Q&A: An interview with Dan The Man
We had a chat with Dan The Man, (Daniel Haggis) of The Wombats about politics, ideal dinner parties and most importantly, his solo project, in celebration of the release of his second solo album, 'Circadian Circus'.
'Circadian Circus' is out now on Bright Antenna Records, self-produced by Haggis, recorded and co-produced by Rob Whiteley (Clinic, The Night Cafe, The Wombats) and mastered by Greg Calbi (The National, Tame Impala, Father John Misty).
1. First up, let’s talk about your 2012 debut self-titled, solo album.
From the opening track ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ through to album closer ‘Herbal Tea’ the album is comprised of 11 tracks of whimsy and the feeling of childlike wonder. You’ve used some less-than-conventional sonic influences to create a fantasy listening experience, calling upon sounds we associate with carnivals and Funfairs whilst retaining pop sensibility.
For a debut solo album, this was a bold and arguably eccentric approach. Can you talk us through the ideas that went into creating such a vivid and spontaneous album and did you ever have any initial doubts about how the record may be received?
I never really think about how the music I make will be received to be honest. All I knew with that album was I wanted to try to make it sound like a bedroom folk recording yet cinematic. It was also a learning process and a chance for me to experiment with production ideas and arrangements.
2. The album's track titles seem to be made up from literary and film references like ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ and ‘Peter Pan’ then cover the obscure, ‘On Safari in Primark’ and the lacklustre, ‘The Electrician’. Can you share with us the method behind this titling madness and which title/ track theme you are most fond of?
Haha, I suppose I like writing songs about subjects that aren't standard topics. For example, when drinking a herbal tea one evening, forest fruits if I remember correctly, whilst playing the guitar I suddenly thought that I should dedicate a song to that peaceful drink. I really don't like shopping in busy places, or shopping at all to be honest, and after one particularly harrowing experience of a Saturday afternoon in Primark being dragged around by my darling girlfriend I realised the only way to get the stress of it out of my head was to make a song which turned into 'On Safari In Primark'. That's probably my favourite title and track on the album.
Haha. And what is your favourite herbal tea?
Oooh, it's got to be fresh lemon, chopped ginger and honey…with a little splash of whisky from time to time!
3. Album one expresses a dichotomy between highlighting the ugly truths of the world yet shrouding them behind cheery illusion and fantasy. How important is it to you that people understand the significance behind some of your songs and take in the clever satire/ witticisms vs just wanting the listener to feel a basic enjoyment at the soundscapes you have created?
I think everyone listens to songs in different ways and I'm just happy if another human being out there connects on any level with something I've made, whether it's the meaning behind the song or just a weird combination of sounds that gives them a feeling. I did actually have someone ask me whether 'Lucky Us' was ironic, which it most definitely IS, and I did worry that some people might think that I'm being serious when I say that the world was made for us to spill oil and generally fuck up!
4. Four years in the making, your second album ‘Circadian Circus’ is due out very soon. Having read your Facebook bio about the ideas behind the new album, is it safe to say the album title is a clever metaphor for the circus that is life and its repetitive cycle of each passing day?
Yep, pretty much!
5. You have often spoken quite openly about where you lie on the political spectrum and your personal views on the important issues we face as not only a country but a united planet.
While politics has been an intrinsic part of musical culture throughout history, it seems in this day and age, a lot of musicians in influential positions get criticised for both speaking out about their views and then again for not speaking out at all! How much of a duty do you feel people in the limelight have in sharing their views (outside of the themes of their lyrics) and why do you think they aremet with such a divisive attitude when they do?
I actually had this conversation with a friend the other day. I think if someone in the limelight has a strong viewpoint on certain issues then of course they should speak truthfully in interviews about their concerns and maybe inspire or challenge their audience's views. Music and art in general have helped revolutionise the world and spread messages over the years, whether anti-war, anti-apartheid, raising environmental concerns, mental health, etc etc. The list goes on, but it gives a voice to like minded people's thoughts. Take a line from Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi' for example - 'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot'. That line echoes right down into your subconscious and I'd like to think there's someone out there who had to make a decision on whether to tear down a beautiful forest and instinctively decided against it because of hearing that song as a kid. Maybe not exactly that but I'll tell myself that! I think the divisive attitude maybe comes from the media? If someone famous goes against a newspapers political viewpoint then they're easy targets to say stuff like 'what do they know about helping the environment when they fly around in private jets' or 'it's easy for them to say sat up there in their golden palace' and that general sort of thing. People, whether famous or not, rich or poor, should never shy away from standing up and speaking out for what they believe in even if it does lead to ridicule from your friends or the media.4
6.Imagine you are hosting a “dead or alive” dinner party. You get to pick 3 famous guests (whichever from across the entirety of history and any profession. Who would be sat at your table, what meal would you serve them and why did you pick them?
Professor Brian Cox would be there to give us an after dinner lecture about space and time. Neil Young would be there to play some acoustic songs for us. We'd have a drunken sing-a-long after Brian's talk, and finally we'd smoke some weed and be told ghost stories by Neil Gaiman around a fire in the garden. I would serve a light citrus infused ceviche for a starter washed down with a chilled white wine, a classic English Sunday roast of their choosing for the main with a fitting red wine and a chocolate mousse for desert served with a glass of port. The cognac would then be brought out as Brian starts baffling us with how small and inconsequential we all are!
7. Imagine you could fill in a position for another band for a quick tour (again, anyone throughout history), who would you team up with?
I'd play noisy as hell guitar with Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
8.Can we expect to see Dan The Man on a solo tour anytime soon? What else does the year have in store for you besides the new solo album?
I'm currently in the studio with The Wombats working on new music and that's my main focus for the rest of the year. 'Circadian Circus' is definitely more of a studio project at this stage, but one day I'd love to do some shows in support of my solo material.
Interview feature by Karla Harris