By John Bear
Electronic musician Dan Dave Larson first performed live as a teenager in front of 20 people at his parents’ house in Rio Rancho. The show, if you can call it that, was mostly him and a few friends making sarcastic and cacophonous noise on a variety of instruments.
Of course, the cops arrived and shut it down.
In revenge for his buzz-killing neighbors, Larson – who opens for Aesthetic Perfection at Launchpad on Nov. 8 – applied for and was granted a noise permit, prepared a bill advertising another show with fliers he surreptitiously took placed in a now defunct free weekly and cast another show.
“It drew about 300 people to my neighborhood,” he recalls. “It was definitely out of control. That’s what I was doing at 16.
The police returned when they exceeded the permit time. Larson says that as a parent he would have smothered that idea in the drank, and he sometimes wonders why his mother let him go all the way. In any case, the chaotic spectacle offered young Larson a “proof of concept” that making music was for him.
Larson, who also starred as Elay Arson and Mr. Suit, has long found the process of creating computer music intriguing, even when most of his friends laughed at electronic music. His first digital audio workstation, or DAW, came in the form of a video game called MTV Music Generator. He was hooked.
“I find that to be a common origin story with a lot of other music producers my age,” he says. “It lets you compose stuff with audio clips in a timeline. … I graduated. The next year I was actually on a computer.
He later sold a synthesizer to get his first apartment, a studio atop a castle-like warehouse in the heights of southeast Albuquerque. There was no kitchen, just a hot plate. Much of his life was centered around working to buy more and more materials. He loved the technology and the recording of music and the process. The obsession kept growing.
“After I bought my house here, I bought the same synthesizer,” he says. “It’s almost a pride. It’s something I had to sacrifice for a deeply uncomfortable existence.
Larson then joined the US Army and managed to record an album during a tour of duty in Iraq. He still does not know how he succeeded. If you have a laptop and an electrical outlet, you have a game of ball.
“All this while working 15 hours a day,” he says. “I used all my free time before sleeping just to make music.”
He began to discover the sarcasm-infused, heavy metal-influenced sound he’s spent the last few years perfecting. (For the record, his mother’s Pink Floyd, ’70s rock, Motown, and the new jack swing records he heard as a child also proved influential.)
“It was like Daft Punk but more aggressive,” Larson says. “I was listening to a lot of French electro and stuff like that but it was more angry. Many French artists were very influential, like Danger and the early Perturbators.
After his time in the military, Larson lived in Colorado Springs for several years because it was cheaper than Denver. In 2015 he founded the band Elay Arson and released seven albums under the name, which included guitar work courtesy of Devin Harrison. He eventually grew weary of the arch-conservative atmosphere and moved back to New Mexico where he now lives.
Most of Larson’s music is instrumental, but he frequently uses his personal life as inspiration – his Native American heritage, seasonal depression and relationships, etc. – but he is not opposed to the high concept record. Elay Arson’s “Franz” album, for example, tells the story of the scientist behind Elon Musk’s ridiculously stupid Cyber Truck killed by his own invention, merging with it and then going on a killing spree.
Larson recently decided to release music under his own name, Dan Dave Larson. His “Knives” release is, as he puts it, very introspective and self-indulgent. The knife-named songs deal with different aspects of his life – being a man in America and the societal expectations that come with it, his military service and the time a woman literally stabbed him in the heart.
“We dated for about three years after that,” he says. “I can’t say it was the healthiest relationship.”
Larson has primarily made instrumental music – and it’s deeply personal – but he wants to explore using more vocals while continuing to compose, record and release albums. It’s a challenge he’s willing to take on because it will make it easier to interact with an audience.
“I have a decent range if I try to stay within the tenor,” he said. “I’m not a Freddie Mercury, but I have a few songs that I write. There are things that I think I can do with my voice that other people can’t.
Dan Dave Larson opens for Aesthetic Perfection at Launchpad on November 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $17