David Chalmin of Dimension X interview

Science fiction radio plays from the past married up to brand new music from Dimension X? Stuart finds out what it's all about...

Dimension X was originally a NBC radio programme that was broadcast from April 1950 to September 1951, that turned the stories of respected science-fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch into staged plays. With typically over the top acting and creaking effects, but still containing a beautiful elegancy, the 50s ideology of looking to the stars while fearing the future forms is the essence of these stories, and also the basis of the recently released album Dimension X by the band of the same name.

Consisting of David Chalmin (B for Bang), Massimo Pupillo (Mike Patton/Thurston Moore) and Chris Corsano (Bjork), Dimension X has taken these original radio plays and given them new life by pitching and looping an almost freeform jazz soundtrack, never distracting from the narrative but adding fresh drama and horror. This album is a treat for any sci-fi fan and a wonderful homage to the golden age of radio.

David Chalmin kindly took time out from recording to talk to Den of Geek about the Dimension X project.

Where did the original idea for the album come?

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It actually began with a first encounter in Rome. I was working with Massimo on another recording – B For Bang, a re-elaboration of some Beatles tracks – when he invited me to join him to play with Chris. They had this concert of improv in Rome and instead of rehearsing together, Massimo asked me to join and record a session, which was the first time I met Chris.

We went in a studio where we often work and our sound engineer Reeks just pressed record! It’s been one of those great moments, when you completely forget what you know about music and just play with other people. It’s a true meeting and a deep, raw and intuitive musical expression. We were really excited about the material and Massimo told me to take It with me back to Paris and to do whatever I wanted to. I was actually trying to find something to work with the Dimension X shows at this time and this came as a real gift!

Did the sampled material come first or was it a matter of tracking down relevant ones to fit the themes of the album?

When the idea had matured, I chose some of the stories, which I really liked and began to slice the impro at the same time. I put the stories on the timeline and began to cut them and add the music. In a way, both came very simultaneously: sometimes I would find music to illustrate the story and some other times, pieces of text to travel through the music.

Did you encounter any problems in clearing the copyright for the recordings?

Fortunately, all the Dimension X material is in the public domain. I discovered it on the excellent website www.archive.org

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Was it a matter of reinventing the broadcasts for a new audience or complementing existing material?

My first idea was to find some way to give a direction to our music, which in the case of an improvisation can be hard to follow. Then, when the idea of Dimension X came, I worked, as one would do for movies, creating a soundtrack to those incredible and beautiful stories! I was really impressed sometimes by the deep meaning of the shows and their modernity. Some are still very pertinent even more than 50 years after they were recorded… I’ve tried to keep some of the messages of the stories, and that would be great if it brings a new audience to dig those shows!

Were there any favorite recordings that you wanted to use but were just impossible to record over?

I wanted to use so many of the stories… Each of them has its beauty, I was only limited by the format of the album and the quantity of recorded stuff that we had. I just chose my favourites but I could have used almost every story. And given the fact that I’ve cut a lot in the shows – they’re all around 30 minutes long – everything became potentially usable.In a perfect copyright free world, are there any dream samples that you would like to work with?

All is usable as long as you destroy it enough! But still, I wish I could use some of my favorites movie lines to make a record…

Do you have plans to tour the record?

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Definitely, but we have to wait for Chris who is on a very long tour with Bj√∂rk. We’re planning a tour in December 2008!

Are there any future plans to record further albums or is this one off project?

We’re already thinking of Dimension X 2 but with videos and horror movies…. I can’t tell more!

Thank you to David. For further information and to check out some tracks from the album go to www.myspace.com/dimensionxxx