“I wrote that,” Dan explains. “Everyone steals; I’m not ashamed to talk about it. There are influences and then there are things you just lift from other musicians. It’s better than going around thinking you invented something.”
I read a number of reviews of Dan Sartain’s newest album, Dan Sartain Lives, and many writers peg him as a man who did a good job of drawing on psychobilly’s deep aquifers and as a man who successfully imitates it. But many ignored the fact that Dan Sartain has put out three commercial releases and a bevy of plethoras of compilations, EPs, and singles. In my opinion, that’s impressive.
“It’s been a while now,” he quips. “I can’t remember all the shit to tell you the truth.”
His hometown is Birmingham, Alabama, the same town that took to burning Beatles merch after Lennon’s infamous claim to the highest of high towers. Sartain is a self proclaimed “John Lennonist,” and clearly took this to heart when writing Lives single, “Athiest Funeral.”
“You find a bunch of false metal in Birmingham,” he said, referring to the remarkably close-minded feel of Birmingham, and how it came close to hindering his growth as a musician. When it came to exploring, Sartain explains that “I knew, my brother knew, and some other kids knew good tunes. We passed around tapes and shit, ya dig?” Apparently, a combination of AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, and his father’s ability to raise a family, be an accountant, and still find time to rock out in various cover bands are what Sartain attributes his musical drive to.
Dan Sartain Lives was released on July 20th of this year, and led Sartain through the doors of the famous Toerag Studios. Toerag is an entirely analogue studio run by Liam Watson, and has been home to the likes of The White Stripes, Childish, and The Datsuns. Dan got his start when he recorded his first EP on “one of those blue Tascam 4 tracks,” and sent the resulting tape to John Reis of Swami Records. If you ask him though there is no preference: “I use old stuff, new stuff, whatever sounds good to me.”
Fair enough, I suppose; looking at the new album cover did make me wonder, though. The album art on his first two commercial records, Dan Sartain vs. The Serpientes and Join Dan Sartain, consist of Dan shooting or hanging himself. This cover though was very soft, almost tame (not in a bad way mind you, just a striking difference). In any case, Sartain is pictured with a pretty girl and he looks protective, loving, and like these efforts are being returned.
“It was just a nice un-posed picture. I don’t even remember taking it. It reminded me of Leonard Cohen or something.” Definitely checks out with the “whatever works” story.
That story has worked out pretty well so far for the now 28-year-old Dan Sartain, though in a couple of different interviews he has expressed some anxiety over the new album. His hope, after years underground, is that this album is monetarily successful. I was curious about the different scenarios that could play out with success or a monetary flop.
“Well, success would mean more interest in what you are doing, so mo’ money to do what you want. I want to do a lot of things.” A somewhat ambiguous assessment, but I reckon I’ll take it.
Sartain’s most recent tour started late July and lasted until the 19th of August. The tour included 13 dates with veteran punk rockers Social Distortion, which, Sartain says, “It’s good work if you can get it!”