We talk to Dan Freeman ahead of his 28th April gig at Auster

Dan Freeman

What I love about Berlin is that just like London, Like Paris, like any big city, you come across people with different backgrounds. Some are artists, some are dancers, some are actors.

Dan Freeman is a musician. I met him at a house party a few weeks ago, and we got on instantly. Not knowing what kind of musician he is, I did some research and found out that Dagner, a recent music video of his, had become a staff pick on Vimeo and been played over 65,000 times. Not only that but lately he was also nominated for the Berlin Music Video Awards.

I have to say I was quite impressed, and so I decided to catch up with Dan, to see how his fascination with visual art started, how he became the musician he is today, and of course about his video.

“I just thought he had this artistic integrity, something in his style”

indieberlin: – You recently had a music video shot by German artist Michael Fragstein. How did the collaboration come about?

Dan Freeman:  I was looking for some animation, video artists in general. I had this music of mine and I thought “OK It’s time to get videos which are on the same level creatively”.  I had some friends here in Berlin, who suggested one animation artist who was a little bit out of my league, but then again that’s why the video had the success it had, because of his status. That what I was hoping for was that the video artist could see that the quality of the music is maybe on a higher level than the success that I have so far. The creative field could understand the creative side of my music, it’s not like this Indie-Pop thing, I was trying to push the boundaries a bit more. So I wanted a visual artist that pushed it. He was the guy that got recommended to me, we got along really well straight away. And I just thought he had this artistic integrity, something in his style, and I was really honoured that he said yes to working with me. Apart from the numerous Skype sessions we had, we met only twice in person in the year of making the video, and that pretty much gave him the freedom he wanted. I just wanted to let him do what he wanted to do.

“I think a lot of people probably like the video more than the music, because it’s pretty amazing what he did with it”

indieberlin: So for you it wasn’t just about releasing a new single, it was more about putting together a complete package?

dan-freeman-on-carpetDan Freeman: To be honest the idea of finding a video that fits a song – or the music –  is quite difficult. The other way round also. I think wherever the art is coming from, be it the video artists that want music for their videos or the musicians that want videos for their music, I think it’s a very hard thing to try and select music for the video. With my music to find someone that understands the meaning of what I’m doing is not easy. This is my sixth video now, where I’ve been exploring the possibilities, I’ve had three videos already out, and have another three that are coming. It’s been very difficult, but with Michael he’s been really sensitive to what I was doing with the music. I think a lot of people probably like the video more than the music, because it’s pretty amazing what he did with it. He took it to another level.

“We are living in a very visual world now. Everyone wants to watch video”

indieberlin: So when Michael was sending over his work to you, did you think that the video would be stronger then your music?

Dan Freeman: We are living in a very visual world now. Everyone wants to watch videos, just to listen to a song with visualising it is very hard, that’s why I wanted to work with a visual artist in the first place. For me the music has a visual aspect.

indieberlin: So as a musician art for you is very crucial?

Dan Freeman: I love film, I love making film music, the way both film and music work together, they go hand in hand. I think the emotional side of my music can be well connected in a visual way. Maybe with Michael’s animation, the emotion doesn’t come across too much, but the abstract side to it, the artistic side to it, creates a strong impression.

indieberlin: So is there a  fine line for you personally between music and art?

Dan Freeman: It’s difficult,  because sometimes it might not work out – visuals, video, and the music. There are ideas that I’ve explored that didn’t fit the music, so I would say there is a fine line. Especially on the level of creativity. Music deserves to have someone who knows what they’re doing.

indieberlin: You’re nominated for the Berlin Music Awards. What was your reaction to this?

Dan Freeman: First before that we had this amount of Vimeo hits with the video, that was the first time I was like Wow. I mean I knew it beforehand, but you never know what the response is going to be like. A few months later with this nomination, we said “OK this video is on a certain scale”.  But that was my whole idea in the beginning to have the videos, send them out, and see what comes back. And this has been the most successful one.

” It’s very important that you present a concept”

indieberlin: You in fact said that the whole point with this video was to get to the next stage. So is it vital that a musician needs to have an interesting music video to get somewhere?

dan-freeman-looking-downDan Freeman: I think the fact it was so hard to get people’s attention. It’s very important that you present a concept. The music was what I had. On the first level I’m a musician, the whole artistic/visual side is an added thing. I think it helps to have a good concept. One does not need to have it, but there is so much competition out there, that it’s important to present yourself in a unique way.

indieberlin: So were you let down before when sending out music without videos?

Dan Freeman: With my first album, there was only one video I did. The first album was a lot of just audio. It would have been good to show more live videos maybe. But for me it’s a mystery because there is so many different ways music can get to places. This was just one idea I had, and I went for it. Maybe it could have done it without the visuals, but I was just trying to come up with different ideas. It’s all about luck I guess. Trying to meet people, getting your music out there.

“There’s this atmosphere to it, that I don’t want to really be in the room that I’m in”

indieberlin: So the artistic aspect is something which is pretty much alive in your shows also right?

Dan Freeman: Yeah even with a simple live show, I think it’s so much better to have some form of art involved. My idea of the music is like going to a different world. There’s this atmosphere to it, that I don’t want to really be in the room that I’m in. If I am in the room, than I want to be presented with some other aggression, I haven’t done the whole costume thing because that’s not my style. But the idea of getting into another world just wearing different clothes, for me the music is bigger than just me.

indieberlin: Growing up, what was it like? Movies, music played an integral part?

Dan Freeman: I grew up in Tasmania so the common thing about Tasmanians is you can create your own way of life. So in Australia you have a young country, people are often trying to reinvent themselves. As a kid I was always very curious about what possibilities there are in music or art and human communication. Just the way people react I like to think about these things a lot. I reflect a lot on what’s going on around me. I delved into the whole jazz thing, it was my way of exploring the boundaries of music. Avant-garde jazz and classical music, they are the two fields where music can be pushed the furthest. The idea was to find something. The lack of culture back home was restrictive, so the idea was also to eventually leave. I came to Berlin because there was more culture.

And with that said Dan Freeman and The Serious will be offering more culture in Berlin, as on the 28th of April they will be showcasing their second album at Auster Club.

Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a 'recovering musician', he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.

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