Daniel Land & The Modern Painters are a Manchester-based band with a loyal following. They released debut album Love Songs For The Chemical Generation LP in late 2009 and this week unveiled sophomore record The Space Between Us. So So Gay dutifully reviewed the new album and loved it. Therefore, we were keen to catch up with lead vocalist Daniel Land about his music and more.[pullquote_left]I was always one of those freaks; when everyone else was listening to Green Day and Oasis in the 1990s, I was always bringing in tapes of Brian Eno from my mum[/pullquote_left]Our first question to Daniel Land is perhaps a predictable one but we are eager to know about his musical background, ‘I was always one of those freaks; when everyone else was listening to Green Day and Oasis in the 1990s, I was always bringing in tapes of Brian Eno from my mum. It’s always made me a bit suspicious of chart music, although I do like pop music. But there are all types of musical achievements which don’t get onto Radio 1. It’s a convoluted process, lurching from one leftfield musician to another’. To a degree, such cynicism about commercial pop music is unsurprising for a band like this. So, what does Land consider to be inspirational music? ‘The most amazing music I’d heard in my life, music which turned things 180 degrees, was the Cocteau Twins – so unique and emotional. That was the big musical discovery of my life. The stuff I’d been listening to up to then, like Peter Gabriel, prepared me for my musical career. When I was younger, what I really disliked about a lot of music was it denied a lot of emotions by going for cheap shots – anthemic with big beats wasn’t enough for me. I grew up gay in the sticks and wanted music that made you cry, you know?’
So how did the band come about? ‘I came to uni in 2000 and was on the verge of writing my own songs. I’d been making ambient music for four to five years and started to experiment with guitars but really wanted to sing. I come from a musical family so guessed I’be good at singing but was too shy to do anything about it. On my 21st birthday, I was out in Manchester’s gay village, in a hard house gay club and I met a straight guy called Graeme; we were introduced by a mutual friend. We have a mutual appreciation of bands like Spiritualized and Radiohead. While everyone else was dancing, we were in a corner discussing depressing music. That was the start of the band – Graeme pushed me to start singing’. This deep connection between the two is transparent as Land elaborates further; ‘He was almost like a coach but it’s a beautiful friendship. Here we are almost 11 years later and he’s still very much in the band. He’s very supportive of what I’m trying to do musically. The first year, we were in a similar place emotionally, just out of shitty relationships. We spent a summer with no job, no money, just making music. A lot of songs come from this period. Even one of the tracks on the next album is from a demo from back in 2003′.[pullquote_left]Gay people are a lot more aggressively marketed to than a lot of other sections of the community[/pullquote_left]Without meaning to indulge in throwaway stereotypes about ‘gay’ singers, it is still relatively rare to discover an openly gay lead singer with a band which produces the kind of music put out by Daniel Land and the Modern Painters. The obvious question, then, is whether or not Land feels lonely on the indie music scene; ‘Interesting question. I don’t really think about it. In the entire time I’ve been gigging, five to six years, not only have I never met any gay musicians but I’ve not met any gay fans either. No one gay comes up and says ‘I love your album’. But you never feel lonely in the indie community. These days you’re vaguely aware of people in other genres doing similar things, like Jónsi and Alex. If you want to join the dots, it’s all there’. Interestingly, Land believes there has been a historical progression in this regard; ‘It’s nothing like it was in the 80s, when coming out was a risk to your career. With the kind of music we’re making, people respond to whether it’s genuine or not. A while back, we were joking about doing some funny cover version – we’d love to do ‘Thank You’ by Alanis Morissette. We love to do something genuine, whether it’s radical feminist or not. That’s really positive and healthy. Most gay men I meet aren’t into indie music, let alone indie this far down the chain’. But Land objects to the way in which popular culture makes sweeping assumptions about LGBT audiences and what they like; ‘Gay people are a lot more aggressively marketed to than a lot of other sections of the community. The commercialisation of the gay scene is a taboo subject but it’s almost as if there’s a fear of upsetting the apple cart and challenging the audience. It’s a bit patronising approach.’
Land has thankfully not encountered a great deal of homophobia, either personally or professionally, as he explains; ‘There have been two very minor instances in my life which were dealt with very quickly. I was brought up in an accepting culture. So the short answer is no, as far as I am aware. I’m sure there have been people I’ve met who have had reservations but a sign of progress is that people keep that to themselves now rather than express it. I’ve never been physically attacked or verbally abused and the twice I’ve experienced low-level homophobia, others have fought my corner. It’s just a different world now – I see same-sex couples in Manchester holding hands. I love the fact people can do that now.’
Don’t miss Part 2 of our interview with Daniel Land later this week.