September 27, 2011

Pop Quiz: Danny Ross

Danny Ross

Danny Ross

NAME: Danny Ross
ORIGIN: Long Island, NY
MEMBERS: Danny Ross
QUIZ VICTIM: The man himself, Danny Ross

You play with a nine-piece band and horn section. How did you pull that together? And what's it like to play in a group that large?

Indeed, it's a large band. We operate like a Shaker bohemian commune in the 1880s - growing wheat and vegetables, raising goats, building shelter. There's no personal possession, just all of us living off the land organically, man. You know what I'm saying? You know what I mean?

I have an Excel spreadsheet of musicians, and I call them with my smart phone.

What has been your favorite experience playing live?

Last month we finish a killer 90 minute set at Washington, DC's Iota. The crowd is screaming, and I'm feeling like a million bucks. In fact, I'm feeling so good, I mistake a pile of hard equipment for a staircase and tumble headfirst into a hundred fans. Some dude yells "Almost a perfect show! Maybe take off your Raybans next time." Damn it.

I had a few other random moments of glory like opening for Paula Cole (despite weeping backstage with a bottle of wine hearing her dulcet tones) and Lower East Side Residencies at The Living Room and Pianos. But speaking of big bands, we played the album One Way in its entirety with a seventeen-piece orchestra at NYC's St. Mark's Church for the release. Though, for the record, I got into my first fight ever that night. With a bouncer. I lost.

You've said of music, "If it came out after 1975, the statistical odds are that I won't like it very much." What do you look for in music, and what do you think is missing from music today?

I'm attracted to natural instruments, authentic performances and risk-taking. It's very easy to hide behind a slick production, so I focus on the hard parts first, which happen to be the most basic - What are you saying? How are you saying it? The Beatles paid attention to this and also took risks in their chord changes, rhythms and harmonies; Bob Dylan paid attention to this andtook risks with his lyrical narratives. They both composed and performed art in their medium with authenticity, ambition and real struggle for truth and simplicity, which is why their records stand up.

I also prefer Rock, Folk and Soul records from the 50s through the 70s because it was the golden age of those genres. The best songs from the best time of my favorite styles. I know there are elements of hip-hop, electronic and indie that are really blooming right now, but those really aren't my preferred sounds at the moment.

You're a rocker by night, but by day, you're a staffer for U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler. Have those worlds ever collided?

Worlds colliding. You mean like Seinfeld's "Relationship George" vs. "Independent George?" Or do you mean that strip when Superman finally meets Batman?

Yes, actually we hosted a Benefit Concert for 9/11 Environmental Action, a group of downtown community members affected by the dust and contaminants of the disaster. Congressman Nadler was great enough to be on the Honorary Committee and attend the concert for which we raised a few thousand dollars. The World Trade Center is in the Congressman's district so our office is very much involved in these issues. We also played a show with "Obama Girl" at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

One Way, your newest album, contains an interesting juxtaposition. It's you at a fork in the road, looking left, while the arrow in the album artwork points right. Was this an intentional choice, or do you just defy convention by nature?

Exactly, I'm a provocateur. Just when I'm telling you one thing, I'm really meaning something else. Like right now for example - what am I getting at? Whose the real Danny Ross? Why am I putting out awful records - Is it because they're actually masterpieces? See, you don't know cause I'm wily like that. How many fingers am I holding up? Who shot JFK? You tell me. Boom. I just blew your mind.