November 4th, 2011
Q&A: Guitarist And Recent Philly Transplant Daniel Bachman Talks Virginia, Jack Rose, Picking Guitars And Upcoming Work
Disclaimer: Daniel Bachman and I are both from Fredericksburg, Virginia. We didn’t know each other or anything–I’m about one hundred years older than him–but we’re both from there, so maybe I’m partial. I’d heard the 21-year-old’s music before–namely a lovely 2010 LP of drones and acoustic fingerpicking called Apparitions At The Kenmore Plantation (Free Download) he recorded under the name Sacred Harp–so we’d been in touch via email a bit. We randomly crossed paths for the first time a few weeks ago out in Lancaster County in a barn where Meg Baird, Sir Richard Bishop, Michael Hurley and Bonnie “Prince” Billy were playing. That night he told me he would be moving to Philadelphia a few days later. Now he’s holding down a sofa in the Fishtown/Kensington area.
He’s no longer working under the name Sacred Harp. Now he’s just Daniel Bachman, and he’s playing Sunday night at Highwire Gallery along with psych-rock thang Amen Dunes and Philly’s Dan Matz. We met in a West Philly bar last night over a few beers and whiskeys to chat about Fredericksburg and Apparitions, moving to Philly, his recent work, and another wonderful man and guitarist from Fredericksburg–the late great Jack Rose, who lived in Philly for many years prior to his death in 2009.
Make Major Moves: Why’d you decide to move to Philadelphia?
Daniel Bachman: The first show I ever played with my original stuff was over by Temple at this dude Shane’s house. I was 16, so I drove up here from Fredericksburg with a few friends. I was really wasted and the show sucked. It really sucked, but I’ve wanted to live here ever since. When I was 17, I dropped out of high school and decided I was gonna move here. I had like two thousand dollars saved up and all that shit, but I utlimately ended not doing it. I worked at Sammy T’s for a few years instead.
MMM: That place has pretty good sandwiches. Some dudes from Skywave used to work there.
DB: Yeah, they still do. They’re in a band called Ceremony now. They just toured Europe. So I had been wanting to move to Philly since about 2007, but it just didn’t happen until now. Now I’m able to work and try to be an adult. That’s what’s happening now.
MMM: On Apparitions At The Kenmore Plantation, both the album and song titles, there are a lot of references to Fredericksburg.
DB: I’m really obsessed with Fredericksburg, and Virginia as a whole. I love them both so much. The songs are named after places where I’d get really baked in high school. That sounds silly, but they were all really profound experiences. Like, Marye’s Heights where I’d get really hammered and listen to that talking box at the top of it. It has this regal, Southern voice that says “There was fire and hell and it rained down upon the poor Yankee victims as the Confederate soldiers took victory over them.”
I’ve always had a weird, irrational obsession with the Civil War. When I was really young, I’d always ask my parents to just drive me around the battlefields. I have a bunch of songs coming out that have all the same references. But I like to keep them obscure so people from Fredericksburg don’t even know what I’m talking about. I really like it there. I kinda wanna move back there. I kinda never want to leave that place.
MMM: One song, named after the river, is called “Rappahannock (JR).” Is that “JR” for Jack Rose?
DB: That’s the only song I think I’ll ever specifically write for somebody. In 2009, during the Christmas parade in downtown Fredericksburg… that was the day that Jack Rose died. I was at the parade when I got a phone call from somebody in Philly saying he had died. I worked with him a little bit and sorta got to know him through the Fredericksburg connection. I tried to follow him wherever he’d go. I always wanted to be there. When I got home, I wrote that song over the next few days. The night he died the river was frozen. There was all this snow on it.
MMM: He also had a song called “Rappahannock River Rag,” right?
DB: Yeah. He dedicated his to William Moore, who was from Tappahannock. There’s a weird triangle of references…
MMM: Do you see yourself as working within the tradition of playing Jack belonged to?
DB: I don’t know. It’s frustrating because everybody wants to put things in that box, but I don’t want to be associated with that at all. It’s the wrong time to do it because there are a ton of people trying to do it right now… many who are more successful than where I am at the moment. I don’t want to fight for that spot. Like, there’s this dude named Cian Nugent from Ireland who just got all this great press. He was in The Wire and shit. He’s doing it, you know.
I’d like to work with some of these people to build a community of young guitarists, but they’re all kind of weird and they don’t want to do that. Personally, I don’t want to just make stuff with guitars. I’ve been using found sounds and taking notes from the guitar and doing a lot of digital manipulation. I’ve been taking a microsecond of sound and stretching it out for like ten minutes and layering it. Anything that’s not purely one guitar.
MMM: Do you have a new record coming out soon?
DB: There’s one pending. There’s a dude in Maine who’s thinking of putting it out, probably in January or February. It’s called Oh Be Joyful. It’s the name of a drink people made in the mid-1800s out of leather and turpentine and stuff and it fucked them up. They drank it and they loved it. I also have a CD coming out that I recorded two weeks ago. I was really sad when I first moved here. I didn’t know what was going on, and I didn’t have a job, so I just recorded it. That’s called Gray Black Green, which is based on Robbie Basho’s “Esoteric Doctrine Of Color & Mood.” There’s a chart based on a circle of fifths where every key represents a color and a mood. “Gray Black Green” is the most fucked up sounding one. There’s also a tape, and then a 7-inch called Double Lock Groove being released by a guy in Germany.
MMM: So, as you did for Fredericksburg, do you think you’ll drop Philadelphia references in future song titles?
DB: Hmm. I don’t know. There’s a cave in West Philly that doesn’t have a name. Maybe I’ll name it and do a song. Probably. I just name everything off cool stuff I hear, like from a Ken Burns documentary, or whatever. Or if I’m just in some town and I hear about something that sounds sick. Yeah, probably, but I don’t want it to be too obvious, like “Kensington Two-Step” or something.
Daniel Bachman plays Sun., Nov 6, 7:30pm. $6. With Amen Dunes + Dan Matz. Highwire Gallery, 2040 Frankford Ave. 215.426.2685. museumfire.com/events.