Dave Spoon is the alter ego of multi-talented Portsmouth born Producer and DJ Simon Neale who set sail on his musical voyage at the tender age of 3 with his first mixtape. Forced to play the school trumpet at the age of 10, the young enthusiast developed a fascination with Electronic music from the likes of New Order and Depeche Mode.
For the latest of our online features we talk to Simon (who is currently completing his forthcoming album) about his rise to fame – including the treasure trove of musical ‘toys’ in the school room cupboard, his knight in shining armour Liam Howlett (The Prodigy), partnering with Pete Tong, Zero-G samples and more. And don´t miss the mini school report from Mr Gleadall – Simon’s old music teacher…
Hi Si, for the benefit of our web visitors to whom Dave Spoon is somewhat a stranger, can you give us a quick summary of ´you´?
Hi... I press buttons, turn dials and make beats in my studio by day, and play those beats and others by night occasionally in DJ booths across the world. I´m a former In New DJs We Trust resident on BBC Radio 1 and creator of many a well known electronic sounding ditty. I´ve been making music since 12 at school when I discovered Rave, all that was in 1989 and paved my way...
As for your ´stage´ name, Fly Mic christened you ´Dave´, fair enough, but then went a step further and also christened you ´Spoons´ – why?!
Haha... yeh Fly is a DJ mate of mine from Portsmouth. I used to cut up audio for his radio show back then and there was a thing about Spoons. It´s random but it was just for one release to see how it went, things then blew up and there I was stuck with it! No regrets though, it´s just a giggle.
I guess in that case you can also thank(?) Fly Mic for Scott Mills´ (Radio 1) take on your 2008 summer smash track ´Baditude´ – ´Spoon, 2 Spoons, Dave Spoon´ which no doubt helped earn you a huge daytime following. Can you tell us the story behind that?
Yes, that was even more surreal. I tasted the hottest curry in the world on Radio 1 for his ´What’s Occuring´ thing – I basically had 2 spoons of curry and that was it. The next week we re-recorded Baditude in Andy Chatterly´s studio (who´s in Buick Project with Nic Fanciulli), with Scott singing ´2 Spoons Dave Spoon" on it. Priceless promo!
As described to our readers above, your school held your early ´toys of your trade´ following your discovery of the TB303 and Juno 60 in the music room cupboard. When you left school and that treasure trove of equipment, Liam Howlett from The Prodigy helped you buy some second-hand gear. How did that come about?
My school was minus a music teacher when I started, so the new PE teacher (John Gleadall) offered to cover a few lessons as he was a musician too. He basically ended up with the Music job and was a very forward thinking chap. He bought a then new Atari and Notator, Akai s950 and other kit, he bought loads of quality stuff and pimped the Juno via Kenton. He then found the 303, 606 and various bits in a cupboard one day so we had those to play with too.
All the other kids were into the little Casios but me and a couple of others were gagging to make beats. As I said, this was originally in 1989/90 when I was first hearing early Rave. At 15, I met Liam Howlett when The Prodigy played in Portsmouth. He was really taken with the fact I was so young and doing what I was doing that he offered to keep in touch and help in whatever ways he could. We stayed in contact for a year or so but their 2nd album blew up and Liam moved away from his Dad´s place so we lost contact. I´ve nearly caught up with him again several times at festivals but it´s always the wrong time to chat!
[Ed: Check out Mr Gleadall’s memories of Simon at the foot of this interview!]
At that time you were dabbling in DnB but a couple of years later you got bored of it and moved in the direction of House and Electronica. Do you ever see yourself revisiting DnB?
Yes totally, I kind of have recently. Skream has brought that sound back through what he has done and it´s exactly where I left off. The guy is amazing and is on the brink of bringing on a huge revival. Anything I do in that area isn´t a Spoon record though, I use the name Agro... it´s only been 2 or 3 VIP´s but I´ve had support from Zane Lowe, Annie Mac & Toddla T so far.
You formed a remix partnership with Pete Tong a couple of years ago and released ´Gas Face´ on your Televizion label – how did that partnership come about?
Pete thought I used a guy to make my records for me, and wanted to talk to him! I explained everything was me and he then called me and asked if I´d like to remix Robyn´s ´Every Heartbeat´ with him. Of course I said yes thinking I´d be doing all the work but that’s not the way with him. His studio contribution is great and he has strong ideas, as you´d expect. We´ve actually done alot more since and have a new record coming on Steve Angello´s Size records called ´Muchness´.
Last year you were working on an alternative album project with Nic Fanciulli – how´s that coming along?
That’s right. Nic and I are part way through a project still but time is so short we´ve decided to do a couple of EPs to see how it goes down. It won´t be just yet but we´ll be back on the case very soon. We both have ambition in so many other areas still, and that’s where this project was born. Dubstep, DnB and more.
Moving on to your studio, tell us about your hardware set up.
I basically got a few synths and drum boxes I always wanted. I was using Reason from the very first version, but as soon as I could afford kit again I got my toys! Everything is ready to go in my Logic autoload through a couple of MOTUs. There´s a Juno60, Pro-One, SH101, original Minimoog Model D, TR909, TR808, and even an M1 and 01w. There will be more no doubt soon. I want to get some more obscure bits since I´ve been hanging out in Steve Mac´s studio (ex Rhythm Masters). I´m in love with the Oberheim OBX he has and I´d love an ARP Axxe.
You used Propellerheads Reason entirely for the track ´At Night´ which was released by Toolroom Records in 2006. Why was this and does Reason remain your ´go-to´ software today?
Reason remains the backbone of all my tracks and it always will for beats, grooves and general creativity. There’s nothing like it although I do use Logic for my hardware and some other plug–ins I can´t ever leave it alone!
What other software and plug-ins do you use?
I have most of the UAD2 plug-ins via Justin Spier at Studio Creations which I love, the Manley plug-ins make everything sound so alive. The Neve 88rs is also too good not to use but to be honest, I´m still learning most of the others – I´m lucky they looked after me! I use the Minimonsta, it´s the closest sound to my real Model D and I can obviously do slightly more with it! I also reach for the Fabfilter stuff a lot. Even the synths have a great vibe about them but the Timeless features on most of my tracks together with the Simplon filter.
What´s on your hardware/software wish list?
Aside from the OBX 7 axxe, I´d love a Linndum & Jupiter 8 please!
You´ve used Zero-G sample libraries since the early 90s, which libraries, in particular, have been most useful to you over the years?
Some of the real early stuff was amazing. I have the first three datafiles backed up on DAT still! I honestly couldn´t put my finger on one or two even. My sample library is a hybrid of so many libraries now but the original essence has always been Zero-G.
You´ll be at Future Publishing´s ´Producer Sessions´ weekend in September – what will your contribution to the event involve?
I´m yet to plan that but to be honest, it will be around Reason (5 hopefully by then?!), and some of the UAD stuff I would imagine too. I´ll give away some Spoon secrets for sure but I don´t want to go over stuff the other contributors will so I´ll have to liaise with them all first maybe. I can´t wait though. My pre-Spoon years included 7 years teaching Music Tech at South Downs College so I won´t be such a fish up a tree as some may think... maybe I shouldn´t have said that actually, it´s been a few years now.
What else have you got planned for the rest of 2010? Anything you´d like to plug?
My artist album is very near to completion, it´s very eclectic and I´m so happy with it. Just mixing the final vocal tracks and that will be set for release before the year is out hopefully! Also, lots more to come on my label Televizion, lookout!
Finally, you´re a born and bred Portsmouth FC fan – after the fiascoes of last season, what´s your prediction for the year ahead?
Everyone deserves a fresh start, right? I´m not sure we´ve quite got that yet but it´s a new season and I think we´ll do well – play-offs at least.
We got in touch with Simon’s old music teacher Mr Gleadall for a Dave Spoon mini school report, here’s what he said:
"Back in the day he was just wetting his pants to make beats and I needed a crowbar to get him out of the music room at the end of the day! Can I borrow the S950 - no - can I take the DAT machine home - no - can I borrow the Juno - no. I remember him spending a geological period of time recreating the synth sound on ´No Limits´ (2Unlimited) using the Juno (which is still going by the way!). He was amazingly creative with his little Yamaha home keyboard with mini keys and drum pads, but then again he was totally obsessed! I enjoy meeting up with him and big Kev Smith who was also a pest around the music dept!"
Dave Spoon will be appearing at this year’s Producer Sessions at SAE London on 25th and 26th September and we´ll be there too! Click here for more information and to book tickets.
Studio photos courtesy of Future Music magazine