Sunday, October 6, 2013

Danny Saber Interview

Danny Saber knows music.  The LA native has had an admirable career that spans over two decades.  As a musician, songwriter, record producer, audio engineer, remixer and DJ, his versatility as an artist has led him to projects as disparate as playing guitar and bass in the British band Black Grape to producing major artists to scoring films.  I had a chance to chat with Danny on The Knix Mix about his new album “Saber Bytes Vol 2,” which was released digitally in May and is out on CD as of October.  Danny credits the rise of his career to being in the “right place and right time in history.”  He had an early interest in music and connected stylistically with everything from hip hop to metal to R&B and soul.  He started playing guitar as a kid and, as he evolved as a musician, he started dabbling with drum machines and 4 track tape recorders.  He got his hands on a sampler before they were mainstream and became one of the first people in LA to have one.  Danny said he was lucky because “all the things that were being done technology wise, I was there at the beginning.  Once the gear became more acceptable and, as it grew, I was ready.  It put me in a unique position.”
I was curious how it came to pass that a kid from LA ended up in Black Grape with front man Shaun Ryder, formerly of Happy Mondays.  Along with The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays were the leaders of the Manchester scene in the late 80's and early 90's.  The band fell apart in 1992 in the wake of Shaun's drug addiction.  Ryder formed Black Grape in the mid 90's and recruited Danny to play bass and guitar.  The band released "It's Great When You're Straight...Yeah" in 1995 to much acclaim.  The movie “24 Hour Party People” is a semi fictional account of Shaun’s early days.  Danny said he was trying to break into the music business in LA and came to produce a demo for Proper Grounds, which was the first band Madonna signed to Maverick Records.  He co-wrote a 1/3 of the record and was signed to a publishing deal with EMI.  Danny got them to send him to England, which was a personal dream for him.  Not only is his mother’s family British, but he also wanted to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Jimi Hendrix.  “He went to England.  I needed to go to England” said Danny. He was managed there by the same company who managed renowned producer Butch Vig.  Vig was asked to produce Black Grape, but he didn’t have the time and wasn’t the best fit.  Danny was given a shot.  As it turned out, Danny and Shaun had good chemistry.  Danny reflects that he “hooked up with the right guy at the right stage in his career and the right stage of my career.”  He said “I was young.  I was too stupid to know what I was up against.  I was really hungry and had the right sort of skill set to complement Shaun.”
As Danny’s career took off, he came to work with a resume of artists that reads like a “Who’s Who” of popular music across genres including Madonna, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Busta Rhymes and Willie Nelson.  “Music is music.” according to Danny.  He said that there’s not that much difference between working with someone like Willie Nelson to the Rolling Stones.  “It’s all musicians making music.”  He had the good fortune of working with some of the best people in different genres.  As a producer, he’s tried to be flexible and bring out the best in the artist.  “You have to recognize what’s great about them and create an environment for them to succeed.  It’s almost like an octopus.  There are all these tentacles of musical places I’ve been.” he said, laughing.  Danny, reflecting on his long career, said, “There are so many things I forgot I even did!  It was pretty amazing when I look back on it now.”
“Saber Bytes” is a grassroots effort by Danny that grew with the collapse of the mainstream music business.  Danny has seen the shift from the days when he was getting paid a lot of money to work with people to being asked to do it for nothing.  “Now it’s about just making stuff and putting it out there.  It’s been challenging.”  He said It has become the responsibility of the artist to find a way to maintain being artists.  “So many artists have been coming to me, and we’ll find a way to do a few tracks together.  I kind of woke up with a stockpile of all this material and all these really great artists, and they don’t know where to begin.  What I do is a little outside of the mainstream in the sense, especially these days, when who has a shot at a major label is a narrow sort of corridor now.  There’s viable artists out there, and I wanted to try to create a vehicle for them to get their stuff out.  That’s what this is really about.”  It is also a way for Danny to “create his own little piece of real estate to stand on built on his own name and what he can do in these changing times.”  Danny has no backer for the album, so showing your support by asking for it in record stores and buying the CD when it drops “is an important part of the puzzle” to keep his efforts going.  Danny said the record has done really well thanks to college radio and independent radio like my home base, Community Radio WERU FM.  Danny said “Saber Bytes Vol 2” was the Number 1 record on a number of stations and has consistently been in the Top 30.  The album has been getting a lot of support, and “It’s based on the strength of the music.” according to Danny.

“Saber Presents Saber Bytes Volume 2” is available on iTunes, and the CD is available as of October.  To learn more about Danny, check out his website at

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