Dave Hause – ‘We try to inject some humanity into an increasingly inhuman world’

Words: Miljan Milekić

I don’t really feel that Dave Hause needs an introduction. A cult hero, he’s been an active member of the underground scene for years, delivering some memorable albums. Earlier this year, he released his amazing new record ‘Kick,’ his fourth solo album, and hit the road to play it to the crowd in Europe. However, he found some time for a phone call, so you are able to read this interview. Check it below.

Dave Hause / Photo: Andrew Stuart

Hi Dave, thanks for your time. So, how is the tour going so far, and how is the crowd reacting to the new songs, ’cause the record has been out for only a couple of weeks now?
Dave: It’s good. We’ve done two festivals, three club shows, and we’re just getting into the German portion of the tour. So, so far so good. It’s been great to get out and play new songs, and to bring the band back to Europe. And the crowd reacts really well, surprisingly well. Songs that we’ve been playing from the new record, everyone seems to know, even the ones that haven’t been out for very long. I mean, some of the singles were released earlier. And so ‘The Ditch,’ ‘Fireflies,’ and ‘Saboteurs,’ for instance, were a little bit more familiar, and people have been responding really favorably. So it’s great. This is the shortest distance between writing songs and playing them to the people, so, it’s a little strange. It feels like we just wrote these songs, and to already be playing them for people is really a nice change, because, for years, it feels like you’re playing songs that you wrote a long time ago. So, it’s been good.

How encouraging is it for you to, like you said, write songs and go straight to the stage, play them for people, and to have such good feedback? Or at this point, you just write songs for yourself and don’t really find it too important?
Dave: No, I think it’s very encouraging. You know, you have to strike a balance between what you want to do artistically, staying on your desired path, writing what you want to write, and then also… Well, you hope that people respond, but you can’t necessarily just write for the desired response. So, I think it’s great. It’s great to know that, in some respect, the ideas that we were kicking around seem to connect with people. That’s what you hope. So, I think it’s been very encouraging.

I discovered your music in a bit unusual way. First, I’ve heard ‘Bury Me In Philly,’ and then went backward. With ‘Kick,’ I feel like it’s more in line with ‘Devour’ and your earlier work than the previous record. Is it something that you did on purpose, or it just came naturally to you?
Dave: ‘Bury Me In Philly‘ came from a time when I was moving west to California and falling in love. It was a very positive time. I think that in the end, for my writing, ‘Bury Me In Philly’ represents a time where it was harder for me to tap into some of the topics that are always compelling to me. Which are, you know, the struggles of working people, mental illness, difficulties in America, and that distance between the American dream and the reality that we live with. So, I think that it means ‘Bury Me In Philly’ is probably going to be an anomaly. Something that deviates from what I’m ordinarily interested in. And I think ‘Kick’ is probably tied quite a bit to ‘Devour’ in terms of weighing that distance between what you hope for and what you’re left with. For us in America after 2016, we’ve been living in that margin between what we hoped it happened over the years – progressive ideals and equality, and then the disaster of our election in 2016 and the fallout since.

And how do you see Donald Trump’s presidency right now, at this point? Do you think at this point, Donald Trump became “yesterday’s news” and pretty much everyone now understands how bad he is, or it’s still something that needs to be brought out?
Dave: I’m not sure which question to answer first. I think it’s a disaster for American history and American ideals. I think it’s very dangerous to have a con man, the person who’s obsessed with profit and greed and wealth, steering a very complicated ship. From what I can tell, Donald Trump became enamored with Putin‘s Russia and how he runs things as an oligarchy. I think that’s what he’s interested in. I don’t think that’s good for anybody, but especially for working people, for the sick, the old, children, anybody who’s a minority. I don’t think it serves humans.

As far as letting people know, I mean, I’m just a singer, I just write songs. I don’t know about letting everyone know how bad it is. I think people have to figure out how things impact their own life and, politically vote their conscience. But I definitely don’t think it’s a good thing for human beings. I think we live in an increasingly inhuman world, and I think this is pushing that kind of agenda. I don’t know, it seems pretty bad to me, but hopefully, the American people can be fooled once, but maybe not twice in a row. I don’t know, we’ll see. We have the election coming up next year, and hopefully, we get this guy out of there.

And what do you think, how much everyday politics influences and impacts your music and your writing? Because, as you said, you write about the everyday struggles of people in the US, who are affected by it.
Dave: I think that things like healthcare, the wage gap, the regular everyday things have shifted from the times I was a kid to now that I’m an adult. It made it really difficult for working people to carve out any kind of reliable space to rest. And I think that impacts everybody’s mental health, it affects everyone’s physical health. So, I think naturally, if you’re from my work, which is writing songs, you try to keep your antennae up to what would make for a compelling song. I think anything that impacts the national mood, or people’s mental health, has an effect on writers or creators. I guess you can turn, I mean, for your own mental health, you have to turn some of it off. You can’t sit and watch the news cycle all day long, and stay in a healthy place.

So, I think it’s a balance, but in this particular batch of songs, it definitely impacted me. I felt like watching the American political system was driving me crazy. You have to figure out how to live within the political framework of what you’ve been left with, and you also have to hold onto the things that are positive and chase the things that are positive. Make sure that you’re living in a way that guilds you against what feels like the water’s coming up. It’s a complicated question, but at the end of the day, hopefully, what we set out to do on this record and then touring and playing shows is that the inject some humanity into an increasingly inhuman world, especially back in America.

And you know, it’s happening all over Western society. People have turned to anti-immigrant sentiment, fear tactics, and things like that, and to me, it’s not a viable way forward. I think it’s always a dangerous way to approach the world. You know, we’re in Hamburg right now, in a bunker that was used by Nazis, and it’s a very keen reminder that with fear, economic hardship, and blaming immigrants for problems, you can lead to really, really bad conclusions that hurt lots and lots of humans. So, I’m trying to avoid that. I’m trying to do my part to avoid that.​

And have you ever expect that songs you write in a place you live in, about the society you’re a part of, can be so well-received, and so relatable for the people in different parts of the world?
Dave: I think that in Europe, from what I’ve been able to determine, people do hold culture in high regard. They like art and music and lyrics, they’re intrigued by those kinds of things, and there’s a high value placed on these things. So, it’s a real treat to be able to come across the world and have people, not only understand what you’re trying to say but to support it. Coming from America where things are not valued in the same way, it’s a strange thing. It’s a strange phenomenon to come across the ocean and play and have such a value placed on the music that you play when in some sections at home, that’s not as much the case. But I think that American ideals have shifted to chasing money and success over a long-lasting value. think it does make sense, but it is frustrating.​

How much do you think your songwriting has changed after starting a family and having kids? Do you look at life differently, and does it transfer to your music as well?
Dave: Well, I haven’t written any record since I had kids. I just had kids, my wife had kids in January. I’ve written some portions of songs since then, but, I couldn’t really say. You’ll have to ask me that question on the next record. (laughs) But, part of writing this record was knowing that I was going to have kids, and trying to look at the world and say like – “is this the place that is equaling what I would hope for my kids?” And the answer so far is “no, it could be much better.” So I think, if you look forward, I would think I’ll continually be thinking about things more related to my children.

When you have children, it takes you out of your selfishness, it forces you to not think just about yourself. The strange part of being a singer at this point is that there are people now, and my wife as well, that are certainly much more in need of my resources than I am. So, you have to strike a new balance about, how to navigate all that. And I’m trying to figure that out. It helps to have some friends who play music for a living that have children, and they’ve been very encouraging and helpful. They have good advice and such for how to not go crazy on the road when you’re away from family. But I do think it’ll change. My perspective certainly has changed. So, we’ll see if the next record will be even more informed by my perspective as a parent.

And how do you look at your career or a job as a touring musician, now when you have a family and different kinds of responsibilities? Being on the road, knowing that at home you have a kid that you can’t see for a few weeks or even months?
Dave: I don’t know, this is my first time doing that. Then you know, this is my fourth solo record, I was in a band that made two records before that, other bands that have put out records… I don’t know, I honestly don’t know. (laughs) I really don’t know what the future will hold, it’s unwritten. You know, my sons are 16 weeks old, we have 16 weeks-old twins. So, to say I want to be on tour is not true. (laughs) But I do value the fact that I get to do it, and respect that there are people that want to hear the songs.

And you know what, I do believe in the music that I’m making and the work that we do, so it’s a very difficult balance. We’ll see. I mean, I like my job, I just like my kids more, so we’ll see what happens. I don’t know. I don’t want to sound a false alarm, but I do think it’s important to think about every show like it’s your last one. No matter what, whether you have kids or don’t have kids, it could be the last time you get to do it, every day. I try to think about it that way. And so you try to pour a reasonable amount of blood, sweat, and tears into the work that you do to make it worth it.​

I really like this answer. Where do you see yourself musically? When I was younger, I was all about punk rock, skate punk, stuff like, I don’t know, Bad Religion, or whatever, but in the last five or six years, I started to like artists like Frank Turner, The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon, and yourself. To me, it’s like a blend of the classic, traditional rock’n’roll sound, and punk rock edge, and the punk ideal of making the world a better place. How do you look at it?
Dave: Well, I just write songs, and I want songs to be as good as possible; I don’t care about genres, as much. I’m thankful for the punk rock world, I think it gives people an opportunity to play that for ordinarily, maybe wouldn’t. I think it’s a place where you can really take a perspective, and let that be the guiding principle for your art, rather than needing to be an extremely good singer or a great guitar player, or whatever. But ultimately I do think songs are part of the straw that stirs the whole drink.

But ultimately I do think songs are part of the straw that stirs the whole drink. So, when you talk about a band like Bad Religion, you just mentioned, I don’t think of them as they are skate punk or punk at all, but as they’re songwriters. And the songwriting aspect of what they do is what allows them to be timeless. And that’s the same thing for Tom Petty. It’s the same thing for Adele. And it’s the same thing for Prince and so many other of my favorite artists. So, I just keep an open mind. And punk rock is really just more of an approach to life.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always looked at the world, been perplexed at the conclusions that have been drawn and said: “Man, this doesn’t seem like the best way of doing things. I think that we could do better.” And I think that’s sort of, where my punk rock spirit starts and ends. I don’t listen to very much punk music. Um, I sort of went through that phase, and I value a lot of groups, and friends of mine that do it. But I’m just chasing songs, and for me, I find a lot of inspiration in artists like Lori Mckenna or Brandi Carlile, or Patty Griffin. And then, a lot of hip hop.

For me, punk is hard. It’s hard for me to hear what they’re singing. (laughs) It’s hard to understand the lyrics as it’s going by really fast. And, I think there’s some brilliant songwriting in punk rock that sometimes actually gets lost. So, I don’t know, to me, it’s more of a way of living, which really is just rock and roll. Punk rock spirit is just rock and roll’s spirit or jazz spirit. It’s going against the grain and saying “hey, this is the way I want to do it.” Hip hop has the same spirit. And as a style of music, punk rock is almost as old as rock and roll now, so it’s definitely nothing new. So, yeah, that’s my thought on it. I mean we just played a big festival, and there were lots of punk bands. It’s fun to see young people have that spirit, but I’m not that age. I like to try to express myself in a multitude of different ways.

I actually love that you mentioned hip hop. Would you agree that at this point in this time we have like more of the mentioned punk rock, or rock and roll attitude in artists such as Logic and Kendrick Lamar than we have in mainstream rock?
Dave: I agree. I would say, if you take an artist like Brandi Carlile as well, she’s from the singer-songwriter world, or Americana, country, whatever you wanna call it, she’s got more of that spirit than most of the rock that’s mainstream. Then, you have Rise Against, they are like a mainstream rock band that has a lot of counter-culture ideas and “improve humanity” kind of thoughts. But yeah, I would agree that Kendrick Lamar, or artists like Brandi Carlile, they seem to embody the spirit of rock and roll rebel much more than the stuff you hear on the radio. I mean, I don’t really listen to the radio, so I really couldn’t say. I sort of just go about my life and if somebody tells me: “Oh, this is a cool record,” I’ll try to check it out, but I don’t really keep up with the charts or, or any of that stuff. I don’t have any interest in that. I’m sure there’s some good stuff out there, I hope so.​

This is your third album on Rise Records. How would you describe your work with the label so far? Because you are, as an artist are a bit different musically from the rest of their lineup, as they usually focus on younger, more aggressive, and more commercial bands.
Dave: I don’t really know what Rise Records does with their other releases, but I am very thankful that they want to work with me. These are honest people who have been good to me. They’ve given me an opportunity to make records I want to make, in the way that I want to make them. For instance, on this record, they worked pretty tirelessly to get it out, even though we had a very limited amount of time. You know, I had children, my wife had our children at the beginning of the year, so it was a very complicated time for them to be able to get a record out finished. So, when you’re talking about a record label, I mean, I don’t know what else did they put out in 2019. And that’s no disrespect to them. I just work directly with the people there, and they’re positive, encouraging, and supportive, and that’s all I really care about. I don’t know what else they do.

And I just have my own identity, and I sort of, live and die by that. I don’t really have an ecosystem in terms of the label that I come from, you know. I guess we have a genre, but I don’t even know what it’s called. The Gaslight Anthem, or Chuck Ragan, Hot Water Music, Dave Hause, I really don’t even know what that’s called. (laughs) I think if we have a name like “grunge” or something that would help us. ‘Cause people would say: “Oh, I’m into Chuck Ragan music, I don’t even know what it is.” You know? (laughs) But, as far as the label, I’m just thankful that they still want to work with me. And I don’t sell a million records or anything, so, the fact that they’re willing to invest in each record, to shoot a video, make an ad for the record in a magazine, that’s cool with me. I’m just, kind of, over here, building little cabinets or something. It’s like a little artisanal shop, it’s not some giant, Walmart kind of operation. So the fact that they would invest in that, I feel pretty fortunate.

This will be the last one from me today – so what are your plans for the next period? Both short-term and long-term?
Dave: Right now, I know we will finish this tour, and then, I’d go home to my wife and kids. I know we were working a lot this year, and into next year. Then, it seems about time to write some more songs pretty soon. But yeah, the future is unwritten. I’m, just taking it day by day and trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves. Right now, we’re pretty much planed until Christmas, and things are starting to lock into place for after Christmas. So, it’s pretty far in advance. But right now, I’m just mostly enjoying playing these new songs with my friends and my band, and then I get to go home and see my kids. So that’s kind of what I’m focused on.

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