Modder Spotlight: Dave Alcock
Dave Alcock aka Davido Labido describes himself as a “simple” man but looking at his body of work, he is more of a “Renaissance man”, busy with modding, reviewing and overclocking. For approximately three years now, the 27-year old engineer from Nottingham, UK has been crafting custom quality builds fit for showrooms. Naturally, Thermaltake selected him to be part of their latest Casemod invitational. Unfortunately however, due to physical injury incurred during the middle of the event, Dave was unable to complete his Core X9 modding project.
His meticulous dedication to immaculate craftsmanship speaks for itself but sometimes it is even better to hear from the artist himself to appreciate their creation beyond what the eye is capable of. Dave took some time off his busy schedule to speak candidly to Modders-Inc. about what inspires him, his methodology, and why he loves the color orange.
Aside from being a modder, you are also are an overclocker and a reviewer. Which hobby came first and describe the initial moments when you first started modding as a hobby.
My modding actually came first and it was completely by accident! I wanted a nice computer and just couldn’t find something I liked. Luckily I had previously worked with someone who had started to work at www.overclockers.co.uk and with his help I was able to sort out a components list. The build came together nicely, but I couldn’t help thinking that I could improve on it, so I bought a multi tool and got cutting, I had so much fun, I got slightly addicted! I took this to an event and XSPC saw that I was using a lot of their water cooling. I told them the story and they sent me a new case and some other bits to continue my hobby. It all started from there! Reviewing is something that I like to do when I have some down time with modding, it seems that lately I am doing a lot of modding though so I am not currently looking for review samples. Overclocking is something I am very new at, but I am fortunate to have some of the worlds best overclockers in my contacts list so I can get help when I am stuck!
If modding is about building things, reviewing is the opposite of the same coin and is about deconstruction. How do you reconcile the two activities together or is your approach and viewpoint different with each one?
I see them as two completely different activities to be honest, modding to me is about making something a little unique and personalizing it to my taste, trying to improve on what I have or just trying to make the impossible possible. I don’t really mind what other people think about my builds so much, modding is my hobby, so I only do things I enjoy and it allows me to work with some of my favourite companies and I can turn down companies I don’t like.
Reviews on the other hand are all about being impartial, if the company is one I don’t like, I don’t let that cloud my judgement, I look at each product as a new item and try not to let previous items influence me. With cases, I have to try and stop constantly thinking “oooou, If I cut this part out, I might be able to fit a 360 rad there rather than a 240 rad” as it seems when I have those thoughts, I end up just modding rather than reviewing, like I did with my BitFenix Pandora!
Most of your work involves very clean, showroom quality builds. How did this design choice come about? If you can describe your modding philosophy in one sentence, what would it be? Is this approach something you also apply in your other activities or is modding a unique outlet for exercising this philosophy?
First of all, thank you for the compliment! I try and make all my builds as clean as possible and as I am still in the early stages of my modding career I have a lot of improvements to make. Hmmm, a philosophy, I guess mine would be something like “simple looking builds for a simple man” haha.
I wish I could live my life with the same philosophy, but unfortunately life has many messy parts, many twists, turns and kinks that no amount of fittings will straighten.
What would you say are your primary aesthetic influences when it comes to design? Is there a veteran modder that you look up to and have been following before you started modding? Feel free to name specific case mod projects that you admire.
There wasn’t anyone I looked up to before I started modding as I didn’t even know there was a scene for it, but after I found it I have certainly found a lot of great modders and builders that I get inspiration from.
Parvum Systems “Project Magnus” was insane, JR23 and his “MATE”, Hukkel and his “Opteron Prime”, L3P and his “L3P desk”, Coolmiester with his “SR2 Stacker”, B Negative with his “Lumo”. And many many more, I could list people for ages!
Walk me through your process with each build. Do you do a draft on paper first, a CAD program or model before you start the build or is it an organic process that changes as you go further along?
I just see what I want to do in my head and then give it a go, the build then evolves as it goes along. It certainly isn’t the best way to do things, but as I work, I get more and more ideas, if I had already done the CAD designs and had the idea set in stone then I would follow the designs like instructions which I believe would hold me back. I would like to learn some CAD tricks though, but I am not great with it.
What is your workshop like? Do you have a dedicated shop or room for doing a project?
Haha, my workshop is my living room or garden, depending on the weather! I don’t have a great deal of money so I only have a small house. This means I really do struggle with space, my living room currently has six GPUs, four cases, some fans hanging up that were sprayed this afternoon and a multitude of tools, parts and equipment. My partner hates it, but she knows it’s my hobby and she is very supportive. We are looking to move house next year though so I can get a garage or a basement/attic so that I have my own space. It would make my life so much easier!
Unfortunately due to an injury, you were not able to finish your Thermaltake Casemod entry. Other than participating again, is there anything you would have changed? Is there a new technique or experiment you want to try to incorporate next in your project that you have not tried before?
Yeah, I am really annoyed that my injury held me back so much. I just couldn’t hold any power tools and I wanted to cut the case in half. I couldn’t do anything else before I had done this either as I didn’t really know how the build was going to progress. The only thing I would have changed would be not being an idiot and dislocating my thumb and also making sure that my calendar is a bit more empty. It seemed that as soon as I agreed to do the build, work went crazy and so did my social life! I want to learn how to airbrush properly, I have the kit, just not the knowledge. I think I will start getting some pointers from my friends who know how to do it and then I can experiment as I go along with that!
You seem to love orange. Why?
I am not really sure to be honest, I just build my first computer in white and orange and most of my others have followed suit. Strangely enough though, unbeknownst to me, my father used to paint his old racing motorbikes white and orange too! I didn’t know this until he saw my computer and asked why I picked white and orange, maybe it is something in our genetics :D.
Are there any manufacturers you wish to start a working relationship with in terms of sponsorship? Be quiet! and Cougar seem to love orange as well for example.
I already do some work with be quiet! One of the cases in my living room is one of theirs actually! I need to get that system built ASAP! There are some companies I would love to work with though such as Silverstone, Lian Li and the Raijintek Metis looks like an interesting little case to play with too!
Other than your dremel multi-tool, are there any tools you need and cannot (and for other modders, should not) live without?
My screwdriver! It is only a cheap ratchet screwdriver (see photo below) but it is great! I bought some long bits for it so that It can fit in tighter spaces and I hate doing a build without it. Other tools and items that I and other modders should never forget to use are safety glasses. Even with them on I have had a quite serious eye injury , a small 2mm metal shard got lodged into my eye so I had to spend a whole day in hospital and then a fairly long time recovering with some eye gel stuff to repair the damage. Luckily my eyesight is fine.
With your mods, you are also very particular about including the internal components to tie up the theme of the build. Manufacturers such as Avexir have made this easier for those who want to customize their systems. What would you say to other manufacturers who are not catering to modders to convince them that there is a big market in customization?
I think it is silly for manufacturers to not cater to different colour schemes as it quite simply narrows their target audience. For example Noctua only did the brown fans for a long time, now these fans are very very good, but they looked horrible. I can’t imagine how much custom they lost sticking to those colours. I know a good amount of people who didn’t buy them due to it. It isn’t even that hard to ensure that the most common colours are available either, people will pay good money to get the colours they want and I think we saw how well a range of colours worked with cases like the BitFenix Prodigy, there were loads of different combinations that were available and at events you saw a lot of people with them!
Let’s say the North Koreans have kidnapped and placed you in a desert island, forcing you to work on a case mod, but they give you free reign on what the build would be and it will take the SAS/SBS a year to rescue you. You are trapped there with every single modding tool and equipment available (yes, there is electricity) and have a year to work on. What kind of PC would you build? Describe it. Planes, boats and transportation options do not count.
Blimey, I don’t know, maybe I would try something crazy! Bamboo is available in North Korea right? If so maybe I would try to make a kind of “living” computer where the bamboo grows as the chassis, using twine instead of screws, expanding it as the case grew naturally bigger. I don’t know how much bamboo grows in a year, but I know it grows fast, we might end up with a super computer at the end of it!
After you have been rescued, the Prime Minister has tasked you to teach case modding to the UK youth as an ambassador (think like Angelina Jolie with UNICEF except with a lot less flies and poverty). Eyes bulging with possibility of an O.B.E. or even a Knighthood, you leap to the task. What important lessons would you teach about case modding that also applies to improving lives? Keep in mind you would mostly deal with underprivileged louts from council houses.
I think one great lesson that could be taught is that nothing is junk and as long as you have a little bit of imagination, and are willing to put in the time you can turn something that doesn’t suit you into something personalised to your own taste. A little determination and a little perseverance can ensure that you succeed regardless of if it’s at school, work, at home or simply modding.
Modding takes a lot of time and often times can be a costly hobby as well. What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about the hobby from those on the outside looking in who only see the final project?
There are quite a few really, the main one is that we get everything for free! Don’t get me wrong, sponsors are great and do help a lot, I have been very lucky with my product samples lately and I am very grateful. However, I also spend most of my spending power on components, tools, travel and materials. Another misconception is that modders resent each other, or don’t get on. It is simply not true, most of the people I talk to online or in the real world are modders or industry people, of course there are one or two people who don’t get on, but it is mainly a great community.
Are you modding strictly as a hobby or planning to make a career out of it/or currently offering modding services in your area?
I try and keep it as a hobby as if I did modding as a full time job I feel like I might grow to hate it. I certainly don’t want this to happen. I do however want a job in the industry, working for a company that I have worked with whilst modding maybe. I just love the community and I do very well at events with the public. Maybe one day I will be sponsoring other people, who knows! I try not to take modding jobs on for the public either, I would feel awful if I did a mod for someone, voided a warranty and it broke further down the line due to wear and tear and the customer couldn’t claim via RMA. I don’t mind my own products dying on me, but other people’s items are different.
I have recently started up my website again (www.davidolabido.co.uk) which I am hoping will allow me to move into a different line of work eventually. It is still very new though and I haven’t really had the time to do much on it with having so much work on, but one day it will get there.
I also just wanted to say a huge thank you to my sponsors, all of them are great and without them, I’m not lying when I say I just wouldn’t be able to do my hobby without them. I wouldn’t be able to afford a new build every five years, never mind five new builds every year. I truly am lucky. Soon to show my appreciation I will be giving away a load of goodies on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/davidolabidomods/) from some of my sponsors too, first will be a complete water-cooling kit I think, try and get someone new into the scene!
I would also like to publicly apologise to Thermaltake for failing to complete the build. I have already apologised to them personally, but I am very disappointed in myself, even though I had my hand in a cast for a lot of the time, I thought I would still be able to finish, I was wrong =( . Hopefully in the coming years I can make It up to them!