Dan Barrett makes amazing music. THA KNOWS pretty much exists because I was listening to Dan's music every single day and I needed somewhere to shout about it. I did a lot of shouting and then I sent the shouting to Dan with some questions strategically placed within. He was lovely enough to respond to the questions in what I imagine was a calm, quiet voice. So what we have below is a mixture of THA KNOWS shouting about Dan Barrett and Dan Barrett responding to some of the shouting.
Not this Dan Barrett though.
THIS Dan Barrett.
THA KNOWS: How are your trombone skills these days?
DAN: Check out my recent Blue Note recording, “Boned Up!” to hear me wail on that bad-boy.
Dan is the best at doing music and does so under numerous guises. Here is a list of Dan's guises. He may have other guises but these are the guises that I know about.
|Guise||Description of Guise|
|Dan Barrett||Human man|
|Dan Barrett||Record label owner|
|Dan Barrett||Web design and SEO company owner|
|Giles Corey||Dark, blusey, folky acoustic music about history, suicide and ghosts.|
|HAVE A NICE LIFE (with Tim Macuga)||Post-punk, with shoegaze, industrial, ambient and drone elements.|
|Black Wing||"…depressive chillwave… - basically, music to listen to in the car with the windows down while feeling slightly melancholy and distracted."|
|Nahvalr||Open-source black metal (That’s what I said)|
That's quite a lot of guises isn't it? I've got a few guises but not as many as Dan. Who knows what other, secret guises he has? He's probably Banksy.
TK: Are you Banksy?
DB: I’m too afraid of getting in trouble to be Banksy.
Dan doesn’t even put the names of his guises on his t-shirts so if you see someone wearing one in real life, you have to say something. You can't just stand by and let someone wearing this walk past without having a word.
This has happened to me twice. The first time I was so shocked to see someone wearing that shirt in Sheffield that I just kind of stared and waved my finger about a bit. So, Mystery No Fun Girl, sorry about that. The second time was in Leeds and this time I managed to say a few words. Still with the finger waving though. The kid was not into it and seemed very keen to get away from me.
TK: How does it make you feel that your fans are pointing and mumbling at each other on an international scale? Will you ever come and play songs for your small army of British mumbly pointers?
DB: We’d love to go abroad, it’s just hard for us to put together a live performance we actually like. Maybe as Giles, someday. The shirt thing is still crazy to me. I have never seen anyone out and about in ELHR (Enemies List Home Recordings) stuff. I’d love that, though. Nothing about my day to day indicates that anyone outside of Tim, my wife and I ever hear our music.
Once you've heard Dan's music you'll understand the finger waving and the desire to get away from other humans. Hopefully you'll also go and buy all of his stuff because it's fucking reyt good.
I'm only going to focus on three of Dan’s guises. Three guises is the maximum amount of guises that a person can read about in one article. The guises that I will focus on are the guises that are the guises of Giles Corey, Black Wing and HAVE A NICE LIFE.
TK: How do you know which guise you’re working on at any one time? Do you write a song and then decide which guise it’s for or do you specifically set out to write a Giles Corey song or a HANL song?
DB: Typically we set out to specifically write songs for one project. They come up in the rotation - for example, we’re working on HANL now, and once that’s done I’ll be focusing on Giles again. Each “band” has a pretty well-defined personality in our heads, even if it’s just logistical...when Tim and I are together, that’s HANL, for example. Tim is what makes HANL good.
If you refer to the Guise Guide above you'll see that Giles Corey is the dark, blusey, folky acoustic music about history, suicide and ghosts guise. The first song on the self-titled album, The Haunting Presence, begins with an eerie piano line, then a menacing drum, then there's a bit where Dan has a bit of a paddy because he's been knocking about with a bag on his head for a few hours. It's all explained in the 150 page book that comes with the album so you know that absolutely no-one is fucking about here. This is one of the most unsettling things you'll ever hear on a record, even more so than the bit at the end of that Tool album where Ian Tool goes on about carrots for ages. The piano line comes back as a guitar part in the last track, Buried Above Ground, and after a bit it's accompanied by one of my top three favourite things, Triumphant Synth Horns! It can't be real horns, it has to be recognisably synthy. Sugar's Feeling Better is your benchmark here.
The Haunting Presence sounds lost and desperate. It sounds like you are being hunted by an unseen, unknowable horror. Musically Buried Above Ground sounds like there’s some hope, like we’re coming out into the light but Dan is still yelling “There’s a devil on my baaaaaaaack.” In between these two bookends we’re taken through a masterclass of beautifulsad in the form of acoustic ballads, ghostly recordings and full-on folk shindigs.
Have a go on this
TK: Tell me, in great detail, about the Triumphant Synth Horns in Buried Above Ground. How long did you spend trying to achieve the maximum amount of triumphantness?
DB: I actually love synth horns. I don’t know why. I love a good fanfare.
TK: People really love Giles Corey but it seems to represent a difficult place for you personally. Is this a guise that you will revisit?
DB: Yes. There’s another Giles record in me, somewhere. I know what it will be about, and essentially what it’ll sound like, though the songs are very rough right now. It’ll be very different. The same, but not. I can’t, nor do I want to, re-write the first record, all the angst over lost love and death. I don’t feel that now, so I can’t write about it. But there’s always anxiety and trouble in the world, there’s always something to write about. It just has to grow with you. If I didn’t think Giles could grow past that moment, I’d put him on the shelf. But there’s more there, for me.
Black Wing is the depressive chillwave guise and … Is Doomed was one of the best three albums of 2015 (the other two being Salome by Marriages and Bleeder by Mutoid Man, obvs).
The first track on ...is Doomed, Luther, features another one of my three favourite things, The Incongruous Woo! I'm waiting for that “woo” for those first few minutes and when it comes it sets me up for the day. This is a dark song, D-Bar has no right to drop that “woo” in there. Nobody's wooing here. But he drops it in anyway and it's magnificent and I've got that extra bounce to my step that you only get from Triumphant Synth Horns and Incongruous Woos and we're all having a Lovely Time.
The “woo” in Luther is one of my top musical moments of 2015. It’s right up there with the bit after the solos in VHOL’s The Desolate Damned when the riff comes back in and Mike Scheidt goes “UGH!”
TK:: Was the Incongruous Woo always there in Luther or did it come late on, like a cherry on top kind of thing?
DB: I love woo’s. There’s a woo in no one is ever going to want me, too. Which is probably the least likely woo in all of history. I get excited when we record. If it feels right in the moment, I want it in there.
Basically what you should be picking up here is that the boy Barrett is ticking my boxes and if you like having your boxes ticked you should let Da-B’rratt and his sharp box-ticking pencil into your life.
Check out the video for Luther here. It’s best if you press your eyes as close the screen as you can.
HAVE A NICE LIFE
HANL, the Post-punk, with shoegaze, industrial, ambient and drone elements guise, was my intro to Danbat; specifically second album The Unnatural World. It sounds exactly like it looks.
If 18 year old Geoff were writing this, he’d go on a big rant about how this band Cheetahs totally ripped off HANL with their album cover which is now getting nominated for album artwork awards.
But I’m older and wiser now and willing to believe in coincidence and it’s also clearly a different picture. I’m still going to mention it though. I suppose the steps add a whole extra level.
HANL’s first album, Deathconsciousness looks like a Slavearc album, but Dan’s hardline vegan credentials remain unknown.
So instead of calls for the weak to surrender, we get another huge book about death and this masterpiece of build and release.
TK: What are your hardline vegan credentials?
DB: I was vegetarian for a few years. And I was in a straight edge vegan band when I lived in Japan, but I didn’t know it at the time due to language difficulties. Also, I sort of covered Firestorm once.
TK: It feels like you put a lot of thought into the artwork for your releases. The images fit perfectly every time. Does the artwork influence the sound in any way or does the music come first and then you’re looking for the right art?
DB: The songs usually come first. Then something just feels right - I’ll have a rough idea, and spend a lot of time combing through old books or whatever I can find. The Unnatural World cover image sat on my desktop for years. I knew it would feel right sometime.
TK: Also, are you going to write any more massive books for future albums?
DB: I probably have another one of those in me. I don’t know, though. It makes it harder to get the record done, and I’m already slow in everything I do.
Basically Dan is the best and you should explore his many guises and buy his lovely vinyl.
You can do that by going to all these places.
Enemies List Home Recordings – Dan and Tim's record label http://store.enemieslist.net/
Giles Corey Bandcamp - https://gilescorey.bandcamp.com/
HAVE A NICE LIFE Bandcamp - https://haveanicelife.bandcamp.com/
Follow him on the tweets at @enemieslist and tell him that THA KNOWS sent you.
TK: Dan, would you like to plug anything else?
DB: If you haven’t heard Tim’s side project, The Flowers of St. Francis, you really need to. It’s being done as a tape subscription, but you can pick up some of the chapters on the store. It’s this incredible, sprawling thing he’s recording on a 4-track, everything done live. It’s awesome.
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