DOUGLAS DARE: “Passion is a word I’m trying to avoid.”
Brace yourself, fellow music-lovers, for there is a young songwriter coming our way who’s likely to gain some of your love and respect with his recently announced, first EP Seven Hours. The London-based songwriter DOUGLAS DARE not only complements from now on to the wonderful ERASED TAPES-family, he’s also nothing less but impressively confident about his fragile music. With good reason, for he’s an excellent musician with an artistic approach somewhere between JAMES BLAKE and ANTONY HEGARTY. But foremost, he’s also a bright character with a lot of profound thoughts. We can by all means confirm his love for words and poetry from sitting down with him for a chilled conversation lately at the THALIA GARDENS FESTIVAL. Convince yourself by reading and listening to this young man’s words and music. It’ll be worth it, promised.
That was a very polite audience tonight, wasn’t it? Are you surprised sometimes, of how quiet some audiences can be?
Well, it depends on what you’re doing. When I play solo in the UK, people are often very quiet now, but in the early days, I sometimes struggled to get people to not talk. Especially when you play a free gig, people often just come along to drink a beer and chat and that’s okay. But sometimes I felt like telling them to shut up. The rule is: if there are a few who payed to see me, who would like to enjoy the gig and are disturbed by some guys in the back, then I’d say: ‘If you don’t want to listen to me, you can leave. Or: shut up.” It’s alright, if they didn’t come to see me but maybe they’re ruining it for everyone else. I decided that that’s okay after I saw THOM YORKE doing it.
Right, everything THOM YORKE does is okay. Would you consider your music to be fitting for this venue – this garden-like atmosphere?
Definitely, especially if I’m playing on my own. I have a band as well but when it comes to playing solo it works very well in these intimate venues, I guess. On the other hand, it’s very exposed, so you can hear any little thing. That can be a bit off-putting. But I like to embrace those tiny details, like the birds today? Those were quite noisey, really, but I enjoyed it.
I suppose it’s a bit different to the concerts you had as a support for ÓLAFUR ARNALDS. How was that like?
Oh, great. I’ve been a bit of a fan of ÓLAFUR for a time now, so it’s really been a privilege to be asked on tour with him. Apart from that, the venues were amazing, as well as the equipment he uses, the pianos – I’m very lucky to get to play on them. Besides, the audiences he’s playing for are so supportive and thankful. All in all, a great time. I spent a lot of time with him, he was giving me advice and we did some collaborations as well. Although we didn’t had the time yet to record some of it. But hopefully, somewhen in the future, we will.
I always admired the approach he has on everything – being at his age, doing so many things. He very omnipresent but at the same time, he seems to be very calm and polite.
Yes, he’s a very nice person. I mean, he’s not much older than me but he’s already done so many things. There’s definitely a lot to learn from him. It’s a pleasure to be on the same label now.
ERASED TAPES, right. Good choice! How did that happen – did ÓLAFUR connect you to them?
No, actually they heard my music on Soundcloud and I got an Email one day, that said, that they like what I’m up to. And from there on, I think, ÓLAFUR got to hear my music.
DOUGLAS DARE: “There’s something beautiful in limitation.”
Alright, as we are on a quite distinguished festival right now, bold question: if you could a book a festival on your own, which artists would you invite?
Oh, good question. Well, first of all, I got a lot of friends that are making music, some of them are doing well, but some of them also, well, like to enjoy their music more privatly. So, I would love to include them. For instance my housemate from London, she’s got a project called FARAO, that’s great. Another housemate of mine called Anna Lena has this band called ANNA LENA & THE ORCHIDS, I would invite them as well. But apart from that, it’s difficult. I’d wanna play! (laughs) I wanna headline obviously. It’s the DOUGLAS DARE-festival, I want to play every stage. Seriously, I think of all the big names I like: PJ HARVEY, BJÖRK, THOM YORKE, PATTI SMITH as well. I would want her to do some poetry, though. I need some poetry at my festival. A bit of LEONARD COHEN would be great. (laughs) This is gonna be an expensive festival. CHILLY GONZALES! PATRICK WATSON maybe. Also: a band called WARPAINT. Stop me, I could go on like this…
Okay, let’s stop there. I will come and visit it! So, you’re planning a release, right?
Yes, it will be out in September. It will be my first EP coming out on ERASED TAPES and we just finished recording and mastered it last week. Tomorrow I’m going to have a meeting concerning the release date, but pobably midst to end of September. (editor’s note: Seven Hours, out September 30th)
I don’t know why exactly, but I reckon your music to work very well in a more band-like environment. Also, I could imagine you doing some concept records. Is that something you believe in?
Oh, absolutely. First of all I believe in the concept of writing music for an album. I actually started writing my debut album right now. And yes, I do believe that an album should be a collection of work when it’s put together. There’s got to be a reason for an album coming out, not just because people want to hear twelve songs or fourty minutes of music. I think “concept” is kind of a restricting word but I think an album has to be a body of work that belongs together. I write my music in a certain way, beginning with poems or short stories, that often center around one theme, highlighting different aspects of it. For example, there’s been a period in which I wrote a lot about different aspects happening around the time of the Second World War and for a moment I thought, that my debut album would concentrate on songs that are all written about this period of time. But then things change, and suddenly you write a lot more autobiographical, which apparently doesn’t seem to fit to what I wrote about before. On the other hand, though, it maybe somehow fits on an more abstract level. It’s always a matter of how strictly you define your concept. But in general, I always want my albums to be purposeful.
Personally, I think it’s a good way for artists at the starting point of their career to start working with a lot of EPs, practicing their writing with that. And meanwhile, working out an idea for an album, taking their time for it, instead of just putting together some of their songs from the EPs. That doesn’t make a good album, but it’s what mostly happens, right? People want to hear “albums”, so artists deliver..
That’s true. But personally, I’m always writing – poems, shorststories, as I said – but also instrumental music which I later maybe combine into songs. So, yeah, I’m really looking forward to writing my debut, but on the other hand, if I didn’t come up with a proper idea of how this album should be like until the release is planned, I would prefer to intervene and say: let’s just release another EP. I don’t see any problems with that, because, anyway, my aim is to be constantly releasing things in between albums. Which doesn’t mean that I’m directly offering everything that I create, because sometimes I want people to wait a little. The same goes for gigs, by the way: you don’t want to play too long, because that might bore people. You gotta keep a little time in between things, so that people are really craving for it. I think there’s something satisfying in that, something beautiful in limitation.
DOUGLAS DARE: “I don’t think anything’s perfect.”
You mentioned it several times now: you really start with poems or something alike before you write the music?
Yes. Although I didn’t intend to do so. Initially, I did instrumental music in other bands and projects. But, as I really enjoyed singing, I somewhen came to the point at which I wanted to write my own songs. And as I didn’t thought that I’d have something to say – I didn’t want to write lovesongs, you see? – I found myself writing stories instead. And really, there’s no need to write autobiographically all the time. I write a lot anyway, I write words all the time. Not everything of it becomes music, of course. That’s why I hope to release a poetry-book in the future. Actually, it’s already been talked about with Erased Tapes – a lyricbook accompanying an album for example. Unfortunately I never performed just my poetry, I’ve only done my music yet. So, it’s a challenge for me as well – I really need to go to a poetry night. (laughs) It’s quite easy to hide behind music. That’s part of the reason why I enjoyed writing poems and turning them into music, because I knew that the words stood up on their own. I’m sick sick of hearing songs where the lyrics are more like an afterthought.
Did you study that in any kind of way?
Not at all! I’m not a trained poet by any stretched imagination – I break any rules that exist, well, besides the fact that there are no rules. Anyway, I’m not a poet and I still hope to learn a lot about writing by doing it. I consider myself to be a songwriter.
Is there a perfect song for you? That exists?
Basically, I don’t think anything’s perfect. Someone reminded me of a quote today: “The art is never finished, it is abandoned.” Who said this? DaVinci? Well, I’ll google that later and you fill it in, so that it looks like I’m intelligent. (laughs) But if you want me to decide, I would say it’s Videotape by RADIOHEAD. Lyrically, musically, rhythmically, the way it is recorded, the voice – every part of it screams in my head, saying: this is why songs exist. There’s a reason why this is written and there’s a reason to sing it – I think that’s such an important thing! Why sing a song? Why would you do this? If you look back at it in history, there’s always been a reason for singing. Songs are the past messages! There’s part of recreation in it and enjoyment of course, plus the often communal aspect of singing.
Okay, and which artist would you like to meet – dead or alive?
ELLIOTT SMITH, I think. But it’s not like I really want to meet him, it’s more like: i want to sit in a room with him. Watch him play. I don’t know if I would want to ask him any questions – I just would love to be there. Witness the magic. From his songs I would say, he was so quietly perceptive, I would love to listen to his insightful lyrics and see the world a bit like he did. That’s the beauty of an artist anyway, if a good songwriter can make you see the world a bit like he or she does.
Okay, last one: what do our magazine’s favorite conceptual words mean to you: Hope and Passion?
Hope is obviously a really nice feeling. It can be very strong, but, to me, hope is not strong enough for what I want to achieve. Somehow, I feel like that there’s a mild pessimism to this word – you’re not sure that this or that is going to happen. Hope is like: ‘Well, I’ll try’. It’s looking too far in the future, while I’m more the one who tries to enjoy and fulfill the moment. And Passion, to be honest, is a word I’m trying to avoid. Just because it’s overused. It’s a bit like the word ‘emotional’. People sometimes come to me and say: ‘Oh, your song is so emotional’. I mean, what’s the point of that? Yes, of course, there are emotions in it, but what are they exactly, you know? Okay, that’s pretty negative now, I don’t want to insult the title of the magazine. (smiles) Those are definitely nice words. But maybe that’s the problem: they’re “nice”.