Interview by Kristie DiLascio
I sat down with Dave Klinger of Forgetter to get to know the inspiration behind his unique melodies and captivating, narrative song style. Jumping into Dave Klinger’s world for just a little bit, I got to understand more about his composition style, experiences with his former band Frau Eva, and the uniqueness he brings to BLIGHT.
Who would you say are Forgetter´s biggest influences?
I´ve probably been most obsessed with Elliott Smith. Growing up, my uncle gave me an album by Frank Zappa, ¨Hot Rats¨. And I went through a big Radiohead phase in college - I got more into them than I had ever gotten into another band before. But more recently, I went up to New York, hoping to study music with a friend of mine… a hero of mine, a piano player and amazing musician, Jonathan Wood Vincent. That didn´t pan out because he was moving to Montreal but he suggested I hit up his friend (Ed Pastorini) who teaches piano. And I ended up studying with him for a couple of months. His band is called 101 Crustaceans. Basically, I´ve always been kind of obsessed with chord changes. Harmony is also a focus, I guess that´s also a focus of Ed Pastorini´s music. It was great to study with someone who´s focused on the same things you are focused on. He´s a genius, musically brilliant.
I´d like to talk about your playing style -- it has a lot of emotion, but it´s technically specific at the same time.
I studied music composition in college, and I´ve had some piano lessons here and there… but mainly it´s from practicing things that are challenging that you get better. My songs are harmonically interesting, and some of that was aided by what I learned in college. But for the most part I´m using my ear and just practicing how to play songs and getting better at them-- especially if you write things that you don´t already know how to play, so you have to figure out how to make your fingers play the song.
So, in other words, your compositions are living in your mind and you´re breathing life to them?
No… I don´t conceptualize my songs before I write them down. I just sit at the piano and play a few notes, and then I try to figure out where those notes want to go. I exploring music while sitting down at the piano. I start with a few chords that I´ve found on the piano, or maybe just two chords, a set of notes. From those, I just try to figure out where a song would go from a starting point.
You told me a couple of days ago that most of your stuff is unreleased… and obviously you're spending a lot of time putting your mind to creating.
I have a whole album unreleased, of 17 songs, which I´ve been working on for 5 years. I write songs very often but completing them is challenging. I spent over 5 years working on one album but that doesn´t mean I was constantly working on it. Most of the time I just spent thinking about whether a song needed something more, worrying about that… but it´s done now.
Would you say that the process to completing a song is related to reaching a certain standard in your mind?
Yes. And i feel like it would be good to work on making that standard be something that would allow me to produce more, not have to worry about all of this elaborate production. On the album, I had over a dozen friends collaborate with me on it, but I spent a lot of time writing out their parts. Depending on the person, I often wrote out their parts and read the parts… and that makes things take forever to get completed.
There´s a lot of pressure these days to get something on a blog, have a show… You want to release a track but you don´t want it to go into the universe, never to be seen or heard from again.
¨Maybe if that last track was just a little bit better, then people would share it with their friends and it would catch on more, or get picked up by more websites...¨ -- that´s what you think about when you are ¨neurotically laboring over a song¨. You can put too much into your ego and romanticizing the stuff you´re making - love can be problematic (laughs).
I wanted to ask you about the experience of being in a group as Frau Eva (with Ben Usie of Bruisey Peets, Vanessa DeGrassi of deLune Deluge and Billy Noom) versus the experience of being a solo artist as Forgetter.
I played keys and trumpet. I loved being in a group with my best friends. It was collaborative. Whenever I create something, I second guess it a lot and I worry about ¨maybe I should scrap it, do something different¨. It´s so much better when you have other people that you trust, when it´s a collaborative effort. At the same time, there are also fights for that reason… but I miss it. It´s really hard when you are the only person that has the final say on the songs.
Do you feel like you´re more in the driver´s seat with Forgetter?
It´s only me writing the songs now. The Forgetter songs are more just my vision, and there´s something nice about that. I´m not sure if it´s better to have one unified vision. In Frau Eva, the music would get away from what you were envisioning, and you´d get mad...and that causes fights in bands because people are very protective of what they feel is the best thing for the song. It´s hard to articulate your vision sometimes, and not everyone has the same view. But in the end, we eventually always got to a place in Frau Eva where the song improved from everyone´s individual ideas.
Do you think that the experience of being in Frau Eva helped you to narrow down on what you wanted to do for your own project?
Frau Eva was my first serious band, so it had a huge influence on everything I do now.
Watching Forgetter, it´s quite easy for the audience to get lost in the music while at the same time be listening intently to your lyrics, which are often a running narration. I´d love to know where you get the ideas for the things you´re narrating.
Sometimes I put a lot of thought into it, other times it´s at the spur of the moment. Sometimes it´s a funny idea that comes to me, that I flesh out. I cycle through different ideas that I share with the audience. Usually if it´s spur of the moment, it´s probably self-deprecating (laughs)... like I´m just gonna do the best I can¨.