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Post Punk Icon David Chesworth's Videos Are a Trip Back to 70s Sound and Style

The Melbourne composer has released videos to coincide with the reissue of his 1979 classic ’50 Synthisizer Greats’.

Electronic experimental composer David Chesworth's career began in the late 70s with his work with Melbourne minimal post punk duo Essendon Airport. Around that time, in the lounge room of his parent's suburban home, not far from the actual Essendon airport, David recorded a number of solo recordings. Setting up an Akai reel-to-reel tape recorder and a Korg 700 synth, borrowed from fellow post-punk icons → ↑ → , Chesworth recorded a number of tracks.

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Originally self-released, 50 Synthisizer Greats was actually 37 tracks of minimal synth explorations that demonstrated Chesworth's imaginative and experimental spirit.

The remastered album is about to be reissued on vinyl and digitally though Chapter Music, and to coincide with the reissue Chesworth has released a number of videos made using the EMS Spectron, an original 70s video synthesizer.

Watch the videos below and read a chat we had with David about the album.

Noisey: The album contains 37 tracks. Did you plan on including 50?
David Chesworth: I made the recordings without thinking they would be released on a record as they were made on cheap domestic equipment - a far cry from the sophistication of recording studios at that time and where really just an explosion of ideas - very unpolished. It was friend Philip Brophy who suggested I release them. I had to remove a bunch of tracks because 50 tracks wouldn't fit on the vinyl. So I kicked out the tracks I liked least, and I guess I must have thrown them out because I don't have them any more - except for one track that was removed at the last moment in the LP cutting room because one side was still too long - and that track appears on the digital version of the album. In fact the new release is a completely new cut of the record and sounds so much better than the original release.

Was the title deliberately misspelled?
No, we just couldn't spell. In fact I had no idea it was misspelt until Guy Blackman (of Chapter Music) pointed it out to me.

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This is the first time it has been reissued on vinyl. Did you find a growing interest in your early work after the Essendon Airport reissues?
I think that might be so. I think there is also an interest in music from the post punk period that reflected a sudden move away from commercially-driven, high-end production towards DYI, home-made recordings. The simple synth that I used and the cheap reel-to-real tape recorder that I bought in a store for the first time put the means of making electronic music into the hands of all of us instead of the chosen few. All the imperfections in the cheap technology and clunky playing techniques suddenly became interesting musically to people.

The album was recorded in late 78 around the same time that Essendon Airport was founded. Did the two projects sit separately?
Yes, in fact 50 Synthesizer Greats came slightly earlier although Robert Goodge (Essendon Airport guitarist) and I were already mucking around with musical ideas. Both projects though were equally driven by our search for new ways to do things that were not just reiterating modern experimentalism on one hand, and commercial pop music on the other - I guess, what we produced were self-aware, hybrid, neurotic versions of those existing forms.

I'm curious about the song title "Joe Fibernacci – Private Eye". Was this based on a true person?
Ha, he could be! In fact a fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers where a number is found by adding up the two numbers before it. Starting with 0 and 1, the sequence goes 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 and so on. When this series is translated to the musical keyboard it forms a riff that sounds like a private-eye movie soundtrack!

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Were these songs performed live?
A few of them I rearranged much later for my group the David Chesworth Ensemble and can be heard on the CD Exotica Suite. I also played a couple of the tracks with Robert Goodge and Graham Lee (Triffids), when EA briefly reformed a few years back.

Can you tell us about the videos that you've made?
They were made at the same time as 50 Synthesizer Greats using an EMS Spectron video synthesiser. (It is the same video synth that is used on Plastic Bertrand's clip for "Ca Plane Pour Moi"). There were only 15 built. They had one at LaTrobe University where I did a course in experimental music way back. I've just discovered that the synth still exists and will try and get it working again.

'50 Synthesizer Greats' is available March 31 on Chapter Music.

Image: Chapter Music