Interview with Dan Stuart, Formerly of Green On Red
© Photo courtesy of Gerardo Landa
Dan Stuart is currently in Mexico City getting accustomed to sub-woofer frequencies from the bar below his apartment as well as risking death every time he takes a shower due to exposed wiring that could fry you up like bacon in a pan.
The former Green on Red singer and songwriter has moved around over the years; by his own admission "Since age 18 I've lived in 20 different apartments/houses in 7 different cities located in 4 different countries."
However you won’t find Stuart located in Corporateville drinking at bars where the Twitter employees hang out or flying first class on Virgin Atlantic. You'll find him in some back street Mexican restaurant eating the finest food cooked by the finest unknown cook and conversing with the locals as if they were extended family. In a modern society where enough is never enough, Stuart would surely remind us not to forget the "little things in life," in a world dominated by excess and high expectations. It would be sound advice -- it's worked for him so far and his music portfolio proves it.
Stuart's follow-up record to his excellent 2012 release, The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings, is released this autumn and is aptly named Marlowe's Revenge (Cadiz Music). It was recorded with Twin Tones, a spaghetti western/surf/rock band also based in Mexico City.
Dave Griffiths: How did you find the recording process, working with Twin Tones on the new record? They seem a lively bunch!
Dan Stuart: It started as a normal sort of record where we tracked together basically live at their home studio, and then it took a left turn where Gabriel Lopez and the boys overdubbed onto existing rough mixes of guitar, vocal, and shaker I had recorded in a little studio in Oaxaca. Those Oaxacan rough mixes could not be altered since the individual tracks had disappeared. We basically broke every rule of recording and it took someone like JD Foster to mix it without having a nervous breakdown.
How would you describe the revenge of Marlowe Billings yourself? A natural progression from the last record?
No, not really. The last one was very thought-out and had a narrative arc ... this one is very messed up and way more rock and roll. My revenge against all the nice singer-songwriters out there, may they rot in heaven.
Are all the songwriting credits attributed to you on the new record? Did you write any material with Twin Tones themselves?
One song is a true co-write since Gabriel brought me this great riff but the rest are my tunes. But I have always been relatively generous with writing credits, and since they all did such a fantastic job and added such great stuff, I went ahead and split the publishing with them, which is what I used to do with GOR. It all comes out in the wash ... well it would if there was any publishing money anymore. It's all gone away with the streaming services and illegal downloads.
The music video of the song "Elena" you’ve recorded with them sounds intriguing? Any idea when we’ll be given a preview?
Probably a month before the release, so I imagine late summer, early fall. ... We just edited in footage of the "real Elena" who was my neighbor in Oaxaca. Late at night, I would piss off my balcony into an empty field and see her light shining in the house below, and wonder if it was possible to ever fall in love again.
Talking of music videos, you popped up on the recent video “Delone” by Sacri Cuori. It’s the best music video I’ve seen all year and I can imagine people such as Quentin Tarantino falling in love with it. It’s such a great song that will surely bring even more attention to its vocalist Carla Lippis. Did you know her personally beforehand?
No, I met her in Italy while she was recording and playing with them. She's an Aussie with Italian heritage. She was a very good fit for that particular record and I'm sure she she'll go on to do more great work.
Your recent live performances working with guitarist Antonio Gramentieri from Sacri Cuori were stunning. I was there myself in Leicester, UK, last year and it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to, period. You’re playing some dates with Tom Heyman in July, a fellow compadre of Chuck Prophet. This sounds equally as appetizing musically but you’ve never played with him before, right? How did the idea to work together come about?
We booked one show together in San Francisco and it just grew from there. We're kind of similar in that we make solo records that critics generally like and other musicians admire, but [which] have no mass appeal whatsoever ... it will be interesting to see if anyone gives a shit.
Your son Bobo is now a musician in his own right. [Drummer in the band The Riot Van.] Does he dig his dad’s musical pursuits? Has he heard much from your days in Green On Red?
Oh he knows everyone. He was at the All Tomorrow's Parties event in London when we we did Gas Food Lodging back in 2006. Jack Waterson gave him his first drum set after a Adrian Younge gig in NYC. He thinks about GOR like I do -- some decent records and some bad ones, and a lot of missed opportunities. It's tough to be in a young band today. All the ancients are still around and taking up way too much oxygen. I think their first EP is better than GOR's first EP, that's for sure.
I read recently that you wrote your first google review. Does this mean we could find your reviews on other sites such as TripAdvisor in the future?
God I hope not, but anything is possible. If you find me on Yelp then you'll know the end is near.
I personally think some music reviews of bands or artists are worthless due to the person conducting the review. Gig reviews also seem notorious for this at times where you get the feeling the person who wrote it wasn’t even there and certainly wasn’t interested in the music from the outset. It’s surely the fans themselves that give the genuine reviews. Do you pay much attention to reviews of your own music these days, by the music press? Have you ever done?
Well it used to matter when there was actual rock criticism ... to get burned by some shithead like Robert Christgau at The Village Voice was a badge of honor. Now it's all like high school and voting for the prom queen or something. I loved Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer, people like that. As for fans deciding what's cool or not, I guess it depends on the fan but still it comes down to: Do you have anything to say? A review of anything is simply a pretext to discuss more important stuff ... in theory, at least.
Are there any plans to return to the UK to promote the new record?
I'll be back but whether with Twin Tones or not depends on the money. ... We're talking seven international flights. I would love to tour with them but the stars are aligned against it ever happening for a lot of other reasons I don't want to get into here. Let's just say the music business is very risk-averse nowadays, or what's left of it anyway...
Finally, please tell me that death trap shower of yours has been fixed!?
Believe me I'm more worried about the quality of the water running through it than the possibility of electrocution. One accidental swallow and that could be the end.
Stuart kicks of a week of shows with Tom Heyman starting Friday July 10th, The Cactus Cafe, Austin, Texas. Marlowe 's Revenge -- his album with Twin Tones -- will be released via Cadiz Music in the autumn of this year.
© Dave Griffiths 2015