South African Blues-rock guitarist Dan Patlansky has built up quite a following in the UK thanks to some incendiary live performances over the last few years. I spoke to Dan about the new album ‘Perfection Kills’, travelling, first world problems, and the world’s crappiest Blues joke…
When I first saw the album artwork, I was wondering where the title ‘Perfection Kills’ came from. Then I heard the album, and got to thinking that it was perhaps a statement against overproduced albums and the like?
“You hit the nail on the head, that’s exactly where the title comes from. For a long time I’ve been very interested in perfection in the arts, and how that’s something that is impossible to exist, as there is no yardstick to measure an artform by. I often find that when we try and make any artform perfect, we end up doing more harm than good, because you end up polishing the magic out of it. Often, the imperfection is the realness. I found, on my last couple of albums, that they were a little too polished for my liking, and that’s possibly why I took over the producer role on this one. Just to get that rawness and that organic-ness back into the mix.”
Was it recorded analogue or digitally?
“Oh no, it was fully analogue. The studio that I picked firstly had fantastic sounding rooms, they weren’t those traditional studio rooms. The gear was analogue, and that’s kind of what I wanted to go with sound-wise. All of us on the album were recorded live in the studio, apart from the odd vocal, or the odd solo. Recording live gives you that energy, almost like the energy that a live show gives you.”
I’ve always thought that the difference between you live and in the studio is immense. ‘Perfection Kills’ is the closest album I feel to your live performance.
“Well, that’s the truth, and I’ve heard that so many times before. I wanted an album that represented us as close to live as possible. Obviously, that’s damn near impossible to capture, because in the studio you are not playing for anyone, but I wanted to get as much of that onto the album as we could.”
We touched on the stunning album sleeve at the beginning. Is it an original piece?
“Yeah, the whole art team back home came up with the concept, the original photo was one that we licensed from Getty Images, but it has been turned on its head and things added. It’s a play on the album title in a sense.”
It is certainly striking!
“That’s great to hear!”
One of my favourite tracks on the album is ‘Never Long Enough’. I was curious, is that a continuation of ‘Still Wanna Be Your Man’, from your last album ‘IntroVertigo’?
“It is, in a way. ‘Still Wanna Be Your Man’ is almost about the same subject matter, but more in a negative light, you know? ‘Still Wanna Be Your Man’ kind of hoping that my wife will stick around, as I’m not home enough! Whereas ‘Never Long Enough’ is more of a positive about how fantastic it is being home and spending time with my family, but obviously, there is that clock ticking away in the background like a reality check the whole time! So, in a way, I guess it is a continuation!”
Coming from South Africa, I suppose travel is inevitable!
“Exactly! We are in the arse-end of the world! So travelling is a big part of life.”
Another favourite on the album is ‘Junket Man’. The lyrics are quite strong: “Die a junket man”. Again, is that the flip side of travelling? Feeling like you are constantly on the move?
“Yeah, I mean, we are. Sometimes, I feel that the music is a bonus, and I’m getting paid for being on flights abroad and being in a tour van. The amount of time that we spend travelling, compared to the amount of time on stage, is out-weighed 10-1. Music I do for free. I get paid to travel!”
We are spoiled in the UK (apart from the South-West, that is). There is always a gig around the corner, or a short distance away. I don’t think that we grasp how long an artist like yourself has to travel to get here?
“Exactly, there is a bit of a scene in South Africa, and we are fortunate enough to have built up a following, but it’s still a small country. The UK and Europe is especially a hotbed for the blues-rock scene. There’s a lot of great bands out there with a great following, and it’s a scene that I’ve wanted to be part of for a really long time. So the travelling is a necessity.”
Your lyrics seem very personal, rather than more of a general vibe.
“When I first started out, I was playing more traditional blues, and I was writing more of those clichéd blues lyrics… whiskey and women, you know? Whatever the old blues guys used to write about.”
What’s the shortest blues song known to man?
“I don’t know.”
“I didn’t wake up this morning”… okay it’s a shit joke, but you get the point!
“Haha! I get it… I did used to write that kind of stuff, but then I started to write about things that I could relate to, things that are relevant in my life. Obviously, a big part of my songwriting is about the balance between family life and music. I also like to write social commentary. If something annoys me, I like to have a big moan about it! A song is a great way to express yourself.”
On that subject, what was it about ‘Dog Day’ that made it your choice for lead single from the album?
“To be honest, it wasn’t up to me at all!”
Well, there you go then!
“I’m not too clued up on what should be the first single, that kind of thing. The whole UK team and the South African team thought that should be the first single, so I was happy to go with it. It is a tongue-in-cheek dig about how insignificant “first world” problems are compared to nations with real problems.”
You mean, like there are nations with no fresh water, but my kids will moan if the wifi is too slow?
“Exactly! Those kind of things… first world problems!”
What is it about Fender guitars that you love so much?
“For me it’s simple, they are like blank canvases. I think that they are the guitars to play, as the true ‘you’ always comes out on a Fender. There’s nothing masking it. If you have a great show, everyone can see that, but on the other end of the scale, if you have a bad show, there is no hiding with a Fender. Everyone can see your flaws and hear your mistakes, but for me, that’s such an exciting thing. I’ve always been a massive Strat fan!”
Tell me about your guitar ‘Old Red’. You lost that in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, only to discover it years later?
“It’s crazy that I managed to get the guitar back! It really is a testament to the strength and toughness of a Fender. That survived a hurricane, sat in a moisture soaked environment for a year, when I got it back all I had to do was change the strings on it, and I played it in the show that night without having to do anything else to it! It’s incredible that I got it back, and I still play it today”.
Rory Gallagher put his Fender through the wars, and he managed to make it sing. Further prove, as if it was needed!
“Exactly. I don’t think there are many other brands of guitars that are as tough as a Fender. I think Rory Gallagher’s guitar was stolen at some point and was found in a drain full of water, or something like that. And his guitar still sounded the way that it did. They are workman instruments”.
You return to the UK for a headlining tour in March. Is this market the main priority?
“We are focussing all our energy on the UK and Western Europe, mainly because the scene is so strong here, and it has a good following. I enjoy playing for the UK audiences, I really do. It’s an educated audience in this genre. We are trying to build a fan base, and every time we come back, it’s slightly bigger. We’ll keep on coming back, and hopefully it will get bigger!”
Great to hear Dan. Good luck with ‘Perfection Kills’, and hope the flight over in March is not too rough!
Live Pics: Callum Scott
DAN PATLANSKY – PERFECTION KILLS MARCH 2018 UK TOUR
WITH SPECIAL GUEST MOLLIE MARRIOTT
TICKETS – danpatlansky.com
Manchester, Deaf Institute Thursday 15 March
Newcastle, The Cluny Friday 16 March
Leek, Foxlowe Arts Centre Saturday 17 March
Bristol, The Tunnel Sunday 18 March
Sheffield, Greystones Tuesday 20 March
London, Borderline Wednesday 21 March