Electro-Pop Pioneer Heads to SXSW & Is Bringing a Time Capsule With Him
Thomas Dolby is exploring the past, present and future this year -- all on one tour.
The pioneering electronic pop artist hits the road again in North America on March 16 at the South By Southwest Music + Media Conference. Dolby will be supporting his latest album, 2011's "Map of the Floating City," and its companion online game.
"She Blinded Me With Science"
But the trek also coincides with the 30th anniversary of his debut album, "The Golden Age of Wireless" -- and its Top 10 hit "She Blinded Me With Science" -- and will feature a Time Capsule, a 1930s mobile road trailer video studio that will let concert-goers record 30 second messages to the future.
"It looks like it was designed by H.G. Wells and Nikola Tesla," Dolby tells Billboard.com. "The messages can be along the lines of, 'What would I like to tell my great-grandchildren?' or 'Which of todays' music should still be listened to in 100 years time?' Or it could be, when our species is wiped off the face of the earth, 'What would I want to tell an alien visitor' or 'If you only had 30 seconds to live, what would you say, and to whom?' " The videos will be posted on a Time Capsule channel on YouTube, and Dolby says he'll try to send the most popular messages (based on numbers of views) "sent into space."
"I know at least three people that have their own rockets, ranging from Richard Branson to X Prize winners. There's going to be hundreds of clips -- some hysterical, I suspect, and some profound. We'll want to share them as widely as possible."
Onstage, meanwhile, Dolby says he and his band will perform songs from throughout his career, with "probably half a dozen or so" from "Map of the Floating City." "I try and let the songs evolve and breathe rather than trying to replicate the way they were 25 years go," he explains. "You're never going to match it exactly, and psychologically you change and you don't feel the songs the same way, either. And some of them change quite rapidly -- we do 'Europa and the Pirate Twins,' 'One of Our Submarines,' 'My Brain is Like a Sieve,' a bunch of things that have a new life. I like that you can let go and allow the decades that went in-between influence the choices you make."
Dolby isn't planning any particular commemoration for "The Golden Age of Wireless' " anniversary, but he still has fond feelings about the record that put him on the map. "I think it was an innovative album," he says. "It was very fresh and pioneering. But I think that what made that album stand apart was they were songs I could just play on the piano and sing; they weren't dependent on the groove or the sound or the production. They were timeless songs, so they still sound relevant today."
Dolby is not focusing on his next album "in a lot of detail yet," but he says that he'd "like to keep the momentum going" from "Map of the Floating City," which was his first new album in 19 years. "Coming back after all this time, I've got an incredible leg up," Dolby says. "It's quite challenging winning a new audience, especially since a large part of the active music audience is too young to remember me from the first time around. Once I've got the momentum going from this tour and album, it would be foolish not to capitalize on that and do something else quickly. I don't know if it will be a solo project, though; it could be a collaboration or a movie, but I definitely want to keep going."