Dan Sartain may not be too well known over here but he has notoriety in his home country of America where he has supported the likes of The White Stripes and The Hives. Dan is currently on the One Little Indian label and has previously released material on Jack White’s Third Man Records.
Dan Sartain brought his unique brand of country punk to Leeds for part of the Live At Leeds festival and I caught up with him pre-gig.
You incorporate quite a few genres within your music, who were your influences growing up?
I think Alice Cooper was the first guy that really blew me away. I thought I wanna know more about this guy, everything they do is cool. I was just in love with that dude, I’m still in love with that dude, well not so much the dude more the band, he can be a bit of an asshole sometimes.
Do you feel that your music has matured over the years?
Probably immatured to tell you the truth. I’ve been trying to write songs like a teenager, like teenage mentality. I dunno I wanna be funny though and not goofy. When you’re a kid your sense of humour is not necessarily funny and more silly. So maybe in that way but I’m definitely singing about more absurd things, I used to be more serious. Maybe it’s part of angst leaving after you grow up or after you hit puberty. I started kinda more singer-songwritery in the beginning and then it kinda developed into something else. Producers got on board and things like that, it changed a little bit. I did some compromising along the way but it wasn’t like anybody forced me to do anything I didn’t wanna do. I wound up doing a few things I wouldn’t have otherwise done without encouragement or help. Then it just progressed into doing this new album which is all just fast stupid punk songs, three chords, which is a good thing. I’m here to unlearn what I taught myself. There can be a level of pretentiousness after a while.
If you could share the stage with any performer who would it be? Alice Cooper?
No I think about people that I like but then I think about people I would actually like to collaborate with, or people I think I could help or add something to. I always really liked Chris Isaak and he hasn’t done anything of note lately, I don’t know if that’s a distasteful way of saying it but some of his recordings I haven’t been into for a while. I fell like I would like to produce something for that guy because he’s always been good, I’ve always been in his corner and liked what he did.
You mentioned that your writing has changed what inspired you to write in the past and what inspires you now?
I guess writing used to mean more to me, now I’m like does this really mean something? Is it sacred? I used to think that friends were more important to me than they actually wound up being. It turns out that friends are not like the be all and end all, you get betrayed so you know I don’t expect so much out of people anymore then I won’t be let down by them.
As an artist do you prefer recording and being creative or do you prefer playing your material out live? Or do they both have the same merits?
Recording because when you get something done there and you feel that its right it’s more satisfying, because it lasts. The gig is gone. If you have a really good gig you stay high off of that for a few days tops. But if you make a good recording it lasts longer than a tattoo.
You have toured the UK and the US extensively in your career; does a UK audience differ from a US audience?
Once you’re out there then there isn’t a whole lot of difference, a crowd is a crowd. If you’re pleasing them you’re doing your job and if you’re not then you’re not. You can’t be like ‘the crowd is wrong!’ and in that case that’s fine just be like The Sex Pistols and antagonise them.
It is interesting to hear that there is no real difference because as a UK audience we like to think that we are more appreciative because gigs with well-known musicians aren’t as frequent for us as they are in the big cities in America. It’s not necessarily true but we certainly like to think it.
Well you get more American bands than we get UK bands; you get more bands from all over the world than we do because it’s a pain in the ass to go to the states for you guys. But maybe you’re right because I’ve noticed at some of the shows we are giving 110 percent and I wish the crowd was going nuts but they are just kinda standing there and looking at us being polite and if there’s a pause in the show you can hear a pin drop. Then at the end of the show they are buying stuff and being really gracious and it’s like oh you liked us? You seemed like you hated us. So yeah that might be true but that’s fucking annoying! Start dancing! So they may be more appreciative but less open. Make it about yourself; we are here entertaining people we want them to be entertained.
What’s your favourite venue you have ever played at? And do you prefer the smaller venues like this one?
I like playing Glasgow. I always like playing there the best. I like Captains Rest it’s kinda taken over from Nice N Sleazy where I used to play. Their clubs are stingy and the crowds are great. I’ve been saying that a lot I have kind of come to expect it from Glasgow.
Your music has altered in the past so where do you see your music going in the future?
That depends on how much money I have to do whatever the next project is. Which isn’t always a good thing for an artist, the sky is the limit as far as your imagination is concerned but there’s a danger you can turn into Brian Wilson are something. Most people would think that is a good thing but I don’t wanna be like ‘I need to get in a sand box, I need to sit in my sand box in the middle of my room, with three cheese burgers and a mermaid in a tank over here or I can’t record’. It just depends how much money I have I wanna do something elaborate, but if you’re limited some of the best art has been made by people with limitations. Either way I will make it as good as I can but it depends on how much money I will be able to put into it. I wanna do an instrumental thing, I wanna do like a soundtrack. I’m also playing bass in the drummers band Teenage Bedroom.