Dan Susnara is a home recording musician from Chicago. He has worked in many styles and released many tapes and Cds of his distinctive sound. He has worked in the rock and progressive veins primarily but also has issued experimental releases as well. He has also collaborated with other home tapers such as Micky Saunders from southern California and they have an annual project where he flies in and they record a couple of songs together. This has been going on since 1998. Above, their two song release from 2001, “Unexpecting” and “Photographs In Tune”.
Before they did their in-person collaborating, Dan and Micky did some mail collaborating. Their first tape in 1995 had two songs, “Kyleacopter” and We All Agree With You”.
Dan also did quite a bit of work with Greg Stomberg from Missouri including their 2010 two CD set, “The Second Annual Trips Festival”.
Above, their self titled collaboration project from 2005.
Dan has also worked with many others on projects including Dan Swiegert in 9 On Bali, experimental work for the “Regions” project, some songs with yours truly and of course his many solo releases.
Dan has never been afraid to make bold and big statements. Above, his two tape set from the late 1990s, “Maypole”. He has done other multi tape and Cds releases as well.
Another outlet for Susnara was his project called “The Smirking Herbert”. On the tape above, “Papoose” from 2004, he incorporates found sounds, other home tapers reading material and his own unique blend of sounds.
One of his greatest achievements to me was his tape, “Blacklite Forest” from 1992. Classic home taper tools ( drum machine, guitar, vocals) used to create a large, expansive and personal rock world.
On Meeting Micky Saunders
I first heard of Micky on Greg Stomberg’s “Underground Beatlesongs” comp tape series in the early 90’s. You’d send Greg your version of a Beatles song and he’d send you a 90 minute tape of that song and other people doing the same thing. I liked Micky’s voice right away and her keyboard playing was top notch too. What prompted me to ask Greg for her contact address was when I heard her version of “Within You Without You” complete with electric sitar! I was pretty “pushy” in my first letter saying I wanted to do some tunes with her and all. I was surprised when she called me three days later! We had a nice chat and she liked a tune off of my “Avoid Direct Sunset” tape called “We All Agree with You.” At the time she said she just did songs with her band, but gradually we became penpals and traded quite a few tapes. We did our first collab when she sent me lyrics for a song called “Night” in 1997. I did the music and vocals. It was on my “Sus and Them” collab tape (I think! that was awhile ago)! And….the following year I made the trek out to California for our first recording together: her song “The Kyleacopter” and my song “We All Agree with You” with her singing lead on my song and me on hers. That visit was kinda difficult because I was based in Ahahiem, CA seeing Disneyland and all. Plus, having Micky’s mom pick me up and take me back to Ontario where they lived. But we managed, got some great recordings and continue to do so to this day every summer. I thoroughly enjoy working with Micky. I love all her solo works and seeing the bands she’s in at gigs sometimes and she’s one of my best friends. We always have a great time when I visit!
On meeting Greg Stomberg
Greg first wrote me after hearing me do “Sgt Small Aquadic Berdz Club Band” on my “Myy Artt” double tape release in the late 80’s. He had an Underground Beatles comp tape series going. I contributed quite a bit to that and always enjoyed the comics he did himself and sent with the tapes. He was always up for someone doing some music for his poems and about various characters in his comics, like “The Shitkicking Kid” and others. I first got interested in his poetry and lyrics when I was doing my Smirking Herbert tapes where I’d use Greg’s narration and I’d add backing and also stuff like “Old Mill Road” and “The Re-Lighting of Matches.” His lyrics worked well with psychedelic and pop songs. We’ve done quite a bit of work together over the years, including the “Adam” tape and our latest “2nd Annual Trips Festival” CD. I went to visit Greg in 2002 when he and Misty lived in Oregon, IL. and again in 2005 at their place in Doniphan, MO. What can I say about Greg? He’s like one of your coolest friends from the early 70’s beamed up (Star Trek style) into the present day with all the “60’s based” idealism still intact. A great guy, a good friend and equally good person to collaborate on music with!
On meeting Dino Dimuro
Dino was one of the first home tapers I wrote to ever. I got his address from Heather Perkins’ contact list (it was great when people used to include those lists back then! You could meet a lot of cool and talented people that way). Dino’s music over the years has never ceased to amaze me. Just the quality of the recordings alone is mind boggling. From the complex proggy stuff on his older recordings to the more stripped down guitar based work of the present, it’s all quality stuff. I remember meeting Dino on my first visit to Santa Monica, CA in 1991 and I know he does too. He got a ticket coming over to pick me up! I see Dino every year when I visit Micky Saunders in July. We all meet for dinner and have a great time. A truly original talent, a good friend and one of the funniest guys I’ve ever known!
On meeting Don Campau and Robin O’Brien
Like Dino Dimuro, I first heard of Don in Heather Perkins contacts list in the late 80’s. Then I heard of his No Pigeonholes radio show (which played hometapers music mostly) via an interview with Rotcod Zzaj in either Electronic Cottage, Factsheet 5 or some other indie zine: with no Pigeonholes, Don was always cool in making a copy of the show you’re played on for you and the shows themselves are always phenomenal. His music consistently keeps getting better and better with every release! I especially like the fact that he includes lyric sheets with many releases now because he has great lyrics! I met Don and Robin O’ Brien (along with Dino Dimuro) in Pasadena, CA when I came to see them with Micky Saunders and her mom. I remember some excellent conversation on each other’s music, which was made even better by the fact we could take our time and hang out awhile. Both Don and Robin are great people and fantastic songwriters. Robin’s work reminds me a bit of Love Spirals Downwards or maybe Dead Can Dance. She has an excellent voice that can go from a whisper to a bluesy wail in a heartbeat. She’s also into ghosts and hauntings in general, as I found out when she and Don visited Chicago in 2005. We had a great conversation with me talking about Bachelor’s Grove and other local haunted places and her telling her own interesting tales. Luckily we had some balmy “T-shirt” type weather (in December yet)! So we got to take a nice walk outside the three of us. I have enjoyed collabing with Don several times. He’ll always surprise me with his additions to the music I send. I can never predict what he’ll do! Two great people, Don and Robin! And good friends too.
On recording equipment
I first became aware of 4-track recorders in the early 80’s when all of a sudden they were in all the music equipment stores. A Tascam 4-track with 10 inputs went for around $999 at the time. This was during the Reagan years when you’d consider yourself lucky to make around minimum wage and have to put up with a whole lot of abuse in the process. Well, I have a hard time being “humble” so needless to say I spent 3/4 of the first half of the 80’s in the unemployment office. The minute I’d save up enough money for that elusive 4-track, I’d get fired or switch jobs and wound up using that money to eat. Finally, in November of 1987, I bought a Tascam Portastudio, and you know what? The damn thing never worked right! It would “swish out” tapes if you rewound them too much. But being stubborn as I am, I kept it and put up with it till it self-destructed. (It’s lifeless shell still resides in my hall closet)! The next one was a Tascam 8-track another cassette model, but worlds better. It still works, though the inputs probably need some blowing out as they occasionally go out on me. I’ve had this unit since 1995 and I still haven’t used it to it’s full capability! Always a good sign! In more recent years, I can thank Dan Sweigert for persuading me to get a digital recorder, so we could exchange our musical parts for our work in 9 on Bali. I picked up a Boss BR- 1600 that Don Campau recommended (actually, I think he or Robin have the 8-track version of that). I’ve been working with it several years now and really enjoy the quality of the recordings and the built-in effects and features. It’s not without it’s foibles: while working on “My August Mac” I had a song all ready for bouncing onto tracks 9/10 until a “Disc Busy” icon popped up and it still won’t go away for whatever reason! (I plan to re-record that tune for my next solo CD). But, overall it’s a great investment. I always think back to what Dino Dimuro told me ions ago: “If you’re gonna buy anything for recording, one of the first things you should get are some good microphones” which is totally true. Though, with this new recorder, you have mic modeling which can beef up a regular mic quite a bit. And I just found out the other day, there’s a de-essing” mode you can use instead of using those clumsy pop filters (always hated those)! It’s all a learning and growing process in music and that’s true with equipment as well.
My thanks to Micky Saunders for typing this article.