Daniel Davison of Underoath and Norma Jean
Daniel Davison is my personal music hero. He has talent in multiple areas of the musical spectrum: he has served as the drummer of Underoath and Norma Jean, he’s a music video director, filmmaker, editor, and photographer, and in my opinion — as well as a lot of other people — he is great at all of it. In a recent interview with Matt Greiner, drummer of August Burns Red, I asked him what it was like to work with Daniel Davison as a director, and this is what he said:
“He is hands down the best director we have ever worked with. Without a shadow of a doubt, I would shoot a music video with him tonight if I had to, and I don’t enjoy shooting music videos at all. He is a great editor and director. He makes the process enjoyable. He is very organized. He has a vision and includes the band just as much as he needs to. He has everything thought out and the final product is just so well done. He is a story teller! He creates stories and turns music videos into movies. He is just amazing!”
Daniel Davison’s work behind the camera can be found on his website. He is very popular amongst bands with Christian musicians — like August Burns Red, For Today, Norma Jean, and Underoath.
As a drummer he is best known as a founding member of Norma Jean. Daniel wrote and recorded on every record Norma Jean put out until 2007. After 10 years with the band in 2007, after the album “Redeemer” was made, Daniel parted ways with the band to pursue more artistic endeavors such as directing and photography. In 2010, Davison succeeded drummer Aaron Gillespie in the now disbanded Underoath. Davison helped write and record what came to be Underoath’s final record.
So you have played drums for two Christian hard rock powerhouses — Norma Jean and Underoath — are you currently drumming on any projects?
No, I am not playing with any projects at the moment. I have no immediate plans of playing with anyone; however I am sure that I’ll end up playing again in some capacity soon enough.
I discovered your website for Isthmus Studios, a film production company in which you founded. You are also a skilled photographer; how did you discover these talents and how long have you been pursuing them?
Cool, thanks for checking out some of my work. I’ve been into photography and video for years. It all started when I was in high school. I took a photography class and fell in love with it. My love of photography and old cameras lead to picking up a Super 8 camera and shooting a ton of Super 8 film. I was immediately hooked to the moving image. I first started editing video back in 2003, making projection visuals for Norma Jean shows. That just carried on for years, and ultimately led to me directing and editing music videos.
You have directed videos for Love and Death, August Burns Red and Norma Jean to name a few, where do you draw your creativeness for these videos from? And have you ever directed anything with yourself in it?
It’s funny, I haven’t actually directed anything with myself in it. As for the creativity behind the videos, it comes from all sorts of different inspiration. The main thing that I let speak to my creativity for a certain project (if it is a music video) is the track itself. I will listen to a song over and over, sometimes like 50 times, and let it speak to me visually. I jot down any ideas that I may have, even something that might feel stupid. I then take those notes and go over them, and begin to weed out what I don’t like. This process sometimes only takes a couple of days, but can sometimes take weeks, depending on the project.
I am also sometimes inspired by a book that I might be reading, movies that I may have recently watched, a conversation with a friend, etc. Then there are the overarching inspirations, such as other directors, bands, etc. Such as David Lynch, Michel Gondry, Romain Gavras, Don Caballero, Godspeed you! Black Emperor, Daniel Lanois, and Neil Young.
Who are your favorite drummers?
John Stanier – Helmet, Tomahawk, Battles
Abe Cunningham – Deftones
Danny Carey – Tool
You are originally from Georgia; you’re a southern gent like myself. How did you wind up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?
My wife and I moved up north for something new. We spent a summer in Brooklyn, NY, before deciding to spend some time in Philly. My wife went back to school while we were there. We recently moved to Chicago (6 months ago), where my wife has just started a PhD program in Philosophy at the University of Chicago.
You have a signature mustache, and as of late a killer beard as well, where did you get your inspiration for such a unique look?
I can’t really say that I was inspired for my look. Since was pretty young I could grow facial hair. So every couple of months I like to mix it up, keep things interesting.
If a band is looking to shoot an awesome music video, how do they get in touch with you?
My contact is on my website, or facebook, twitter, intstagram… all the usual stuff.
Do you have any advice for drummers or people getting into the video or production side of the music industry?
Practice makes perfect. That can be said of almost any field. If there is something that you want to do, spend time pouring into it. Go out and do it! If it’s an instrument, play it every single day, as much as possible. If you want to create videos, get a camera, even a cheapo camera, and start making videos. Be creative and be real. Explore, risk, and create.
That has been my experience with anything that I’ve succeeded at: practice, practice, practice.