, but the trouble was, it was only about, you know, 100 people could see them because they had Broadband, and they loved them, they were going "hurray! This is the new way! It's the future world," and all that stuff, but not enough sustainability to keep it going. And then I was-- I think I was probably the first person to put out a total digital release album, which I also called Sly Fi. And the company that I did it with, they were very forward thinking and they realized everybody was going to want to just download stuff and so I said, "Okay, let's not release this as a physical product." This is back in 1996 or something.
Dave Stewart: Well, let's rewind back to 1982, you know, where Sweet Dreams came out and we were using technology then in a way. I drove with this friend of mine about 200 miles to this place where a guy had made a prototype of a drum computer, a little screen, and you could actually-- it was black and white. It looked like a little Siloscope, you know, and you could actually program a beat into it. Now, this was a revelation and I was so excited about the idea of this.
But, again, being sort of
somebody who has a sort of vision about, "Oh, what would that lead
to? And what would that lead
to," I realized straight away, okay, everything is going to change and
people are going to make records in their bedroom, or wherever they want, because
they don't need to have these great big studios anymore to make a certain kind
of music, obviously for orchestras and stuff, and bands playing loud. And I found that every exciting. I did a lot of interviews at the time,
and it spawned a lot of young artists going, "Oh, great, yeah, I
understand I can go in my bedroom and I can write a song."
But the long tale of the artist is something that's yet to really be unleashed because it took ages for film companies and record labels to realize, you know, that piece of film of Bob Dylan talking to Allen Ginsberg, stoned, you know, poetry, is actually a valuable thing that lots of Dylan fans would love. But CBS was like, "What the hell are we going to do with this?" Now, all artists have-- and creators and filmmakers and scriptwriters, and everybody, have a big problem that everybody is trying to work out about what's the transactional model, what's the revenue streams, how do we get transparency, what about if we give this stuff and it happens like the last time where some great big sort of corporate company goes, "Oh, yes, we own all this and whatever else you do forever and ever, even if you go insane. Please sign here."
And what's exciting about-- going back to your question about how it's changed and how it's changed the way you think about what you're doing, is I see a world of transparency coming that is going to be impossible to stop. It's like a juggernaut, you know, people want to know what's going on.
And there's no reason why they shouldn't because, now, with cell phone technology and Internet, and so forth, you should be able to say, "Oh, I see, I buy this, and this person gets paid that, and that person gets paid that, and the person who created it gets paid that, and the person who…"
Dave Stewart: I was really a student of a guy called Conny Plank, who was a German producer who worked with Craftwork in Cannes and he was already far ahead of anybody, you know, he produced Devo and bands like this and he taught me really what recording is all about, and he also taught me things to do, even before looping, you know, or sampling. He was creating these big tape loops and playing with everything like a collage.
He really let me understand that, "Listen, whatever anybody says the rules are, there are no rules. And you can just do whatever you want and if it sounds fantastic to you, then you do it." So he was, like, a really big influence and a kind of mentor at the time.
Dave Stewart: At the moment, there's a wonderful Indian composer called
A R Raman, now he's sold
about 300 million cassettes in India, and you can imagine, you know, there's a
lot of bootlegging goes on in India, so he scored hundreds of movies and he's
still only about, I don't know, 38 or 40 years old. And I'm sending files backwards and forwards to him to India
and we're collaborating on something.
Then I'm collaborating via a chap in Hong Kong, Hans Ebert, looking for a Chinese girl to do a duet with, to be
in my video, which he'll film against green screen, and I'll put her in a
complete out of context song with me.
I'm doing all these things all day long as part of my sort of creative inquisitive nature, and I have no rhyme nor reason why and how this would come out in a commercial way, like, "Oh, yes, and now I'm going to make a pop video like this." It's just part of something.