The full audio of the interview, plus some of Dan's solo music, can be found here. The end of the audio interview also contains directions on how to enter to win an Asian Man prize pack featuring both of Dan Potthast's CD's (Sweets and Meats and Eyeballs), The Lawrence Arm's Cocktails and Dreams, the re-release of Alkaline Trio's goddamnit and other Asian Man swag.
First I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
No problem, thanks for asking me to do the interview.
So, I guess the first thing is that you have a pretty long musical history, if you could just give us a brief rundown of that.
Yeah, sure. Okay, well I started playing music my freshman year in High School with some of my best friends. That's the band I started called MU330. We still play. We're still playing shows and writing and recording. Our first show was in 1988.
(Laughs) Yeah we were a band in the 80's, which is pretty hard to wrap my own brain around. But, We played all over with that band. We played in the United States. We've been to Europe a bunch and Japan and Korea and Russia. Alaska. Hawaii. All over the place. That band's taking me all kinds of crazy places. I also have solo albums out and I play in a couple of different bands besides MU330, when I'm not on tour with them.
So when did you start working on your own solo stuff?
Uhm…Now, probably about eight years ago. I just had a handful of songs that didn't quite fit with the MU330 stuff and I went in and recorded it with a friend who worked at a studio. So, I had these new songs recorded and Mike, from Asian Man Records, just offered to put it out. I never intended to release it and I thought, "Really, you'll put that out?". So he put out an album, before I knew it I had an album and I thought, "I guess I should play solo shows now". (laughs) That's just kind of how it started. I never intended like, "I'm going solo" kind of thing. It just sort of happened.
MU330 is a pretty large band, is it weird going from that to just yourself on stage?
Yeah, it's a lot different. I do miss having the full, loud rock n' roll behind me. If I drop a line or screw up they got my back. I know when we walk into a club and we rock out as a band we're gonna kick butt. Solo it could go either way (laughs) and any blunders are painfully evident. It's good for me, I think. I feel like if you can carry a show by yourself, when you get up with a band it's just that much easier. So, I think it's helped with my shows with MU330.
So we mentioned [before the interview] that you moved from Saint Louisto Santa Cruz. Now, was that your first move of that size?
Yeah, I grew up and lived in Saint Louis my whole life. I traveled with my band. I knew I was ready for a change and ready for something different and I loved Northern California. I met some awesome people out here. Some of the guys I met like in Slow Gherkin, Mike, from Asian Man Records, he lives in Northern California and we were really tight. So, it just made sense to move there. Plus in Santa Cruz it's almost selfish we have these beautiful redwood trees and ocean. It's like the best of so many worlds.
And a theme park. You ever go to the Boardwalk?
Absolutely. The Giant Dipper, all the way.
I'm a big fan of the carousel with getting the rings in the clowns mouth.
Me too. You wouldn't think…I never thought, "Oh that carousel man", but when there's something to do it's like a video game, there's a challenge. Like, "I'm gonna get it in that damn clowns nose, or whatever". (laughs)
Well get you to play on the big stage, where they have the free shows with like The Beach Boys.
The Beach Boys? I wish they had the Beach Boys. They get like Eddie Money and Tiffany. (laughs) Actually, she was amazing.
You saw her play there?
Twice. (laughs) Yeah, I'm a big fan of the free Friday night concert series at the Boardwalk. Last year they got the English Beat to play and they were amazing.
I think they're starting to do the free concert circuit because they just played Music in the Park over in San Jose…and I missed them there.
Well, you can go to Las Vegas on September 8 and see MU330 play with the English Beat.
That's right, during the Ska Circus.
The Ska Circus (laughs). That's got to be the funniest name for a show ever. It's gonna be a circus let me tell you.
Do you know who all is playing?
I know some of the people. I know Mustard Plug is playing…uhm, Pietasters I think Voodoo Glow Skulls, ourselves, Toasters, English Beat and I think, maybe Westbound Train and a handful of other bands.
It's got to be pretty awesome to play with the English Beat.
Yeah, there one of the two-tone bands that I haven't had the chance to play with yet. So, I'm pretty excited to play with some heroes.
So, in August of last year you mentioned you were working on a handful of recordings and you were hoping to have an album out around December, so what happened to all that.
(laughs) Uh-oh. Okay, well…did I mean last December or this coming December?
I believe it was last December, 2006.
Oh gosh, yeah I missed it. Well, I do have an album out that's been out for a few months. An album called Eat the Planet that's a solo one and I have a new album with a new band coming out in October or November, sometime around there. A band called The Stitch Up. That's coming out on a label that…Streetlight Manifesto, the guy Thomas, is starting a new label and one of the first albums he's going to release is The Stitch Up. Then we're going on tour with Streetlight Manifesto in the Winter. That's the big announcement that no one knows, except you guys. You got the inside scoop. So that's exciting. We're going to have a new album out and be on a big tour, so that's big for me. Then September we have a handful of shows with MU330 and Mustard Plug around the Midwest.
Then when you go on tour with Streetlight Manifesto you can get on Thomas about when their new album is going to be out.
Well it's going to be out. It's supposed to be out for that tour, that's the plan. That's what I hear.
I know when you recorded Eat the Planet you had mentioned possibly re-recording it in a more professional studio, do you still see that happening?
Yes…Uhm…Possibly. I'm not sure because I have about five or six other albums written of other things, that it almost seems to make more sense to keep moving along. Get new songs recorded. I'd like to. My original idea was to re-record Eat the Planet in LA and get as many guests from the ska world as I could. Get all my friends that I've toured with that are around the LA area. So, that still sounds really fun to me but I just don't have the time. I'm trying to get this album out for the Streetlight tour and it's all that I can do to get that finished. So, we'll see about re-releasing Eat the Planet. That might have been wishful thinking.
Is it ever hard to differentiate songs as you write them? Like, this could be for MU330 or my solo album?
Not usually. Like the songs just seem to fit. Usually when I write I have a project in mind, so I've gotten kind of used to that [process].
I know you had Sweets and Meats and Eyeballs got put out as a double LP in the UK with two unreleased songs, can you tell me what those were?
Those are two songs, that are on Eat the Planet, from the Eat the Planet sessions. So they got tacked on to the UK becase, Eat the Planet in not available in the UK.
So where can people get Eat the Planet?
They can order it on-line, from me. Evidently, the Paypal button, I did something wrong. It was working for a little while and now people are e-mailing me like, "It doesn't work".
It's charging like $8,000.
Yeah…haha, trust me, maybe eight cents is more like it, with my PayPal sales.
Sound Guy Nariman: Hurry up and get it now.
(laughs) I actually think nothing happens when you click the button but if you e-mail me we can work out a plan.
I have to ask, one of the first [solo] songs of your that really disturbed me was "Perryville". For those who may not know it's about [Dan's] brothers going, with their grandparents, to see girl who was petrified. Is that an actual story?
True story. Absolutely. Perryville, Missouri, there was a church there that below the alter, it's all kinda in the song. But, the story goes she was on her way up to receive her first communion and her father did not approve. So, he shot her as she was on her way to receive her first communion. But, rather than her bleeding to death and dying and rotting like most people would, it was a miracle. As soon as he shot her she turned to stone. She was petrified. So this church had this petrified girl that they kept in glass, below the alter. You could go and check this out.
I know in the song it was your brothers but have you had a chance to check this out?
No, I have never seen it. They moved her at some point. The last I heard she was moved to some convent somewhere in Saint Louis. I don't know. I'd like to get a look at it.
And your grandparents took them? Were they like really religious or was it just like a sideshow to them?
I think, you know, it was just kind of a different time. (laughs) It was a while ago. That was the thing they told me this story and it just seemed so unbelievable…I asked my brother about it and my mom and they both confirmed it. It was just so strange to me I just had to write a song about it.
You just thought, "that's the kind of thing I need to sing about".
Yeah, that's the kind of thing I need to confuse people (laughs). And then talk about for a long time in an interview. (laughs)
So do you have plans to do new solo material anytime soon? I know you have a million things coming up.
Yes. Uhm…Well I've got this new band (The Stitch Up) is kind of like my new solo thing. I got that, I also have plans…I play in a band called Spitzer in Santa Cruz, with my fiancé and my buddy Greg. We have an albums worth of stuff that I'd like to record. I also play in a band with my friend Matt Porter who used to play in Slow Gherkin, we play all surf, ska, guitar stuff that's mostly instrumental. That's a project I'd like to get recorded. Yeah, I have so much stuff.
Basically you can spend the next 8 years in the studio.
Yeah, and I still wouldn't have it all recorded.
There's a lot of people who have side projects or solo projects and it's just a side deal. You seem like the creativity is just pouring out of you.
Well, it's always why I've been in a band and why I do what I do. I love music and I love to play it and write it. That feeling of creating a new song…and then at the end of the day you look back like, "that didn't even exist when I woke up". That feels so good and that's the rush that keeps me playing music.
At least it's not money or something.
(laughs) Certainly, that is not what has kept me in the game. Maybe once I learn to work those PayPal buttons.