review from Madhouse, march '07, Gregor Everitt
Your eyes are closed; you aren't sure where you are. Outside, probably, given the chorus of crickets whose song fills your ears. Birds sing in the distance. Several kinds of birds. Monkeys chatter in what must be trees because you can hear the branches rub together and the leaves shake. The wind rushes somewhere, first gently and then with more force, though you can't feel any breezes. What? Goats? A lot of them, too, gossiping amongst themselves as they root around in the underbrush. A waterfall burbles nearby. Other, less distinct sounds merge into a blanket that wraps around you as you lay back and open your eyes to find that you're not outside: you're in a coffeehouse, and db pedersen is on stage, solo, without any animals or plants or natural features to back him up...just a looper, a bass guitar, a bansuri flute, a microphone, an amp, and his seemingly overpopulated larynx. You blink a few times and wonder how you came from a jungle back to Madison, Wisconsin, so quickly.
The story of how you got to that jungle spans many years and thousands of miles. db grew up in the San Francisco area and had always enjoyed singing in his early years--not only in choral groups and other stage performances but also for his own pleasure. He mastered traditional Western modes of singing but always liked making weird noises or mimicking sounds like a parrot (later in life, he ended up working with African Gray parrots, so there you go). Prog rock caught his interest as adolescence approached, and he prided himself on being able to sing all the parts in Yes songs (including, at times, the nonvocal bits). The strange noises continued when on his own, but by the time he was giving Jon Anderson a run for his money, he had taken a long break from public singing...a break that lasted about thirty years...until 1998, after moving to Madison. Reading the ads in the paper, he found a band called NG Kindheit seeking someone to help them perform "unconventional cartoon noise ballads" and "explore the absurd." Thus he found himself as the lead singer for a real live rock'n'roll combo, a stint that lasted about two and a half years and included getting to record a seven-inch single at Steve Albini's studio. NG Kindheit got good attention in the local press but still ended up drifting apart, after which time db lent his talents to improv jazz groups. He also worked with a band called Davenport, with which he toured the East Coast. Striking up friendships with co-workers at Lazy Jane's on Willy St. sometime after all that led to the formation of Three Bags Full, a formidable, heavy four- or five-man combo that also garnered considerable attention around town, not the least owing to his amazing vocal range; after a hiatus, it reformed as Dei Agnus and played a few gigs.
Meanwhile, at some point in the preceding paragraph--hey, we began in a jungle that turned out to be a coffeehouse, so don't expect a totally linear narrative here in db's world--he was working as a shepherd in New Glarus, just to our south. While trying to sing The Birthday Party's "The Fear of God," he found his larynx was doing some very novel things...painful at first, but then he conquered that and explored this seemingly unique vocal style. He hurled these noises at the sky and the sheep, but one day a friend overheard him and told him that he'd somehow taught himself Tuvan throat singing...an art, coincidentally enough, associated with shepherds. If you've heard anything by Albert Kuzevin and Yat-Kha, then you're familiar with the sound...multiple tones issuing simultaneously with an unearthly buzzing, whistling timbre. You'll hear much of that, as well as more conventional singing, on db's new CD entitled Carrot! Carrot!, which resulted from his seeing many Mr. Bungle shows during a recent stay in his hometown of San Francisco. "I decided that I'd had my chance, so I'd give up being in a band," he told me, and thus Carrot! Carrot! represents db left to his own devices, literally. Everything you hear during his performances or on the CD is him--the vocals are overdubbed and layered with a looper, yes, but there is no processing or pitch shifting whatsoever (hence the appearance one by one of the jungle denizens as you laid back at the start of this article). Songs like "Turtle House" showcase his instrumental as well as vocal stylings and highlight his juxtaposition of humor and play with the deadly serious.
Man proposes and God disposes, as the saying goes...twenty minutes after washing his hands of working in another rock band, he got a call from members of Rope, a band originally from Poland but now based out of Chicago. db had opened as a solo act for them at the High Noon Saloon a couple of years ago. They didn't forget him, and once again Fortune checked its watch and smiled upon them all. He's down there by Lake Michigan every other weekend these days rehearsing with these folks, who now go by the name Matnia (Polish for "cul de sac"), and you will have a chance to check them out, in all their glory and splendor, on March 22 at The Note in Chicago and/or on April 19 right here at our very own King Club. db continues to perform solo at various venues in and around Madison, so when you see him listed in a Coming Events calendar, don't miss out on your chance to end up in a jungle...or wherever else db's mind and vocal chords might care to take you. You'll like where you end up, wherever you really are.
If you'd like an aural taste of db's sorcery, get on the Internet and steer your course to www.myspace.com/dbpedersen and www.myspace.com/matniaband. I'll sign off for now, but until next time, remember to crank the tunes as loud as you can because every time you piss off your neighbors, an angel gets its wings.
2007 gregor everitt
Carrot Carrot! from Kootja's Headphones, Theresa Behnen, 2006
I’ve only been a little familiar with throat singing before hearing db Pedersen. I had heard a Smithsonian Folkways recording as little more than an anthropological curiosity. Björk’s vocal album, Medulla, which brought Canadian throat singer Tanya Tagaq’s Inuit-influenced style into some wider attention, only seemed musically hindered by the repetitive breathing of the inuit’s less melodic sound. Yat-Kha’sYenisei Punk seemed interesting as it promised throat-sung covers of popular rock songs, but it lacked the vocal prowess to create something beautiful, instead resulting in a collection of monotonous yet vaguely familiar songs. db Pedersen managed to do something quite a bit more remarkable; he mastered a complex and quite novel traditional skill and put it in a modern musical context.
Originally having “invented” this style of singing while dealing with his own personal demons –causing him to yell and scream unto the sky until his voice snapped in half—db was free from the traditional preconceptions of what throat singing was supposed to sound like. Always having been skilled with sound effects and nature-mimicry, db has recorded minimalist improv performances, such as Live at Mother Fool’s, that were beautiful but too extended to really hit home for me. On Carrot Carrot! db uses the perhaps more culturally relevant musical form, called the “song,” to allow him to showcase the versatility and occasionally transcendent qualities of his voice.
On Turtle House –the song that really tugs at me—he is singing lyrics in a voice like an ethereal Tom Waits, so that the words can not really be deciphered but still imagined. To Leave You makes it clear enough to understand, but breaks the sounds down; in and out of the throat. Walk On is free of lyrics and sounds more like improv singing, but it keeps it close enough to stay interesting and darkly beautiful, reminiscent at times of Meredith Monk. A few more tracks, All Hoped Up in particular, drove me into heavy Mike Pattonnostalgia and I found myself pulling up my old Mr. Bungle and Faith No More CDs as well as looking into his more recent projects.
Ultimately, db Pedersen brought together his musical influences and traditional-based singing style into a collection of songs that take the unique, weird, and underappreciated, but make it culturally relevant; make it something we can relate to and use. I like a variety of music, but I’m pretty much wired for songs. I need a dense 2-20 minute package in order to make sense of it. Throat singing wasn’t new to me, but now it makes sense to me; it’s something I can use.
Exit Interview, Scott Gordon for Onion Madison's AV Club, August 2009
When DB Pedersen leaves Madison for the Bay Area this fall after 13
years in town, he'll leave behind not just his solo recordings and memories
of his inimitable vocals—a combination of melodic, polytoned Tuvan throatsinging
and eerily accurate nature sounds, often looped over simple basslines or flute melodies—but also a mischievous trail that twists through the fragments of Madison music and arts in the most unlikely
combinations. Pedersen and his loop pedal nurtured their playful improvisation with help from Madison's somewhat insular community of experimental musicians, but he's also shared bills with more straight ahead rock bands; he's lent vocal sound effects to plays by local theater group
Mercury Players Theatre, and was going to make his actual stage debut in a currently on hold
production of Shakespeare's Troilus And Cressida; he's cooked in local restaurants from Lazy Jane's to L'Etoile; and he's probably one of the few Madison musicians who'll admit to being influenced by progrock band Yes and one-man vocal orchestra BobbyMcFerrin. He may also be the only person on earth who says he'd like to be in "a Sleepytime Gorilla Museum type band." But that's the kind of spirit Pedersen has: He's an outsider who's wandered through music like a hippie prankster, full of smartassery and optimism.
Pedersen satdown with The A.V. Club to talk about farming sheep, the new album he's working on, and his short stint as a paramedic in Oakland.
The A.V. Club: How does a song like "Effed Up Cows," which is basically just loops of
animal sounds, come about?
DB Pedersen: That's completely improvised. They come from the ability to disconnect from
standard thoughts about music, I guess. I don't really know, because I'm not a trained musician. I'm
selftrained. I can get into formless and be comfortable with it.
AVC: Well, self trained is one thing, but it's like you're totally removed from the
whole track of learning your craft by playing in a lot of bands and writing songs in a
DBP: The voice is from playing the didgeridoo for a few years and then figuring out that I could do
that on my own. And I hadn't heard Tuvan throat singing before. I happened to be farming sheep,
came up with it, and people were like, "Yeah, people farm sheep on the other side of the world and
they do this singing."
AVC: You're part of this underground music community here, and a big part of that is
collaboration and improvisation. How do you go about adapting to different collaborators?
DBP: I really lucked out. I got really great teachers when I came here and became a musician. I wasn't a musician before I came here. I did choirs and stuff as a kid. I basically sang in the shower until I was 35. I got out here and started really opening up, and doing interesting enough things with my voice that I got people's attention and they're like, "Okay, let's collaborate with that guy." And they taught me how to collaborate, which is, "Okay, we're gonna go in, here's a basic idea for a structure, we don't have to repeat that structure when we perform it, but let's do something based on that." The hardest thing for me to do—I only Gomeroke'd for the first time two nights ago. I did Steely Dan's "Reelin' In The Years," and I actually made it through the song. Everybody was like, "Well, that was exceedingly creepy." So I put my bells and whistles on it.
AVC: You've performed for kids before, right?
DBP: Yeah, in Tomahawk, Wis. That was the inservice day, when they hired musicians around to
come up and entertain the kids, and it was me in the gymnasium and the singing lumberjack in the
auditorium. I had two groups of 350 kids, and it was a blast. I just put on one of those cordless mics
and just made up stories—the non-edgier stories of my life—talked about sheep farming and
didgeridoo playing and this and that. It kind of broke down into "Do Sponge Bob! Do Sponge Bob!"
I shoulda done my homework the night before and really nailed Sponge Bob, but what can you do?
They'll never call me back, but it wasn't a bad experience.
AVC: How will the vocal style on your new songs be different?
DBP: I would say that it goes toward a more melodic, Tom Waitsy kind of feel to it. I don't think
that's selling myself out in any way. It's just that that's what it's going toward. It's been really hard to
screw things down and put myself first and show up and be the vocalist. For years, why I have all these obtuse, weird recordings is I've been hiding behind bands and making little things to increase the weirdness of it. Just adding to the overall texture of things, instead of being a more forward
instrument. Or if I'm the forward instrument, I just kind of play horn with my face. That's decreasing. I hope that's still available, but I would like to work the poetry angle of it. Oh, fuck, I said it. [Laughs.]
AVC: What are the most challenging sounds you've attempted to make with your voice?
DBP: Usually horses or elephants. They just require a tonality that I haven't found yet. But throat
singing was really tough, and a lot of people told me not to do it, because it was painful for the first
year. I got a teacher afterwards, who was like, "Yeah, you're doing these things wrong and you're
doing these things right, but don't do it when it hurts. You gotta back off."
AVC: You'll get into some pretty personal stories in live performances. What makes
you want to share all that with an audience?
DBP: My stories are what have formed me. For example, in the brief time that I was a paramedic, I
delivered six babies. They were all perfect. They were all A-number-one-okay babies. And I'd get off work and see the guys from other ambulances and they were like, "God dammit, if I deliver another fuckin' crack baby again...." There was like this really weird gift in which I got away with always getting to see the more beautiful side of things. It wasn't just blood and guts. There was a lot of that, but I lucked out. I want to share those stories, because there's a reason that I get to see things. Sometimes I know what that is, and sometimes, if the timing is just right, it comes out in performance.... I would like that to be how I make a living, and it's hard to do in Madison. When I go to New York and step off the subway and start throatsinging, people are like, "Oh, you're a Tuvan throatsinger." Here, it's like, "What have you got in your mouth?"
Several artists nominated for this year’s (2007)Madison Area Music Awards spill over into a category simply called "unique". It sounds like a cop-out, but it really just means the music is too diverse to cram into the usual categories. From rappers to a throat singer, The A.V. Club found a strange cast of characters among its favorite nominated artists.
He’s worked on a sheep farm, doodles with looping machines and hand drums, and loves to tell the story of his spiritual rebirth as a throat-singer. But db pedersen’s too mischievious and gravelly to fit some earth-child stereotype, channeling more Mike Patton than drum circle. This is, after all, the man who’s MySpace page recently stated, "Note: cross rimming Sheryl Crow off to-do list." Live, Pedersen’s voice drones and gurgles over entrancing loops of sheep noises and bass guitar, his hysterical, sad stories flowing freely into the music. His latest album, Carrot Carrot!, layers on some extra noise and switches through appraoches with a frequency that’s maddening in the best possible way. Madison almost lost Pedersen this year when a Chicago band, Matnia, recruited him, but he left the project after a few weeks to continue as a solo artist.
review from Isthmus 9/26/07, Tom Laskin
There's something both mournful and ecstatic about the intriguing takes on throat singing that fill db Pedersen's full-length debut, Carrot Carrot! His promo material describes him as a folk artist, but don't let that fool you. Although he borrows some technique from the strange, overtone-rich style of singing practiced by the Tuvan nomads of the Siberian/Mongolian border, he has no interest in imitating their tradition.
Instead, Pedersen moves between lulling, groove-based pieces that share something with electronic moodists like Dead Can Dance, Tom Waits-brushed hipster lowing, and more unbridled compositions that move into vanguard territory touched upon by Laurie Anderson, Robert Ashley and other sonic explorers of the '60s and '70s. Indeed, it's easy to picture him performing the more demanding pieces from Carrot Carrot! in both nightclubs and progressive art spaces both here and abroad.
Sometimes Pedersen's voice is guttural and brooding, but it can also be very light and ethereal. And when he imitates birds and other creatures of the forest and field on the bucolic "Up a Ways," he lets out high twitters and warbles that dance with a kind of operatic grace. The music that accompanies his vocal gymnastics is minimal, and that's as it should be. Anything more than the jazz and rock bass loops, some Bansuri flute and simple, vaguely "global" percussion parts that make up the backing tracks would probably just get in the way.
Tom Laskin, Isthmus Magazine, 9/26/07
review from foxy digitalis
DB Pedersen "Carrot Carrot!"
Skulls Of Heaven
Those familiar with the output of Davenport and the Davenport Family may immediately recognize the odd throat singing of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist DB Pederson. On "Carrot Carrot!" Pederson's voice is brought out of the murky layers of the Davenport Family's forest to front eleven quirky (almost) pop flavored tunes. Each song is simply composed of layers of Pederson's voice, accompanied by gentle bass playing with the subtle touch of flute or percussion on some tracks.
What strikes the listener immediately is the rather alien approach Pederson has to singing. Most of Peterson's vocals are presented in a guttural form of throat singing, which he accompanies with very accurately rendered imitations of animal, insect and bird noises. The songs themselves are rather traditional in structure, and strongest when the vocals become more abstract. The more one is able to understand the lyrics, the less interesting the work tends to become.
The overall quality of songs on this recording is rather hit and miss. The first five tracks create an incredibly strong beginning but "Carrot Carrot!" falters at the sixth track and has trouble recovering from that point on. The album opener, "Turtle House" is probably the highlight of the recording; with its gentle bass line, accompanied by some great flourishes on the flute leading into Pederson's otherworldly voice ruminating over some lost moment in time. "To Leave You" follows, which is an exception to the abstraction clause above, as it recasts a very typical song into something rather strange without going over the edge and becoming cartoonish, even though the song is filled with backing loops of sheep/goat voices. The high point of the later half of the album is an a cappella number entitled "Up A Ways," which manages to both successfully demonstrate Pederson's vocal capabilities, while taking the listener beyond technique. This time Pederson keeps with his strengths and keeps the words very abstract with guttural prayer, gurgling noises and birdcalls.
Overall "Carrot Carrot!" is a rather quirky and intriguing listen that may lose steam at times, but still warrants repeated listening. 6/10 (3 July, 2007)
review from apex online
DB Pedersen - Carrot Carrot! cd (23 Productions)
This is one of the most engagingly versatile voices I've heard in a while. Pedersen takes the polytonal texture of something akin to Tuvan singing ("throat singing", if you like) and allies it to a gruff soulfulness akin to Doctor John. Just when you think you've got the idea, he trills some bird calls, double speeds his voice and it's more like Joe Meek working on a session with the Bonzo Dog Band! In case you need any further encouragement to buy this fine album, D.B. also does a line in sheep calls! Need I say more…? (JC)
review from Rick's Cafe, 02/07, Rick Tvedt
Bringing the Light
Rick's Cafe, February 2007
Carrot Carrot! is quite simply one of the most remarkable recordings that I've ever heard. For those not familiar with him, db pedersen grew up on a Wisconsin farm where he taught himself to mimic nature, eventually becoming a self-taught multi-tonal voice stylist. His various excursions with 3bags full and his own solo outings have been more experimental and improvisational forays. This time around there is more than a concept; there is a purpose, at times stimulating pedersen to apply the mechanics of his amazing throat to actual lyrics. This approach brings the music sharply into focus, particularly after one reads the liner notes and understands the backdrop and the catalyst for this project.
Aside from pedersen's bass playing and his bansuri flute (an instrument associated with Indian cowherders and holding special significance in Hindu folklore) all of the sounds are the result of pedersen's voice. Percussives are also provided by Laura DiJulius. Production and recording was done by Jeff Mann, who is also credited with nudging pedersen along and making this album a reality. Mann is to be commended for capturing pedersen in a creative apex, with minimal processing and effects. The album's layout and design by Theresa Behnen is impressive, featuring some stunning photography. (Hey! I took those! db)
The impetus behind this creative apex lies within pedersen's bond with DiJulius' seven year-old son, Jeremy Zion Dijulius Rocha, a relationship pedersen describes as "being in (Rocha's) tutelage." Jeremy took ill and passed away while pedersen was in Canada. "A scarlet tanager hopped about the trees in my cousin Nikki's yard in Guelph, declaring his ballad: hurry home," pedersen writes in the liner notes. These songs were realized over th course of the next few months. pedersen writes, "Carrot Carrot! is letting the light out of the jar, forgetting so much language, and letting me re-member the gift of being a child before i'm too far past any hope of ever appreciating it."
With this knowledge, Carrot Carrot! becomes more remarkable than the sounds that the disc produces. It's an incredibly moving experience as it travels through acceptance, understanding, healing, and release. With pedersen reproducing bird calls, waterfalls, flowing water, insects and wind, Carrot Carrot! is more than music; this is the sound of life, and at it's core is a mysterious and indescribable beauty.
review from Maximum Ink, Andrew Frey
And Then There's That
If Lon Chaney was the man of a thousand faces, then DB Pedersen is the man of a thousand sounds. However, instead of taking his vocal eccentricities to the big screen or commercial excess, DB takes his to the experimental.
"And Then There's That" is a very diverse disk filled with soundscapes of barnyard animal sounds, monster screams, bird calls, quite a bit of Tuvan style throat singing, flute playing, spoken word, jazzy riffs, some feedback and a bit of guitar. Sometimes they are heard separately. Sometimes they are overlayed, frayed and delayed. The important thing to note is that most of these sounds originated in DB's throat. Outside of performing as DB Pedersen, Dave Pedersen also fronts the band 3 Bags Full, and is one of the DJs on WORT’s 2-5am Mon morning slot, known as "In One End." Andrew Frey
(this review originally appeared in june 2002)
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