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INTERVIEW – JESPER BINZER, D-A-D – May 2015

| 18 June 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW – JESPER BINZER, D-A-D – May 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

D-A-D hail from Denmark and remain, more than thirty years into their career, a major festival pull right across Europe, but only underground cult heroes in America and Australia.

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Jesper Binzer, singer, guitarist (and staunch advocate of long hair), says it has always been thus. I battled an international phone line which kept dropping out to call him on the eve of the band’s tour of major European festivals and find out what’s happening for the band whose last album, Dic-Nii-Lan-Daft-Erd-Ark, was released in 2011.

100% ROCK: People in Australia and America might be quite surprised as to how huge D-A-D is in Europe.

Jesper: That’s how it’s always been. We are local heroes. Believe me, we’ve tried to do something else [overseas] but we’re still local heroes and as life goes on, we thank God every day, you know, [there is] money coming in, people are interested in us. But still we keep on looking at the world as if they need us. We attitude are sometimes a little harsh, but we keep on pushing.

100% ROCK: There are a lot of us out here still listening, believe me!

Remarkably, D-A-D toured Asia early this year, but couldn’t organise backing in time to extend that trip to Australia.

Jesper: On Facebook, on all kinds of websites, you really find out that the Australians are still there. This thing we did, coming to tour Asia, [we were hoping] this was an exercise to wave a flag saying, ‘Australia, please call – we’ll be coming. We’ve got the air tickets covered.’ [But] it was a little too late. Thankfully, things are happening now. In the past 18 months it’s been one big psychic experiment trying to get Australia to call us. Finally it worked.

Binzer goes on to explain that they are now talking to a promoter who seems keen to bring them Down Under, which will be only their second trip to Australia – the first coming off the back of their breakthrough No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims album that was released in 1989. He is, naturally, excited about making the prospect a reality.

Jesper: People started to call us, but that was too late [to include in the Asian tour schedule]. That was after the fact that we booked the air tickets. A lot of our energy is focused on coming down because our brand of rock and roll, I’m sure, people would appreciate in Australia. We need to come to Australia because we know that somewhere deep down we are cultural cousins… We’ve never been afraid of travelling. We’ve never been afraid of hard work. The thing is, we need a promoter that can cut the cost, that’s what we need.

D-A-D Jesper Binzer 02

100% ROCK: I tell you what, as soon as I win the lottery, I’ll be giving you a call. All right? How about that?

Jesper: Great, great [laughs]. We’re not even expensive. You know what? I think that’s a psychic barrier because the tickets aren’t that expensive anymore. It’s not like you are draining your bank account or anything. Australia is 5000 kilometers from here. It’s really nothing. So what it is, it’s a psychic barrier, and we’ve been trying to knock it down from Asia. It seems like for other bands it worked, now we just need someone to invite us.

100% ROCK: It’s been a few years since the last album. Are you planning a follow-up yet?

Jesper: The thing was, we turned 30. Sometimes you just need a bad excuse to [play]. At our age, an old band like ours, it was a perfect excuse to come out and play the new songs. Of course we played the old songs but we went on a 30th Anniversary tour last year. We played all around the world. We played more than 100 gigs. We went to China. We went to America as well. We’ve been working hard. At the moment, we’ve recorded five songs on a demo. It was very good for us. Of course I hope that all five will survive, but I have this sneaky feeling that maybe a couple of old songs will make it on the album. We soldier on and, of course, we’re going to play a lot this summer, mainly Europe. Actually, more or less only Europe. We’re not that far away from making new demo recordings in the fall. I mean, if God is willing, and Australia don’t call us to come down and tour, then maybe have an album out in a year.

100% ROCK: Having released The Overmuch Box in 2009, and then the 30th Anniversary compilation last year, do you feel that that’s like a line drawn under the first 30 years of the band and you’re free to do whatever you want from now on?

Jesper: Definitely. After The Overmuch Box, that was where we felt the freedom. Definitely. And we enjoyed the freedom, as well [on] the Dic.Nii.Lan.Daft.Erd.Ark album that came afterwards. But the 30th Anniversary was more an excuse to come out and play. We’re not very much hung up on nostalgia, because we play the songs that are great – some of the old songs are great, some of the new songs are great, so we just play the good songs live. So we don’t feel that we have this schizophrenic view of our career. We’re happy to play Sleeping My Day Away just as much as we’re happy to play I Want What She’s Got. The good songs survive. The 30th Anniversary was the bad excuse – but The Overmuch Box, wow, that was like Feng Shui. We cleaned out the cupboards and stuff. That was a liberating experience. This time around, with the 30th Anniversary, it was more like a liberating experience economically [laughs].

Starting out as a cowpunk band called Disneyland After Dark, it was only their third album, the aforementioned No Fuel… – re-christened D-A-D after a threatening letter from Disney’s lawyers – that saw the band adopt their signature hard rocking sound.

100% ROCK: So you’re not going to go and revisit the cowpunk sound of the first two albums in a hurry?

Jesper: On the first part of the 30th Anniversary tour, we played in 30 small clubs in Denmark only. We felt that definitely, now we can do whatever we want. We played Counting the Cattle and we played – what did we play? – we played The Malboro Man. We played a couple of songs from that era.

Yeah, yeah. We’re not afraid if we mess stuff up. There’s a reason why songs that are on the set list stays on the set list: that’s because it just feels natural. Sometimes when we play some of the cowpunk songs, you get this unwanted ironic smirk on your face and, you know, should I escape from this, or should I… [laughs] There’s a reason the songs that are on the set list are on it. We enjoy it and we are having fun with it. But sometimes the quality of [the early] music definitely didn’t live up to what it’s supposed to.

100% ROCK: D-A-D: you’re such a unique band in so many respects. No-one sounds like you. No-one has that sense of humour that runs through your lyrics from the very early days. No-one plays one- or two-string basses like Stig does and run around firing fireworks from a helmet on his head. Are you happy with the legacy of the band and what you’ve achieved over 30 years?

Jesper: You cannot really live off pride or anything but… to start off with, Denmark is like old person’s country. I know it’s gotten a little bit better cultural-wise in the later years and… we are proud that we’ve educated the small peasant country of Denmark with some uncompromising rock and roll [he says in a joking tone]. Every one of our peers, every one of those bands that we grew up with, more or less, has gone by the wayside. So we feel that, all right, we have to stay in power. Even though we saw ourselves as a flash in the pan country punk band, cow punk band, then suddenly we’ve been able to evolve. So this evolvement, if that’s a word, is the key to our survival and will be. You know, we have to push ourselves in new directions all the time, which sometimes confuses the fans, but on the other hand, [this is] the sounds you wanna hear live.

In 2012 Binzer published his autobiography, I Won’t Cut my Hair (named after one of D-A-D’s earliest songs). In addition to the crazy life he’s led in almost thirty years (at that time) as a rock star, he discusses having therapy for ongoing depression in the book. There’s a catch for fans around the world, though: I Won’t Cut My Hair is only currently available in its original Danish language version.

D-A-D Jesper Binzer - i Won't Cut My Hair cover

Jesper: I hope, I hope, I hope [it can be translated to English]. They even gave me the rights to translate it and I will get it for free in the rest of the world. I called Germany, and said, ‘just put it into English and you can make all the money you want.’ But no-one took it and it’s because my only concern was I wanted it in the physical, I wanted a physical book. [That is] the only contractual thing that I wanted. There were a lot of people who said, ‘I only do eBooks,’ but I’m like, ‘I’m an old man – I need it [in book form]!’ [laughs]

100% ROCK: I’m the same. I want to hold the thing in my hand. I can’t read on the computer. It’s boring.

Jesper: Exactly, exactly. So that’s where it is at the moment. It must be, you know, like a point in time where it makes sense to re-release it. I mean, there still is opportunity for me that I can put on an extra chapter and tell about when I had my intestines removed, or when I… I don’t know, whatever happens, what big thing happens in my life. Then something I could talk about in the next chapter. But at the moment, it is as it is, and if someone’s interested, if something happens, then I can put on an extra chapter, and then hopefully read it in English.

Another phone disconnection restored, and we laugh at how reassuring it is that despite all the technology nowadays, it’s not always perfect.

Jesper: It’s good to know that there’s a physical limit, as well as geographical limits. [But] I’m thankful that we can talk to each other over such long distances.

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100% ROCK: Talking about your autobiography, I believe in the book you discussed receiving therapy for ongoing depression. That’s been the case with many creative people, but there still seems to be so much stigma in society that many people feel scared to talk openly about that.

Jesper: Yes. That’s one of the good things about that book. One of the reasons [to erite it] was that you could try to encourage people to admit their life is sometimes hard and unstigmatise that they’re going to a therapist or whatever – just open up about what’s happening inside. Of course, there’s a bit of… how can you put it? A spoiled in childhood thing – that you need to spill out your inner emotions all the time. Sometimes it’s very, very… It’s so simple. It’s the simple stuff, because whenever you talk about… whenever you put into words your feelings, suddenly your feelings become valid and suddenly you find out what it is you’re actually meaning.

When you go to a therapist, it’s not someone from your family or someone who will judge you. It’s a person that totally unbiased. That means that suddenly you find what it is you’re thinking, what it is you’re feeling, and it’s very, very liberating. Your life, of course, is simple in very many respects. Suddenly, when you elevate your thoughts into emotion, suddenly you see solutions much clearer. Wow! I should be a therapist myself. [laughs]

It’s very important to hear yourself talk sometimes, and you can only really talk for you when it’s with an unbiased person, because it’s only when you talk that you actually find out what it is you walk around with inside. Yes, that was what I was saying.

100% ROCK: It helps. Unless you’re talking about it with someone, you’re never going to resolve it.

Jesper: Exactly, exactly. It’s very important because you’ve got thousands of thoughts but you need to put them into words and then you can actually understand yourself – you, yourself – when you put it into words. It’s also extremely great when you’re a creative person. It actually gives you a lot of ways… new words pop off and you use… there’s a lot of song titles… if you hear yourself talk, suddenly a song title’s popping up, so as a creative person, it’s very, very helpful.

On all fronts, it’s only… maybe in the money department, it’s a minus – but on all other fronts, it’s a plus. I can tell everybody in the whole world, it’s only good to go to a therapist. There’s nothing bad coming out of it. There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s only good, except maybe for the money.

D-A-D Jesper Binzer 03

Binzer’s book is titled I Won’t Cut My Hair, after one of D-A-D’s earliest songs. He famously declared early on that he was never going to cut his hair and – much like your faithful correspondent – still wears it impressively long. It seems we stand out as unusual or weird, being almost fifty, yet with longer hair than most.

Jesper: Yes, we must stand strong. I don’t know if you experienced that, but when I was very young, I was very long hair and I had this feeling that people were a little bit afraid of me, even though I was only 11 years old. Maybe they thought that I was a hippie kid. I had this feeling that I was trying to be a little more friendlier and a little more accommodating, in a funny way, towards people who saw me as a freak. It turns out that it was really a part of my personality to be a walking… words, words, I need words… a walking contradiction!

Sweet. Yes, yes, that I was looking tough and I was a sweet guy. That was important for me to have this two energy going, because I couldn’t stand just being the sweet guy and I couldn’t stand just being, ‘I want to play rock and roll, so I’m looking hard.’ There was the duality and that goes through the rest of my life, the duality thing. In your thinking abstract, things are not exactly as they look. You kind of got a kind of thing. That’s part of me.

When I look at other guys with long hair, they don’t always look good but I know it’s a thing that they personally take this… this is my hair and this is me. That’s what I respect about it.

D-A-D Jesper Binzer 04

Binzer has hit the nail on the head: having long hair leads people to make incorrect assumptions about you – judge a book by it’s cover, even though that cover shouldn’t and usually doesn’t represent the negatives they imagine! As we both head towards the big Five-Oh, we still get that sort of treatment many days.

Jesper: Exactly, exactly. It’s been so funny to build up a persona, a rock star persona, besides just being me. I know before I was a rock persona, people were looking, ‘hey, it’s not in fashion anymore, with long hair. What are you doing?’ Then suddenly, everything falls into place. Ah, that was because you wanted to claim yourself. Ah, so it’s been a part of me all the time. This, like I guess you do, would get you the picture of rock and roll. We believe in rock and roll. This is what we do. This is our life. This is my generation, kind of thing.

Jesper Binzer signs off with assurances that D-A-D are pushing hard to arrange an Australian tour for December or January. We can only hope they make it happen, and get another album under way soon.

Shane

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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