Dan Bierton Interview - 16th September 2007

DAN BIERTON worked with Ian Brown over the course of three albums and is currently working on his own project, The Conditions. Dan explains to This Is The Daybreak how he hooked up with Ian Brown, what work he did on his albums, and provides us with details of his current band. He also provides commentary on six Ian Brown tracks of his choice, detailing their construction.

Thanks very much to Dan for taking the time to do this feature.

Interest in playing music

I got into music when I was very young - I was playing drums and percussion when I was ten. My dad was, and still is, in a band doing covers and stuff and I used to play drums, with him on guitar, round the local pubs and stuff. I got really into hiphop in the late eighties, 'cos of the beats and the attitude, and I bought a drum machine to put beats together and wrote a shed load of what I suppose were rap tunes, although pretty basic, as I was about 15 at the time !

Working with Ian Brown

I met Ian when I was working at Sarm studios in London and I'd been there for a few years so, in that time, I'd worked with people like George Michael, Adamski and all the boy bands that were around in the late nineties like Boyzone and 911 - all that crap. I did do a couple of remixes while I was there, two for Adamski and one for the Art of Noise with Rakim (which was great, but Trevor Horn took all the parts and then did his over-production trick and made it into a very average album track).

So, actually, when Ian called the studio and said that he wanted to put a few tunes together as demos for a new album, it was a breath of fresh air for me and I asked to be put on the session straight away ! That was the 'Golden Greats' album and I think he only really intended on putting some demos together at that time but after Dave McCracken was brought in to do some programming, it all started coming together so he stayed and did the whole album from start to finish. I was a tape-op at the time so I was plugging in bits of gear and making cups of tea but it was quite a team effort and everyone was chucking ideas in, so I did get to do a bit of programming - I did the drums on So Many Soldiers. Anyway, I left the studio just at the end of the Golden Greats album and Ian offered me a job !! So I went straight from Sarm to working on the road - then Dave McCracken got signed up as keyboard player (I knew Dave from the studios already) and I became his 'keyboard tech' (that means roadie, basically). So I toured with Ian as one of the road crew for three years and then, when McCracken left the band, I got promoted !!

I was tape-op (or assistant engineer) on Golden Greats, so I was there from 10am until 3am every day sorting tapes and making tea and plugging in mics and stuff. For 'Music of the Spheres', I co-wrote 'Gravy Train' but most of the work on Spheres was done at Dave's house so I was more involved in the touring of - than the making of - that album. The same with 'Solarized' - I co-wrote 'The Sweet Fantastic' - but, by that time, I'd bought a house and had a baby so I left my life 'on the road' (which I'd been doing for nearly five years by then) before Ian started touring with Solarized, which is when Tim Wills took over keyboard duties. In the meantime, I did remixes of 'Golden Gaze' (which wasn't very good with hindsight) and I did a top mix of 'Shadow of a Saint', which was on the 'Remixes of the Spheres' album. I did read a couple of comments on the internet by people who thought my remix was better than the original and I do have to agree !! I heard it in a pub actually a while back and it made me smile.

Career highlights

The big events were Glastonbury Main Stage 2002 of course, in front of about 60,000 people and I loved going to Japan - I did the Fuji Rock Festival two or three times. I also met a lot of other bands on the touring circuit - Foo Fighters, in particular, who I love - we just kept bumping into them at airports and backstage at various festivals !! The best thing is seeing the world, I got to go to LA, New York, Japan, all over and got paid to do it !!! The worst thing - getting pelted with brussels supporting the Manics in Cardiff - how bizarre is that !? It's a good buzz though, being on stage - especially when you're playing for Ian Brown !

The Conditions

The Conditions was something I started when I was touring, in the gaps. You do loads of shows and then it goes quiet for a while so I started writing some tunes while it was dead. Some of them I wrote with Charlie Waddington and a couple with a guy called Greg Hatwell, who plays guitar for Mel C, both of whom I know very well. I don't really get the time to do this sort of stuff at the mo though so it's on the back boiler - I spend most of my time writing music for TV and radio these days and looking after my 3 year old daughter and my new son of course !!! I will be going to see Ian in Southampton in October though and I've got the new album on order !

Commentary on choice tracks

Love Like a Fountain

This was the first track I think that Ian had on 8-track tape as an idea for the Golden Greats album. It was a drum loop that he'd got from an EMU SP1200 vintage drum machine and the keyboard riff that you'll all know and some vocals. That was transferred to Dave's Mac and then Dave, Ian and Tim Wills all chucked ideas in and out came the finished track ! I think it was after this one turned out so well that Ian realised that, rather than doing a few demos, he could probably get a full album done with the guys at the studio. This was also the first tune I played live with Ian 'cos Dave wasn't free at the time so I got called to stand in and did TFI Friday (I was shitting it at the time cos I'd never done a TV show before !)

So Many Soldiers

This tune started off with a backing track that Inder had put together (which ended up being 'The Fisherman' a year or two down the road) but, after a week or so, it wasn't coming together so, one night at about 1am, Dave and Ian were tinkering with some ideas and I put some beats together and the lyrics that Ian had just fitted nicely over the top - so there it was ! Dave put some acoustic guitars on it and Inder put some tablas and stuff on and that was that. I used to love playing this one live just ‘cos it's got a great swagger to it and sounds great at top volume in a big venue !

Shadow of a Saint (the Boy Bierton Remix)

I put the beats together and the bass but then I was about half way through programming it and I tried nicking a few guitar riffs off other Ian Brown tunes (just as an idea) and when I got to that massive riff off 'Gettin High' it fitted perfectly !! So I got the guitar track off Dave Mac and slotted it in and stood back and listened. I'm very proud of that remix, it's probably my best one.

The Sweet Fantastic

I co-wrote this one with Charlie Waddington (who's my brother in law) and it was basically a backing track that I sent Ian which he liked. I did get in the studio while they were doing this album and did some work on the beats with Dave, and Charlie replayed the guitars and bass, oh... and I played the tambourine in the chorus ! This is another one that's great live 'cos the crowd really join in with the chorus.

Dolphins Were Monkeys

I love this tune, it's ace. And this was the one I played on Top of the Tops, which I was quite excited about at the time - it's a bit of a national institution isn't it !? The album version's much different, its got a really long mechanical intro and then launches into that wicked keys riff about two minutes in, but the single version just jumps straight into the tune and drives on for four minutes. The tune's only essentially a four bar loop but it's such a strong tune that it doesn't matter - it just keeps you hooked for four mins.

Let Robeson Sing (Ian Brown Remix)

I did the programming on this remix that Ian did for the Manics and it was a bit hectic 'cos we only had two days in the studio to get it done and we spent nearly the whole of the first day doing tables !! Anyway, it turned out fine and I love the rap that Ian does at the end - it's just completely off the wall and comes out of nowhere - it's brilliant !!

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