With a new album ‘Hurricane’ about to be released, this seemed a good time to catch up with DB and get the lowdown on his new opus and everything else in BryantWorld. We have been friends a long time and whilst he has always been a great musician, it’s his songwriting that is really blossoming now
JLTT- How are you doing?
DB- Yeah I’m good, you?
Yeah, playing, singing, writing…. I was talking about you with your people and I said I would really like to do a new piece because you’ve got the new album coming out…but you’re off to Switzerland soon aren’t you?
We leave Thursday morning.
I assume you’ll be promoting the album. Is it out there yet?
It’s not officially released yet. But they’re the first shows we’ll be playing the new songs. It comes out on the 19th April in Europe and 6th May in the UK
Tell me about Jazzhaus?
They’re a good label. It ties in well because they are a European booking agency and they book Walter Trout, Popa Chubby and Eric Sardinas so they started booking me in Germany and Austria. They’ve got a label as well. It’s good they’re quite forward thinking and quite open to new ideas. They’re a pleasure to work with really
I’m finding a lot of stuff that finds its way to me for review, at least in your field, given that the stuff I do is more West Coasty, a lot of it’s coming out of European labels Provogue, Ruf and Jazzhaus. These seem to be the labels that are flying the flag, dare I say it, better than some of America’s
I think that’s true. A lot of European labels, in Germany for this kind of music there’s quite a good scene. I mean this label still seem to have a belief that this type of music can sell. I mean we’re not talking 200,000 units or something like that. But they still believe that Blues, Blues Rock and Americana can sell
This is a good place for you at this stage in your career. I mean when we first met you were an amazing young guitar player who was bursting with energy and I think I said ‘blues rock delivered with passion’. I still think that holds good really. What do you think?
Funnily enough, you were the first interview I ever did and that was at The Worcester Park Club. Yeah I mean I sort of just used to play and play. I think I’ve slowed down a bit. Just sort of naturally as you get a bit older and more experienced. So I tend to think more about the song now and I’m more interested in songs. I mean I used to just want to blast away with anything, now I’m more interested in how the solo works within in the song
I mean taking that path didn’t do anything wrong for Rory Gallagher did it? (Laughs)
I mean Rory’s later songs were diamond I thought. He just seemed to come up with more and more great songs and the playing wasn’t a bonus but it was kind of an enhancement
I think so. I think you’d agree that if you haven’t got a good song then the solo is a bit bloody pointless really
Let’s talk about the songs on this album. It was recorded in Cornwall wasn’t it ?
Yeah it was recorded in a place called Gaderry Farm and Jon Amor recommended it. We wanted somewhere residential and we wanted to get away from it all. But it was away from it all as the internet wasn’t working, you couldn’t get a phone reception and it was about eight miles to the nearest pub (Laughs)
‘The Prisoner’, the lead track has a very ominous sound. It reminded me of a guy I like Eric Gales
I like Eric Gales
You have heard of Eric Gales?
I’ve got a couple of his albums. He’s an awesome guitarist. With ‘The Prisoner’ I wanted it to have a dark sound. I kinda wanted it to sound like ‘Going Down’
Yeah. I mean the drumming is very emphatic on it. What struck my ears is that it has real electricity; it has a real crackle about it that you can hear in the break in the middle. It’s almost like a machine that’s ready to go. The coda is great. The guitar solo on the coda flows really well. But you couldn’t resist the wah-wah could you? (Laughs)
I tried to hold off on it! I’ve only used the wah-wah twice on the album. The whole thing with the wah-wah I mean I mentioned ‘Going Down’, I did want to make this album different stuff. The solos are trying to go for that ‘White Room’ type thing
It works well. But the song’s soaked in by then so the dynamic working for you there. ‘Greenwood 31’ has got this little harp intro and then this is where your Delta influence is, which you cannot and will not ever shake off- R L Burnside, slightly rickety sound. Tell me about this guitar you’re using because it has some very good double tracking on that. You’re using this Strat type guitar but who makes it?
Trevor Wilkinson. They’re fine guitars. I have been using them for a few years and they’re great. They just sort of take a Strat and smooth a lot of things out and as you say that song does sort of has a R L Burnside type thing, I love hill country blues and I was lucky to sit in with T Model Ford.. I’ve actually played with Cedric Burnside in the summer. The song is about Hubert Sumlin
He was from there wasn’t he?
Yeah. Greenwood was the town he was born in. Basically, when I was writing this album I was working with the producer just sending demos backwards and forwards and asking where it worked and where it didn’t. And I sort of came up with this old intro like R L Burnside and I needed to write some lyrics. Years ago I played a festival and I got to meet Hubert. I spent an hour with him and he was just lovely and I took this picture of him. He’s looking really smart in a suit and I’ve got it in my guitar room. I was just looking at it and I thought I’d make it about him
Good for you. There is a very cool sound on ‘Can’t Hold On, it’s got that very solemn piano and the dragonfly guitar for one of a better phrase, buzzing over it, but the lyric is straight into paranoia
I mean I have a busy touring schedule and things and one thing that’s never plagued me that I’ve never talked about is that I get quite bad anxiety and depression sometimes. For no apparent reason, really. And with this album just sort of thought I’m going to write more about things I know and things that affect me. So that’s basically what it is a desperation type song, really
Ok. It’s a great chorus sound on the guitar that suits that song no end. I have to say Danny, that’s the best vocal on the set for me
And the funniest thing about that whole thing was that i sent that as a demo to Richard the producer and I tried every bloody key on that song I just couldn’t sing it. I sent it in its original acoustic demo and I couldn’t sing it. So in the end the song really lost something. Richard said don’t worry about it, there is nothing wrong with its original key and we will worry about it when we get into the studio. But it needs to stay in that key. But actually the vocal was second take through
My ears are still working then. You threw a curveball one me because I thought looking at he titles you did an album of originals but had covered Bob Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’ and The Small Faces ‘All or Nothing’. A gig we did together years ago I recall we did a Dylan song, I think it was ‘Girl From The North Country’ with me on harp. But I thought you did ‘Hurricane’ as that’s a good choice for Danny. But no, it’s one of yours. My notes say ‘contemporary chug’, and there is a neat bridge in the middle. Have you ever seen a real hurricane?
No I haven’t. I didn’t actually think about the ‘Hurricane’ Dylan song which is a song I love. But there is a Neil Young song called ‘Hurricane’. No, I’m a big Bruce Springsteen fan so that’s me trying to get into ‘Springsteen mode’. But it is different and dare I say ‘poppy’ but I suppose it’s only one song in the set, but I’m really pleased with it
That is the track that quite likely Planet Rock would play it because it sounds quite contemporary. Pop only means popular. I’m not snobby about pop. Now, ‘Devil’s Got A Hold On Me’ I mean you sound at your most natural here. I’m imagining that’s a live favourite or intended to be. What do you think?
You’ve totally hit the nail on the head there. I always used to sort of come up with that groove live and I thought ‘we need to put this into a song’. Your right, it’s live and sort of my natural habitat as it were. What we do. Also, on the album we wanted to balance it right and I totally agree with you about pop and I feel the same way about it. But it’s kind of like well let’s put this at track five and steer it back and still let people know this is still a Blues Rock album
It also shows your Dad knows exactly what notes not to play!
My Dad’s never been a busy bass player. He keeps it very simple and he wouldn’t confess to being anything else. But he knows where to put the notes. That’s always been good enough for me
Absolutely right. He sounds great on that. Nice Hammond on there too.
Yeah, that’s the producer actually.
He’s played with the Manics hasn’t he?
No, but he’s engineered them and he comes from a pop background. So that definitely helped me with a different angle on it
Each of the tracks has a different flavour to it which is what makes a great album. ‘I’m Broken’ goes straight into this very desolate mood. It’s saved from being a rotten bitch song but there is a light touch in the production so it doesn’t get to miserable. That’s quite a nice ballad. Hard balance to strike though, Dan…
Yeah, again it’s down to Richard. Very clever. He changed the drum sound, a very old sounding drum sound. And a less lively room sound. Very flat you know I sort of wanted the song to sound like it had had the air sucked out of it if you know what I mean. Very dry
But it comes out where it could have been very heavy and grim, it’s got a Zombies sort of tinge to it. You know ‘Time of the Season’? That little light touch that carries it along. So it doesn’t plod. It’s a good production touch. Pat on the back to you and the producer there because it does make it very listenable. ‘All Or Nothing’ now again I thought it was going to be The Small Faces…
Which is a good song
It’s got Baroque strings and the piano fools you. It’s another song about disappointment. You’re using slide on this as well aren’t you? Is that with the main guitar?
No actually it’s a Tele.
Ok. I would say this is the best song on the album because it just goes home
My wife will be pleased because it’s her favourite. She said no one has picked up on that yet
For my money it’s the best song on the album. It’s probably something I would play someone who wanted to hear something from your record. For what it’s worth.
(Laughs) It’s me trying to be John Hiatt, really.
It’s got the strong song construction and it’s a good number. ‘Losing You’ is the slowest moment here, you’ve got these legato lines for the melody. Then the vocal comes in and Danny it doesn’t sound anything like you!!
That is me trying to write a 50s sounding ballad, really. That’s the one song we started playing live even before we went in to record. The guitar hook is kind of like ‘Parisian Walkways’ where you’ve got a repeated theme on the guitar.
French films do use strong melody lines and they set them against strings. It does stick in your head. I wondered whether you’d written it for a female to sing?
What ‘Losing You’? No it’s a good point actually. I haven’t thought about it. It would probably sound good with a female singing it. I just wanted a ballad… like you know ‘Can’t Hold on’ is what I would call a ‘bigger’ ballad with the big chorus. I’m a big fan of these laid back 50s type songs
Right. ‘Painkiller’, that’s a Mandolin isn’t it?
Yeah that’s my wife playing the Mandolin
It’s kind of weird this because again it slightly tricked me because it sounds like you’ve been listening to Marillion. And I was expecting a type of Fish type vocal sound to kick in. Now Marillion isn’t maybe natural music for me or you to listen to but I picked up on them eventually. Their better moments are actually better than you might remember.
I don’t really know a lot about them to be honest with you. I’ve heard of them.
You can sense that big guitar moment
Yeah, again this is probably the John Hiatt influence and in a way people don’t think it’s coming. But you sensed it was coming. So I’ve failed. (Laughs)
I do wonder whether sometimes… because your family are great to be around but you do come over as the prince of darkness! Never mind Ozzy Osbourne. And I think it’s because you’re serious about your music and it comes over. But I think people that didn’t know you and your family might think that you’re quite a grim person to be around, but you’re not.
It’s a shame really I think people do have that impression sometimes. But no, I suppose it is what it is.
There is a lot more to you then what you get on the records. In a way, your records might give a limited view of what you are about as an all-rounder.
The last album we recorded live in Holland was a bit jollier, but I like depressing songs . This is the problem with me- I like dark subject matter!!
You and me both! This is why with my trio I can’t play too much Blues stuff. You must listen to this album and think – this is doing me and my band justice.
I think so. It genuinely is my favourite but I resist saying because everyone says that. I hope people do like it and it genuinely matters to me if they do. But if they don’t it’s the best I could’ve done it. I’m pleased with it and I was happy to leave it where it was left
To me that’s a good attitude because you don’t want to be what Captain Beefheart called the mirror man and just reflect what is fashionable. Your soul evaporates and you’ve got to be who you are. I think what you’ve evolved to is a jazz player’s attitude : here we are, here’s what we do, hope you like it, if don’t there’s other choices.
Exactly….Well that’s the thing I just feel lucky to be able to do this for a living and I think the thing is if you’re famous and with a big label you’re probably more tied in with what you’ve gotta do. Whereas I just sort of go out to do the music I want to do and I’m not on a big label so I pretty much am allowed to go in and make an album the way I want to make it. Whereas, if I was one of these big famous guys with a big label I know I would be told what I have to play. Yeah I just try to play what we do the way we can.
I think this album when I listen to it, it feels like you’re comfortably stretching yourself without turning into somebody else. You’re actually ‘pushing the boundaries’. You have varied your album as much as possible and your guitar playing is almost following that thought as opposed to dominating it…
I’m really glad you picked up on that because I didn’t want people to think that I was deliberately going for something different. I was pushing myself because I wanted to. Because this is the sort of music I wanted to make. I could have gone into the studio and made ten 12 bar Blues and make that more of what people expect. But I was pushing myself just because I have a lot of interest in other genres of music
I like to hear people progressing. There’s stuff on here that would not have been on your first or second album
And that’s a good thing to me. Let’s play again soon
Thanks very much and take care, Pete
‘Hurricane’ is out now on Jazzhaus Records. For more information visit www.dannybryant.com