A chat with the organizer of this weekend's Transistor Festival
Since 2007, Wesley Davis and Jewl Petteway have been organizing Transistor Festival as a showcase for electronic music artists of all stripes from our part of the country. Along with festivals and events like Communikey, Frequencee Mind Controlle and Denver Noise Fest, Transistor Festival is proof positive of the strong presence of and interest in electronic music generally in Colorado.
Taking place over the course of three days -- the first two at Old Curtis Street Bar and the final at Gypsy House Cafe -- Transistor Festival will feature notable local acts such as Page 27, Kuxaan-Sum, Broken Spectre, Encomiast, Blackcell and Tristraum, as well as Belgium's end.user. Encompassing a broad swath of music under the aegis of "electronic," the festival promises to give the audience more than a mere taste of what can be heard in the realm of electronica today.
We had a chance to speak with Wesley Davis, whose own projects cloudLanD and Entropic Advance, will also be performing, about the festival, his own background in making music as well as his experience being an electronic musician in Seattle who ultimately decided to move to Denver.
Westword (Tom Murphy): What would you say was the idea behind Transistor Festival and why did you start a festival like that?
Wesley Davis: Originally, it seemed as though there was a kind of void electronic festivals when I first moved out here. A bunch of them sprung up the year after, like Communikey. I was thinking there needed to be an electronic music festival out here because here's so much talent.
After that, we cultivated a niche of a more underground thing. We wanted to educate people about electronic music because a lot of people view electronic music as house or techno or a very limited perception of what electronic music is. I've been doing electronic music forever in a variety of styles and I recognized that they were all small branches on a huge tree and it's easy to mistake the branch for a tree.
So I thought we should have as much eclectic stuff under the umbrella of this festival as we can. We try to include everything but more of the underground stuff people might not be that aware of like the noise genre and modern industrial music and the fusions that are not even classifiable because they're not just one style.
WW: What makes this festival different from, say, a noise festival?
WD: Denver Noise Fest was all noise. We have a couple of noise acts playing. Last year we had a noise room. But this year we don't have enough noise acts to designate that sort of thing. The main stage is going to be more accessible--more beat-oriented, more party kind of vibe music. There's a couple of bands Friday. It's the kind of thing where people who like electronic music will find a couple of acts that they'll like. They'll probably hear some stuff they've never heard and some stuff they don't like. But the idea is that most people are pretty open-minded and it's more like a community party to showcase their latest works to the public.
WW: Is this mostly a local festival or does it also include national acts?
WD: We have an international act this year, end.user from Belgium. I wanted to do that to kind of give back to everybody because mostly everyone comes in for free and customizes their set. I thought it would be cool to have a headliner. Fridays are always really big and Saturdays usually fall off a little. So I thought if I could get someone big in there Saturday, we'd bring in people who might not show up otherwise and expose them to all these great acts that are tried and proven acts I've worked with before that I know are going to blow people's minds if they haven't heard them previously.
WW: You do music yourself as Biostatic and Unbridled Sonic Anarchy?
WD: Those are two of my ambient and noise projects.
WW: Are you the person behind that second Sunday evening Textures event at Gypsy House? How did you first become involved in an interested in ambient muisic.
WD: Yeah. I did my first shows in Seattle with a project called Entropic Advance. We're making our beat debut on Saturday night--it's my main collaborative project. It'll be our Denver debut with me, my partner in Unbridled Sonica Anarchy and Circle Six. It's ambient noise and dance beats with dancers and it's a multi-media thing. The ambient thing came off from doing that sort of thing in Seattle. When you're doing out music, you don't want to limit yourself to venues. We could do ambient music by taking out beats and the noise and it opens a whole market for playing museums and galleries.
At first I got into minimal stuff in the 90s like Main. They were a band [called Loop] that became more and more minimal. I bought a lot of ambient compilations like what Instinct was putting out as well as SETI. I come from kind of a new wave, gothic/industrial childhood for music. I play trumpet too, that's my primary instrument. Coming from that background, I had the early comparisons to John Hassell. It was a natural progression to ambient music.
WW: You moved here from Seattle? What made you want to me here from there?
WD: I moved up there in 1991, originally. It was a really cool place and I enjoyed living there throughout the 90s. It was a vibrant scene--overly vibrant, really, just insane on every level. That's what inspired me to this day--working with people, creating events and creating projects. Around the turn of the century the energy of the whole place shifted and the art scene took a nose dive. Clubs were closing one every two months for three years and nothing opened. Every year I thought, "If this continues I'm going to have to move." And it kept continuing and it got to point where I thought I was ready to movie but I had a good job and I could afford to still live there even though it was expensive. I still had great friends and there was still cool stuff going on that I knew about because I was tuned into what was going on.
Then the job dried up and I couldn't afford to live there anymore. Most people had moved away or projects had changed or disbanded and I decided I didn't want to live there anymore. I knew some people in Denver because I grew up in Colorado Springs. I had family here and it seemed like the best place I could find in 2004 to move. I'm sure there were better places I could have moved for music but Denver had, and still has, a good electronic music scene. Now I live in Nederland. I loved Seattle and there are people in that area I love and miss and I am glad to have been part of that scene, recording music and archiving it but now it's a different place.
Transistor Festival, Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. June 11-12, Old Curtis St. Bar, $10/night, 5 p.m. Sunday, June 13, Gypsy House Cafe, for More Information, visit: www.transistorfestival.com.