Thursday, June 25, 2015

LA History: Dan Meyer

From DKO to Dashboard to DMP

Dan Meyer was the original guitar player for Don Knotts Overdrive, and had also played in local space-rock masters Farflung...both gigs that my brother would replace him in.

Dan left DKO in the late 90s to join Dashboard Prophets, a harder group fronted by Chris Dye. Dashboard Prophets quickly gained a following and got signed. They recorded a strong debut album ("Burning Out The Inside") which had the misfortune of being confused with a Soundgarden album with a similar name, and the good fortune of placing one of their better songs on the TV show "Buffy The Vampire Slayer". The band then settled into the weird limbo of not quite making it yet and waiting to figure out if they got a second album or not.

I had seen Dashboard Prophets several times, including one of the big gigs where all the A&R guys were deciding to sign them. They were great live, very aggressive, with some strong songs.

Dan had a unique guitar style in that he didn't play with a pick - he strummed by flicking his fingers, or picking at the strings directly.

Slow Down

In 1996, Dan called me out of the blue and asked me if I was interested in joining his new project as the bass player.

I can't remember if I had already heard the demos or not, but I can remember that when I did hear them, I was blown away.

Dan wrote great, beautiful, heartfelt songs with strong melodies and hooks. He'd been listening to a lot of Palace Brothers and "Nebraska" by Bruce Springsteen, and the stripped-down, honest quality of his songs reflected that. These were songs about his life, about being alone, about missing his brother, about his self-destructing friends. I instantly loved them.

I also remember what Dan said to me. I asked him why he wanted me in his band, because I wasn't a great bass player. I didn't even own a bass -- I had to borrow one from my girlfriend. In fact, I think this was actually the first band I officially played bass in. He told me "You're not a rock goon. I don't want to play with rock goons. I need real musicians." It was incredibly flattering.

So The Dan Meyer Project was born. Dan on guitar and vocals, me on bass, and Dashboard Prophet's Leo Bocce on drums. We rehearsed several places, including the lockout I had near the 405 and Santa Monica Boulevard.

I played bass with a pick and sang backup. And I loved it. This was the first band I was really and regularly playing in since my own project had died, and it felt great.

We played a bunch of shows, perhaps the most notable being a gig at the Alligator Lounge where Chris Farley showed up...and then passed out, head down on a table while we were playing (he died not long after that). I thought Dan's songs were great, and we had a good vibe.

But after a while, Dan had enough. He was a somewhat shy guy, and I think being a frontman was terrifying and tiring for him, and the constant rejection the L.A. scene forces on you is tough. The live band ended.


Dan and my brother set about recording Dan's songs in slightly improved form over the demos. I can no longer remember when the original recordings were done, but they were done to just 8 tracks on the DA-88. The original idea was to have everyone from the Silverlake scene and all of Dan's friends contribute to the various tracks.

When I heard the final product, I was a little disappointed. Some of the magic of Dan's demos had been lost, though in general the songs were much tighter (Dan had a penchant for way-out-of-left-field bridges my brother was able to eradicate) and there were some nice touches.

When I finally quit my day job, I made a personal project out of remixing the tracks in my home studio. Part of it was a way to educate and challenge myself about working on acoustic tracks that I neither recorded nor engineered, but part of it was just wanting better mixes of the songs.

Needless to say, I didn't really do that great of a job. I rushed it, for one thing, trying to bang them all out quickly instead of being methodical and patient. I also didn't quite have the skills or gear to match what I wanted to achieve. I haven't heard the original mixes in at least 15 years, but I think my mixes are kind of anemic, washed out, and not all that good.

Still, Dan's terrific songwriting shines through. This track, "Rejoice, Rejoice, Rejoice", is a little less open-hearted and a little more snarky than some of Dan's work, but it's a good example of what's good about him (and bad about my mixes!)


After not hearing anything from or about Dan for a decade, I reconnected with him in New York City in 2012. He works in IT now, and is married with 2 children.

I was thrilled to hear that Dan had returned to making music, first with the kid-indie-rock Danimal "Volume 1", and just a few weeks ago with a soon-to-be released full-on Dan Meyer album. I've heard the advance tracks, and it's great!

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