Finding a voice is not a problem for Daniel Maitland. His mixed bag of creative achievements include Idle Hands, a dark thriller, Even Bad Dogs Do Good Things, a book of poetry and Rumours of a Nice Day, an album released last summer on Folkwit Records.
But it was with just music in mind that I attended his three hour set at East Dulwich’s Boho Bar.
Maitland is in possession of a rich male voice and an ability to play more instruments than I have family members. Acoustic pop is not usually for me but what raises his music above achievement in a genre status is the bravery in both lyrics and performance.
It is not easy to perform to a room filled mainly with the half-pissed and half-listening, and it is not easy to come up with lyrics that are both corrosive and tender. However, as the golfing enthusiast and plucky philosopher put it after the show, ‘you give it a good putt and if you miss the hole you miss the hole.’
Who are your musical influences?
‘On Rumours of a Nice Day my influences were people like Tom Waits, Neil Young, Charles Bukowski, David Bowie, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and a really nice singer called Judee Sill.’
How would you describe the album?
‘I call the album unashamedly introspective. The sound is stripped down, based mainly around the guitar and the piano with me banging bits of percussion and a phillicorder, which is a really old organ that gives a warm pad to everything.’
You play lots of instruments: the guitar, the harmonica, the piano and the saxophone, and you also write the lyrics, is there one aspect of making music that you prefer above the rest?
‘What I like most is the writing. Once I’ve finished the harmonic setting of the lyrics, the creative process is over but I do the music production because no one else is going to come along and do it!’
What motivates you to make your music when your favourite outlet is writing?
‘It gives me the same satisfaction to write a piece of music as it does a piece of writing. It comes from the same source. In a couple of reviews people have accused me of being a dilettante which I was really offended by. Joni Mitchell paints, Tom Waits acts, David Bowie makes multimedia and Brian Eno does all sorts of things.’
Most of your songs are about relationships. Do you think it’s vitally important to be in one?
‘No. I think we’re in a relationship anyway. I think we’re all in relationships with our friends and family. I don’t think that monogamous, coupled relationships are necessary any more. They’re great if you get them right, and good luck to the people that do, but I think that, for all those which are good, there are as many, if not more, that are destructive and negative and limit the potential of the people in the relationship.’
In the song Life and Our Condition you say ‘let the revolution pass, it’s holding up the cars; let the revolution pass, whilst we sneer at it from bars.’ Have you resigned from society and if so, why?
‘I state that position so ridiculously that the only possible result of listening to that song is that – if you choose to follow the words which most people don’t – you’ll think “well, I’m not having that, I don’t think the cars should have priority over the revolution, I don’t think we should be laissez faire.” It’s such an indefensible position that I think this is actually a positive song .’
You’re originally from Margate. Has being in London affected your creativity?
‘Moving to London knocked the stardust out of me and made me a much better musician. I realised that unless you’re going to be really lucky, you need to be really good at things. I’m not pretty enough not to be good at things.’
Are there any particular places that inspire?
‘I like East Dulwich a lot; it suits me because it’s full of middle-class, middle-aged people who are fairly left-wing and trying to have a nice life. I used to think that was a terrible thing to be and now I think what’s wrong with that! I also like walking along the South Bank. My Mum and I meet up every month at Waterloo and walk all the way along it to London Bridge and then I take her to a fish restaurant and we have the same dish. It’s nice; you get the best of London in a microcosm.’
Dan played at:
52 Lordship Lane
Tel: 020 8693 9168