Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 83: Interview with Dare

DARE

Interview by Ant Heeks

After rising to fame as the keyboard player with Thin Lizzy, vocalist Darren Wharton hooked up with hotshot guitarist Vinny Burns to form a new band called Dare, and in 1988 they released their debut album 'Out Of The Silence' which would rightly become an AOR classic. To celebrate the 30th anniversary, the album has been completely re-recorded and given a whole new lease of life, so Fireworks phoned Darren to find out more about the reasons behind this...


Dare-Interview-image

Why did you decide to re-record the album?

Well we've been playing these songs for thirty years now and since we split up following 'Out Of The Silence' and 'Blood From Stone', it took us a few years to get back on our feet to come back with 'Calm Before The Storm'; so there was that transition period. Then, especially when we came out with 'Belief' and 'Beneath The Shining Water', from those days on we've been sort of attracting a new crowd, new fans and we've been playing to bigger and wider audiences. We love playing live but we just felt we were doing an injustice; we were going out and playing and promoting an album that was almost ancient, if you like. We love the album, but we have no rights to the album, we don't have any say about it. Universal Music haven't been particularly friendly about it − they seem to give everybody else the rights to it except me. So the only option I had was to re-record it as something for our new fans. We thought about it a lot because we've been building a new fan-base since 2001 and it's pretty much doubled in that time. We just felt like it was injustice to promote that old album, which we do every night onstage and we thought we would have our own version of it. I like to think I sing a lot better now as well, because that was the very first album I ever sang on. I know most people say they love it and are very complimentary about it, but I listen to the way my vocals are on that album and I think they should have been a lot better. If I was a better vocalist back then maybe I wouldn't have thought about re-recording it. Vinny and I spoke about it and both agreed that we knew we could improve on the album both as a singer and a player. So that was it really, I wanted to get a better vocal on there, we wanted to own our own product and we wanted to give our new fan-base a brand new version of something which we go out and promote every time we play live.

Obviously the album is rightly regarded as an AOR classic, so was there any trepidation that some of the old-school fans would feel it was something that shouldn't be messed with?

Yeah, and you know a lot of people have said that already and we're already prepared for the "we prefer the original" brigade. We're sort of expecting that to a certain extent, so it's really nice and refreshing to hear you say that you really like the new version, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart and breathe a huge sigh of relief! But the bottom line is, it's just nice to own your own music. It doesn't give you any incentive to go out and play songs from an album that your old record company, that owns it, doesn't seem to care about. They don't care about us anymore and they're just selling old copies of 'Out Of The Silence' on the back of the success of the new stuff like 'Sacred Ground'. Our newer albums are selling the back catalogue, and we just thought it was unfair.

What is the process of re-recording old songs actually like in comparison to recording brand new songs? Is it easier because you're more familiar with the songs, or does that make it more difficult because you have something to compare it to?

Well Vinny and I had quite extensive talks about this, because personally I wanted to change a few things on there. Some of the keyboard parts I would have lost, but Vinny can be very persuasive and he talked me out of it. He wanted to keep it exactly like the original album was, and his argument was − which I thought was very true − what if, for instance, Toto did a re-recording of 'Rosanna' and didn't put in that lovely keyboard solo that David Paich did? It might sound dated by today's standards but as the song was of that era it was fresh and unique and beautiful. If you love the song so much and there was a little part of it that you used to love and it wasn't there any more, you could be disappointed because it doesn't sound like the original song any more. I ended up agreeing with Vinny and that's why we tried to emulate the original album as much as we could, but using more modern sounds, a better vocal performance and more powerful guitars. So we tried to do the 'Out Of The Silence' album and just bring it more into 2018, but it still sounds like 'Out Of The Silence'. In that respect we had to work carefully and listen very hard to all the parts, because there are a lot of parts on the album that you wouldn't realise and you really have to analyse it. It was quite time consuming but it was a labour of love, it was something we really enjoyed doing. We made a few tempo changes, a few key changes so I could stretch my voice. I think it's worked well, it's just a new fresh version of an album that everybody loves.

That's the key. I've always loved the songs on the album, but I thought the production dated it too much. Now it sounds like you've recorded it during the same session as 'Sacred Ground', with the vocals and guitars much more up-front.

I know, and if you listen to the two versions side by side you realise just how much reverb there is on the vocals and how far back they are in the mix. I don't blame Mike Shipley for that, I just put it down to the fact that I wasn't a very good vocalist and Mike had to hide it! But you know, at the end of the day it was really nice to get the vocals clearer and less saturated with reverb, and get the guitars punchier, because we all thought the guitars were a bit low on the original as well. There's a lot of clean stuff going on but the actual power chords were very tucked back. That wasn't necessarily how we thought the album should sound, so it's been a journey that we hope we've done justice to.

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The one track that features the largest change is 'King Of Spades'. Where did the idea come from to incorporate the excerpt of 'Black Rose' into it?

Basically that version came before 'Out Of The Silence', because when I wrote 'King Of Spades' back when we were first gigging around and trying to get our first deal with A&M, we always did that version live. It was written in memory of Phil (Lynott) as you know, so we put the ending of 'Black Rose' in there as a dedication to Phil and we always said one day we would try and put it on a track we were going to record. With doing this thirty year anniversary it was the ideal opportunity.

Professor Brian Cox was a member of the band, do you still keep in touch, and did you consider inviting him to be a guest on the re-recording?

It's not like we go out for a pint every week but we do keep in touch, and Vinny keeps in touch with him. I get the odd text, and when he gives us a plug on the telly I send him a message to thank him, but that's it really. Truth be known, he didn't really play on the original album; we only brought him in for the live situation because A&M told me they wanted me out the front. They said "you can't play the keyboards if you're going to front the band, so you need to get a keyboard player in." So that's why we got Brian in, and it was just the fact that he lived next door, so it was quite handy.

Obviously you came to prominence as a member of Thin Lizzy. Phil dissolved the band in 1983 but it was another five years before 'Out Of The Silence' was released. Why did it take you so long to re-emerge?

Well my life with Thin Lizzy had ended and I was basically out of work. I stayed in London for a year. I was living with Raphael Ravenscroft, the guy who played the saxophone on 'Baker Street', because I thought London was the place to be. But as a matter of fact it wasn't so I ended up going back home and it was the best thing I ever did. I looked for local musicians and the first person I found was Vinny, and that was it. I'd been on tour with Lizzy for four years so I didn't know anyone, but Vinny knew everybody, so with his help I was able to recruit a bassist and drummer.

Did you always know what direction you wanted to take Dare in?

No, I can't say I did actually. We just had our favourite bands like Journey, Toto, Foreigner and FM, and all those types of bands. People always ask me where the Celtic influence comes in, but obviously it came from Thin Lizzy. I don't think you can get a more Celtic Rock band than Thin Lizzy really, so it was good grounding. There were a lot of melodic bands around at that time, so we had good teachers.

Are you planning any special shows where you will play 'Out Of The Silence' in its entirety?

I think we've only ever played the whole album once on the very first tour, and I wouldn't want to do that because we've got so many fans that are passionate about some of the other songs on the other albums, so I wouldn't want to just go out there and do that whole album. I'm not ruling it out, but we already play five songs from the album and some of the other songs aren't particularly great to play live anyway. Tracks like 'Under The Sun' and 'Don't Let Go' are big production numbers really; they're not difficult to play but they don't have the energy that some of the other songs do. We tend to do the ones that feel natural and that's usually down to a gut feeling when you start playing through them in a live situation. More often you come up with your best set that way, some songs just work better than others live.

There was a time not long ago when Dare shows were very scarce, but recently you have been performing live a lot more. What has changed?

Well as I said before, funnily enough our popularity seems to be getting bigger. 'Sacred Ground' was one of the biggest selling albums we've had for a long, long time. I think the new line-up with Vinny and Nigel (Clutterbuck, bassist) back and Kevin (Whitehead) on drums, it's a great formula. We're like a band of brothers, we love working together and when you have a group of people that enjoy working together good things come out of it. We've got a much bigger audience than when we came out with 'Belief' in 2001, and we've been building and building and it only seems fair that we should give our new audience something new. It's not an easy world out there for bands like us who are big on melodies and use a lot of keyboards, it's a difficult terrain. But we're even playing Rock festivals in Germany, and Germany has been notorious for Industrial and Death Metal for the last ten years, but slowly since 'Sacred Ground' went to Number One in the Amazon Rock charts, it shows people are still looking for nice songs with no screaming and shouting.

Things are going great for the band at the moment, so what is next for Dare?

Well we've got a brand new studio album next year with eleven or twelve new songs. That's it now, there will be no more re-recordings of the old catalogue, and that goes for 'Blood From Stone'. As I said, there was a specific reason for doing this one ... we're just working on new material now. The only other thing is that next year will be the 40th anniversary of 'Live And Dangerous', so I have been asked to do some Thin Lizzy shows next year. I'm hoping that won't take up too much time because I'm really looking forward to putting out a new Dare album.

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