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A Chat with Daniel Wylie of Cosmic Rough Riders

Daniel Wylie of Cosmic Rough Riders.
13 April 2016

I first heard of Scotland’s Daniel Wylie through his most recent and excellent release, Chrome Cassettes, which I wrote a review for. Quickly realizing how much I was missing out on, I picked up his release Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine when it was reissued digitally in November. Since then, I have become friendly with this very talented musician, whose creations are a wonderful mesh of rock, folk. and psychedelia, occasionally blended with some country influences. Daniel is a huge music fan and that is reflected in this interview and in the kind, gentle way he approaches life through his music and interaction with fans. If you haven’t heard Chrome Cassettes, you can pick it up at the usual outlets. Thanks to Daniel for consenting to this interview.

Who or what most influenced you musically as a youth? Did you come from a musical family?

DANIEL: David Bowie. He was my hero. I obsessed on him. I also loved bands like Roxy Music, Queen, Genesis, Yes, Steely Dan, Joe Walsh, Stevie Wonder, lots of sixties and seventies bands like the Kinks, Beatles, Beach Boys, Who, Byrds, and lots of Motown and seventies soul like the Chi-Lites, Detroit Spinners, Chairmen of the Board… so much. I was like a sponge soaking it all up…drawn to melody…then punk happened and I got into Elvis Costello, The Clash, and so many others. I also loved Disco music and electronic pop like Kraftwerk. My dad played a little bit of guitar, but there were no real musicians in my family. Both my parents were massive music fans, and I heard lots of great music through them: Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, lots of fifties, sixties and seventies country music like Glen Campbell, Skeeter Davis, John Denver, and Bobbie Gentry…some great folk music like Hamish Imlach, The Dubliners, and Alex Campbell. My dad had a record stall in Glasgow’s Barrowlands market, and when I was 14/15/16 years old, I would work on it at weekends. I would take records as wages.

What was your very first recording?

DANIEL: My first ever demo was a song called “The Addict” by Transaction. It’s early electronic pop. It was recorded in 1983/4.

Can you tell us about some of the past groups you’ve played or worked with?

DANIEL: I can tell you the names of some of them…Transaction, Pioneers West, The Thieves (there have been lots of bands with this name), Rise (again, there are so many bands have used this name). The Thieves came close to getting signed as did Rise. EMI decided not to sign Rise because they’d just signed a band they thought sounded like us…that was Radiohead. :) The Thieves released four singles/eps and then disbanded. They were also the first band I appeared on TV with and had a large local following.

For the uninitiated, how would you describe your music?

DANIEL: Ultra melodic sums it up quite well. Generally, it’s either jingle jangle, chiming, guitar pop with harmonies and hooks, or it’s melodic, acoustic, melancholia with harmonies. My main focus is on writing super tuneful vocal melodies that you can sing in the shower.

Were you part of the Postcard era scene, or just a fan of the music that came out of that scene?

DANIEL: I was a fan of that label. I was in a band called Pioneers West around that time who might have fitted in well with that scene, but we were only together for about a year. I’m a massive fan of Orange Juice and Aztec Camera. Those bands were so great and set the bar high for Scottish music.

Please tell us a little about the early formation of the Cosmic Rough Riders, and how you met Alan McGee through Poptones Records.

DANIEL: Having been in bands for years, in 1996, I finally decided to become a solo artist. I was sick of always having a cynic dragging good bands down…kids…never be in a band with a cynic…they’re already beaten before you get started. A community studio called C# Sharp had opened in my area, and over the next three years I recorded some demos there. These formed the biggest part of the first Cosmic Rough Riders album Deliverance. Some of the album was recorded at Riverside Studios in Glasgow, with the aid of an arts grant. I had originally decided to release my music under the name Dylan Wylie, and in fact, one of the songs made it out on a magazine compilation under that name. However, I’d read a Gram Parsons quote about wanting to make Cosmic American Music and I thought that sounded great. Then, one day I noticed a poster in a jeans store…it was a girl wearing cut off (shorts) and they were called Rough Riders. I put that together with Cosmic from the GP quote and that’s how I got the name. CRR was a solo project and only became a band by accident. I needed to play a showcase for Alan McGee, who was interested in signing me to Pop tones. So we (CRR was a duo by this stage of myself and Stephen Fleming, who I’d brought in because he was a studio engineer and played some nice guitar), brought in some other guys to play live. McGee offered a deal on the SPOT, but he’d seen the band and wanted to sign us as a band. I’d been trying for a deal for years and was 41 by this time, so I opted to take a chance. So I ended up in a band with guys who hadn’t even played on my songs/records. It didn’t work out as I didn’t get on with a couple of them. When they started to bring in songs they’d written (that I didn’t rate or even like) and wanted them on the next album, I knew it was time to leave my own band. Shit happens. It got very complicated around this time, and I’d rather not go over old wounds again…it wasn’t the end of the world.

Do you have a favorite album out of the Cosmic Rough Riders catalogue? How about your own work?

DANIEL: Well my CRR records and my solo records are all my work. My personal favourites are Fake Your Own Death, Panorama, and Chrome Cassettes. My least favourite is Car Guitar Star, as I think that album has my weakest set of songs. To be honest, I’ve tried to keep the quality of my records high. When I release an album, I can guarantee you that I thought it was great at that time. Mostly, I’m always focused on the next album. Once a record is out there, it’s really for other people to decide….if they like it, I’m pleased.

How is it you seem to know so many people from the alternative scene? From playing out in general, or some other way?

DANIEL: Years of being in bands and years of touring. I’ve also released a bundle of records since 1999 and they’ve made their way around the globe. I’m lucky that I’ve met a lot of my musical heroes, played gigs with some of them, and found out they were also fans of my music.

What do you think of the oft heard opinion that no good music is being made these days, or at least, that it’s too derivative? I don’t agree, but I thought it would be interesting to hear your take on it.

DANIEL: Tons of great music is being made these days and who cares if it’s derivative? If you want to sound great, then educate yourself on the music of the great bands of the past; they were great writers, arrangers and producers. Put a little bit of yourself into the mix and you might end up with something special. I’d rather have great and derivative than experimental and shit. Listening to music for pleasure is what it’s about. No matter what your taste is, there’s a bundle of artists out there making that kind of music.

Have the changes in the music industry (streaming, Bandcamp, etc) benefited you at all?

DANIEL: I’m old fashioned. I like to have something for my money other than a file, so I buy a lot of Vinyl and CDs. CDs still sound amazing, but Vinyl has better artwork. I only stream my music on iTunes and Amazon, and I sell my music as downloads on both of those sites. I own all the rights to my own music, so anything I make from downloads/streams comes direct to me. I don’t have third parties claiming any of it, so I do OK on that front. Streaming like Spotify, in my opinion, gives people an excuse not to buy physical product. I can see the benefit to the listener, but musicians need people to buy their music so they can continue to make more records. Spotify will only work for the artist if they up their customers by tens of millions and everyone subscribes their $10/£10 per month; otherwise, artists and songwriters get almost zero.

Looking forward, can you tell us anything about upcoming releases or any plans to play live?

DANIEL: I’m going in for surgery on a coronary artery soon. Once that’s out of the way, I plan to finish an electronic pop album I’m in the middle of recording with Brian McNeill (ex China Crisis). Then I plan another guitar record. I’m currently going through tapes of hundreds and hundreds of ideas, trying to choose which ones to knock into shape for recording. I always give a new album project a couple of working titles. The next guitar record has the working titles “Kung Fu” and “Apes In Control.” I’m unsure whether it’ll be a full band record, an acoustic record, or a mix like my last album Chrome Cassettes.

Catch up with Daniel Wylie on his Facebook page.


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