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Dan Swano (Witherscape)

Interview with Dan Swano from Witherscape
by Dorothy Cheng at 25 August 2013, 12:30 PM

The legendary, charismatic and prolific Dan Swano returns this year with another release from his new band, WITHERSCAPE. Taking time off his busy schedule to talk to Metal Temple’s Dorothy Cheng, he elaborated on what first interested him about Progressive Metal, his many musical inspirations, advice for up and coming Progressive bands, and finally, his monumental distaste for Rap music. 

Greetings Dan, how are you? Before we start, congratulations are in order for putting out another massively wonderful record - the Metal world implodes every time you come up with something new! Having said that, let's head forward.

Thanks, man! It feels good to know the stuff works for more than myself and Ragz (Widerberg) :)

What first caught your attention about Progressive Metal?

I guess my first experience of "today's" progressive metal was buying QUEENSRYCHE’S Rage for Order the day it was released, and I hated it! I sold it to a guy down the street the same day. I was not expecting something so "complicated" since I had heard their previous stuff and "Walk in the Shadows" and "London" on the radio. They had their revenge on me with Operation: Mindcrime though. I still love that album to bits. I also think the track "Halloween" by HELLOWEEN is a fantastic showcase of metal taken to a higher level! And then of course, when I bought When Day and Dream Unite from DREAM THEATER. That was quite a revelation, but the big bang was Images and Words of course :)

What is it like working with only one other person in a band? Numerous reviews have celebrated your partnership with Widerberg, but from your perspective, what are the challenges and rewards of being one half of a duo?

There is a saying in Swedish that is roughly translated as "Shared joy, double joy". To be your own captain in a project can be fun and sometimes highly rewarding because it is the "all alone" part of it that inspires you the most (like with Moontower \[Swano’s solo album]), but having one more person around makes it harder to abandon the project or let it fade into obscurity for too long. There is always another one you have to think about, and you don't wanna let that person down, so you move forward at a steady pace. It's also great to be able to bounce ideas back and forth and inspire each other. I always enjoy it most when I’m writing and rehearsing with one guy only. My first band GHOST was a duo and once we added a bassplayer and later on a singer and a keyboarder, the whole dynamics changed and it was harder to try a musical idea, because you had to teach four people rather than just one, and there's always someone who doesn't "get it" as fast as the others and slows you down, and I need speed when I am "in the zone" :)

After years of being in the scene, what is the one thing that keeps motivating you to produce more records?

I need to write and record stuff. It's in my blood. But what keeps me motivated to release the stuff and go through that whole process is the fact that there is still an audience for me and my projects out there. It's amazing to see people I don't know "defend me" and my music when someone makes a rude comment on the stuff online etc. That's my number one motivation!

What is the inspiration behind the band's name, WITHERSCAPE?

We just couldn't find a name that wasn't already taken, so it boiled down to a lot of words we thought were cool, and I told Ragz I liked "Wither" and "Scape" and before we new it, we finally found a name that wasn't "taken" and it was "Witherscape" :)

What made you make the decision to sing more on this album?

I just felt that the combination of clean with "attitude" and growls would be awesome to use more as a "duet" on the same riff, rather than having clean on the soft and growls on the "evil" riffs. As far as I know, that's not been done by any other bands before! Correct me if I am wrong. I got the idea from the singer in PRETTY MAIDS to "switch" between one quite "friendly" voice and one with more attitude on the same riff and I thought "I wanna do that but with DIO’S style" and "growls". Said and done :)

What were some of the things that you learnt during your many years of playing in bands and producing that became the most valuable in making this record?

The outcome is what counts. The drums were recorded using cheap, China-made microphones and preamps. We spend time in livingrooms, kitchens (!!) using a laptop only to record some guitars and bass parts, but it worked out fine in the end and it cannot really be heard in the end product that we didn't hang out in a super-studio at all times.

Progressive Metal as it is in the scene is experiencing a lot of growth - is there something more that you're eager to see or perhaps undertake yourself?

I wish more of the bands still wrote good songs. I mean, there is nothing wrong with noodling around for 10 minutes, but make sure the noodling is based around a kick ass song, like the early SPOCK’S BEARD stuff. Even though their stuff can be 20 minutes or more, each moment counts.

What do you think is the most understated or underrated thing about Progressive Metal?

Probably the musicians. I mean, they can play well and all, but to remember all that stuff and play it to perfection is a huge deal. They say "let's play the whole of that album" and then they just learn and remember the stuff. Amazing.

As a veteran, if you had to give advice to up and coming bands especially in the Progressive Metal scene, what would it be?

Make sure that the song works well stripped of all "cool sounds". Play the stuff on acoustics and piano for the keyboards. Make sure it works even without drums, and for god’s sake, make sure to write the music around the vocals, rather than try to add it later like reverb or whatever :)

Metal is a constantly-evolving genre, and Progressive Metal is one of the few that is built on experimentation. However, what is one thing that you would never, ever want to see happen to Metal music?

Rap. But it did happen and oh boy, did it suck ass!

What was the main inspiration behind the album and is there a particular message for your fans?

The inspiration was to "get back out there" and show a sign of life for me. For Ragz I guess making the first record for a label was exciting! Musically it was stuff like the first five JUDAS PRIEST albums, VOIVOD (Nothingface), a bit of 80's QUEENSRYCHE, and of course stuff that inspired Moontower already, like RUSH and OPETH.

That would be all for now, thank you so much for your time! Congrats for the new release and good luck on the road ahead.

Thanks a lot for your interest in WITHERSCAPE!


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