As someone who is interested in film soundtracks, but comes from an alternative rock music background, it was only a matter of time before I would come to have a renewed appreciation for the post rock genre. And having discovered outfits such as Jakob, If These Trees Could Talk, Rosetta, Baulta etc, one artist that recently caught my attention was the Liverpool based guitarist Dan Caine.
Describing himself as someone “who creates atmospheric, soulful and emotive ambient music”, Dan Caine has been busy creating music since the age of 15 and only recently released his career best magnum opus – Solace. With the album generating a nice buzz for itself online, I was pleasantly surprised of the digital download not costing much – although I would have gladly paid more for the privilege of owning the album in physical format. Still, it’s early days yet, and I hope that the album does get reissued as part of a limited edition vinyl / CD.
You can listen to Solace below… and if you like the album (as you should), then go and support Dan Caine by buying it from his Bandcamp page. In the meantime however, and what follows, is my interview with the hugely-talented guitarist. Enjoy!
Can you describe your musical background prior to embarking on your recording career? What got you into music, how did you come to choose guitar as your primary instrument, and what factors determined your choice in wanting to make “atmospheric, soulful and emotive ambient music”?
I first picked up the guitar at the age of 15. My Dad, who was also a guitar player, bought me an acoustic guitar and taught me a few basic chords, and from there I taught myself, which I think helped me to develop my own playing style. I’ve never received any formal training. I started recording my guitar as a hobby from early on, though back then my recording process and gear was quite unsophisticated. I discovered after a while that I really enjoyed the recording and mixing process, and began experimenting with layered, ambient guitar soundscapes. I found this approach to be a great way of expressing myself and I was able to capture my emotion and feelings in quite a profound way.
You describe yourself as a guitarist from Liverpool. Given the city’s musical heritage and talent, why have you opted to remain largely solo as opposed to forming a band? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach?
I’m quite an introverted person, and have always tended to work better alone in pretty much everything. I’ve played briefly with other people and bands over the years but have found that I can express myself better when I work alone and can make the music that I want to make. The downside to that is there is nobody else to contribute ideas, to help motivate you, and to give you feedback on the music while you’re creating it. So I’ve had to be self-driven.
Liverpool is famously known for producing The Beatles during the 1960s. What is the city’s band and music scene like today, and how has it influenced your own musical development?
The Liverpool music scene has evolved over the years and for such a small city, there is a diverse array of live acts and interesting venues. There’s definitely a strong creative buzz about the city which has encouraged my own creativity and musical endeavours.
You’ve managed to release five albums since 2013 (with Solace only coming out in April this year). How do you maintain such a strong work ethic without burning out or running out of ideas? How do you stay motivated and consistent in your efforts?
I normally only make music when I get a strong urge to do so. I can step away from it for a while if I need to recharge. Sometimes I can go fairly long periods without making any music, other times I’ll record steadily over a long period of time, and sometimes I’ll have quite a short, intense burst of creativity. For example, I recorded the entire Transience album in about four days, but my following album, Cascades, was recorded gradually over a few months. I also tend to avoid putting too much thought into the music making process. For me, the creative process is unconscious and begins with a vibe or feeling, which I then try to capture, undisturbed by thoughts, “ideas” and concepts. The concepts then begin to form naturally and the music will tell its own story. I guess I stay motivated because I’ve always got a desire to express myself and I think music is the best way I can do it.
Your albums don’t normally consist of you playing instrumental guitar, as they feature a wide variety of effects and instruments. What is the recording process like for a typical album and what difficulties do you encounter in the process – especially in the context of melding all of the divergent sounds as part of a seamless whole, and as a solo artist?
When I record music, I don’t typically set out with the intent of making an album, or even with an idea of the direction the music will end up going. Sometimes I will have ideas as to how I want it to sound, but usually it could go in pretty much any direction. I normally begin by creating a fairly simple chord progression on my guitar, and gradually build the sound and add effects through my digital audio workstation. I liken it to an expressive, abstract painting, where I intuitively add layers of colour and texture. I prefer to record each guitar line continuously, as that way it helps the song to flow and to build naturally, and is more meditative and intuitive. Other times I will record different guitar themes separately and patch them all together. I primarily use my electric guitar, sometimes with synth instruments. It can be difficult to blend everything seamlessly, but usually it happens pretty naturally. Sometimes, however, it just doesn’t work, and so I step away from it and move onto something else.
For newcomers and fellow fans alike, which album would you say is your personal favourite and why?
I’d have to say Solace would be my personal favourite. For me, it’s the deepest and most emotive one I’ve created, and it contains some of my favourite pieces that I’ve ever written. For example, ‘Remnants’, ‘The Last Tide’, ‘Lost’.
Since the release of Solace, you’ve been busy working with singer / songwriter Hailey Rose on the Lunar Sol two-piece project and recently released an EP in June. Can you tell us a little bit more about Lunar Sol – such as how you met Hailey Rose, how the band formed, how it differs from your own output, how you come up with ideas for the band (whilst still maintaining an individual identity in terms of having material for your own solo project), when is the album out, is Lunar Sol a one-time project or a long-term concern?
I was contacted earlier this year by Hailey, who is a singer/songwriter from the US, and now my partner. She expressed interest in collaborating with me, and we made our first song together, called ‘Wandering Star’, which you can find on our recent EP. Her vocals on the track blew me away and we both felt we had a very synergistic vibe together. She was able to produce very beautiful, ethereal vocals which complimented my style very nicely. We decided we wanted to continue working together and so the Lunar Sol project was born. I’m now in LA, working with her on an album, and we’ll return to the UK in September. We’ll hopefully release the album within the next few months. Working with a vocalist is a very different experience for me as I now have to write music with vocals in mind and structure it accordingly, whereas my individual style as a solo artist tends to be more free-flowing and less structured. We both compose songs and are able to bounce ideas off each other, which I find very rewarding and it is helping me to develop as an artist. The Lunar Sol project is definitely something I want to pursue long term.
Given your previous track record and form, it’s probably safe to say that a new solo record is imminent. Any idea as to when it will be out, and thematically speaking, what will you be looking to explore? What can fans expect?
I’ve written a few tracks that will likely end up on an EP or an album, but I don’t know when that will be released at this point. For the last few months, my creative focus has primarily been on the Lunar Sol project while we work on our album. I’ve also finished a collaborative album with musicformessier, entitled Timelessness, which should be out pretty soon – hopefully September.
You’ve stated that you’re unsure as to whether you’ll ever play your solo material in a live setting because you’re unsure as to whether it would translate across well. Now that you’re part of Lunar Sol however, what are the chances of the band touring – with you playing improvised renditions of your solo songs as part of the setlist?
Playing live shows is definitely something we have in mind, and we plan on developing that aspect of our project soon. I imagine we’ll work on some acoustic versions of our songs initially and develop it from there. It’s quite possible that I’ll play some of my songs if I can figure out a way of conveying the vibe of my music effectively.
Lastly, do you prefer vinyls or CDs? Why?
There are positives and negatives of each but I support vinyl for its lossless audio quality.