Flight delays and lost baggage are but a few of the hurdles Dan Black and his touring band have encountered on their quest to entertain the nation. On the road, time becomes very limited between sound checks, practicing and playing shows. However, Black takes a moment to sit down and chat with me. “There have been quite a few near disasters with the gear on the travel over here.” Black tells me. “But the show must go on!”
Over the course of his career, beginning with English alternative band The Servant, Black has toured far and wide, though he makes an effort to hit new venues on each tour. “The fun thing about touring is to go to places you’ve never been before.” He says. “My favorite venue to play at, on Earth, is always the next new one. There are loads of venues where I have fond memories and we’ve had brilliant shows. The thing that’s exciting is the newness.” A fan of larger, amphitheater-type venues, Black enjoys an eye-catching theatrical show, “as long as they’re not tiny little dots moving around on some far off stage.” He adds, “but The Sheppard’s Bridge Empire in London I quite like. It’s like an old theater that’s been converted into a venue. Also, in Rome they will let you play in the ancient Roman Amphitheaters; playing at thousand year old venues is cool.”
By merging an eclectic variety of modern genres, Black creates a unique sound. “I am basically attracted to different kinds of music and my music is me trying to reconcile the things I get excited by, by sewing them together into this Frankenstein monster that I try to breathe life into.” “There is more of an experimental fusion of hip-hop and R&B production and at the other spectrum there is this alternative, other-worldly kind of music I make,” he adds, describing his own music with difficulty.
As genres of modern music are constantly being broken down and blown away, Black wishes for future music trends to take a surprising direction. “The best thing is when some kid appears and thinks of something that no one has ever thought of. If you think of music like a big piece of cloth and with every generation the cloth gets broken into small bits and those bits again get broken into smaller bits. Twenty years ago there might have been twenty genres and now there are maybe two hundred genres and each of them split and split.” Black predicts that music of the future will become more specialized in specific fields. “And at the end we’ll be left with sand, musical sand,” He jokes.
Appearing on the line-up for this year’s Lollapolooza, Black is excited for the mid-summer concert. “When I was a kid, one of my favorite bands was Jane’s Addiction. They played this touring festival and in my young mind it was this hard to imagine land far, far away; this mythic touring event. And to now be playing it… It’s really amazing.” Black admits to being a tad nervous for the festival, hoping that he can execute it well. He says “we’re going to try and pull out some new bells and whistles for the show.”
Appearing in Black’s hit single, “Symphonies,” Kid Cudi was introduced to Black by a mutual musician friend. Though the two had never been in contact until the music video for the song was shot, having only exchanged music via e-mail, they had chatted over the phone on occasion. Still, Black plans on many future collaborations. “There is this new act from Australia called Agway. We’re going to start a track with them soon as well as writing with a wide, strange mix of people.”
On his new album UN, Black takes a swing at going it solo with his danceable hip-hop stylings. “Before I was always in bands, where the ideas are communal, but now it’s just one man’s vision. I can do exactly what I want. It seems very selfish in a way.” He confesses this is the reason he went solo after The Servant folded. “There were things I wanted to do. Like before I was in The Servant, it was just me on a computer trying to make music; basically doing what I do now but a bit more ineloquently. Then these guys came in and helped me put on a live show which turned into this whole alternative rock thing. It was fine but I found it a bit underwhelming. When I proposed the idea of doing some of the stuff I do now they were quite hostile to it. But we’ve been around for about six years and did as much as we can do. “
Black finds himself chasing the thing he loves most while producing music. “The most satisfying moments are those when I’m making a song and suddenly I go, ‘Wow!’ It’s like an explosion of, ‘What is this thing? Where did this come from?’ It captures something that is really true and real and exciting and interesting to me. Those moments are rare but I chase them while making music. That’s a basic way of looking at it.” With a driving sense of adventure, Black says he tries to not have rules and avoid ruts at all costs. “I try to keep it playful and exciting. It’s kind of like a puzzle with strategies to get yourself to think more creatively or an endless problem that is unsolvable but always fun to tinker with.” But Black’s lust for freshness only goes so far. “I don’t crave originality, like innovation for innovation’s sake, but I can still seek something thrilling and interesting.”
In between touring and producing music, Black finds little to no downtime. “But when I do find the time I like films,” he says. “I like films that do certain things that people can’t. Like graphic novels, where you can’t really say this thing or do this experience in any other way. I like films that do that. I also like films that are dumb and stupid and make me switch off. There is something very relaxing about films that seem like a magic spell. Or films that take me into some world that I’ve never experienced or doesn’t exist.”
Over the course of his music career, the only thing Black says he regrets is not having the confidence to go solo sooner. “I don’t think much of what I did and what brought people to me was built on these projects. One thing I can say is that I had a lot of experiences and a lot of skills I have now that help what I do.” Black adds optimistically, “It was a training ground.”
Lastly, Black chuckles while considering who he believes the most overrated rapper is. “I’m not a massive 2Pac fan to be honest,” Black says earnestly. “Like any artist, it’s [2Pac’s style] a fusion of things. Certain lyrics in another person’s hands seem amazing. Of course, I was always more Biggie.” Black again laughs to himself before contemplating who’s beats he enjoys the most. “There are loads of people who are genius at making beats. I love Prince Paul, Swissbeats, and Timberland. The world is full of extremely talented men and women waiting to be discovered.”