Daniel Romano :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Since his debut onto the Canadian music scene just over a decade ago, multi-instrumentalist, poet, and visual artist, Daniel Romano has been living every aspect of the word prolific. Now with close to 20 releases under his belt (including 10 in last year alone) the artist just dropped Cobra Poems, an album he describes as one of his most collaborative works with his dynamo band, The Outfit. 

Romano is the kind of guy that is always writing. He has creative bursts where he writes all the lyrics and composes close to all of the music, makes a few demos, and then proceeds to forget what he just created. Sometimes the music comes back years later. Other times it’s lost to the recesses of his mind. There are even a few albums he has no recollection of creating. On top of his solo and band work, Romano also works as a producer, with his most recent contribution via Wade MacNeil’s (Alexisonfire, Gallows) upcoming psych-rock project, Dooms Children. 

Just back from the states, we caught up with Romano to discuss Cobra Poems, his constant musical shapeshifting, the creative loss of memory, and recent praise from Bob Dylan. | s boissonneault

Aquarium Drunkard: Hey Daniel, where are you right now? 

Daniel Romano: We actually just got home from helping out a friend in Virginia. We had to stay in Buffalo last night and we just crossed the border so I’m just getting settled in back home.

AD: I have to say I’m loving your latest album, Cobra Poems. It sounds like one of the more collaborative Daniel Romano albums. Is that fair to say?

Daniel Romano: Absolutely. I brought the songs, but usually, I bring a fully finished thing that we would then remake together or something like that. But this time, I just sort of had the skeleton, you know, like one vocal or a guitar line. We [The Outfit] sort of arranged everything else altogether.

AD: Does it always work that way with The Outfit or was this a first?

Daniel Romano: I think this was the first time we started with so many skeletons.

AD: On one of the tracks “The Motions,” your bandmate Julianna leads the vocals on that song. Was that your idea from the beginning or did it kind of just happen through a jam?

Daniel Romano: You know what happened is when we were learning the songs, I also had to learn them because I wrote them and didn’t remember how they went. So Jules ended up singing while we were all working out the parts and stuff to just to guide us. And then at that point, I was like, ‘Oh, she should just sing every song’ (laughs). We just chose a couple. But yeah, I imagine there’s gonna be lots more of that in the future.

AD: So do you forget songs often? I know you’re constantly writing so do they just come back years after you make them?

Daniel Romano: I mean, I forget about them pretty quickly. The thing is I’ll write a whole album and then I won’t remember how particular things go, because I’m just sort of like making it work to get the writing down. And then once I do sort of a demo of it, lots of it leaves my mind (laughs). So I always have to figure out what I was doing all over again.

AD: So I guess with that much constant material, that’s how you get nine albums dropping in the same year?

Daniel Romano: Yeah that’s definitely one of the ways—pretty much just write every part at the same time and then go back to it. Like if The Outfit are going to be involved, than I 100% write the whole thing and then send them demos to figure out their parts and then we reconvene. Whereas if I’m doing something alone, sometimes I go song by song. Sometimes I have lyrics for an entire piece of work finished, and then I’ll just kind of make the songs one by one or just do drums. It’s always different. I’m always trying to mix it up so that I don’t feel like I’m repeating myself.

AD: Do you ever experience burnout or I guess artistic fatigue from producing so much?

Daniel Romano: I think that I’ve gotten into a rhythm where I just know … I try not to let myself get to a place where I’m doing something that isn’t good. So if I feel that I’ll just kind of move on to some other medium.

AD: Like poetry?

Daniel Romano: Yeah or visual art of any degree. 

AD: And I guess that goes hand in hand with making the music? Like the visual arts inspires the music or vice versa?

Daniel Romano: Yeah I feel like it’s all sort of encompassing for the same one singular outcome. There are a lot of creative elements that go into making a record whether it’s just the sonic elements or the visual elements. And I enjoy every aspect of it. As a group, we do all of that stuff ourselves. So there’s always something to move on to or jump to if it’s not feeling right or whatever.

AD: Is it better to release music as its completed or take some time to give past albums time to breathe?

Daniel Romano: (Laughs) I don’t know. I like to rush things just because it keeps me interested and excited. And, if things are done fast enough, I can listen back to them with a complete external perspective because it hasn’t been drilled into my mind so much that I’m obsessing or bored of it. It’s almost like listening to someone else’s music and that’s the best way for me to check and make sure that it good.

AD: And do you ever second guess yourself? 

Daniel Romano: No, I don’t. 

AD: That makes sense, as fear is an enemy of art and second guessing it would do you a disservice?

Daniel Romano: Totally. And I’m aware of my means. I don’t feel confined and I don’t feel like I rush into something comfortable, but I know sort of what the moment is capable of and it just go with it.

AD: One of my favorite records from you in the last little while is the (What Could have Been) Infidels by Bob Dylan and the Plugz record. How did that start?

Daniel Romano: Well, basically halfway through 2020 we started just doing anything that we had ever talked about doing because we had the time to. And that had been sort of an ongoing  joke idea basically. Doing that whole record like the Letterman performance style. It was like ‘We have the time so let’s do it.’

AD: The album is so raw and it makes sense because its Bob Dylan leading a punk rock band, but I also saw that on the latest deluxe album from Dylan there’s actually a call out to your album on the liner notes.

Daniel Romano: Yeah. It’s … It’s shocking to the point where I don’t know how to think about it. I’m obviously very flattered, but I really don’t know how to think about that.

AD: You worked with Wade MacNeil on the upcoming Dooms Children project. What was that experience like?

Daniel Romano: That was mostly wrangled through my brother. He played drums on it and we just wanted to do something quick and simple. And so Wade came to my house and we just sort of banged it out really fast. He basically had the material ready and we just sort of massaged it into place pretty quickly. I think a week at the very most. 

AD: Is a week a long time for you? I know you’ve finished albums in a day before?

Daniel Romano: ​​It depends. If it’s multitrack then it can take a week or two. But if you’re tracking off the floor then it can be done basically in a few days. Like How Ill [Thy World Is Ordered] was done completely in two days. I think Cobra Poems was more like a week because we did a bunch of overdubs.

AD: How was it working with Wade?

Daniel Romano: Well we sort of grew up together. My old band, Attack in Black, would play shows with his old band. He’s from St. Catherines so I would see him all the time. He had a fully realized idea with the psychedelic rock thing for Dooms Children. It was all very intentional and I enjoyed it. 

AD: On top of releasing a huge number of albums yearly, you also used to tour quite a bit before the pandemic. So would you say you enjoy making the music or touring more?

Daniel Romano: I always think that I don’t enjoy touring, but then I enjoy the performing part of touring. 

AD: So not the actual travel portion of like jumping in the van?

Daniel Romano: Yeah. Sometimes it’s a good time, but it can be a real drag. And usually its a huge tour so you’ve got to find energy that you don’t really have. 

AD: Are you planning on touring Cobra Poems when it’s safe to do so? 

Daniel Romano: I believe so. It’s hard to really say what is going to happen, but if all seems well I think we’re supposed to start doing things at the end of February.

AD: Are there plans for another Daniel Romano or Outfit album to finish this year or start early next?

Daniel Romano: I mean, things have been wild and busy lately, and I haven’t done any writing. But I think in the next couple of weeks … I have the itch. So who knows what is going to happen? I feel like if we’re not going to be touring until February, I can see something at least getting started. But I don’t imagine being finished. Maybe by summer there’ll be something new. 

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