Dan Sartain – The Cockpit – Leeds
4 February 2007
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from guitar-toting Alabama kid Dan Sartain, however nothing could have prepared me for the livewire I was faced with on this quiet, dark Sunday evening. If you are offended by swearing – I would advise you to look away now!
D – Oh jeez, do you guys know those guys The Sugars? Cool guys, are you guys from here?
E – Yeah we are
E – It’s the first week of your tour…
E – …how’s it going so far, how has the audience reaction been?
D – The audience I can’t complain about at all – they have been good about every curve we threw at them. I think they keep getting better, so tonight will probably be better than last night.
E – Have you found that you have a very diverse audience, I mean like where there’ll be some punk kids and some rock kids, and then an older crowd?
D – Yeah, it’s definitely nice to have that option.
E – Yeah, I think that it’s always good to appeal to lots of different groups and puts you at an advantage
D – I think so, ‘cos I’ve been going to see some bands ‘cos I know I wont fit in. It’s like me and my wife went to see the Ghetto Boys – do you know them? The midget rapper with the eye patch…’cos he shot his eyeball out! Yeah well they were around in the nineties and I was really excited ‘cos they came around and it was one of those records that your parents didn’t want you to listen to ‘cos it was so dirty…so I was like fuck yeah I’m gonna go see the ghetto boys! It was like ten years later after their prime but I still wanted to do it so we went to go see them. My wife’s ass got grabbed three times, you know, and guys sized me up and grabbed my wife right in front of me and it was like, what are you gonna do? I can’t jump thirty black guys – if they wanna grab my wife’s ass they can! (Laughing) It’s our fault for coming!
E – During this tour are you mainly promoting your new album, Join Dan Sartain, or are you going to be playing a good mix of all of your songs?
D – Yeah, gonna be playing some brand new songs too so…depends how well the first two go as to how much we do of the new songs, but I like them a lot. I keep getting better as an artist I think, personally.
E – Well that’s the only way to go isn’t it really! You’re gonna worry if you don’t!
D- Yeah well you know, you get your sticklers… it’s like …what’s always a cool thing to say about a band is that you’ve heard of ‘em or some shit and it’s always cool to say that their first record is their best. A lot of it is true but…
E- I guess that can be one of the problems – when you get a set group of fans from your first album, and then when you move on they don’t like it because they want everything to stay the same
E – Did you get a choice in the support groups that you have with you for this tour?
D – Yeah, except for the local guys, the sugars, but I was excited about them because they were good last time…I’ve played with them a couple of times. But yeah I got to bring my friends, Plate Six, and Kerry, she used to be in a band called The Red Aunts, and a band called Two Tears.
E -So are you excited to be with them, have you been stood on the sidelines watching their sets every night?
D – Yeah, it’s definitely a bonus. Sometimes when you play with bands and you secretly don’t really like the band you hope that you sell more than them or you might get upset when you see people responding well to them. This time it’s like if you see someone wanting to buy something of theirs it’s like “yeah, one for the team” you know? So it’s definitely good, I don’t feel any competition with them at all.
E – When you go on tour, are you quite well behaved, or do you get into a lot of mischief?
D – I have got up to a lot of mischief, but I think I’m more well behaved now…
E- So is that going back a few years…
D – Nah…Last year! This is the first year I’ve noticed aging though, (turns to scrutinise his face in the small mirror behind), like ageing as opposed to just getting older or maturing or something.
E – Oh you’re alright you’re a young one!
D – I got these lines on my face and stuff so…I’m 25 so yeah I know I’m young! Well…how old are you guys?
E – 23 and 28
D – Whaaaat! I thought you were like 18!
E – Yeah when I went to the bar earlier I was asked for ID, but I love it now so I was like “Yes! Thank you!”
D – Yeah that happened to me the other day, a lady ID’d me and I said woah! I said yeah you’re flirting with me aren’t you and she said yes!
E – Okay, so what would be the craziest or perhaps the naughtiest thing that you have done on tour, if you are able to tell us?
D – It was in Versace’s club in Milan. I was playing this fashion show for these people that make like the Italian Vogue or something, so I was playing this fashion show for them and I was surrounded by beautiful tall models, and I was sexually frustrated then. I got way too drunk and they took us to this Versace club and there were these fashion model guys dancing to ACDC and I was like “fuck you man, ACDC is not for you motherfucker”! And I was “I like ACDC and this is just ironic shit to you” but they were like “oh this is funny…we’re dancing to ACDC” and “oh I paid forty euros for my drink” and so I just like “this is bullshit! I feel stupid, I feel like an asshole for being here”. When I left I was being funny with this other guy and I smashed this lamp and then I went to the street to try and get in a cab, and this bodyguard came up and he was like “excuse me sir, excuse me sir” and I was like “what what, ziggy ziggy blah blah blah” and kept trying to get in the cab. He flashed his badge, and I watch enough of those cop shows to know not to run from the cops, but I was fully just drunk and enraged and I just took off, hauled ass. The guy grabbed the back of my jacket and then I just shook the jacket (demonstrates holding arms out behind him so that the jacket would slip off by the sleeves) and I just kept running and didn’t stop, and then after a while I started thinking “fuck, my passport was in that jacket” so I went back and went up behind him and I was tugging at the jacket and was saying “give me my jacket, give me my fucking jacket back” and he was like “no, no you gotta come over here and I’ll give you you’re jacket back”. He took me back behind the velvet rope and they were holding me there until management came. They gave me my coat back and so I jumped over that fence and I got about two blocks, full speed, about as drunk as I could be and I outran four Italian cops! But then a cop caught me, and he beat the living shit out of me. I looked like Rocky Balboa, I had big fucking swollen eyes and they let me go because he wasn’t really supposed to beat me up, but I guess I was acting like such a prick that he just beat me up anyway! At least my eyes are okay…(pulls face again) but this half of my eyebrow didn’t grow back for a long time! I still don’t think it’s as thick as the other one really! It sucked!
E – (Couldn’t at this point speak for laughing).
D – I heard you’re eyebrows don’t grow back either…you know like you see with boxers…
E – At least yours are the same colour – see I have one dark and one light!
D – Yeah you do! Hey that’s cute!
E – What do you think is the best thing about touring in the UK? What do you like about the UK…if anything!
D – I like everything. It does feel more free, especially Europe.
E – But not the cold!
D- Well, you know that’s kind of a pleasant thing right now, because we skipped winter in the states this year.
E – So when you are packing to go off on tour, what are the most essential things that you have to take with you, say you’re top three…
D – Just normal stuff, like hair stuff and razors and t-shirts and some jeans and stuff, but the most important thing that everybody says stuff like “oh you gotta have this kind of t” or “you gotta have three lighters in your pocket” or “you gotta bring plenty of pens or plenty of socks”. But the thing that I harp on about is a pillow, for your butt ‘cos you have to ride around a lot so for those long car rides – it’s really nice to have a pillow.
E – Save your ass!
D – Yeah otherwise it can get sore, ha ha
E – So what would you say that you miss most about home when you are away?
D – My wife and my cats and my transformer toys
D – Yeah, I have several…hundred!
E – (Sings) Robots in disguise!
D – Ha ha yeah! Do you have a brother or anything who played with transformers?
E – Yeah we have a brother…just turned 21
D – Yeah, wow. Did he play with those or was he more Ninja Turtles?
E – Yeah he did like Ninja Turtles!
D – Yeah that sounds about right…when those guys came out, that’s the first point that I felt old, like ‘cos I was like “ah you young kids”! Yeah like when that Ninja Turtles came out and Power Rangers and that kinda shit came out I was like ahhh fuck!
E – Yeah old school was the best!
…cue further chat about Ninja Turtles clothing in school and more giggling from all…
E – Right okay, let’s move on…I hear you have just been nominated for a music award back in Birmingham (Alabama)?
D – Yeah…it’s not a big deal and they have it every year and I don’t pay attention to it or anything, but yesterday I heard about it…you’re really current! Either that or you just did all your homework today! But yeah…I hear about it every year and I don’t pay attention to it and like I heard about it and now I’m really into it, like losing sleep over it last night and I’m like “damn I really wanna win that”!
E – It must be a good feeling to have been nominated for the first time
D – Yeah, and to get the nomination is maybe a little more important ‘cos I think I’m gonna be able to cheat and get my friends from over here and from other parts of the states to vote on it! And it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean that you don’t like me ‘cos you’re not from Alabama, these guys can have people from all over the world voting for them too. But like Fuck, I’ve really earned it and I want my own town to recognise me man!
E – You’ve been doing this for quite a long time now haven’t you?
D – Yeah and I never felt that I ever get any respect from my own town
E – Do you feel like you haven’t had much support from there?
D – I mean yeah I’ve got my people, and you know I don’t play shows to empty places but man I do a lot you know and its not like I would be the only successful act to come from Birmingham but its like when they do get a bit of money or success they move off to California or they move off to New York. And I cant blame them ‘cos its not exactly the greatest place on earth but god damnit this year I earned enough money to work and move anywhere in the world for a little bit , not for the rest of my life but at least enough to move for a year, I could move over here for a year or I could move to California I could do any of that shit but I’ve decided to stay at home. I wanna stay there, I wanna live there and I wanna be happy there and I wanna have my cats and my wife and stuff.
E – That’s quite a refreshing thing to hear actually
D – Yeah well it’ll be refreshing if they can award me for it!
E – Are you feeling quite confident about winning or are you just gonna try not to think about it? Don’t lose anymore sleep over it though!
D – I did lose sleep about it, I wanna win the fucker. Its stupid and its a trivial thing and it doesn’t matter, just because of them sending me that fucking email more people have probably heard about it than ever have before. But it doesn’t matter. And its so funny ‘cos I got nominated for their Indie Rock category, but who else is on there that’s on a major label? Who’s nominated for any of that shit that’s on a major label? I don’t think any of them, so it’s like if I win the indie award, then I must win the biggest award because it’s all independent and I won the independent award so I won, I beat all of you fuckers! That’s right, I mean I wanted to be an athlete first, I wanted to play American football (that’s huge where we’re from), I wanted to be a boxer and I wanna do all of that shit but I can’t – I’m obviously not an athlete look at me! You know, so I still have that competitive thing though, I wanna compete. It’s like when you play a show and you do well, you just did a good job you didn’t win nothing, you know what I mean?
E – Yeah, it’s just a bit of recognition isn’t it?
D – I wanna win the fucker
E – If you had to define your sound or perhaps the meaning behind your music in just a few words, what would you say?
D – I haven’t thought about that, you know, like, but really when artists start thinking about their meanings and stuff it starts sounding like shit. It’s like with The Beatles people used to make up all this stuff about Paul being dead and weird rumours like John is saying give peace a chance backwards on this record or some shit and they totally weren’t and like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds didn’t mean to spell out LSD and all the rest of this shit but then when they did get into religion and Hinduism and became activists and stuff and tried to tell them that they were like okay well if people are gonna believe any bullshit we put out then we’ll send out a message! And that’s when the old Beatles fans were like “oh, you’re just not interesting anymore” you know. Michael was good when he was all disco, with a little afro and Michael Jackson was totally badass and then he started doing everything for the children and (in southpark-esque Jefferson voice “this is for the children” and it was like you fucking suck now man! I liked you when I was a child and you were just concerned about being cool. I guess I’m just concerned about making myself look cool and I don’t know. No, fuck that’s not true, that’s a lie! I did hear some guy from some band I hate talking on an interview and he was like “don’t let any musician ever tell you that they didn’t pick up a guitar to pick up chicks” and I was like if that was my intention I would have gave up a long time ago ‘cos it didn’t fucking work! I think it was that guy from that band Sugar ray too, you remember the guy? I think it was that guy, and it’s like “no dude you’re making excuses for yourself, you wanted to be in a band to get chicks”!
E – And he’s now doing pop collaborations with Shania Twain! So cool!
D – Yeah he’s on this TV show now, like one of these celebrity news shows in the states that will show when someone flashed their crotch or something, he’s one of those hosts and he’s really corny, like that band Sugar Ray, they put out their first album and I’m not gonna say it was good or you’re underground or you’re punk or anything like that …but it was more underground and more punk. You could see where they would listen to a band that they like and then their second album came out and it was all shots of him posing and it was like you did this to get the chicks man!
E – You started playing and writing quite young didn’t you? Did you ever just write stupid songs about silly things?
D – Oh yeah, still do! I don’t write as much any more but when I do its better and I can see the thoughts through instead of rushing it. Sometimes, when I get up in the morning ‘cos I’m an early person (my wife is definitely a late riser) and I get up and I go into the bathroom before she does, and sometimes I’ll just pop into the bedroom with my guitar playing the worst song like “my shit really stinks”, just to annoy her! She just wakes up and goes “ohhhh stop it”!
E – You financed your first two records on your own didn’t you?
D – Yeah, yeah
E – How did you manage to do that?
D – My grandmother died in about 2000 and I inherited three thousand bucks, and I wasted it all on music and moving up to Nashville
E- But you were working too right?
D- I’ve never had too much luck with work – I usually got fired from every job I would get so…but I definitely invested it (the money) I mean ‘m still selling some of those recordings now – I sold some tonight and I sold some last night so I’m still making money off of it
E – And rightly so! So how long did it take you to do all of that?
D – Well the first one I got done, I was really excited about it and I put a lot of hard work into it, and shortly after I got it done, John from Swami called and told me that they wanted to put stuff out. I was so excited that I just wrote another one right after that, and it’s still some of the best stuff I did really
E – Do you feel a greater sense of satisfaction knowing that you did all that on your own and it was all through your own hard work?
D – Yeah, and what I’m really satisfied with is that that was the first record label that I ever tried to be on, I was never one of those guys that went out and took glossy pictures of myself and sent that stuff off, but I just gave my record to one of those guys and Swami was the only record label that I ever even thought to turn to and that I thought would understand me, and they did! Most bands would sell their legs to be on there.
E – So you must sound pretty good then!
D – Yeah well the Kooks fans didn’t think so!
E – I think the trouble can be that some people (a minority though really) will get stuck into one particular genre of music and they close their minds towards other sounds
E – I heard that for your previous album Dan Sartain Vs the Serpientes, you literally hanged yourself for the cover shot – is that true?
D – Yeah for the cover, I just did for like ten seconds at a time. I had a bunch of people around and they were worried about me doing it but I’m not a professional neck-hanger or anything like that you know! You know like there were various people there to let me down if I start twitching and stuff!
E – Did you worry at any point and think oh god, this is it?
D – Yeah I almost passed out for a second, I could see how you could do it and kill yourself and be very peaceful…but yeah, it was scary
E- I would be shitting it! You must be brave
D – Well did you ever do that thing when you were a kid when you would like bend over and hyperventilate and then stand up and make yourself pass out? Yeah we used to do that when we were kids before you could drink, and it feels quite euphoric and for a second you feel pretty good. Well I felt that almost happen, and if that had happened I would have been fucked.
E – And was that all your idea?
D – Yeah!
E – If you weren’t playing now, what do you think you would be doing? Say if you had never picked up a guitar and never written a song.
D – I wanted to be a mechanic real bad, but I was real bad at that. So honestly, if it wasn’t for music… it’s fucking cheesy to say but music saved my life you know, and it’s not for everybody, it ruins a lot of people’s lives, but fuck you know I might be dead, I might be in jail and I would definitely be on harder drugs than I do already. I just smoke pot now and I really like pot and coca-cola and a lot of salt on my food and cigarettes. That’s pretty good considering that I lot of people I new grew up to be crackheads so I’d probably be with them working in some fast food chain.
E – Are you one of those people that are just writing all the time, or do you set out to think okay today I’m gonna sit down and focus and write a song?
D – Sometimes I do but you can never force it. Sometimes it just pops in your head and you go thank you universe!
E – Do you find that people are quite surprised when they meet you, as your music is quite mature and there is a lot of life experience in there so I guess people might listen and imagine you to be older than you actually are?
D – Thank you, yeah I’m way more silly! I’m a silly, silly person! (giggling). Did you see Kerry, the girl from Two Tears? She’s my friend, she’s been a supporter of me for a long time, and she was telling me the other night that she was selling some t-shirts and this girl came up and was like “oh, what’s it like to work with Dan? He seems precious, he must be precious” and she was like “No! He’s just a big dork! He dances around and makes bad jokes all the time!” You know that song (stands up to sing and dance) “no diggety, I gotta back it up”, well we heard it first thing in the morning the other day and all day long I was bugging everyone just walking up to them and “no diggety”! And I’d be dancing around and stuff and like they were just like “shut uuuuup”!
E- It’s good to see that you’re just a normal guy
D – Well you know most musicians think that they’re way cooler and more important than they are.
E – It’s usually a case of the bigger bands or acts are totally down to earth and friendly, then the smaller ones are those that have the big egos
D – That’s what Greg Dooley, the guy that used to be in Afghan Whigs, we’re on the same label now as his solo stuff and we got the same girl working for us, and she was telling me that he was talking about it, and she asked what was the nicest band he went on tour with back then when Afghan Whigs were in their prime, and she said that he said that Aerosmith were – like on the first day they were like “hey guys, show us that thing you do on guitar” and they were really nice to them. Then they would go on tour with Pearl Jam or somebody and they would not talk to them for the whole two weeks or whatever.
E – I think there are too many Yes people who will just agree with anything those kinda guys will say
D – Yeah, I need people around me who will tell me to shut the fuck up! I really do!
From thereon we continued to chat a little longer about hip hop, collaborations, venue security and Dan ended with a hilarious Snoop story which had us in fits of laughter for the rest of the evening. Hugs and well-wishes all round and it was pretty much time for him to take to the stage. Dan performed a lengthy and spectacular set of tracks spanning all of his albums, including some fabulous new tracks. The high energy and technically perfect performance was just amazing and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Between favourite tracks from his latest album Join Dan Sartain Dan bantered with the audience and lit up the room with his beaming smile the whole way through. The most popular tracks being the brilliant Replacement Man, Shenanigans and Gun Vs Knife to name but a few.
I made the decision there and then to make sure that I catch Dan’s every tour in future, he makes music to smile, dance and sing to and he is indeed a true gentleman and a genuinely adorable guy.