Q&A with Dan Baird, best known as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist from the chart-topping 1980s rock band The Georgia Satellites

"That honesty, not chasing a trend. “We do what we do” attitude. I’d hope a simple and honest music raises its head up again. Greta Van Fleet, Rival Sons, are young, taking what they like from older music, putting their take on it and running. Kids are listening to that again. 5% will actually go back and listen to Howlin Wolf and be astounded."

Dan Baird: Rock n' Roll Screamin'

The Georgia Satellites were one of the most ferocious bands of the 80’s. What set them apart from the other 100,000 bands who cranked their amps up to eleven was that their wild riffs and tanked up cries came from a band who, from the start, understood it’s place in the rock tradition and fought hard to solidify it with each recording. The story starts in the early 80’s at Hedgen’s, a “country club for the spiritually impoverished and emotionally destitute” as chief songwriter Dan Baird would later identify it. Bassist Keith Christopher, drummer Mauro Magellan and guitarists Dan Baird and Rick Richards were all playing on the Atlanta circuit in various bar bands such as The Hellhounds, The Brains and The Woodpeckers. These bands would gradually morph into the original Georgia Satellites, who signed to same the same management company as country-rock pioneers, Jason & The Scorchers, more of whom later.

Dan Baird went on to a successful solo career with Rick Rubin’s Def American, scoring major hits with the album Love Songs From The Hearing Impaired and the single I Love You Period. A second LP, the critically acclaimed Buffalo Nickel followed and Dan also developed as a career as a highly sought after producer. The rhythm section on both solo albums were Keith Christopher (bass) and former Georgia Satellites drummer Mauro Magellan, the duo responsible for a large part of Dan’s trademark sound. Jump to 2007 and the band was completed by Jason And The Scorchers founder member and guitarist extraordinaire, Warner E. Hodges. The quartet released their debut album in 2008, championed by Alan Jones (Uncut), Scott Rowley (Classic Rock) and Bob Harris. In 2013, Circus Life, the long awaited follow up to the debut album, was released and attracted great reviews across Europe. The album was also their first CD to get a full USA release and their first album to album to appear as a vinyl release. 2014 saw long term bassist Keith Christopher replaced by ex Bonafide man Micke Nilsson as their touring schedule stepped up, seeing shows in Europe and USA. The fifth studio album from Dan Baird & Homemade Sin “Screamer” released in 2018.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photographs by Trudi Knight - Bands On Stage © Trudi Knight - All Rights Reserved

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Well, the rock counterculture was really goin on when I was a teenager, then the 70’s hit and with the introduction of cocaine the true counterculture up and disappeared. I loved it from afar. Too young to really be a part of it. When I was 18, it was already 1972. Peace love and grooviness had hit the exit.

I really don’t know of a “blues counterculture”. I know folks that are face down into it, but not a counterculture. Maybe I’m just not all hooked up. Now, my travels have influenced me greatly. Seeing different places, how the audiences react to strong, heartfelt music. Just being in a different nation is opening, or I think you missed the whole point of traveling.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

My songbook - I’ve been influenced, like most people, by what sounded true to me and I tried to write songs that my heroes wouldn’t laugh at. Most of us are emotionally open from about 12-25 years old. It gets harder to stay that emotionally available after that. NRBQ was the last huge opening, ’82. Paul Westerburg, from the Replacements, was the last big influence writing. I’m basically a product of 1965-1982 music, slightly tilted towards more basic and honest music. In other words, I left the prog rock, new wave, and bad boogie music behind. Just not interesting anymore. I have no idea where my drive comes from. Somewhere inside, I’m sure, but that’s about all I care to know.

"Look, if I’ve got a time machine, I’m going a bunch of places, 1930’s New Orleans and see Satchmo, 1961 Hamburg and see the fuckin Beatles, 1955 and see Elvis on a flatbed truck, 1969 (or was it 70?) Watkins Glen. That’s just day one... I’d love to be immersed in the turning point where greatness emerges in an artist’s life." (Dan Baird & Homemade Sin on stage / Photo by © Trudi Knight)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I wanted to be a smart ass, but I’ll assume you mean musical acquaintances.  Biggest thrill - opening for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Most bizarre hangout - Bob Dylan! Guys... I was too nervous to talk to, just shook their hands, said thank you and ran the other way - Chuck Berry and Miles Davis. I was extraordinarily honored to sing and play guitar for Bobby Keys the last few years of his life with the band he put together in Nashville, the Suffering Bastards.

The best advice was probably when I was driving and someone said “hit the brakes!”. Seriously, I can’t recall talking about “career advice” with anyone. I’ve tried to do what felt right to me.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Not without a lawyer present. Although I was at the Clash’s show that became the cover of London Calling. Paul was pissed off at that bass, kept shorting out, so he killed it in front of everybody.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

That honesty, not chasing a trend. “We do what we do” attitude. I’d hope a simple and honest music raises its head up again. Greta Van Fleet, Rival Sons, are young, taking what they like from older music, putting their take on it and running. Kids are listening to that again. 5% will actually go back and listen to Howlin Wolf and be astounded.

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from the early days of The Georgia Satellites?

The fact we were successful in the least.

"The best advice was probably when I was driving and someone said “hit the brakes!”. Seriously, I can’t recall talking about “career advice” with anyone. I’ve tried to do what felt right to me."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

All gigs start by 8pm (20:00) - The “boozery” hours of gig at midnight are depressing.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in Rock n'Roll circuits?

Be nice to the staff. You’re in their house for one night. You want them to WANT to make you sound and look good, get your rider and be pleasant back. It’s just easier. The stage should belong to you for that one night. Don’t invite people up that don’t already know how to be up there. Broken headstocks, knocked over amps etc. Band, crew, house crew. Not for many.

What is the impact of Rock n' Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications? 

Metallica and Motörhead shirts on folks that have never heard their records. Seriously, I have no idea.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Look, if I’ve got a time machine, I’m going a bunch of places, 1930’s New Orleans and see Satchmo, 1961 Hamburg and see the fuckin Beatles, 1955 and see Elvis on a flatbed truck, 1969 (or was it 70?) Watkins Glen. That’s just day one... I’d love to be immersed in the turning point where greatness emerges in an artist’s life.

Dan Baird & Homemade Sin - Home

All photographs courtesy of Trudi Knight - Bands On Stage © Trudi Knight - All Rights Reserved.

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