It’s not often that someone in his mid-forties, not known for his music, delivers a debut album. It’s unusual when the album turns out to be really rather good.
More unusual still: this is 2013, and it's a Classic Rock album, and the man who made it is known for spouting about football on national radio, after a career start in Birmingham. But he started out as, and still is, a local muso: Ian Danter.
Ian is affable and good-natured about all this, despite some carping. Carping? Oh yes. Rock, like some other music genres, can be stupidly tribal. Me? I’m impressed. He’s done a good job.
Ian Danter is happy to talk to anyone about music, radio, and more. He’s done a quarter of a century in the music biz, flogging guitars, not making money with his own bands, but doing very nicely thank you in cover bands, while, almost by accident, falling into radio, first at BRMB, and then TalkSport.
Ian’s fiercely proud of his work, and he should be. It’s got a lot of craft, fine playing and some snappy songs. But… and I still can’t get my head round this - it’s come from a footy commentator.
Putting this delicately, there are many headbangers – in all the senses of the word - in sport...
Yes! Musically, a surprising number. Stan Collymore revealed his love of Kiss to me at the world cup in South Africa. I was a bit sceptical, and asked him what his favourite song was, and he launched into 'Detroit Rock City'. Same with TalkSport listeners – the conversation gravitates towards rock quite a lot.Very few people release albums aged 44, but you’ve been playing since you were a teenager.
My first band was a trio. I came in as a drummer, and I had to learn to sing while playing drums
Not easy. Drumming is physical. But on top of that, belting out a lead vocal for rock – especially in a trio…
It’s the ‘pat head, rub stomach’ thing. I practised like a bastard. I had my kit in my bedroom – Premier – and I taped my personal stereo to my head so it wouldn’t fall off while I was playing. I put Lick It Up (Kiss – Danter’s a huge huge fan) on, imagined there was a mike right there. Kept my head fixed. I practised so hard I loosened the coving on the wall in my bedroom. But it got me into good habits. If you can sing and play drums, it gets you work. People call you in for gigs.
Reasonable pay is not always guaranteed... The industry’s shrinking, as we both know. But I was paid well at BRMB. Very well. When they syndicated the Barmy Brummies, I did well.Ah you have the advantage over me there. In the early days, no-one was paid well! But if you were working flat out in radio, as you still are – with those twelve and fifteen hour days - how could you find room for music?
I found a little. I made sure of that.Before radio, what were you doing?
I was in a number of bands. One actually got a record deal, but it fizzled out: the backers weren’t there for the record label. I got to the age of 29, and nothing had happened. The moment of clarity dawned: ‘I’m not going to make it’.Ah – that awful late twenties moment when the dreams hit reality….
I was a guitar salesman at Musical Exchanges. Then I went to Laney amps in Cradley Heath. They’d just got a distribution deal for Ibanez guitars. They needed someone with retail savvy, so that was me.
But when I was at Exchanges, my best mate Keith had written to Tom Ross at BRMB, telling him about my ability to do impressions – Trevor Francis, John Gregory, Brian Little – and for some reason Tom picked up on it. So I started doing sketches for Tom. Wasn’t paid for it, but I could brag about it down the pub.
At the start of the next season, Tom started paying me… and it went from there. I got lucky. Then the hard work started!So let’s scoot forward to how the idea of the album took root. You must have been at TalkSport by then?
One thing that sparked it off was the death of my friend Steve Harris, who was the guitarist from Shy. A good friend, he had contracted a brain tumour, but still managed to complete the album they put out a couple of years ago, just before his condition really deteriorated. At his funeral, I was chatting with Alex Cooper, the producer who works at Arkham studios in Birmingham. And we were talking about that very point – how brave it was, and the determination to record the songs, and get them out.So the penny dropped?
And I said, Do you know what? You’re on. Let’s book three days, and see how much we can get done on drum and bass. We worked on some of my old songs and some new ones I demoed up for him. Because I’m a multi-instrumentalist, that wasn’t difficult. And that was the seed of ‘Prove You Wrong’.And the title of the album?
There’s a song on the album with that title, which I wrote with a particular radio person in mind.Birmingham or London?
Ah. That would be telling. But as soon as people heard I was doing this, it was all ‘What are you doing? You’re a sports broadcaster!’ So I had to deal with a lot of cynicism. People expected it to sound awful. So that spurred me on. And a lot of people outside music (and some inside) had no idea of my background.Well, what struck me, listening to the album, is that you’re doing it right, and clearly you’ve drawn on a lot of muso experience.
Yeah – I annoyed every band I was in, because I was coming up with songs, and then showing the guitarist how to do the parts. The arrangement was in my head – I had the whole thing down…A driven musician? I can imagine that might lead to friction with some players…
It did.In a collaborative group situation, I can see exactly why. But when it’s your project, when you’re paying for it, that has to be a different matter.
I paid for it, at least until my management company came in.How did that happen?
I didn’t see that coming. I was recording the album, and wondering about mixing and mastering money. Recording is one thing… finishing it up is another. But out of the blue, the company – QEDG – got in touch. Here’s the synergy between music and radio. The boss of QEDG, Martin Darvill, is a massive TalkSport fan. One of his staff was aware of what I was doing – social media can take you a long way – told Martin what I was doing, and he asked to hear it.
I took the roughs down, and they took on the mixing and mastering, and sorted the release.This is a big company in its field, isn’t it?
Asia, Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash, Keith Emerson, Uriah Heep… classic heavyweight and 60s rock acts. I was so grateful they saw something in this. But I had no wish to become a rock star, Robin; I had no notion of this being a million seller. I’m not that egotistical. All I wanted to do was make sure the drums sounded great, the bass and guitar were up to scratch, and we got the best vocalist in.What about the other players on the album?
I decided to bring people in if they could do better than me. So I have Lee Small on lead vocals on twelve of the fifteen songs, because he’s a far better singer than I will ever be. The other three were far better suited to my voice.
OK. So this is a new album. It’s got its roots in classic rock. You now have to sell yourself to a new audience. How are you going to do that?
I won’t be a touring musician – can’t. Too busy at TalkSport. I am gigging it, but only sporadically. Later this year, QEDG will line up some gigs, supporting outfits like Snakecharmer.QEDG are business men. They won’t have put money into this project in anticipation of it not doing well.
They see albums (in this market) as having a lifespan of about two years. They’re not rushing to do anything. The reviews have been really nice. I’ve got a live band together – we are playing at the asylum in July, at the Steve Harris tribute night. That’s my first chance to be a front man.How are you setting the stage up? You’re going to be on drums…
No; I’m on guitar – rhythm - and vocals. Two guitars, keyboards, bass and drummer. And I pity the drummer. I’m going to be on his ass. It’s not very exciting to be a singing drummer…Don Henley and the bloke out of Paper Lace are about the only two I can think of. And Dave Clark.The gigs will come. They are not the be all and end all. But they will be with the right artists.And what happens if classic rock markets like Germany, Poland and Spain bite hard?
It would lovely to have to cross that bridge if and when I come to it! What I have done is book some more time. I’ve got back again to one of the things I love doing – songwriting. And I will be demoing them at Arkham later this month.
Ian Danter's website
'Prove You Wrong' CD page
Steve Harris tribute night at the Asylum, Hockley
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