Interview with Dan Reed by Adrian Hextall for MyGlobalMind Magazine
Picture Credits: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
Dan Reed is a man who, in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the front man of critically acclaimed Dan Reed Network had everything going for him. The fans, the music, the look, the supporting tours with The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi and more made him front page material on the cover of Kerrang!
Nowadays, you’ll be hard pushed to find him wearing the faded denim, the ripped jeans, the patches or anything close to the look of the world famous rock star. The hair of course, was shaved off years ago and resulted in a near melt down from the band’s then management team, Q-Prime. The following video shoot for Rainbow Child necessitated the wearing of a head scarf to give the look if not the feel of a man with a rock star’s mane. No, nowadays Dan Reed is rarely seen in anything other than a very humble outfit comprising of a simple grey top, jeans and shoes.
With a smile Dan explains how his time in a monastery in Northern India gave him a new perspective on life. “The monks were wearing the same thing every day. Sometimes they wouldn’t wash it for weeks. It wasn’t that they smelled. There wasn’t like some aroma or anything but it was just the fact that they weren’t concerned about any kind of image with being in the world. They all wear the same thing so no one stands out from the other person. I was always wearing the same t-shirt at the monastery. Then,” he continues “when I started playing music again and started writing and living in Jerusalem, I had an option to start getting back into the fashion world and wearing different colours every day, wearing different cuts and button shirts and you know…what am I in the mood for today? It was something that I tried for a little bit and the more I did that, the less I felt like myself. I felt like I wanted people to focus on the music and what I was saying during conversations, going out with friends or whatever, It was more about that as opposed to trying to be some kind of a fashion person. I felt like during the Network days there was a lot of that going on.”
With the Network, the press requirements, the fan perception and that ‘rock’ look that had to be adhered to meant the band faced a lot of rigidity and a need to conform to a certain look. Dan nods in agreement; “Absolutely….ripped jeans were in so then I stopped wearing ripped jeans. Then I started putting– sewing patches on my jeans. I take them off my mother’s clothing and go over my parents’ house and steal labels off of her clothing and start sewing them all over my pants. Everybody was like: “That’s so cool. It’s like you’re covering up the rips with fashion labels.” I said: “Yeah. That’s cool.” Then, the GAP put out jeans that had labels sewn on them and I was like: “What the hell is going on here?” So I stopped wearing those. Then I started wearing baggy pants from India and now it’s just like…now, I don’t have to deal with that.”
With an assumption that Dan’s time in India also brought a sense of modesty as well, when I put it to him, he smiles and adds; “I don’t know. I know I save a lot of money by not buying clothes like that. I buy just cheap shirts. I do know that if the show goes over well it’s because I was honest during the songs and not because I looked cool.”
The interview with Dan takes place at a hotel in London the morning after a wonderful acoustic show with Tyketto’s Danny Vaughan. Listening to Dan talking about an honest approach during the songs, Danny mentioned that Dan Reed Network have a new album coming out, which is also the reason I’m sitting with Dan over a coffee. Yet, the evening before he almost tried to dismiss it as in ‘that’s not why we are here tonight’, let’s move on.
“There’s truth to that,” concedes Dan, “because Danny and I talk a lot about that, about how much to market what we’re doing like our t-shirts we talk about that, the CDs that we’ve got for sale and our new album is coming out. If it was up to me, I’d never bring it up. I am glad that Danny does because I know that management and people that I am working with want us to promote that. But I do it on Facebook. I think that’s the place to promote. I do it on our website. I think that’s the place to promote. When we’re up there, I think it takes us out of…” he pauses and adds with a smile; “It’d be like watching a Star Wars movie and in the middle of the Star Wars film, it goes: “Coming out next year, Rogue One. The next Star Wars movie.” It must be like an advertisement or a billboard in the middle of the film. That’s what it is for me.”
Understanding that the mention of a new album (Danny Vaughn also indicated Tyketto have one due later in the year) has the ability to suck the life of what the two artists are doing for just a second, allays an initial fear that maybe Dan’s heart is not in the new release…
“No. Not at all,” he says with the shake of his head. “I love the new album. I am very excited about it. In fact… Dan Pred who is directing the videos, he and I just were on a Skype call after the show last night for 90 minutes talking about how we’re going to rework the new video for “The Brave”. How we want to make a video for the song “Champion”. We were really sitting there brainstorming and talking about all kinds of visions for at least 3 more videos for the album. That’s money we’re going to spend and not the label on making it because that’s how much we believe in this album. The whole band is super excited about it, really thrilled about the show we’re going to be doing here in June here in London. Then coming back with a proper tour next year.”
The new Dan Reed Network album, ‘Fight Another Day’ is aptly titled, reflecting a 25 year gap since ‘The Heat’ was released. Released through Frontiers Music Srl, the label known for resurrecting classic rock bands willing to have another crack at the market, the label has a reputation for pressuring bands into making an album that “sounds like you used to.”
“You know, they never said that,” confirms Dan. “I know Derek Shulman (he signed Bon Jovi, Dan Reed Network, Cinderella, Kingdom Come and Enuff Z’nuff among many others) was our guy on the album and if anyone, Derek was saying: “You need a song that’s similar to ‘Get To You.'” For me, it was “Infected”, if you’ve heard the album. There’s a track called “Infected”, which is nothing like “Get To You” thematically, right? But it definitely has a funk groove like that. But I’ve already been writing that and I said: “Derek, I think I have a song that you’d be happy with.” But the label…we sent them the demos and they were just thrilled. They didn’t have any comment coming back. They just said: “Hey, this is a perfect record for us. We’re happy with it.” I didn’t get one note saying change anything to get rid if this song or…nothing.”
The new album lyrically is darker, definitely, but it’s a maturity that I guess 25 years gives an artist. No longer are the band wanting to sing about tigers in dresses…
Pausing to consider and explain where his mind is these days, Dan draws a deep breath and begins; “Ever since coming back from India and Israel, I’ve been very focussed on every song having some kind of intention of finding either balance in life or finding some kind light in the middle of the darkness or a shining light on the darkness. That’s kind of what I hoped we achieve with this new Network record. I think there’s one song…about coming together…some form of coming together and taking down walls. I’d say 75 percent of the old DRN albums were about relationship stuff, whether I was breaking up or coming together or sex or whatever that entails. But I think with this album, there is only maybe one or two love songs: “B There With You” and “Heaven.” I think the rest of the songs are all about…They happen to be the down tempo songs. So I felt that they kind of connected to me the down tempo. But I couldn’t justify doing an album like that with where I am at in my life, lyrically. So it felt good to try to attempt to do DRN type music with a heavier message.”
For those of you who have yet to hear the album, check out our review on MGM (CLICK HERE). Certainly, on those slower numbers, ‘B There With U’ could be a natural progression for ‘Rainbow Child’. On ‘Heaven’ I’d actually go as far to say that it’s the ultimate Netflix and Chill track.
Obviously with songs that do have deeper meaning and over 80% of the album does, politics and the state of the world right now do feature heavily.
“Songs like ‘Give it Love’, ‘Divided’, ‘The Brave’ and ‘Reunite’, all of these tracks to me, are relating to this division that we’re having right now. Are we going to go toward more of a socialistic society where we’re taking care of each other and our neighbours or are we going to go toward this direction where we’re building walls between our neighbours and saying America first, Britain first, Sweden first? Are we going to get into this world or are we going to get in this world where the Earth comes first? Are we going to be working together as a group of nations to solve our problems or are we going to divide up and just take care of our own people? Of course, you know which one I believe in.”
Looking at the current state of politics, Dan does have positive things to say about one candidate. “I am really excited about Bernie Sanders. I think he’s done an amazing job of going against the system. He hasn’t taken any money from corporations. He’s right neck and neck with Hillary Clinton, and the only reason why she’s edging him out at the moment is because she has the complete support of the Democratic National Convention. So they all have been anointing her since the beginning as the presumed candidate.”
The DNC is responsible for taking all the money they collect and helping democratic candidates get on to Senate, Congress, and ultimately the Presidency. They’ve been behind Hillary a hundred percent and they haven’t done Bernie Sanders any favours. Even with that, Sanders is right neck and neck with her. He’s going to take it all the way to the Convention. If he doesn’t win, he has succeeded in igniting the independence of America which is the largest voting block in the country, bigger than the Democrats, bigger than the Republicans. He has pushed Hillary Clinton to the left and to where she should be as a Democrat. To be honest, right now, the right wing has got so right and so wacky with either Christian values or gun rights or anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican. It’s swung over so far where Ronald Reagan wouldn’t recognize the party right now. Clinton is actually center or even a little right. So she’s almost in the Republican position as far as where she stands. Bernie Sanders is just really a proper Democrat but he looks radical because of how far the right is.
I am happy with where Sanders is taking things. If Hillary wins the nomination then at least, it will be better than Trump. But we’ll see. I mean, Trump might be the President of America. That could very easily happen.
The Independents are going to be so disfranchised if Hillary gets the nomination that they’re not going to vote for Trump or Hillary. That’s the problem. And the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have the same voting blocks. So it all depends if any Independents swing over and vote for Trump just because they’re pissed off Bernie Sanders didn’t get in.
I am always writing about that. It’s another thing, you know. I guess, if you were at the show last night, it would look like I am almost more passionate about the political thing than I am about the new album,” says Dan with an infectious laugh. “But that’s not the case.”
As we move back towards the album content, we begin to discuss one track in particular, ‘Sharp Turn‘, that feels, to me at least as if the whole band had equal input into the track. As I put this to Dan, he leans forward with a thought process clearly going through his mind.
“OK. Interesting.” With a pause whilst he considers his response, I wonder if I’ve completely misread the song but then he smiles, leans back and continues; “I wrote all the lyrics except for 2 songs which is ‘Reunite’, I wrote with these Swedish guys, they wrote it actually, and then I kind of vamped it to fit DRN. Then ‘Save the World’ which is Brian James’ song. He wrote all of that, the music and the lyrics. But I wrote all of the other lyrics. Oddly enough that you say that about ‘Sharp Turn’ as it and ‘Heaven’ are the only two songs that I wrote 10 years ago. So, none of the Network had any involvement with that and neither did Rob [Daiker]. Rob had some involvement with ‘Heaven’ though, but not ‘Sharp Turn’. ‘Sharp Turn’ was written during the time period of when I was really kind of down on my luck and I was in a very dark space and so was ‘Heaven’ oddly enough. With ‘Sharp Turn’ Dan Pred demoed some drums for it. I sent him the demo and he goes: “Let me try to do some drum beat for it because I hear something different.” Sent it to Melvin. Melvin added some bass parts on the demo and sent it Brion. Brion started doing all of these echoey guitar parts. Then, Rob Daiker has us recording it as a band and adds all of these great keyboard parts. So actually, it’s the most input…You’re absolutely right. It’s the most input that every individual band member had on one of the songs on the album but all in different times and different places. When we recorded it, we did the drums first, the bass, then Brion redid the guitars, then Rob did his keyboard parts but it’s a song that I wrote completely on my own.”
The track certainly feels like an exercise where everyone has put their own stamp on it and, with a smile, Dan realises he’s talked himself into the same point of view as well. “You’re the first the first person that mentioned that but I have also thought that myself.”
As a lyricist, it’s obvious that the new material and that also found on Dan’s solo material is based on topics that matter most to him these days. Even though it’s darker content, the melodies keep it energized and lighter, bringing the tracks back slightly and leaving them more upbeat and positive.
“I hope they do,” concurs Dan. “One thing that I learned about a lot of religious text for example, when I was in India and a place where the Sikhs call their home. They sing their holy book all day long. They don’t recite it or speak it. The Tibetans, when they’re chanting all of these different mantras and prayers that are…they are not praying to some god figure, they’re praying to their own consciousness. But it’s always chanted or sung or kind of toned you could say. I always found it more palpable to get these messages or get the intentions of the messages of the religious texts when it was conveyed in some musical or rhythmic form. So I feel like whenever I am writing something heavy, I didn’t play the song last night but I’ve got a song called “99 Lashes” that’s about a really heavy subject about a woman from Iran that’s been sentenced to death for cheating on her husband and she got the standard sentence that women get when they’re accused of infidelity. They’re being whipped 99 times. So I went, “I want to write a song about that,” but how do you write a song about that without just really being super depressing or not getting the message across, like hammering people over the head too hard. So I went: “What’s a song that just really brought a lot of love and positive energy to the world,” and I thought back to the Beatles.
At this point we are treated to an impromptu a capella Beatles number as Dan sings “You got to hide your love away….,” So I was like, okay, I am going to use that rhythm, come up with my own chord changes and write this song called ‘99 Lashes’. When I played it live often times, people come to me and go: “I never thought…” especially songwriters they say it’s so amazing that you’ve made that subject palpable and actually something that I loved listening to as opposed to going “stop preaching to me,” or “Oh god, let me slit my wrists.” It was really something…It’s that kind of challenge. I really do try to, not hide but make deeper messages something that you can digest through melody.”
A song like this could have easily ended up pushing a person lower, dragging them down when in fact the message needs to be delivered to inspire and lift them.
“For the DNA network or for my solo stuff, I’ve always been such a fan of the pop structure. Verse, chorus. Verse, chorus. Solo or bridge, chorus, out. That’s always been my passion in music is writing songs like that. For better or for worse, songs from say Radiohead or Sigur Rós from Iceland, they are more meditation to me. So you can sit there and get into that meditation with them and if their intention is to drag you down into the mud, they do it really well and if their intention is to lift your spirit up, they do that really well. My goal is to try to make a song that you can sing to your children one day.”
Naturally with a 25 year gap between albums, there should in theory be left overs, songs that were available, could have been used but for whatever reason were put to one side. “There are leftovers from this and there’s also about 7 or 8 songs that we reviewed to put on this album from our old demos,” confirms Dan. “But then we went and said ‘Van Halen put out a new album last year’, do you remember? With David Lee Roth singing. In the credits, he said something or in an interview..I guess 4 songs or 5 songs were from their old demos with Ted Templeman. You could hear it in the songs. You’re like, “This sounds like a song that could have been one of the old like ‘Women and Children First,’ or ‘Diver Down’ or something like that.” I felt like I didn’t want us to do that. I didn’t want it to sound like we were trying to look backwards…we didn’t want people saying “you can’t write songs as strong as we were doing back then”, so let’s go back and pillage our old catalogue. But there are songs from the old days that maybe someday we’ll play live. There is a song called ‘Mind and Body’ which was from our EP that we were talking about. Our EP from 1985.
The strong new material owes a lot to the sound and techniques new member Rob Daiker has brought with him. A long-time collaborator and friend of Dan’s, Rob fills the space left by Blake Sakamoto and the end result is a solid modern keyboard led sound which does help bring the Network into the current century.
“Rob is just a great producer and guitarist. He didn’t play any guitar on this record but we’re going to maybe start having him play guitar live on the stage with Brion. So have him do some double solo stuff. Rob is probably one of the best guitarists I know out there. Brion is of course, amazing. Rob has got a new record coming out too called ‘Binary Affairs’. It’s coming out next month. Portland label too.”
The 15th of June sees DRN play the album launch show at the 100 club. There are 9 shows in total. 1 in Norway, 3 in Sweden, 1 in Hamburg, 1 in Paris and the one in London.
A full tour will follow after people have had time to check out the new material and ensure it’s been a regular part of their playlist.
“A lot of bands come out when they have a new album. They come out when the record is released or like fairly shortly thereafter and I don’t think it gives people time to learn the songs and get it in their DNA. So what we wanted to do is come out like 9 months to a year later so everybody is kind of really looking forward to hearing those songs live.”
‘Fight Another Day’ is out next week and the tour dates are listed below:
DAN REED NETWORK
2016 EUROPEAN CD RELEASE TOUR
HARD ROCK CAFE – OSLO, NORWAY
SATURDAY 4th JUNE 2016
DAN REED NETWORK CD Release Show
Tel: +47 40 00 62 60
Address: Karl Johansgate 45, 0162 Oslo
LISEBERG – GOTEBORG, SWEDEN
TUESDAY 7th JUNE 2016
Tel: +46 31 40 01 00
Address: Address: Örgrytevägen 5, 402 22 Göteborg, Sweden
SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL
FRIDAY 10th JUNE 2016
Tel: 0456-317 95
Email: [email protected]
Address: Nygatan 27, 294 34 Sölvesborg
ROCK CAFE ST. PAULI – HAMBURG, GERMANY
MONDAY 13th JUNE 2016
Tel: +49 179 1349633
Address: Silbersackstraße 27, 20359 Hamburg, Germany