I grew up in the river town of Kempsey in northern New South Wales, Australia. I live in Holland now – have been here for over 25 years but, as the old saying goes, you can take the boy outa the country but you cant take the country outa the boy. The Macleay Valley where I grew up is still the most beautiful part of the world I have ever seen and Im lucky to have it in my blood and I cant shake it and it creeps into my songs whether I like it or not.
I have operated as a recording artist all my adult life but I didn’t release my 1st solo album until 2017. It was called “SONGS FROM DAN”. It was a country-noir affair featuring some of my favourite Australian collaborators; Matt Walker, Lucie Thorne, Shane Reilly & Grant Cummerford and it did pretty good on the scale of things. Modest success I think they call it – the story of my life. In April 2020 I released my 2nd album “LETTERS OF GOLD” just before Covid – 37 shows went up in smoke that year. I have a box of vinyl buried under the pear tree in the yard I’m sittin’ on it the price is only going to go up. That album blended electronics and natural sounds because I really dig that. I recorded it with Matt Walker again, with Zlaya producing again, and old compadre Michael Turner as co-producer bringing a sparky twist to it all. This bring us to my 3rd solo album “COUNTRY STAR”, due for release on 2 June 2023. I worked on this with some great young musicians and I got them to throw everything they could at it. I really let it go – so it feels like their album as much as it is mine. It is a full blown mega-studio production that drifts more towards pop than I’m probably comfortable with and I’m still in a bit of shock about having gone down the big posh studio road in an age when most of us are content with music made in GarageBand spitting out of our iphone speakers like code before fading under the scrutiny of deteriorating attention spans. But I’m glad we did it this way. Partly, it was a reaction to this ages over-rapid style of music making & listening that drove me into a good old-fashioned, expensive Class A studio with real gear, real rooms, real engineers and real sound. It cost a fortune but fuck it – we somehow managed to raise most of the money for it. Subvert the dominant paradigm! Other people go on holidays I make expensive records! My main collaborator for this record was Madelief van Vlijmen who has been playing bass with me for the past 5 years. She is a huge talent and is all over it; bass, backing vocals, synths, fender rhodes, hammond and she co-wrote 2 of the songs. I also had Misha Porte on drums and Stefan Wolfs on guitars we all had a blast working together. Zlaya on production duties again I’m having trouble imagining ever making another record without him now – what a sound!
You might want to think about stopping here unless you are hungry for the back story of my musical life…..what follows is history for the truly dedicated.
My life so far in a nutshell. I left the country town rural life of my childhood and headed south to Tasmania to study botany and ecology at University when I was a young fella. Love the bush. Ended up living in a caravan at Fortestcue Bay there on the Tasman Peninsula for a while working as caretaker of a forest reserve. I knew the names of all the birds and trees and was a very happy little naturalist. I was planning to do a Phd and embark on a career as an ecologist. I was scheming to use science to run the Japanese woodchip companies outa the Tasmanian wilderness but I got sidetracked and joined a band. I was a 22 year old bedroom songwriter with no ambitions for stage or studio. That band I joined was called
Wild Pumpkins at Midnight I learnt to play the bass. It was 1984 and I had no idea but I was a loyal sidekick in that band. Legendary Australian producer Tony Cohen (RIP love always Tone) came down to Tassy to produce our 1st EP – he cured me of my lack of musical ambition and I started showing up to rehearsals and taking it all a tad more seriously. We took on the world and played many benefits in the early days for the Tasmanian Wilderness Society who fought successfully to halt the damming of wild rivers in Tasmanias south-west. Im proud of our modest contribution to all that looking back. I have become more desciplined about music with age but I still have songs that dissappear into the washing machine in the pockest of my jeans to emerge tattered and smeared or that lay around unfinished for years unfinished in shoeboxes. In fact, there is a song on my most recent album that I started writing 35 years ago and didnt finish till I was just about to record it a little whiles back.
Thats me on the bass in the Pumpkins – somewhere around 1993
The Pumpkins moved to from Tasmania to Melbourne in 1986 and spent a few years there cutting it up. We used to pack them in at the Punters Club in Fitzroy and the Old Greek Theater in Richmond in the late 80’s early 90’s. In an upsurge of naieve ambition and reckless adventure, the entire band relocated first to London and then to Holland in early 1993. We had a string of records out on indy labels accross Europe and did pretty good on the club scene for a while, especially in Germany and Switzerland. We back and forthed between Australia and Europe for a few years until the game was up and the band split in 1998. Somehow in the middle of all that I managed to meet my partner here in the Netherlands and father 2 children who are now all grown up. Life’s a miracle you can’t plan or dream this stuff up. Well, maybe you can but I didn’t. I stopped doing music for a while I was all music-d out.
In about 2002 though, I met some musicians here in Holland (Marc Constandse and Michiel Hollanders) who were such inspired players, they really got me started again. I had always had a fickle relationship with commercial music but by then I was pretty much done with anything even remotely western-worldish, or recorded after, say, 1950. I met these dudes who had vastly different musical lenses and backgrounds to mine and they got me excited again. This morphed into us forming two bands; Big Low (3 albums and 1 EP) & Parne Gadje (6 albums). Both of those projects are over now too but they were both excellent groups. Big Low was my songwriting run thru those lads off-beat musical filters. And Parne Gadje was a group that challenged my musical boundaries & skill limitations – Berber grooves, Greek rebetiko, Rroma music for example. I played bass in PG, and had a hand in recording and production. I learnt new time signatures and scales and started listening music differently. The whole thing was a massive learning curve for me and I drank it down like wine. Development! We played all over Europe with both those groups as well. Parne Gadje even played Moscow – twice! Looking back that seems quite amazing to me now. More miracles.
This is Parne Gadje doing a television show a few years back (me on geetah:). The clip below is Big Low playing a tune live somewhere around 2011.
I also began a record label in 2001 called Smoked Recordings and I’m really proud of what the label has released since then; 22 titles. No big sellers but pretty much every release has fetched glowing reviews and the music press started referring to the label as “quality niche music”. I can’t live from that but I can live with it. The label is on the backburner these days but it is still a useful platform for launching digital releases and shifting old stock. Ive kind of come back to my “roots” in recent years with my solo albums, hopefully with some development. You cant stay the same you gotta keep moving and absorbing and integrating the energy, influences and talents that other people bring to the table. Collaborating. That’s where I’m at now. Come to a show I’ve got lots more to tell you.