AU ABROAD

the AU interview: Dan Webb (Melbourne) speaks on Sandstorm, not touring the album, and more

We recently caught up with energetic singer-songwriter Dan Webb to chat about his new album, Sandstorm, his choices in regards to touring, and being an unconventional musician. Check out his fascinating interview below.

How would you best describe Sandstorm? I understand that a lot of the songs are open to interpretation but what were some images you had whilst writing these songs?

I’ve been describing the album in terms of musical styles because I am very keen on people interpreting the lyrics in their own way. I personally like thinking of it as the soundtrack for someone who’s lost and wandering around in the desert. There’s hope, despair, uncertainty, insanity and everything in between. I think they’re pretty universal themes and easy to relate to. Initially you might not be happy about your situation, but you’ll probably come to find that you learn from the journey and end up in a better place upon reflection.

You recorded it in a variety of studios - do you think this affected the songs respective to the studios they were in?

I don’t think so – although it was great being able to record the majority of overdubs in Andrew Crosbie’s home studio. I feel a bit sorry for his housemates having to put up with a constant stream of percussionists, saxophone players and whatnot coming into the place and making a racket. But being able to record in a relaxed environment like that, and not having to comply with an 8 hour schedule each day meant that we could just work on a part until we got it exactly right, rather than fixing it during the mixing stage.

Did you have a favourite place to record?

I recorded two EPs in the big Neve Room at Sing Sing in Melbourne – nothing could really top that place I don’t think. We didn’t track anything for the album there but it was still great to have everything (including the demos) mastered at Sing Sing by Ross Cockle. It almost feels like a second home to me.

You also got to work with a bunch of amazing musicians throughout the record. Do you have any particular highlights in terms of those collaborations - be they a drummer, a vocalist or even the engineers...

The whole experience was awesome. I love doing what I do, and it was great being able to work with everyone involved. But I will say I was really blown away by Ashleigh Cummings’ first recording experience. I hardly had to give her any directions; it came to her very naturally. Col Leadbetter did an amazing job with the mix. He was on the same page as me from the get-go so it made the whole process very easy.

Looking back on the 12 months of releases that led up to this album, what did you take away from that experience and how did you feel it went?

I’m really glad I did it. It was mainly an experiment to see if I could get some press coverage in the lead up to the album release the following year. But it was also a great way to engage the fans, and having fixed deadlines helped me commit to ideas in my songwriting. I’d been working on some of the songs for two or three years prior to that. The response to the whole project was pretty overwhelming, especially considering they were only demos! The tracks were downloaded in something like 25 countries and played on BBC 6 and triple j.

Are you thinking of doing anything similar in the future?

Nope. Not anytime soon at least. Unless you were expecting me not to – in which case then I might.

How did the video for Coming Up Roses come together? What appealed to you about the video?

I asked the director for something really silly and boy, did he deliver. I had no idea how we were going to film it though. It was a really crazy, fun experience in the end, but quite physically demanding. It was shot over two days in a park with a crew of about 15 people. They had me dancing and hopping and dragging myself along the ground with one arm tucked behind my back. I had some pretty intimate moments with the makeup/visual effects artists. At one point they shoved a sponge and fake blood up my nose...they also had to cut a leg of my jeans off to put on a mannequin leg. We decided it’d be easiest and safest if I took the jeans off while they did that. So there I was, standing in a public park, with zombie makeup on my face and no pants on.

How did you come to work with Kess Broekman-Dattner and what was the collaboration like there?

Once I had decided Coming Up Roses would be the second single, I got in touch with a few directors but I’ve been following what Kess has been doing for some time now, he’s clearly a very talented guy. He had a great concept pitch and it was really fun working with him.

I read in an interview you did that you have decided not to tour Sandstorm, with no shows until next year - what was the reason for this and why has October 15, 2015 been the chosen date?

Well, firstly I’ll say that it’s expected and assumed that musicians will tour an album. But this is hardly a conventional album, I’d like to think I’m not a conventional artist, and going off on a conventional tour in support of the release just didn’t make sense to me. There’s also many different styles of music on the album (funk, reggae, mariachi, electronica, pop, rock) and many different instruments (guitar, flute, saxophone, percussion etc.). At this stage I don’t feel that we’d be doing the songs justice if I got up on stage with a six-piece band and tried to recreate what we made in the studio. I mean, how on earth would you perform a song like ‘Lonely Pony’ live without backing tracks, several percussionists and guest vocalists? It’s a question I don’t really have the answer to right now. I need time to figure these sorts of things out. October 15, 2015 seemed like a realistic timeframe. It coincides with the 200th anniversary of Napoleon going into exile on Saint Helena, which I thought was pretty cool given I’ll be essentially returning from self-exile.

What is next for you, now that the album is out and amongst the world?

A second album is on the cards. I’ve already written about ten new songs that I’m really happy with and we’ll likely start rehearsing the new material in a month or two. I’m also talking with a couple of bands at the moment about producing new singles for them.