David Block, aka The Human Experience, is a man on a mission. With creativity as his driving force, the globetrotting musician has been traversing the globe to bring a unique blend of soul-searching electronica to the masses.
Cerebral and thought-provoking, The Human Experience’s music stands in a league of its own.
You’ll know when Block’s tunes hit the airwaves the moment celestial downtempo grooves emanate from your speaker box.
David Block has been playing and presenting at gatherings from Burning Man to Costa Rica and beyond. The Human Experience has been gaining momentum and recognition through a variety of creative channels. With each enticing release, he’s originating and collaborating his way into our lives.
Currently preparing to debut his new live band project, Gone Gone Beyond, we had a chance to catch up with Block and to talk about his past, musical philosophy, and more – here’s what he had to say:
For our readers that don’t know too much about you or your music, what’s The Human Experience story and how did everything evolve?
Well, it’s been quite a journey and has evolved quite a bit over the years. I grew up playing classical music, but I never really had a teacher that I truly resonated with. I wanted to go out and jam, and the classical bits were very regimented and formulaic. You know, just like following what other people had written.
So, I quit when I was 12, and ended up picking up the guitar. After that I really wanted to become a singer/songwriter, and so that’s what I kind of did. I ended up quitting my job and traveling around the world playing street music. I was still learning how to find own voice, especially since because I didn’t have a big network of musicians growing up.
I took several years to find myself. During that time when I was doing the singer/songwriter stuff I played piano, guitar, sang, and did all this stuff so I was like, “Oh, I should try to get one piece of gear that I could just make my OWN band.”
When I first started, I was trying to do more singer/songwriter-oriented styles. It just happened to be that the equipment that I was using was keyboard and synth based so it started sounding more and more electronic, and that just evolved over the years as I discovered new genres and new things that I’m into.
My music was strongly influenced by dancing and Electronic Dance Music culture around 2002 or 2003. 2010 was the first Human Experience album, and to conclude the thought of “where did it come from”… it was a long journey to get to the first album. Looking back, it’s completely different than the 12 other EPs and albums I’ve put out since then. My music is constantly evolving, and I have my inspirations and life experiences to thank.
So would you say that you draw more inspiration from the electronic side or more inspiration from the organic side? Where would you say that you gravitate to out of the 2 poles, if any?
Honestly I really feel like a solid 50/50. I love traditional music and that’s everything from bluegrass to funk to soul and everything from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Daft Punk and everything between that and Bach and classical. So, I would say that my style is really a 50/50 split, and I think that’s the interesting thing about my own evolution.
As I discover new styles of music, I incorporate them into my process.
For example, my project Soul Visions with Rising Appalachia. I hadn’t listened to a lot of bluegrass. I had been exposed to a lot of world music, but with bluegrass I didn’t even know how much I loved it until I really listened to it.
So, I think it’s both. I think I listen to a lot of both (electronic and traditional), and that’s why my music sounds like both. They’ve equally influenced my originality and the direction I’ve taken.
Digging into that mixture of influences and stuff like that, can you tell us more about your Gone Gone Beyond project? Was that WAVS and has it turned into Gone Gone Beyond? Are they different things? Tell us the story behind that?
Yeah, they’re the same thing. Now, there’s the story behind it and the story behind the name change. The story behind the name change happened while we were in New York during the final stages and just about to get the masters back.
We had a meeting with a friend who’s in digital marketing and he says, “Look, not to just completely change the name of your project, because if that’s the name of your project that resonates, go for it. However, just so you know, you’re just going to be starting out of the gate with this new project on a crutch as people are going to have trouble searching for the name WAVS.”
#1, there’s another band called WAVVES that spells it wrong. So when people are looking for the band called WAVS then they’re probably going to get this other band, which we don’t sound anything like.
#2 it’s an audio format. This plays on the idea that we’re all waves, we’re vibrations. We’re frequencies and the entire world and universe as we know is vibrating, and we are tools that pick up those vibrations.
That was the idea behind the project. It was a double entendre like waves, high quality audio, uncompressed, and that we’re all these things.
But anyway, we just decided to change it in the end. Gone Gone Beyond is a part of the translation of the Heart Sutra. It is a very moving, powerful mantra from Tibetan Buddhism that translates to “gone, gone beyond, or gone gone gone beyond… gone beyond the beyond”. I don’t know how it popped into my head but the first time I said it aloud we collectively thought “that’s it, change the name.”
We actually like the name more and people will be able to discover the music with ease. Gonegonebeyond.com was available too, which is an important thing to take into account in this digital music age.
It’s challenging and you definitely see bands who feel the effects of SEO. For example, last year one of my favorite new bands was called Jungle. Talk about the most challenging name to ever Google, ever. Jungle music [lauging], that’s a whole genre! But they’re huge, so props to them for overcoming the odds.
But anyway, yeah the project Gone Gone Beyond… the way I’ve been describing it is in terms of the way that I collaborated with Rising Appalachia to create the album Soul Visions. The only difference is Gone Gone Beyond is going to, I think, take it even further and create quite a bit of music together.
Our lead singer, Danny Musengo, plays in the two other projects. One of which is called Ludlow Thieves, which is doing really, really well right now. They were written up in Billboard recently and they’re doing incredible things, and the other one is called Faery Tales for the Fatherless.
And the other songwriter in Faery Tales for the Fatherless is this guy named Paul Weinfield. Paul, Danny, and myself are the principle members of Gone Gone Beyond. Then there are six or seven other instrumentalists already involved, and that will continue to expand as well.
Do you think it’ll keep growing, and how many pieces are you look at for the band, or do you think you even know yet?
I think I’m just going to see how it goes. It will evolve over time but we’re going to have Danny and me live to begin with.
We have six original songs and one of them has literally no electronic elements at all.
It’s all acoustic instruments and it’s, I mean [laughing], I’m trying to imagine the situation where I’m going to play it at a festival… There’s are no drums. It’s literally full orchestral arrangement.
Initially, the plan is horns, strings, guitar, drums, and a couple of songs have upright bass. Our challenge with how we’re going to make this work as a live band is that each song has different instrumentation.
This is going to be something that we’re going to figure out over the course of next year because there are so many different instrumentalists involved. One of the songs has a steel pan player from Trinidad, so unless I start using steel pan in half the songs, I don’t know how I’m going to bring him to play live. So, we’ll just have to see what unfolds.
So tying back into what you were saying about WAVS and about interconnected energy and that philosophy, why – in your opinion – do you think music connects with humans on such a deep, intimate, and emotional level?
I have a couple different theories. First and foremost, most humans – almost all of them – connect with the arts in some way; whether that’s visual, poetry, music… Now music is one that is different in the sense that everyone has a voice.
Every human has a voice.
Whether you can sing off-key or you sing very well, you have a voice. So my theory is that because everyone can hum and whistle a tune, we have this natural connection to music
Cultures have evolved their unique styles of music and sounds, and a lot of that is based on the languages and the instruments they had available. Indian music, for example, will never sound like Americana.
Frank Sinatra, who has one of the greatest voices from American style music, does not sound like a famous musician from China or Israel or Africa or wherever. Everyone has its own languages, styles, music, and instrumentation.
And because all humans can make sounds, we’re interconnected THROUGH music. There are still barriers that we have, for example, because many people haven’t been exposed to the world outside their city, and they might not connect with it initially, but a lot of people do.
If you have one overall goal with your music, what do you want it to say and what’s the effect that you’re trying to bring about?
I would like people to feel some kind of connection, and the message is a shared sense of humanity.
We might come from different colors, we speak different languages, we sing different songs but our humanity is what binds us all together and that the music has the opportunity for people to connect on a deeper level to something outside of themselves, something bigger than themselves.
I think that music and art have the power of transformation, I would like to see a sustainable future for our children, our grandchildren, and generations to come. Hopefully one of my roles will be to inspire celebration and to help share with people that we’re not so different from each other.
As someone who’s shared stages all across the world, where’s your favorite musical memory that you can place out playing a show and what made it that way, if you have a favorite?
I’ve had the privilege of playing some really cool stages, and a lot of different kind of stages, so maybe I’ll pick three.
I’d say every year at Burning Man… no set in particular… just because I’ve had so many of the highlight pinnacle musical sharing experiences on the Playa.
Whether that’s a 300 person naked dance party at Dr. Bronners, or sunrise on the Golden Dragon “Abraxis” for the White Procession, or Fractal Planet.
There have been so many, but I’d definitely say that Burning Man is my number one.
I want to say my Lightning in a Bottle set this year, which was my first main stage set at Lightning in a Bottle. I’ve done LIB the last 4 years, but this year I felt like I truly brought together a complete show.
There were 10 dancers all coming up for different songs and amazing performers and I played acoustic piano, guitar, and sang, and brought together a much different live show. In a way it felt like a milestone.
And then maybe my third one would be Red Rocks, playing at sold out Red Rocks with Quixotic. EPIC.
Kind of moving on, what do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a musician?
I’ve recently become extremely passionate in photography, but that’s pretty new. I used to be a personal trainer and massage therapist and worked integrative wellness, so I wanted to do that for awhile.
Aaaand… I don’t know. I’ve always been very business oriented. I could see working within social entrepreneurship, which I’m actually doing with my music and the other things now. That would be a tough one… I don’t know.
Thankfully the music took hold when it did because I had just moved back from India, and I was planning on moving back to India and just diving deep into philosophy, meditation, and yoga. I’m lucky because I get to integrate that in my music now, but I would have probably would have dove deeper into that without the music.
Favorite album of all time, or favorite first few that kind of pop up into your brain?
If I had an album that just popped into my brain, I wanna say Dark Side of the Moon… Yeah, Dark Side of the Moon is a good one, ummmm, my favorite current band is a band called Fat Freddy’s Drop from New Zealand.
Anybody else that you’re really digging on right now, listening to a lot of?
Oh god yes. There’s a lot. Just exploring so many different kinds of music… My favorite new artist, live last year, was Glass Animals. They’ve blown up, I mean they’re huge now, but they blew me away live for a crossover, live electronic act. It was incredible.
And finally, is there anything that you’d like to leave our readers and your listeners with?
I hope the music inspires you to be inspired. My goal is to do whatever I can do, and play whatever parts I can in having people discover their own passion and express it to the fullest. I’m hoping my music does that for them.
And if you do enjoy my music, you can download it for free or donate whatever you want. If you want it for free then you can have it for free, and if you want to give me your money I’ll happily take it. And there’s so much coming out so just check back and I’ll be releasing new music every month for the foreseeable future!