What’s the story about Dandy John?
I try to express himself in my very own way, politically not only interested in Swiss Banks, cheese, watches or mountains, but more in general global problems of society such as the ideal of beauty, war, food, ethics, loneliness, literature (I’ve studied English and German Literature – so be happy to find Goethe, Schiller, Shakespeare, Byron and so on in my work). I live the slogan “Music is always there, you just have to search for it”, that’s probably why my music stuff consists of a wide variety of different styles (pop, rock, funk, latin, and even trance and classical music). As a great fan of German and English Gothic literature, I probably like the difference between reality and an artificial fantastic world, which is represented by the character Dandy John. This aspect is also shown in his name. “John” for instance is a common middle class English name, Dandy’s real roots. The “Dandy” itself stands for the artist who has bought his old-fashioned clothes somewhere on flee-markets and tries to have his own voice by dressing himself in a somehow strange way, which makes you think about a strange bourgeoisie who is artistically active.
When I’ve once played with two other musicians (Etienne Issartel and Chuck U. Farley) in another band, I’ve already had the Dandy John-Project in my mind. So I’ve noticed that the two are the right musicians for the project. And that was enough to spark the idea. A rhythm-group that understands my music was the most important thing, because the piano plays a lot of rhythmic patterns which have to coincide with the drums and bass. With Etienne Issartel and Chuck U. Farley we’ve succeeded from the very beginning. Cedric Moos – the guitar player – and the background singers Steve Stevens and Anne-Catherine Kramis were a later addition to the band.
Dandy John by the way has started his first concert with an audience of more than 250 people in a grand hall in Solothurn (Swiss circumstances). We’ve always had the aim not only to play music but to present a show that goes with the Dandy-Style, an easygoing strange way of regarding at the world’s troubles. Dandy doesn’t only play the piano, but he builds in the show an old-fashioned phone and sometimes a type-writer and the Goofy (Snoopy would have been the other idea). People want to be entertained in an easy way, but the message below has to arise while or after the concert. The Dandy wants to make the people think about problems of which he is a part himself. As a teacher I want to see the Enlightenment in each and every one of the people. They have to think about what they are doing and that they are not only responsible of themselves but also for the social, political and economic system. That is what John would say. Dandy on the other hand likes the people break out their social conventions and learn to be themselves.
On stage, Dandy John must be the centre of attention, there’s no other way. That’s why I always try out different ways to entertain, shock, provoke or delight the audition. Dandy’s part of the stage consists of a Persian carpet, a Goofy (the waiter), an old telephone and a fan. It goes without saying that Dandy John plays to the gallery by inventing some funny stories or actions to entertain the crowd or simply fools around, the serious subjects he wants to teach naturally in his mind. Sometimes the telephone or the fan are strongly personified and become alive during the show. Dandy seems to be intangible with his improvisational ideas that sometimes shock even the really flexible Dandy-Band. Over all the audience has the classic grotesque Dandy-Style in their mind.
With the Dandy John-Project go the Dandygrams where I have written some words that go with my music. Examples:
“The Dandy is just as real as he plays his role.”
“Shakespeare was wrong: all the world’s a playground. But children know how to stop the silly game.”
“Community means: Everybody does the best possible thinks for all of us. Where are you?”
“The overburdened God looks the other way, because all has gotten too human.”
These Dandygrams are shared all over the world by Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and co. You can also download them on the website www.dandyjohn.com
Which artists or styles most influence your overall sound?
When I was 15 I bought myself a copy of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and was hooked by his piano sound, his composition technique and the message behind the lyrics. I liked the sound and the whole album. In fact I didn’t find one poor song. That was when I started to buy every available CD of Billy Joel and started to play the piano. When I’ve heard that his grandpa was expelled from Nazi-Germany, because he was a Jewish founder of a mail order trade company which had been disappropriated by a German Nazi-family , I’ve really started to understand Billy Joel’s message, the message between the lines. Another Band that influenced me were the Bee Gees with their falsetto chant and great melodies. And Toto taught me how to make live-music more interesting for the listeners and how to construct different live-parts during the show. Some of these influences can be heard and seen in Dandy John’s music and shows.
How supportive are the acts in Switzerland?
They are not as supportive as in the USA. There are certain social funds which support new acts, but to be played in the radio or shown on TV is very difficult for new independent bands. In Switzerland the major labels set the tune, but of course there are some minor labels for certain music styles. Concerning concerts, the Kofmehl-Hall in Solothurn was providing the surroundings for our first concert, which was a great success, because Dandy John could unfold his show on the large stage.
Way Out is your current album. What does the disc add to the story that is Dandy John?
“Way Out” is an ambivalent title such as the character of Dandy John taking some archaic parts “When everything was different” and projecting them to current topics. So “way out” can be seen both retrospective and anticipatory. Maybe the title is also part of “way out too much” which represents certain trends Dandy criticizes. Way Out consists of “rise up your hands”, a song which is also linked to YouTube-video and criticizes the world politic-war-thing in a new and pacifistic way. It’s the story of a lonely Irish DJ who tries to make people dance to let them forget the religious war. The video doesn’t only provide some live-pictures of Dandy John but also scenes, where American and Afghan soldiers dancing together while probably waiting for orders. At the end the famous scene of Clinton and Yeltsin laughing together arises. This video has been watched over 11000 times. In this vid, Randy John with his keytar does the “dandy-dance” (moving in a funny way from the right to the left) and Dandy John plays the digital piano the wrong way around that the fingerboard looks to the spectator.
The song “Beautiful” on the other side reflects on the silly beauty ideal we are confronted to. When parents in Switzerland (and not only here) choose some beauty crèmes for their twelve years old offspring, that makes us think about, what they will give when the children are sixteen. Some plastic surgery? In the video Dandy has mixed his live-performance with old paintings of Monet, Renoir or Manet to show how the beauty ideal has changed during the decades. The Hollywood size-0-ideals affect our children. Diseases such as anorexia didn’t exist a hundred years ago. This song is supported by several aid organizations that deal with people suffering from anorexia.
And with “don’t share all your feelings” Dandy sings about a boy who thinks he has got more than 500 friends on Facebook. But when he has serious troubles no one really cares for him, on the contrary: he has posted to many personal pictures and becomes a victim of cyber-bullying.
Can you describe your creative process to us? How does a song go from an initial germ of a thought to a finished song?
On the dog’s walk or during hovering I have the best ideas. So a tune or theme of a new song usually doesn’t arise in front of the piano but connected to a rhythmic activity. Then I wait for three days and listen to other music. When the germ is still growing I work out the final song. Every song provides the lyrics. By playing the song on the piano the topics and the words are formed. That’s why the lyrics and the sound are intensely connected. When the pre-production of the song is finished I play it once to my 7-year old son. When he still sings the song after three days, the song is a real ear-catcher.
But certainly some songs are composed while improvising on the piano or with the band. With these two composition techniques a variety of possible music is possible.
How has your style evolved and changed since DJ started?
Yes, because the pre-productions with the band-in-a-box sounded different to the actual live-stuff. Maybe I’ve tried to be too modern in the beginning, adding some drum machines, artificial bass-lines and so on. The band then added some personal stuff to the songs, which is great. I’ve always wanted the musicians to be a part of the production, because like that everyone can bring in their very own musical strengths. So to be seen I’ve found out that the Dandy John-project always has been planned as a live-project. So since then we try not to use too much synthetic stuff, but natural instruments that dominate the sound. In fact Dandy John is somehow the countermovement to electronic music. Nevertheless in the live show we play a trance track with the live band what sounds really special and makes the crowd dance.
How do individuals purchase a copy of Way Out or hear samples from the album?
The album is purchased by www.cdbaby.com , where you can get as well as the download as a physical copy of the album. Of course the album is also available on all internet music stores such as amazon, i-tunes and so on.
What has provided more of your fans – Facebook / Instagram / Twitter or traditional word of mouth?
Most of the fans are on facebook, where we provide new funny pictures or aspects that go with the Dandy John-idea. For us YouTube is also a very important part of the fan base. There we have got overall more than 34000 views which makes me confident to be on the right track(s).
What events / happenings will Dandy John be a part of through the end of 2014 and into 2015?
At the end of 2014 we play several concerts in our hometown Solothurn, but in 2015 we will also play concerts in Germany and France. The project is still young and has to grow over the time. Maybe we see us somehow in the future in the USA…
Finally, do you have any thoughts for NeuFutur?
Yes, I like your magazine very much. You really write some informative reviews and reports. And I’m very honored to be a part of NeuFutur.
Thank you so much for your time.
Dandy John Interview