Dan Reed Network are getting ready to release their first album in 25 years.
Formed in Portland, Oregon Dan Reed Network’s meteoric rise to fame in the eighties and early nineties saw them witness both US and UK chart success with their infectious brand of hard rock, funk, and soul. The band traveled the globe opening for the likes of Bon Jovi on their 1989 “New Jersey Tour” and The Rolling Stones on their European “Urban Jungle Tour.” Dan Reed Network disbanded following the release of their third album The Heat having become somewhat disillusioned with the music industry, much to the disappointment of their supporters.
In 2012, the band played their 25th-anniversary reunion show on New Years Eve. Fast forward to 2016 and the Dan Reed Network are back with a new studio album titled Fight Another Day. National Rock Review recently caught up with Dan Reed to talk about the new album, his thoughts on the music industry, how influential Prince was on him and the band and what it was like working with Nile Rodgers.
NRR: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review, we really appreciate it.
Dan: Yeah, thanks for doing this on a Sunday (laughing).
NRR: No problem. So where about’s do we find you today?
Dan: I’m in Prague, this is where I live.
NRR: So you are getting ready to release your new album Fight Another DayÂ on the 3rd June via Frontiers Records. I was just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the album and the story behind it?
Dan: Yeah well I mean I guess the title is really more about, it has two meanings for us the fact that we got back together, which was a miracle after many years, twenty years and we made a record. We started playing some shows a few years back and we really enjoyed that process, but we had no concept of making a new album. Then I guess about a year ago we started just toying with the idea, because we were just having such a great time on stage playing together, that we said you know it’s fun to go out and play all the old stuff, but maybe it would be fun to kind of give some people some new music and see if we still have it in us.
So Fight Another Day is kind of an homageÂ to us being able to have I don’t know the stupidity or the courage, one or the other to get together and make a record. I mean a lot of people are doing it because you know to make money off the past or stuff like that, for us we all have our own separate lives and careers now and so it’s more just for the love of music. When we got back in the studio we just had the greatest time making a record again. That’s one meaning for it.
The other meaning of it is just all the problems that we are facing as a human race with this world. I think it’s reflected in the lyrics of the songs about whether we are going to figure out how to come together supporting people, I mean I can go to politics whereÂ you’reÂ supporting people like Bernie Sanders in America or if you are going to go for the Donald Trump route where you want to build walls and start blaming other people for our problems. If that’s the route that we are going to go it seems like a very dark future. So the word fight is just taking another meaning ofÂ gettingÂ educated, learning thatÂ there are repercussions to our actions in the world.
A lot of people are complaining about immigration in Europe because of all of the influx of people that are coming from war torn zones, but it’s easy to look at that as the problem but what about the fact that we’re directly involved in either selling weapons to rogue states or we are involved in creating conflicts to control resources that always comes back to bite us in the ass so to speak. So and the environment and how we are treating you know the animal kingdom, the earth, is that going to also be a problem with how we are depleting the resources and stuff. So I guess Fight Another Day is taking that rebel spirit that we have as a human race and turning it into finding solutions of how we are going to survive beyond our generations you know, our current generations.
NRR: You’ve just released your first single from the new album which is called “Divided”, it’s a great song we love it a lot, I’ve been listening to Planet Rock Radio and it’s been getting a lot of airplay.
Dan: Oh it is? I just heard it got played on the breakfast show actually, I was very happy about it, I wrote Paul and thanked him for that.
NRR: Could you tell us a little bit about that song and the inspiration behind it?
Dan: Yeah that song is, that’s directly related to what I was just talking about. I have a song on one of my solo albums called “Brave New World” which is from the Aldous Huxley book title of course.
I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the human race, we have this dark side to us you know and yet we also put up people on a pedestal that we admire. Whether it’s John Lennon or Gandhi people that you know fought against conflict or violent conflict using peaceful methods, whether it’s music or non-violent protests like Gandhi did. So we have great respect for those people and at the same time they always get killed you know. Even Jesus got strung up on the cross because he was saying that we should love our enemy for example and Gandhi said an eye for an eye makes the world go blind.
It’s statements like this that really crystallize our human condition so “Divided” is just asking the question are we born that way you know, are we born to be inÂ conflict with each other or are we born to come together through that pain and find some kind of reason to use compassion as a weapon. So that’s what that song is about. I thought the best way to say that message wasÂ overÂ a song that was quite heavy, you know quite kind of violent in a way, you know especially the way it starts. So take a violent approach musically but at the same lyrically ask this question about whether we are willing to come together.
NRR: I noticed you made several posts on Facebook in the last week or so about Prince and I just wondered obviously with the recent passing of Prince how much of an influence was he on you as an artist?
Dan: Well in many different ways he’s influencing me now in a different way. All these stories coming out about the humanitarian work he was doing that he was keeping silent about whether it’s because he was a Jehovah’s Witness or because he didn’t want to be patting himself on the back for the work that he does. There were no photoÂ ops, for example, a lot of musicians or actors go out and help people and then they want their picture taken with the people they are helping and here Prince was doing this stuff without any glory at all and that’s the new inspiration to me now too.
I’m sitting here thinking about like I work really hard, I’m traveling all the time andÂ IÂ have a son I’m raising, and it’s a lot of work and at the same time. I realize there’s moreÂ IÂ could do because of reading these stories, so he’s an inspiration now even in his death.
But musically I have to say early on listening to “For You” and “Dirty Mind” and “Controversy,” his early records before “1999,” which wasÂ his big hit, reading the credits and seeing that he wrote and performed and produced and mixed and engineered, he did everything when he was like 19, 20, 21 years old. He played just every instrument perfectly for that style of music.
When I first heard his music and hearing “1999” when he started using drum machines thatÂ wasÂ a big influence on the Network where on our first album we started mixing technology and live instruments with that. I would say Prince was a big inspiration with that for sure.
Then secondly or thirdly rather was when we saw him play in 1990 at Wembley Arena. We had just opened up for The Stones at Wembley Stadium and we crossed the road and got to see him play and watching him onstage was just awesome. I couldn’t understand how he could play so well and dance in high heeled shoes, go down and do the James Brown splits with the guitar on you know (laughing) I didn’t get it, I was really blown away and I’d never before or since have I seen an artist that wowed me that much.
So that’s always been like in the back of my mind I think whenever I’m on stage I’m trying to give 110%. I’m not one ofÂ thoseÂ kindsÂ of guys, especially with the Network that stands at the mic, you know I’m always thinking about well if that guy can give that much energy that the least I can do is try. So the best live show I’ve ever seen, best live show and hands down the must underrated guitarist in the world.
NRR: It’s funny you should say that because I remember having this conversation with a friend a couple of years ago on Facebook about the best guitarists of all time and everyone was mentioning the usual suspects like Hendrix and this, that and the other and then someone said Prince and everyoneÂ was surprised by that until they saw the video of him playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Tom Petty and everyone at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and that helped to change their minds. He definitely is one of the most underrated guitarists, it’s mind blowing.
Dan: Ridiculous, I mean funk, jazz, rock. There are a couple of clips on YouTube too where he’s doing these rock solos that are just blinding. I mean Yngwie Malmsteen had nothing on him, Eddie Van Halen has nothing on him, Alan Holdsworth you know I mean there’s all these great guitarists out there but Prince could do a little bit of all of those guys no problem (laughing) just you know in his sleep.
Then there was this great thing about this last I think aÂ couple of days before he passed away. He went to a dance party at Paisley Park and he made an appearance there just to kind of let everyone knowÂ that he was ok because he had that hospital bout. He hadÂ shownÂ off this new purple piano that he had gotten in Europe as a gift and a guitar as well, and they wanted him to play and he said no I’m not playing the guitar anymore. He said because ifÂ IÂ keep playing the guitar I will never get better at the piano.
So he was giving up the guitar for a while. The last two concerts he did I think were just him sitting at a piano. He was just trying to improve his piano skills andÂ heÂ was just a bad mofo on the piano already (laughing) so it’s like ok, alright keep setting the bar higher and higher dude.
NRR: It’s been 25 years since the release of HeatÂ back in 1991. I read around about the time of the release of that album you thought that you would never make another Dan Reed Network album ever again. I was just wondering what made you change your mind?
Dan: I mean I’ve been asked by people for the last seven years since I started playing music again solo. No matter where I go after every show people I meet always ask, do you think that’s a possibility, do you think that’s ever going to happen and as from people in the audience and people behind the scenes in the music business whether it’s radio or in the TV world or Pat Cash the tennis player. You know people like that keep going dude, are you ever going to make a Network record and I’m like no, no, no, no I kept saying no.
When we started playing on stage and we just started laughing our asses off in the van driving to different places and having a good time at soundcheck and thereÂ wereÂ no more ego problems with us, it was just a joy to be around everybody that it just seemed to make sense, like why don’t we Â …why not since everyone keeps asking us to do it. Then the challenge was are we just going to fall on our face, or is it going to sound like we are trying to live the glory days and make a record that sounded like that orÂ areÂ we going to disappoint people because it sounds too different.
I remember one of my favorite records of recent years of rock bands was this Europe album that kind of blues album that they made. Everybody said that doesn’t sound like Europe it’s a crappy record, and I’m like yeah but it’s a great, great rocky blues record and I never liked Europe before I never liked (sings the intro to the Final Countdown), whenever I heard that song I was like god turn it off, but then this record I love it so, I was wondering how it was going to go you know the process.
So we just sat down and started writing, Brian James and I started sending stuff back and forth. He lives in Honduras and it started sounding like it could be a good rocky, funky record that was reminiscent of the past, but lyrically was reaching towards the future and it didn’t sound dated to me. So that was the biggest fear, as I didn’t wanna have it sound like we went backward. So yeah, there was never really a defining moment of like let’s do this, but it was over the last couple of years it just kind of organically happened.
NRR: I know around about the time that the Network disbanded, you guys were somewhat disillusioned by the whole record business. Do you feel like the landscape of the music industry has changed in that time and you now have the right people around you to support you moving forward?
Dan: Yes, I think it’s changed for the better for sure. I think the internet made the great equalizer you know it’s humbled the record industry, it’s allowed every musician access to the worldÂ whereasÂ before you used to have to get a record deal to be heard and that was in the hands of a small group of A&R people. Sometimes those A&R people weren’t musicians they were former attorneys or lawyers or wannabe musicians and sometimes they would say no to some great artists.
You know I shudder to think how much music we didn’t hear in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties you know. So but now it’s changed for the better, I think artists are more in control of their destiny for better or for worse and at the same time, you still have all of these great industry people that were talented that are still in the industry working in different methods. You know they are either in the press or they are in promotion or they are working at radio or they are still working at labels and fighting the good fight but you are just not getting raked over the coals as much as you used to in the old days, so I think it’s much better.
NRR: Obviously you’ve got a European tour coming up in support of Fight Another DayÂ and you are going to be playing at the 100 Club in London on the 15th June. What can your fans expect from your show this time around?
Dan: Well, we are definitely going to play the old favorites that people like and we are gonna play probably three or four new songs off the album. I know it’s hard for people to hear new music, sometimes I remember when I tell this story on stage that when I … Dan Pred and I were big Journey fans back in the day, and I remember them playing “Don’t Stop Believing” at one of their live shows and that record hadn’t come out yet. Dan and I just looked at each other and were like this song’s terrible (laughing) and then like six months later we couldn’t stop singing it. So we don’t want to burden people with too much new music right off the stage, but we will play three new songs and all the old favorites.
NRR: What’s your favorite track from your extensive back catalog to perform live?
Dan: I’ve been loving playing “Resurrect.” This a song from our very first album and in a way it has that same meaning as Fight Another Day like our resurrection as a band. We’ve been playing it the last two tours that we did opening the shows with it and it just starts the show off with like this crazy amount of energy as oppose to trying to ease into the set or trying to be really heavy. It’s more about this kind of positive thing about a broken love that heals again and rises from the ashes. So that’s one of my favorite songs to play live. I’d say as far as thematically I’d say “Salt of Joy” probably is my favorite song of the past or present.
NRR: I know that on The HeatÂ you did a cover of “Money” by Pink Floyd. I was just wondering if you could have any band cover one of your tracks, which song and artist would you choose?
Dan: Well that’s a great question. I would say (laughing) One Direction because then I could buy my own studio. If they covered just a half of one of my songs, I would be able to build a studio for each one of us.
God that’s a great questionÂ I’ve never been asked that. Well I know that if Prince was still alive, that would of been the greatest honor because I know that he has a record or a coalition called the Rainbow Children and I have this song “Rainbow Child” and I always thought this melody line (sings the melody from Rainbow Child) was always kind ofÂ PrinceyÂ to me, so that would have been my dream to have Prince play “Rainbow Child” (laughing).
NRR: I know back in the day as well you worked with Nile Rodgers on Slam and I was just wondering out of all of the great artists you’ve worked with what was it like working withÂ Nile?
Dan: Yeah, he was fantastic you know. The greatest thing aboutÂ NileÂ was that he always kind of wanted to get the best out of each one of us as individuals and made it really a comfortable environment for us to do that and Bruce Fairbairn was very much the same way. I think those are the only two like major producers that we worked with in our history and both experiences were fantastic because you can tell that they are pro’s and they know what they are doing. They don’t have this locked in idea of what you guys should do as a band and dictate that. They really listen to each band member and what they want to do and their vision of how they see themselves portrayed on the album and Nile was the best at that.
In fact, when we cut lead vocals he kept saying you know your lead vocals on your demos are better than what we are getting in the studio here and why do you think that is. IÂ go well maybe it’s because I do them by myself you know I’m not trying to perform them for anybody, I’m just sitting in a studio with the mouse and the microphone right here and I’m just cutting vocals by myself. He goes why don’t you do that, he goes why don’t we all just leave the studio, leave you in here for a few hours and see what you can come up with on your own with the lead vocal. I thought that was amazing, that Nile was that giving.
That’s how eventually we cut about seventy-five, eighty percent of the lead vocals was that way and that was because of him allowing that to happen, he did not have to do that. Where he could just have kept his ego involved and went well it’s not as good as the demo, but I need to be here in the process and so that was fantastic.
He had a great sense of humor and so many stories about the past you know. God crazy stories (laughing) especially about you know Miles Davis stories. He told me there was this Miles Davis story where Miles was invited to the White House he was there and Nancy Reagan was a big fan of Miles Davis I guess. She kept interrupting him, asking questions about Jazz music and eventually he just told her to shut up because he was eating peach cobbler and he goes listen don’tÂ interruptÂ me while I’m eating my peach cobbler to the President’s wife. Supposedly Ronald Reagan laughed, that’s the story.
NRR: If you get the chance, watch the new movie Miles Ahead, I don’t know if you’ve seen it.
Dan: I’ve heard about it, I’ve just not seen it yet.
NRR: I saw it last weekend, it’s very good.
Dan: Oh great, I’ll check it out.
NRR: You took quite a long break out of music around 2003. You went off to India and Jerusalem and you lived in a TibetanÂ MonasteryÂ studying religion. Obviously, that’s quite a life changingÂ experience; it’s a very different change of pace from performing live. What did you take from that time of personal development both personally and as a musician and what drew you back to the music industry from that point?
Dan: Well I think the main thing that I got from that time period was a sense of patience, a deep sense of gratitude for the fact that I was ever able to play music and the opportunities that we had when we were younger. I took a lot of that stuff for granted because even when you are in the midst ofÂ it, youÂ are working so hard and you just think that’s what you deserve.
But when I spent a lot of time in the quiet zone I call it of studying and listening rather than output taking stuff in, it taught me a lot about trying to be humble in the midst of it all, showing gratitude to everybody that I run into whether it’s the kitchen staff that cooks me a meal at a venue or wherever now it’s the pilots on planes I always say thank you when I’m leaving that I landed safely. So that form of gratitude.
Also being kind of content with whatever happens. Before there was a lot of why didn’t we get this single added or how it didn’t get more plays or you know how come that band is doing better than we are and all of that kind of frustrating stuff that are just delusions that are going on in your mind. The better thing to do is to not complain and try to come up with solutions or try to work harder, try to think of ways you can achieve what your goals are in a more positive way rather than putting other people down.
So and it doesn’t matter what kind of hotel rooms I live in, that kind of stuff. After you live in a small you know 8 by 10 room on a matt that’s this thick (signals an inch or so thick) with no electricity for eight months you are pretty much happy anywhere you live now. SoÂ there are all of those kinds of things.
We don’t have a crew that hauls our gear, we haul our own gear now, that kind of stuff that kind of putting that labor in is good. I mean I guess if this record did well and we started playing bigger shows and we had more gear we will probably add some crew you know, like one or two people, but I know people that don’t even touch their gear, they just want to walk onstage and play and I think it’s better for all of us in the band to be more in touch with the process. That’s all things that I learned during that process.
As far as the songs go, as you can tell from this album since you’ve heard it, that every song has to have some kind of reaching out for finding balance in life. Whether like I was saying earlier a broken love that needs to be healed or whether it’s a broken soul that needs to find some kind of light in the midst of going through guilt or remorse. It’s all kinds of ways to foster positive energy in our lives and I think that I learned during that process that I keep trying to lead into everything that I do now creatively.
NRR: What else do you have in store for the rest of this year?
Dan: Well we are going to do some shows in the States after the European tour. I’m still doing a lot of solo work in different countries. One thing I’m really excited about that I’ve been doing more and more is creative and songwriting workshops for music schools around Europe. I did one in England recently, I did a few up in Finland, I’ll be doing one in Sweden and a few more in Finland at the end of the year.
So that’s kind of nice being able to pass on whatever insights I’ve learned about just the music business. About getting over writer’s block, about how you as an artist can change the world you know instead of just trying to follow pop trends and write music that you know just follows whatever’s going on in radio right now and keeping it light, there’s nothing wrong with being light. I think I joke about One Direction and Justin Bieber and stuff like that, but I think they are really great at their craft, and they are great at what they do.
I remember when I was a kid I liked The Monkees and I liked The Partridge Family and you know cheesy songs like everybody else, The Beatles first hit was (sings I Wanna Hold Your Hand) it doesn’t get any cheesier than that. So we all have our humble beginnings and very simple love songs as well as I did, I mean I wrote a song called “Tiger In A Dress,” so it doesn’t get any worse than that (laughing). But I do try to atÂ theseÂ songwritingÂ workshops to tell these kids it’s ok to you know do what your passion is, don’t worry about being in a box you know.
NRR: That’s great. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us we really appreciate it.
Dan: Oh no, thank you for helping spread the word about the record.
Dan Reed Network 2016 European Release Tour
HARD ROCK CAFE â€“ OSLO, NORWAY (CD Release Show)
SATURDAY JUNE 4, 2016
Address: Karl Johansgate 45, 0162 Oslo Website
GRONALUND â€“ STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
MONDAY JUNE 6, 2016
Address: Lilla AllmÃ¤nna GrÃ¤nd 9, 115 21 Stockholm Website
LISEBERG â€“ GOTEBORG, SWEDEN
TUESDAY JUNE 7, 2016
Address: Address: Ã–rgrytevÃ¤gen 5, 402 22 GÃ¶teborg, Sweden Website
SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL
FRIDAY JUNE 10, 2016
Address: Nygatan 27, 294 34 SÃ¶lvesborg Website
ROCK CAFE – ST. PAULI â€“ HAMBURG, GERMANY
MONDAY JUNE 13, 2016
Address: SilbersackstraÃŸe 27, 20359 Hamburg, Germany Website
100 CLUB â€“ LONDON, ENGLAND (UK CD Release Show)
WEDNESDAY JUNE 15, 2016
Address: 100 Oxford St, London W1D 1LL Website