Yes, as the title reads, we were lucky enough to catch Dan at the right time for this interview segment! If you don’t already know our adoration for this bloke, then check out our review on his Infinity EP here on the site!
Now Dan is an artist who hits well above his weight. He is doing things at the start of his career that prog musicians have only just discovered at the end of theirs. With unreal technical ability and massive song writing chops, it’s our pleasure to present to you our interview with Dan James Griffin… Hope you enjoy!
Q. Who would you cite as your influences and do you feel they effect your sound?
A. The biggest influence of mine band wise would have to be The Contortionist. Every one of their songs completely blows me away, the emotion they portray in such a complex form of music is so inspiring. Each of their albums being insane in their different ways, yet listening to Exoplanet onwards to Language you can hear them almost ‘mature’ musically. I love the contrast between the pure heaviness and the pure beauty of their music. However I don’t really think The Contortionist effect my sound much. I try hard not to get influenced by anyone too much to the point where I try to sound like them, I tend to try and stick to writing stuff that I don’t really listen to. That being said, I had a lot of people comment on a recent video of mine linking me to Tigran Hamasyan saying they hear similarities, I immediately checked him out and I think theres no denying he will be a huge influence on my next release, the music he composes is nuts! You can definitely tell he has a big influence on a lot of the prog scene. I find his style of piano playing to be very similar to my guitar playing, which I think is why I got a lot of comments relating to him. I definitely recommend checking him out! I have many more influences I could mention. Tyler, The Creator and the whole of Odd Future. I’m a huge fan of the dark vibes and lyrics they produce in a lot of their tracks and also the overall high energy they have which I find is very similar to a lot of metal. Guitarists such as Yvette Young and the obvious one Tosin Abasi inspire me when it comes to technique and playing. I guess Abasi’s playing and techniques may show in my compositions. Things such as the tapping style and percussive techniques that I sometimes use. But I try to apply that to my own sound still.
Q. How did you find the studio process when recording ‘Infinity’?
A. Believe it or not, that EP was recorded on top of a mountain in Wales! I was camping at the time and brought along my guitar and my laptop. That whole EP was recorded there and then. After knowing that I think that gives you a fair explanation as to why the production wasn’t great. I’m no producer and I attempted it all myself. Producing is something I definitely want to learn and I didn’t see any harm in experimenting and releasing something a little raw and rough and being as I hadn’t released anything in about a year I felt the need to release something. As far as the whole setup goes it was pretty simple! All I took with me was a small interface to record the guitars and everything else was programmed in my tent. luckily I am now working with Crossfade Productions on my next EP, it’s so nice to be working with an actual producer and this release will definitely be some of my best work yet, I am hoping to please many more people with the production this time as well as the compositions!
Q. What’s your favourite part about prog songwriting? Are there any particular moments you enjoy the most?
A. My favourite part about writing progressive music is just going with the flow of things, not overthinking too much about how the rhythm has to be or how the chord progression has to go, just experimenting with ideas and letting it all flow together. I tend to begin by writing a guitar riff and the whole song will usually evolve from that. The drums, piano and any other instruments will come after. I rarely think about what time signature I want to write in, it just always happens to be fairly complex. I think that’s the same for a lot of prog musicians. Things like the time signature isn’t often decided before writing. I still couldn’t tell you half of the time signatures to my own compositions! I also quite enjoy exploring other instruments after having a riff recorded. It’s very cool to explore all the synths and other unusual instruments that you’d never be likely to get your hands on and to experiment with them over your idea. You can really make your own unique and interesting sound and the capability us solo artists have nowadays just from our own home with today’s technology is incredible. Real recording studio’s seem to be slowly fading as more and more artists just create their own home studio and do everything themselves. You no longer have to pay thousands of pounds to get an album recorded in a studio! Another moment I enjoy about composing is that feeling you get when you write that one killer riff and it all gels together. You get that ‘buzz’, and if you’re a musician you’ll know the kind of buzz i’m talking about! There is also nothing better than that feeling of accomplishment after finally finishing a song or an album, an album you may have spent months or years writing, tweaking and perfecting and there is nothing more important than being happy with your own product. What I don’t quite enjoy about the composing side of things is the very regular problem that musicians get which is ‘writers block’. That is such a killer, can be weeks or even months until you can get back on your feet with fresh ideas. However when I do eventually overcome it I tend to write some of my best ideas and the long wait usually pays off. The most important thing I find about the writing process is just having fun and enjoying yourself, no matter how long It takes you to write a riff you’re actually happy with.
Q. What do you find difficult about the songwriting process for music as complex as yours?
A. One of the things I often find difficult is transitioning sections, I sometimes really struggle to make sections flow into one another often being because I use a lot of key changes, or so I’m told (I really need to learn music theory). Trying to make two parts fit is a real challenge when they are in different keys. It makes it harder how everything I do I do on my own, I don’t have someone I write ideas with, I’m completely independent. But this makes it difficult when I get stuck on things like transitions or writing certain melodies or maybe deciding on chord progressions. It’s always good to have a second persons opinion and to maybe just get some help every now and again, which is something I definitely need to start doing more. Having pretty much no theory knowledge, this can also make songwriting difficult for me. Having a good understanding of notes, chords and scales etc could really help when developing Ideas. It would definitely help with the transitioning problem too. However I personally don’t think theory knowledge is essential. As long as you have a pair of fairly decent ears then that is all you need to be able to create music, after all music is a sound, and if it sounds right to my ears then I will go with it. Theory Is just a bonus. One last major thing I can think of that makes things difficult for me is that I tend to get stuck in this loop of using the same sequence of notes or same chord shapes. I think this can actually be shown in the little music material I have released, you can hear a lot of similarities in most of my ideas and music. This is something I have always found difficult to get out of, but i’m pretty sure this is a common problem as well as writers block.
Q. Your music has received a ton of coverage and feedback in the past few months, what do you think that is down to?
A. I really don’t think I could tell you why, but I am so humbled and appreciative of the tonne of support I have gained over the last year. I’m still just some kid composing in his bedroom, but I’ve got so much to come and so much more to offer. I think some can just see the passion I really have for what I do, there’s not a lot else I enjoy and I am so determined to get myself out there and get my name known In the progressive community. With the amount of ideas and videos I post I think people are just waiting for me to drop a well produced product, which I am happy to say will hopefully be available early next year. It’ll be a well rounded small album that will immediately show the listener what I do and what I am about and I’m beyond excited to get it finished and give back to the number of people who follow me!
Q. Do you have any upcoming plans in the near future? Any projects or anything along those lines?
A. Indeed I do! Recently being sponsored by Crossfade Productions, who are a production and graphic designer company, I am now working closely with them and I am currently recording an EP/small album which so far is going really well. It feels so good to be working with an actual producer this time. Barney Oakley having been producing for many years and having a similar musical background to me I am really happy to have him working on it with me. After this EP is finished I have things lined up such as; live shows, playthrough videos, radio performances, possibly some cool music videos and hopefully some small tours around the UK which have been spoken about briefly with other similar artists. After being asked to tour Europe this year I was very disappointed to have to turn it down having not being ready to do such a thing, but tours will hopefully be a realistic thing once I get this album nailed and finished. I have also recently designed a custom guitar with a Russian company called Posique Guitars. I had EMG kindly send me some 909x’s to try out but unfortunately they wouldn’t fit in my Ibanez. So I discovered Posique and they are now in progress of building me my dream guitar, which the EMG’s will finally get some use for. This custom guitar design has actually been used for my logo created by Crossfade, so I like to think of it as a cool unique little trademark! I will be doing a lot of travelling and finally getting out of my man cave once the album is finished. I’m desperately looking forward to showcasing my music in person to real people.
Q. Do you have any advice for young prog instrumentalists trying to find their footing in the industry?
A. Set yourself a motivational goal. A goal that’s not too big or too small, one that is achievable and drives you to want to keep on doing what you’re doing and don’t stop until you’ve achieved it. Motivation is the biggest key along with consistency. The prog industry isn’t really huge and there’s only a certain distance you can go with it, but keep being consistent with your material and be as active as you can and interact with as many people as you can on social media sites or at live events. Making contacts is very important and can lead to greater things! I’m only just about getting my footing in the industry myself, having had slight attention off of companies such as EMG and Ibanez, right now I still have a long way to go but motivation is what really drives me.
Q. What was the last song you listened to and did you enjoy it?
A. The last song I listened to from this very moment was Tron Cat by Tyler, The Creator. Yes I enjoyed it, I love his extremely dark lyrics, there are some major dark parts especially in this track but i’m a big fan of that. I Just really dig the whole dark atmosphere of the track itself.
So there we have it! We want you all to send some love over to Dan on his social medias as it has been an absolute pleasure working with this guy. He’s so polite and attentive to detail, and he’s so enthusiastic about his craft. Also, he’s the first prog interview we’ve had on the site! That has to count for something eh? But anyways, back on to the point, it was a pleasure getting this segment together and we can only hope for more great stuff in the future!