Interview Credit: Adrian Hextall (Photographer/Live Gig reporter Myglobalmind Webzine
When Thin Lizzy split up, their keyboard player, who had joined them at the fresh age of 17, stepped out from behind the keyboards to front his own band Dare. Having gained considerable experience both in song writing and performing with Lizzy during the previous few years, Dare were quickly approached by some major labels and in 1988 Dare recorded their début album with A&M ‘Out Of The Silence’.
Dare’s second album “Blood from Stone” was produced by renowned L.A. producer Keith Olsen (Whitesnake, The Scorpions’ and had a much harder edge than the previous ‘Out Of The Silence’. However the pressures of the industry at the time did not sit well with Darren and the band walked away from their existing deal and Darren moved to North Wales where the haunting natural beauty of his new surroundings helped bring a new atmospheric Celtic feel to the Dare sound. ‘Calm Before The Storm’ emerged and has marked the fresh new style and direction of Dare to this date.
Several albums later, a reunion tour with former Thin Lizzy band mates that resulted in multiple headline and festival appearances and Darren is again writing and looking to tour with Dare.
Myglobalmind caught up with him to talk all things music and the upcoming Irish shows.
Good afternoon Darren and many thanks for taking the time out to speak to us in advance of your Irish dates with Dare. Before we kick off the interview properly, I’d just like to point out that (as a fan of the band) Dare were the first band I ever saw play live and you really helped shape my love of live music from that point onwards. July 1989 at the Rockhouse Club in Derby (UK).
(Obviously at this point in the proceedings, I was expecting Darren to confirm that the Derby show was indeed Dare’s finest hour, playing to those 100 or so people had never been bettered and it will live in his memory for ever as well….. Let’s see!)
That’s fantastic to hear Adrian (laughs) I don’t actually remember playing there.. (Cue silence, tumbleweed blowing across the main street and a need to move on..)
Lets talk a little if we may about the upcoming gigs in Belfast and Dublin.
(MyGlobalMind is promoting the shows heavily on the site at the moment).
Lloyd, our promoter approached us later last year and asked us if we’d be interested in playing a couple of dates in Ireland. We’ve got some additional shows lined up as well as the Irish ones, so we are starting out in Spain and play a few dates across the country before coming over to Ireland and then we are going out to Italy as well.
Any reason why we don’t see play mainland UK a little bit more often? I think the last time I saw you in the UK was at FireFest a couple of years ago.
Well, we played FireFest again last autumn at a sold out show on the Friday (of the 3 day festival) and got to play alongside Jeff Scott Soto’s band and also Harem Scarem. That was a great night and went really really well.
I think the problem with playing the UK at other times is that there are not many festivals that you can play at and as I’m sure you are aware Adrian, in the current music scene, it’s very difficult for bands that play Melodic Rock. Everyone these days seems to just want very heavy music and that’s just not what Dare is about. It’s not what we want to play.
It’s interesting you mention the style of music and what’s popular. You of course had a notable change in style and seem to be getting more airplay now, certainly in the UK, than perhaps you did with the first couple of releases?
We were quite lucky yes, a couple of years ago with BBC Radio 2 picking up and playing a couple of tracks off the Belief album mainly ‘White Horses’ which Terry Wogan (DJ) picked up and played a lot. It got a lot of exposure for us and definitely benefitted the band.
It’s a shame about the scene because if the band is ever criticised it’s always by people wanting us to be heavier. There are plenty of heavy rock and heavy metal bands out there at the moment and it doesn’t need Dare as well to turn the guitars up just to please people.
When I put out the ‘Belief’album, that was all about being true to yourself and releasing the music that you liked and not being swayed by external forces like the press. Classic Rock magazine for example, if they ever said anything it would always be that we weren’t heavy enough. You can’t write and release material to suit someone else’s tastes so with that in mind I just do what I like to do now and not be moved by current trends.
Having listened to some of the recent releases though, if we take ‘Calm Before The Storm 2’ which you’ve recently re-recorded, that’s got some crunch to it. People just need to take the time to listen to it and appreciate the guitar work that is one there.
Yeah, it (CBtS) is a nice album. One of the reasons we decided to record that again was because the label that I put that out on originally in Germany went into liquidation. Even though this had happened, the album was still being sold and I had no control over it at all. So essentially the album was being sold illegally. The company that had put it out went to ground and didn’t account to us for the sales for many years. The only thing that I had an option to do was to re-record the album. It’s something we had already considered doing so we now had a two-fold reason to do so. One, because as I say, the album was being sold illegally across Europe. Two, because I was never really happy with the production on the original album originally. It was the first album I had produced and I’d always looked back at it thinking I’d made a bit of a cock up on it at times. So with the option to re-record it and produce it again I think we’ve definitely made a better job of it and it does sound much much better this time around. Of course it also means that we benefit from the sales on this rather than some underground company in Germany that won’t account to us.
Given that he’s back in the band with you, did Vinny (Burns) contribute to the guitar work on the re-recorded version of ‘Calm Before The Storm’?
No the original artists Andy Moore and Richard Dews are still playing on that. Vinny will however be playing on the new album that we are recording at the moment and my son will also be playing on it as well.
With regard to the new album, is this the one you’ve been loosely referring to as ‘Seven’ or does it have a different working title these days?
I think it might be a different title now. Because we’ve re-recorded and released ‘Calm Before The Storm 2’ a lot of people out there have assumed that was the seventh album we’ve put out. I only see it as 6 releases from us as it’s just re-recorded. But, to avoid confusion I may well rename it before release.
When are we likely to get something from you then? The $64,000 question!
(Laughs) I wish I could say I was going to get something out this week or this month but the thing is with me, I’m notorious, I’ve got my own studio here in North Wales and I’m very finicky, very fussy about what I put on an album. It’s not like writing songs comes easily to me at all. I might get hundreds of ideas but I only work with the elements I’m comfortable with. So I might leave something for a few weeks and decide I don’t really like that idea but I do actually like that ‘bit’ of the idea and then take that forward and work on it. I try to take the best bits of all of these ideas and then formulate them into one song.
Rather than take lots of pretty good ideas for a song, I try to take the best of the best of the ideas and work with those and make the album as good as I possibly can.
How does it work pulling the band together? I know that Vinny lives in Leicestershire so is it tough to get you all in the same room?
Well Kevin (Whitehead), our drummer, is based in Manchester, Vinny as you say is in Ashby de la Zouch (Leicestershire) and we are also getting original bassist Nigel Clutterbuck back and he’s going to be coming back for a few shows. He’s therefore going to be doing the Irish dates with us and that’s something we’re really excited about as I don’t think we’ve played Ireland since we supported Gary Moore there as part of the statue unveiling for Phil (In 2005, a life-size bronze statue of Phil Lynott was unveiled on Harry Street, off Grafton Street, Dublin). So we did a short set there at The Point.
With you all being quite spread out, how do you record the new music. Do you actually record on site in North Wales or are the guys sending their own recordings over to you?
Oh no, no, I know a lot of bands do it that way these days but we all get together. I tend to work on the songs a lot myself first and then when I’m ready bring the guys in for a few days and we then work on the songs together. I’ll send rough mixes of the backing tracks out for the guys to listen to but we always work in the same room when it comes time to record the final versions.
So are we looking at a 2014 release for a new studio album then?
Oh yes. If all goes well we will have the new album out around October 2014. I would say that around 70, 80 even 90% of the album is written and recorded in various formats. The vocals and the lyrical content aren’t all finished and that as you can imagine takes some time.
You mentioned that Nigel (Clutterbuck) is going to be coming back to play a few shows with you. Is this going to be a more permanent thing or is he just helping you out?
We’ve got a few things going on in the band at the moment and Nigel is likely to be stepping in to cover for Ritchie who may miss a couple of the shows in the near future. Nigel is coming in primarily on bass but he might be doubling up on acoustic guitar as well to cover for Ritchie if he is unable to play.
Does that mean we may lose Ritchie on those Irish dates then? After all his acoustic work on the albums is fantastic so it would be a shame.
Potentially yes, it all depends on his personal circumstances but I’m hoping it won’t be the case. We’ll have to wait and see.
Did the Irish gigs come about as a result of Lloyd suggesting it to you or has there been a desire to get back there to play?
There’s always been the desire to go back and play in Ireland and I’m surprised we haven’t done more so especially given the Thin Lizzy connection. But for whatever reasons, it’s never been forthcoming. We’ve not had the offers and maybe, you know.. we’re not as well-known as we could be over in Ireland. It is a nice opportunity to go out there and play as Dare. We’ve played out there a few times with Europe and Gary Moore but it’s nice to go out to do a full set as Dare which will be a first for us.
You mentioned being well known and looking at support you have in other countries, when you released ‘The Power of Nature’ off the back of the Munich show, you seem to have a solid following in Germany?
Yes, we used to go out to Germany on a regular basis, in fact I was talking to our German publicist Birgit Schwanke (Rock It / GerMusica Promotion) only a couple of weeks ago about doing some German dates. Sadly she’s saying that the music scene over there has changed in the last couple of years and now there’s only an appetite for Heavy Metal / Grunge music rather than Melodic Rock. They seem to be the only bands that are able to tour at the moment.
Surprising given you have a strong following in Germany..?
Yes and we still do well in Germany but the live crowd is different. Our fans I think have grown up with the band and they are no longer wanting to go to those seedy dirty little rock clubs that we used to play. I think (he says with a chuckle) they’d rather listen to the music with their iPods on and a glass of wine in one hand.
I know what you mean. If you look at what is popular at the moment in Europe, certainly you have the heavier power metal elements coming out of Germany and the grimy industrial look and sound of bands like Rammnstein that seems to be picking up the kids at the moment.
I think because of the fact that most of our fans grew up with us, our main fan base is middle aged now and we need to think about how we can play the ‘nicer’ venues not these dirty rock clubs any more that support the heavy, industrial, grunge, thrash bands of the moment. I’ve played them all with Lizzy and Dare over the years but nowadays, even as recently as on the last Lizzy tour, we played some venues and thought “who in their right mind would ever come here…” It’s an issue in rock and roll at the moment and should be looked at. I certainly wouldn’t want to play the circuits in Germany at the moment until the venues improve.
Just a few final thoughts and questions around Lizzy and what the other guys are up to as well if I may? You’ve done the bigger venues with them over the last few years and played a memorable set at Sweden Rock in 2011 that I attended. It was very easy to close your eyes and imagine Phil up on stage; Ricky (Warwick) has done a great job in delivering those classic Lizzy songs. When that all wrapped up, the band then morphed into the current Black Star Riders incarnation. Was that not something you wanted to be involved in?
We all enjoyed doing the Lizzy thing. But of course, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’ll never really be Thin Lizzy without Phil. I think some members of the band agree with that sentiment more than others but as far as I’m concerned it is a pretty good likeness but it’ll never be Lizzy without Phil. As such when there was new material on the table it didn’t sit entirely comfortably that it should be done as a Lizzy album if Phil was not present.
So BSR was born and I have had input and I’ve got a couple of tracks on that album as well. But as far as going down a different career change this was never going to get in the way of Dare as that is my primary focus. I’ve always been very proud of working with Lizzy but Dare is my baby and will continue to be so.
As a Dare fan that’s great to know and we look forward to seeing you play those Irish shows in the coming months. Many thanks for your time today Darren.
My pleasure Adrian, thanks very much. If you are coming over, let me know and we’ll grab a drink before or after the show.
That would be excellent thanks, I may even bring the flyer to remind you of that legendary Rockhouse gig in Derby in 1989…… (cue tumbleweed).
DARE PLAY THE FOLLOWING DATES IN APRIL / MAY 2014:
10 Apr : Explosivo! Club Zaragoza
11 Apr : Sala Sonora Erandio
12 Apr : We Rock Madrid
16 May : Limelight Belfast
17 May : The Button Factory Dublin
(Formerly Temple Bar Music Centre)