A Q&A with Dan Heathcote

Dan Heathcote interview

Leader of Nottingham alt-rockers Zadkiel on solo diversion…

What’s the title of your latest release, and what does it mean to you?
The current release is my first solo acoustic album called Limbic System. It is named after the part of the brain that processes emotions, and it is an emotional record, being a mix of light and dark. Some songs are beautiful others are more aggressive. There are vulnerable moments, angst and blissful ones too. I wanted the record to convey a range and depth of feeling.

What was the hardest part about putting this release together, and why?
I recorded this record before lockdown and Covid, it was actually finished ready in 2019 and then the pandemic happened. I worked with my friend Doug Robson who engineered and mixed it and he became a parent as well which elongated the process of completion.

Who produced the release – what did they bring to it?
Doug Robson recorded, mixed and produced Limbic System. He did a great job of making things sound very clear and spacious and detailed. We recorded three mics for the acoustic and then used a Rode Condenser on the vocals with some back vocals. Quite minimal compared to the band recordings. It still sounds big and epic though for acoustic record, despite being unadorned. The Reverb we used on some of the tracks gives an otherworldly feel. It was mastered by Joe Caithness, and he breathed more life into the record and made it sound pristine and fully realised.

What do you want the listener to take away from listening to your music?
Hope and catharsis. This record is a bit more optimistic than most of my music, there are reference to romantic relationships and the next life, but also a sense of making the most of what we have here and now. Any darker songs discuss what we are all up against in terms of society and time and the haunting power of the subconscious. To know what it is and to feel it and overcome it through the music empowers us. There are references to the internet and mythology… the past and the future seen through the lens of now. There is religious imagery and space imagery to place the mind’s eye in different points in the continuum.

How does a track normally come together? Can you tell us something about the process?
I write poetry everyday based on how I feel or what I read about in books or see in films ccience fiction & horror mainly but not exclusively. I get inspiration from literature and movies/ TV series. After I have written a book of poetry I tend to then use some of it via cut up technique and create lyrics for chord progression or riffs on the guitar or piano. Once the music is written /recorded, the vocals are then recorded as the icing on the cake.

What band/artists have influenced you the most since you started this project, and why?
Jeff Buckley and Radiohead influenced me early on when I was a teenager beginning to write songs, in the mid to late 90’s. Especially Jeff Buckley’s death, which felt like he had left a lasting legacy but a finite one because of completing just the one album in Grace while he was still alive. When the second album Sketches was posthumously released it changed everything for me and made me want to be a singer songwriter for good. The Bends and OK Computer felt like a blue print for making futuristic sounding alternative rock. They still sound classic to me to this day. Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and PJ Harvey also were inspirational. More recently with Limbic System Martin Grech’s March of The Lonely and also some of Jeff Tweedy from Wilco’s solo stuff have shaped the sound of this acoustic record. I wanted to do something stripped down and honest in the room compared to my alternative rock/ modern prog group Zadkiel which make more sonically expansive records.

Dan Heathcote interview singer

If you could pick one track for our readers to listen to in order to get a taste of your music, what would you pick, and why?
‘Hive Mind’ is the first single released on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes etc.. It’s quite rocking, a call to arms to resist group think and brain washing. The video was shot at our studio and in Nottingham city centre by a guy called Taz, @shotbytaz. It captured the spirit of thing, with CCTV, crowd footage and insect imagery to conjure the hive and a sense of paranoia.

What ambitions do you have for your career?
I want to keep writing songs both on my own and with my band Zadkiel, and to play live and keep putting out records for the foreseeable future. Zadkiel are writing some new songs for a second album, the follow up to The Saturn Return. We are also going to begin to play some more shows in 2022, after having had a hiatus enforced by the Covid 19 pandemic in the last 18 months or so.

Finally, as you leave the stage, what are your parting words?
I won’t be controlled by the Hive Mind.

For more info visit: facebook.com/dan.heathcote
Images: Paul Boast


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