THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE HIGHLY PERSONAL QUESTIONNAIRE . . . Damien Binder

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THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE HIGHLY PERSONAL QUESTIONNAIRE . . . Damien Binder
Despite having lived in Australia for many decades, former Auckland rock musician (Second Child) turned singer-songwriter Damien Binder has frequently appeared at Elsewhere.

That's because as a singer and writer he always has something interesting to say, and the songs to deliver it.

With a new album Bright Side coming out on April 21 – we've heard it, it's very good and will be reviewed next week – we looked back at Binder's previous appearances at Elsewhere . . . and were genuinely surprised to find that he'd never been interviewed here.

Time to correct that here.

And by the way, you can pre-order Bright Side at bandcamp here.

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Where did you grow up, and with who?

Auckland, Ponsonby. I remember there was Joe’s Bargain House and a coffee lounge but not too much else along that strip when I was coming up but it grew fast. I’m from of a family of 5, one older sister - Angelique, one younger brother - Darren. I was the second child - which kind of played into the name of my first band. Mum & Dad still together, going strong.


Was music an important part of your childhood?

Mum and Dad said I had to have ‘my injection’ before school in the mornings which watching was whatever I had taped off ‘Radio with Pictures’ with Karyn Hay or something else. I’d sit eating breakfast studying the videos that had been played on the show. I used to rewatch the episodes and clips religiously as part of my routine.

I never had music lessons or was encouraged in that way. I picked up a few chords eventually on guitar but I slowly became interested in being onstage and expressing myself I think by the time I was in my late teens.


What are your earliest childhood memories of music which really affected you? . . .

Rolling Stones - Start Me Up and Hey Negrita I used to play the videos for both on repeat all the time, then the Doors in England playing live at the Roundhouse I think. It was a documentary for Granada TV - I was just so intrigued by Jim Morrison and the band’s sound. I remember being into older music than my friends. I felt a bit out of time in this regard but it didn’t bother me as such. I was just aware of it.


Was there a time when you felt it was going to be music and nothing else?

hero_thumb_Second_Child____Slinky__line_up_in_1995___Chris_van_de_Geer__Damien_Binder__Theo_Jackson__Ben_LythbergHaha it’s funny because I was a kid so passionate about cricket. Richard Hadlee was an idol of mine growing up in the 80’s. I remember rather gingerly running into bowl for my grade cricket team one Saturday morning after being up all night playing a triumphant gig with the band.

I got smashed around the park that day and I thought, yeah I’m way more into music than this now. So I made a choice.


When you started on your music career were people around you supportive or did you have to find those people?

I had a schoolmate in Luke Casey (Eye TV) who introduced me to Chris Van de Geer (guitar player in Second Child and later Stellar) whom he was jamming with in a garage in Titirangi with his friend Paul on bass. They were looking for a singer. Apparently after I auditioned they said “he can’t really sing but he’s got the right attitude and vibe” so they kept me on.

0023320439_10My brother Darren and I were really into music but it wasn’t encouraged in our family. No disrespect to my parents and they probably didn’t understand the DYI punk aesthetic we began to foster in our later teens.

Bob Shepheard really encouraged me early on to write and perform my own songs. He was a mentor no doubt.


The first song of yours which you really felt proud of was . . .? And why that one?

I nervously brought the band (Second Child) a song called ‘Disappear’ which was one I had written all by myself. It changed things for us and became a single. In some ways it set a blueprint or style for the album ‘Slinky’ we did and gave me confidence to eventually do my solo album. I wasn’t the best musician in that band by a long shot but I realised that I could write which is altogether another talent in itself.


Any one person you'd call a mentor, angel on your shoulder or invaluable fellow traveller?

I’ve been lucky to have few..

I learned so much from Chris Van de Geer about approaches on guitar and melodic choices.

Bob Shepheard really encouraged me early on to write and perform my own songs. He was a mentor no doubt and I later wrote a large amount of songs with him.

Lately I’ve worked with Matt Gio who’s taught me to be far less precious with my songs - which I think has brought out the best in me.


Where and when was the first time you went on stage as a paid performer?

It would have been some dodgy pub with Second Child sometime in the late 80s. I do remember being booked by the cops at the Rising Sun in it’s heyday in then small red light district of K’Road for being underage. I later got off the charge because I could prove I was employed as the ‘entertainment’.


Ever had stage fright or just a serious failure of nerve before going on stage?

c898fedc_377b_0614_9a9a_460118918322I have completely forgotten how to play guitar or all the words to a song a couple of times through nerves but not for a long time. On those occasions I have recovered ok.

Even now I sometimes get a weird nervousness and minor shakes before I play and think to myself “why are you putting yourself through this?’. The answer always comes back as “because you like this remember and if you don’t do it you’ll be asking yourself why?”

It passes and I usually enjoy myself.


As a songwriter, do you carry a notebook or have a phone right there constantly to grab ideas they come? Or is your method something different?

I fool around till I get something on the guitar I like. Usually some chords or a riff of some kind that will inspire a few words then I spend weeks trying to figure out what I’m trying to say with those words. I use the phone for small partially formed ideas. It’s a very fragile thing. It’s got to be handled with care. A couple of notes, a few chords and/or a phrase can lead to something quite substantial but it’s got to be nurtured and coerced out slowly. At least that’s how it is for me.

Sometimes though it also feels like I’m crudely banging rocks together to make something.


What unfashionable album do you love as a guilty pleasure?

I never feel guilty about any of it. Whatever’s unfashionable is usually where I return to for solace and inspiration. Now I’m really trying to think of something I like that people might think is uncool…

When I need a pick me up I sometimes watch Bryan Adam’s 1996 at Wembley Stadium on you tube doing ‘Heaven’. I just love that song and the crowd’s reaction to it. It’s really moving. I might have to cover it.


Any piece of advice you were given which you look back on which really meant something?

Matt Gio recently said to me when were were recording the new album:

You’ve already done that earlier, does it really do anything more for the song by doing it again?”

That kind of stuck with me.

Know your songs was another. Sounds simple but if you know your arrangement and can play all the chords, melodies and words well you can record really quickly and it’ll save some time and money.


It's after a performance/concert and you are in a hotel room or back at home, what happens then?

b6f0461e_c71d_6d58_5ab1_3e0daedb2721I’m up for whatever sometimes but I usually decompress with a few wines with my wife Nicole or with friends. I’m high for a while then all the previous effort just hits me and I’m knackered.

I can still surprise a few people though. I’m pretty fit so I can take a bit of punishment so if you know some place special we can go I’ll probably go…


Is there any fellow artist you admire for professional and/or personal reasons?

Jackson Browne is one of my all time favourite artists. He manages to personalise such big issues and the complexities of life so poetically. I have my favourite songwriters - Ron Sexsmith, Chris Cornell, Bob Mould, Joni Mitchell and lately people like Sam Fender who can straddle the personal with political and social issues so poignantly.


And finally, where to from here for you do you think?

Keep writing. Keep getting better and doing my thing putting music out and play some good gigs. I want to get more skilled at my craft. It would be great if the record got some wide listenership and my music got out there to more people. To maintain a regular band and to play and record with them would be a thrill .

Regardless I’ll keep honing what I do and see what comes. As long as I’m liking it and I’ve got something I think’s worth sharing I’ll share it..

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