Dan Cross has been traveling and making music since the 1980s, first performing in-band Perfect Disaster with Glass & later on Fire Records. Born in Hertfordshire, England, he learned guitar at the young age of 14 and has been following his passion for music ever since. His latest album “Atheist Anthems” is his first public solo album that was in the works for three years until it’s debut in 2019.
One of the tracks on Dan Cross’s latest solo album is “Vampyre Blues”, a haunting alternative track that uses slow and eerie melodies to draw in the listener. The song stands out with its memorable and eccentric lyrics, taking you on a tour of Dan’s inner thoughts and dreams. His deep, poetic voice, that in some points is almost spoken, adds an element of mystery to the song, and the minor progressions tie together the air of mystification. The whole song and backing track of guitar and other instrumentation slowly builds in a crescendo and ends with a certain intensity. The layers and harmonies added to his voice furthers the atmosphere of the song and gives an echo effect. “Vampyre Blues” is one that will give you chills during a first listen and will leave a lasting impression.
Listen to “Vampyre Blues” by Dan Cross here.
Welcome to BuzzMusic Dan Cross, and thanks for chatting with us today! What sparked your creativity and inspired you to write “Vampyre Blues”?
I always get accused of talking too much so I better come straight to your first question!!
I was inspired to write ‘Vampyre blues’ by feeling jaded after a long winter.
When I’m not making music I’m a gardener by trade but always have mixed feelings about springtime as it’s both a time of rebirth after winter but also the time when my life goes from the dark quiet of January & February to the sudden demands of March, warmer weather, the phone ringing constantly, life bursting back into color & hundreds of things to attend to.
That particular year I was kind of yearning to go back into hibernation and slightly dreading having to crank up my professional ( ie nonmusical) life once again & so one day I wrote in my phone notes a little sigh of ennui:
“ I’ve got the vampyre blues,
you know I grew up too fast
now when the Spring comes around
I see the leaves falling down..”
From there the rest of the song came really quickly with references to Roger Corman's garish movie ‘The Mask of Red Death’ and
a few lame jokes that just made me laugh out loud & kept my spirits up while I worked
(“When the stakes are high there’s a pain in my heart ..”)
I consider it a challenge to get a few gags in my songs & most of mine have one or two hidden somewhere if you can be bothered to look...
(incidentally, the spelling of Vampyre is to set my song apart from Neil Young’s much better known ‘Vampire Blues’)
What do you hope listeners take away from this track?
Just the desire to play it again sometime & perhaps take a little audio dream that makes them feel as though they’ve been somewhere weird.
Producer Pete O Brien and I talked a lot about movies & movie soundtracks when we were making the ‘ Atheist Anthem ‘ album & that was something we bonded over as we went along. We would use a reference like ‘Spy chase’ or ‘dream sequence’ to work out a direction. The sound in ‘Vampyre blues’ of a shovel digging heavy earth is a direct interpretation of a scene from Mel Brooks’ masterpiece ‘Young Frankenstein’ when the Baron & Igor are digging up a corpse in the rain!
You have many years of experience in the music business, and it is inevitable to go through changes creatively. How has your music taste changed since you began playing electric guitar at 14?
I started playing guitar along with my sister's Black Sabbath records when I was a teenager. Songs like ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Sabbath bloody Sabbath’ were actually pretty easy to play on two strings so therefore Sabbath is a great band to learn rudimentary chords from. Another good band would be Joy Division. I was really into hard rock as a kid & learned loads from bands like Led Zeppelin, Sabbath & Thin Lizzy but my favorite player was Paul Kossoff from Free - to this day I’ve not heard a more satisfying guitar solo than on the song ‘Alright now’, it's just got everything I love in electric guitar music. It’s expressive, intense & takes your mind on a trip.
What sort of music did you listen to back then?
This is is a thought-provoking question- playing in a full-on indie rock band like The Perfect Disaster satisfied the ‘guitar hero’ part of my personality and I for sure enjoyed making sudden changes in the music using distortion & feedback when playing live but I had been composing a lot of the music almost single-handedly towards the end of my time with them & easily felt I could step out & sing my own songs.
Coming from the indie school of rock I was never bothered much about singing powerfully and a lot of the best singers from that scene could hardly hold a note anyway (in the best possible way of course!) In fact one of my favorite singers of all is Astrid Gilberto who isn’t a million miles from someone like Bernard Sumner from New Order if you think about it as the voice is tender & small.
I´m not sure whether I prefer singing my own songs rather than backing up another singer - both have their own challenges that's for sure but also their unique rewards.
I would probably drop everything to work with a really good singer but most of my favorites are no longer around, unfortunately!!
What did you find challenging about switching to a solo career after performing in bands for all those years? Which do you prefer? How do you stay motivated when feeling a loss of creativity? What is something that always works to spark your imagination?
Good questions!! Truth is you just have to keep at it and trust that the muse will return - be warned though not every muse is going to calm your soul- if you’re in the muse business you better watch out! When my mum died in 2006 I stopped writing and composing music for nearly 10 years & it scared the hell out me - my guitars gathered dust & I almost forgot how to play or remember why I ever wanted to, I didn’t seek out any new artists & I hardly paid attention to the music all around me. I could talk about a transformative experience that happened one day but I’d rather just say this: Even when you think you have given up on the one true love of your life it doesn’t necessarily follow that she’s given up on you...
The music eventually came back to me & set me off on a strange but truly essential stage of my life with new faces & places, new experiences, and realities. So pay attention & don’t lose heart I guess. If it means the world to you then it will return.
What can we expect to see from you throughout 2020?
As usual, I have lots of new material on the go - I’ve been pushing on ahead with a new album that I’m hoping to bring out later this year which I’m co-producing with Donald Ross Skinner (ex of Julian Copes band). It’s hard to say what it’s going to be like at the moment- there are some stylistic similarities with ‘Atheist Anthems’ ( namely the cinematic influences, one song inspired by the ‘Sunset Boulevard’ film & one is kind of a little musical film idea for Donald Trump's funeral !! ) and there is quite a clear 1980s / Talking Heads sound coming out which is proving to be good fun but ultimately my deepest intention on this one is to just let go a bit and put myself into strange new musical worlds!
Lyrically it’s the usual sex, obsession, death pain, schizophrenia & suffering that people know and love me for. Perhaps a little more sex this time maybe. I have no deadline, no record company, and no contract with anyone so it’s my intention to just shake up the snow globe a bit !! Thanks for the interest.