Thomas Dolby On Songwriting

Thomas DolbyThomas Dolby has some interesting thoughts to share on songwriting in a recent interview:

Since I have returned to music, I am focused on the essence of the song, not the frills. I have no desire to wow the audience with my production technique. There’s plenty of that out there.

But there’s a dearth of real songwriting talent, lyrics and structure and storytelling, and that’s something I actually do rather well.

When I look back at the first chapter of my career I certainly touched the largest number of people with my quirky synthpop persona, as in She Blinded Me With Science and Hyperactive.

But I touched people the most deeply with my more intimate, atmospheric stuff, like Screen Kiss and I Love You Goodbye. Those are the songs that people kept listening to over the years I was away.

They endured.

Whereas the more poppy stuff has been supplanted and overwritten a thousand times.

Now I have little patience. And I have no record company to demand I keep feeding them pop fluff.

So I’m not going to waste any time, I’m just getting to the heart of the matter.

Thoughtful comments – though we do still really like his quirky synthpop persona work.

via entertainmentrealm


22 thoughts on “Thomas Dolby On Songwriting

  1. Windpower was a seminal song for me. I was given the 12 inch by a friend and the bass/lead sound was something I could not wrap my head around at the time.
    "What the hell was that?" said 12 year old me. It sounded nothing like a synth. At least nothing like a synth in 1982. I was fascinated.

    Without that song I would have never gotten into electronic music. I wanted to make sounds like that.

    Still one of my favorite synth sounds of all time and a great album.

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  2. I wish more electronic producers would take this sentiment. Most popular electronic music is plagued by the goal of trying to make a sound that is "new" or really technical (dubstep anyone?).

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  3. I love all of his work. Even his poppy-quirky stuff from back in the day is so much more sophisticated than most modern electronic music, yet completely accessible. Great stuff all around, and more music from him is very welcome!

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  4. Maybe it's just me, but with all the talk lately about green energy, whenever I hear someone say "windpower" I hear Thomas sing "Wind… Power…"! ha!

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  5. I guess you guys haven't heard that much dubstep? There are plenty of producers out there who are very musically talented and it comes across in their tunes:

    Nit Grit
    Vibesquad (accomplished keyboardist and jazz musician)
    Mimosa
    ill-esha

    That's just a start….

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  6. Personally, i think our sense of nostalgia, more so then it's actual substance, is what makes music of our youth more enduring. But i would never question this guy's talent, or endurability over the years. Just that if you ask the kids of today, in 20 years, what their favourite music is, and it will be Gaga. Play them some Dolby, or other 80's retro, and gauge their response. It won't be too positive, unless you subjected it to them while they grew up. It's the illusion of timelessness in music, directly related to electro chemical response Vs. quality, which is all subjectivity, anyways.

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  7. Dolby's Hyperactive was the song that really hooked me on him. I of course heard his radio hit blinded by science first, but hyperactive was the first album i bought. I was listening to Dolby and kraftwerk alot back then.

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  8. Europa and the Pirate Twins was and still is, my most faovrite song
    by TD, and never get tired of hearing it.

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  9. Four year after, who'd I see? on the cover ( of a ) magazine…

    EUROPA !

    Buy her singles and see all her films, paste her pictures on my sindow seal,
    but that's not quite the same ( it isn't ? is it ? ) Europa my old friend

    [ Did that strickly by memory, how'd I do ]

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  10. One of the first things I remember hearing in stereo (my family didn't have one) was the drums at the end of "She Blinded Me With Science". I think the kids on the bus liked watching my reaction listening through the Walkman headphones, so they'd let me know when it coming on the radio so I could listen. I still think it's a great tune!

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  11. He's hit the nail on the head – all that 'presentation' software out there, designed to produce a head-turning, catchy, artistic, generic product from people who have nothing to say.

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  12. Yes, there are plenty,,,,,but they are still; way outnumbered by non-talented technicians. So it goes!

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  13. We need a term for insular music that's purposely being made for other producers to listen to (and criticize).

    I got this delightful America Online magazine from back in the day, and by that I mean 1996, with Thomas Dolby on the cover. Within, he talks about the future of digital music, and some of this thoughts are pretty prescient and/or enduring, such as moving beyond the linear album format.

    Oddly enough, no one else on the Internet has mentioned this issue, and I can't even find a good reference to the magazine itself. Which is so weird because of what it is.

    Regardless of which emotion, what matters is being memorable.

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  14. Bob Moog wrote an article – I think for Keyboard – back in the day that talked about a trip to California in 1967 where he witnessed the creation of the album Cosmic Sounds, by The Zodiac, which featured one of the first recorded uses of the Moog.

    Apparently, it was a complete "head" scene, and Moog didn't quite fit in, though he was welcome!

    The album came with instructions, "Must be played in the dark".

    Unfortunately, it is another one of those articles that seems to be lost in time like tears in rain, or at least in dead tree media.

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  15. Bob Moog wrote an article – I think for Keyboard – back in the day that talked about a trip to California in 1967 where he witnessed the creation of the album Cosmic Sounds, by The Zodiac, which featured one of the first recorded uses of the Moog.

    Apparently, it was a complete "head" scene, and Moog didn't quite fit in, though he was welcome!

    The album came with instructions, "Must be played in the dark".

    Unfortunately, this is one of those articles that seems to be lost in time like tears in rain, or at least in dead tree media.

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