Creative Review New Music
South African Bluesman Dan Patlansky burst on to the British music scene a year ago in the wake of a superb album, Dear Silence Thieves. Since then, Patlansky’s been anything but idle. Releasing his seventh album, Introvertigo, on May 6th, he’ll then be hitting the road supporting Blues Rock band King King starting in Manchester on May 12th, before heading out on his own; a tour which sees him in Chester at The Live Rooms on June 12th.
All of which is a far cry from where this interview took place, via the wonder of modern technology that is Skype. “I’m actually in my office right now which is in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, which has been my base for the last couple of years,” Dan explained.
“South Africa is a pretty small place with regards to trying to isolate musical tastes, so the Blues scene is kind of a niche market as a whole here in a lot of ways. That said, though, although it is small the appreciation is definitely growing. Since I started playing at 17, audiences were probably one-eighth of what they are today, so in seventeen years it is pretty clear that people are wising up to Blues or Blues Rock more and more and the genre is definitely in a healthy place right now.”
Introvertigo consists of some solid Rock Blues, but also holds some pretty introspective numbers such as Loosen the Grip and Bet On Me, alongside observational numbers such as Sonnova Faith and Heartbeat. In fact, in places, the album could almost be dubbed Introvert-I-Go. “You know, I haven’t ever actually thought of it like that but that kind of works perfectly, although striking a balance between writing social commentary pieces and personal stuff doesn’t really enter into it. It just sort of happened that way.
“I’ve always written lyrics after the music, so the melody gives me a feeling of where the song should go. It’s just what suits me best as a writer. Heartbeat, for instance, is the only co-write on the album, with Len Muller, but if we take the other end of the scale with Loosen Up the Grip, after I wrote it I felt it had a certain feel that reminded me of being a kid; of the insecurities that childhood can burden you with.
“Obviously, though, the more personal the song, the easier it is to write because these are the ones that come from within. The social commentary songs are about things that kind of grind my gears. Songs like Sonnova Faith isn’t meant to be disrespecting anybody’s beliefs, but is about how the Powers That Be within all religions take the p**s on so many levels.
“These are the pieces that are harder to write, because I need to research stuff pretty thoroughly so that it makes sense and, above all, is relevant. Luckily, with Introvertigo, the balance you’re talking about came about naturally.”
Heartbeat is taken from the viewpoint of a homeless man begging on a street corner, trying to convince people he is made up of the same stuff as everyone else: hopes, dreams, aspirations and needing to be recognised as being an individual. Its sound is beautifully produced and has a tangible, visceral feeling so the listener can place themselves right alongside this guy. “That’s great that the point is getting across. In South Africa, poverty is a major deal, you know, so we see these guys all the time and it is an everyday experience seeing them. That one was pretty straight forward to write.”
So have things improved since the World Cup of 2010? “You know what politics is like, man. So much money was pumped in to that competition because we were right in the middle of the world’s eye, you know? The crime rate dropped, we had a lot of tourists coming through and everything on the face of it was brilliant. Now that the attention has gone away, and while the country hasn’t exactly gone to the dogs, it is certainly back to where it was pre-2010 for sure, which is really such a shame.”
Since the release of Dear Silence Thieves, Dan Patlansky has seen his reputation grow. So much so it really came as no surprise that he landed a spot supporting Joe Satriani across the UK and Europe in 2015. “Man, I can’t tell you how much I learned on that tour. It was like going to The University of Guitar just being with a legend like him. Obviously I grew up listening to Joe and I don’t think you can call yourself a guitarist and ignore the contribution that Joe Satriani has made, it’s just impossible.
“I guess the main thing I took from it all was though, and bearing in mind that I don’t want to sound like some sort of esoteric hippy type, but after the 26 shows I watched him play, I have never seen somebody perform, night after night, on such a consistently brilliant level. That’s all about the headspace he creates for himself; his playing becomes this effortless thing so that each show is right bang on the money.
“Some nights it can kind of feel like you’re walking through thick soup getting it right, because you tend to over think a note or a chord or whatever. Joe doesn’t, because of this headspace that he’s developed when he’s playing. He knows how to prepare himself properly beforehand. He is also just the nicest human being. I mean this is Joe Satriani we’re talking about, right, but every night he’d invite us into his room to warm up with him. He doesn’t need to do that, but he did, so it sort of became a life lesson and a reminder that it doesn’t matter how big you become, you should still help others along the way.”
All this touring and writing and recording is part and parcel for any musician, with some of Dan’s thoughts concerning life on the road being beautifully covered on Introvertigo’s, Still Wanna Be Your Man. “Don’t get me wrong I love touring – taking the music to different people across the world on a nightly basis, who wouldn’t love that? – but it can be a sort of love-hate thing too. The downside is that it can take you away from your family for long periods. Maybe if I was a single guy without a young baby, I wouldn’t be saying that, but I am married and I do have an eighteen month daughter which makes it so much harder to leave.
“I’m blessed in the fact that my wife totally understands and is incredibly supportive, but my daughter is like ‘well, he was here one minute now he’s there on a computer screen talking to me. What’s going on?’ It’s the nature of the beast. You can’t make it as a musician without promoting your work and that means touring. Then again, when I’m home, we savour our time together as a family all the more and I totally appreciate what I have so much. I’m very lucky.”
So how does Dan spend his downtime on tour? “Pretty much talking to my wife and baby, like this, on Skype,” he laughs, “and thank God for modern technology. I often think that if I was touring thirty or forty years ago, man it would be so much more difficult to leave home than it already is. Sending hand written letters back home so that they received them about three weeks later. It must have been so tough for some of those guys back then.”
One of Dan’s biggest influences is the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn. “I was talking about Joe Satriani and his ability to create this headspace so’s he can play at such a high, intense level night after night. Stevie Ray could also do that and I would love to know how he went about it. How he prepared himself.
“When I first heard Stevie it was on a live DVD recording and it’s just the raw power of his playing that totally blew me away: this and his complete effortlessness. He was so powerful – so intense – that, as an audience member, I’m guessing you’d almost need to have a lie down straight after. You’d have to feel exhausted just watching him play. That happened every single show, playing with that unrelenting passion for playing guitar and I’m just sorry I never got to see it for myself.
“I had the honour of meeting Jimmy Paige in London last year and wanted to ask him something similar, but because everybody sort of wanted a piece of him I decided not to be cheeky and just ‘said ‘hi, nice to meet you’ instead.”
Dan is supporting King King on 8 dates throughout May which begins at The Manchester Academy on May 12th, before setting off on his own headliner of the UK, ending up at Chester’s Live Rooms on June 12th. “I’m so looking forward to both aspects, the support of King King – who are just fabulous – and my own shows. We’ve put a show together here in South Africa which we’re playing right now, which covers some of the new tracks along with the older ones, and we think the full show just works so well. We’ve really thought it out carefully, so to bring it across to the UK in its entirety means we can really relax and get into it better. We’re so excited to be able to do this and I can’t tell you how privileged we feel.”
“There is one disappointing thing, though. My Bass player, Clint Warren Falconer, is a massive, massive Liverpool Football Club fan and we’ve never played Liverpool at all. This time around, we’re coming to Chester, which is around 45 minutes away, but sadly have to fly out early the next morning so won’t have chance to visit the birthplace of The Beatles or Anfield. Next time though, hopefully.”
So, with the Introvertigo coming out on May 6th, the support and headline tours throughout May and June … what’s next? “We come back to South Africa and continue touring over here and release a Live DVD we recorded at The Borderline in London last year. At the end of August, thanks to Joe Satriani and the response we received with him, we then head off into Eastern Europe to play a couple of festivals. Then we come back home and carry on with everything again. What never ends is the writing, writing, writing thing which just sort of happens on its own and, when it does, alongside playing live, it is just the best thing in the world.”