Craig Broad 03/09/2009
Every time a talented musician picks up an acoustic guitar and starts playing, you can almost guarantee the media cries of the next Bob Dylan or so on and such forth, such is the stagnant nature of the genre to date. Every year, a large portion of these artists will arrive and then fall without a trace but there are a handful who contain enough substance and invention to stick around, the likes of Fionn Regan, Bon Iver and Laura Marling have been the most recent that will spring to most peoples minds but sooner rather than later, Dan Arborise will be added to that list.
I interviewed Dan to ask about how his surroundings influenced his latest album 'Of Tide And Trail' and for his thoughts on everything from illegal downloading to media pressure.
Hello Dan, Firstly introduce who you are and say a little about what you
Dan; Hello there my name is Dan Arborise, I play a kind of cross-bred ambient-folk music which veers off on, dare I say it, progressive tangents.
You are constantly linked to sounding like artists such as Nick Drake but as my research tells me, you appreciate the ambient soundscapes of the likes of Brian Eno. So what are your exact influences and how do you feel they reflect within the music you create?
Dan; Yes, well I learned to play the acoustic guitar by listening and learning the songs of Nick Drake & John Martyn but I feel I've moved on from them in my own listening tastes in the last couple of years.
I didn't listen to any acoustic music over the recording and writing of the album. I listen to a lot of ambient/electronic music, techno, 'world' - anything that isn't acoustic really, as I found the last thing I wanted to listen to after playing all day is more of the same.
But those non-acoustic influences have crept in and are finding a place in my own sound.
So anyway I've been listening to a lot of Eat Static, Ishq, Tinariwen, King Tubby, Boredoms, Roy Harper, Ozric Tentacles, Julian Cope, various Indian Classical, Steve Hillage, Brian Eno. How they quite reflect in the music I'm not sure? It's reaching away from 'folk' as such and searching for new territories, looking for a space called 'Dan Arborise' land, being assimilated and re-presented through an acoustic guitar medium.
I don't feel I'm tied to the guitar though, it's a tool and there are many other instruments out there. Watch out for the nose flute and krummhorn album!
In the recording of this album, what did you wish to achieve and what changes did you want to undertaken when compared to the writing, recording and release of your debut album 'Around Its Circles'?
Dan; In terms of the writing of the album, the process was much the same as 'Circles', which is basically play freely, record everything on a Dictaphone, sift through it all and the good/interesting stuff jumps out as worthwhile. Sometimes complete songs are there and not much needs to be done, sometimes there is the seed of an idea that needs to be worked up - but it all comes from free improvisation at the beginning.
As for the recording I wanted to create a situation where I felt most comfortable to be able to offer the best performances I could onto tape. 'Circles' was recorded in a basement in London, sleeping on the floor and lots of commuting back and forth from Devon. It was quite a hard process, alleviated by the fact I was working with wicked people..
So this time I decided to place myself in my 'natural environment' which is away from physically & psychically dense urban areas and close to silence, stars & family.
I found a very unassuming studio down a maze of lanes on Dartmoor that had accommodation (a cabin) in the garden, it was perfect!
We had no producer for the recording either, so it was down to myself & the engineer to assume the role, which was very much 'in at the deep end'. It's not easy producing yourself - feels a little bit like some fancier demos are being made. It was a steep and very enlightening learning curve however and I am extremely grateful to the record label, Just Music, for having the faith to let me get on with it.
Anyway, the end result is a recording that is very much a snapshot of Dan Arborise at the time it was done - my soul between Sept & Dec 2008 on record with very little external influence getting the in way of that.
Do you feel that an artists surroundings affect the sound of his input, for instance, it is as I understand it, that you wrote your first album in Scotland while Of Tide & Trail was written in North Devon. What sort of changes did this different environment evoke within the mood of your music, do you feel like you wouldn't have made an album like Of Tide & Trail if you had not relocated?
Dan; Oh yes definitely. I think it's a slow continual osmosis between the surroundings and artist and the longer you are in a place the more that affects and informs you and your art.
As regards to the specific influence of North Devon to the album, being right on the coast next to the sea is probably the biggest factor; long sweeping views, endless horizons, unpredictable wild weather and most importantly is the fact you are on that natural boundary between the land and sea, hanging off the cliffs looking out to a world you can only see the surface of, as weather systems come either hurtling or rolling in from the Atlantic.
Another very important aspect is the actual sound of nature. When one is first in the country, especially city dwellers, they always comment on the peace and quiet but when you listen in closely, especially at night, there is a world of sound going on, kind of archetypal rhythms. An obvious example is the dawn chorus, which is like a symphony but listen amongst the grass in the dead of night and you'll hear all sorts of weird things going on.
So I think as a musician , you emulate these rhythms and sounds, especially if you spend a lot of time in the landscape as that's your life and your art comes from your life.
Specifically to the album, there are lot of ambient swells and drones, asynchronously looping away with each other, lots more delay guitar, harmonium is on everything. It's a denser sound compared to the first album so yes, perhaps the relentless sound of the sea rolling in is to blame. Of course the coast path is to thank for the title. so yes it's very much a coastal album looking off to the mysteries on and over the horizons!
Critically, you gained a lot of respect for 'Around In Circles'. How have us media types reacted to your latest album and did you feel any pressure or expectation in creating your latest piece?
Dan; From what I've seen so far and to a certain extent in keeping with the reactions to 'Circles', the reviews have been split between great praise and adulation to mild disinterest and dislike. I'm happy with that as for a start, lots of people have taken an interest in the album and art that splits the critics has in my opinion, succeeded.
I felt absolutely no pressure from press whilst creating the album, the pressure from myself was enough! I'm quite good at putting the musical and psychic blinkers up, I think you need that when you perform, you just get on with the music and that's it.
I see that you have a few shows schedule in support of this album, what can people expect to see if they go to a Dan Arborise show and are there any plans a larger UK tour?
Dan; Well live I extend everything out as much as I can, I don't adhere to the set album versions of songs, it's much more of a free-flowing experience, I'm trying to defeat time and place, take people to another space. This obviously works better in a headline show context. So far we have some support shows booked, which admittedly is not ideal for spreading out musically but of course is good for getting to some new audiences but hopefully we will do a headline London show this year and we are working on some more full gigs round the country next year. It's not particularly easy getting gigs, people have to be really forced to get off their sofas and go out to support live music, which doesn't make promoters jobs easy. I will however play anywhere I am asked to and usually for a bargain, I'm not in this for the money in case you hadn't guessed!
You create music that isn't necessarily mainstream right now, what do you think of the current music chart and how do you feel your music fits into the way music is heading?
Dan; To be honest I have absolutely no idea of what is going on in the mainstream music scene. I inhabit a musical bubble of my own design, so as to how it fits in with how music is heading I cannot tell you.
I'd like to think that one of the principle functions of music is and will be to a deeper & deeper extent an externalisation of that which cannot be expressed in language. A vehicle for spirituality and a portal to unseen realms, music has the power to effect change to myriad properties of the world, I've experienced that and it's a mad thing. I'm sure this will all develop and become a fundamental aspect of our world as it evolves in the future.
As for my music, well I really feel I'm only finding my feet in the musical world and I hope to tap into all these possibilities throughout my musical life. It's really, really exciting, I'm building a proper studio at the moment and can't wait to get going! I think I will always operate in my own spectrum and on my own terms, that's all I can do, be true to my self and hopefully always be unique for it.
There is a lot of disagreement in terms of illegal music downloading. Being a more underground artist, what are your thoughts on it all and how do you think it affects you?
Dan; From my perspective as a small artist, I rely on the small income stream my music generates more relatively than say, Coldplay do. However I also rely on my music getting out to as many people as possible and illegal downloading is a very effective way for people to listen to the music who may not have the funds or will to buy it.
I think the model for artists such as myself is to develop a personal relationship with fans, earn the respect of your fans so they will then want to buy your products. Lots of people will hate what I do and lots will love it, it's a question of finding those people who love it and starting a long term communication with them through gigs, records, merchandise, chatting on the web forum etc etc.
So it comes down to how to find those true fans and if some come to my music through an illegal download, I can't argue with that.
Thanks alot for your answers Dan and good luck with the album…
Dan; Thanks for your interesting questions!
You can listen to Dan's music and find details on how to purchase his albums by visiting his myspace, just click