“The pursuit of perfection in art is a completely futile waste of time because there is no yardstick to measure an art,” reasons Dan Patlansky. “What is the perfect art? It’s in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.”
The blues-rock musician is explaining why his new LP’s called ‘Perfection Kills’.
“It’s the perfect way to describe the album,” he continues, “because that was the concept I had: I wanted a more organic, raw feel going through it.”
The title also points to the way these 10 songs were recorded: mostly live in the studio.
“I wanted the album to sound closer to the way it’s going to be when we tour it,” he explains. So he looked for a studio with a “very live sound, almost like a living room” and, inspired by one of his favourite bands, Rival Sons, kept his time there to a minimum.
“They spend three weeks in the studio when they do an album, so they don’t overthink anything,” the singer and guitarist explains. “Because as soon as you overthink stuff, you start to try and perfect things and that’s when the magic gets polished away.
“So we did the same thing – we did two weeks tracking and that was it – and it’s great to do that because all you do for those two weeks is you focus on the album and the stuff you’re keeping from gut feel.”
With such a clear vision for the album, the South African decided to produce it himself after working with his home country’s leading rock producer, Theo Crous, on its two predecessors.
“Obviously I learnt a lot from working with Theo for the last couple of years, so he was a mentor in terms of how you put an album together, how you arrange music, and how you go about things.”
Crous also co-wrote four of the songs and helped arrange a few tracks during the pre-production stage, but ‘Perfection Kills’ is very much Patlansky’s album.
“I had a very clear, very crystallised image in my head of what I wanted to do and I did a lot of thinking once the songs had been written on how I wanted to approach them in the studio, on how I wanted them to sound,” he says.
“Some of the stuff definitely came out differently to the way I expected, but some of it came out exactly how I wanted, which I was really happy about.
“So it was a cool experience, but there’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders because if the album’s a failure, there’s only one reason everybody’s going to say it’s a failure: it’s because you produced it.”
Failure’s unlikely for an album stuffed with hits-in-waiting like potent lead single ‘Dog Day’ and the melodic anthem ‘Mayday’, one of Patlansky’s personal favourites.
“I never think: ‘I’m going to write something commercial’, but what I learnt from Theo is that the songs people resonate with the most are generally the simpler ones and ‘Mayday’s got a very simple melody,” says the singer-songwriter.
“It’s quite different for me,” he continues, “but I think it’s important to step a little out of what you’re used to doing. Like in the verses I’m singing in a lower register than I usually do, and then we also went with vintage Mellotron strings which I love the sound of.”
But it’s album opener ‘Johnny’ that, with the “size of the production, the rawness of the production”, best captures the vibe Patlansky was after.
“I’ve always loved songs with a heavier blues rock, in-your-face groove that then open up in the chorus with pop-type vocal melodies and harmonies. I’ve always loved those two worlds colliding,” he explains. “It sets the tone I wanted to set, so that’s why I made it the opening track of the album.”
Patlansky’s clearly put a lot of thought into all aspects of the album, including the cover, which, in a twisted view of suburbia, depicts a couple and their daughter seated on a couch.
“It’s a play on “perfection kills”, but in a different avenue. It’s about a mother who’s so perfect and strives for so much perfection within her family that she’s a mannequin. She’s not even real, she’s so perfect. The little girl’s wearing a gas mask because she can’t breathe in that environment, and the father just looks overall bleak, smoking a pipe, hating life.”
Patlansky, himself married with two young children, clearly isn’t hating life, but does admit that his chosen career can put a strain on family life.
“The only kind of wife you can have in this industry is a very understanding one and a very supportive one and that she is. She understands what it takes, but obviously there are limits to how much time I should spend on the road. So we cap it, at like a month away from home as the longest, and then a good chunk of time at home. The cool thing is when I’m home, I’m home, so I really cash in with family time.
“Sometimes finding that perfect balance is impossible, though.”
But Patlansky’s found that having a family to return to has added new focus to his touring.
“If I was a single guy I’d spend my whole life on the road, because there’d be nothing to go back to. Now, because it takes me away from my wife and kids, I’ve got to make the most of every tour. Every show counts and you stack the dates in as much as you can.” says Patlansky, who’s spending most of March playing shows across Europe, showcasing many songs from the new LP.
“I’ve got a really good feeling that most of these songs are going to work fantastically live because of the way we recorded them,” he says. “And then we’ll have to pick and choose from past albums. The obvious ones to pick are those that did well for us on stations like Planet Rock, like ‘Stop The Messing’ and ‘Heartbeat’ from ‘Introvertigo’ and ‘Backbite’ and ‘Fetch Your Spade’ from ‘Dear Silence Thieves’.
“So in that sense, it’s easy. But it’s not that easy, because if you just play that, your set gets boring with all the same kind of feel and tempo. You’ve got to have a more traditional blues song in there, a slower thing or a ballad, a heavier kind of song, so it’s more of a journey for the audience. That’s the difficulty.”
- ‘Perfection Kills’ is released on 2 February.
DAN PATLANSKY PERFECTION KILLS MARCH 2018 UK TOUR
WITH SPECIAL GUEST MOLLIE MARRIOTT
Manchester, Deaf Institute Thursday 15 March
Newcastle, The Cluny Friday 16 March
Leek, Foxlowe Arts Centre Saturday 17 March
Bristol, The Tunnel Sunday 18 March
Sheffield, Greystones Tuesday 20 March
London, Borderline Wednesday 21 March