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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 24, 2014

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In Music

Where are they now: Dave Cooley


After talking with former Citizen King manager Jeff Castelaz, who has built a successful music empire in Los Angeles, it made perfect sense to catch up with former C.K. keyboardist Dave Cooley, now a producer in L.A., who is still represented by Castelaz.

It's tempting to describe Cooley as the musical brains behind Citizen King. After all, his time tickling the ivories with Wild Kingdom prepped him to become a major part not only of conceptualizing C.K., but also making the band's infectious mix of funk, soul and rock a reality. However, anyone who witnessed the band's development knows that Citizen King was that rare breed: a band of not only accomplished, dedicated musicians, but of passionate music fans with wide-open ears and a scrappy ability to fold anything into the groove.

Although these days Cooley isn't out front as a performer like former bandmate Matt "Mount" Sims, he has continued to be essential in creating music in his role as a producer, songwriter, mixer and mastering engineer at Los Angeles' Echo Park Studio.

His resume includes work with Queens of the Stone Age, Smash Mouth, Silversun Pickups, J Dilla, Good Charlotte and a few dozen other rock and hip-hop artists.

We asked him about he made the transition from the microphone to the mixing board -- and from Milwaukeean to L.A. resident -- as well as what's he's up to these days.

OMC: When did you move out to L.A. for good? Had C.K. already split by then?

DC: I moved out to L.A. in late 2000, and yeah, Citizen King was broken up by that point. It was a weird, really disappointing time for me but I realized that I was starting over and I'd find my way through it. We were in the process of dismantling our recording studio and I had just returned from a trip to Barcelona with Recycled Future.

At that point, I really never had considered L.A. as being home, but that's where all of my business connections were in music and I had an opportunity to work on a record there. The hardest part was that I was still really good friends with almost all of my old bandmates, and it was hard to move away from them and family.

OMC: Were you working right away when you got out there?

DC: I was staying in a crazy hotel in the Hollywood Hills with a giant sushi restaurant overlooking the city. Very surreal, like a Jim Jarmusch movie or something. At the time I was assisting producer Eric Valentine (who had worked with Citizen King, Smash Mouth and Third Eye Blind) on some different projects, including Queens of the Stone Age, Good Charlotte and others.

Eric's an amazing cat. I learned a lot from him about how to inspire and capture the best recordings. I also had a lot of annoying "hey Spike, why'd you set the 2254 compressor that way?" questions -- technical questions -- and he was very patient and willing to share his knowledge.

OMC: Had you already started doing some production and studio work with other bands during the CK era?

DC: I had worked with Paul Cebar in 2000, and we worked on some material that ended up on his "Bottle of Dream" record (which has yet to be released, -ed.). He had this material that had sort of an updated Folkways Records vibe; field recordings mixed with low-fidelity sampling. I helped him with the low-fidelity part, and brought an outside perspective to stir things up a bit; to help bring a ruggedness to the music.

OMC: Do you still write and play at all or is all your time and creativity expressing itself in producing, mixing and mastering?

DC: This is a really good question because it acknowledges the artistry in producing and mixing. I still work creatively on songwriting with the bands, but I don't fully write material for them per se. With certain artists, like Mickey Avalon, I do all the music: creating beats, playing bass, guitar, keys, etc. and then mix the project as I go.

But I really feel like producing is the most creative for me, because I have to find new ways to pull the best out of the artist. Some people need shaking up, some people need to look at their music through a new lens, some people just need to take a break. But finding the core issue for them is key. Really, my biggest goal is to help them sound more like themselves, and then get out of the way. It sounds easy, but it's not. Music is an emotional endeavor and you have to stay sensitive to that. It's something I've learned over the years.

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Talkbacks

OMCreader | May 30, 2006 at 6:07 p.m. (report)

Trevor Sadler said: DC is one of the many brilliant musical minds to come out of Milwaukee... this guy never ceases to impress me with both his musical and technical ability... an absolute freaking musical genius....

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