Two time Foundation Grantee Dan Weiss has has been hailed as one of the top five jazz drummers by The New York Times. Weiss’s innovative drumming and forward thinking compositions have been pushing musical limits for decades.
Dan is a huge music fan and an avid listener with an ear for details, who knows how to pick apart a recording, and he can probably teach you the drum parts to just about anything! He has worked with many Audeze artists, including Craig Taborn, Ben Monder, and David Breskin, as well as scores of others.
Dan recently released his latest Starebaby album Natural Selection, and we had a chance to sit down and chat a bit.
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
I'm proud of my large ensemble recordings 'Fourteen' and 'Sixteen', my Jazz/metal hybrid group recording entitled 'Starebaby', my Trio recordings (latest is entitled 'Utica Box') and my drumset/tabla solo recordings entitled 'Tintal Drumset Solo' and 'Jhaptal Drumset Solo'. I feel that those recordings represent my composition and drumming aesthetic accurately.
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on?
As a sideman I am the drummer or percussionist in the ensemble. When I lead my groups I am the composer, arranger, drummer, percussionist, and producer. Lately I have been learning about recording and mixing as well. During the covid lockdown I have recorded and mixed four of my own original compositions.
How did you get started in music?
I remember hearing (and seeing) Led Zeppelin 4 when I was about 2 or 3 years old. My dad is a music enthusiast so I was exposed to all the great classic rock when I was extremely young. I remember hearing Zeppelin, The Who, Hendrix, Steely Dan, Cream, and more. Soon after that I was jamming with my father. It was a drum/guitar duo and since then I haven't looked back.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
I remember when we were in the process of cutting Starebaby to vinyl. I was extremely stressed out and frustrated at the lack of control I had. I couldn't control the test pressings, I couldn't control the problems that we encountered. I just had to sit on the sidelines and wait it out. That's very hard for me. I learned how to try and let go and control the things that were only in my power to do so. It's something that I struggle with a lot but I am working on it and am trying to not give in to my brain's natural tendencies. If I were to do vinyl again I would give myself more time to allow for unseen variables. I would also know that there are a lot of unknowns in that process and I would try my best to be at peace with it.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project?
Not necessarily. Every project is different and requires different tools. Lately I've been learning about the program Logic. I'm learning about aspects of mixing: EQ's, compression, how to balance reverbs, etc. It's a new world for me and it allows me to get things exactly how I want them. I have had the pleasure of working with Ron St Germain for three records and he has given me invaluable advice .
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire to get where you are in their own careers
It's simple: Work harder than you think you have to work, be true to your own musical vision, don't rush that vision, stay open and humble, and find a partner who will let you do what you need to do.
How long have you been working with headphones, and what inspired you to start including them in your workflow?
I have always loved headphones. Ever since I've been a kid. It wasn't until later David Breskin (a great friend and collaborator) and Ron Saint Germain turned me onto Audeze products. I actually remember hearing about them from Andrew Singer: the person who sold me my audio equipment (turntable, speakers, etc). Besides analytical listening and the little mixing I do, I use headphones for leisure as well. Sometimes late at night I run my phones through my headphone amp and close my eyes and listen for hours. I feel that this is just as important as everything else. In my teaching I stress the importance of listening to music in order to become a better musician.
From the first moment I put on the LCD-X I was blown away by the 3-D imaging. I haven't experienced music like that on a headphone before.
I've listened to the headphones every night since I've gotten them and am in heaven when I do. They also are a great tool for me in when I mix.
I'm so happy with these headphones.