Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life are pleased to bring you an interview with solo artist, Dan Heathcote.
1. How did you get started in music?
I started playing guitar in 1996, having seen some local bands playing in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in particular one band called The Changers made it seem possible as young person to go out and play your own music live locally. I also was lucky enough to have MTV during the 90’s.. with both Grunge and Brit pop going on at that time. I saw some great bands such as Radiohead play Rock City in Nottingham which inspired me. However one of the first bands that I saw live that intrigued me most was a band called Puressence who had a haunting post punk sound with lots of delay and very emotional vocals. I was about 16 when I saw them and I had a feeling that I might want to do something ethereal sounding also. Nobody at school liked them (or even knew who they were) but I just saw them as cool outsiders, which radiohead were also before they became well known in mainstream (for something other than Creep). I took guitar lessons, struggled with learning barre chords for a while before I started to write my own songs. At that point I knew I wanted to continue songwriting, as having your own songs is a treasure beyond measure.
I formed a band called Endorphin with my brother in 1999. That then became Zadkiel in 2002 after a line up change. Since then I have recorded a couple of Eps and an album called The Saturn Return in 2011. The line up has changed a bit over the years, but we still play the songs live that form the main body of work. My brother lives in Germany now, but he’s a good at giving feedback about which songs sound the best from afar!
2. How would you describe your solo sound?
I would describe my sound as darkly euphoric. There’s a bit of discord in my guitar playing style, and that makes the chord progressions all the sweeter when they do resolve to something more harmonic. My voice is in the tenor range and I use falsetto. Jeff Buckley has been a big influence on my vocals, I was into him at the time he died and it left a mark on me. My lyrics are very stream of consciousness and abstract, mixed with a poetic lyrical sensibility. I studied Blake and Keats at school. I write original and surreal lyrics. I am Unusual sounding if you listen to what I have to say. I’m talking about feelings, in riddles and metaphors. But the main aim is to be myself and let other people identify with the lyrics and read their own meanings into the songs, you have to let them relate it to their own narratives.
I have my own private mythology, but I use symbolism in my writing which can be interpreted in many different ways.
3. What bands/artists would you say have influenced your acoustic album Limbic System?
I’ve mentioned some influences already, but with this album I would say that I loved the simplicity of some of Jeff Tweedy from Wilco’s recent solo albums, and wanted this album to be stripped back and unadorned, honest, the sound of me playing in the room with the listener. Martin Grech’s acoustic album March of the Lonely was also a big influence on the sound of the record production wise with the reverbs on the voice and guitar etc.
Probably Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album too a little bit.
4. Has the rise of YouTube & music streaming helped or hindered you?
Youtube is sort of the new MTV. But I think maybe the new generation growing up with it have abandoned buying albums in favour of recorded music being a free commodity like running water. Essential for our survival but kind of taken for granted.
I’ve just released the first video single for the Limbic System album in the shape of Hive Mind. That song is all about rebelling against what were programmed to think.
There’s also surveillance cameras in the video, which I hope the internet is not becoming, but it kind of feels like prying eyes are everywhere online in the new age of limitless information. Thing is we have willing traded our information to use these services.
I like that youtube is freely available for anyone to upload their content and get past the media gatekeepers of culture, who control the airwaves.. it’s here now and is not going to go away.
5. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not making music?
I love to read and watch films. This inspires my writing further. I take notes as I watch things also. So I’m kind of always working in a way. Other than that I like to see friends and enjoy the occasional drink. I like spending time with other people, but I’m not afraid to be on my own as well.
6. What are your future plans musically for yourself and Zadkiel? Tours?
Future plans are to write a 2nd Zadkiel album. We’ve only just met up recently after a hiatus enforced by the pandemic. I think everybody is keen to start a new phase and so writing new material is our main priority. Hopefully we will gig again next year, it’s still early days in terms of seeing each other again after some time spent apart. I have some songs which I could put out as another solo record, the new record has only just come out last year online, and the Cd release of Limbic System is in late summer, so I’m concentrating on promoting that at the moment. I will probably play some solo shows soon, once things have started up again properly.