After a whirlwind introduction to the music scene as The Kite String Tangle, including numerous sold out shows and festival appearances, I caught Danny Harley – the man behind the name – in some rare down time and got to find out a little bit more about him.
So here at AcidStag we like to begin with a little icebreaker of ‘where are you and what are you wearing?’ but I’m actually really interested in another outfit of yours. I saw you at Falls Festival in Byron Bay over new years. Your set was early afternoon and it must have been close to 40ºC and I remember you were in a shirt and jeans. I have to ask, how did you not faint?
Oh man, yes. I remember that. I usually always wear a button up shirt and jeans, its just kind of my thing. It adds to the theatrics I suppose and I think it looks a bit odd when people are in boardies and thongs on stage. We had dressing rooms with air conditioning and I remember sitting there with my friends before the show with the air conditioning pumping watching a documentary. (Laughs) Oh god I remember that… That was hectic.
So, going right back to the beginning – who did you grow up listening to as a kid?
When my parents were in charge of what was being played on the CD player, they played a lot of The Beatles and Queen. Then when I went through my teenage rebellion I started listening to some metal stuff and then got into pop punk. I’ve kind of been through everything, I even had a jazz phase for a bit there.
Did you have that love of music from a very young age or was it because of your parent’s influence that you wanted to start playing music for yourself?
None of my family was that musical, but they’ve always liked having little sing-alongs so I guess music was always a big part of my life. I remember when I was about 11 I wanted to take up guitar lessons and my parents, being parents, told me they would only buy me a guitar if I promised to play it all the time. I gave up guitar lessons after a month or so but I’ve kept playing music ever since.
So from that age was a career in music always your trajectory or were there other things that you were interested in pursuing?
Well, I joined a band as a bass player when I was 12 in the UK, which was really fun, but at that stage I actually wanted to be an actor and do drama. I must have been 14 when I joined a local theatre group after we moved to Australia but then a couple of weeks before the performance, one of my favourite bands at the time was coming into town and their show was on the same night as one of the performances, so I dropped out a couple of weeks before the performance. (Laughs) That was a clear moment that I decided I liked music more.
You went on to study music at university, as a guitarist and composer, so obviously writing music has always been a passion of yours. Now as a working musician, do you have more of a preference for the writing aspect or the performing?
It’s kind of a tough one. They’re pretty different skill sets I think. There are some people who are amazing performers who can’t write songs, or don’t write songs, and the other way round as well, people who write amazing stuff but would never even dream of performing it, so they’re quite different. I’d say I probably like writing music a little bit more than performing it but that kind of changes depending on the day… and what I’m wearing (laughs).
As a musician myself, I’m curious to know, what’s your song writing process?
When I was growing up I was predominantly a guitarist, so I used to write riffs and chords and then melodies and lyrics over that, the usual thing you do when you’re young. I did that through most of university and then began experimenting more with production and doing more to the sound after you’ve recorded it. I found that there was this whole other process that I wasn’t aware of that happens after you’ve recorded the parts, where you can create even more. And then I got a laptop and that was a total game changer. It completely changed the way I write music and now all my ideas pretty much start on the laptop.
Do you usually start with the instrumentation and then the lyrics come or do you come up with lyrics and what you want the song to be about and then build the music around that?
It’s almost always starting with a beat or music on the laptop and then I let the vibe of the music inform the lyrics, I don’t know why. But I think its good to find a nice balance.
Your 5-piece band PIGEON is on an indefinite hiatus at the moment. Now that you are a solo musician, do you ever miss the collaborative energy of writing and performing with other people as part of a group?
Yeah I do. I think there are really cool aspects to both. Writing by yourself is completely uninhibited by any outside force so you know that whatever you’ve created is completely your own thing. There’s a sense of liberation with that but there’s also something to be said about when you collaborate with others and they contribute something that you never would have thought of, or thought was lame and then turned out it was actually pretty cool. There’s something special about that collaboration that makes something really unique and different that you couldn’t have got on your own. But again I think you need a balance – moderation in all things (laughs).
You do seem to be a big fan of collaborating with other musicians. Have you got any upcoming collaborations you can share with us?
At the moment I’m trying to write my next release as The Kite String Tangle and I would like there to be a collaboration on the record but nothing has presented itself as an obvious option yet, though I’m sure it will. I mean I’d like to collaborate with Dustin Tebbutt again but really, there are so many people I would love to collaborate with, it’s just finding the time and the appropriate situation for it.
You mentioned once that you’d be interested in expanding The Kite String Tangle into a larger production on stage with more people, do you see that coming up in the near future or do you think it will remain a one man operation for a while?
Well, for the last five or so shows I have used a drummer, which has been really cool and I can’t see that going anywhere any time soon. So it’s at least a two-piece for a while and I might add another person later on. We’ll see how the next record shapes up.
You’ve been in the electronic production world of music for a while now. Do you ever see yourself deviating away from it into other styles or genres?
I don’t know. I guess I kind of see this project as ‘electronic pop’, because they are still pop songs in a sense, I mean they have a chorus that you can sing along to and verses, so it’s still structured in a pop way, but it’s not too vibey and it’s not club music its just coloured in an electronic way. I really like that and I haven’t got bored of it yet so I’ll probably still be like this for a while but I do always think its cool when an artist changes their style a bit, and it grows with them and their audience. I think that’s a really nice thing.
Finally, what can we look forward to hearing from you in the near future? Have you got an album you’re working on?
Yeah I think it’s an album, well it’s most likely an album. And that will be hopefully early to mid next year, possibly a song out before then, but nothing is set in stone yet. I’m just working on getting everything right before I come up with a plan to release it, I just want to make sure it’s good and I’m happy with it.