In terms of unlikely reformations, the Dan Reed Network coming back together must rank among the most surprising. Disbanding in the 1993, following a near decade’s work during which time they released and recorded three hit albums and toured the world with the likes of the Rolling Stones, it seemed that time had long since been called on the wild nights. Now back together in their original formation, the band are about to release their first album in an astonishing quarter of a century. Living to fight another day, Eamon O’Neill gets the story on the album, the band’s history, and that earth shatteringly controversial 1989 haircut.
Hi Dan, How are you today?
I’m good thanks. I’m at home today in Prague. I woke up in Sweden; I played a show there on Friday night in this beautiful sky bar that had been built on top of this old water tower that supplied to the city. It overlooks this old beautiful place called Östersund. Everywhere you looked, it was all glass windows and you were just surrounded by the countryside from a distance of about thirteen stories. It was amazing
First off, a huge welcome back to the Dan Reed Network. After such a long break, does it feel good to be back?
It’s been feeling great from doing shows, and now that we’re starting to get some feedback about the video and the album, it’s been fantastic so far. That was a big concern – making a record after twenty-five years. We didn’t want it to sound like we’re trying to capture the glory days, but we also didn’t want it to be too different to where people were shocked and disappointed in it. So our goal was to just make a good rock record that had some grooves to it, and some depth, lyrically-wise.
You obviously want to fan base from the band’s heyday, without appear dated.
Yeah, that was the thing because we played at Download [Festival] about a year and a half ago, and there were kids that came up to us that were eighteen / twenty years old going; “man, where have you guys been hiding, what’s this all about?”, and we’re like; “everything you heard tonight was written and recorded before you guys were born!” So we weren’t hiding really, we just stopped playing for a long time. We wanted to make a record that they would relate to too as well.
So what led to the decision to do it all over again?
Well, remember when 2012 came around and everybody was talking about the Mayan Calendar and the end of the world and all that stuff? They made a lot of movies about it, but a guy named Bart Hafeman who’s a promotor in Portland, Oregan, asked us if we wanted to get together and do a reunion show, just a one-off for new years’ eve 2012, to celebrate the end of the world, so to speak, and I was thinking; “well, if there’s ever going to be a show we should do together it should be the last thing before the world ends!” *laughing* So we got together, we rehearsed a couple of days and it was awkward, but it felt really familiar at the same time. We were all a little rusty, and I had come from all the solo stuff where I’m standing at the mic playing the guitar and trying to be more emotive and internal, and to come out without the guitar and just hold the microphone and be jumping around like a banshee didn’t feel very comfortable yet. We did that show and there was about twelve hundred people there. It was fantastic playing in our home town, and we had a really good time. That was the main thing; we were all smiling on stage like; “this is a great vibe”. So we did some more shows in 2013, and then we did some more in 2014.
Was the decision to record new material a tough one to make?
I think it was the end of 2014 when we started thinking maybe it would be nice to do a new album, just to see what we have inside of us, what it would sound like, the experiment of that. We all have different incomes and livelihoods as individuals, so we didn’t need to put together the band to make a living, and we were just having so much fun. So once we got back in the studio it was really about trying to compose songs that weren’t going to be dated and that would fit into 2016. It just happened really organically; there was never a day we said; “let’s make a new album!” We were demoing stuff in my Prague studio and Brion [James, guitarist] was demoing stuff and sending it to me, and going back and forth, and Rob Baker is just a great producer and a great engineer, so he was involved a lot in the whole process.
How would you say it differs to previous Dan Reed Network Releases?
We wanted it to be a rock record. There’s some electronic elements in the record for sure, but all the drums are Dan Pred. On the first and second Network records there was a lot of drum machines with Dan playing along with it, but we just gave it all up for this album and said let’s go more raw with it. I think that’s stemming off from me just doing live stuff, and my three solo albums. I knew we could do it, and Dan Pred really nailed it, so we’re very happy about that.
The album is called ‘Fight Another Day’ Is the title reflective of the fact that the band are back, seemingly out of nowhere?
That’s definitely the first meaning, when I came up with the title it was about that. The title comes from the song called ‘Champion’. The last line of the chorus is ‘learn to live to fight another day’, so I thought that that would be a good title for the miracle of us coming back together and making a new album.
So there is a double meaning behind the title?
The other meaning of it is really about us as a human race; are we willing to accept the challenges we face in the future through coming together, or are we going to settle challenges by armed conflict and division? Are we going to keep building walls like Donald Trump wants us to, or are we going to figure out how to make things more economically viable for people not having to run away from their countries to make a living in America? Are we willing to solve problems in the Middle East without having to blow stuff up? You would not raise your children in that environment, and you would do anything it takes to get your family away from that. The West is directly involved and those conflicts happened; we’re directly involved in educating the ignorance that is there and creates ISIS and groups like this – we give them fodder for their battle cries, so the ‘Fight Another Day’ is are we willing to be strong enough, or brave enough to use compassion as a weapon as opposed to weapons as weapons.
The world seems to be galvanised in the opposite way at the minute.
The fact that Donald Trump is that popular is a direct statement on what you just said. It’s getting scary; his new slogan is ‘America First’ - it’s like ‘Britain First’, it’s like ‘Sweden First’; these different hard core groups that don’t want progress to come in. So that’s what I’m saying with ‘Fight Another Day’ – I’m using it as a metaphor, but it’s not fighting with violence, it’s are we willing to do what John Lennon did? Are we willing to do what Ghandi did? Are we willing to rise up and do the right thing? Maybe it’s not the easy way to go, but I think the harder route is firing bullets and dropping bombs and strangling people economically, which is what created Bin Laden. We sanctioned Iraq for ten years and a lot of children died because they couldn’t get the medicines which turned Bin Laden against us when he used to be our friend fighting the Russians. He was like; “screw these guys, they betrayed everything that I fought with them for in the first place”. And people don’t want to look at that, they just go; “there goes the bad guy, look at him, let’s kill him and that will solve the problem”.
Moving on to ‘Divided’, which is the first single to be released. Would you say the song is representative of the album as a whole?
I think it’s representative of half the record, for sure. I always try to with every album, to have upbeat tracks, mid-tempo tracks, and then almost a ballad track here and there, although this album doesn’t have a real ‘ballad’ on it. But yeah, it’s definitely representative of ‘The Brave’, ‘Give It Love’, ‘Stand Tall’; there’s probably five songs out of thirteen that are in that zone, another five that are kind of mid-tempo rock tracks, and another three that are just a bit more chilled out.
I’m guessing that part of you thought that The Dan Reed Network were over. Is it daunting stepping back into those shows after being a successful solo artist for so many years?
For sure, yeah. It’s not daunting, but it is physically a bit daunting because I need to start going to the gym more and keep in shape, because I’ve never been one to just stand there. I remember seeing The Cult about four years ago, and Ian [Astbury, vocalist] was quite heavy then, and I remember seeing The Cult twenty years ago and it was like this active energy, and everybody’s jumping around and you can feel the energy of the music by watching them visually, and I missed that. They still sounded great, he still had the voice, Billy [Duffy] was playing great guitar, but there was something lacking, and I was like; “I never want to become that”. I saw this interview with Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, and he said; “this is going to be the end of the band, and I tell you why I’m celebrating tonight; because I finally get to eat some f*****g carbs!” – because he always plays without a shirt on.
How does it make you feel to watch old clips of yourself, with the flowing hair etc?
I make a habit of not watching them at all. I see pictures of me with long hair, and it just seems like another lifetime, another person. My priorities then are so different than what they are now. I don’t mind watching videos that I did after I shaved my head, like ‘Rainbow Child’, ‘Lover’, and ‘Mix It Up’. There’s some videos that I did afterwards and I enjoyed them, and you can kind of see it in the song writing and the songs after that it was going in the direction where I am now. They weren’t ‘Tiger In A Dress’, and ‘Make It Easy’; we still play some of those songs, and I have a great time singing them – I’m not ashamed of them, but when I look at the videos, they were really trying to sell me as some sex symbol, and I went along with it. With ‘Mix It Up’ I didn’t do that, and ‘Rainbow Child’ I sat in a chair the whole video. There was more integrity.
Did you have any idea that getting a haircut could prove so controversial?
Not at all. I just had a fear for myself at the time. I was afraid that I was making a really bad decision for me as a human being, as a musician, where they were selling us, and where they were marketing us. I knew that by shaving all my hair off I was going to upset a lot of people within my circle; management, record company people. I didn’t confer with anybody, I did talk to the band about it, but not out agents or accountants, everybody that was involved with the money making side of this machine we had created. I knew they were going to lose their lid, and they did. Everybody got really angry, and I then got a lot of hate mail from people saying they’d never buy the music again, and how I look like I have cancer, what was I thinking, and all this crazy stuff!
That must have been very tough to deal with.
I know it probably hurt our career, but there’s two people that I met that changed my mind about it completely. It was about a week after we made the ‘Rainbow Child’ video and I was up at the Polygram offices on the way to Europe, and Robert Plant walked up to me from behind and introduced himself and goes; “hey, I heard you did that”, and I turned around and I’m like; “s**t, it’s Robert Plant!”. And he just stared at my head for a second and goes; “you know what, I don’t think I could pull that off, but it looks good on you”. He was really kind, and then a week later we played with the Stones, and Mick Jagger’s assistant invited me down to the dressing room right after we got off stage at the first show, and he did the exact same thing; he came up to me and he goes; “I thought you were crazy, but it suits you, you wear it well”. So I thought; if him and Robert Plant say it’s okay, it’s okay then.
Do you think it would have the same impact today?
Not at all. I think people shaving their head is a hairstyle now, right? But rock ‘n’ roll for a long time was about being a rebel. Going to work and wearing a suit you had short hair, and if you grew your hair out long, you were a hippie or you were a rocker, or you were a rebel or a bad guy. And that stood true for a long time, but when long hair became fashionable, models were wearing it, and kids and people in the movies were wearing it, then it’s no longer radical. So for me at that time, shaving my head was the new rock ‘n’ roll.
Going back a little, you worked with the great Nile Rogers on ‘Slam’. That must have been quite an experience.
Yeah, he’s a fantastic guy. What I liked about him the most is that he didn’t have a dictatorial approach; he really wanted to get the best out of the musicians. He asked us questions about how we saw our roles being portrayed on the record, and our performances. We had a lot of great conversations about different productions, how we saw it. He was really like a sixth band member. That’s what I liked about him; he basically joined the band for a few months. I still talk to him on Facebook. He’s the man, and rightfully so.
Back to the present day, what are youtouring plans to promote ‘Fight Another Day’?
We’re doing nine shows in June, and then we’re going to be doing shows in America in October. We’re going to try to get down to Japan and Australia, and then we’ll probably do a proper extensive tour all throughout Europe in the late winter / early spring of next year. Once everybody’s got this record under their belt and know it well, then we’ll go out and start touring properly and play summer festivals next year.
So you’re back on the rollercoaster once again.
Yeah. We plan on making an album every two years, that’s our goal. Every other odd year in between I’ll be putting out a solo album. The next album I’m trying to work on right now is a collaboration with Danny Vaughn from Tyketto. Danny had the idea of doing a Crosby, Stills and Nash-type record, he said; “why don’t we do a three part harmony record and find another singer?” And then I found this guy, or he found me rather, Åge Sten Nilsen up in Norway – great singer – so the three of us are going to try to get together here in Prague in late August for a week and do some writing and see what comes out of that.
So is the take home message; Dan Reed Network is back for the long haul?
Yeah, for sure. That’s our hope and goal. The funny thing is; Brion and I were talking, and we were like; “well this song didn’t make this album”, because there was a few songs we wrote that didn’t make it, and Brion and I were like; “well let’s save it for the next one”, and I was like; “okay, we’re going to do another one then”.
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'Fight Another Day' is released on 3rd June 2016, via Frontiers Records.