Interview By Aron Radford
Dan Dubuque is a Montana based Weissenborn instrumentalist like no other you have seen or heard before. The man is unique within his chosen field of Weissenborn instrumental music. His music is not for the faint hearted or sensitive types, his music is full throttled with no holding back. His repertoire of covers and influences are at the extreme end of what's considered conventionally appropriate for the Weissenborn, Rage Against The Machine and Tool covers are the norm here. Seeing is believing too, the man is a whirlwind of body slams, wild articulated strums, and ferocious hammer ons that make any self respecting player wince and flinch at each thunderous strike of the instrument. The first time i saw Dan Dubuque play I knew I would interview him one day and i was lucky enough to hook up with him recently and delve into this amazing mans story and discover how this unconventional playing style evolved.
Hi Dan please introduce yourself to the readers and tell a little about you as a person.
My name is Dan Dubuque and I grew up in Polson, Montana. I've played music in Montana for a living for almost 9 years now as a solo instrumental Weissenborn player doing originals and covers. I also use the Charango in my shows as well, a 10 string uke/mando style instrument from Bolivia.
I understand that you are a full time musician now and travel up and down the lengths of Montana playing gigs wherever and when ever you can?
I play everywhere and anywhere in Montana. I get a lot of shows at breweries, bars, distilleries, farmers markets, art fairs, county fairs, private parties, weddings, and festivals and soundtracks for TV shows lately. I play 3 to 5 shows a week in the spring, fall, and winter, then 7 to 10 shows a week in the summer.
I heard somewhere you drive over 60,000 miles a year just in Montana alone traveling to gigs, it must be a lonely, tiring life what keeps you motivated to do this hard ‘on-the-road’ lifestyle? And is it a lifestyle you have chosen or has it chosen you?
I was miserable when I wasn't playing guitar and going crazy at real jobs. I was born to play music and the more I tried to run away from that the more painful life was. I might have a chemical in-balance or something like that because I'm only happy when Im playing guitar so the more shows that I play the better. I have been very blessed to get to meet a lot of cool people and make a lot of friends from playing music for them rather than talking to them because I just cant get away from being a socially awkward or anxious person or whatever that shit is, but I'm less lonely than when I wasn't doing music for a living. People in Montana are awesome and very supportive of what I do. The governor Steve Bullock who sent me a letter giving me props for playing the weissenborn for a living in Montana. I love not having a normal life. Music is therapy for me and I am lucky to live in a place where my medicine can make money for me as well.
Is there enough work for you in just Montana or do you ever venture outside the state?
There is more than enough work in Montana and it's awesome touring the state all the time. This place is the best. I have played out a state a lot and still do, like Portland, Seatlle, Arizona and they are awesome shows. I lived in New York City and Venice Beach trying to pursue music before I was playing in Montana. I know I could do well with music in a bigger place but I'm just not a city person.
What are some of the best gigs and venues you look forward to playing the most and why?
Northern Lights Saloon in Polebridge, Montana, Clark Fork Market in Missoula, MT, Pony Bar in Pony, MT, Gravel Bar in Ennis, MT, Philipsburg Brewery in Philipsburg, MT, Blackfoot Brewing in Helena, MT, Holly's Road Kill Saloon in McLeod, Montana, Cabinet Mountain Brewing in Libby, MT, Mighty Mo Brewing in Great Falls, MT, Bonsai Brewing in Whitefish, MT, Bandit Brewing in Darby, MT, 406 Brewing and Bridger Brewing in Bozeman, MT and Triple Dog Brewing in Havre, MT as well as all the festivals that I have got to be a part of have been awesome. I got to play for celebrities for their weddings and private parties. I played for Brock Lesnar the other week at a private party. He was awesome and has good taste in music. I loved all these shows because I get to meet a lot of awesome locals and cool celebrities who teach me a lot about music and inspire me to stay ambitious. People here are so appreciative and inspired by the way I play I feel like I have to live up to their expectations and keep making music for them and I love that there is a demand for more music now.
"Rage Against The Weissenborn"
Lets get to your USP (unique selling point), your playing style! you play high energy rock and metal covers on your weissenborn with such a passion and ferocity that it seems like your going to break your weissenborn to bits. Tell us how this unique style evolved and developed.
I got into electric and acoustic guitar first, playing heavy stuff like Rage, Pantera,Tool, Soundgarden, etc, and wanted to start a band or whatever, but never worked out. I played solo acoustic guitar and electric and wasn't making enough money with it and not finding my own sound either. Once I got into the weissenborn and applied my past influences on it I found my own sound and it took off in Montana. I started to get shows a lot easier and started getting shows all over the state.
So how did you discover the Weissenborn for the first time?
I saw Ben Harper at the Gorge in Washington in 2004. I never heard of him before but I went there because a friend invited me randomly so I went last minute and he rocked. I never heard anything like that and it changed my life. He put hip hop, funk, and metal into the weissenborn. He is a badass and if I can make music half as good as him someday I will have accomplished something. I have just been trying to further his style and make my own sound as well.
How did you learn to play the slide guitar and Weissenborn in particular?
I could always hear a song and learn how to play it if I loved it and I taught myself on regular guitars, turning them into lap slide guitars till I got a cheap dobro, and finally got a Weissenborn after a few years of saving money and couch surfing. I wanted to create the same intensity, rush, and soulfulness that all good music has, music that really sticks with people, so I started doing covers on the Weissenborn and Charango playing songs from Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Rolling Stones, The Pixies, Steve Earle, Snoop Dogg, Incubus, Dr Dre, Notorious BIG, George Michael, Queens Of The Stone Age, Ben Harper, Foster The People, Taj Mahal, Mgmt, Daft Punk, Hendrix, Mississippi John Hurt, Band of Gypsies, Lorde, Cake, AC/DC , Beethoven, Mini Mansions, Zeppelin, Gorillaz, Pantera, Modest Mouse, Merle Haggard, Phantogram, Willie Nelson, Radiohead, Johnny Cash, Nirvana, Smokey Robinson, Soundgarden, Creedence, Deftones, Tom Petty, Miles Davis, Depeche Mode, Beatles, Katy Perry, Metallica, Duran Duran, Black Sabbath, D'Angelo, Leonard Cohen, The Doors, Awol Nation, Bad Brains, The Misfits, Eminem and much more as well as my originals to make people happy and stay busy enough to just do shows for money and not need a side job.
Are there any artists that have had a profound influence on you as a musician?
I know it's typical but Hendrix for sure. I want the Weissenborn to become a part of me like Hendrix made the electric a part of him. He had a lot to say with his guitar and I feel like someday I could have a lot to say with the slide guitar. I also love Keith Richards 5 string style of playing. My latest influences have been Johnny Marr from The Smiths and Joshua Homme from Queens of The Stone Age. Their styles are so awesome and original. No one sounds like them. They make music that everyone can get down to rather than some rocking music that creates a sausage fest at shows. I want girls to love me as well as having guys getting down too and have old timers loving it as well and not getting scared away. I love hearing interviews of these guys talk about music too. They are wise, humble, and cool as hell. True artists. I strive to be in the same mindset as them and hope to make music that is as daring, danceable, original and as cool as theirs someday.
Some of your most popular YouTube videos are of you paying “Voodoo Chile”, “Paint It Black” and Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name”, why those tracks in particular and are those played at every gig you do?
Those tracks get people's attention right away as well as “Heart Shaped Box”, “Pumped Up Kicks”, “Kashmir”, “With The Flow” (Queens), “46 & 2”, “Where Is My Mind”, and in small towns in Montana, “Pancho And Lefty” and “Folsom Prison” work pretty well for turning heads. I won't do “Wagon Wheel” screw that. I'll read the audience and know what to play for them. Sometimes i’ll see a band shirt on someone from the crowd and start playing a song from that band and get the persons attention and they'll leave a tip or gimme props for playing.
So tell us a bit about the song in the video “Finley Point” what inspiration did you draw on to create this wonderful instrumental and where is ‘Finley Point’?
Finley Point is a place on the rez where I go to get out of town and hang out with my good friends to smoke, drink, fish, camp, laugh, look for antlers, just have a good time and get away from whatever drama we all had. I was always the only musician in the crew so I was always the soundtrack at parties.
What was the tuning?
Open C# 432. C G C C G C
How many songs did you record and shoot that day other than “Finley Point”?
I did a couple other songs. One slow song and an electronic music influenced song. I think they’re on youtube.
Are you aware of any other Weissenborn artists out there in the world/internet and that what ‘you’ do is so, so different. Is that the point, that ‘you’ are unique, you stand out, you make a stamp?
No one is doing what I do in the world and I am stoked on that. I want to be the best at what I do and remembered for what I do. I hope someday that I can contribute something to the world of music that is very special and timeless, music that everyone can get down to. You have to be crazy to beat the crap out of a $2500 or higher priced slide guitar and break it and repair it over and over and have to buy a new one every 3 years. But its worth getting all that sound and emotion out there.
What brand of weissenborn do you play?
I play a Jason Bowerman slide guitar. He is a native out of Bend, Oregon, Cool dude and knows his stuff. He used to work for Breedlove. I need to call him again and get another one made because the one I have now from him might last another year if I'm lucky. He makes great sounding, durable slide guitars, but I just beat the hell out these things.
What pick up and pedal/amp effects do you use?
I use a Fishman Rare Earth Blend magnetic soundhole pickup - humbucker w/ condenser mic, Fishman ToneDEQ Acoustic Instrument Preamp with effects, and a JBL EON ONE. If you have any recommendations for sound let me know, id be down to experiment with something new.
Have you ever damaged your instrument with your energetic playing style. I noticed your finger board is a bit chewed up lol?
I hit the fingerboard with the bar a lot for the snare drum sound and smack the body and the strings with my right hand. These instruments aren't made for the way I play. I hope I can work with Jason Bowerman someday and make a custom slide guitar that can take a beating and still have a warm sound.
Tell us how you got involved with the “Montana Sessions” video production company.
The film crew saw me play at a farmers market in Missoula and Crown Of The Continent guitar festival in Bigfork. They were looking for the best musicians in Montana and I am very grateful that they thought that I should be a part of this project. The crew was awesome and I saw them again at this year's Crown Of The Continent festival. You should go to that festival sometime.
Tell us about that particular recording trip into the Mission Mountains in Montana.
It was awesome. It was like a movie shoot. Super professional and positive atmosphere. I felt like a movie star or something. The crew were fans or became fans of the music and it was a really nice day. I loved to hike, fish and camp in the missions all the time before I started taking music seriously. The crew loved the area and it was cool that they wanted to make a music video of me on the rez. I'm so grateful that opportunities are happening like this now. It makes me want to keep getting better and better.
The landscape looks stunning and the video location was particular picturesque. Some of the long distance shots of you playing on your own surrounded by miles and miles of barren countryside all around are quite epic. What was you reaction when you saw the finished video for the first time?
I loved the video. I made me feel like all the traveling and hard work paid off and that I could really make great music someday that reaches out to everyone.
So do you have any recording ambitions? you must have a healthy batch of songs written now. Do you have any of your music available for digital download or CD purchase?
I have always wanted to record for soundtracks to movies and TV shows and now animal planet and discovery channel want me to work on a couple projects now so I'm really happy about that. I was selling a demo but quit making more when I ran out recently. I felt bad selling such a shitty demo to people when I know I am better than what is on that demo now. I am working on a new album right now and it will be 20 times better to sell and it will also be available for download this time as well. Trying to finish it before the year is over.
What are your short term goals musically?
Ive achieved a lot of my short term goals already. I wanted to be a working musician in Montana and I'm doing that now. I wanted to do soundtracks and I'm doing that now. I wanted to make my family proud of me instead of worry about me and I'm doing that now. I want to play in Austin, Texas and get into that music scene too. A lot of people from Austin and bands from Montana who have played in Austin say that I would kick some ass down there with my music. That would be sweet.
And long term ambitions?
Someday I would love to be in a place in the music world where because of my hard work and passion for music all the greats would actually be able to hear me and possibly have a chance to love what I do. People like Ben Harper, Josh Homme, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Tom Morello, Johnny Marr, Gary Clark Jr. I can dream. All I know is that the harder I work the more luck I have.
Thank you so much Dan for your precious time talking to us today, its been a pleasure and please stay in contact with us about future releases/videos :-)
Thank you Aron for interviewing me for The Weissenborn Information Exchange. I am happy that you love this amazing instrument even more than I do. More people should get to know and play
So what kind of reaction do you get before the first song of a gig and then immediately after, one of slight shock i would guess (in a good way of course)
It's always different. I've had people try to fight me just because they thought i was good and they were drunk and jealous, but mostly pretty awesome reactions from people. People get either blown away by it or uncomfortable because they've never seen or heard anything like that before, some boo me off the stage, some say its the coolest thing they ever seen and that i'm gonna make it someday, sometimes methheads try to mug me when I'm packing up after a show. I don't need props to keep going with this and I can handle putdowns and fights from assholes. I'm dealt with worse crap on the rez so I have no complaints about what happens on the road. I am grateful to do what I love for a living and feel guilty sometimes because my parents went through a lot in their lives and worked their asses off for me and my brother and sister. I would not be doing what I do without them, they are amazing people. If I'm doing anything right in this world its because I'm a part of them. I owe them the world.
Do you ever play with a more refined playing style at a slower pace?
I play slow refined stuff for weddings and restaurants and venues like that where you cant rock out, and those songs tend to sound more like ben harper and jerry douglas or anything traditional and done before. I love the stuff that rocks out hard because it hasn't been done before, but I want to own every style. I am working on a new album now and the hardest part about it has been trying to own a soft, slow and beautiful song that sounds like me. Like Ben Harper owns “Pleasure And Pain”. But I love the constant challenges. I get bored and unsatisfied easy, part of being an artist I guess, so its pretty sweet that music is endless.
You are a great example of being self taught by ear. Is it true that you can just listen to a record a few times then just play it for the first time in its entirety?
Yeah its true, but I know a lot of people who are like that, got the ear for sound and all that. It seems like they’re a dime a dozen now. I'm not that unique in that sense anymore these days but if I lived back in the day I would have been the shit.
So what made you turn to the ‘acoustic’ Weissenborn as an outlet for your rock/metal influenced musical outpourings, why not not an ’electric’ guitar of even ‘electric’ lap steel?
The Weissenborn can have the intensity of a wailing electric guitar and the sweetness of an acoustic guitar, the darkness of a cello and the trippiness of a sitar, it’s awesome for hip hop, blues, funk, and R & B, and eastern songs, and it’s the most beautiful, expressive acoustic instrument ever. Everyone and their mom plays guitar now and even the electric lap steel and dobro was too country twangy for me. I wanted to stick out and the Weissenborn was the way to stick out. I could rock out on it the same way I used to rock out on the electric guitar only I could get peoples attention and not annoy them and even get old people to rock out to stuff that they would never rock out to if they heard the original versions, like the Misfits or Bad Brains, any style that you play on the Weissenborn can be beautiful.
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