My Inspiration: Old Man – Socks Are A Bourgeois Construct | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Old Man, aka David Roberts, is a (currently self-isolating) NHS worker who has never recorded music but has found himself inspired by what is going on in the Teesside scene at the moment. Acting upon the creative impulses that his surroundings have triggered, he has just put out Socks Are A Bourgeois Construct, an ominous-sounding six-track collection of synth ambience that wouldn’t sound too out of place in a Stanley Kubrick film. 

David shares with us the inspiration behind this new project.

I was born in 1966 and grew up in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. I was always into music – it was pre-internet so I used to devour the music press and listen to John Peel, etc. My sister was a couple of years older so her record collection was fascinating to me. The one thing that really got me into ‘adult’ music was when one of her friends lent me the first Roxy Music album when I was about 17 and it blew my mind. It was such an original album, I’d never heard anything like it before. I used to have friends into indie music and that’s also when I first heard Metal Box by PIL which was also a massive moment in my musical journey. So different from the cartoon antics of the Sex Pistols but probably more subversive. In 1986 I left my childhood home and moved to Nottingham to work at Our Price Music. This was like being a kid in a sweet shop for me! I worked with like-minded people who opened my eyes to even more new (to me) music. I worked at various stores over the next four years and continued my musical education as it were. 

Then I got my dream job; working at A.P.T. Distribution in York. This was run by a guy called Tony K (Tony Kostrzewa) who previously founded Red Rhino (a record label, distribution company and record shop). I basically pestered him for about 2 months before he finally agreed to meet me. My interview was in the Royal Oak in York and the interview panel was everyone who worked there (about 15 people). It was here that I came across bands such as Front 242, The Young Gods, Cassandra Complex and a massive influence on what I produce – Zoviet France. I had a superb four years here and only left after they merged with Revolver in Bristol and moved the operation down there. 

In 1997 I moved to Middlesbrough to work at The Hutton Centre (part of St. Luke’s Hospital). Because of the long hours and stress, I lost touch with music and kind of just existed for a few years. I started going to gigs again when I turned 50 and realised what I’d been missing – I started going to gigs on my own and I took a camera with me as a sort of crutch to use, not being good in social situations. I’d been diagnosed with depression when I was 52 and was in a very very dark place at the time but the joy I saw at these local gigs inspired me to keep going, and with the love of my family, I have started a recovery of sorts. I saw an old mate of mine play his first gig in 20 years in York as Collision Music and that made me want to start creating music. I had no idea where to start but have been on a steep learning curve this year. I signed up to Bandcamp as Old Man and started putting some sounds together on my laptop. 

Socks Are A Bourgeois Concept
I released this album on Bandcamp on March 25th. I’ve had so much time on my hands as I had symptoms of Covid-19 so I have been in isolation with my wife and son. 

The title track SAABC is the result of a conversation with Liz, my wife. I was complaining that my feet were cold and she said I never wear socks and, as I do, I came up with a bizarre counter-argument about socks being a ruling class plot or something (as you do). The music itself bears no relation to the title but it was just me messing around on a website called True Grid and making a modular synth with their free software. I suppose it’s a meditation piece or soundscape – I definitely had some of Zoviet France’s early work in mind when making it. 

Put On A Happy Face
This is a piece of music that was made using Caustic and Audacity. It’s a reaction to people who say “Cheer up, it might never happen”. It’s an attempt to convey the mess my head gets into sometimes. It’s somewhat chilling to hear such an accurate representation of my confused thoughts and I hope it means something to other people.

Labyrinth (Entering)
I tried to do a musical representation of fear and claustrophobia, like going into catacombs or creepy tunnels on your own and I also tried to include childhood fears and phobias in the music too. I’m not sure why, to be honest, I just tend to not think too much and just do what feels right at the time. I did have in mind the work of American composer Gloria Coates. She has written some of the most chilling music I have ever heard. 

I wanted to do a drone piece, something that didn’t particularly go anywhere but had enough things happening to keep the listener engaged. It’s a sort of homage to bands like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and maybe even Aphex Twin. I’m not arrogant enough to think that I’m on their level though!

I always struggle with titles so sometimes I just use an online fake word generator as I did with this. I really wanted to use voices in music but am not a singer by any stretch of the imagination but, luckily, Caustic has some superb soundfonts. I wanted to do a space travel piece of music, hence some of the samples within the song. Again, it’s mainly no beat and fairly chilled until the last few minutes where it goes a touch pear-shaped. 

Steady On There
Another example of no clue how to come up with titles. This is a more ‘beaty’ track than most of the others – it actually has drums in it. I love Dub Syndicate and this is sort of my quite wonky homage to their genius. Again I just went along with it and just ended up where I did through experimentation. 

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