» Darren Wharton - Dare/Thin Lizzy
« back

Interview conducted August 06 2016
Interview published August 09 2016

"Ideas are always formulating and go into different areas."

The melodic rockers of Dare put out their new record, Silent Ground, on July 15th. The band's inner core and main man Darren Wharton is out on the road for a while this summer and playing a couple of shows as the keyboarder of Thin Lizzy again and since they had Skogsröjet festival in Sweden listed on their itinerary, Metal Covenant was able to seize the opportunity and get a few moments with this indeed polite and nice gentleman.

"It was just one of those things. I was in the right place in the right time."

Tobbe: Your new record, Silent Ground, was released just a couple of weeks ago and what does that record bring to the overall Dare catalogue?

Darren: Well, you know. I mean, it's been very well-received. I've been really happy with the way, you know, the fans have listened to it and then enjoyed it. I don't know why it's been so well-received with the fans really. I think it's probably just because, you know, we've kept the guitars. I mean, I try to listen to the fans.

We get a lot of people saying "Oh, they want this, and too much keyboards, and too much of that.", so we do listen, but I mean, I didn't want us all compromise the Dare sound by just making it into a little guitar album. So I've tried to sort of stay in between that area where it still sounds like Dare, but we've obviously gone back and getting the guitars a little bit more edgy. But hopefully I don't jeopardize the songs, you know.

The songs to me are the most important thing. The production side is obviously important, but as long as the songs are there… Something that people can sing along to, you know. I mean, that's always the important thing.

Tobbe: You know, most artists tell me that they kind of don't listen to their fans and that they try to follow their heart and soul…

Darren: Well, I do. You've got to follow your own heart. I mean, that's very true. You do. But you can still lean towards… you know, you don't have to compromise the songs to make an album sound a bit edgier and to be a bit rockier. And to turn the guitars up in the mix. You know, it's easy to do that. But I hope we haven't sort of gone too far away from the Dare sound, but I think, you know, when listening to what the reviews have been and the fans and everything, I think this is what they've been waiting for, so I'm happy with that, you know.

Tobbe: So what does this album supposedly have that can bring back some of the old fans that haven't listened to Dare for a while?

Darren: You know, it's strange the amount of people that don't realize we've done so much work since Out Of The Silence. Everybody says, you know, "Out Of The Silence this" and "Out Of The Silence that", but we've done so much work in between that and I sort of wish a lot of the fans would listen to those albums, 'cause I think there's some great music on those albums and I'm very proud of all the albums.

So I think it's just a learning curve. Hopefully now people will listen to the new record and then start to look back over the last couple of albums and start to introduce themselves to the older stuff, you know Beneath The Shining Water, Belief, Arc Of The Dawn, Calm Before The Storm. They're all great albums, so… well, I think they are. [Laughs]

Tobbe: If we look at the lyrical content. What inspires you today and do you have subjects that you want people to kind of pay some extra attention to?

Darren: No, you know, I'm quite a sort of romantic guy really. You know, I'm not known for spending too much time on the road. I mean, I like, obviously, playing live shows and we do and we have a great boost doing that. But at the end of the day I think everybody has a place where they feel comfortable and where they wanna be and where they wanna be around the people they love. You know, their loved ones.

And, you know, for me, where my sort of home is, where I live in North Wales… It's a beautiful area. It's just gorgeous. You know, with the mountains and the sea. That's my sacred ground, you know. So that's what it's about. But I'm sure you've got your own part of Sweden that's beautiful to you. And that's important. You know, everybody has that sort of special place where they call home and that's basically the theme of the album.

Tobbe: But is there something you try to kind of avoid when you write a song, both musically and lyrically?

Darren: Well, you know, I avoid…politics. [Laughs] You know, I don't think I'm ever gonna swear in one of my albums. You know, I don't condone foul language or anything like that in songs. I mean, a lot of bands sort of tend to do that these days, but, you know, I don't think I'll ever do that. But no, there's nothing in particular I stay away from, apart from the obvious things, you know.

To me, the most important thing is it sounds like a Dare record. I'm really proud of some of the new stuff, like Strength and Every Time We Say Goodbye. There's some great songs on the new album and I'm proud of them. And we're doing a new album. You know, I've got a new album almost ready to go for next year, so. So it won't be 4 years 'til the next one. [Laughs]

Tobbe: You know, a lot of bands, late in their career, try to recreate what they did early in their career and would you ever consider doing that?

Darren: No, I don't think so. You know, I might get tempted to write a heavy album one day, but just for the sheer fact to just sort of blow the steam out a little bit and maybe call it a little bit of something a bit more aggressive. Just so the Dare fans that do like the heavier stuff got something to listen to, you know. But I don't wanna alienate the people who loved Belief, so it's difficult to keep everybody happy, you know.

Tobbe: About the development of the band. What initially led up to your decision to bring in some Celtic stuff or some folk music into the rock'n'roll music?

Darren: Well, I think that was mainly a part of my Thin Lizzy roots. Out Of The Silence was quite Celtic in some of its stuff. You know, The Raindance and King Of Spades. You know, I spent my early career with Thin Lizzy, so that rubbed off me a great deal, working with Phil Lynott and Scott Gorham. And those Irish roots and the Celtic roots, where I live in Wales… You know, it's a very similar type of genre of folk music.

So I always felt a sort of connection with that sort of music. And I am half Welsh, so there's a bit of Celtic in me. Yeah, but it's nothing that I do intentionally. I just find that it suits my sort of the way I feel inside and rather than be a city boy I'm more of an earthy country type of guy. That's the way I like to feel, you know.

Tobbe: Besides thinking about doing a little bit more "aggressive" record, what will the future of Dare look like, in your mind? Do you have a set plan or do you take things as they come more or less?

Darren: I tend to just take the music as it comes out. You know, if I could listen to, say, Belief now, and I love the album, but it does sound quite mild to me, compared to where I've gone now. You know, you're always sort of getting different ideas. Ideas are always formulating and go into different areas. So I think maybe the next album will be a progression of this one. Slightly more rock oriented maybe, but it will always maintain the songs, because that's what I work most on to get right.

Tobbe: So will there be any touring activity to support the album?

Darren: Not really touring. Hopefully we'll get a phone call from Sweden Rock [Festival] and we've been asked to do some shows in Sweden. But we are playing a big festival [Leyendas Del Rock] in Spain next week and also Germany next year. So we've got gigs coming up, but not tours as such, you know. More like festivals. It makes more sense, you know. Going to play in front of 10000 people, rather than go to 10 clubs and play in front of 300 people every night. It doesn't make sense, you know.

Tobbe: You're participating on this tour with Thin Lizzy, obviously, and what will your relationship be to Thin Lizzy in the future?

Darren: You know, I'm always very proud of my days with Thin Lizzy and it's always nice to come back and play with Scott and the guys. It's always a great honor for me. So I find it very difficult to say no to Scott, if he asks me to do it, because we have a great deal of fun and it's great to play Thin Lizzy songs. So I will probably always do that, but my main sort of thing is Dare. But, you know, it's nice to be asked to do it and it's nice to have a little bit of fun and come and play the songs.

Tobbe: And this tour with Thin Lizzy coincides perfectly with the release of the new Dare album, so that will probably give you some more attention for the album as well.

Darren: Yeah, I think so. It certainly hasn't done me any harm. [Laughs]

Tobbe: So when people meet you, are you the guy in Dare or the guy that used to be the keyboarder in Thin Lizzy?

Darren: Well, it depends where I am, you know. But even now, even when in Thin Lizzy, a lot of people obviously know me from Dare. And I like that, you know, 'cause I do like singing. Obviously that's not my role in Thin Lizzy, but I do like to be known for Dare, rather than Thin Lizzy, because that's, you know, it's what I spend my time doing. But yeah, a lot of people are aware of Dare, you know.

Tobbe: Are people still in general asking a lot of questions about Phil?

Darren: Well, people always inevitably ask about Phil, you know, and my answer will always be: He was a fantastic guy to work with. You know, a genius. And I was very honored to have worked with him. But yeah, I mean, everybody is always gonna ask that, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's a natural question to ask, you know.

Tobbe: When you were about 15 years old, what were you aiming for with your music?

Darren: I can't say I had any set, sort of, ideas of where I wanted to be musically. You know, I just didn't think like that. I was more concerned about learning my craft as a keyboard player and making sure I was good enough as all the greats that were out at the time, you know.

So I didn't really have any sort of preconceived ideas about where my career was gonna go. All I knew is that I loved performing live and I loved playing the piano and that, for me, was all I needed and my passion for that sort of just took me to the right places. It was just one of those things. I was in the right place in the right time.

Tobbe: You've been active since 1980 and if there's one thing that you have learned over your career, what would that be?

Darren: Well, one thing that I have learned is: Be in control, be the man who makes the decisions, really. And I do like that with Dare. It's my label. It's my band. I do enjoy writing the songs and it's a lot simpler, you know. You can be your own boss, you know, so to speak.

You can be your own boss and that's excellent, you know. It does not always work like that, but if you can be, and you can get your own studio, which I have, and if you can record your own albums without having to spend thousands of pounds, and you don't have to ask for people's permission to do this, or that, or that, you know, and that is what I would say is very important in the music industry. So, definitely, keep control of your own destiny.

See also: review of the album Sacred Ground

Related links: