Stepping outside of reality with the Erased Tapes artist...

When Douglas Dare goes out onstage he needs to feel it.

A songwriter with an extreme commitment to emotional dedication, each performance must have this sense of catharsis, this sense of transgressing through something real. But when the artist unfurled his new album ‘Aforger’ earlier this year, he needed an extra spur, an extra point of dedication – so he invited his ex.

“A lot of the record is about an ex of mine, and it ended very badly,” he tells Clash. “We worked together. We worked very closely together on music, and that was two years ago. I was a bit concerned about going onstage and singing these songs, and getting the songs back in my system. I wanted to feel them from that place again. So I actually invited my ex to come to that show, and going onstage and singing those songs, knowing he was in the room, really re-ignited all those emotions for me.”

“When I say it out loud it maybe sounds… I don’t know. It sounds a bit bizarre, doesn’t it? To put yourself in that situation. But it really did help me find emotions behind the songs again. And I think when I go on tour now – he obviously won’t be in the audience every night – but I feel like now I’ve connected with the songs again.”

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But this extreme level of dedication is a hallmark of everything Douglas Dare puts his name against; he’s a perfectionist, an artist who wants to push his work as far as it can go. ‘Aforger’ certainly travels far – at times lush, at others sparse, it borders on classical while remaining resolutely pop; it’s unpredictable, unclassifiable, and ultimately highly addictive.

“It was really important to me to do something different,” he explains. “I was really happy with the first record, I thought it went really, really well, and I just knew I didn’t want to repeat myself. So where I could I made changes.”

“In the beginning I was quite strict on how I would approach it. I even said at the beginning that I wouldn’t use any piano, whereas on the first record all the songs were written on piano. That was just one of them. Of course, the record – over a period of time – reincorporates the piano, but my writing influences were different and I just knew I wanted the record to sound different. I wanted it to be a step up. I wanted it to be a step forward from what I’d done before.”

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In the beginning I was quite strict on how I would approach it...

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Continually driving himself forward, Douglas – together with long-time collaborator Fabian Prynn – set about constructing vast new autobiographical vignettes. Working alone at first, before presenting his material, the songwriter’s hand was forced by events in his private life, making both the writing and the material itself an intensely personal experience.

“Well, the subject matter was quite apparent early on,” he states. “One, it was a lot more personal, and it was also more direct. It was bolder. And I wanted the sound to be bolder. So for me, that very basically translated to more instruments. I wanted more people on the record. So we had a brass band, we also had a choir, we had someone playing guitar. We expanded on what we’d done before.”

“Layers is a big part… at points, we would chuck everything at it, and then we would spend time stripping things back,” he adds. “There was definitely a sense of… let’s make it huge! Let’s make it big, and then see if we can rein it in afterwards.”

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‘Aforger’ is certainly big. ‘New York’ is a vast statement of intent, while ‘Oh Father’ - a song that deals with family, sexuality, identity, and self-worth – is committed to a truly gorgeous and riveting aural framework. It’s a record that doesn’t hold back, in any sense.

“I wanted to go up to the next level,” he insists. “With this record, I felt more like a writer, I felt more in command. That’s not to say I feel like I’ve nailed it in any sense, it’s just I felt like I was on the road to having more command of language. And it kind of made me more brave. Where I was able to be a lot more direct and frank with what I was saying.”

“I think previously it was knowing what to do, but I perhaps didn’t have the confidence. Again, to mention the first record, I did start with the words, and words are incredibly important to me. I spend most of my time on the words. And I had to keep refining them. I was just a bit more bold, I think. It does feel like a step up, in a way.”

Ironically, for a record that contains the urge towards communication ‘Aforger’ wasn’t written with an audience in mind – it was constructed according to the creative desires of the central cast. “When I was writing the record I never considered that anyone else was going to hear it. It sounds like a weird thing to say, but when I wrote it, I wrote it for myself. But the benefit of having finished the record some time ago means that I’ve been able to detach myself from it. Not in a negative way, but in a way that means I’m able to now put those songs out there. I’ve dealt with those songs, I’ve dealt with the truth behind them. So now I feel quite separate from them.”

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It does feel like a step up, in a way.

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One of the songwriting habits that Douglas Dare couldn’t quite kick was his addiction to words – the majority of the songs on ‘Aforger’ began as lyrics on a page. “I’m not making music simply to play different instruments all the time. I can write words down on my phone when I can, or in a notebook. I don’t do it all the time, but words always come first for me.”

“I write stories, essentially. I have been a lot more personal on this record, but I think through storytelling you can use fiction to elaborate so much. I’m also quite interested in incorporating other people’s stories and always making it multi-dimensional in that sense.”

“And of course, the theme of the record is almost predominantly about this relationship between reality and fiction,” he continues. “It’s almost ironic – I’m talking about whether things are real, and here I am writing sometimes complete fiction. So it’s all wrapped up in itself, really – this idea of whether something’s real. And that bleeds into the title, as well. It’s a made up word, but is turned – almost – into something real. It’s all playing on that idea of what’s real.”

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Great forgers are artists themselves...

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‘Aforger’ is a word that came to the songwriter some time ago, but grew to define the record, and the way it translates reality into fiction, and turns fiction into reality. “I think, on the surface, forgeries can be quite negative,” he explains. “Someone’s trying to fool you with a forgery, potentially. But the more you look into the idea of a forgery… I think of them as new artworks all of their own. And great forgers are artists themselves, and have a whole new quality beyond the original.”

“I love that relationship between the two things, that surface idea of being fooled, and made to look like a fool if you believe it, and also the flip-side of it is that this is a creation all of its own. And that’s definitely got its own merits. By itself, though, in many ways I do think about it from the negative perspective, or the darker side of it. But I hope that people understand that flip-side of it, and appreciate sometimes being outside of reality can be a really blissful thing.”

As 2016 tumbles to a close, perhaps a dose of non-reality – straight from the heart, of course - is exactly what we need.

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'Aforger' is out now.

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