Artists profile – Moll Baxter interviews Dan Haywood

Moll becomes the interviewer…

dan haywood

Holographic on Headphones

Chain Reaction Interview of Dan Haywood.

Questions by Mollie Baxter

How goes the epic undertaking of recording the 3LP/2CD New Hawks songs?

It’s been about three years so far. Horrible.

So it’s moving slowly, but we’re in the final approaches.

It really shouldn’t be that hard. How long’s a rock album on average– forty or fifty minutes? New Hawks will only be a two-hour rock album.

This year we’re lucky to have found a room that suits – a medium-large church.

The drums, lap steel and celtic harp sound best in the choirs, the cello in the middle of the nave, the double bass by the lychgate… and so on…we’ve experimented with the space and microphone techniques in that way instead of relying on FX.

Lovely golden, transparent sound that couldn’t be better. Holographic on headphones… It means that the earlier recordings sound gruesome by comparison. I’ve been tempted to re-record them…….we might re-amp some tracks in the church, but beyond that it’s too late.

New Hawks has been given some pretty genre-busting tags and reviews. ‘Hebridean country-tinged folk,’ ‘Anglo-Caithnesian Folk’, and ‘Post-Americana…island folk…’ You yourself have been described as ‘clinging to the event-horizon of a black hole by your fingernails.’ What has been the most outlandish/accurate/baffling…

When I was in The Puma-Sutras, we had a lot of press. Usually wide of the mark. I was a “sexy stick insect” to young Ingrid Kent, which warm-blooded me liked nonetheless. The same piece was described by two writers as “Swedish death metal” and (most insultingly) “Ocean Colour Scene tribute.” The truth was clearly somewhere between the two. The Melody Maker printed “ …and the singer sounds as if he’s been sucking helium from kids’ balloons.” That was very close. But I had my own supply.

Given that the ‘New Hawks,’ are the 31 songs you wrote during a ‘shocker’ of a one-month burst, if each band member was a hawk, which would they be and why?

I’m glad that you mentioned that the songs themselves are New Hawks. I came up with the group of songs and put a name to them… a little later, showcasing the songs was way better with a band, which never got a name… And the question is pleasantly Blind Date.
There’re actually too many fellow players– and not enough Accipiter species for a full comparison. But Jeff (percussion, keyboards) is a female Northern Goshawk– just for adaptability, agility and brute strength. If I have a niggle with a take it’s a case of ”Jeff– can you fly through that thicket at seventy kph, flip upside down and decapitate that giant rat for me?” Consider it done.
Music-wise, he can do whatever’s needed.
Richard Turner (gtr) strikes me as Pale Chanting Goshawk- different tactics for the Pale Chanting. Sat on top of a telegraph pole, looking down and around in the belting sun. He’s a sentinel with impeccable balance and timing.
Mikey Kenney (fiddle) is a juv. Levant Sparrowhawk. They too veer to the East on S-bound migration. He covers a lot of ground, gets big air! First he’s one Levant, and then there’s two hundred. He’s become two hundred wheeling over the Bosphorous. Spanning Europe and Asia. (Europe being the ballad, and Asia being a jam).
Gary (pedal steel) is a Red-tailed Hawk (the falconer’s friend)– only because he likes America, likes to sit on leather-gloved fists…
To drift off-topic into other raptor families makes this game easier, Mollie….. so Paddy Steer’s a Merlin, Theresa’s a Black-eared Kite, Mia’s Elanus Caeruleus……Simon’s a Windhover cos he flickers incessantly.  I’m most like a big, lazy Griffon Vulture… Bill’s not with us at the moment – he’s sub-Saharan – a wintering Osprey perfecting grasps…..I dunno………

I read two reviews, one of which said you don’t take yourself seriously, the other that you took yourself very seriously. Do you think you’re a bit of a mystery to people?

Does ‘mystery’ mean that people desperately want to know? In that case, no!  But it’s true that I’m misread by most harmless bystanders… I often can’t make my intentions (or anything else) clear. Even my girlfriend doesn’t understand what I’m on about for the most part. I hate it. I’m unintelligible on most levels.

In diary form, take us through a typical day in Caledonia when you were observing bird colonisation and writing 31 songs. How did it all happen?

Headache….involuntary ablutions… bait the hooks…

I lived and worked in the very far North of Scotland for about eighteen months, and New Hawks was inspired by that part of my life in that part of the world, which was mind-bending and life-changing. Indescribable except by means of song.

I wish I’d have taken more photographs….I came up with some of the music out there… modelled on the contours of the North coastline in one case. Strathy Point was an E-minor, D seemed right for Melvich, the riptide was in waltz-time and so on. That song’s called Middle Nowhere.

But the vast majority of the songs were written on English turf, a few months after I had fled Scotland. I had fallen into some evil species of depression and the songs looked North while I was trapped inside that. A gruesome time, but ultra-focussed as a result…it was tightly written. Almost overloaded in parts.

So I cannot really answer your question in diary-style, because the songs came after. Soz.  One of the New Hawks is an expedition song written in diary-form tho. It’s called New Hawks of the Great Interior,

verse 2 goes like this:

Day two-hundred

The dust-clouds lose their wonderment

A native bearer drowns

Losing Steller’s eiderdown

But the comet shone all nite—It soldiered on past morning’s light.

Lou Reed and Neil Young are having an argument.

a.      Who started it and how?

b.      Who swings the last punch?

c.      Who gets the last word?

I’m not too familiar with Lou Reed or Neil Young I’m afraid. Let me listen to some best-of cassettes and I’ll get back to you.

If you hadn’t been a musician, what other artistic (or otherwise) discipline do you think you might have followed?

It’s flattering to be described as a musician. Say it again!

I’m a low-down bum….I can draw a bit, but– a Gibson SG or a 4B pencil? No competition.

Music isn’t a competition. Watercolour Challenge was.

Poetry wasn’t an option for me.

Is it a good thing for Lancaster to have an HMV in the High Street?

It’s a good thing for the bassist in Uncle Jeff, and that’s a good enough reason for me.

He used to have a lovely red Rickenbacker bass, and now I think he has a Fender Precision in white. All paid for by working there.

It’s OK. There are superior record shops elsewhere. Mail-order. But if you want to touch the produce before you decide to buy – HMV’s your local option.

Share with us a moment in your life you have truly savoured.

Savouring this one right now. I’m in Golspie, Sutherland. The work’s been rained-off and I’m in a nice B and B, with Wi-Fi.

I’m enjoying responding to these e-questions, so thank you.

And finally, what would you like on your gravestone?

An etch-a-sketch.


8 Responses

  1. Wow!!, thats a really quite a lovely interview. Its difficult to penetrate Dan (oo,er), he’s a real indecipherable chap, and usually deflects any type of enquiry of this sort with his surreal humour.
    Brilliant work you two. Enjoyed very much.

  2. This is an awesome piece of torch-passing, Moll.

  3. This is excellent. I’d like to see more of these. It’s really lovely to find out more about people and their songs in their own words, but most people (rightly) have to be prompted to just write about themselves like this.

    This article in particular was smart, friendly and fun, too.

    Great work, guys!

  4. Really interesting interview thanks, Mollie.

  5. On rereading this gets even better. I am going to a meeting about engine emissions soon and will seek an opportunity to say “there aren’t enough Accipiter species for a comparison” to see how my colleagues react. Mind you, I will be bringing along a picture of Wilson’s Stormy Petrel, Oceanites oceanicus, so it’s not all stodgy.

  6. I like the photo, who took it?

  7. good un there our moll…

  8. You can help Mr Haywood by registering and voting here:

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