A song a day in May — dep’s “Mayday 2015”

Local musician and composer Danny Peck, aka dep, has set a challenge for himself this month: To compose, record and post one song each day. The project, called Mayday 2015, is being updated a song at a time on Bandcamp and Facebook where listeners can stream and purchase the music. “The instrumentations are all rather deep and complex,” Peck says. “The music is mostly instrumental, rooted in electronica and film score.”

Songs range from the uplifting and delicately staccato “May 1st,” the initial track of the collection, to the darker, buzzier, boomier — and significantly longer — “May 5th,” to the dancey and oxygen-rich “May 12th.” The shimmery, dynamic “May 10th” is dedicated, appropriately to Peck’s mother. The entire collection, to date, is stitched together with the continuity of Peck’s emotionalism and thoughtful touch. But each song is different — some gauzier, dreamier while others command attention and reverberate with rich sonic textures.

Mountain Xpress: What is the story behind the project?
Danny Peck:
The first thing I think about when I hear the phrase “Mayday” is the panic cry pilots give when their plane’s going down. Making music has always kinda felt like that to me. I have to be learning, the production quality always has to be getting better, or it will all just come crashing down. So Mayday makes me lock in to the process every day and work to improve as a musician and a producer. Plus, just the tie-in to May, that is a song-a-day, so in that way, Mayday totally says what it is, too.

You also did this in 2012 — what did you learn then that you’re applying now?
I did do this in 2012 and this year feels totally different than that one. I learned to start early in the day. I’ll be up before 6 a.m. to start on the day’s song. In 2012, I don’t think I had the discipline that I do today, so I’d put it off until the evening and then next thing I knew, it was 10 p.m. and I still had to crank out a song, so of course it ended up being more of a sketch than anything. I wanted this year to be different. I want each song to stand on its own and feel polished, not like it was done in a day.

How long does a song take, and are you composing and recording each day or are these song ideas that were already in the works?
It depends on the day, but a song from conception to recording to having it online and spread across Facebook/Twitter/etc. can take anywhere from 3 to 10 hours. On my best days I can get up at 5:45 a.m., hit a really great flow and be done by 9 a.m.. Other days, perhaps where there is an idea that takes longer to develop and is just more time intensive in general, I’ll pause to go to work and then resume that night after dinner. On those days I don’t finish until around 8:30 to 9 p.m. or later. I start from scratch, everyday from square one.

Are the songs all electronic? What sort of equipment are you using?
So far all electronic. I might get in to some analog stuff as the month goes on, but right now I’ve just been feeling the digital soundscapes! I haven’t really pulled in a lot of fancy equipment yet, so I’m working within my go-to DAW/sequencer called Renoise (it really is the coolest damn piece of software I’ve ever used). Each instrument is represented as a vertical column, each row of which is a fraction of a beat in time. So 16 rows within one column could equal four single beats of one measure. The best part is, I can have an infinite number of these damned things. So I have a tendency to build layer upon layer upon layer of sound just because I can. It’s not uncommon that I would have 16 different tracks playing the same note on the piano but given each its own effect chain (EQ, reverb, pan, etc.). I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of layering infinitely. Perhaps dedicate 24 tracks to my own synthesized orchestra comprised of violins, violas, cellos, contrabass. Then spend the next couple of hours writing those parts out and playing with the effect chains of each instrument, virtual mic placement, the list goes on forever.

I notice you’re posting them at various times of the day. Does that mean you’re composing and recording at various times, too? If so, how does that effect the music?
I do record throughout the day. The time that’s posted with the song is the time the song was actually posted online. When I write in the morning, my music is usually far more serene and ambient. Calm like the morning. Waking up with coffee and writing music is the best gift ever. I feel so lucky to have that in my life. With a puppy in my lap to boot. Life is good. When songs spill into the evening, they definitely get more percussive. I never thought about it before, but it’s funny how that works.

What is your hope for the project? What do you want to get out of it and what do you want listeners to take away?
I always want to take listeners on a journey. Put on some good headphones, lie down, pause life and just listen to music. If I can bring just one person a pause in their life where the music helps them to connect with something deeper than the daily grind — for just a minute — then I have succeeded!

I had someone write to me once and they told me they were driving alone one night listening to my music, and that at one point they literally had to pull over and cry for a minute. That. As someone who makes any type of thing to share with other people, that is the visceral reaction that we all crave, I think. That story was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received as someone who makes music.

I just want to reach people. That’s what I want to do with Mayday. It helps me reach people every day, and at the end, there is a body of work — an album — that people who perhaps didn’t follow along every day, they can hear it from start to finish and enjoy the progression. Mayday’s a glimpse into my life through music, and maybe it’s a reminder that we can all find ways in which we’re similar. Sometimes music helps me connect to something deeper than the day-to-day. I want to be able to do that for people with my music, and I’ll continue to dedicate all my extra hours to doing just that. So Mayday’s my transparent daily practice. Trying to keep my plane, and the planes of those who listen, up in the air.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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