Dangermaker: Light The Dark
By Walter Price
The music world is and has always been an evolving or in the right situations, bettering itself. The second is proving harder in the shortening of audience’s attention spans. This is the same world where being judged or compared to sounds history can be a blessing or a curse. Are you a throwback band, are you trying to assume you can improve on the legendary or are you just in love with music and it shows within your craft.
What matters is the latter. If you play with heart, wear your honesty in your album’s grooves and never try to fool the people who try out your efforts. At the end of the day, earnest souls win the hearts and last the longest in the ever shortening lifespan of a band.
San Francisco’s Rock N’ Rollers Dangermaker (Adam, Carlos, Dave, Neko) seem to be in for the long fight. A quest of sorts to perfect what it is they’re striving for. Making good ole rock music that could fill stadiums and probably will. They have a fresh EP, Light The Dark (Breakup Records), that is as dynamic as anything Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, Killers and certainly more relevant than Arctic Monkeys or Interpol. An EP that is a pretty good insight on what the future of what pop flavored rock is and will be.
It was turbulent and at times heartbreaking road for this EP to see the light of day and I reached out to Dangermaker’s Adam Burnett to catch us up on it all.
Congratulations on Light The Dark, you guys have switched gears a little.
Yeah I think as a band we feel like we’ve arrived at our sound now. From the beginning things have always been ever-changing for us, starting from acoustic based solo demos at the onset, to the simple fact of rotating through a few members early on, adding synths and keys as more prominent, all of which developed our sound and pushed it further and further. I’m excited to keep pushing…
Let’s go back to the start, how did Dangermaker come about?
Well, we’re not that band of childhood friends who have known each other for ever. We were actually all strangers when we met, from different walks of life doing different things musically. I was playing around San Francisco solo, meeting musicians, trying out songs. Carlos, Dave, & Neko were bouncing around through different bands, and eventually I met Carlos after releasing some song demos that caught his ear. We looked for a keys player for a few years before finding Dave, and he happened to play with Neko in another project so it was a 2 for 1 deal. We all kind of brought something different to the table which I think has resulted in our sound.
You recently told me the story of your father passing during the making of Black Dream, are you trying to move away from parts of that album?
I think a lot of our songs, new and old, have a little darkness in them, it’s a part of me that comes out. As a songwriter having gone through a bad loss like that it’s bound to come out more in the material. Black Dream was a little more heavily weighted on the dark side than we planned for, and listening back now I think we’ve simply evolved past the darker songs there. However some songs from Black Dream are staples in our live set, so in that sense we’ve also embraced it. We still play Another Bad Dream all the time for example.
The press embraced Black Dream and it seemed to resonate with the people. How do you feel about the album now that’s it’s been out for a little while?
I’m glad if anything we do resonates with anyone, that’s really the core appeal in writing and recording music for me. It’s a way of connecting with people that you can’t achieve otherwise, on a very real level. Listening back to Black Dream I think we made something good there, despite the numerous obstacles that we had to get over, and I don’t just mean my father’s death. There were all sorts of recording and mixing problems, our bass player at the time left halfway through so we had to re-track with Neko, Dave joined the band halfway through too, then we remixed the album three separate times. All-in-all it was both cursed and the ultimate test of our dedication to it.
There was a time in the music business that videos and showcases were almost everything in breaking a band to the masses; do you think they still hold the same weight?
Videos are as important as ever these days, even if the big music networks never play them anymore. I don’t really get that. Regardless, musicians have total control of their art these days and there’s no better way to spread your songs around then with an interesting video, and it’s a cool way to further the artistic vision of a song. If we had the time and resources I would love to do videos for every song we record… Showcases can be a different story. Some are great don’t get me wrong, we were recently part of a local SF residency called Balanced Breakfast that brought tons of local artists together and connected us with new people. We’ve also played a few at SXSW and CMJ to name a few behemoths, completely fun and worth doing for the experience, but I don’t think they really did much for us outside of exposing us to a ton of new bands. As a fully self-supported band we have been putting more of our time and effort into recording and getting our music out there, rather than splurging for a week in Austin for example.
Your music videos are pretty cool, who works up the concepts?
Thanks, we collaborate with different video producers that we work with, so concepts are definitely a joint vision. Although we usually like to encourage the producers to offer a concept first and get an unbiased outside idea, it always results in something we would never have thought of. I love to see someone else’s interpretation of our songs too, it’s like a whole new thing.
People like to compare Dangermaker’s sound to many legendary artists, does this fit well with you and the band?
Sure we’ll take it as a compliment… I think some of those comparisons come from the different influences we all bring in, some very new artists, and some classics everyone knows. I think all artists are influenced by something, and a degree of that shows in the work you do. Structure and arrangement are very important to us, I wouldn’t call us a “loose” band, which seems to lend itself back to our love of songwriting and well written songs.
Speaking of your sound, you guys have a pretty unique sound compared to the other acts coming out of San Francisco.
Well we don’t consciously try to sound like anyone or fit into any particular scene. That’s both a good and bad thing, good in that I think we stand out more sometimes, and bad in that we don’t fit neatly into a genre or on a bill. When people ask I never really know who to compare us to, I think I give a different answer every time. People like familiarity; I kind of like to be surprised…
Are you more comfortable with the bold anthem sounds of Dangermaker or with the singer/songwriter/rock sounds as a solo artist? Or are these two separate parts of you?
Definitely two sides of me, and there’s probably a third and fourth in here somewhere I haven’t met yet… I write some very contrasting styles of music, depending on what’s happening in my life, music is the reaction. Early on I think we tried to force some ideas into Dangermaker that weren’t a great fit, so I’ve become more selective with what ideas I bring in. I have some other stuff I’m playing around with, some acoustic based songs, some electronic based songs, I recently composed a bunch of instrumental electronic music for The North Face website that opened up a whole new world for me. One of these days I’ll get it together and put some of that out…
Any European plans?
Man I wish, we’d love to, just need some support over there as we don’t really know where to start. So no firm plans as of now, but I’d love to change that soon…
What are 5 things people absolutely need to know about Dangermaker?
- We do this because we love it. Really.
- We once replaced The Black Eyed Peas at a private party. No one knew or cared.
- When singing falsetto, remember, “more Bee Gee, less monkey”.
- If you listen to our music, all of your wildest dreams will come true.
- We’re not that dangerous off the stage. If you see us, say hi.