Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Daryl Hall: "I love the fact that record companies are all going down"

A lively Daryl Hall interview in, of all places, Pitchfork. He tells Clive Davis to go fuck himself, laments the standards-strewn road down which Rod Stewart walks in the autumn of his career, sympathizes with Kelly Clarkson, and talks warmly of his collaboration with Robert Fripp, Sacred Songs.

I adore Hall, but he and interviewer Chris Dahlen give themselves too much credit for Hall & Oates' purported indie cred. In the context of an act that scored a Number One, a couple of Top Tens, and several charting small hits, the late seventies period during which they released stuff like Along the Red Ledge and X-Static were just fallow commercially (and, what do I know, artistically too); they stayed on a major label and eventually prospered, hugely. As a result, this interview largely ignores the eighties, which is bizarre: imagine interviewing John Lennon and asking him about the Cavern Club and recording Mind Games, while devoting one question to the Beatles. As one of the greatest beneficiaries of generational revisionism, H&O's big hits (it's difficult for those who weren't in the U.S. at the time to imagine how omnipresent those hits were) really did synthesize all that was au courant and underground: glacial synth pop, the stirrings of Big Chill-inspired sixties nostalgia, Arthur Baker dub.

I find his arrogance for once cute, a sign of enormous self-confidence and pride, even in this bit where he answers the perennial what-does-John-do question:
We are not an equal duo, and never have been. I'm 90% and he's 10%, and that's the way it is. And he'd say the same thing. He has plenty of ideas, he's a finisher, he's a good musician, he is an attention-to-detail person. He is overshadowed by me because I'm such a strong vocal personality. I also always believed that you can only have one singer in a band. The ping-pong thing doesn't work. We're not the Bobbsey Twins. He stands there, he's the quiet one – it's sort of like Jagger-Richards or something. And I'm out there banging away. And I'm much more prolific than him. I have much more energy than him. He's more lazy than me – [laughs] – in music. But he's a meticulous person.


Chris Dahlen said...

Alfred, thanks for the link. You make a good point, it probably seems strange that I left out the '80s and their key hit-making period, but at the time - and given an hour to talk with him - that really interested me the least: sometimes I err on covering the obscure (Sacred Songs) instead of the popular ("Maneater"), but that's what interested me. (Re: the Beatles, I thought the New Yorkers' recent Macca profile spent too much time on stuff everyone knows - check out the ultra-serious recounting of their appearance on Ed Sullivan - and too little on the 37 year roller coaster Macca's been on since. But what do I know.)

As for his indie-ness - my lede is pretty blunt, but I do see Hall following exactly the same course as a lot of independent career artists, including David Sylvian, Kristin Hersh, Marshall Crenshaw, Melissa Ferick, potentially Radiohead - people who trade on the recognition and (sometimes) cash they earned with a major, but get out of their contracts, go independent and run their own careers - with more direct fan outreach, more control over their releases, and lots and lots of tours. I was referring to that camp, rather than Fugazi or the Minutemen.

That said, I don't regret baiting indie fuxors. I'm on a too-subtle vendetta against hipsters, and I keep baiting them about how complacent and "it's all good" they've become. Granted, Pitchfork lost the punk self-righteousness high-ground when we started taking Justin Timberlake seriously. But if calling Daryl Hall an indie rocker doesn't push somebody into starting a new punk revolution, then I give up!

Alfred Soto said...

You and Pitchfork deserve credit, Chris, for profiling Daryl Hall at all! I'm not sure this would've happened even three years ago.

Nice job of catching the guy's unabashed arrogance -- which, as I point out, is refreshing in this context.

kiss out the jams said...

great interview chris
great redux alfred
great arrogance daryl