On the eve of Dan Reed‘s US tour to coincide with the Stateside launch of his “Signal Fire” album, Dewie from ThisIsNotAScene looks back at the interview he did with Dan whilst he was over in England for the UK leg of his Signal Fire tour. They talk about new music, reunions, lyrical inspirations, Bill Hicks and Dan exclusively reveals details of a special album coming out later this year:
Dan, thank you for joining us
Thank you for having me.
Last time I saw you performing was at The Akropolis gig in Prague – how was that from your side of the microphone?
Well, it was very humbling just to see… I guess 90 percent of the people were from different countries around Europe – and the US as well – it was nice to see the support and to see so many people making that journey to be there for my CD release party but also my half century birthday. It was only our second show with this line-up of the band so it was a bit rough around the edges but I had a great time.
Is that not a tough gig though, having to work your own birthday party?
Well, I’ve never really had a birthday party in my 50 years – I was always on the road or – I owned a nightclub for a number of years and I was always having some kind of event – and I always thought it was a bit egotistical to say “Hey it’s my birthday – come on over and celebrate ME!” but I think reaching 50 I figured it would be a good time to have a party and tie it in with the CD release so it wasn’t just about the birthday. It was surreal.
Well it was a great crowd – I got to speak to people from Denmark, America, Scotland and all over and it was fantastic.
Well, thank you for coming down.
Some people reading this may not realise that you now live in Prague. Of all the cities that you’ve been to over your years touring, what was it that drew you to Prague and made you want to settle there?
Well, I had been living in Paris for about a year before I came to Prague, before that I was in New York for a year when Obama was running for president and I tried to do whatever I could to help him get elected, and three years prior to that I was in Jerusalem and before that I was in India – so I’d been moving around a lot. When I went to Prague to play in November 2010…
Would that have been after Coming Up For Air came out?
Yeah, exactly – and I just loved the city architecturally. I always wanted to be an architect if I hadn’t been a musician so I fell in love with Prague for the second time. We were there in 1990 when we opened up for The Rolling Stones and this was my second trip and I just realised “why don’t I spend more time here?”. I met a lot of great people in the 4 days I was there – ex-pats from the States, the UK and Australia – a lot of of English peaking people – mostly musicians – some film makers, dancers – people who came there for the Bohemian side of life. I felt like the whole world lived in the centre of Prague – I just felt at home there. It was so visually and viscerally entertaining and exciting to me and I decided I was going to move there.
Within 3 months of living there I met the lady who became the mother of my child – I just became a father 6 months ago – I didn’t know that was gonna happen so fast either – but now it’s gonna be home for quite a while because of my son.
You spent quite a lot of time in Jerusalem and India – that was part of the period where you had been away from the music scene for a while after you were running the nightclub – so what drew you to those places?
Well, I had been to India in 1992 to interview the Dalai Lama for Spin magazine and I remember going there and just feeling at peace – I don’t know what it was – maybe it was that laid-back atmosphere being in the Himalayas and being amongst the Tibetan people – seeing the monks walking everywhere. I always equate it to…what you see, what you eat and what you experience mentally and physically is what you become. If you’re in the centre of Manhattan surrounded by noise and billboards and shopping it can wear you down – at least it does with me – and I found that in Northern India there is very little advertising and there are all these Tibetan monks walking around and I felt at peace. I had just come out of a very dark period of my life of drugs and alcohol abuse, being a club owner – I realised that I needed that kind of calmness and solitude in my life – tranquility – a place I could go to and try to figure out what to do with my life.
The song Avalanche on the new album – the lyrics seem to resonate with that kind of lifestyle and getting caught up in it. It’s one of the few songs you’ve recorded that isn’t written by you – is it because it resonated with you when you heard it?
I heard the composer, Justin Lavash, playing it in a club one night – he did it with all this finger picking – and initially I was intrigued by the tempo. It’s not often you hear a song that’s that fast that has that much meaning to it – the lyrics were about the avalanche of emotion that comes with addiction. I really related to those lyrics – especially in my past – not so much now, I felt like it resonated with this record because the new one is more pointed and I wanted it to be about getting stronger in the face of all this adversity and Avalanche seemed to fit right in.
Justin performed it with you in Prague?
Yeah, it was great to perform it with him.
I’ve seen you live many times and you talk a lot between songs about what inspires you to write and you seem a very calm, serene person – does anything ever make you angry?
Usually only if I’m drinking – you get this false bravado – I used to be more aggressive as a kid, so I have moments where I will stand my ground – someone pushed me when I was waiting out front of the hotel saving a parking space for the van, but you know – I feel I should stand up for what is right. I saw the article in the paper the other day about that girl stabbed on the bus in Birmingham and I believe in forgiveness but then I hear a story like that and I don’t know about the whole “turn the other cheek” thing.
You play a lot of shows in Sweden and you’re very well received there – what do you think it is about the Swedish people that makes them so atuned to your music and what do you like about Sweden?
I’ve been asked this before and I’ve thought about it and I think maybe it started with Abba who were such a great dance band and I remember the Dan Reed Network were embraced in Sweden as much as in England – maybe moreso – the radio really embraced funk rock and they are a big rock band country – they were always big fans of the Network. So with the solo stuff they seem to really connect to the lyrics….they are very connected to the land in Sweden as well. Their holidays are all about going out to these beautiful nature spaces and they have great family gatherings and my lyrics are about trying to live in balance with the world and nature – so maybe they connect with that.
**Dan then interviews me a little about where I was born in Sweden and me visiting there but I won’t bore you with that ~ Dewie**
Talking about the Network – how was it doing the reunion show on New Year’s Eve?
Yeah – it was a lot of fun. We didn’t know what to expect – we hadn’t played together for 20 years, the drummer hadn’t played for 11 years – the guitar player Brion James hadn’t been playing any of the Network stuff for a long long time – I’ve been playing some of it live – Blake’s been playing music recently, but I was concerned most about feeling like a band together . I guess it was in the middle of the first rehearsal that it all fell back into place and we all started smiling and remembering why we liked playing together so much. After the first rehearsal we realised “wow this is a lot of fun just playing these songs”. We don’t have any ambitions to write any new music but we all had a great time and the audience were all smiling and having a great time and we thought why don’t we do some more. We’re doing some more shows at the end of the year – one in England (http://www.enchantedfestival.co.uk/), one in Sweden hopefully, and one in Portland Oregon.
Wow – I’ll look forward to that.
Yeah, should be fun.
Dan Pred worked on your recent video…
Yeah, he’s worked on a lot of stuff recently – he edited the whole of the “Live At Union Chapel” DVD and he did studio session videos with Rob Daiker and I playing live in the studio. Dan is a filmmaker and has been for the last 15 years. On the video for “All I Need Is You” Dan Pred wasn’t able to schedule shooting it so Rob Daiker, my guitarist and co-producer, shot and edited it but we used all of Dan Pred’s gear so he’s still involved.
How have you found the pledge campaign worked for you for the new album?
We reached our goal and surpassed it and it enabled us to hire press people for the UK and Scandinavia and allowed us to shoot and edit two videos and we’re doing a third one for “Signal Fire”.
Someone said to me the other day “In the old music business days there were about a thousand artists making millions of dollars and now with the internet there are a million artists making thousands of dollars”. The Pledge Music company is made up of old record company people. They worked for EMI and all these different labels and when the music business started changing they set this up – so you’re being represented by the same guys but they treat the artist more fairly and the artist is more in control of their destiny so I’ve got nothing but great things to say about it.
You mentioned “Live At Union Chapel” – that has the only recorded version of “She’s Not You”…
That’s true actually…
Do you ever have any plans to record that song or do you find it too personal and raw to put it out there?
No, not at all – it’s just that it’s a song that….every time we’ve recorded it it doesn’t ever feel quite as good as it does live and it’s a song I respect so much that I don’t want to release it just for the sake of releasing it, but people keep asking me to play it at house concerts and stuff and so… I have a solo acoustic album that’s coming out October or November and I have recorded all of it. I recorded it in my studio in Prague after my son was born because I wanted to be at home and I didn’t want to tour and I went in the studio and recorded a different song every day – unreleased material, songs that didn’t make it to the new record – about seven songs, then “She’s Not You”, “99 Lashes” which is a very political song, one off “Coming Up For Air” and one off the new album.
I think “She’s Not You” connects with a lot of people – whenever I hear it, it makes me think of someone close to me who died and it’s incredibly moving.
Thank you – that’s what I felt – I don’t want to cheapen that energy. I’ve recorded it twice with the band and twice on my own with a drum machine – and none of those versions felt anything like it does live – and it wasn’t until I just played and sang it ‘live’ on my own in the studio, that it finally felt right. I hope to release it as a single to raise funds for my friend Daryl Savage’s charity – because it was his idea to write that song in the first place.
I remember you talking about it at the gig at The Guitar Bar in Nottingham – a very small gig – and you talked about Daryl…
Yeah – he has a charity with ‘comfort dogs’ – he brings them to hospitals to be comfort for people with cancer and AIDS and patients connect with that positive energy and I thought I would hopefully release it as a download-only single to raise funds for his charity and put it on the solo album.
I’ve been a fan since the Network days and I notice your sets are a good mix of the old stuff and the new stuff. Some artists seem to resent people asking for all the old classics and others are happy to keep doing it…
I don’t think I will ever regret my past or object to that – it’s part of my past and to turn my back on all that….I mean I’m going in the other direction in some ways with the reunion shows – and with my current band I think we”ll always play those songs that people want to hear – I think it’d be selfish not to.
People my age who were into the Network seem to be really enthusiastic about the new material as well…
Yeah and I’m very grateful for that and very blessed. I know a lot of artists try to break off after their band and do solo stuff and it’s not always accepted so I feel very fortunate – but I think with the Network stuff I wrote nearly all the lyrics and most of the melodies and I think that still comes through in the new songs. I don’t change my thinking on that so it is the same essence – although the production is different. I think some people may want it to be heavier or funkier but I think they still hear the melody and the lyrics and that’s the through line.
What makes you want to write music these days – is it the same thing that has always driven you? To connect with people…to get a message out there?
Gandhi was once asked if he was God and he said “I am not God, but I am of God – as one drop of water is of the ocean” and I always related to that like we’re all a little piece of this big energy force that people have named God. I have always felt it was very important to try to be a positive part of that energy force and not destroy what humanity has done in the past but try to lift it up in my own small way. When I am writing lyrics – and even when I was with the Network I try to create something that resonates beyond the song. I get a lot of emails from people thanking me for the music helping them get through difficult times and I meet people who come up after the shows and they’re emotional and they tell me how the songs have helped them and it makes me feel like maybe I’m doing something right as far as reminding us and reminding myself that we have hope for the future. As much as we get desentised by the chaos and conflict in the world, we still at our core feel connected to this earth and to each other and I just want to write music that reminds us of that.
When you talk about everyone being part of one big energy force and also having heard you talk on Bob Harris’s show about the theory that there might be other beings out there that will come for us one day – it reminded me of Bill Hicks – is he someone you’re…
Speaking of God…Bill Hicks is a God. That poor man went through so much and suffered so much but said so much that was so important – in the midst of a very silly public that often didn’t get him at the time. There is a very short list of artists who put their neck on the line – who risked getting booed off stage for saying and standing up for what they believe in – George Carlin, Bill Hicks – those guys leave us too soon. We need people like that to remind us of our better selves – of how insane we are as a human race, of what hypocrites we are – how much we’re missing the boat, not using our potential. Guys like Bill Hicks epitomised that message.
I think you have a similar philosophy and similar messages and that’s why you and he have a similar connection with your fans.
Wow…that’s an enormous compliment – that’s the greatest compliment I could get – I wish I could grasp how he points it out with such a great sense of humour – I can’t do that, but I try to do it with melody – you know – just trying to remind ourselves that we just need to wake up a little as a human race.
Dan it’s been an absolute pleasure, thank you
No – thank you.