Tag: Node


Dave Bessell is a musician who specialises in ambient electronica, but additionally wears several other hats; from doing session work for major bands, being part of NODE and also a solo recording act for Ian Boddy’s DiN label.

Bessell’s latest work is a collaboration with ISHQ and is unique in that it is the first full length ambient album to have a Virtual Reality component to it. Dave Bessell kindly spoke about his new album, previous musical projects and the importance of Bandcamp in what are extremely challenging times for those working in the arts / music industry.

What is your background in electronic music production?

Well I’m a guitarist with delusions of being a keyboard player! I started off with the guitar as a teenager but straight away, I began experimenting with getting more than the usual sounds from it. I would often try to imitate the sound of some of the electronic stuff that was beginning to emerge at the time from the Krautrock scene.

Over the years I found various outlets for that approach with different bands and some sessions for other people. I also studied orchestration at the Royal College of Music and that has a big influence on how I approach electronics too. Gradually I accumulated a variety of analogue hardware alongside the guitar and that is increasingly what I’m known for in more recent years.

Who were your most formative influences musically and why?

The first piece of ‘electronic’ music that I can recall really having an impact was ‘Telstar’ by THE TORNADOS. The opening few seconds of abstract electronic sound is genius and that really opened my ears. Even though I was just a child when I heard it, it opened a door in my imagination that I went through years later.

The next influence that really caught my attention was ‘The Rite of Spring’ by Stravinsky which a friend of my father’s played to me; heavy metal for orchestra! Apart from that my next door neighbour used to play me THE BEATLES when I was very young and I remember liking them although I only had a child’s understanding of what I was hearing. As time went on the influences began to pile up, too many to mention here. In a way I’m influenced by everything I hear and I listen widely across a lot of genres.

You have done session work with both SUEDE and KILLING JOKE, how is the experience of being brought in almost as a ‘temporary’ member of a band to add to an album?

I quite like working to a brief and it’s fun to help good artists achieve their vision. That’s partly why I do a lot of musical collaborations too. There is always something to be learned in those kind of situations. I think having your own solo projects where you can fully express your individual musical personality makes it much easier to relax in a session situation. It gives a clear divide between personal expression and helping someone else to shine.

When I did a bit of keyboard programming for KILLING JOKE, mainly on their ‘Pandemonium’ album, it was particularly fascinating as I was already a long standing fan. To sit in on their recording and songwriting sessions and observe their creative process at work was educational! Working with Jaz Coleman on the keyboard sounds taught me some interesting things about what to look for when designing a synth sound too.

In 2014 you contributed to ‘The Oxford Handbook Of Interactive Audio’ where you did a chapter called ‘Blurring Boundaries: Trends & Implications in Audio Production Software Developments’, have you noticed any specific improvements or trends in software / hardware-based electronic music production since then?

I have an alternative life as a music academic and that kind of writing comes from the academic world. The main noticeable development since that article was the resurgence of analogue hardware and the whole Eurorack scene. Not something I particularly expected but welcome nonetheless. I almost always prefer the sound of analogue hardware and back in 1995 when those tools were still deeply unfashionable, NODE were one of the few who were working in that way.

I guess if you are unfashionable for long enough and you stick to your guns, then eventually the world comes round to your point of view! Having said that, the sound of digital has improved a lot and now has a viable audio character of its own. I recently placed an order for the Osmose keyboard which is still in development. The combination of innovative expressive keyboard and high quality digital sound engine with physical modelling hits a sweet spot for me. As a guitarist I always wanted to do vibrato on the keys!

You are probably best known for your work with the electronic ‘supergroup’ NODE alongside Flood, Mel Wesson and Ed Buller. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was lucky to be present at your Royal College of Music show in 2015. How was the experience of performing this show?

The preparation for the show was a lot of work – moving all that vintage gear and then setting it up and getting it to work again was a major task!

However we had the time and space to do it properly and when it came to the actual performance, it was pure joy. I mean how could you not have fun with all those toys to play with! The PA from Flare audio was very nice too which really helps with that kind of textural music. A little bit strange being back in my old ‘school’ playing a gig.

Did any piece of vintage gear ‘misbehave’ itself on the night?

Ha ha yes of course! My favourite was when Flood’s Oberheim decided to die while he was playing it during the gig. It started sounding increasingly ill and then kind of croaked to a halt entirely. Of course Flood went with it and carried on playing until it croaked its last. We included it in the live album – if you have sharp ears, you may be able to pick out a warbly wavering reedy distorted kind of sound which becomes increasingly unstable then stutters to a halt entirely.

We had some issues with Ed’s Moog modular in the rehearsals for the gig. During the performance we had the backs off his cabinets with a technician poised with soldering iron just in case – fortunately the big Moog lived to fight another day.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK noticed a certain Nick Rhodes in the audience that night (he was also keen to scope out the gear you had on stage), were you aware he was a fan?

I think most keyboard or electronics people would have an interest in what we were trying to do that night. I wasn’t particularly aware of Nick being there but I know a few other high profile people take an interest in NODE. Hans Zimmer for example.

Are there any more plans to collaborate together?

NODE is a very occasional project because everyone involved has a lot of other commitments. So I won’t say it will never happen again but we have no plans right now.

The BluRay of the Royal College of Music performance has only just been released, why did this take so long to come to fruition?

As anyone who has followed NODE knows it operates to a different time scale than everything else! It took something like seventeen years between the first and second albums for example. So actually the BluRay was relatively quick for us. We never intend for everything to take so long but then someone goes out for a sandwich and comes back fifteen years later – so timescales get stretched!

Your new album with artist ISHQ has just been released and has been described as evoking “The sound of Aliens landing in an English meadow”. How close a description do you think that is?

Well that quote was a reaction from Neil Butler of SPATIALIZE when he first heard one of the tracks. It tickled my sense of humour but I also think it encapsulates in a few memorable words some of the spirit of the album. It has some pretty ‘alien’ sounds and yet it also refers to the Cornish landscape. The album was recorded in Cornwall. There is more to the music than just that but as a sound bite I think it points in the right direction.

How did you come to collaborate with ISHQ and what was the role split and working method on the album?

I discovered online that ISHQ lived not too far from me. We live in a rural area so when you find like-minded electronic musicians, you tend to meet up at least for a chat. The collaboration grew out of a chat in a cafe and just seemed to grow of its own accord.

We found ourselves musically on a similar wavelength and I had wanted to do something in a more ambient style for a while. We started with some jam sessions in my studio and then took them away to work them up with a bit more structure and some overdubs.

The original jams were all analogue hardware but ISHQ has a distinctive style which means he manipulated and added quite a few sounds later with his Roland V Synth. He tends to resample the material and bend it out of shape in interesting ways. There is also a light scattering of found sounds mostly recorded from my collection of broken and antique instruments. The only real rule I set myself for this one was no guitar – I didn’t want to bring in those stylistic associations for the mood we were trying to achieve.

Did either hardware or software synthesizers dominate on the new album and was there a piece of studio kit that specifically defined the sound of the work?

I don’t think any software plug-in synths were used on ‘Inbetween’, it was mainly analogue hardware with some contributions from digital hardware. Plus a few processed acoustic sounds. Probably two pieces of kit became important for the soundworld we created, ISHQ’s use of the V Synth is very creative and quite distinctive and I used the 4MS Spectral Multiband Resonator on several tracks as a starting point.

‘Inbetween’ is innovative in that it is the first full length ambient album to be released with a Virtual Reality (VR) format. What inspired you to incorporate this medium and what do you feel it adds to the experience of the album?

Well it was initially down to serendipity / synchronicity. The opportunity to do that came up in a conversation with one of my ex-students Ben Payne who is currently doing a PhD on VR. VR fits very well with the ideas ISHQ and myself had touched on – the idea of different worlds, inner and outer landscapes, that kind of thing. These are the moods and ideas we were playing with in the music and VR is obviously relevant when you are interested in exploring parallel realities and inner landscapes.

Were there any specific technological hurdles you encountered when adding the VR format?

We were doing OK until it came to trying to package it up for different platforms. Initially we had wanted to make it available for all operating systems and VR platforms, but it quickly became obvious we didn’t have the resources to achieve that and beta test it on all those formats. So we had to narrow it down to make the project deliverable.

Jean Michel-Jarre attempted a not entirely successful ‘live’ VR-style performance online earlier in the year. Can you see VR being adopted by other musicians and if so, what do you see the future possibilities for it?

I think VR has a lot of possibilities to explore certain ideas and styles of music. People are still working out what it’s good for at the moment, but I have discussed with ISHQ ideas for future VR projects and some of them may well expand the format in unusual ways. COVID-19 has focussed attention on and pushed the development of these kind of tools and online delivery options. One thing holding VR back still is that the technology is not widely adopted yet and is still in a state of flux and development from the technical standpoint. That is beginning to change though. Probably at some point it will achieve critical mass and then really take off.

I don’t like to criticise other musicians online but I hope Jean-Michel Jarre  will excuse me if I say that I don’t think he had something artistic he wanted to say which necessitated the use of VR. Probably it seemed like a good idea to have a virtual gig in these unusual times, but I think VR demands a bit more than replicating existing delivery forms. In a way, it’s like the birth of cinema we are still inventing the conventions and structures that suit VR and there will inevitably be some trial and error. I think Björk has a bit more of a handle on that aspect.

With ‘Inbetween’, we tried to achieve a different look than the usual game 3D rendered style, by creating a kind of altered reality aesthetic. We deliberately didn’t use all the bells and whistles of VR. To throw lots of whirling bright colours and impossible fractal perspectives at the listener wouldn’t have enhanced our musical intentions which we hope were a bit more subtle than that.

Purchasers of the album without a VR headset can still experience a virtual desktop Windows version. Was there a specific reason why an Apple format wasn’t made available for the album?

Only for the reasons I mentioned above – we just didn’t have the resources to develop and test all the possible permutations of operating systems, computer platforms, VR formats, different headsets etc etc. If anyone wants to try porting it to a Mac, you can find us on Facebook!

With its heartbeat pulse and TOMITA-style arpeggios, one of the highlights on the album is ‘Atlas Obscura’, was there a particular inspiration for this piece?

We didn’t verbalise any intentions before we started playing, but we had a sort of musical conversation which we did analyse a bit after the event, that gave rise to some of the titles. So ‘Atlas Obscura’ is about mapping landscapes – the Cornish landscape with its standing stones and wild Atlantic seascapes and the internal psychological landscape which somehow seems tangled up in that real landscape in some indefinable way. I hope that makes sense to someone ha ha!

You sell and distribute your material via Bandcamp (which has really come into its own during the COVID-19 situation), how important do you feel this platform is for both you and other musicians?

I’m known online for championing Bandcamp. I think it is single handedly supporting a whole raft of creative niche music and is allowing new artists a vital space to develop. It also provides a viable model to allow musicians to progress to a point where they can actually finance their projects and make a living, which in these days of Spotify and other streaming services is a lifeline. In short, I think Bandcamp is essential and I take my hat off to them. I hardly ever buy music elsewhere these days. Support Bandcamp = support the artists.

How has the COVID-19 situation affected you personally in terms of your musical output or work ethic and how do you feel about the wider impact this has had on the arts / music industry?

I think the arguments and points of view around this are well rehearsed, so I don’t want to add too much to the mountain of comment. I will just say that personally I haven’t been as badly affected as those who rely heavily on income from live performance. The longer it goes on, the more damage will be done to the live music scene.

What’s next for you musically?

I always have projects on the go and I have just started a new collaboration. It’s at very early stages though so not the right moment to say anything more about that particular one. I also have another album waiting in the wings for DiN records. That will be my third collaboration with Bakis Sirros of PARALLEL WORLDS. That one is actually finished and just waiting for a release slot in the DiN schedule. Beyond that, there are a couple of ideas I’m exploring including possible further VR projects with ISHQ. Probably somewhere down the road is another solo album which will be the follow-up to ‘Reality Engine’.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Dave Bessell

DB & ISHQ ‘Inbetween’ is available from https://virtual1.bandcamp.com/album/inbetween



Examples of the VR concepts from ‘Inbetween’ can be viewed at:



Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
18th October 2020

NODE Live at The Royal College of Music

Advancements in modern digital technology are a fantastic thing, or are they?

Whilst the debate still continues to rage about the pros and cons of vinyl versus digital music products, tonight brought up a telling parable as to whether the traditional methods of carrying out certain tasks should be tampered with.

A typical pre-gig meal turned into a farce when in an un-named South Kensington restaurant, instead of bringing the usual paper menus, the waiter brought a single iPad and attempted to explain the convoluted digital method of ordering by scrolling through multiple menus and then looked at us as if we were complete Luddites when we asked to order normally! A brief verbal scuffle and we were out the door and on our way to The Royal College of Music; a stones throw from The Royal Albert Hall and a refreshing change from many of the usual London venues.

After walking into the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall part of the venue, the attendees were confronted with the quite breathtaking sight of a large stage filled to the brim with stacks of vintage and current analogue modular synthesizers plus unusually for a technology-based gig, not an iPad in sight and just a singular laptop.

For those unfamiliar with NODE and if you missed TEC’s interview with three quarters of the line-up last June, they are a producer super group comprising Flood (DEPECHE MODE / NINE INCH NAILS / PJ HARVEY), Ed Buller (WHITE LIES / SUEDE / PULP), Dave Bessell and Mel Wesson. The group first gained some notoriety when performing a gig at Paddington railway station in 1995 during the commuter rush hour to support their debut album and towards the end of last year, released their long awaited second release of synthetic soundscapes ‘Node 2’ on Ian Boddy’s DiN imprint.

The presence of so many vintage synthesizers was probably enough visual stimulation for most of the audience, but in addition centre-stage was a circular PINK FLOYD-style screen onto which was projected a few subtle images / animations and live feeds of the performers on stage, plus some twinkling Christmas-style lights around Flood’s modular set-up added to the overall effect. Additionally, some effective uplighting under much of the equipment really evoked the halcyon days of early KRAFTWERK and TANGERINE DREAM performances.

The band started with an extended version of ‘Shikansen East’ from ‘Node 2’, the shifting chords eventually leading into the track’s hypnotic step sequencer patterns before coming back full circle to the intro passage again. The structure of the gig lovingly followed the format of a classic KLAUS SCHULZE double album… four 20 minute pieces, with a midpoint break to allow those present (including DURAN DURAN’s Nick Rhodes) to crowd around the front of the stage to survey the gear on stage.

What was refreshing was the improvisational and unpredictable nature of the show, occasionally sounds poked through the mix that were probably unintended, but all added to the experience of watching music that wasn’t pre-programmed and overtly computer generated.

Each performer had their own custom modular set-up plus additional synths including classic PPG, Oberheim, EMS, Moog and Sequential Circuits gear. Right of stage, Dave Bessell had a guitar strapped on for most of the gig, but instead of going for the Edgar Froese solo-style approach, he used it to add more subtle textures to the primarily electronic sounds on offer tonight.

To the right of the stage, Mel Wesson’s area featured a wonderful and very highly stacked Moog Modular. More centrally set-up were Flood and Ed Buller, each with their own preferred choice of synthesizers, the former having an EMS VCS3 and a Roland VP330 vocoder amongst his sonic arsenal.

The evening’s set climaxed in what was the most Berlin School-style track of the night, intricate step sequenced patterns filtering in and out in a hypnotic wash of sound before winding down and fading out to loud applause. The band took their bows at the front of the stage before coming back out for another curtain call, there was no encore, but the audience didn’t seem too concerned, having been treated to a night of electronic music that was probably the nearest you would get these days to seeing a vintage TANGERINE DREAM style analogue synth set.

A valid point could be raised as to whether this style of music is the only type that can be made with this equipment, and whether a more forward thinking, more innovative approach could be taken in places. But then again, if you went to see Eric Clapton or Brian May, you wouldn’t expect either of them to feed their trusty guitar through a Kaoss pad or glitch pedal.

It could also be argued that Mark Shreeve’s REDSHIFT project took more risks and developed this sound to a much higher level (especially from a live perspective) with similar equipment, but because they are now on hiatus, the chances of seeing a set-up anything like this nowadays is extremely limited.

Modern digital technology is often a brilliant thing, but sometimes there’s a lot to be said for an analogue approach and tonight’s overall experience certainly reinforced that. If NODE ever get to do another live performance, beg, steal or borrow a ticket, you won’t be disappointed.

‘Node’ and ‘Node2’ are released by DiN and available from http://www.din.org.uk/din/



Text and Photos by Paul Boddy
2nd March 2015

NODE Interview

NODEFor many followers of electronic music, the producers and engineers who work behind the scenes and are credited in small print on the classic albums we know and love are often seen as being just as important as the artist themselves.

One only has to listen to the last few DEPECHE MODE albums to hear what sort of an impact a producer can have on a band’s overall sonic palette and direction; sometimes the guiding hand of a person outside of the band can make the difference between an acceptable album and a truly excellent one.

This brings us neatly onto NODE, a producer supergroup if you will, featuring Flood (DEPECHE MODE / NINE INCH NAILS / ERASURE / GOLDFRAPP), Ed Buller (WHITE LIES / SUEDE / PULP / THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS), Dave Bessell (KILLING JOKE / SUEDE) and Mel Wesson (Movie sound designer including ‘Inception’ / ’Batman Begins’ / ’The Bourne Legacy’).

NODE-SynthiEdThe group released their debut album ‘Node’ in 1995, but have waited 19 years to deliver its follow-up ‘Node 2’ on the DiN imprint set-up by respected UK synthesist and programmer Ian Boddy. Using mainly analogue modular synthesizers, NODE wonderfully resurrect the sound of ambient electronic giants TANGERINE DREAM, KLAUS SCHULZE and ASHRA but with an added digital twist.

Ed Buller, Dave Bessell and Mel Wesson all kindly spoke about their musical influences and the joys of all things analogue…

What was your concept for the new album and how does it differ from the first NODE one?

Ed: There really was no concept for either. We just turn up and play. We had Mel which changed things a bit.

Dave: I don’t think we really thought of it in conceptual terms, we don’t like to over think things but rather prefer to go with our gut musical response. So in that respect we are similar to bands such as CAN we just like to get in a room and play.

Mel: Get in the studio, plug the gear up and make a noise…

NODE-DaveSlides219 years is a pretty long time to wait for a follow-up album, even by KRAFTWERK standards!

Dave: Yes, we took a long lunch break!

Ed: Yes… it really wasn’t deliberate. But we had jobs and then Gary disappeared…..

Mel: Agreed… let’s hope we don’t have to wait that long for the next one!

Did you have defined roles within the project or was it a bit of a musical free-for-all?

Ed: No, not really. The roles overlap. We each favour a particular sound I suspect, and only Dave is irresponsible enough to play guitar, although I suspect it’s only time until Flood rocks up with a flying V. But part of what makes us unique is each doing their own thing.

Dave: The roles are unspoken but semi-defined, someone might mainly do bass, someone mainly the sequencing but it can all suddenly change around in the middle of playing. The important thing is to listen carefully to each other and be able to react musically to the unexpected.

Mel: It’s hard to say, no one told me what to play, I just did what seemed natural. I’ve always been fascinated by textures, soundscapes, I suppose I found an outlet for that within the NODE structure but it’s a very fluid structure.

The opening track on the new album, ‘Shikansen East’ as well as featuring some epic TANGERINE DREAM style sequencer driven passages, has an ambient ENO-esque sound to it…

Ed: None of that is intentional. It’s the first time we have ever recorded sections to be edited later. I’m pleased with the result but also mindful that despite some planning it still sounds like us… loose!

Dave: I find it hard to judge influence wise, it’s really for others to say what they hear in it. Certainly if someone hears those influences then I am quite comfortable with that, these people aren’t rubbish after all!

NODE-TowerHow reliable was the equipment used on the latest album as vintage analogue synthesizers have a heavy reputation for breaking down and going out of tune?

Ed: Justly deserved, but you can’t do this if you’re after reliability or consistency. We had problems, but we all have our cub scout “analogue synthesizer user” merit badges….

Dave: Old analogue stuff can be cranky for sure. We had our share of technical problems and tuning is a constant battle on some machines but I hope the results speak for themselves. Convenience is not always the best way to judge an instrument!

Mel: All the equipment has foibles that’s part of the experience, expect the unexpected! My Moog 3C’s tuning is amazing, really rock solid, Ed couldn’t believe it… he’s convinced there’s some secret modification but it’s original! I can’t say the same for my Synthi A, but unpredictability is what EMS is all about, it’s all part of the creative process.

Ed, you must be used to dealing with some pretty big egos with your production day job, how different was the process of working on the NODE

Ed: Much worse… between Dave “you call this tea?” Bessell and Mel “I don’t do pavements” Wesson……!

It’s hard to talk about NODE without mentioning the legendary German electronic band TANGERINE DREAM, what are your favourite albums by them and why?

Ed: I really like their early stuff. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite amongst ‘Phaedra’, ‘Atem’, ‘Rubycon’ and ‘Ricochet’… all sublime.

Dave: My favourite album of their’s is ‘Rubycon’. I like it because in my opinion it is the most fully realised version of the sound they perfected in their early years and in places it comes close to living up to their classical influences. I hear bits of Ligeti, Debussy and Steve Reich in there.

Mel: ‘Phaedra’ was the first TANGERINE DREAM album I bought and it changed my perception of electronic music, for me it was a gateway album to their earlier work such as ‘Atem’ and ‘Alpha Centauri’ which was only available on import. I loved that classic Franke, / Baumann / Froese line-up; ‘Rubycon’, ‘Ricochet’ and ‘Encore’ are all great albums.

NODE-Flood headphonesWhat do you think of the term ‘Berlin School’ which now seems to have been applied to sequencer-driven ambient electronic music and do NODE fit into that box?

Ed: We do really… but it’s sort of like calling us a blues band…..

Dave: I don’t have any strong feelings about the term. Like all genre descriptions it’s useful short hand in some situations and limiting in others. What I really think though is that genre is the least interesting aspect of music.

Mel: People like labels… I think we have our own box but it’s definitely a ‘Made In Berlin’ box! Germany was an amazingly creative place in those days, a lot of experiment musicians breaking away from the obvious band format, using new technology, we’re obviously influenced by what happened then but we’ve added our own signature, music should always be an evolutionary process.

When you launched the first NODE album, you did a rather unusual promotional gig at Paddington railway station. Who’s idea was that and what was the overall experience of playing electronic music to half-asleep commuters?

Ed: It was my idea. I went to boarding school in Reading and from the age of 12 used to travel home via Paddington. I always fantasized about playing a gig there. I thought it would be a good alternative to a cathedral.

Dave: Playing to half-asleep commuters was fun but it would have been better if we had had some sleep ourselves the night before. Lack of sleep on our part made the whole experience completely surreal, at one point I looked down into the audience and saw a member of the government looking back at me. Very odd!

NODE-MelMel, being the new guy in the outfit, what do you think you’ve brought to NODE?

Mel: PPG synthesizers and a measure of restraint when things started to veer towards Prog!

Are there any plans to do anymore live shows like the one you did at the EMMA Festival in 1995?

Dave: It’s something we are looking into, nothing we can announce yet but we will let everyone know if we can sort something out. We are not your average band and so we are looking for something interesting and a bit out of the ordinary. Of course there are practical considerations too, we would want to use the full analogue rig and that comes with some constraints!

If each of you were stuck on a desert island (with power and a speaker system) and could only have one synthesizer, which one would you choose and why?

Ed: TONTO….. just cos!

Dave: I would take my Macbeth M5n semi modular. Of all the synths I have used, it’s the one that seems to give me access to the sounds I am looking for with the minimum of fuss. It’s a combination of interface and sound which seems to be in perfect balance. I also like the fact that it has no memories and pre sets. That fits very well with the NODE philosophy of capturing the moment.

Mel: A VERY large modular… multi voices so I can write complete pieces as a ‘one man band’, maybe something I’ve never used before, perhaps a Buchla… I figure I’d finally have time to learn how to use it! I’d also keep the boxes so I can light a fire to attract passing ships!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to NODE

Special thanks also to Ian Boddy (no relation)

‘Node 2’ is released by DiN and available from http://www.din.org.uk/din/



Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
9th June 2014