Musician, novelist and solo artist known as Dar.Ra has been making and creating music since the 90s. He was previously in a variety of bands, but has since gone solo. Dar.Ra is a man of many talents and creative ambitions, as he’s also a novelist, with two written novels under his belt.
Dar.Ra’s latest singles, “Night Stepper” and “Heart Shape Pill” are directed by Brendan McGowan, and are are all about bringing light in the midst of darkness. In our interview with the always evolving Dar.Ra, he vividly spoke with us about why he creates music solo, his songs and music videos for “Night Stepper” and “Heart Shape Pill” and discusses why he decided to write two novels (thus far).
You blend a variety of musical styles with your music…how does your songwriting and creating music process evolve?
Dar.Ra: Firstly, let me say thanks for inviting me over for a quick natter, always lovely to sit down over a cup of tea and talk Choons. Ok, so I’m always jamming on some little riff or a melody in my head, its sometimes a bit of a curse to have music rolling around your head all the time. Each track is like an exorcism, and I only get free of it when the track is mastered and I’m onto the next thing.
The reason is I mix up styles is I get bored easy, too much of anything is good for nothing as they say, so a little of what I fancy is the order of the day. There are many different ways to the top of the mountain, so tracks evolve from little insights that come out of my head, then its either easy or hard to get the track sounding like it did in my minds eye. Everyone thinks its easy being a musician who writes, sitting round all day playing music, its harder than than you think, it’s like being this mad, obsessed person who can never relax cause you’re always trying to get the next tune out of your head.
You were previously in multiple bands, now solo…what drew you to continue music solo?
Dar.Ra: Bands are a pain in the neck; you waste a lot of time with people who are not seeing things the way you do and ego’s are destructive to the the creative process. I like to work with people who I don’t have to tell them what to do. Thats why working with Harvey Summers, my co-producer, is a breeze. We don’t have to talk, we just feel what needs to happen and it saves a lot of time, it helps that he is a Genius too. Its a rare thing to meet someone who you can work that Magic with; I have only had it a couple of times in my life.
I love that you’ve also written a series of novels…how does writing for your novels and music correlate and what creative needs and wants do you achieve from both aspects?
Dar. Ra: Well, they say that everyone has a book in them and some people put it down on paper. I liked writing stories and you get slightly longer with a book than you do with a piece of music. In my heart its about the story lines which I feel need telling. “Road Tales” came about from being on the road for a long period of time and just meeting incredible people with amazing life-changing stories to tell. I just kept writing down their stories not really knowing why at the time other than they might make songs, but when I got home it just seemed natural to let them flow and find their way, like a river to the sea. I just want to tell stores really with everything I do. All the songs have story-lines that you can follow if you tune into the lyrics, though you can just sit back and not bother and just have a dance if you want.
Both of your music videos, for “Night Stepper” and “Heart Shape Pill” are viscerally vulnerable and emotional. What was it like stepping into that emotive response in the videos?
Dar.Ra: Both of those pieces are about situations that we may face in our lifetimes. “Night Stepper” is a tale of a someone who can only come alive at night. Most musicians are Night Steppers, I lived most of my life at night, and could only really function when the Sun went down. I now love the day light hours and enjoy mornings, which is a change from my early days.
“Heart Shape Pill” is the search for Redemption that some people have eating away at them. Like the choice between playing Rock n Roll or Gospel, we are torn between things all the time. Staying or leaving relationships, working for yourself or for a corporate. The character in this case is trying to free himself from the excess of having too much and still finding the Void in his soul is screaming out ’til it deafens him. He has the choice between choosing the higher or lower cards and that is the end game for him. In the end, I feel he finds the Light and escapes the darkness of the world and all its corruption.
Speaking of your music videos, how did you get connected with the director Brendan McGowan, and how was the experience of filming with him?
Dar.Ra: Luck played its part in that meeting after being introduced by the power of the Social Media. I researched his work and was blown away by the quality of what he produces. Brendon is another rare commodity in the respect that he does it for the Love of Creation. If he likes the vibe and the concept he will bust his balls to get the best result he can.
Some things he does actually pushes my boundaries and gets me thinking how, what, why and where. Like the scene in “Heart Shape” where the main character is being seduced by his friend. When I first saw that I was like “Really?” are we going there. I was expecting that to be a male-female encounter and he just made me go “Wow,” miles more original to go that route.
We are just putting into production the next film for a track off the next EP called “Diamonds N The Shadows,” which has this Disco Rock vibe and will be shot in Atlanta with the maddest concept for a storyline. The track is about fulfilling your potential while you’re on the planet and the film will again push the boundaries in a non-obvious way.
Who was your first concert, and do you have an overall favorite?
Dar.Ra: First concert was Madness, the ska band when I was about ten. Skinheads were big in England then so it was an eye opener; a lot of violence breaking out all around you. I thought that’s what gigs where about, until I got into reggae and found the vibe was much more chilled. Favourite gig would be Prince Love Sexy Tour. Although seeing James Brown was mind blowing lesson in how to entertain. Loads really, but those come to mind first.
What was your first album cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
Dar.Ra: I used to do a paper round and the news agent sold old 45’s, and I found ‘She Loves You’ by The Beatles and bought it and played it to death. He also had albums and I scored The Beatles’ Hollywood Bowl album. I would’ve been about 8 years old then.
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
1. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
2. Dark Side Of The Moon – Pink Floyd
3. Sign O’ The Times – Prince
4. Combat Rock – The Clash
5. Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake – Small Faces
Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
Dar.Ra: Being a lapsed Catholic Boy and feeling guilty goes hand in hand, so I feel guilty for stuff I haven’t even done.
Guilty pleasure would be gorging on Netflix, recently “The Last Kingdom,” which is one of the best things made recently other than “Killing Eve,” and it became an unquenchable desire of mine. I Just had to watch it all over a two-day period. I felt guilty afterwards as I blew the series quicker than I should.
Netflix is a black hole where you could spend a lifetime watching and never leaving the Studio which means living in a bunker for the rest of your days. Probably a safe option considering how things are on the surface of the planet at the moment.
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