Photo credit: Amanda Rose
“When we were younger,” remembers Dan Reed, “a lot of our egos were involved. So we always wanted to make sure we shined as individuals and we had a lot of arguments about that consequently.
“Now we all realise it’s OK to not show off. In fact, it’s better to not show off, and give each other space to have time to think and to feel the music, as opposed to pushing it onto people.”
But don’t for one second think Dan Reed Network have gone soft. ‘Fight Another Day’, their first album in 25 years, more than lives up to its title – and the funk-rock legacy of classic songs like ‘Ritual’, ‘Get To You’, and ‘Rainbow Child’.
“We wanted to pay respect to the past and also have it thematically be where we’re at in our lives,” explains Reed, who reunited the group for a hometown 25th anniversary show in 2012.
“We realised that the camaraderie we discovered years ago was still there but we were just more mature human beings,” he reflects, “and that was the impetus for making a new album. It wasn’t because we needed the money or we were missing something in our lives – it was because we just love spending time together and we’d forgotten that.”
So, after two years of playing their back catalogue to audiences full of “people smiling and dancing” and teenagers not even born when songs like ‘Tiger In A Dress’ were written, they began working on new music.
“It was very organic,” says Reed of the process that’s heralded such powerful songs as the back-in-your-face ‘Divided’, which ponders “Are we as a human race meant to be at conflict with each other for the rest of history, or are we slowly figuring things out?”
The singer elaborates: “We had to come out and say we’re back to some degree, but we’re back with a question. We’re not back with a political statement, we’re not back with preaching to you, and we’re not back talking about a tiger in a dress.”
The same can be said for the uplifting anthem ‘Champion’, which began as a piece of music by guitarist Brion James with a “cool meditative heaviness to it”.
“This song to me needs to be about a healing, so to speak,” Reed remembers of the first time he heard it, ”about being broken and trying to find some reason to have hope.”
And just as hopeful is the sublime ballad ‘B There With U’.
“To me, the song is about discovering this beautiful diamond that shines,” says Reed, a thoughtful conversationalist, “and just wanting to catch the glow of your light and be there with you and not try to change you. And in that acceptance we will change each other collectively.”
Reed’s personal favourite on the album is likely to become a staple at forthcoming shows as the Network look to reconnect with ever bigger audiences, having played festivals like Download, Sweden Rock, and Hard Rock Hell over the past two years.
“I feel DRN is really suited to the bigger stages,” says Reed. “We really shine when there’s a bigger audience – we really take advantage of the space.
“With the Network there’s a lot of running around and we love that. With my solo stuff it’s all about being married to the mic because I’ve got an acoustic guitar on, the energy is much more internal and trying to focus on the intention.
“With the Network it’s not about the intention of the lyric, it’s about the expression of external energy.”
But sometimes, like when they opened for the Rolling Stones at Wembley Stadium in 1990, it can be about something else entirely.
“Before we went on stage at our first show, playing to 60 000 people, we met Bill Wyman for the first time. We thought he was going to wish us good luck but he told us the filthiest, dirtiest joke you could possibly imagine, just as we were going onstage to sing all these songs about bringing humanity together,” he laughs. “We’re all on stage in a daze going: ‘We can’t believe this is in our brain right now.’”
Yet, even more memorable for Reed is the band’s first European tour that included a gig at London’s Marquee Club in 1987.
“The crowd just went apeshit at the event and to this day I have met more people who say they were at that show than is possible that could have been there,” he grins. “Those were legendary shows for us and it was our first memory of how fantastic it was to play in Europe and why we’ve always loved coming back. I think those shows are the watermark of where we could go or where we could be.”
- ‘Fight Another Day’ is released on 3 June 2016. For the latest on Dan Reed Network, visit their official site.
- Dan Reed Network UK album release show: 15 June 2016 at 100 Club, London (Tickets)
Dan Reed on Charlie Watts
“The nicest person I’ve ever met in the music business is Charlie Watts. We did 27 shows with The Rolling Stones and he would come backstage before each show and and shake all our hands and wish us good luck 15 or 20 minutes before the set. No-one before or since has been like that.
“He had a side-room off his dressing room where he had a sewing machine. So – he’d do this as therapy – all these beautiful suits that you see Charlie Watts wearing in photographs, he makes every one of those suits. I was mind-boggled by that – he was like a cobbler back there making shoes.
“And another thing about him is he doesn’t change his drum heads until they break. So when we were on the tour, a snare drum broke and the crew was excited to be changing a drum head. So I asked him one day when we were shaking hands: ‘Why don’t you ever change your drum heads? You can surely afford it.’ And he goes: ‘Why would I? They’re not broken.’
“And when he said that, I realised: ‘This guy is the real deal.'”