Editor’s note: NoiseArt Collective, the eclectic, prolific, creative outlet of Tathra-based electronic musician David Schmidt, began as a whim. David shares his story with you via About Regional hoping to inspire a sense of hope for anyone dealing with tough times.
A friend at a Daniel Champagne concert commented that he’d like to do something with music but “couldn’t really play anything.”
“Me either,” I said, “Let’s start a band.”
While that collaboration didn’t really progress it did give birth to the name, NoiseArt Collective and provided the spark I needed to embark on a journey of musical discovery.
It really was a name that gave us a get out clause. If what we made was unlistenable then that was the ‘NoiseArt’ bit. But I knew a bit of guitar and I started to pick up the electronic side. It seemed to click and I found a sound pretty quickly.
It was mid-2017 and the massive storm that rocked Tathra the previous year was still fresh in my memory. I was also learning to live with chronic depression. It was out of that swirl of emotions that the first album, East Coast Low was written.
Of course, since then Tathra has had bushfires to contend with and music has continued to play a healing role in my life.
From the start, I really wanted to connect with others who had or are experiencing depression or other mental health issues and say – “that it’s ok. You can live and love and learn to find a way out of that dark place.”
To really bring home the message, the album was released to coincide with World Mental Health Day.
It was fantastic that ABC South East offered to interview me and play some of the songs. It really created an avenue to open up conversations about mental health. And money from the sale of the album went to support Beyond Blue.
It has really become a mission for me.
Since that first album, the project has gone on to release 11 more albums and an ep, all in the space of two years. I am the sole regular member of the project, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of variety of ideas.
I don’t listen to just one genre of music, which influences what I do.
The albums have ranged from 1980s style synthpop through to gothic rock and metal via alternative, techno, industrial, rap and ambient. This variety has been reinforced by the diverse range of instruments used.
I figure that anything can be an instrument. So while I play guitar, ukulele, bass, piano and drums amongst the electronic elements, there’s kazoo or a clock or even me hitting a tyre with a spanner. Whatever it takes to achieve the sound I hear in my head.
Along the way the project received a boost of confidence, being signed by the Canberra-based Unleashed Music label and releasing the most uplifting album in the catalogue – ‘All The Beautiful Bright Colours My Mind Just Sometimes Cannot See’.
That optimism was short lived though, with Unleashed folding just prior to the follow-up album – ‘The Darkness Behind The Eyes’. Undeterred, I began to self distribute and now all NoiseArt Collective albums are available through the majority of digital platforms.
One thing that hasn’t happened yet is a live performance. The complexity of reproducing an electronic rock sound is one stumbling block, but I live with chronic pain and it means I can’t play any instrument for too long before that flares up.
That means I don’t practice enough to get good enough to play live!
Through it all the message of the project remains unchanged – hope!
No matter how hard it is and how dark it is, there are people who have been there and who understand – reach out, get help.
If I can connect and make a difference to one person, then it’s worth it.
Words by David Schmidt, Tathra.