Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Dan Bern

I first heard the man I am sitting with today in a *parody song about one of my idols. I was looking for (a long time ago) songs that were associated with Tiger Woods. There are not very many out there by the way. And I came across this song actually titled Tiger Woods my curiosity was pecked. I will leave the rest to your imagination but the song talked about items being big as grapefruit and pumpkins. Yes sir. However, still hanging around the music scene and with my ears still tuned, I am happy to introduce a pure singer and songwriter at heart in Mr. Dan Bern.

What is your first memory of playing the guitar?

My sister had one. I kind of stole it out from under her.

Where are you originally from?

Iowa but I’ve lived in Chicago and L.A. and New York and New Mexico.

When did you know that music was a career choice for you?

When I sold my car, got a van, turned in the keys to my apartment and went on the road. That was around 1995.

Do you work or is music it?

You mean, “Do you have a job besides music,” right? The artist is a member of the working class, Jack! Since 1995 i have not had jobs other than music-related.

What is your real name?

Skuzgayo Broznichke Fun Bernsteinn Sandwich. Fun is my middle name. Dan Bern is easier to say.

Where does your inspiration come from when you sit down to write a new song?

I usually don’t sit down to write a song. I usually am driving, riding a bike, walking around. It can come from anything, anytime, anyplace.

You like it out there in California?

Yeah, it’s pretty good. I liked New Mexico a lot. That is where I lived the last few years before coming back here. Only thing is in L.A. there’s a lot going on as far as projects and stuff. And that’s what I like to do the most, right now.

I love the design of your website. Who did that?

That is the work of my assistant and longtime loyal underling, Miki.

So tell me about you and Walk Hard.

Jake Kadan, the writer and director of that film, is a good friend and told me about the movie and that they’d need some songs. So I started writing with Dewey Cox in mind. For probably close to 2 years most every song idea I had got filtered over into Dewey. Later on I teamed up with Mike Viola, who had been writing for Dewey also. And we wrote a bunch more Dewey songs. I liked doing it so much that i decided to come out to L.A. to do more stuff like that.

You make short films huh? What are they about?

One is about how tough life on the road is, how you’re always getting booed. That one’s called “Booo.” One is about my quest to hit with Rafael Nadal. That one’s called “Nadal y yo en Madrid.” One is kinda like 2 short stories, kinda ‘franny & zooey’-like. It’s called “An Odd Dutch Reaction & the Confession of Vleer Vleegens.” One is called “Gentile Athletes of the 60s and 70s.” It’s kind of like an old newsreel. They’re all on YouTube. These are my first ones. I have more planned.

Do I see a career in acting for you?

I don’t know. Do you?

Your song about Tiger Woods was quite hilarious. I still listen to it all the time. Did you ever think he would become as popular and successful as he has since you wrote that song?

Well, i knew he was gonna be something. For a little while T thought maybe I actually have the power to make someone a world-class athlete just by writing a song about them. So I wrote one about Elmer Harrelson, my neighbor at the time. Nothing happened. So I think Tiger Woods is probably pretty special.

Are you a golfer?

Not particularly. Par-3 courses; I can handle that.

Play any sports growing up?

All of them when I was a kid. Tennis is my game.

Where do you practice?

I usually have some kind of studio set up. Nothing fancy with a ton of gear. Just someplace I can make noise. In New Mexico I had a big commercial space. Right now I have the garage. If I’m playing with a drummer, it’s usually their place.

Is it all solo or is there a band behind you?

Plenty of both. I’m playing with some new guys right now. I think it’s gonna be pretty good.

PC or Mac?

Macintosh. Bang bang bang.

If you could be any cartoon character who would you be?

Space ghost.

If you could live anywhere in the world besides where you do now where would you go?

Antarctica. If I could just make a go of it, put down some roots, hold out awhile; 3 or 4 generations down the road, you’re looking at sweet beachfront with a nice mild climate. My descendants will thank me.

You write stories as well. Does that help your song writing?

To me it’s all kind of a flow. I wrote some sports columns in New Mexico. I paint. Starting to make films. They all kind of talk to each other. There’s more than one way to get from A to G. I’ve had people say, ‘Why do you do these other things? Why don’t you just write songs?’ You might as well say, ‘You’ll never eat like kobayashi; why don’t you just stop eating?’

Is that maybe why you have so many albums? You just have a lot to say?

I don’t know about that. But songs keep coming. What are you supposed to do with them?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Living in the Playboy mansion. As a permanent guest. My family can visit.

What was the hardest subject for you in school?

Science. I think it was the way it was presented. Cutting up plant stems and things. If they had said, “Wow! It’s a hundred gazillion miles to the next star and that one’s really close, as stars go! Get a load of that!!!!!!!!!’ It might have been different.

What is your favorite venue to play?

Bowery Ballroom’s fun. But I kinda feel like my favorite venue is one I haven’t played yet.

Let’s get some pizza. What toppings?

No toppings. Stuffed. Thick. Chicago style.

Any chance we will see you in Indiana anytime this year?

I’d put the odds at 15% for ’09 and 75% for ’10.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

Solving the Israel-Palestinian deal. Easing world population and thus the climate change problems. And that World Series title I piloted the Cubs to in 2017.

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

*’Tiger Woods’ was not a parody. A parody is a take-off on another existing song. ‘Tiger Woods’ was its own song. Thanks for the conversation. Let’s have coffee again sometime.