Dan Reed, (seen here centre), vocalist and guitarist with the Dan Reed Network, chats with Kevin Cooper about his biggest single extravagance, his musical inspirations, their latest album Origins and their current tour of the UK.

Dan Reed is the vocalist and guitarist with the Dan Reed Network, a band formed in 1984 with school friend Dan Pred. After releasing an EP Breathless, they were joined by Brion James on guitar, Melvin Brannon II on bass guitar, and Rick DiGiallonado (later replaced by Blake Sakamoto) on keyboards.

Further releases followed; the self titled Dan Reed Network, Slam and 1991’s The Heat. In October 1993 it was clear that the band members were starting to take different paths in their lives, but agreed to go on a hiatus and not officially break up.

During that time Reed continued to be involved in music and actually toured as the Dan Reed Trio with bass player Bengt Jonasson and drummer Robert Mehmet Sinan Ikiz, as well as releasing his solo material, Adrenaline Sky, Signal Fire, Transmission and Confessions.

On New Year’s Eve 2012 Dan Reed Network performed a concert in America that saw all of the original members reunite. Shortly after they announced that they would be touring America and Europe. They officially reunited in November 2013 and released their sixth album Anthology in 2014 which was followed by Fight Another Day in 2016.

Currently touring to promote their latest album, Origins, released on 23rd November, Dan Reed took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Dan how are you?

I’m very well thank you Kevin how are you today?

I really can’t complain thank you and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No thank you, I appreciate this very much.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Well what can I say, so far so good (laughter). My little boy had his sixth birthday a few weeks ago now, and all that he wanted for his birthday was a drum kit. So I had to smile and think to myself ‘yes, that’s my boy’ (laughter).

It looks like now there will be a few more sleepless nights, and days, on the horizon (laughter).

(Laughter) that’s right but hey, I will be out on the road touring so it won’t bother me.

Moving swiftly on, we should really talk about your forthcoming album Origins.

Okay that sounds good to me.

Well I have to say that I have been playing it for the past couple of weeks now and I love it. I think that it is a great collection of work.

You like it, well let me tell you that is wonderful to hear.

Are you happy with it?

Yes, very much. The thing that I was most concerned about was going back and doing a bunch of the old songs and having them suffer in comparison. However, I now actually think that the new versions of the old tracks sound as strong if not stronger. There is something about them that I like especially the new production. They really do mix well with the new tracks. That is why we called the album Origins. We are saying “this is what we were in the past and this is where we are heading in the future” and I honestly do feel that the record manages to pull that off in some weird way or another, at least in my view.

You have a release date of 23rd November, what are you doing with yourself now. Can you put the album to bed or are you a meddler?

(Laughter) the thing is that whenever you are making a record, there always comes a time when you have to put it to bed and say that it’s finished otherwise you could, as an artist, keep tweaking stuff to a point where you never finish it. What you have to remember is that artists are never totally happy with any of their work. We all have that same feeling where we are never, ever happy. Whenever we listen to the finish article we will all be saying “that’s too quite” or “the snare drum isn’t popping enough” or “the guitars are sounding too tinny” so you know what, it’s done and it’s time for dinner (laughter).

So now that the album is finished and ready to go, are you now able to relax?

Well the thing is when you have finished the record in the studio, to me that is kind of the best time, when you have finished tracking it and it is mixed. Now the releasing process is, I wouldn’t say a necessary evil, but for me the excitement is now getting out there on stage and playing the new songs live.

Despite Origins not yet being out there, are you working on the next album?

(Laughter) yes I am, I am already writing new songs for the record that we want to put out in 2020. So my head is already there (laughter). My head is currently split between writing songs for the next album and the forthcoming tour in November. That is where I am at the minute. That is what is exciting me now.

I currently have two go to tracks on the album, Forgot To Make Her Mine and Ritual. I think that both tracks are fantastic.

Thank you, we were really happy with just how they both turned out. We decided to slow down Forgot To Make Her Mine from how it was originally released on an earlier DNR album. We thought that by slowing it down it would make the track grittier and funkier. And I have to say that seemed to work out well. Then with Ritual we just tried to make it a little more up to date by adding some more centre parts and getting the audience to sing along with us. So thank you, I am really pleased that you are enjoying those tracks, which means a lot.

You are releasing the album on Zero One Entertainment which I believe is your own record label?

That’s right, yes it is. I started Zero One Entertainment in order to release my solo material back in 2008.

Does that make things easier for you, knowing that you are no longer beholding to one of the larger record companies?

Well we released the last Dan Reed Network album Fight Another Day on Frontiers Records. And what I think Frontiers Records are really good at is plugging your record into the system all around the world. They have got their hands in the classic rock scene so a lot of people can hear that you are back. However, the one thing that Frontiers Records doesn’t do is, they are not into artist development or working to make the record stronger. They are simply all about putting the album out and seeing whether it sticks or not. To me there is a benefit to that and there is also a drawback to that so I am really happy that we are doing the next DRN on our own record label. Having said all of that, I would have been more than happy to once again work with Frontiers Records but from the outset our association with them was a one record deal.

That’s great but keeping that in mind, if the next DRN album doesn’t work, then you are going to have to sack yourself (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) exactly. But you know what, I kind of like that. There was a lot of frustration back in the day as to whether we would put a single or an album out or not. Things didn’t always go the way that you thought that they would go. We never knew who or what was to blame. Was it down to the quality of the song, or had the ball been dropped because the record label was concentrating on other bands too much. We didn’t really know just what the problem was. So as you can imagine there was a hell of a lot of frustration that comes with that together with a lot of passing the blame.

Plus when you are still in your twenties, your ego is totally out of control as well (laughter). So now we get to sit back and say “yes we can accept the blame if the record doesn’t do well, that is no problem” and then try harder and figure out just how we managed to drop the ball on our own product. I like having that kind of control.

One of the biggest problems that you have when doing it all on your own is being able to accept when someone says to you “that’s rubbish”.

(Laughter) I totally agree with what you are saying but being totally honest with you I have always enjoyed the reviews that talk negatively about one of my songs or one of my albums. I always enjoy reading them and try to find out just why the writer thought that. Dave Ling reminded me recently that I once called him back in the day before the world had Wi-Fi after I had read a negative review that he had given the very first DRN record. At the time Dave was working for Kerrang! Magazine and he was shocked when I called him and thanked him for his negative review of the album. I told him that I had learnt so much from reading his negative review and that I felt that there was a lot of truth to what he had said. He said “you are the only artist who has ever called me and thanked me for giving their album a shitty review” (laughter). I have just always been like that.

I have to ask you, why are you not releasing Origins on cassette?

(Laughter) that’s right we are not (laughter). I was recently in a record store in Liverpool and I was asking the guy about vinyl because I wanted to know just how much I should concentrate on putting this album out on vinyl. The guy told me that vinyl was selling great but then added that cassettes were really selling well (laughter). I was like ‘what, what are you talking about’ (laughter). He told me that nobody is playing them, they are just buying them as it is cool to do just that. But after a few minutes I thought ‘no, I’m not doing that’ (laughter). I think that I am going to put the record out on 8-Track Cartridge.

Feeder put their last album out on cassette and when I asked them if it came with a free pencil they had no idea what I was talking about (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) a free pencil, that’s genius, and you get a sharpener too (laughter). The kids are really into that kind of stuff now. Perhaps I should look into making the next album on cone vinyl (laughter).

Putting you on the spot, why should I buy the album?

Well, if you are interested in funk-rock music that people were into back in the 80s and at the same time they were celebrating life at a live show, then I think that DRN in general is perfect for that. This album is a snapshot of our past and where we are heading in the future. So I think that it is the perfect combination of getting to know what DRN is all about.

You allowed members of the public into the recording studio with you. Whose idea was that?

That was the idea of our manager Dario (Nikzad). We all thought that it would be boring for people to be standing around for eight hours watching us record a song, because let’s be honest it really is tedious work. Especially when you are working on the drums first, then the bass, then the guitar, and then the vocals, doing everything one step at a time. We thought that people would just be sitting there bored the whole time but it was the complete opposite, so once again Dario was completely right. We turned the whole experience more into a party; we served the audience dinner, and then we played a small unplugged concert. After that we got the audience to sing the background vocals on the songs. So the whole thing became a day of celebration in a way. It really was great, in fact we would probably like to record every record like this in the future.

Was there ever a point where you thought this is a massive gamble?

Yes, for sure. You are going into it knowing that you are going to spend seven thousand pounds because you have to pay for the catering, studio rental, engineers, together with a film crew as we were filming the event, the whole bit. Then you are asking the people to spend a hundred pounds to come and see a studio day, which I actually thought was totally insane. I thought that no one would come but we actually sold out all of the tickets so all in all everything worked out perfect. It was so cool (laughter). I think that because I have worked with PledgeMusic many times in the past, they have educated me into the ethos that crowd funding in general is great.

I now accept that people really do enjoy being involved in the recording process. That for us is great. We really do feel that there is no better way to release an album than to have people fund it who believe in you. That was the ultimate thing; not only were they helping us to fund and record a new record, they were actually in attendance and were singing on the record. So what more could we ask people to do for us. It is very humbling and it is a great honour.

PledgeMusic are very good at making the fans feel closer to the band.

Yes they do and on the other hand they make the band feel even closer to the fans. Usually whenever we play a show, we get the fans reaction live by chatting to a few people afterwards in order to get their feedback. However, when you get the chance to spend the entire day with them, you really do feel like you get to know them more; you get to lend your headphones to people and see the smile on their face light up, it really is something fantastic. We in the band say that this time around has been our most heartfelt experience musically. We actually all agree that we enjoyed it far more than any live show. It really was fantastic.

Does it also help if you see a negative reaction to one of the new songs? Do you think to yourself that you really should change that?

To be honest we ask people; we will ask them “do you like this melody or do you prefer this melody” or “do you think that we should put a cow bell in there, is it time to bring the cow bell back”. We ask the whole audience and get them to vote on stuff. It really is a blast (laughter). We heard stories from back in the day when Aerosmith would bring in ten or fifteen people to listen to their songs. They would record twenty songs and they would ask their fans which ten songs they should put on the album. I have to say that I always thought that was brilliant. I personally feel that the next stage of recording music is to actually have an audience in the studio with you giving songs the thumbs up or thumbs down on certain ideas. Of course you can’t let them control the whole process but it is really great to get their input.

Where would you say the latest album sits in a Dan Reed Network top five?

Wow, that is a great question. Because it is such a surreal idea of mixing old songs with new songs, to me it is maybe one of my favourite records because it covers over thirty years of my career. I like it for that reason. Production wise I am always going to like our first album, Dan Reed Network, whilst composition wise I am always going to like Slam. As for The Heat I am always going to like that album for how much we tried to venture out from our mould as the original Dan Reed Network. I like that record because we were trying to do something different. Having said all of that the new album is probably my favourite DRN album in the sense that it covers our whole career and I don’t know many bands that do that. So it is a very interesting album to me.

You formed the Dan Reed Network back in 1984, have you enjoyed the ride so far?

(Laughter) it’s been an adventure for sure. There have obviously been some ups and downs, and I can confess that my ego most certainly got in the way back in the early days to the point where I actually quit the music business. I was simply exhausted by the process and I didn’t really appreciate just how fortunate we were at the time. We had toured with Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones and all that I could think about was just how much I didn’t want to be a product and I most certainly didn’t want to be a sex symbol (laughter). I wanted to write music; I wanted to focus on the melody, the lyrics and the intention of the band so I should have really just sat back and taken stock of how tremendously lucky we were.

Maybe I should have stuck with it as opposed to quitting for fifteen years. Having said all of that I don’t have any regrets about it, in fact I think that it has been a great learning experience. I think that had we all have become millionaires back then, I can guarantee that I would not be the person that I am today as far as just how much I am focused on the song writing as opposed to maintaining my wealth, my brand and all that kind of bull shit.

You are currently touring here in the UK how are things going?

Things are really going great, thanks for asking. The UK audiences are always the most fun to play to. I don’t really know what the logistics and the timeline is but to me, I always feel like the blues came from America but rock and roll was born here in the UK. However, that is just my opinion (laughter). People like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Small Faces and all those kind of bands originated here in the UK then America embraced it back in the late 70s and early 80s and then really started coming to the fore with bands like Van Halen, Kiss and all that kind of stuff.

Does touring still excite you?

Oh yes, absolutely. We really do have such a blast on the road with the Dan Reed Network. Everybody has such a great sense of humour; we all care about the future of the world politically, socially and environmentally. We talk a lot about the state of where things are heading, so we have a lot of deep conversations and we also spend a lot of time laughing at ourselves so that’s good. I feel that going around the world playing music is one of the few last things that we can do as musicians in an attempt to be emissaries of positive energy. I think that the world needs it now more than ever. We really do feel honoured to be able to do that.

And what about the time that you get to spend here in the UK, do you like our little island?

(Laughter) yes I do, I really do. I personally feel that the UK is a fantastic place to be. This is the small island country that actually took over the world for a very long time and ran it really efficiently. When I was recently in India there were not many local people that I spoke to that liked Ghandi (laughter). They all would tell me that when the British ran India everything worked liked clockwork, everything was great, and everything was better. They all claim that there is poverty throughout the country because the British allowed them to get back to their roots. I have to say that I was shocked when they told me that.

Over in America we are all speaking English so I say that Great Britain has probably had the most influence upon the world and now you guys have taken a step back, got rid of the world domination thing, and you are influencing the world in so many other beautiful ways. I think it’s great; I love this country.

You have recently toured the UK as the Dan Reed Trio. How does that affect your mind-set as opposed to when you are out on the road as the Dan Reed Network?

(Laughter) well I got to play the guitar so I finally got the chance to exorcise my guitar demons which is so much fun for me because whenever I tour with the Dan Reed Network, having Brion (James) with me on stage playing the guitar, I really do love being able to just hang onto the microphone and jump around the stage more. The thing that I like about playing with the Dan Reed Trio is that it is that they are pure jazz musicians. Because of that they really do push me and manage to get the best out of me. They are extremely left field and like to experiment; in fact performing a song can very easily turn into a seven minute experiment. I love that.

I am a pretty good guitar player and I do like performing with those two. They really are creative. With the Network it is mostly about the energy whilst whenever I get to play with the Trio it is all about concentrating on the insanity of the arrangement (laughter). We are allowed to go off script a lot more.

Who would you say has musically inspired you?

When I was younger that would have been Elvis (Presley) and Bruce Lee. Those were my two heroes as a kid. And then when I found out what rock and roll was I would have to say Rush, The Doobie Brothers and Johnny Cash. They were my influences as a young kid aged fourteen. After that I started getting into AC/DC, Van Halen, Kiss, Ted Nugent and all of that rock and roll stuff. Then when I reached eighteen I got introduced to Sly And The Family Stone, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Commodores, The Gap Band and that is when I really got into soul and funk music. And then it was Prince who put it all together. He was rock and roll, funk and soul, wrote all of the lyrics, and played every instrument, so he really was the benchmark for me. To this day I have yet to hear or see somebody who has been as inspirational as Prince was.

I’m sorry if you heard me laughing when you mentioned Elvis and Bruce Lee but I was trying to imagine you being a part of The Osmonds (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) oh yes, The Osmonds, well I was always more of a Jackson 5 fan. The Osmonds in my opinion were a cheap rip-off of The Jackson 5 (laughter). I would hear it all the time ‘so you like The Jackson 5 but they are too black for you, well here you go, try The Osmonds’ (laughter). I am a real Jackson 5 guy.

Was there ever a Plan B just in case the music didn’t work out?

(Laughter) it’s funny that you ask that because around six weeks ago for the very first time in my life I lost my voice completely. There was two weeks where it really was touch and go. However, fortunately there wasn’t any permanent damage to my vocal chords, it was a viral infection but the doctors couldn’t figure out just what was wrong. So I started to think about what I was going to do with myself if I lost my voice completely and permanently. I thought that perhaps I could write songs for other artists, but I really did start thinking about film stuff, writing and producing comedy sketches. I found myself really getting into the Monty Python world.

We goof around so much on the road; we are always laughing our asses off and we keep saying to ourselves “why don’t we film this stuff” (laughter). They are great comedy sketches, or at least they are in our eyes (laughter). Even though my voice came back I am going to start doing that anyway. I am going to concentrate on giving a more political and social commentary which will be a kind of slapstick and surreal comedy. That is something that we are really focusing on now as a band. We are even thinking about starting our very own online TV channel. So yes, I am going to start producing these things. That is now my Plan B (laughter).

Whenever you manage to get some downtime, who do you listen to at home?

That depends. If someone has turned me onto a new band then I will listen to them. At the moment I am really getting into Rival Sons, who as you know are an American rock band from Long Beach, California. I think that they are very good. I tend to like anybody who is trying to bend the genres a little bit; paying tribute but with respect, writing good lyrics, and their intentions are good. I think that is great. I like a lot of the new bands like Mission Hill who are touring with us. I like Massive Wagons, and in fact I like anything that has good vocals. That is what I will listen to at home.

I have to tell you that I am not a big fan of Spotify; I personally don’t listen to it. I think that Spotify are being really unfair to artists as far as what they pay us for using our music. People tell me that I need to be on there for the people who want to listen to our music. I get that but I don’t listen to it personally. However, I will say that I am a big user of YouTube. I just love listening to singles, and I can hear all of the new stuff that comes out. But if I am going to sit around and have a dinner party, I always tend to go towards electronic music, guys like The Future Sound Of London, stuff that doesn’t have vocals on it because I actually like the dinner party that we are having to be the vocals.

What was the first record that you bought?

It was an album and it was Stampede by The Doobie Brothers. No click tracks, no sequencing, just a band of bad ass musicians doing their own thing. The Eagles do it the same way too. It is just crazy, melodic, beautiful and dynamic. I love it.

What was the last song or piece of music made you cry?

Wow, that is such a great question. I have to be honest with you and say that it has been many, many years now since a song or piece of music has managed to make me cry but it would have to be the classical piece of music that gets played when Sergeant Elias played by Willem Dafoe gets killed in Platoon. Even to this day I will cry to that music.

I know the scene that you are talking about. The music that you are referring to is Adagio For Strings by Samuel Barber and it was once voted the saddest piece of music ever written.

(Laughter) just where the hell did that come from (laughter). I own that piece of music on CD and it will always make me cry because Willem Dafoe is the good solider, and Tom Berenger plays the evil solider, Sergeant Bob Barnes. And when the good solider gets his life sacrificed by his own men, and that piece of music plays, something about that just kills me every time.

What one single thing can’t you live without?

My son’s laughter. Whenever I hear stories about people losing their kids, whether it’s in the Middle East conflicts or due to selfless gun violence in America that breaks my heart because I can’t even imagine just what that would be like.

What has been the single biggest extravagance that you have allowed yourself during your career?

That would have to be when I bought a 1949 Lincoln back in 1995 (laughter). It wasn’t that expensive, it was around eight thousand pounds and it needed a hell of a lot of work doing to it. However, for me to be spending that sort of money on an old car was just insane. I had grown up with not a lot of money, and I just thought that I wanted this old classic car. I also thought that it was something that my dad would love too. I actually parked it at my parents’ house on their driveway. I very rarely drove it but I owned it for a while (laughter).

On that note Dan let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been wonderful and I will see you at The Venue in Derby on Thursday 22nd November.

Ah man, thank you. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you Kevin. You take care and I will see you in Derby.