Sometimes the most profound statements come from what may seem like the least likely of sources. For the last two and a half years, there have been many a statement ejaculated via the air waves, in print, and most significantly, through social media. March of 2020 appeared to have ushered in the era of living room pundits. The echo chamber of repeated propaganda coming from the mainstream media, and parroted by the keyboard sages the world over, caused many to just tune out. Some could not in good conscience disconnect and allow the narrative to go unchallenged. One such person is Patrick Doval. Who is that, you may be asking? He would be the least likely of sources of course. Often, in the course of events, very ordinary individuals find themselves unknowingly inserted into history. Will Patrick Doval go down with the likes of Betsy Ross or Paul Revere? Probably not, but deconstructing the Soulless Machine could just earn him a place in American lore.
Doval’s particular midnight ride originates in Miami, FL., and goes back almost 30 years. “My uncle was a musician and he used to play his guitar, and I was just really inspired by his playing. He got me started into music when I was 14 years old.” After learning how to play guitar, he found himself struggling to find a vehicle for his musical aspirations, “In high school I could never put a band together. I was never the cool kid, I was very shy. Other cool kids were in bands. I would kind of sit on the side, maybe come in sometimes and jam.” So his shyness kept him from really stretching his musical legs. “I graduated high school in 1998. At that time, I was already getting into recording, and I bought an Akai DPS 12, which was one of the first digital recorders. I had one great friend, named Jesse. We would record, and from the very beginning, I was into recording.”
So with a passion for recording music, Doval vigorously pursued that obsession. “I was never a natural singer. I had tried to put a band together, but I could never find a vocalist. So, I got a drum machine and was able to get a bass guitar, and I just started layering tracks.” But what about the vocals for all of these tracks? “I said, hey, why don’t I try to sing it? At first it was horrible, I was doing a lot of dubbing. Slowly but surely however, my voice developed, and that’s how I got into music.” We all know that Betsy Ross was an upholsterer and Paul Revere was a silversmith. Things could have been much different for Doval. “I had a scholarship for mathematics. I had a free ride and I went to school full time. With studies consuming all of his time, he took a four year hiatus from music. “Right before I graduated college, my friend Jesse passed away. I wanted to put something together for his father, music we had recorded together. So I put together three CD’s for his father.” That time compiling the collection for his friend’s father showed him where his true calling lay. “I had a big job interview and I walked away from a career as an actuary.” Knowing that was not the life he wanted, he dove head first back into recording.
Doval realizes that in this day and age, with social media being a dominant platform in which to be exposed to new music, that the visual, paired with the audible is much more impactful. Getting his optics to align with the acoustics took some developing, “I film a lot in the living room. It’s a very tight space and I don’t have a cameraman. I started with a green screen and slowly developed my own sense of surrealism. I began to mess around with images and I’ve basically found my own path that I like artistically.” Drawing on the days of filmmaking infancy, Doval shares how his personal taste meets his limitations, “I find a lot of inspiration in a lot of old stuff, because a lot of the old George Melies and similar stuff from the past, turn of the century, it was the same thing. The cameras weren’t really moving.”
Now that you understand a bit about the artist and the inspiration behind creating his art, we can dive into Soulless Machine. This song is a departure from his past efforts, “I never get political, I don’t like when artists do. I don’t want to offend people coming to listen to my music, I want them to have a good time.” Now being well into his adulthood, he reconsidered that stance, “At my age, what do I have to lose? I have to do what I feel is right. That voice in my head, my conscience, just began leading down this path.” It wasn’t an instantaneous thing however, ” I like personal freedom, freedom of thought. I don’t like coercion, having my back against the wall and being told what to do. That’s what really led me to writing this song. It took me a long time to even write, because I had no inspiration at all to write anything.”
Soulless Machine and its accompanying video, present very poignantly, a dystopian depiction of several concerns that he had. Most of it is encompassed in the general response to COVID-19. The issues reflected in the song are: media propaganda; people blindly going along with the narrative; the coercion to receive vaccines; tech surveillance and censorship. In addition to the aforementioned issues, there is one core, disturbing aspect elucidated in the tune, “It’s kind of like we’re heading in the direction of transhumanism, maybe. I think it’s kind of like the morphing from human to machine. I don’t want people to think I am saying that the vaccines will turn them into machines or anything. But the technology is evolving, and these experiment, gene therapy is evolving.” This may just be another step toward ultimate subjugation of the population, “It’s the big surveillance state, if you’re a free thinker, it’s not allowed.”
If there was ever a song which should be consumed via video format, this may be it. The visualizations depicted are key to really understanding the song as a whole. There are many symbols depicted both visibly and vocally. Among these are references to general conformity as well as putting on your glasses, ala the 1988 film, They Live. One of the more evocative images are the marching syringes, “I started thinking of Pink Floyd, The Wall, with the marching hammers. “I’ve never been a fan of needles anyway. So I started working on those.” Syringes on the march, that’s a bit of a menacing thought, isn’t it? It’s been said that some people will believe anything and that if the government said, ‘Get in this boxcar, it’s for your own good.’, half the population would gleefully get in. “That’s why I even have a train in the video. The train is in a way where we’re headed, right? It’s symbolic of that old saying, that people who refuse to recognize history are doomed to repeat it.”
There is one more noteworthy aspect to this song. Doval elicited the help of a famous drummer for the track. He sought out the help of The Offspring’s now ex-drummer, Pete Parada. If you are unaware, Parada was fired from his former band for refusing to take the COVID vaccine. “Having Pete on the project, someone who was personally affected from what’s going on, was important. He basically lost his job for not going along, that was just disgusting to me. When I heard what happened to him, I was appalled. Number one, the guy’s got a pre-existing condition, and I thought it was wrong, what was happening to him and a lot of other people.”
So you may be wondering, just how Doval knows Parada. Like many other collaborations in the last two years, it was all long distance. “I’ve never met Pete. I knew who he was at the time. I heard on the news what had happened to him. I was a big fan of The Offspring growing up, as well as a fan of Pete’s.” Doval typically performs all the instrumentation on his music, but he had an idea. “I found his website and first contacted him through Instagram. I asked how much he charged.” After a few days with no response from Parada. “I was like, he’s not going to reply. I contacted a PR company, one I had always gone to and they just shut me down.” Their response, “We’re not going to help you contact this guy, and we’re not going to help you promote it. They were fearful as well. The following day, Pete reached out to me and said ‘Hey Pat, I really like the song!’. He gave me a really good price, and I sent him the tracks. I never met him, everything was very professional, through email. I don’t even know if Pete saw the video, and maybe thought this was a big F.U.. I can’t speak for him, but it was a dream come true for me.”
Although having Parada work on the song may have been a dream come true for Doval, let’s hope that the song serves as inspiration to many. It would be good for all of us if that is the only dream that comes true regarding this particular project. Doval sums up where he got the fortitude to release this song. “A lot of big, strong men were just weak, and kept quiet and did not speak up. I felt like there was a higher power, if you want to put it that way. I kept saying the whole time, I felt like I was on a path from God, and to do this and put it out there.” Remember the least likely source? Anyone who has made an impact in the history probably thought they were nothing more than a pawn. Many of those pawns have elevated to the level of noteworthy. How? By acting, that’s it. They did something. Doval, by deconstructing the soulless machine, is doing something.