Dan Patlansky by Peter Noble

Dan Patlansky: Big things going down

(Photo credit: Peter Noble)

Dan Patlansky isn’t one for standing still.

“I’m always trying to further myself as a player and what I can do,” the South African guitarist reveals, “by putting in the hours and coming up with fresh ideas – be it in terms of note choice and phrasing, or musicality I’m trying to work on. And so in small ways I’m reinventing myself, by adding on to what I can already do.”

Reinvention is something Patlansky’s certainly familiar with – he’s been doing it for the past 20 years.

“When I started out,” he remembers, “I actually wanted to be a traditional blues guitarist because that’s what I was listening to almost exclusively. And that was my dream, that’s all I wanted to play, that’s all I cared about. Nothing else existed to me.”

But the music fan who’d also grown up listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, gradually became aware that he had more to offer than 12-bar blues songs about gin joints, picking cotton, riding the rails, and the baby who just left him.

“I just got to the point where I realised if I really want to be myself I’ve got to draw from my actual influences,” he admits over coffee in a central London hotel.

The turning point was 2012’s ‘20 Stones’ and, emboldened by artists like Jack White and The Black Keys who “made the blues cool for the younger generation”, he’s continued to refine his blues rock sound over two successive LPs, ‘Dear Silence Thieves’ and last year’s ‘Introvertigo’.

“I’m still pretty happy with the last one,” Patlansky confesses, “but I don’t think you’ll ever be entirely happy with any album. I think if you are, you probably aren’t progressing enough.”

So, of course, he’s looking to grow further on the next one, due in 2018.

“I’m going to go for a more raw drum sound,” he reveals of the album that’s already in the pre-production phase with longtime producer Theo Crous. “We’re probably going for a little more vintage-sound and then balance that with the modern songs.”

But first there’s an extensive European and UK tour to complete, without his longtime South African band. Instead he’s being joined on stage by a trio of German musicians.

“It always takes a while to settle,” reflects Patlansky, “but it all depends on the calibre of the musicians. And, I must say, these guys are fantastic – they really are incredible players. They’re different to the South African guys – I wouldn’t say they’re better or worse – but after two shows, they’re already on the money,” he grins.

With one potential challenge so easily resolved, Patlansky still faces the headache of crossing borders with the trusted 1962 Fender Strat he almost lost to Hurricane Katrina. Containing Brazilian rosewood, the instrument he affectionately calls “Old Red” needs exotic wood permits in order to travel, which may force him to retire it from international touring.

He’s not enthused by the prospect, but would fans be able to tell if he introduced a replacement?

“Guys who love guitar may hear the difference, but the general public wouldn’t necessarily notice,” he replies. “The biggest difference is to you as the player. Wood is an organic material, so if you go into a music store today and there are two identical guitars – same colour, same year, same model – they’ll both play completely differently.

“Because the wood is a unique thing – the grain of it, the weight of it, how that piece of wood resonates in comparison with the other piece of wood, the shape of the neck – it makes a big difference.

“That’s why I don’t have a huge collection of guitars, because when I find one that works for me, I stick with it,” he continues. “Sure, most of a guitarist’s unique sound comes from their fingers – about 70% of the tone comes from you as the player – but the rest comes down to the individual guitar. You as the player can hear and feel the difference and, if that other 30% is right, you just play even better.”

As someone who’s always striving to do just that, Dan Patlansky should know.


Tickets: thegigcartel.com, danpatlansky.com/shows

Islington O2 Academy, London: Tuesday 2 May
The Deaf Institute, Manchester: Wednesday 3 May
The Globe, Cardiff: Thursday 4 May
The Tunnels, Bristol: Friday 5 May
The Factory, Barnstable: Saturday 6 May


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