I have discovered Magick Numbers through bandcamp, I am really glad I did! Out of all the new music I have discovered that day this one really stood out to me the most. The song “Away Too Soon” and “The Bird That Never Flew” really spoke to me personally. The lyrics is written and sang well, which fits perfectly with whichever song is playing at the moment. The pitch of the vocals sort of reminded me of Daft Punk’s song “Instant Crush” which is sang by Julian Casablancas, that is when I instantly got a crush in this music. The sound is addictive and done in a way that I had to know who the mysteries person that created this.
After searching, it turned out to be David Merline. He is a former writer from Detroit, who is a musican working his way to make a living in Chicago and doing what he enjoys to do. Supporting local artists is important to me because I know it will mean a lot to them. It can be any forms of art, like music, cooking, painting, street art or whichever. I recommend anyone to take the time to let their favorite artists know what you think of their creative works. It could be a song you listen to, a painting on your wall, a street art in the city and many others that has impacted your life.
I encourage everyone to listen to Magick Numbers, especially the new song “Blue Monday.” Also, listen to other bands/musicians who deserve more listeners as well, then send them some love by telling them how much you enjoy their music.
Now let’s get to know David.
🔹Summarize your journey in becoming a musician so far. Did you go to music school? If yes, what was your experience like & what advice you’d give current students there? If not, do you plan to or not? Why?
David: I took piano lessons for about eight years, studying classical music. I never learned to read music fluently (I can pick it apart and play it if I’m familiar with it), but I was always able to improvise. And since that came so much easier to me, that’s what I concentrated on. And because of this lack of thorough formal training, I never though of myself as any good. I knew I could write things, but I couldn’t notate them, and I didn’t have any recording equipment more sophisticated than a portable cassette player.
I continued to play into my early 20s, and had a few false starts with forming bands and then real life took over and playing was pushed to the sidelines. Eventually I got a MIDI keyboard and some software, but it was always way above my learning threshold, or at least that’s how it looked. Not being able to understand the software kept me from pursuing music for quite a while.
My piano teacher was smart enough to see that I had a natural ear for improvisation, and so shied away from being too strict with me in terms of scales and theory. Looking back, I admire her sensitivity, but I wonder if I might have continued to pursue studying music if I’d had a more rigorous regime.
🔹When did you start producing music? Why did you do so?
David: It wasn’t until I got my iPad Pro, with it’s recent incarnation of Garage Band, which, especially on the iPad Pro, is so easy to use that I found myself being able to come up with a bit of music and have it fully fleshed out in a very short amount of time. This worked well with my improvisational methods and before long I was hooked.
🔹Which instruments do you currently play? Which you learned to play first?
David: I really only play keyboard. I have been trying to teach myself guitar for over ten years and I’m either going to fire myself or quit, I can’t decide which.
🔹What tunes did you first learn?
David: The very first songs I learned to play were from a book of American Standards. Early folk songs, all the patriotic hymns. After that it was Rogers and Hammerstein. I loved playing their songs because they were so easy to play, yet lyrically and musically so sophisticated. Then it was the Beatles. Classical-wise, I loved Beethoven above all, and Satie.
🔹Which musician(s) do you admire and why? Are they influenced into your music
David: Too many even to think about. Neil Young stands out, both because he’s one of my favorite musicians of all, and because he’s lived his life with a great deal of integrity, which not many in the music business, or indeed in life, seem to do. Captain Beefheart as well, for being a consummate artist, with all the good and bad that that entails. And Eno almost goes without saying.
🔹Do you write your own songs?
David: I’ve never been good at memorizing, which made it nearly impossible for me to learn other people’s songs. I could play them from a song book, or from chords, but it was always easier for me to write my own music than to copy someone else’s.
🔹What is your most memorable musical memories? In your house, city or other place?
David: Again, a ton to choose from, but I’d probably have to say seeing Philip Glass play in a very small auditorium at the Detroit Institute of Arts. There were maybe 150-200 people there, on folding chairs. And it was rock-concert loud. I had never heard a note of Philip Glass music, but my friend insisted I go, and so I did and it was pretty life-changing.
🔹What are your favorite records, tapes and/or albums that you currently own
David: I currently don’t own any, actually. I sold my entire collection a little over a year ago, due to financial necessity. I’ve done it before—this is the third collection I’ve sold. I like purging myself of things like that. My goal is to live a more minimalist life, but I still have way too much crap. I do have several TBs of music stored and backed-up, however.
🔹What kinds of music genres are you into now? Has it changed over the years or you’ve always been into this?
David: I’ve never been into any particular genre. That much hasn’t changed. What has changed is that I listen to a lot of things that my younger self would have hated. Fleetwood Mac, for instance, or Harry Nilsson. Stuff that seems square when you’re too young to realize that “coolness” is the biggest lie ever sold.
🔹What is unique/different about your music?
David: I have no idea, other than it comes from me. It’s me channeling my emotions using my extremely limited talents, so to that extent, it’s as unique as I am. In a broader sense, I guess it’s that I combine several of the least-listented-to genres of music ever produced and combine them into something even fewer people listen to.
🔹Why experimental ambient electronic?
David: I find that it encompasses enough disparate sub-genres that it hopefully helps nullify the idea of genres, which were always an annoyance. All the best bands defied characterization.
🔹How long have you used GarageBand? What do you like and/or dislike about it
David: I’ve had it and used it since it first came out, but the combo of GB and the iPad Pro really made things gel for me. There’s not much I don’t love about it. Obviously, I’d love more VSTs and more effects, but I actually like that it’s limited. I occasionally swap out instruments once I import my tracks to Logic, but I try to stick with GB-native sounds, just because I like the challenge of trying to find all the possibilities.
🔹Do you plan to perform in public?
David: I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, so yes, I will. I just don’t know how. I have a few ideas, but I’m not sure how it will turn out. The times I performed, early in my career, I loved it. I have tremendous social anxiety, but I never felt shy on stage. I definitely want to experience that again.
🔹What advice do you give to those who are starting to create their own album
David: Do whatever you want. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Make something. Anything. Just the act of making it is the part that’s really worthwhile. The music is just like a bonus you get at the end. It’s all about the actual work.
🔹What do you do besides producing music?
David: I’m a writer, although I think I’m retired, or rather, the industry has retired me. I’m working terrible jobs for no money at the moment.
🔹What do you like most and/or least of music career?
David: I like it all, I just wouldn’t consider it a career.
🔹What inspired your recent songs?
David: There are very few songs that I could actually tell you were inspired by anything in particular. Usually the idea is “let’s make something that sounds cool,” and it goes from there.
“Away Too Soon” is super-specific. It’s about two moments in my life. One shortly after my Father died and another, earlier one, shortly after my Aunt died. It’s more about what life felt like in those moments though. It’s impressionistic, I suppose. A meditation on death.
🔹If you went to a music store which albums you’d most likely buy? Specific band, music genre or other.
David: I stay away from music stores. I can’t afford anything, and I’ve stopped collecting. I don’t even listen to much new music, honestly. I only listen to what I’m currently working on.
🔹What’s the meaning behind musician name?
David: The name comes from a famous passage in a play by William Cosgreave, although it’s always attributed to Shakespeare. The part you know is “Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast.” but the full passage is better:
“Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.”
I opted for the Crowley-esque spelling of Magick, since it’s cooler and because there’s already a band in the UK called The Magic Numbers.
🔹What was the behind the scenes like when creating music videos for your songs?
David: I never really plan my videos. Just like with the music I just get inspired and I throw it all together and hope it turns out good. I’m always taking pictures and videos around the city, trying to build a library of video-worthy images.
🔹Any favorite music stores in Chicago? Why?
David: I stay away from them all, but there are so many great ones. Permanent Records has been my home-away-from-home ever since I moved here from Detroit. And Reckless Records, obviously.
🔹Do you encourage people to support local bands/musicians? Why?
David: I encourage people to support any art, no matter where it comes from. If it moves you, support it. If it doesn’t, make your own that does. I’ve never lied local scenes, for all the usual reasons people hate local scenes, but Chicago has an unusually high amount of super talented people, especially in the ambient, electronic, and experimental areas.
🔹What’s next? Any more projects music related or other?
David: I’m always working. My plan is to release an album a month, always on the 11th, and in addition to what’s out now, I have four albums worth of stuff that’s unreleased. I did the math recently and realized I average about a track and a half a day, which seems like a pretty good use of my free time.