Dr. Dave's Journal Page:


It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving that Mike Davis, leader of "Mike Davis & The Laughing Buddha Episodes" had arranged to meet, for an interview that was to appear in the December issue of the new Carousel magazine. My wife, Carol came along for the ride and to take pictures.

The sky was overcast with flurries gently falling as we pulled into the Beer Tree Brewing Company in Port Crane.  The parking lot was packed, which surprised me, after all it was a Sunday afternoon...not typically a busy club day, but the Fox and Farmers Food Truck was pulled up to the south wall of the building (to the left as you enter) and we walked in.  Inside the rustic wooden exterior of the craft brewery it was warm, football was on the widescreen and local alt/pop singer, Devinne Meyer was getting ready to entertain.  Her boyfriend, Davis, was helping her set-up her equipment, on the north, interior side of the rectangular bar, set in the middle of the room.  Her backdrop would be a wall with a large window pane and a clear view of the brewing vats in the room beyond.  We walked up to Davis and Meyers, introduced ourselves, ordered drinks and set down to talk, while Devinne began to sing.

Davis was dressed in an orange, white and black flannel shirt, under a black thinsulate jacket,  his friendly face adorned with a full, trimmed, beard and moustache. A knit winter hat covered his head.  He ordered the “Funky Berries,” while I had the “Tree Ultra Light.”

MD: So you heard the album…
CAROUSEL: I did. I think I like “Stay Fine” the best. I like the horn sound.

MD: It's a little more radio friendly…

CAROUSEL: Well it could be that...I tend to go for the higher energy songs, I'm not a ballad guy.

MD: I've always been a ballad guy.

CAROUSEL: Let me ask you about that, because your music is described in many different ways, from jam band to heart soul and ballad soul...how do you see yourself?

MD: ...it's like soul music that like tries to come from like the root of everyone's heart and not just like mine. It's weird to think that you can like speak for the universe, but that's kinda where I'm coming from, which is like everyone has this flame inside of them at the very core of them and I basically wanna write music from that space, as much as possible.

CAROUSEL: I hear where you’re coming from, but everybody writes from their field of reference, anyway.

MD: right. I'm very into meditation and like Adaita. It's a form of meditation that's meant to get beyond your mind and more into what's actually real as opposed to what we think is real.  It's more like pushing away the s**t that isn't really universal and true, so that you see what's left and you can find some peaceful stuff.

CAROUSEL: I’m getting the vibe here, not that it’s not obvious, but there’s a reason that the band is “The Laughing Buddha Episodes.”

MD: yeah.

CAROUSEL: You seem like a very, just from reading your song lyrics, you’re a very zen guy.

MD: Yeah, that's definitely a part of me, like, it was sort of a conscientious choice.  I used to think I was gonna be in a rock band, but some part of me, I’m compelled to wanna, like, break my mold, sort of a thing, at all times, as much as possible, like, to break the past things that have held me back, y’know?


MD: Uh, to kinda like come into more of a sense of, just more peace.  That’s really what I want is peace. There was a time when I quit music because I thought I was gonna be a monk. That lasted about two months. (chuckles) ...and then I started writing my last album.

CAROUSEL: I gotta ask, I know ya live in Norwich now...is that where you’re from originally?

MD: Yeah.  ...but, I’ve lived a million different places, yeah.  I lived in Vermont for awhile, I lived in New York City for awhile...Ashville, North Carolina...I’ve moved around a lot just to kinda like, just see what’s out there y’know?  

CAROUSEL:  It doesn’t seem like the kind of direction that a kid from Norwich takes, if the kid stays in Norwich.  

MD: Well, yeah...I don’t really know that there’s really a kind of direction that comes out of Norwich anyway, there’s some really talented people that come out of there for sure.  

CAROUSEL: I don’t want to pigeon-hole you, but it seems like a small conservative town…not that everybody’s gonna be that way, but that just the kind of idea that I get.  My father has a cabin on Lake Steere and we’d come into Norwich a lot, when I was a kid, so I know the area somewhat. 

MD: Yeah, I got wrangled up by the hippies pretty quick as a kid.  My brother tore me away...I used to never wanna do drugs or anything and my brothers like, he went to college and he grabs me one day and he says, “I’m gettin’ you high today!”  ...and like ever since then it’s been like, uh, that’s the thing too about drugs, it makes you more introspective, it makes you more like, thoughtful about yourself.  I mean, maybe it makes some people paranoid right?  

CAROUSEL: It depends on what you do and how much…

MD: Exactly, man.  Exactly. I’ve done my share of experimenting with different things, not everything, but…

CAROUSEL:  Let me ask you, not that it has anything to do with anything, but how old are you?  ‘Cause you seem like a really old soul…

MD: I’m 38, so, but I’ve always been an old soul.  I remember trying out for football as a kid and I had one amazing catch, but I was way too fat.  (laughs) So, I quit and decided I’d be much better off as a poet, so…

CAROUSEL:  When did you start pickin’ up a guitar?

MD: I was about sixteen…

CAROUSEL: ...or was that even your first musical instrument?

MD: It was my first musical instrument.  I knew I loved music before then, but that was definitely,  that was the first...for whatever reason I fell into like, Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that.  My buddy was really into Hendrix and he kept playing me tapes of their music and that sort of like evolved from that man into that sort of hippie aesthetic in music.  I fell in love with (Bob) Marley, fell in love with Phish, all those kind of groovy y’know, upbeat kinda groovy stuff.

CAROUSEL: I can hear that...I almost wanna say there’s a Dave Matthews Band aesthetic in some of your music, not everywhere, because a lot of the instrumentation isn’t the same, he has a fiddle player in your bandd, but it seems like there’s a lot of similarities...maybe some Jack Johnson…

MD: The thing about Dave Matthews is that he’s fairly progressive.  Y’know what I mean?  As far as like, an acoustic songwriter goes…


MD: I think that’s a fair comparison.  

CAROUSEL: He blends a lot of Apalachia in his music…

MD: Yeah, I can see that, definitely.  I don’t that I do all that much.

CAROUSEL: Considering you’ve been around for awhile, for a lot of us, we’re just hearing about you the last couple a years...how long were you away from the area before you came back?  Were you in a bunch of other bands?  ...what’s the story?

MD: Yeah, so I moved to Rhode Island when I was like 25 or 24, to pursue a band that I had started when I was in college, so we broke up...and then we decided we were gonna reform with a different bass player...and we moved somewhere so we’d be between Boston and New York, right?

CAROUSEL: So college was where?

MD: SUNY Potsdam.  I went for English writing (major) and a Philosophy minor. 

CAROUSEL: That works for the songwriter part of you, anyway…

MD: Yeah, well that was the thing, I was gonna do something that I had to work to hard at as a major.  Something I already loved and enjoyed.  To just love it and not have to worry about it being work.  Y’know what I mean?  So, I had that band, their name was ExpandID, with an ID at the end, so like expand your ID.  That’s been sort of like the theme for my life anyway.  The Laughing Buddha Episodes is sort of an extension of that.  This is like the same theme of, like, everybody’s way more than they think they are, sort of a thing, y’know what I mean?  So, knowing our potential far outweighs what we do I wanted to see what I can do to like...and I know I’m going off track…

CAROUSEL:  That’s okay…

MD: So, I had that band and I moved back to New York and had another band called Plain Man Brown, that played quite a bit in Syracuse for awhile and that kind of fizzled out.  Again, I was constantly fighting this urge to just be like a meditator.  To just meditate and be like, just find my place in the universe.  So honestly the reason why my journey has taken so long, is because I wanna be sure of that before I take that first step.  Finally, I’m walking now, so that’s good. 

CAROUSEL:  You’re one of the guys that’s searching.  

MD: Yeah, but it’s easy to get addicted to searching.  It’s easy to get addicted to not finding.  Y’know?

CAROUSEL: Yeah, but don’t you wanna find eventually?

MD:  Well, yeah.  That is, yeah, the ultimate.  Yeah, for sure.

CAROUSEL:  Tell me about the band?  Are they all from around here?  I mean they must be now...

MD: So, the band as it is now is not the original band, we’ve actually gone through a couple of different modifications.  So right now, we have Tom Westcott on bass, Mike Melnyk on keyboard and Cooper Casterline on drums.  Tom and Mike were good friends with my Brian (Goldman?).  They used to play in a band called “Bad Weather Blues” together.  I would go to their shows and hang out with them and they had no clue that I was a musician.  So one day Brian invited my on stage and fast forward several years, that band broke up and Mike and Tom...and I forget how it happened, but I warmed up for Ultra Vibe, their band with Steve Simmons, so I ended up opening for those guys and they heard my original music and they were like, “Holy s**t,” like they wanted to hang out. It’s a blessing, man.  Total serendipity.  Tom’s added such a great element to my music, he’s got a sort of a director inside of him, like a music director...and his stage presence is so great, like a wild man, y’know?  He likes to get freaky on stage, jump around, throw his bass around and stuff, but his sensibility has really kind of infused the band, I would say, with a lot of really good energy...focus, too, y’know?  One thing about me is I’ve sort of been “hippie” enough so that I don’t care too to much if it’s like perfect, or this or that and he knows music so well that like he basically compliments me, where I’m just sort of like some kid in a playground just f**kin’ around, he’s sort of like “well, if you f**k around over here, and then you go over there…” he’s an arranger in a lot of ways for what we do musically live on stage.  Mike obviously, also plays in “Ultra Vibe” and he’s probably the best musician I’ve ever played with, like legit...Tom’s definitely number two.

CAROUSEL:  I’ve known Mike a long time.  I used to work with both Mike and his brother a different radio station.  I didn’t know they were gonna be over at Fox 40 when I was hired there.  It was a pleasant surprise to find them there.  

MD:  Yeah, I bet. He’s such a good dude...he’s one a those cats...give the shirt off his back for ya...it’s a great change from some of the personalities you find in bands, too.  Cooper, he’s a young kid too, he’s a bad mother.  Just to keep going on that scenario...he was playing in “Triple Down”...

CAROUSEL: That’s the connection to Michael Wu, then!

MD: Yes.  He know Mike Wu quite well.  I love Mike Wu, too.  He’s great.  

CAROUSEL: I noticed he was in that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young project last week for him.  That makes sense.  

MD: It’s all connected, man.  

CAROUSEL:  It really is.  

MD: Once you get into the scene at all you realize that everyone’s friends with everyone else.  

CAROUSEL: ...and not only that but everyone seems to have a couple of different bands for all their different personalities…

MD: Yeah. Yep. True.  So, everyone coalesced together, it’s just serendipity, man.  Like I just asked Cooper, “hey, I got these tunes” I sent him a Dropbox link to a buncha my tunes and he’s like, “Yeah, I could learn those.”  ...cause my drummer at the time was starting to play with this other group and I’m like, well, I gotta have somebody, y’know what I mean?  So, it turned out I ended up getting a really bad ass somebody for drums.  


MD: Yeah.

CAROUSEL: Its nice when things work out, so…

MD: I think so. Yeah, it’s working out great.  We compliment each other really well.  I like that the group can, kinda like, turn on a dime, where it’s like...we’ll be going forward, forward, forward in a jam, and then like, something will happen, somebody will drop out, and just turn...like, just turn the music and everybody follows.  It’s great that we all have those big ears that we can employ in the middle of a song, in the moment, let’s just see what we can do!  What the hell, y’know?  Mike is famous for that.  Like, he’ll, oh god, I don’t even know...some classical piece that he’ll pull off in the middle of my reggae tune “Ellafae” (which he spells out for me.), but he goes into this classical piece which goes into a little organ thing for while basically everybody’s jaw drops because he’s a virtuoso, y’know.  Fun to watch.

CAROUSEL:  He’s got a photographic memory, you gotta watch out for those guys (laughs).  So, tell me, I can see where the Buddha reference in the name makes sense.  When...where did you have that whole name come from though?  That’s one of the most original names I’ve ever heard of.  

MD: Well, thanks man.  So, I’ve already established I’m a spiritual dude. I listen to this guy named Mooji (spells this too, thankfully.) who again with the whole Advaita thing, and they have a series of episodes, they’re called “Laughing Buddha,” and it’s on YouTube, y’know?  ...and like, the whole idea behind it is y’know these people come to these intense, very like centering, uh, epiphanies about themselves and they can’t help but laugh at how simple it is and all that, and I feel like, so basically they start laughing, they can’t stop and people in the audience start laughing and then everybody’s laughing by the end of it.  Everybody realizes, like it’s this cathartic moment where you’re releasing all the bulls**t, right?  I kind of feel like that’s what mankind needs right now.  We need to release all the bulls**t and laugh about life, more than anything.  There’s a lot of s**t, people are scared a lot…

CAROUSEL:  I know, I know.  A couple more elections and we’ll all be able to to laugh…

MD: Yeah, right?  (chuckles) Let’s not talk politics, oh god. (laughs some more)  So, yeah...that’s really where the name came from, just one day I was in Asheville, North Carolina and um, “Mike Davis and The Laughing Buddha Episodes” right?  Actually at first, I thought it was gonna be a solo acoustic project.  Yeah, it was just sort of like, I don’t know...like we’re in the episodes of our own humanity, where it’s like time for us to really kinda hunker down and grow up, basically.  If we don’t we’re probably gonna end up being extinct, which is probably better for the planet, then us like y’know, learning how to travel in space and then go do the same thing to another planet that we’ve done to ours, y’know what I mean?  Y’know, it’s like not very sustainable, what we’re doing right now, y’know?  

CAROUSEL: I know.  Some of us are learning.  We’re not all capable, but some us are.

MD:  Yeah, and I think it’s important too for people who are learning to be more vocal about it.  Y’know?  ‘Cause again, like, if I had my druthers, I’d rather be at home, right?  ...but, I love people, I love music, so of course, I’m gonna come out and share my music, right?  I have to because otherwise it’ll just die in my house and I don’t want that, man.  I don’t think anybody wants that, y’know?  It’s just like a sad poem, right there.  

CAROUSEL:  No, I get that.  That’s alright.  So, where are you hoping this goes?  

MD: I would love to play festivals.  I would love to have national airplay.  Uh, I know it’s not the kind of music that’s going to get under everybody’s skin, right?  

CAROUSEL: Oh, it’ll get under some…

MD:  Yeah, it’s more of a niche thing I think.

CAROUSEL: ...but, overall, no, I understand.  

MD: Yeah, I’m under no illusion.  There was a time in my life when I used to want everybody to love me all the time, right?  It’s like, not everybody’s gonna love ya, man.  Some people are gonna think you’re just a mouthy asshole, and that’s okay, too.

CAROUSEL:  There’s always haters.

MD: Well, yeah and hey...you can’t let that stuff get you down, man.  ‘Cause I did for a long time, I mean, I’m a very sensitive type of individual and if somebody gave me any kind of criticism or made me feel weird about anything, even though I had the self-assurance to go on, they would really kind of like, cripple me, y’know?

CAROUSEL: ...but as we get older, our skin gets a little thicker.

MD: Yeah, and you just start to realize it’s all bulls**t.  That person’s opinion to me means nothing.  No one’s opinion means anything except your own, really...living in your own world, right?  ...to a degree and then obviously, people will help you out along the way, too...and hopefully you’re astute enough to see it when it comes, right?  

CAROUSEL:  Well, there’s that. Hopefully, it’s the right people. The outside world makes an impact at some point.  Hopefully you’ve insulated yourself with enough good people.  

MD:  Again, that’s why I’m very lucky to have the band that I have around me.  Everybody’s so easy.  There’s no real personality issues.  We’re able to have fun and just jam and get crazy.  There’s no worries with those guys.  ...and anything that they may have to say is just gonna be constructive.  

(we get off topic talking about festivals, Driftwood, Donna The Buffalo, Bess Greenberg Milkweed, and the studio in Norwich, (where the latest album was recorded) which is bankrupt and closing to most, before we get back on topic.)

MD: ...the first album I did, “The Shape Under,” took me eight years.  The second album, “Find Youself>Caterpiller” took me three years, so I think I can get it down to maybe a year on a record, and I'll be good…(his voice trailed off before he could say “if I had a recording studio” which I presume was where he was going, as we were just talking about the sale price for the one in Norwich, which is reportedly ready to be sold for the right price. Then I made a comment that again took us off topic, before returning to future recordings and the future of the band.).  I'm trying to cut down the time it takes to get my ideas out there. That's why multi-tracking is so good though. The technology today is insane.

CAROUSEL: Sure. Well, you can turn your house today, into a studio.

MD: I probably don't need ALL the bells and whistles, just a few good microphones.

CAROUSEL: That's how Marv William's did his album. Red House Studios, that's his house!

MD: Nice. Well, my first one I did one a four track, right at home. Well...that four-track followed me around from like Vermont to Norwich to Sherrill NY to like Asheville, North Carolina, like yeah. 

CAROUSEL: So it's well travelled.

MD: Oh yeah, lotsa locales for that record, well eight years! ...I can send you a link to stream it online. It's on bandcamp. Look up, “The Shape Under.”  Yeah, I basically kinda wanna take over the world. I wanna become a bad mother with my music. I think that would be fun. I'd like to be the guy that's out there, really friggin’ lookin’ people in the face, getting reaction, gettin’ s**t done, man. Getting people's hearts stirred up y'know.

CAROUSEL: C'mon. How much do you really wanna do that?

MD: Not enough to get it done (laughs)! Honestly, more than anything else I'm kinda hoping for a...I don't know, kinda hoping that through the fact that the album's available for free, people can listen to the music, I'm hoping that that, people start sharing that, and like, even if I died tomorrow, if the album can go out and touch people, that's really where I'm at.

CAROUSEL: You're looking for word of mouth at this point.

MD: Yeah, it's really word of mouth...and I think that the best stuff kinda comes up that way anyway. That prepackaged Top 40 bulls**t's dumb.

CAROUSEL: ...if you've got all these ideas, how far along are you to the next album?

MD: So we just had our first rehearsal last week for the first two songs that are on the new album...I'm not gonna tell you the name for it, yet.. 

CAROUSEL: You've already got a name for it?

MD: Yeah, I'm pretty sure. It's uh, I really don't want to divulge too much, yet. It's gonna be sort of a joke album title...uh, it's gonna kinda, y'know, harken back to the fact that I've got like ten years worth of music that I've not done anything with because I was focusing on this one project...and then this other project...I had all this other stuff that I was writing, while basically I was supposed to be a monk or something, right? It's gonna be a fun record, I'm excited as hell for the premise, just played out for the first time for a couple of those tunes, which is weird, because y'know, I wrote those tunes like ten years ago, easy, if not longer ago, some of them are like 15 years old...it's like the first time to hear them out loud! We've got this tune called “Bootcamp” which is basically just a straight one-minute long punk song and it's basically about how they're sending you out to die sort of thing.

CAROUSEL: How much original music do you get to play at your shows?

MD: Almost all of it ...part of the reason Tom Westcott is playing with us is because it's original, he actually had a buncha projects and things in his life got kinda complicated, so he had to simplify. Luckily my band was one of the, I mean he's a phenomenal bass player, so I take that to be a huge boon for my band in that he said, okay, I'll still play with you, and that's exciting. That's validation.