Dane Rumble was one of my favourite discoveries of 2010. I first saw him perform last August at a Potbelleez showcase and was immediately won over by his cool image and killer tunes. At the time I described him as a cross between Dan Black and Travie McCoy but there's more to his "brand new New Zealand sound" than that. Think 80s pub rock with hip hop elements and a bit of electro thrown in for good measure. It might sound like a strange hybrid but it works. Dane's first solo album - he used to be a member of hip hop outfit Fast Crew - was a massive success in New Zealand and has just been released in Australia. I love "The Experiment" and ranked it as one of my favourites of last year. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to chat with the king of Kiwi pop about making the album, trying to crack Australia and his amazing new single "Cruel". Here's what he had to say.
Dane, "The Experiment" was huge in New Zealand. What's it like having to start from scratch in Australia?
It's definitely hard yakka but I kind of expected it coming into Australia. I knew it was going to be a bit of an uphill battle. I've kind of been through the motions with Fast Crew before, so I knew exactly what it was going to be like but at the same time, it's fun - being able to meet new people and test my music out of new crowds.
What do you think are the major diffences between the Kiwi and Australian music scenes?
I think Australia just has a bigger market. And pop is definitely a lot bigger in Australia. I mean, us Kiwis are a little bit more reluctant to allow pop music to slide its way into the forefront here in New Zealand but it's started to really take off and we've got bands like Kids Of 88 and The Naked And Famous that are having a really good run on the pop front now. But I think it's just a bigger market. You know there's so many good bands in Australia whereas in New Zealand there's only four and a half million of us and half of us are in bands and we all know each other.
Your sound has really changed since Fast Crew. What inspired the new direction?
For me it was more of a natural progression. People saw Fast Crew and they saw me doing my thing and they were like woah this guy's changed over night but it wasn't really the case at all it was probably like a good five or six years inbetween there where I started working on a solo album and I started writing a lot of hip hop tunes but I couldn't wwrite anything that I was really happy with and so I reached the point where I thought I might just give up on music altogether and that's when I found myself youo know strumming away at the guitar and kind of just listening to different music and you know I pretty much stopped listening to hip hop and started listening to old 70s and 80s rock again and that played a part in influencing me to change my style up and do something different.
So what were you listening to during that time?
I grew up listening to Led Zep and Metallica and Midnight Oil and Talking Heads. Pretty much anything my dad was into was what I used to soak up as a kid. If you look at my iPod these days it's pretty much those bands that dominate the whole thing. It wasn't me necessarily trying to create a sound that pulled back to that era, it was more just subconsciously. I guess I was stealing ideas or something. I don't know!
You managed to keep a bit of the hip hop flavour in there...
After making hip hop music for the best part of 10 years, I think that rhythmical thing is always going to be ingrained in me and when I sit down to write a verse, I structure it out in the same way as I would if I was writing a rap verse. All the syllables have got to kind of follow a pattern and the rhyming patterns need to be pretty close. So I guess that that kind of thing is still ingrained in me and it will still come through in my music from now on.
"The Experiment" has been out for a while in New Zealand. Are you sick of singing the same songs yet?
No, not really. I mean, "The Experiment" came out this time last year in New Zealand. So, althought it was a while ago, the last year has just been such a whirlwind for me... I have played a crap load of shows but to be honest, I love performing and I've got a great band with me and I can definitely do shows in pilot mode because I've done it so many times before I don't really have to think about what I'm doing but at the same time - it's not old. I'm still really, really enjoying performing these songs and also I'm working on new material so we kind of spice up the shows with new stuff as well. So that keeps things interesting.
Were you surprised by the album's success in New Zealand? It went to number one and all the singles did great.
Yeah, thoroughly surprised. I'd finished "Always Be Here" and I took it up to my buddy up at Warners and he was like "this is pretty cool" and I signed a single deal for them to distribute it. We just kind of put it out and I just wanted to do something different. I didn't have any plans. It took off and all of a sudden I found myself rushing and working my arse off to pull an album together. So yeah it was a surprise, dude. The last couple of years have just been a whirlwind. I've been grinning ear to ear ever since "Always Be Here" came out. The way things have turned out, it's just been absolutely amazing.
Is Australia a stepping stone to markets like the UK and America or are you going to concentrate on making it here?
I've actually signed a deal in the States and UK. I'm actually heading over in a couple of weeks time. I'm doing some showcases in New York and LA and doing some press and I've started working on the next record, so I'm working with some writers and producers in Atlanta. Yeah I'm also heading to Germany, so there's quite a few things going on at the moment. I'll definitely be back to Australia to do some touring for the album, I'd say end of May. But yeah, all of a sudden things have just gone mental. My schedule for this year is looking pretty hectic.
My favourite song on the album is definitely "Cruel". What inspired that gem?
The way "Cruel" came about was quite interesting. It was one of the two songs that I actually collaborated with other songwriters on. It was another guy who was in a band called Nesian Mystik, a really cool dude, he actually started the song off. He came up with "baby this is really goodbye the curtain's about to fall and I'm about to walk out of your life" and I remember hearing that and thinking woah that's quite powerful and I basically took it off his hands from that point and said I want to write a song around it. The rest of it just flowed. It was just one of those things that everybody can relate to who has been in a relationship. Someone's always going to be on that end of a break up and I guess that's what inspired the song and just kind of vibed off that first line and ended up writing the song. It took me a few weeks to put together and then it just absolutely took off over here.
You said you're already working on new material. Do you plan to have something new out by the end of the year or are you going to let this album have its run first?
I don't really know to be honest. I would like to have a new single from the new record out before the end of the year. I'd quite like to tie my New Zealand releases up with the rest of the world now instead of trying to stagger it. That always makes things a little bit difficult. But yeah I'd definitely be keen to have something new and something fresh out before the end of the year.You could always tack something new onto "The Experiment"...
Yeah like a hybrid, re-release type thing. Just change up the packaging a little. That's one of the things the record company is thinking about but for me, I want to do a whole new record and I want to focus on a whole new thing.
Who are some of the people you're working with?
At the moment I'm working with a writer/producer called Manuel Seal and he's in Atlanta. He's written songs with Mariah Carey and Usher. He's quite a big deal. He's sold a lot of singles over the years. He stumbled across me on the net and got in contact with us. He's a really, really cool dude and I've been writing with him over Skype. We've got some really cool ideas on the boil and I guess when I head over there that's when I'll jump in the studio and try and lock things down. I'm also writing with my guitarist Joe Farris on a few more rocky tunes and just kind of plugging away by myself. You know, I wrote a good chunk of the record by myself and I'm kind of used to locking myself away in the studio until I've got something decent.
This is a bit of an odd question but I wanted to ask you about the packaging. So many Australian and Kiwi bands get it wrong but your artwork is really distinctive.
That was me and my graphic designer. He's very creative. We both just sat down and I'd give him the skeleton idea and he'd pretty much just bang ideas together and I'd yes or no them. It is funny because a lot of Kiwi bands they will release records in New Zealand and it'll be packaged in a certain way and then they'll sign to a major in Australia who will take it upon themselves to try to re-package and re-brand it and you're right - often it goes horribly wrong. I've seen that with quqite a few bands over the years, so I'm glad the artwork stayed the same and they kept the same covers. I spent a number of years as a graphic artist and I do a lot of the graphic design work for our company and I thought what we did really worked well for the album.
Good luck with everything. I can't wait for the next gig.
Sweet. I appreciate that. Stay tuned on Twitter!