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Dan Melchior has been turning out great records for quite a while now, as I’m sure most TB readers know. In the early 00’s he was the leader of the Broke Revue (who recorded a couple of pretty violent sounding records for In the Red), and before that he collaborated with various Medway Legends back in his native England. I was pretty surprised, as a long time resident of Raleigh NC to hear that Melchior had relocated to neighbouring Durham from NYC in 2006. I first talked to him after a local show a year ago, and since then we’ve met up for a drink a few times.
To conduct this interview I met Dan in a mall bar called the Carolina Ale House, because (he assured me) there would be "no cool people there."
TB: What do you do in Durham? Don’t you find it boring?
DM: Yeah, it’s all recorded in my house. All the Das Menace stuff. I don’t like to go to studios anymore. I can’t see the point. It’s always a compromise with you using the engineer as an intermediary between you and what you actually want to happen. TB: Have you had a lot of bad experiences in studios?
DM: Very early on I did. I would save money up and go into recording studios in the Nineties. I was just a lamb to the slaughter. Some bloke who was trying to get the same drum sound as they had on a Cyndi Lauper record would be setting up 15 mics around the drum kit and charging you for every second. I have been in some good studios, but they weren’t good enough that I went to them twice. Only when someone else was paying for it. TB: Do you like playing live better than recording?
DM: It’s totally different. I like playing the show. I don’t like the rest of it much. I hate sitting around a venue for six hours waiting to play. I always end up walking around the most dangerous part of the city on my own like an idiot. But you do see a lot if interesting stuff that way. I really enjoy recording, but only if it all happens quickly. I can’t stand getting caught up in some intricate process with anything, I just like immediacy, which is why it’s hard to record with other people. TB: Who have you played with recently that you liked?
DM: Home Blitz were really great at SXSW. Have you ever seen them? They’re like an eccentric punk fantasy team, especially the drummer. That guy is great. I think he has a bit of a fan club up in New York. TB: Is it as chaotic as it is on record?
DM: Yeah, it is. But at the same time you get to see how controlled the chaos is. I found it very inspiring. TB: What other current bands do you like?
DM: I really like Pink Reason, Hospitals, Sic Alps, El Jesus de Magico, Los Llamarada. I like a lot of current bands. More than I have at any other time since I started playing music. I really like the new D. Charles Speer record a lot too, and Hank IV are great as well. TB: Have your influences changed since you first started playing music? I ask that because there seems to be a strong thread running right through, but in some ways what you’re doing is completely different from what it was back then.
DM: I used to be a lot heavier on the blues/old time country side of things. I haven’t listened to a blues record for about six years. By that I mean a real old time country blues or Chess type thing. I have listened to Bo Diddley and Lee Dorsey.
See, I always liked Roy Wood, Syd Barrett, Vic Godard, Sexton Ming, the sort of the Edward Lear school of English songwriters, but I wouldn’t have really considered them influences until recently. I used to be a bit in denial of my Englishness. I still have a weird relationship with it.I get really frustrated trying to find genuinely maverick/outsider, or whatever you want to call it records, which is one of the reasons I have to make my own. I sort of try and make what I would want to hear. I try to surprise myself. Scott Soriano from SS records has been trying to help me find some more weirdo records. TB: So, you don’t listen to any old blues records anymore?
DM: No, not really. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not great. I just overindulged. I found myself getting obsessed with some record just because a song had a slightly more fucked up guitar sound than 20 other records I had with almost exactly the same songs. I think that’s a bad thing. I don’t like to get caught up in genres. TB: What would you say are your three favourite record out of the ones that you’ve done?
DM: I'm not sure. At the moment I’d say ‘Bitterness, Spite, Rage and Scorn’, ‘Christmas for the Crows’ and the new one that’s coming out next year. TB: Do you set out to release as many records as you do? Is it a master plan?
DM: No, it really isn’t. I write and record a lot, and a lot of labels that I think are good and have good taste keep asking me to give them stuff. I was happy that Columbus Discount asked me to send them stuff, because that label puts out such good stuff. I love that Tommy Jay record. TB: One thing I want to ask you about is the fact that live you play a lot of lead guitar, but you don’t do the same on records. Why is that? Because I really like the guitar playing.
DM: Thanks. I suppose I just never thought the songs seemed to call for it. Someone else I’m working with said the same thing recently - so I put some more guitar on this next one.
TB: Who are some of your favorite guitar players?
DM: Link Wray, Bo Diddley for their sound and approach. For lead I like more fucked up stuff like Neil Hagerty, TS Mc Phee from the Groundhogs, Greg Ginn. I also really like very early Santana, and that record by Peter Green – ‘The End of the Game’ – Have you ever heard it? TB: No.
DM: I'll burn it for you, you’ll probably hate it! TB: What are your future plans– recording and touring wise?
DM: I want to do a double album where I do some songs with the guys I play with live, and some alone with an acoustic guitar. I haven’t done either thing for a while, and I think I have the right songs now.
I want to tour Europe next year too. I’ve been wanting to do it for a few years, but I think now would be a good time. I have another record of Das Menace stuff coming out on SS next year, called ‘Thank you very much’ which I’m really happy with. I think the musical climate is really good right now, the best it’s been for a long time. TB: Do you feel a part of "the scene"?
DM: Which one? The garage scene?
TB: I don’t know what to call it. The stuff that seems to be prevalent now, - the Terminal Boredom, Z-Gun, Siltblog type of thing.
DM: Yes, I actually sort of do. I’m happy to be a part of it. I really like a lot of records that are coming out now, and I hope people like my records as much as I like those records. That Hospitals record 'Hairdryer Peace’ is incredible. I find that very inspiring. That’s not an easy thing to achieve.
When I first came over here all I ever heard about was Medway this, Medway that, and we used to play with some very corny Sixties revival types. Which I found very depressing, and even then it was an extreme improvement on what was happening in England. But now, things have really changed. I think that the kind of thing I was trying to do back then has finally become something that people actually want to hear, if that makes sense. I even meet people who like Alternative Television!
DAN MELCHIOR UN DAS MENACE DISCOGRAPHY
Dan has more than 20 other recordings to his name, as part of the Broke Revue and solo – as well as those he did in collaboration with other people. You can find out more at danmelchior.com.
Interview by Ted Laramy.
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