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DAN REED Talks Snake Oil and Harmony

Dan Reed returns to the UK with Danny Vaughn for another run of their hugely successful Snake Oil and Harmony acoustic and story shows.  Mick Burgess caught up with Dan Reed to talk about the tour and the intriguing possibility of adding further singers to future tours.

  You were in Newcastle just before Christmas with Dan Reed Network opening for Extreme.  How did that come about?

 We`d been fans of Extreme since they first came out and they were fans of The Network.   It was great to share a stage together.  We pushed each other a lot and I think we gave the fans a really great show. It was a like this perfect marriage of two bands who came out at around the same time during the growth of the Funk Rock movement. We had talked about doing a tour together a while back and one day when we were on Skype they were talking of booking some shows in the UK in December.  We were already planning on being over here then so we decided to do some shows together and it worked out great.  The show in Newcastle was the first time we ever played together and it was fantastic.  We all really enjoyed it.

You seem to have something of a special relationship with Newcastle whether with the Dan Reed Network, as a solo artist or the ones with Danny Vaughn.  What is it about Newcastle that you love so much?

I was talking to Brian Johnson of AC/DC about this recently and I think Newcastle has the great Rock `n` Roll working class ethic where even the women run around in their bare feet in the winter. They are tough, hard core people who like to celebrate their love of great music.  There`s no airs and graces, people are just so down to earth and very friendly.  It`s a great place to visit and I always love coming back to Newcastle.

 Dan Reed Network was at the forefront of the whole movement where Rock crossed over with Funk. What did you make of those times being right in the middle of it?

 It was cool.  It was the right time for something like that. There were bands doing it before us like Aerosmith and Mother`s Finest but to have a movement really made sense.  We were all into Prince and we were all big fans of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix so it just kind of made sense to combine the Funk and Rock elements together. Even if you listen to songs like Back In Black and Night Prowler by AC/DC there`s a real groove in there.  We just took it that little bit further.

Other than Prince who were those bands that inspired you over the years?

 The Gap Band, Earth Wind and Fire, Brothers Johnson and Sly and The Family Stone and anything that George Clinton did and I loved Cameo too so that`s where a lot of my Funk influences came from.

 You`re back in Newcastle in February for your Snake Oil and HarmonyTour with Danny Vaughn on 22nd February.  You must be looking forward to coming back to play?

 I can wait to come back for these shows.  Danny and I have such respect for each other’s writing and vocals.  We really get each other`s sense of humour and history. We`re both fans of Americana and the Old West.  I grew up in South Dakota and his father is a painter who paints Native American landscapes and stuff.  We connect on a number of things of where the human race could and should have been.  We have a lot of philosophical conversations on the road and when we get up on stage we can bring that stuff out and goof around a bit.

You have a lot of songs to choose from between you.  How do you go about choosing your setlist?

We never have a setlist, we just have a list of songs that we know.  He has 60 and I have 40 and we just start the show and each of us chooses a song then the other will follow it with their choice and we try to make it a nice journey for the audience. The show lasts for two to two and a half hours and it`s all pretty spontaneous.

One song that always works so well is 99 Lashes.  It`s such a highly emotional song. What is the story behind that?

I heard a story about this woman getting sentenced to death for cheating on her husband and I couldn`t fathom that concept so I wanted to write a song about what goes through someone`s mind when they are doing such an act to another human being and how do they justify that.  It`s about the dark side of humanity.

Previously you`ve covered Sting`s Fields Of Gold which was an inspired choice.  What covers will you be singing on this tour?

 I think we`ll do a Tom Petty song in honour of him this time. We always try to pick a couple of different ones for each tour.  We look at artists we respect so we`ve done one by Bruce Springsteen and Holy Diver by Ronnie James Dio. There`s four or five Tom Petty songs that we are considering as he`s got so many great ones to pick from and they all would fit into our set so well.

 When you choose a song to cover, what do you look for in a song?  Is it a melody or maybe a lyric that means something to you?

 We look at a song to see if it has a message that fits into our set. Whether it`s a song about grounding yourself and about what home means to you like a Springsteen song or like Fields of Gold which makes me reminisce about growing up on a farm and falling in love with the girl from the farm next door.  It`s things like that that me and Danny always relate to, so we try to choose songs that fit in with that.

 How many shows will you be doing on the tour?

 It`s going to be our biggest tour yet.  We`ll be doing 22 shows in 5 countries.

 You only intended on doing one tour with Danny when you first did this a couple of years ago but your forthcoming shows will be your third tour together.  Did you ever think it`d take off in such a big way?

 I`m really surprised how it`s taken off so much. We did only plan to do one tour and that went so well we did another and that was even better so hopefully this next one is better still.  We`ve actually had suggestions to run a kind of franchise with different singers singing with Danny and me or maybe send out two completely different singers that have nothing to do with us but still call it the Snake Oil and Harmony Tour.

That sounds interesting.  Who would you like to do that with?

 If you could get Eric Martin and Kip Winger together or get Nuno Bettencourt out with someone else.  That`d be kind of cool.  There`s so many god singer songwriters out there that we might try to do that and branch out.

 Have you recorded any of your shows on your earlier tours or are you intending on recording some this time for a live album?

 No, but we do keep getting asked that and also whether we`re going to write together and record an album.  I think we will be writing a single before the tour and try to release it in mid-February.  I`d prefer to do a whole album but I don`t think people are quite so interested in a collection of songs any more and prefer a quick fix so we`ll continue with these singles for now and see what happens with that. If they all sound great we`ll put out an album for sure.

 You played some solo shows in churches in London and Manchester last year.  Why did you decide to do that?

 They were to support my latest solo album called Confessions. I grew up as a Catholic boy and it made sense to do some shows in churches.  The acoustics and atmosphere in churches is just incredible. I knew that it would sound good and as we filmed it, it would look good and would have a good ambience to it.  There`s a DVD coming out on my birthday, 17th February.

Is this something you`d like to do again?

Definitely.  I`d like to take it to churches around Europe.  There`s some magnificent places out there and I`d like to do it with Danny too as his voice would sound great in a church.

Is there a new Dan Reed Network album on the horizon?

Again, we are recording singles rather than a whole album so rather than spend two years writing then putting an album out we`ll record singles and will put them out as we do them.  We just spent time recently in Manchester recording a song with a live audience of 140 people in a studio.  We tracked a brand-new song there.  We`re going to do a similar thing in New York and Portland.  We hope to do one in Stockholm in May and possibly another city in Europe in July.  We`ll keep doing that until we have a collection of 10 songs.  The fans are in the studio with us and they sing and play percussion and we feed off their energy. After we recorded the song we serve them food.  It`s really nice to connect in that way.  It`s been a lot of fun and we`re looking forward to doing the next few singles the same way. There`s some bands that charge their fans £500 for a meet and greet for a couple of minutes.  We like to say, hey, how would you like to come and spend the whole day with the band, watch us record a new song, get involved then we`ll feed you dinner and do a little unplugged concert afterwards.  It`s a great way to make a new record.  We love it and the fans love it too. It`s been magical and we say it`s been one of our favourite musical experiences.

What are your plans for 2018?

 I`m doing a lot of shows this year.  It`s going to be crazy and I`ll get absolutely no rest.  In 2019 I`m taking a complete break from solo work.  I`ll do a couple of Dan Reed Network tours and play 3 months out of the year and the rest of the time I`ll spend time raising my son and I`ll go on a camper tour of America for 6 weeks with him and my family and show him all about the country I grew up in. I`ll then come back in 2010 full steam ahead again.

Dan Reed and Danny Vaughn bring The Snake Oil and Harmony Tour to The UK starting on 20th February at the Cottiers Theatre in Glasgow.

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Interview By Mick Burgess


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