Today we’re celebrating my long-time friend Daniel Fuller who took the lockdown era’s lemons and made ambient drone music. Daniel’s someone I’ve known and respected as a talented writer over the years. But, since the latter half of the 2010s, he’s come into his own as an electronic music producer.
I was fortunate to witness Daniel’s sonic progression. Emails started arriving with links to new posts on his SoundCloud page, along with requests for opinions. Daniel’s taste, ear, and sense of music history are top-notch, so, unsurprisingly, the music’s always been good. Then the emails and the music starting landing with an astonishing frequency. The songs were flowing, and I could hear the remarkable evolution of Daniel’s music. His soundscapes went from good to very good to regularly excellent. (Having a consistent creative practice has its rewards, folks.)
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one pushing Daniel to release an album. With so many songs to choose from, I had no doubt he could assemble a fantastic set of music. Then, finally: Thoughts & Abandonment is that album, released under Daniel’s danielfuzztone nom de plume (he’s used that one on various projects for a while).
As an album, Thoughts & Abandonment stands out for its old-school approach. Daniel eschews DAWs and soft-synths for hardware noise-makers (Roland, Korg, and Casio are represented) and a modest but strategic collection of guitar pedals. And if it’s not coming from an onboard arpeggiator, then it’s probably played by hand right into the recorder. The result is a gritty atmosphere with more in common with Cluster, Suicide, and Klaus Schulze than contemporary signposts. But Thoughts & Abandonment isn’t a throw-back — danielfuzztone’s layered drones and gentle ambient melodies slide easily into any modern “Music To Space Out To” playlist.
I grabbed Daniel by the email and had him answer some questions for a bit of the old 3+1. His responses are thoughtful and drive home the benefits of creative consistency.
1. How does your past as a music writer affect your mindset now that you’re actively creating music? Do you think it makes you more self-critical or better equipped to bat those feelings away?
It’s a double-edged sword. And something I have been very conscious of. But instead of being self-critical, I decided just to be myself. I’m certainly not the first writer who pursued making their own music — Philip Sherburne comes to mind. And in fact, I consider this my third “era” of producing (previously during high school and then college).
I didn’t want to fall into the trap of recording tunes simply reflecting my music library; a curation of personal taste which is all too easy to succumb to. Yes, you can play “spot the influences” with the album — Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine, and Boards of Canada would all be easy reference points. And you would certainly be correct. I love those artists, and they continue to inspire me.
But what I explore is my life’s journey. Not in a selfish, self-absorbed way, but rather fully committed to making music that reflects how I feel and think about the world around us — good, bad, and ugly. I can’t help to be influenced by the wonderful artists I listen to, but I also believe folks are too afraid just to be themselves. For better or worse — this is who I am. This is what I can contribute.
2. It’s not unnoticed that your prolific music output coincided with the pandemic and lockdown. Do you think you’d have an album out now if there were no pandemic? Or, if so, would it be different in style or tone?
The pandemic — and my two-year sobriety — worked in tandem to push my creative productivity. To be honest, I don’t think I would have produced the album in the time frame I did without those two variables.
I have about 90 minutes after my morning AA meeting and when I need to report online to my healthcare writing job at 9:00 am — we’re fully remote — and I have been using that window every day to create music without fail. On weekends, I probably squeeze in about two hours each morning.
Pre-COVID, I could produce a track in just a couple of days, but it would take months to follow up with the next one. One of the many benefits of my sobriety has been a more focused creative drive, which I credit with helping me stay clean.
As far as content, I didn’t want the album to be a musical time capsule about the COVID-era, so I steered clear of any obvious or overt references. A couple of tracks recorded during this time but not on the album include political and/or election angles. But in that context, the music has nothing to do with the pandemic but was certainly enabled because of it.
3. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happen at a concert?
I do have my share of crazy rock-show stories like any long-time fan — for instance, go see Guided by Voices — but I’ll tell you about a non-musical act my friends are sick of hearing about. I was fortunate to see the late-comedian Bill Hicks perform in West Palm Beach during two nights in November 1993 — about three months before he passed.
The first night, a really drunk woman started to heckle Bill just minutes into his set. He paused and then focused his attention (and considerable bile) on dismantling her lack of respect down to her bare bones. Never seen anything quite like it before or since. She was quickly escorted out. Probably the most punk-rock moment I’ve ever experienced.
On the second night, my then-girlfriend and I sat in the front row of tables traditionally reserved at comedy clubs of the era for non-smokers. However, my girlfriend smoked, and her pack of cigarettes was sitting on the table. Bill noticed the pack and politely asked if he could have one. He then mentioned he had quit smoking but recently started again. Bill Hicks would later die on February 26, 1994, due to pancreatic/liver cancer.
+1: Something you love that more people should know about.
Writer and model-misanthrope Ambrose Bierce. He was a Civil War soldier and journalist who went on to write fictional tales of the Reconstruction-era South, complete with roaming bands of renegade troops, violence, depravity, and plenty of ghosts.
While I’ve in no way scratched the surface of his literary library — he mainly published compilations of short stories — his hallucinogenic prose fascinated me from an early age. Like many American students, I first discovered his short An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge in middle school (also via the 1962 French film The Owl River).
And course, The Devil’s Dictionary has become the bible on satirical humor. I keep it close so I can read random entries when a laugh or dose of cynicism is required.