An Interview with Dan Melchior
by Michael P. O’Shaughnessy

Dan Melchior’s prolific artistic career, which includes at least 30 titles as a solo songwriter and as a guitarist with Billy Childish and Holly Golightly, as well as painting, writing and photography, continues to expand with new releases and reissues of past recordings. Work with Billy Childish has him lumped in with the late-90s/early-00s mod garage revival, but as a solo artist, he falls so far outside of that realm that the label doesn’t fit. More of an art punk, Melchior’s work with his current band, Dan Melchior Und Das Menace, is more at home next to bands like Cheater Slicks, Sic Alps or the Oh Sees. He left England to live in the U.S. eight years ago and constantly tour, which was how we caught up in Columbus a while back.

Before, if I were to describe you to someone who has never heard you, I might say something like, “Oh, he played with Holly Golightly and Billy Childish.” Now, though, you’ve got a single coming out soon on the Columbus Discount Records Singles Club and it seems like dropping the CDR name is becoming a decent reference point for describing a general sound. So, do you think Dan Melchior fits in with the CDR aesthetic?

Dan Melchior: Yeah, I gotta say I’d rather be part of the CDR club than the Holly Golightly and Billy Childish club. That was something I did a long time ago. They just kind of had me in there to fuck it up a bit, not just to do solos. I was an unusual person in that group because I wasn’t completely obsessed with those people. I just drifted into it, you know what I mean? We’ll say it like this: I just really like the bands from around here [Columbus] a lot. I think this is a very good area of music. I like things that are a bit more—I hate to use the word experimental—more of an edge to it. I’ve never been a big fan of really straight garage rock. Never have been ever, really. I’d say I’m more into Krautrock. It’s a lot more my type, more like the stuff I’ve been trying to do. So, things like this, what’s happening here, I’m very happy that everything’s gotten weirder and people are trying harder. It just seemed like, for a long time, everybody just played this formulaic rock, like [mimics Kinks riff], and I’m not trying to have a go at Billy Childish. I like him—he’s a very nice person—but I definitely got tired of hearing about that. I’ve been living here [in the U.S.] for eight years, and that was a long time ago. I only made one record with then anyway.

So how does this CDR scene compare to the London scene you grew up in?

DM: London’s just so big, there wasn’t really a certain scene. But the garage rock crowds, I ended up playing to those people because they’re the type of people that wanted to hear what I was doing. It was very haircut oriented, everyone had to have an Elvis greaseback or a Brian Jones mop, sort of like a dress-up party and everybody’s really fetishistic about the past. In that scene, though, Billy Childish was the best because he wasn’t really like that and he really, really wanted to actually do something. He wasn’t one of “those” people. And really, it wasn’t something I wanted to be involved in.

When I was growing up, I really liked hip-hop. Live rock in London was a dying thing, and it had been for a really long time. Only really big bands play shows. You couldn’t do this [play in a little club] or play a house party. Maybe in Scotland or something, where people are a little more hospitable. But London is the place you’d play if you wanted to get no reaction whatsoever to what you’re doing, kinda like Paris. In Paris, people just stand there and look totally fucking bored, then at the end of the show they come up like [in a haughty French accent], “I love this, can I please buy all your records?” People in the States at least know how to make noise and say “Woo!” at the end of the set, you know.

What do you have lined up for release after this 7-inch?

DM: I’ve got a double-album coming out on that label SS from Sacramento. Maybe this record O Clouds Unfold is gonna get reissued next year.

Is that the one that’s hidden under somebody’s bed in England?

DM: No, that’s another one. I’ve had a lot of that kind of trouble. This one never came out, but it was supposed to come out on Troubleman, and, I don’t know, the guy just put it off. It was with the Broke Revue. It was the last record we did, this double-album.

From what I’ve read, I feel like a lot of your records end up in somebody’s warehouse instead of getting released.

DM: Yeah, it’s happened a number of times. I don’t really regret any of it because I’m kinda happier with the way things are now than I have been for a long time. I didn’t want to have to live in New York anymore, so that was a good excuse to get out of there. The band was collapsing anyway, so if that hadn’t have happened I don’t know what it’d be like. If that record would’ve come out, then things would be very different right now and I’d probably be pretty miserable at this point. I mean, we started playing shows with popular bands, and it was crap. It was just no fun at all. It’s just like, in New York, as soon as you start to do a certain thing everybody’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s it now. They’re gonna get big,” and all that crap. And no one does. But that’s the expectation and everyone’s like, “We should do this or that and it will be a good thing for us.” That’s where everybody in the band got kind of difficult. It’s very difficult to have everybody expecting too much. I’m glad that everything went down the way it did, and I’m glad to be putting records out with people I respect and that have good taste. You look at people who do well in this business, which is very unlikely, and it’s always this short-term thing that fizzles out and leaves them feeling pissed off. I’m happier not to have ever had that much, know what I mean?