One of the coolest guys in punk rock, he’s been there done it and worn the shirt. Jeff Dahl makes essential punk rock records always has and always will. Just when you think he’s made a career-best he goes and tops it and with his latest offering ‘All My Friends Are Crows’ he’s raised the bar even further with a record that is vital, contemporary and sharp as a razor.
We had to reach out to Jeff and find out what makes the man tick and as always he was kind enough to respond, so sit back put your feet up and check out this exchange. Ladies and Gents, we give you the one and only Jeff Dahl…
You’ve hit a real rich vein of form over the last few albums. Not long ago you said that might just be it. What inspired you to keep recording?
Thank you, sir! I appreciate your kind words. Yeah, I had not planned on releasing another record after ‘ELECTRIC JUNK’ but then the pandemic hit and, as with everything else, things changed. And I love recording. I’m happiest in the studio like some mad scientist. Pulling something out of thin air is magical. So I was drawn back in.
I think the last few releases from the collaboration with “Demons” something special has been building and the latest album sound as good if not better than anything you’ve ever recorded. Does it feel like that for you as the writer and player?
I appreciate you saying that. Being out here in the relative isolation of a small town on one of Hawaii’s outer islands changes perspective. In a way it kind of focuses what I want to do. Maybe it has to do with less distractions? Also, these are the first albums that I’ve recorded onto computer which can definitely give you enough rope to hang yourself with if you don’t watch your ass. So it’s been an interesting learning process. Like having infinite recording choices is so unnatural to me. But I’m starting to understand how this works.
Tell us a bit about the process of this album. Did you decide you needed to make a record then start writing or were you writing then realized you had enough for an album?
I saw that I had too many song so it was time to record. I write all the time. I never stop and I have a huge backlog of material to fall into. During the shutdown I built a pile of songs, lyrics, riffs, licks, ideas that just kept growing. It was either take it all outside and set it on fire or record a new record. Having songs has never, ever been a problem for me. My problem is that I always have too much material. So I started off with about 40 possible songs, ready to go, and whittled it down to 10.
The sound of the record is so vibrant a real live feel to it. Was that something you were aiming for and were there many rehearsals with a live band.
Yes, absolutely. I needed a more wide-open sound for these tunes. That’s what the songs told me. Just plug in and let ‘er rip. Nope, there was no band and there were no rehearsals. Just me playing everything except the drums which my co-producer, Sam Bradley, played. My instructions to him was to just let loose and play aggressively. The trick was to have that full band vibe, which is not easy. Almost everything on this record a first take. If I played everything perfectly, note for note, over and over, I knew that I’d lose that spontaneous feeling. So I kept it loose and raw.
I still get excited when I hear a really strong record, did you get a feeling that these songs were so strong when you were laying the tracks down?
Honestly, I knew, in my head, how I wanted these songs to sound and how I needed to approach recording. But once I start recording and putting the songs together I have tunnel vision. I couldn’t tell you if they were good or bad until they were finished. I was more focused on the tasks at hand. I had to keep moving forward. If I sat back and looked at the big, overall picture I would lose that energy. Just grab my guitar and lay it down.
Are there any bands making records you’ve heard recently that give you hope that rock n roll is in safe hands? Do you miss playing live at all? What would it take to get you on any sort of tour?
God, yes! There are so many fantastic bands out there. I don’t mean the big, major label acts. Underground rock n roll. That’s where it’s at for me. This last year had ace releases from Gregg Turner, Paul B Cutler, Lorne Behrman, Mike Campbell, Richard Duguay, Eric Gales and The Hangmen that have all knocked me out. Lovers Left Alive and Plastic tears from Finland, Johnny Suicide in Spain, the Maharajas, the Chuck Norris Experiment and Demons! from Sweden are all kicking out the jams. The Poison Boys have been blowing me away big time! Really, there is so much good music out there but you have to dig for it. As I said, I’m in Hawaii so I’m isolated from a lot that is going on and, sadly, there are no records stores where I live so I get music from online and mailorder.
I absolutely do miss playing. I had a 2020 tour scheduled for Germany when everything ground to a halt so that was cancelled. We set it back up for 2021, hoping that, by then, things would open back up but, again, it had to be cancelled. With Hawaii, when the pandemic started, entry and exit from the island was stopped. You could not go in or out for a long time. So as things started to ease open again we set up the same tour for April and May of 2022. Then I got hit with cancer. Again, the tour was cancelled. I guess it just was not meant to be, huh?
I’d like to address my cancer and straight off, I’m doing really well and there is no need for anyone to worry about me. While recording the new album I was having some throat problems and they found some polyps and nodes in my throat. After treatment it’s not gone but it’s stable and being monitored. While this was going on, they found some spots on my legs that were a different type of cancer and these were cut out. Again, it went well and I’ve had no problems since but this is the type of cancer that is going come back at some point. So we have a monitoring schedule and, I can’t emphasize this enough, the key with cancer is early detection. If you catch this stuff early enough most types can be very treatable. So if you’ve got some weird new feeling or pain in your body or an odd, new blemish, please, have it checked out! Hopefully it’s nothing but you should just get it looked at. I can’t stress this enough.
Because of this my immune system is not as strong as it was so I’m one of those people still walking around wearing a mask when I’m out in public. Doctor’s orders and I’m fine with it. I look better with a mask covering my face anyway. Being in a crowded club with no ventilation is not in the cards for me.
I also have a bad chronic pain problem from a nerve issue that has been going on for 13 years, 24/7. So driving around from 3 to 8+ hours a day in a van while on tour is just not going to happen. But then, you should never say never, right? So who knows. Maybe I can to go to a festival or a city and play a show or two but that is very expensive and a logistical nightmare. If I ever do play again anywhere in your area and you have ever wanted to see me, pull the damn trigger. I wanna see you too! So yeah, I would sure like to play again. Fingers crossed.
Sorry about the long health report but I wanted to come out about my cancer because I want people to watch their own health, especially as we get older.
Getting old sucks! Its a trap, don’t do it!
The landscape has changed over the last decade possibly more than in the previous few decades recording techniques and ways of getting music to people. Is it still important to have physical products?
You’re totally right about this avalanche of changes confronting just about everything in life. The thing that trips me out the most, and not in a good way, is AI. This is going to change, and in many respects ruin, the arts. Music, acting, painting, writing, etc… 10 years from now I wonder what is going to be left untouched? If you’re okay with AI or not concerned, more power to you. I hope you’re right.
I’m a tactile person, I grew up with vinyl and I love that feeling of ripping open a brand new album for the first time and dropping that tone arm on the first song of that record. That’s what it’s all about. For me, it’s absolutely important to have vinyl and/or CDs. I need something I can hold in my hand and interact with.
Is there much music in the archive that you might be tempted in releasing?
There is nothing. Maybe a couple songs and a there have been a couple very limited edition singles that have been sold out for decades. If I recorded something, I released it.
What about collaborating with other musicians. Any you’d love to work with if the opportunity was to arise? Writers and players you admire.
I’m actually in the middle of writing a couple songs with Deniz Tek and that’s really fun. He lives on the other side of the island that I live on so it’s an easy, natural opportunity to do something together. There are loads of other bands and musicians I’d love to do something with but I will not do anymore virtual projects. I want to, I need to be in the room with another human being if I’m making music. I’ve done a few online collaborations but I didn’t enjoy the process the way I should. So no more of those. Gotta keep things natural.
Going back to the new album some of the riffs are fantastic and the energy you capture in the recordings is immense on songs like we must destroy and the title track. What comes first? A riff, melody or a lyric. Do the songs write themselves quite quickly after the germ starts to form?
The secret to my songwriting is that there is no template. An idea, some words or melody can come from anywhere, at anytime and I just need to be open and ready when that muse strolls into town. Some come easy and some are like pulling teeth. I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night when a chord progression popped into my head while I was just dozing off. And I manically write all of it down and stockpile all these bits. I’ve had an entire full song manifest itself in less than 5 minutes. I’ve also had some little riff wrote down decades ago that suddenly fits into something new I’m working on. I don’t limit myself to just one method. I try different things to see what works and I go from there. I believe that if you play music, then you are capable of writing a song. It might not be the greatest song, but it probably won’t be the worst one either. After that write another one. Writing with Deniz, I’d never written a song with anyone else before and this is awesome! So I’m still trying new things.
All My Friends Are Crows is ten of the best please tell me there’s more to come? If this is where you bow out of recording records you’ve certainly saved the best til last this is without doubt some of if not the best most complete record you’ve made have you nailed the process of recording with yourself and Sam clearly a partnership that works so well.
Man, that is high praise indeed! Thank you. Working with Sam is great fun and we have an easy way we go about recording. We’ve got a very quick, natural and creative mojo happening. Most of the time we work with ESP. He knows what I want to do and I know what he’s going to do.
As far as what’s next, right now I’m working with Deniz and having fun. And I’ve also got a pile of acoustic blues style songs that have been begging for recording, so that’s in the works. And in September I’ll be in Arizona and I will record a couple songs for a very special single with some of my old Phoenix buddies.
2024? Who knows? All My Friends Are Crows has really hit the mark with a lot of people and the response has been overwhelming to me. Really, I’ve had amazing feedback. That definitely builds up energy and gets the creative juices flowing. Not to mention the high I get from that electric connection I feel with the people who follow my music… that’s why I play this stuff.
Buy ‘All My Friends Are Crows’ on vinyl from Ghost Highway Records outta Madrid, Spain Here or Beluga Records out of Sweden they have copies Here or contact Jeff in the States where he has CD’s and Vinyl Records