Dan Reed about the Network life and the power of music
This article is about Dan Reed, as a person, his music, his believes and the power of music. It´s also a glimpse of me. Not because I am important in the story but because Dan´s music is to me and many others.
If I have had the chance to meet Dan when I was 13 years old, I would have been excited, but I am glad I had to wait until now. Now, in my 40´s I have the knowledge of life and a perspective that makes me understand him in a more truthful way.
I met Dan in Gothenburg before one of Dan Reed Networks gigs on their tour around Europe. The band was born 1984, in the middle of a never forgettable hard rock era. In a world where long hair was the signum of the music and rockers still was dangerous in many eyes. 1984 I was 9 years old. Living in a family where Jehovah Witnesses made the rules and the music allowed was far away from rock. Still, my heart belonged to rock music in general and Dan Reed Network in particular.
Let´s go back even further in time and see how Dan´s journey in music started.
– It started up with my mother singing. She was a kind of show singer. She was a young girl started at the age of 15 singing in the USO (United Service Organization) tours for the army bases in America. When I was in her life she was singing in the church, singing at parties with her friends. They played old tunes from the 40´s and 50´s, so I kind of grow up around that. She was always playing Elvis Presley records, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke and that kind of stuff.
– I started playing trumpet at school. Then I heard the first Van Halen record and that changed everything! I threw my trumpet in the closet and bought a guitar, started playing rock n’ roll, in bands, one band with Dan Pred (Drums DRN) in South Dakota. That kind of led us to the dream of becoming rock stars.
– I moved to Portland because a farm in the middle of South Dakota wasn´t the place to make it happen. Dan followed me and a year later we met Brion (guitar DRN) and Melvin (bass DRN). That´s where we started forming a solid band with our original music.
– We had this passion of getting a record deal, it was all these steps. We get a record deal and then it was time to get out on the road to tour the world. We toured with UB40, Bon Jovi, Rolling Stones and we kind of realized all these benchmarks we tried to make.
– Out of this process I kind of get more and more dissatisfied with the feeling it gave me as a human being. It felt like we were out on the road all the time, like we were more of a product instead of creators of music. When they started to ask us to cooperate with other writers who wrote for Kiss, Bon Jovi and so on I started to draw the line. I met these writers but it wasn´t why I got into music. I wanted to create music from out of my heart so to speak. If I couldn´t do that and if it wasn´t good enough for the label or the business, I didn´t wanted to be in the business at all. So, at a certain stage, after the Stones tour, when I was burned out of all photoshoots, interviews and propped up with all the merch and stuff. We were not home much at all. It was exhausting for all of us and we started to look at the people that was coming to the shows as numbers instead of human beings.
– I was gifted with a book called “The Words of Gandi” in 1989. I started to read about his philosophy in life and I realized it was the exact opposite of where I was heading as a person. I thought about what I could do to change that. With the “Heat” album, I thematically turned in these theories into music. Sadly, that was the record that sold least of our three albums. The management suggested me to take a year of. So, I did, and it turned into two and three years and we split up.”
From being a Rock star, Dan started to search for “the real life”. Writing music was not a part of that for a long time. There is a very interesting story of his life journey that we don’t have the space for in this particular article but look out for more later on.
Anyway, after years of ups and downs, Dan decided to come back to his music.
– To come back to music, it was back to the same theories. I was living in the north of India in a monastery, instead of reading about Gandhi’s philosophy, I actually lived it on a daily basis and I started to realize maybe I can infuse this intension into music again and instead of being a slave of record label we can be in charge of our own destiny. Then I wrote “Coming up for air”, in Jerusalem after I left India.
“Coming up for air” was Dan Reed´s first solo album. It took him 3 years to write it and he tells me that time is an important factor in his artistic work.
– This is the album I feel has the best lyrics and sound compared to my other solo albums. It´s because I had time to work it through 100 %.
Dan Reed as a solo artist is much softer than the Network but the soul is the same. Just a little more personal I think. He continues the story:
– People get, “hey we like this music, maybe you should go touring again”, and that led to a second solo album and a third and the Network got back together in 2013. So, it was all a natural progression of a full circle and now we just having a blast on the road and we are writing songs together again. There seems to be no negative feelings towards each other or towards the fans.
– We have our own label. With our last album we used another label and I think it was a good move to make the rock world know we are making music again but in the same time it was part of the same game with the label taking all the money ha ha!
We were willing to take that sacrifice to our first album but now with our second album we are doing, coming out in November and the next one in 2020, we are in control of. We book our own tours and so on. Our manager based in UK is helping us with great ideas as the studio sessions events where we actually have an audience in the studio while we record the album. It´s a way to bring in the audience on the same level as the band. They are surrounding us, so they are not only there physically but also metaphorically. Without the fans around us listening, we are nothing.
– I would say it has been a life of trying to get back to melody and lyrics and intensions. It´s been my goal.
For me personally, music is the way to get power, energy but also total relaxation in mind. As a metal head I can stand in front of a heavy concert and let the adrenaline rush through my body and get me the power I need in life. But I can also stand in the same place and feel totally calm. Rock music can be an excellent tool for meditation.
Without the music I would probably not be here today. Let me come back to that soon.
What is music for you, Dan?
– I think it´s a way to communicate to strangers, a way to confess that we are all suffering from and are blessed by the same experiences. We all have the same desires of life even if you’re a Muslim or a Christian, gay or straight, black or white, if your elderly or in high school. I think that music kind of allows people realize that we are on the same plane field. And if you do it right, you write a song from your heart with a really strong intension, you can communicate with the whole planet and maybe even with beings of other planets ha ha, that´s my hope.
– That are what songs are to me. Music is about resonating frequencies. There is a healing quality of quarter structures, harmonic structures and I think if you are blessed, you can strike gold on all those levels. You can have a song that resonates harmonically with people, lyrically. If you do that you write a song that can cross all boundaries. Like the song “Imagine” of John Lennon. I think for me that´s a goal.
– I know many artists write music and you don´t really care if you have a wide audience or not. The Network has always been about reaching as many people as possible. No matter what age or culture. It´s our goal to bring the world together a little bit. If we can contribute to that. Because we only have one planet to share and the way it´s torn apart of politics, religion, sexuality and environmental stuff is devastating. How do we bring all these together? That´s what the Network is all about for me.
We continue to speak about the impact of music. The force made by tones so powerful it can change people, maybe change the world a little.
– Unlike art, theatre, photography, painting, movies, literature, dance etc. All those things are special, but music seems to be that one art form that transform all that to some degree. I´m not sure why but a certain melody, a rhythm, can affect anyone directly. A book or a movie needs translation. Music can paint a picture in your head like no other art form so it´s very special.
One of the songs from DRN meant most to me is “I´m so sorry”, released 1988. During this time suicide was highly present in my mind and also in my closest environment. DRN´s music was one of the sources of power that actually kept me alive. This particular song earned as a visualizer of me gone and served as a kind of counsellor. It might sound strange, but I think everyone has a song affects them in a way no one else can understand completely.
I asked Dan about the story behind the song.
– We were recording our first album up in Vancouver Canada and I read a story in the newspaper of a young woman committed suicide and I was just “wow”! She was 15 years old. How can it be? This was long before like it´s now when you hear about it all the time. Back then you didn´t. There was no such thing as social media and suicide was an unspeakable subject. Maybe it happened like frequently and we just didn´t hear about it, or it happens more now.
– I was shocked and decided to dig deeper in to the story. It was a girl who got pregnant and her family and her friends made her feel ashamed of the choices she made rather than support her. So, she ran away from home and eventually she took her life and also the life of her unborn child. The way of the story…… How could everyone just let it happen? I wanted to write a song about it and I think it inspires people who listen, to feel a certain sadness about it and in the same time a call to arms to be there for our family and friends when they need us. So, the metaphor of someone coming knocking on her door and finding out she doesn’t live there anymore in a physical way. It was a good image.
As a young teenager I went to the local library and read the music magazine “Okej”. I think every swede remember that one. I read about rock bands, and sorry, I stole some of the posters of Dan Reed and other idols and hide it into my room. I remember a picture of Dan in a sauna with his long, black hair. Not long after that he shaved his head and put us fans into shock for a while…..
– I got a lot of hate mail when I cut my hair. The saddest one was “Shaving your head was like killing dolphins, because your hair was so beautiful”. I didn’t wanted people to react that way.
– The thing for me was cutting the paradigm a little bit. Rock music was all about long hair and cutting your hair was about getting a job, get on a tie and a suit. In the 80´s long hair was its own suit like corporate cloth for rock business. So, I thought, what is the last thing a rock musician would do?
– There was a lot of negative response but also good. Even to this day. I met Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin and he came up to me. This was the reason I met him. He said “I heard you shaved your hair of. It looks good on you, I don´t think it would look good on me”. So even my hero in the rock n’ roll world had read about it and it was shocking to the rock business.
This shaving move was also a turning point for Dan himself;
– It also made me realize that I didn’t really cared about being a rock star any more. I´m on a new mission now. I love to write music but all running around posing, photo shoots and stuff like that, was me fitting in to the mall of being a rock star. When I shaved it of I just “maybe I don’t wanna be a rock star. I maybe should write music for other people”.
– So, I got in to theatre, I wrote a screenplay, I did three plays and made a film. I got an offer to make a second film but that was in the same time when I got the offer of buying the night club in Portland I ended up running.
– I went from shaving my hair of, changing my view of the business to putting out the album “Heat” 1991. And maybe the world wasn´t ready for the message yet or it was already past it, I don’t know. I also realized that I didn’t wanted to be on the road that much anymore.
There is a difference between living on the road only for the money and do the same thing because of other intensions. Nowadays Dan lives in Prague with his girlfriend and 6 year old son but his everyday life is still much on the road.
– The ironic is that I have never been on the road as much as the last ten years but now I´m doing concerts with the intensions to help people celebrating life or getting through some experiences in their life. Or make peace with death in the family or of some friend. So, when I have that intension it´s different.
– We always want to deliver some kind of positive energy. As long as we do that it feeds me with energy. To see the smiling faces, hear about their reflections of the songs and so on.
Music, life and search for guidance’s has brought him to many different homes in the world. He explains why he ended up in Prague.
– Architecture really. I found out about Prague back in 1990 when we played with The Stones. If I wasn’t a musician I would be an architect. Finding a city where the building is so ornate with so much creativity and the structure of the city. It still fascinates me.
– Now it´s all about steel and glass structures made to be efficient. Back than it was like, “how can we make this city into something enjoyable even artistic”.
– I lived in Paris, my relationship ended, and I was either moving to Berlin, Glasgow or Stockholm because of the music scenes. In that time, I had a gig booked in Prague and I felt, “I wanna live here”.
– You can walk down the streets and It feels like you are transported in time and it also make you feel you´re in touch with souls from 100´s and 100´s of times. It´s something about that. I don´t necessarily believe in ghosts, but I do believe that the physical world holds on to everything happened to it. You can go to Auschwitz and feel it´s very, very dark. Prague to me is very happy, very saddle.
It´s obvious that Dan is a spiritual person. All people believe in something. Not necessarily in terms of a God or a higher power. I asked Dan an open question; What do you believe in?
– I believe in the human race to survive more than anything. I think all of these 1000 of years of our existents it should not be a waste. All that we have learned and developed, art, languages, technology. I want it to add up to something instead of self-destruction. By war or environmental issues. I want this world to exist long after I am gone. Even if you believe in reincarnation or not, I want my soul of my 10’th or 20’s or 50´s life should have a world that we can be proud of. Whatever takes us there, politics, religion – we need to care and take care.
– That´s why I like Scandinavia so much. You seem to care about the earth and each other. The intension of your countries is in the right way. I hope the positive spirit and culture of your people will influence the negative rather than the negative influence your culture.
In another time and place I could have gone into a long discussion about this….. Yes, maybe we have a better culture compared to some big countries, but I believe many people have an “old version” of Sweden in mind. We are not always so good as we want the world to believe…..
Anyway, Dan has a good relationship to Sweden since a long time.
– I have been here for a couple of months now and then, renting a house, but I have never lived here. I love the country, but I grow up in South Dakota with very hush winters and I don’t like the cold. I would love to have a summer home here sometime.
– I love to play here! Even since our first show in Melody 1998 in Stockholm it seems like the Swedish people has embraced our music. If you look in to the history of music it seems like you’ve always has been into melody, like Abba, Swedish Dance music, Europe etc. I have always been proud of the Network being about melody rather than over production.
Dan Reed Network seems to be a healthier band than ever. I can feel the harmony in the room while I do the interview but most of all, I can feel it when I see them om stage. Joy and true happiness are what I get from stage. I am also healthier now compared to when I discovered DRN. First time I saw Dan Reed live I cried during the whole show. Today, the same music still touches my soul but without the dark shadow.
The future looks bright and the band has a full schedule in front. More shows, a film maker making a documentary about the bands journey of music. It´s going to be about their music, the split, the comeback, Dan’s drug addiction, his search for spiritual guidance’s and then back to music. It´s ready next year. Dan is also working on a book about the same thing.
2019 is going to be much about writing new songs. As in the case of “Coming up for air”, Dan needs his time off for daydreaming, and to canalize the energy and his intensions into new lyrics.
– My goal is in 2020, to release the best album we have ever made. More powerful thematically, lyrically, in the production than we ever created.
I look forward to be a part of the bands future, as one of all souls in the human audience.