Dan West has been home taping since the 1980’s. I didn’t know him then but recently met him at KKUP and his partner since around 2011, Azalia Snail. We had a terrific time and it was fun hearing their anecdotes and tales of being in underground music. He’s funny, smart and creatively energetic which you can hear in his music. I conducted a short interview with him below.
Listen to some of his early recordings.
what got you into home recording?
I have been recording since I was 5 or 6 years old. My father had an old portable reel to reel recorder called the ‘Modernage.’ He’d use it to dictate story ideas as he was a television writer for many years (The Virginian, Lassie, Wonderful World of Disney etc.) As a result, he would give me his hand me down recording devices.
I started to write little songs around 6-7 years old and I learned how to manipulate these old machines. I would sing and mouth the accompaniment parts. Eventually, I had a small collection of reel to reel and cassette machines. Simultaneously, I was learning piano, guitar and drums. Sometime around the age of 11 or 12, I read an interview with Pete Townshend where he talked about playing back one machine while recording it and another instrument with the other machine. I began doing this with my little collection of tape machines and started making these primitive multi-track recordings. The fidelity was terrible but I was very excited to record a full band playing my song ideas!
By the age of 14 I had my first Tascam 4 track cassette recorder and it just kept growing from there into my Fostex reel to reel 8 track and then eventually, hard disc recording.
who were your influences?
Everything from the Beatles, Who, Kinks, Stones, to jazz artists like Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Bill Evans and Art Tatum. I also love and compose jazz and classical music as well as rock. My classic influences include Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and Schoenberg.
do you remember the first people you traded tapes with?
I remember handing out cassettes or selling them at my gigs more than trading although, friends of mine and I used to trade mix tapes of our favorite artists.
how did you contact other like minded individuals ( was this before the internet?)
It was all through the club circuit. There was a rich scene in Los Angeles in the 80’ and 90’s when I started out. We were recording cassettes and even making singles and LPs on vinyl. We would exchange our wares at the shows and talk about how we recorded various selections, what the best cassette 4 track machine was all the way to the higher end gear.