Spinning Platters Interview: Dan Black

by Dakin Hardwick on July 29, 2010

Photo by Kara Murphy, who also assisted with this interview

Shortly before he wowed the crowds at Mezzanine, we had the honor to sit and talk to Dan Black at a creepy dive bar on 6th St. We enjoyed club soda with lime, and talked about touring, musical genres, and what happens when your band spontaneously combusts on stage.  Here’s a transcription of that conversation:
Who are you, and what do you do?


I’m Dan Black, I’m a guy from England who lives in Paris. I travel the world making songs, and trying to figure out why he makes songs
How did you end up on the Kelis/Robyn tour?

As far as I know, Robyn asked for me to be on this tour, at least that’s how it was put to me. We have the same agent, and I think somebody in the agency thought “that would make sense.” Weirdly, I’m a huge fan, and somebody in an interview asked me “who would I like to tour with?” and I said I would love to tour with Robyn. So when it came up, I was extremely happy.
How have the crowds been?

Well, we’ve only done two shows, and it’s been amazing. I’ve done supports before, and they can be hard work, because most of the people are there to see the headline band, obviously, and there just thinking that they have to sit through this “whoever it is.” But, party because there are two big artists, and it’s already a mix anyways, and I guess what I’m doing is kind of from a similar universe, I suppose, people have been amazingly responsive, considering it’s not my tour. But it’s only been two shows, so for all I know it could all go very badly, but until now it’s amazing, like surprisingly so.
Upon doing some research, I have found a label for your genre of music, and I am curious as to what your thoughts are on this?

Are it’s initial W.P.?
Yes

I really must go into my Wikipedia page and delete that. Wonky Pop is a club night in London that was kind of big last year, and I played it, as well as millions of other artists, and for some reason that word has been said about me. Having said that, the word “wonky” and the word “pop” don’t feel completely alien. I do music that has a pop element, but pop is such a a massive word. It could mean many things. I guess if there is an element pop that can be kind of immediate, melodic, catchy. There’s something about it that says “I want to devour this now” but there something ephedral about it. It’s quite quick.I like music that has some of those qualities, taking that and doing something that maybe has- A lot of music of the last ten years has got to be serious, and they shy away things that are another quality. But a lot of things that I loved are a little blurry. They have a very strong, melodic pop element, but they also have a weight, a gravitas, like the Smiths, early Prince, Bjork. They have those two things.Right now you have to be all “We’re a serious band,” and they shy away from things that are more immediate, shiny and bright. I don’t believe that those are mutually exclusive things.
What’s the story with the Kid Cudi remix?

Well, it came together quite organically. A mutual acquaintance played Kid Cudi some of my stuff, and he quite liked it. He asked the label to send him some of my stuff, to send him an instrumental. He really liked “Symphonies,” and liked in 2 days, he emailed me back, and I really liked what he did. The record company said that this was quite useful, and it would be churlish of me to not use this after trying to get people to look at what I’ve been doing. Also, I just quite liked it. It had a certain logic to it, since the song originally had a Notorious BIG bit; it originally used the lyrics to “Hypnotize” but there were issues with that, so I wrote my own lyrics and sung them. So to get a New York/Brooklyn born MC of sort come back and do something with it kind of felt logical.So, those things all came together, and it all made sense.
When I was at SXSW, I encountered a girl that had seen you six times. What does it feel like to meet that kind of fan, the one that’s kind of obsessive?

It’s kind of hard to generalize that, since they are all individuals. Usually it’s like “You are a really cool person and this is really flattering and I’m amazed that you are that in to me” it makes me feel that I’m doing something really good. Sometimes, if I’m brutally honest, it gets kind of weird. And that kind of personality gets that crazy into you goes hand-in-hand with other traits that are kind of extreme. Sometimes it’s difficult to get that balance, and I’m quite a private individual, and some times people want you to give more than you have. But those situations are quite rare. I’m amazed and grateful that people can be that into it and that passionate. Part of me is in this to get that response from people. I want people to be into it.
Have you ever played to a crowd that isn’t that into it?

Of course. But even in the worst crowds, I kind of like it when it’s difficult.  I quite like it when people are like “Who is this?” I appreciate the challenge. I mean, there definitely are shows where I’m like, fuck this crowd, but there is always context. But it’s never disastrous. At worst, I enjoy playing and if you enjoy playing somebody will get in to it.
Any amazing show stories?

I have a disgraceful memory…
You can make it up!

Oh, well then, yesterday all the members of my band spontaneously combusted, They turned to ash… But they are all replaceable. So I just clicked my fingers, and like the skeletons in Clash Of The Titans, they just rose from the ground!
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Dan Black’s debut record, UN, is out now on Polydor Records in whatever format you consume music on!

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