The ex-Networker caught up with RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth to talk PledgeMusic, new talent, old fans and more.
Look out for more exclusive interviews right here throughout March…
rushonrock: You’re the latest big name to throw his lot in with PledgeMusic – why is the startup label the place to be?
Dan Reed: I demoed most of the music for Signal Fire over the last 18 months. I put the songs out there and a gentleman who manages Biffy Clyro heard them – he got in touch to say he believed they would make a perfect Pledge Music record. I didn’t really know much about the label or how it works. It was something to research and the more I looked into it the more I realised it was a great company and the more I realised it was run by people who knew the music business inside out. Now I look at Pledge as the company that’s bringing the ‘music business’ back to life. It means both the artist and the supporters of the artist’s music become part of the finished album. We raised 140% of what we were looking for and I’ll definitely do it this way again next year.
rushonrock: Would you go back to self-releasing future records?
DR: I pre-sold the previous album to bring some money in. But then I dropped the ball on so many things. I missed the deadline to get it finished, I had to mail out copies of the CD myself, I was the shipping guy and I was in full business mode. The music had to take a back seat and that’s not the point. At Pledge all of the people there are top notch and they allow the artists to do what they do best – make music.
rushonrock: Is it fair to say Signal Fire marks another shift in your musical approach?
DR: Signal Fire is a rock record and 80% of the record feels like a great album to play live. With the previous album it was a struggle to replicate some of the nuances in the live arena. It was a case of how do you attack that process on Coming Up For Air? But we’ve done the soul searching for now. Now it’s time to vent a little bit more! The sound of Signal Fire is definitely where I’m at in my life right now. I knew that when I came back to music I wanted to do three new albums – I was committed in my mind to make three records. All of my favourite artists ensured that their next album had a flavour of the previous one. But there was never any replication – I’m thinking of Queen, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin.
rushonrock: You founded your reputation on funk rock but that’s not Dan Reed’s style today…
DR: The heavy guitar is still there and that was very much the Network thing. But it was definitely a conscious decision to move away from the funky element when I returned. As I got older I realised it was more important to put across the message in my songs. The more you focus on funk the more people get lost in the song and miss the message.
rushonrock: Would you be able to do what you’re doing today without the Network legacy?
DR: It’s hard to say. I certainly wouldn’t be able to do what I’ doing today if it wasn’t for the foundation that Dan Reed Network provided me with. You can’t run a successful Pledge Music campaign without the fans to support it in the first place. Most of the people I’m meeting on the road are people who saw us play in the Network days. I can’t sit back and say that period wasn’t an important time in my life. It was a key period in so many aspects. I just hope that the new music stands up on its own merit and it’s not seen as trying to reinvent the past. It’s all about trying to grow as an artist.
rushonrock: Is it difficult for a new Dan Reed to emerge from Portland and be a commercial success in 2013?
DR: The era of do-it-yourself music and the dwindling influence of record labels does make it more difficult for bands and artists to be a commercial success. Back in the 80s there were thousands of artists making tonnes of money – now there are millions of artists making thousands of dollars. But at least it’s a level playing field and it’s the songs that count. You need to get out there and use YouTube, your social networking skills and the art of communication to get your music heard. You can never beat playing in a coffee shop and building your fan base from there. If you really deliver the goods then people will come and see you. Getting out there and really communicating with people is the key. I get so many messages relaying tragic, sad and inspiring stories from people I connect with and to know that my music is a source of comfort and solace is truly moving.
rushonrock: Are you enjoying being back out in the live arena again and getting the opportunity to come back to Britain?
DR: We love playing music in all kinds of different situations and we’ve even done house concerts. We played Download last summer in front of thousands of people and that was just as good. As an artist you have to widen your horizons rather than simply sit there and think about becoming a rock star.
rushonrock: Are you listening to any new artists right now – what’s on the Dan Reed radar?
DR: There’s a couple that I’m taking a keen interest in. There’s an artist from Bath I’ve been working with called Georgina Harvey. I’ve produced five songs for her and she opened up for me in Prague last month. There’s also an ex-pat living in Prague called Justin Levash who’s released a brilliant song called Avalanche. He’s one of the greatest guitar players I’ve seen in 25 years and at his gigs there’s just him and a drummer. I remember being a big fan of The Police back in the day because of the big sound that they managed to create with so few members. Justin’s acoustic guitar and the drums have the same effect – it’s mind boggling what this guy can do.