Very little is known about Dan Melchior. We all know he’s originally from
London, England. We know he’s done plenty of collaborating with the likes of
Billy Childish, Holly Golightly, and countless others. He’s played on dozens
of releases both fronting and backing bands. His records have been released
on more independent record labels than you can shake a stick at. For a guy
who has had and continues to have such a prolific career and who’s always
remained consistent in the quality of music he puts out it really is a
wonder and a great shame we don’t know more about him. In a world of
so-called “garage” music where 95% of the bands we hear are either watered
down, soulless, boring fifth and even sixth rate hacks chopping away at the
same old recycled four chords over and over again Dan Melchior comes to us
as a breath of fresh air. No shit. What initially made me take notice of Dan
was obvious honesty and heart in his music. I was lucky enough to sit down,
drink, and have a little conversation with Mr. Melchior about his old
hometown, his favorite beer, his favorite kind of women, and most
importantly his music on the Midwest part of his fall ’04 tour. Enjoy.
TB: I know you moved from London, England to New York City in 2000. When you
first got here did you notice any big differences in the music bands were
Dan: I don’t know. I don’t really go out to most of these shows so it never
really made that big of an impact on me. I guess I realized that everybody
was really excited about what’s going on in New York. Well, not when I first
got there I guess they weren’t but like that year people seemed to be
getting all overexcited about all these post-punk type bands that come from
New York. To be honest with you I couldn’t care less about the whole
TB: Are there any bands currently playing in New York or anywhere else in
the States that you might happen to like?
Dan: Nah, I don’t really think there are any bands playing now that I like
as much as the older bands as far as listening to them. I don’t know about
too many records but I do like a lot of the bands a lot more live. Records
don’t seem to do much for me, live is good. I do like some of the things
that come out on Locust Records in Chicago. More folky sort of stuff, things
like that. I don’t really listen to any of the sort of music I’m supposed to
be doing, which is Garage Rock. I don’t really like that kind of thing.
TB: It’s so hard to classify your music as “garage” though…
Dan: Well yeah, it kind of is at the moment. On this tour we kind of are
playing garage rock because my bass player, the bloke who came over here
with me, this English guy Bruno, left the band about a month ago so the bass
player who’s playing with me has just joined. It would be a missed moment to
call what we’re playing a greatest hits package because we don’t have any
hits really but it is a retrospective sort of set as the guy who just joined
has been learning his bass parts from listening to the songs he’s been
listening to on the records for a long time which is not really up-to-date.
I’ve got a thing I should give you actually…
TB: I read somewhere that you were going to art school and that’s where you
and your now ex-bass player Bruno met… how was the whole art school
experience for you?
Dan: Well it was art school. If that won’t make you misanthropic I don’t
know what will… ahh, here you are. That’s a record that was supposed to have
come out almost a year ago…
(Dan hands me his newest recording titled “O, Clouds Unfold” which has
yet to be released)
TB: So these are newer recordings then?
Dan: Very new. It’s pretty different. I don’t know what your tastes are but
you might not like it, or maybe you will, but it’s very different from my
TB: What label will it be coming out on?
Dan: It was supposed to come out on Troubleman Records but then they just
made a real disaster of it. There’ve been all these legal problems and all
this crap. Now it’ll come out on someone else’s label I hope.
TB: You’ve played on a ton of different records on just as many labels and
it seems to me like most people in the States who don’t really know much
about you are more familiar with the work you’ve done with In The Red
Dan: Yeah. That’s just recently. It used to be the stuff I did with Holly
Golightly and Billy Childish. Everyone used to go on about that to me
constantly which got to be quite boring because I did all of that stuff a
long time ago. I’m glad people are more familiar with my records on In The
Red as opposed to all that stuff really. I haven’t really done anything with
In The Red in a year and a half or two years. This new record has been a bit
of a hold up. It’s a record I didn’t bother to give to Larry because I
didn’t think he’d like it. So we went to this other label, Troubleman,
which promised us everything and didn’t give us anything, which has been
TB: So of all the labels you’ve done work with, what’s been your best
experience and what’s been your worst?
Dan: Well definitely the latest label, Troubleman, has been the worst. The
head of the label had it mastered very badly, for as cheap as he possibly
could and then wouldn’t accept the whole band’s opinion that it wasn't good
enough. It wasn’t just my opinion; it was the whole band’s. We told him that
he had to do it over again. You know with Larry from In the Red, if we would
have told him that he would just do it. He’d just get it re-mastered for you
until you thought it sounded good. This guy from Troubleman wouldn’t do that
and he pressed up three thousand CDs that didn’t sound good, they sounded
all fucked up. That caused a real problem there because we didn’t want it
coming out like that. So they’re definitely the worst. I don’t know what the
best experience would be. I guess as a personal relationship it would be In
The Red because Larry’s a very nice guy. Recently I’ve worked with this
record label Plastic Records and they seem to be pretty good but they’re
still in their early days. It’s sad when you have to get to the point where
you don’t make your judgments very quickly any more. Now I like to wait and
see what happens. I’m not asking very much. I just like for people and
labels to tell me what they’re going to do and then do it. If they tell you
lies then that’s a problem. Like if they keep saying they’ve sent you
something in the mail and it’s quite obvious that they haven’t, then it
becomes something where you can’t really trust anything else they say.
That’s what I ask for really in a record label I guess is just honesty.
TB: Of all the records you’ve played on what would you say is your all-time
Dan: I don’t know. I think usually it’s the latest thing I’ve done. I don’t
really ever sit there and listen to my own record. Probably something on “O
Clouds, Unfold”. There’s a song on there called “Sticks vs. Smoke” that I
think is very good. I like the guitar solo. I’m very happy with that…
TB: It seems pretty obvious when listening to your music what your musical
influences may be. So I was actually surprised to find out about your
Dan: Well I was actually a big fan of hip-hop when I was a kid mainly,
between the ages of about eleven to sixteen I was listening to hip-hop all
the time. I didn’t ever used to listen to rock really because it was all
just crap. I mean the stuff they were playing on the radio was just bad.
Horrible stuff like Kajagoogoo. Even when you’re a kid you can tell that’s
bad. So I heard certain hip-hop songs like Grand Master Flash’s “The
Message” and it was just much better than that other crap. I thought that
with Public Enemy it got to its absolute height and has just gone down hill
since then really. So I’m not a fan of hip-hop anymore sadly…
TB: I’m sure you get asked this all the time and you’re probably a little
bit bored with the question, but how you did you hook up with Billy
Dan: I was just playing a lot of music in my hometown and someone just came
up and told me that I should send a tape to Billy, that he’d probably like
what I was doing. I didn’t even know anything about him. So anyway, I sent
him a tape and he did like it and he said he wanted to do a single right
away, so we did. We used to hang around each other quite a bit actually…
TB: So you became friends? Or was it strictly a musical relationship?
Dan: Yeah, we became friends. We used to just hang out…
TB: What kind of guy is he?
Dan: He’s a very nice guy. I mean a lot of people hate him. I guess he comes
off real bad with certain people. I’ve heard people say he’s very hard to
work with but I didn’t find it to be that way. Maybe it was because he
respected me and he liked what I was doing. Maybe if he doesn’t like what
you’re doing he may be hard to work with. He’s very honest. I mean if he
doesn’t like something he would never tell anybody that he did. He’s a
fairly busy guy who’s got a lot of things going on. Also he’s a bit
self-obsessed, much like me actually. He’s been having quite a bit of
success recently with the White Stripes saying he’s good and all so he’s
fairly hard to reach now. But then again I haven’t really been trying…
TB: Well in your opinion who’s better, the Milkshakes or Buff Medways?
Dan: Milkshakes! I don’t like the Buff Medways…
TB: Headcoats or Mighty Caesars?
Dan: Headcoats. I think that any band that has both Billy and Bruce Band in
it was better. Bruce is such a brilliant drummer. The combination of those
two I think is very special. I think if Bruce isn’t in it, it just isn’t as
good for some reason. It just doesn’t have the same feel for me. Bruce just
has a feel for the drums. He was the first drummer in the Broke Revue as
TB: You’re living in New York City now. You moved there from London,
Dan: I met a woman whom I fell in love with. Who’s my wife now, actually.
TB: And how did you meet her?
Dan: I met her when I was on tour. I was on tour with Holly Golightly. So
the main reason for moving here was my wife obviously. But the secondary
reason was that the guys who’d been backing Holly up decided they wanted to
play music with me. So when I moved here they became the new Broke Revue,
which had been the longest lasting lineup.
TB: Who’s prettier, American girls or British girls?
Dan: Well it kind of depends on where you’re living. New York absolutely is
filled with every type of girl known to man. I guess I like every type of
girl. The more people you get to breed the more beautiful people you’re
going to get. I don’t know, girls are just pretty good on the whole.
TB: How about American beer or…
Dan: Well once again it depends on where you’re living. One good thing about
English beer as opposed to American beer is the higher percentage of
alcohol. Plus you’re allowed to drink it wherever you like, on the street,
on the train, or on the bus or wherever. Sometime you just feel like having
a beer and walking down the street and you find yourself in deep shit if you
do that here.
TB: In a lot of your songs you come across as having a very strong disdain
for society and popular culture as a whole.
Dan: Yeah. I do kind of. I’ll be honest with you. It doesn’t seem like
things are going in a very positive direction. I don’t really remember
everything being brilliant at any time. I’m not saying I’m hocking back to
some other time like the ‘60’s. But I mean obviously things are a bit fucked
up these days. Things aren’t really working the way they’re supposed to. The
political parties are exactly the same as each other on both sides of the
Atlantic and then this stupid bloody war and all this crap. There’s just so
much to complain about and I do complain and I don’t feel bad about it
either. Some people come up to me and say I bitch and moan a lot in my songs
and I wonder what they’d rather have me write about. I could go on about how
much I love my wife and I do sometimes. On the whole though I just think
it’s more interesting to sort of talk about things because most people
don’t. Their songs are just dumb fucking lyrics, which I think is very
boring. I think all these inarticulate lyrics are just very boring.
TB: I’ve actually always thought that was one of the major differences
between your brand of garage rock and what all these other guys are doing
and saying. What with their “I wanna shake and shimmy…”
Dan: Yeah. I just couldn’t sing it because it would just be embarrassing to
me. I really like people like Bob Dylan. He didn’t really write trite
songs. I do like some trite songs. They’re alright for dancing to at the
disco. But for one, I’m not American so a lot of sayings like “shimmy
shimmy” or whatever it wouldn’t sound right. I’d feel a bit stupid about it.
When we were with Holly she’d sometime suggest cover songs and there were
lines I felt like I couldn’t sing. You know like basically talking some
black dude’s part from like 1935… I mean what am I? Al Jolson? You can’t do
that. You’ve got to try to be yourself in a song. I don’t like actor
singers. Singers who get up there and sing out some fantasy about who they’d
like to be. I’d rather sing about what really is or what I really am, I
TB: On the album “Heavy Dirt” on In The Red you have a song called ‘Lonesome
and Perplexed’ where you a line where you say “This Texas hospitality will
kill you dead”. Was that written about a particular event in Texas?
Dan: Yeah, it was. It was me going into a gas station in Alvin, Texas, which
is where my wife’s mother lives and them accusing me of shoplifting the
minute I walked in even though I didn’t do anything at all or even touch
anything. I suppose I just didn’t look like I came from around there. We
were back at my wife’s mother’s house and I just wrote it there. I wrote it
on her brother’s guitar and taped it. It’s also a joke song because it’s
exactly the same notes as ‘Dazed and Confused’ but it’s played a lot faster.
TB: Okay, well last question I suppose… is there anything you’d like me to
Dan: Not really. I hope I didn’t come across as being too negative…
TB: There’s not one last thing you want to add in? Any advice to younger
bands, like “Quit while you’re ahead” or…
Dan: No. Nothing like that. They can just do whatever they want. A lot more
people are a lot more resilient and are just more into the thrill of the
process. Like going out, playing shows, making friends. That’s not really my
thing. That’s not a big thing for me. My big thing is playing music. I mean
it’s nice to be out on tour and to be able to talk to somebody like what
we’re doing now. But my thing is really just playing music. Everything else
is very secondary to me. I meet people and it is nice. But I think that’s
what too many people like to do, is just go to a town where their friends
are, and trying to screw everything that moves. If you’re into all that,
that’s great for you. You’ll probably get a lot more out of it all than a
person like me who’d rather be sitting there watching television and then
have someone come tell me it’s time to get up and play and then after the
show just go back to watching television. I’m not really much of a wild man
in my everyday life. I just like playing music.
Interview and pics by Matt Coppens (except the b&w pic, which was stolen from the Broke Revue website)
Broke Revue on the web: www.brokerevue.com
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