Interview Dave Bandana (The Bardic Depths)

"It is by far the best thing I have ever done and I am so proud of it"

(February 2020, text by Henri Strik, pictures provided by Dave Bandana)

Nowadays Facebook is even more important for musicians to promote their music. But also to make new friends to start working with. The British musician Dave Bandana, located in Lanzarote, realised this too when he asked on the Big Big Train Facebook forum if anybody could help him out to contribute on some songs he had written. It was the start of what later on became The Bardic Depths. Of course this needs an introduction. Because hardly anybody knows Dave and certainly not The Bardic Depths! Time to put it on the spotlight!

Dave Bandana
Dave, can you tell a bit about yourself first! Where do you come from in the UK and why did you move to Lanzarote?
I lived in County Durham in U.K. before I moved to Lanzarote. I was a sales manager but became disillusioned with the job. My wife and I moved to Lanzarote with the intension of leading a quiet and relaxed life with me playing the odd gig to support ourselves but my show became successful and I work 5 nights a week entertaining the tourists.

In the past you made also albums with Salander and Birzer Bandana. Can you give us an inside how this got together?
I recorded the Salander albums with my friend Dave Curnow as a fun project. They were recorded in my home studio and mixed to a very basic level by me so we released them to BandCamp as pay as you like or pay nothing at all. When I moved out here, I continued writing so asked my professor friend and prog enthusiast Brad Birzer if he would write some lyrics for me. Two albums were made under the Birzer Bandana name. Again, recorded at home and mixed to a certain level but nowhere near professional quality although there are some good ideas there. I am thinking about trying to remix them.

Finally, there was The Bardic Depths. Can you tell in a nutshell how this was realised?
Brad asked if I wanted to do a third album and I agreed. I started writing it. It felt different to anything else I had written and I felt it need contributions from other more capable musicians. Once it was nearing completion it was so obviously not another Birzer Bandana album. I wanted to acknowledge the other guys who had helped and thought a different name for the band / project would me more appropriate. After coming up with lots of weird proggy names we decided on the album title for the band name as well

Can you also tell in a nutshell the concept of the album and why has it the title The Bardic Depths?
The album is about friendship and its ability to get us through any situation including war. It focuses on the literary friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis from its meeting in world war one to its demise in 1949, but celebrates their legacy as well.

Why did you name this musical project The Bardic Depths as well?
The album title came before the band name. It had a working title of The Inklings but The Bardic Depths conjures more mystery.

Brad Birzer
How difficult was it to write music to the lyrics of Brad Birzer and what inspires you to come up with some new music?
I had started writing some themes before I even saw any lyrics. Some were used and others discarded. Brad's lyrics are unusual in so much as they create imagery instead of telling a story outright. Once I understood what he was trying to say I set to work creating soundscapes and songs to reflect the words. My inspiration comes from sounds and textures. I will spend ages creating sounds on a keyboard or guitar and then letting a tune or sound picture appear. Hopefully I have the record button pressed.

On the album you got musical assistance from musicians such as Peter Jones (Camel/Tiger Moth Tales), Tim Gehrt (Streets/Steve Walsh), and Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf). How did this happen?
I am still asking myself the same question. As I said before, I knew the album need more capable musicians than myself. I am part of the Big Big Train Facebook forum and had met with Gareth Cole and Glenn Codere in a pub after a BBT concert in London in 2017. It was only later that I found out Gareth was a guitar player and a good one at that. I asked him if he would play lead guitar on a couple of tracks and he agreed. I knew I need some saxophone on a track called The Depths Of Soul so I asked in the forum if anyone knew of a sax player who might be interested. Peter Jones was mentioned. Now I am a huge fan of Tiger Moth Tales and everything Peter is involved in and I never even considered he would want to work with me, a total unknown. Five minutes later he replies back saying if its only a small tootle he would be happy to do it. He sends me a great solo and also plays in other places on the song. I am amazed but also confident enough to ask if he has time to do another track that would sound great with some sax. He managed to find time and sends me the most amazing piece of saxophone playing I have ever heard. He reaches notes it should be impossible to play on an alto sax.
GarethCole Mike Warren Kevin McCormick
Kevin McCormick is a great friend of Brad and an amazing classical guitarist and he contributed to two songs. I was looking for a drummer and he told me he had a friend who played drums that would be interested. This friend turns out to be Tim Gehrt, a brilliant drummer who had played with Steve Walsh, the first time he left Kansas. I knew Paolo Limoli from the Facebook group and had seen his videos of him playing Genesis songs so asked him to contribute piano and keys. John William Francis mentioned he played marimba one day so he added that sound to the mix. Glenn is a moderator for the BBT page and I found out he had sung a bit in earlier years so asked him for some backing vocals. Mike Warren offered some cello and I had a track perfect for that. I need some spoken word. Well three words actually so again I asked in the group and five or six people sent me a recording by messenger of them saying “This Is War” Yourself included. Finally, Robin Armstrong was the final piece to the puzzle but we will come to that soon.

Album art
How long did it take to write, record and to release the album and are you satisfied with the result?
It took 18 months from start to finish. It was completed in December2019. CD manufacture happened in January and promotion started then. The first single Depths Of Time (The Flicker) was released early January with a video.
The pre order started on Feb 7th and the album is released on 20th March.
It is by far the best thing I have ever done and I am so proud of it and the contributions from everyone. I can't thank them enough.

You are a mult-instrumentalist and have a kind of recording studio in your house. Can you tell me what instruments you can play on and how difficult it is to record your own compositions?
I play guitar. I started when I was ten years old. I am probably still at the same level as what I was when I was thirteen. I play bass and I can pick out a tune and create nice sounds on a keyboard. I am a virtuoso on none of them. On the track The End I play flute and harmonica even though I can't play them. I made noises on them. I enjoy making music in my studio but I understand my limitations as an engineer.

Robin Armstrong mixed and mastered the album. How important was that for you?
Extremely important. I had asked for some advice on CD production and Robin had responded and asked to hear what we had done. He suggested that although it was good and had potential it need to be of a more professional quality for it to sell on CD. He took the songs to another level. He is a very modest man but, in my eyes, and quite a few others, a total genius at what he does. I am humbled that he even wanted to work with me.

Paolo Limoli and Robin Armstrong
The album is the first release on Robin Armstrong's own record label Gravity Dream Music. Why was it released on his label and did you had other labels which were interested?
To cut a long story short, he said he would be interested in mixing and mastering it to a professional level, and not only that, he would like to release it as the first album on his brand-new record label Gravity Dream Music. Robin is another musical hero of mine and the quality of his work is outstanding so there was no way I was going to turn him down. His was the first and only interest and I said yes straight away.

On the album I certainly hear that you are influenced by Pink Floyd, but also your music reminded me of Freedom To Glide. A band which also is influenced by them. A coincidence?
I have always been influenced by Pink Floyd. As Freedom to Glide are likewise influenced it is no coincidence.

Which acts also influenced you furthermore and is Talk Talk one of them?
Talk Talk were a band that had passed me by until Brad introduced me to them. I like the way they create a collage of sound however minimal and I tried to create their ethos of recording. The brief for the contributors was to play whatever they felt was needed for the song.
Other influences are of course Big Big Train but only as an inspiration.

How are the reactions on the album so far?
All good from the limited amount of people that have heard it.

Will there be a follow up album and will you take the album on the road?
It depends how well this one does as to whether there will be a follow up. I couldn't go back to producing albums of a lesser quality so would need Robin on board again so that is probably a question for him. The logistics of just getting all the band members together would be astronomical and expensive as they all live around the world. So I cant see it ever being played live although I would have loved to have done it.

Any other future plans?
It's now time to promote it. Do the radio and press interviews and try to sell out our initial CD stock. My dream is to have a vinyl release but it depends how well the CD does. Then its feet up and relax, carry on entertaining the tourists and feeding and looking after150 street cats.

Dave thanks for answering my questions
No problem. Enjoyed it.
The album can be ordered here:

More info about Dave Bandana / The Bardic Depths on the Internet:

       facebook The Bardic Depths
       facebook Dave Bandana

       review album 'The Bardic Depths'


       where to buy

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