Ian: How long have you been playing/writing/recording music before releasing your first solo album?
Dan: I've been playing for about 10 years. Which makes me cringe because I am nowhere near as good as I feel I should be for playing that long. I've never taken one lesson in my life. I learned everything from guitar tablature and just playing. My first recordings were on Sound recorder on windows 95, haha . I would record it through the built in mic in my monitor! My amp was like 15 feet away. Then, a friend of mine gave me a 10 watt practice amp with a headphone jack. So what I did was, I taped a broken half of a headphone up to the mic in my monitor, and recorded. Then, I stumbled upon a program called Tabit. Which is basically a MIDI tablature program that allows you to tab drums,g uitar, bass and a ton of other instruments, and play it back. So I would sit with a guitar in my lap and write, then tab riffs, program drums, and turn them into songs. It was great because you had the ability to create something that a full band could, but by yourself. Then finally in December of 2007, I got my first recording interface to record real guitar. And the rest is history.
Ian: Were you in any other bands before you went solo? Do you prefer to work solo or with others?
Dan: I've actually never been in a band before. I played with some friends early in high school but I got kicked out after like the second practice. I've only really have jammed with 2 guitarists in my whole life, and it was just for a couple hours each time. So I'm used to doing things by myself, which is why I prefer to work alone. I like it because you are in 100% control of everything you do, and when you want to. There aren't any schedules to adjust to, or any members that don't feel like practicing/showing up. No drama. It's all on your own time and mood.
Ian: Who would you cite as some of your primary influences?
Dan: In no order: In Flames, Unearth, Darkest Hour, Thrice. These bands just amazed me when I heard them and I thought the guitar work as insane. And since I heard them at a somewhat young age, they really crafted how I play guitar. My newer influences aren't really bands, but just different elements from different genres of metal, not just one band.
Ian: How did originally decide to start releasing music for free (or on bandcamp anyway)?
Dan: When I first started recording in 2007, it was just for myself, and maybe to show some of my friends. I eventually started a myspace, put some songs up, and if anyone wanted the Cd's, they could message me and I'd send it to them. Then I found Bandcamp, and you could stream and distribute in one place, so it was ideal. My main goal is just to get the music out there because I feel alot of people will enjoy it. And it's more likely to be heard if it's for free. I offer everything at a "name your price" deal, so making a couple of extra bucks is cool.
Ian: You've been quite prolific, releasing four full-length albums last year ("Q4 2009", "Light", "Gears", and "X"), and this new one "Arcologies" about a week ago, about how long does it take you to write, record, and mix/master an album to the point where you're satisfied with it?
Dan: When I first started recording, I planned on making a CD every year like I was some known band or something. Then I later thought how dumb that would be and decided that if I'm going to get good at writing songs, I have to do just that-write a ton of songs. So I just record in my free time. And I just so happened to have a Cd's worth of songs every 3 months, so I stuck to that formula of releasing stuff every 3 months. As for the writing process, for my first 3 releases, I would just make a drum track in Tabit without any actual ideas going into the recording. Then I would just make stuff up as I went along. Then for the next couple, I would have an idea for the intro and maybe the next couple bars after, then I would make the rest up. For "Gears", "X", and "Arcologies", I would come up with the intro, and then i would jam on that idea for a while and actually write other things before I recorded, so basically when I went into the recording I would have material, like a rhythm, or a lead. Then I would just put those ideas together. I used to write, record, and mix everything in one sitting. I remember sitting at my computer for 8 hours straight on some songs. Now I break them up into 3 hour sessions. I will come home from work at 11:30 PM and dedicate 12-3 AM to recording, then hit the hay at 4 AM. So a song can take anywhere from about 3 days-to a week to write, record, and mix. I've written and recorded 5 minute songs in one day before. I'm not sure how I do it sometimes.
Ian: You stated that "X" was the first album where you used an 8-string guitar, would you say the 8-string has changed how you write songs?
Dan: Structurally, no. As an instrument, definitely. There is so much more you can do with it. You have a ton of tunings you can experiment with. There is so much tonal range. I remember hearing them on "Rareform" by After The Burial and I thought it sounded amazing. And I always wanted to incorporate my own style to them. But it wasn't for about another 2 years I finally pulled the trigger and bought one and I don't regret it at all. I haven't touched a 6 since I got my 8. 6 strings feel like a child's toy to me now, and I have tiny girl hands.
Ian: What, in your opinion, sets "Arcologies" apart from your past releases?
Dan: I think I tried my hardest to try new things on this CD. I also think it has a great variety of styles. There is a good balance of melodic songs like "Acrophobia" and "Name This Something Cool". And there is a good balance of more metal songs like "Domination Nation", "Kill Now, Shred Later" and "Cloud". I also had more time under my belt with the 8 string.
Ian: What kind of feedback have you received so far on the new album?
Dan: So far, so good. Most of the feedback has come through a couple forums, Last.Fm, and some blogs and other sites. Personally, this CD was the hardest to write for me. And I wasn't as stoked about it as I normally am for releases. I'm really bipolar when it comes to my own music. Sometimes I will think it's awesome, and other times I will think it sucks.
Ian: What do you think of the djent scene? Would you consider yourself to be a part of that scene?
Dan: Its definitely growing. I think it's misunderstood in someways. I'm still not even 100% clear as to what the real "definition" of it really is. And with that, I don't consider myself to be a part of it.
Ian: With each album, your status has grown and is being put among the greats of the "djent" sound like Animals As Leaders and Cloudkicker. How do you view your music compared to artists like these?
Dan: Animals As Leaders are light years ahead of me in every category. They are ridiculously talented. They are more of a "musicians" band. I just try to make songs with emotion and energy. As for Cloudkicker, I've only heard his latest album "Beacons" once. His stuff has a ton of more space than my stuff and is a lot more repetitive. But those guys are doing great things for instrumental bands. I just know I still have a lot of work to do to be on the same level as those guys as far as overall quality.
Ian: How do you view creativity?
Dan: It comes natural to me I think. I feel I've always been a creative person. As far as music goes, you just have to forget about any "rules" that come with music and do what you think sounds good to you. I grew out of the "playing other peoples stuff" phase pretty quickly and started developing my own style. Inspiration comes from different places for everyone.
Ian: Are you already working on new material? Do you have any other projects that we should keep an eye out for?
Dan: As of right now I have a decent amount of material for a new song and it seems like it will work, so I hope to have it finished within a week. Music takes up about 60% of my free time. It can be quite tiring always writing and recording. Even in the comfort of your own home and schedule. Sometimes it's just nice to sit back, eat some food and watch South Park and whatnot. I don't have any other projects. But I would love to take a stab at some electronic type stuff. Stuff similar to the song "Walls" on Arcologies. And I would also like to try some orchestrated stuff. But I simply do not have the time.
Ian: What are you currently listening to? Any bands/artists we should check out?
Dan: According to my Last.Fm, I've been listening to: Your Memorial, Norma Jean, Tesseract, After The Burial, and The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza alot. I would check out Your Memorial. I really hate using genres, but I would call them "progressive metalcore". That probably doesn't sound too good, but I love them. They are heavy ,melodic and original. I don't really venture too far out of the metal/hardcore genres. I would like to listen to other styles, but it's just hard for me.
Ian: Do you believe melody take precedence over groove? What's your take on melody vs. groove?
Dan: They are both powerful elements to songs. I have always loved melodic stuff. And I'm a very melodic player. Melody is one of my strengths as a guitarist I think. I'm not the best at groovy type things. I have just recently started exploring them and I would love to get better at them. But for me personally, melodies get stuck in my head more than grooves. It's different for everyone.
Ian: That's all of my questions, thanks for the interview. The last words are yours.
Dan: First, thanks for checking out my tunes, I really appreciate it! Also, thanks for my first interview ever, it was a blast and I hope I can do more in the future. Thanks to anyone who reads this or checks out my music. I hope to have many many more albums to come. You can download and listen to all my stuff for free at www.dandankmeyer.bandcamp.com. I also have a musician page on facebook, so check it out if you're bored. Thanks!
I'd like to thank Dan for being patient with me during this interview and for his kind words and honest responses. As he said above, and I support it, check him out, this guy is going to be big.www.dandankmeyer.bandcamp.com