Dan Morris, RIP.

One of our best local musicians, drummer Dan Morris, died December 21 after being in a coma for five days. He would have been 38 on March 27. I met him only a few times, but was always struck by the originality of his art as he played traps with his hands or drew strange sounds from found objects with James Carney, Obliteration Quartet, Quarteto Stig, Noe Venable and many others.

This space is available to anyone who wants to say a few words about Dan or offer links to other web pages. You can either use the Comments or e-mail info@metaljazz.com.

The exact cause of Dan’s death is uncertain. Here’s what his wife, Marie Morris, says:

“Dan's breathing slowed and his blood pressure and heart rate dropped early in the morning on December 16. At some point his body reached a point where he had a mild heart attack. When I woke up at 6 a.m., Dan was not breathing.

“It was not a heart attack that killed Dan. In fact, once he got to the hospital, his heart was one of his only properly functioning body parts. The belief is that he was brain dead before I even woke up and found him. His kidneys had been damaged by a lack of oxygen/blood flow during the time he was not breathing. By the second morning, his kidneys had started to shut down. After they did, his liver began to shut down. A few days into his hospital stay, we knew there was no chance for a recovery.

“Several theories have been put forward about WHY his respiration and blood pressure might have fallen, but none of them can be proven. It was some combination of events, a few of which we can never understand, that led to this problem. Dan had had the flu for several days and had just developed another kidney stone. The doctors think it's possible that he had sepsis from the kidney stone, and his body was fighting it so hard that, in combination with his breathing problems from the flu and the respiratory depressant effect of a low dose of pain medication, his body just shut down. The doctors think it's also possible that Dan's sleep apnea played a part in his death.

“Basically, he fell into a really deep sleep. And, even though they got his heart beating AND they got him breathing again, he never really woke up.”


One night in the hospital, the patient sharing Dan’s room woke up from a coma or something like it. I could hear the nurse telling her where she was, that her daughter was on her way and that she would be okay. It made me feel so happy for that person who woke up, and so sad for Dan. I quietly said to myself, “I guess not everybody gets a miracle.”

And I immediately realized how ridiculous it was to think that way. Because Dan was the miracle -- his life was the miracle, the man that he was. If you were hurting, he would soothe you, even if it took 70 phone calls staying up all night to do it. If you were down, he would encourage you. If you felt adrift, he would help anchor you. Of course, if you were happy, he would celebrate with you. And no matter how you felt, he was gonna make you laugh. Whether he was sharing a story, inventing alternate song lyrics, speaking in one of his accents, making a stuffed animal come to life or even doing his infamous chicken impersonation, he would make you laugh.

Dan gave us all a lot of gifts. He didn’t have to try. He did it just by being who he was. He left each one of us with something unique, but I think that there was one thing he shared with us all. And that was the feeling that we were utterly worthy. Worthy of being loved, worthy of not suffering unnecessarily, worthy of standing up for ourselves and most of all worthy of receiving good.


I first met Dan Morris at a concert by my brother Nels Cline and the late Eric von Essen at the old Comeback Inn in Venice, where Dan recognized me (being a fan of the Quartet Music recordings) and approached me about giving him drum lessons. He was 19 years old at the time, although he seemed unusually mature. I told him that I wasn’t interested in being a drum teacher for a number of reasons, but that I would welcome his coming over and talking about music -- where he had come from, what he was interested in -- and listening to music if he would like. This was my standard response to such a request at the time. Dan was the only person who ever called me back and followed through by coming over to do this, even though he later admitted he thought it a bit odd. Who knew that this would lead to a close friendship of 18 years?

While Dan never became my student, he came to countless of my performances, insisting on helping me schlep my gear, bringing much of said gear out of its vintage obsolescence and into the present in the process, and began pursuing a new musical direction for himself. This eventually led to his decision to study music at CalArts, where, among other things, he became the only student of Karnatic music of India (focusing on the mridangam and leading eventually to a summer studying with his teacher there), and where he encountered considerable stimulus as well as a host of other young, talented individuals, so beginning a career in multifaceted, creative music performance.

Being essentially a jazz guy, I was happy to be able to at times assist in Dan’s musical development, exposing him, for example, to some of the drummers whom he added to his list of favorites (alongside such long-term exemplars as Bill Bruford and Steve Jansen), such as Paul Motian, Jack De Johnette, Shelley Manne, Tony Williams, Pete La Roca Sims, Fredy Studer, Han Bennink, and, pivotally, Peter Erskine, to whom I ultimately introduced him and who became his most influential drum-set teacher.

I recommended Dan for gigs whenever I could. He was supremely gifted, able to absorb, assimilate, and employ a variety of diverse and sophisticated musical elements in a distinctly personal way, far more so than I ever could when I was his age. His musical abilities transcended those of drum-set playing, as he also became an adept player of a myriad of hand drums (some of which often found their way onto his ever-shifting setup of drums) as well as a distinctive composer along the way.

I didn’t really think of Dan as a young, developing artist but more as a peer, as someone with a lot of talent and ability as well as deep personal integrity and heart. He was a true friend, unfailingly loyal, uncommonly generous and unconditionally supportive. Many people loved him. He was also funny (if often darkly so), engaging, smart and insightful. He loved animals (especially birds) and nature, and was perpetually fascinated by the world and its creatures and conditions.

Sadly, Dan suffered a lot in his all-too-brief life, some due to physical difficulties and some the result of his own sensitivity and integrity. His most visible gig, for example, that of touring the world as a percussionist with the Smashing Pumpkins, also caused him the most stress and anguish. This sort of disharmony caused him to eventually withdraw from actively pursuing his career in music in favor of working in the area of sound and music production for computer games in a corporate context, something which he clearly found challenging but which he stuck with because of his love for the medium. This reflects his childlike nature, the same nature which was demonstrated by his love of animation, toys, models, Disneyland, and all things silly. I, of course, lamented the withdrawing of so much quality from the world of music performance but celebrated a move toward the enhancement of what appeared to be his own happiness and well being.

I was in touch with Dan just over a week before his tragic, ultimately fatal episode (via cyberspace, we were exchanging some audio-visual materials by one of our mutually beloved musical figures, David Sylvian), and learning of his fate was deeply shocking to me. Who knew that this long-lived, close friendship would end so tragically, so soon? It’s hard to fully comprehend his departure from us in this historical dimension. I miss him a lot and will continue to do so. However, I will endeavor to be his continuation as much as I can, so that his spirit, his unique manifestation, may in some way live on through my own life and work. Dan made a major imprint on my life. For that I am blessed and deeply, eternally grateful.


Our great musicial friend Dan Morris will be tremendously missed . . . I had the 11-year pleasure of calling him my right-hand man in the always challenging musical pursuit of the silly group OBLITERATION PERCUSSION QUARTET . . . This band will have a very difficult time in finding a replacement . . . He would always show up early and help me unload the van full of bundt pans, fire bells, pots, pans, artillery shells, dog toys, talking presidents, bird whistles, music boxes, and yes even once at the old Rocco club on Santa Monica Boulevard he brought a BIRDCAGE for another piece he wrote featuring his bird’s toys [[I hope I can find that on video]] . . . Dan was the only member of the quartet to bring composition to the group other than myself . . . Two of the silliest and most creative works were penned by the Morris man . . . Luckily they were recorded and now must get off the shelf . . . “If I Were a Raptor “ was written for toy DINOSAURS that make little sounds; they were JURASSIC PARK movie toys . . . and one entitled “Hanna and the Lost Biscuit” [he named it after my dog, who is now 12] features the quartet playing on dog toys and dog bowls . . . .We are also very fortunate to have Dan soloing on a squeezy duck toy on a digital video of this piece where he actually dipped the duck in water that he had put into one of the dog bowls . . . you can imagine the goofy effect . . . There is a third piece that I must find that was written for his birdcage and the toys his birds used . . . We will hopefully re-create these pieces soon in a concert tribute for the DAN MAN . . .

I had this fantastic friendship with Dan . . . He taught me how to use the notation program SIBELIUS, he taught me how to play KANJIRA, the Indian drum . . . He was such a kid at heart, we spent a great day playing Monopoly with my son Jasper about five years ago, we went to see A MIGHTY WIND together, we went to see MATRIX Revolutions together [Dan insisted we go the the IMAX version], he turned me on to all of the CHRISTOPHER GUEST movies [that’s worth its weight in gold alone] . . . he turned me on to the CD “Shelly Manne” the three and the two, that ALEX turned him on to . . . and last month I recorded a trio based on this cd . . .

The more I write, the more I realize how large an effect Dan has had on me . . .


The last four weeks have been just absolutely terrible. When I found out that Dan was in a coma, all I could think of was “No! Wake up!”

But he didn’t wake up, and now here we are, wondering how somebody this gifted and this young could just be taken away from us so quickly, without warning. My thoughts about Dan have been running non-stop, and up until this point I’ve tried several times to write about how I feel, but I’ve come to the conclusion that Dan’s passing is going to take a long time for me to deal with.

Dan had an incomparable musical aesthetic that I got to know well over our ten years of gigs and recordings. His drum and percussion orchestrations are easily identifiable - he was all about tone and colors and no one else could do what he could with his extended drum set techniques. He coaxed gorgeous, huge sounds out of doumbeks and mridangams, and he would play second-line grooves on the drum kit that made you feel like you were hearing a live parade band with a separate snare and bass drummer. He once told me he just sat down and instinctively knew how to play New Orleans-style drums without ever practicing the techniques, and I believe it; I also know that his work impressed great musicians who had been born and raised down there. He could play lots of complex patterns and parts with quick velocity and modulating timbres, and yet he loved air and space and ambience.

Sound was everything to Dan and he was never content to keep playing or recording with the same gear; he was always switching cymbals, drum kits, setups, etc. and trying out new gadgets on every gig. I loved that about him, as well as the fact that he took the same approach with his playing. We could play the same compositions two hundred times and he never repeated himself. He internalized the forms and knew the music cold, but you could count on him to always try new ideas while reorchestrating his parts every single time. It was research on the job, and that was a gift to other musicians, because it pushed them to break out of their shells and to continue to work towards being in the moment, something he often spoke about as a kind of Holy Grail.

His own compositions represented a wide world of sound - he was equally passionate about Carnatic music, Tony Williams, Stravinsky and XTC, just to name a few of his favorite musical pleasures. He was fascinated by the art of developing what he might call "honest assimilation" and you could always hear that in his writing and playing. He thought it was too easy to criticize and dismiss others’ music, and he once told me that when he heard a piece of music he didn't like, he would keep listening to it to figure out exactly why that was, while hoping, in the process, to begin to somehow appreciate that music in some way. I only wish that he had devoted longer periods of time to documenting more of his own music for the rest of us.

I was around 27 when I started playing with Dan, meaning he must have been only 20, and, as Alex Cline mentioned in his post, he was quite beyond his years. Man, I learned a lot from him, and my music grew tremendously because of his dedication to my work. He challenged me, and probably many others, to evolve, and as a musician he knew he always had my respect, because his contributions certainly shaped the course of my music. We basically learned how to play our individual instruments while working as a team, and his influence as a collaborator stays with me even now.

I had been exchanging e-mails with Dan in early December, and we had a long phone conversation around the end of October. We reminisced about old times and he was excited to tell me about an upcoming gaming project that he was going to score, and we were also talking about doing a future project together.

I’ve realized since Dan’s passing that no matter where I go or what I’m doing, he'll always be with me musically, maybe even giving me that inimitable grin of approval, and I take comfort in knowing that.


What does one say about someone who passes at such a young age?

It’s troubling and shows just how fragile life really is . . . and it weighs on our souls . . .

But to Dan.

Dan played in my band. Quartetto Stig, for about four years and two albums. He was recommended to me by Alex Cline as the replacement for Jeff McCutchen, who also died at the age of 37. (I’m trying to not read too much into this.)

Dan always brought a lot energy to the music! And he was crazy enough -- and had the chops -- to do some of things that I wanted to do. After all, not just anybody would be able to do both ultra-fast jazz time on one tune and metalesque drumming à la Vinnie from Pantera on another!

Dan was willing to do NOTHING but side-stick quarter notes for almost a whole tune of 4-plus minutes, and he could bring an orchestral palette to a four-section piece that lasted 22 minutes.

Dan did crazy stuff like getting a big old custom-made marching-style bass drum for ONE TUNE.

Dan had a wide range of tastes as a musician and he was into lots of things beyond . . .

In short he was an artist . . .

Dan and I had sort of lost track of each other -- we’d run into each other once in a while at gigs, etc, but life seems to move along and we comply . . . and sometimes grow apart . . .

That being said, I know that there was so much more to get and give in Dan’s case, so much more. And that is now gone.



Some thoughts that I didn't mention in my earlier words on my [non-music-oriented] blog about Dan, but are worth saying here to this musical group of friends, echo the comments above about the extraordinary nature of Dan's musicianship.

After I had already finished a recording session of a duet with a violinist and [out-of-town] harpsichordist for a funny little piece titled "Slipping," I decided that a percussion part would really put the music over the top. I couldn't book another session with these players to bring everyone together as a live trio, and Dan was the only person I thought to call with the suggestion that he add his playing throughout the piece -- mostly hand drumming -- on a multitude of instruments from around the world. He didn't miss a beat with his enthusiastic response, and so I created the percussion part, some notated, some marked as idiomatic "time," and all written against the score so Dan could see what was going on.

He and I spent three afternoons in late 2006 laying down about 25 percussion tracks. The brilliance of his work was that he recorded against pre-recorded music, neither track of which had been recorded to a click, and neither of which particularly agreed where "1" was at any given moment :-) A very backward way of producing, but I had no choice. Dan only needed to hear the playback of each section once, and then we'd run it for him to record over.

Man, he just nailed it every time. On the first take of every segment, he was able to thread the needle of time and manage to create downbeats where there weren't clear ones, splitting the differences between the existing two tracks and melding everything into something rhythmically grooving and coherent. Add to that, playing traditional grooves like a Montuno that would normally be in 4, in 5 or 7. Or both, back and forth. Against already irregular playing. I was in awe. This was artistry and a level of intuitiveness that was beautiful to see. It's worth adding that throughout these sessions, Dan was suffering from two simultaneous kidney stones, yet more in what seemed like a never-ending barrage of them for so many years. He powered on, with little or no painkillers, just extravagant sushi dinners with me each evening when we were done.

Perhaps like some of you reading this, I can tell you that I've experienced a medium-size kidney stone. It is the most excruciating pain. The morning I was stricken, my husband and I didn't know what to do. I very nearly passed out from agony while Charles Googled my symptoms (the self-diagnostics of the new millennium). Arriving at a few irrelevant choices that ranged from near death to childbirth, Charles handed me the phone as I lay writhing on the bathroom floor.

I called Dan.

He knew what it was and wisely had Charles take me to the ER.

For the next number of weeks while we both suffered (business as usual for poor Dan), Charles and I researched every imaginable non-western remedy. Between teas, tinctures, and some scary unidentifiable powder in a yellow plastic jar direct from a friend in China, with nothing but Chinese on the label, I managed to dissolve my stone. Every item I came across, I gave to Dan, too, hoping that it would work for his body as well as it had for mine. No such luck. He continued to be cursed. But the stone was another bonding thing between us. I used to chide him that I caught my stone from him, from hanging out together so much.

I want to also set any rumors straight: Dan hated, absolutely hated, when he had to take drugs for the pain. It's only the very strong ones that will address that kind of agony. But after every one of the major episodes that led him to that necessary choice, he got off whatever he had been on. Ironically, just a couple of weeks before he passed away, he wrote this sentence in an email to me: "I am feeling much better after getting through yet another stone and getting off the meds, etc. So I’m feeling pretty good." He hated the drugs.

At least now, finally, Dan is no longer in constant physical pain.

I miss him as my friend, I miss his consummate musicianship, I miss his generous knowledge and advice on the phone about so many things, be it at noon or midnight. But his spirit stays with me, and I don't have to miss that at all. I can conjure it up at will. And I do, often.

Read further words from composer Alex Shapiro's site here.

Read words from trumpeter Kris Tiner here.

Marie Morris continues to approve postings to Dan's MySpace page. You can read others' and add your own here.


Comments (12)

Brian Gross:
I just found out about Dan's passing - thus the late date. I actually knew him before music was the big part of his life that everyone else has written about. We met at NCCJ Brotherhood/Sisterhood camp in high school. The camp dealt with racism, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, et al. I think it would suffice to say that, after I came out, he was my first really close straight friend - back then at 16 years old in 1985, when, for me, being gay was a pretty big deal. But it was never a big deal or a deal at all with Dan. We connected at a heart level.*** Neither of us were really musicians at the time, but my older brother had introduced me to King Crimson and Japan/David Sylvian, which I then introduced to Dan. I kind of went into a tailspin, but I remember in 1987 or 88, when I was living in my car, stopping by his place in North Hollywood and seeing how he'd become a huge David Sylvian-phile, with all kinds of material I'd never heard before. We ran into each other again at CalArts, but I got there in 1993 and was in the Art school, where he was in Music and about to move on. We never really connected the dots in the short time we were there, but I can just imagine how his presence, which made such a big impression on me way back when, obviously touched a lot of other people too.
Woody Pak:
I was just reaching out to Dan recently to touch base and catch up. I met him at a music for games class last November where he came in to give a guest lecture. I was impressed no only with his accomplishments but also by his warm and open nature. I asked him if we could meet and talk about the game biz. Unlike so many in tinsel town, Dan followed up and we met for a great lunch and then hung out at my studio another night for a couple hours chatting about GIGA samples, drum tuning, the Smashing Pumpkins, tube pres, and anything else that came to mind. I felt I had met a real kindred spirit - a fellow artist who had passion for what he did on every possible level. Dan left behind a lot of love and I feel lucky to have had spent just a a little time with it. Miss you, bro! Woody
g.e. stinson:
this is late but i just found this page recently. i knew dan and thought of him as a friend and sonic comrade. i first met him when he was studying with alex cline and he came to our gigs. dan was a good spirit and talented musician. curious and fairly open for his years. not an elitist, dan loved good pop music as well as improvised and progressive new music. it's hard to lose the few good ones at such a young age. my condolences to his family and close friends. the great japanese zen teacher maezumi roshi once said, "it doesn't matter that we don't understand. we are all safely in the hands of the buddha."
André Becker:
I met Dan at CalArts in 1991; he was a great musician and a lovely person. We are very sad with all this and hope he is resting in peace. Our best wishes from Brazil to his family, desiring strength in this difficult time. Love.
Gernot Blume:
Dear Marie, Dear Mr. & Mrs. Morris, Dear family members,*** Since Dan’s passing I have not managed to put my thoughts and feelings into words. Nonetheless, I keep thinking about him, and about you, and how difficult it must be to have to go through all of this. May your heart be comforted by good memories of being with Dan.*** Much has been said about our friend. Yes, he was a fabulous musician, and I, too, learned a lot from making music with him. But the most important thing was his spirit, of which the music was only one manifestation. He wanted to create something beautiful, and something unusual. And all of that would tell us that life was about more than simply being there – that it was about the spirit. His quirky humor, his love for birds and nature -- it was always about the spirit. A spirit of creativity, compassion, kindness, openness, freedom and overcoming. He was a beautiful spirit. That’s what I remember through all the concerts, rehearsals, recordings, dinners, hangouts, the laughter, the joyful moments, even seeing him work through his pain, the kidney stones, the struggles.*** For me, having come to the US from Germany, the first years at Cal Arts were very hard. It was a culture shock, and I had lots to learn. It made me very serious. Dan could make me laugh. And I remember when he said at that one crucial moment: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you laugh before…” That was his impact: to lighten the load of others, to invite them to enjoy life with him, to be a steadfast symbol for perseverance, to love life in spite of the obstacles, of which he had to endure many.*** May that spirit live on, through all of us who keep his memory; may it change the course of our lives always for the better, especially without his immediate presence; may we strive to approach that standard, that example he set.*** Thank you, Dan, for having graced my life with your spirit. I will miss you always.
Dave Shaffer:
Like many people posting here, my friendship with Dan has meant a great deal to me. You will see a common thread of his loyalty, integrity and unrelenting support for his friends. It's all true. I met Dan in 1989 at CalArts. One day I was at my tiny drum studio moving gear around with the door open while playing a cassette of South Indian drumming; I remember Dan coming up and asking about it. This apparently was his first exposure to Carnatic music, and he seemed proud to recall this story to me in recent years. It was the least I could do for someone who's given me so much. The countless hours spent playing dance classes, African music and Obliteration Quartet Music together have been some of the most exciting and inspiring experiences I've had as a musician. Our discussions about the articulation and execution of music or any particular "groove" have helped make me what I am as a musician today. Dan's willingness to lift my spirits when I'm down or encourage a particular musical pursuit won't be a phone call away anymore, but I'll keep Dan's spirit with me and do my best to keep moving forward!*** I recall a recent conversation with Dan about his percussion & drum set playing on Noe Venable's album "The World Is Bound By Secret Knots"; he was extremely proud of the performances he gave for the tracks. The album is an excellent example of his creativity and consummate musicianship; seek it out!
Dan Pinder:
It's taken me a long time before I could sit and read all these and to write one myself.*** I met Dan and Russ Nieman at CalArts, possibly on the same day, my first few weeks there in January of 1992, and the three of us were rarely separable after that.*** In this month that he's been gone, I have realized, to my great cost, just how much he is a part of what has guided me for the past 16 years. What seems like nearly every phrase, joke, silly notion, attitude toward my fellow human, and of course choice of music is an influence from Dan either in what he passed on to me or from something we experienced together. Nobody was ever more my champion, and I owe him completely for the multitude of opportunities that came from his support. I wish I could have done as much for him.*** Many of the silliest times of my life were had with Dan, and we relished each other's capacity to take it further. The one-upmanship could be legendary, and I will miss that very much. Many an email, phone call or instant message simply contained a sentence from Dan designed to provoke me to laughter. Often, he would follow it up with, "I hate myself right now," as what he said would often surprise even him in its ability to disturb. It was then I knew he was really proud of himself. I have never cried so much from laughing than when I was in his presence.*** Nobody in their right mind ever loved Disneyland as much as he and Marie, and Dan's capacity for fun never waned. I know that every time I take my kids there that it will feel as though he's leading a guided tour. He's in the park benches, the music, the wrought-iron fences, the Tiki Room and the chocolate-covered bananas. And most of all, in the laughter of every patron. They ought to erect a monument to him, as no marketing campaign could match his boundless enthusiasm for the place.*** Dan's serious side was as intense as his funny side, and there were days I worried about him. The way he internalized his strife was almost enough to get you on board with it too. Luckily, in most cases Dan was able to cool off from a grievance, and his positive philosophy would take over. His long-standing health issues were a worry for everyone who ever loved him. It was heartbreaking to see the way he was treated by the urological profession, whose woefully inadequate understanding ultimately failed him. Never again will we see such a strong person, able to endure so much.*** I will always have the happy memories of playing in bands with him and of his unique style of playing. We spent many happy hours in the studio together, me trying my best to capture his signature. Listening to him perform is always a joy, and I cannot get beyond the first track of Carney's “Fables From The Aqueduct” without weeping -- the artistry you can hear in the first few minutes when he begins to play. However, I was delighted when Dan would talk about trying something different in his life -- his move away from playing drums full-time, though I would grow to miss the innumerable James Carney gigs or whatever else he was playing in at the time. He took up painting and drawing and surprised me with his versatility and talent. He bought some recording gear, which I was proud to consult about, and set up a studio where he proceeded to impress the hell out of everybody with his fine, innate engineering skills. When he got the job at Activision, I knew that he had arrived and that he would excel, combining all his talents in an environment that would accept his personality wholesale. It was on this precipice that he stood, looking like he'd float right up instead of plunge. So much promise, just beginning to be fulfilled. At least he went out on an "up."*** From an email he sent one night: "I had an incredible day today. Probably one of the happiest in my life so far. [He goes on to give the gory details of a presentation succeeding against the odds.] Everyone liked the music, which I wrote [and] I very much feel like I'm exactly where I want to be and it just is beautiful. Just wanted to share that with you."*** My brother, thank you for sharing yourself with us.***
Andrew Durkin:
Hello everyone.*** I worked with Dan for a much shorter period than most of the contributors here. But he certainly had a positive impact on my own musical development -- a fact that speaks volumes about the intensity of his musicality. He will be missed.*** My own remembrance is posted here: http://uglyrug.blogspot.com/2008/01/rip-dan-morris.html
Russ Nieman:
I'd like to tell you about the best friend I could ever have. Actually, Dan was more like a brother to me. I don't know if I can even scratch the surface here, but here goes. I'm already crying.*** We met at CalArts back in '91. I had just gotten there but Dan had been studying at CalArts for a couple years. There used to be (and probably still is) a concert that would be held at "Mom's Cafe" in the dorm building at the beginning of the school year for everyone who had put some semblance of a jazz group together to play a few tunes and display your chops. I'm sure any CalArtians reading this remember those nights well. Toward the end of the night Dan took the stage with Julie Spencer and Gernot Blume in what would become the group Colored Fish. As I recall, they performed only one long piece that featured Dan's playing, primarily. I was stunned. I had never seen anyone play so iconoclastically and gracefully -- let alone someone my own age. I was absolutely blown away. I had talked to Dan a bit before the show because he noticed I was a fellow Paiste cymbal user and that was enough to strike up a conversation. We continued that conversation a few days later while waiting around for a class or something. We found out that we had both gone to Cal State Northridge and been frustrated there, both had grand visions of changing the world through music, and we both just felt damn misunderstood. On the topic of Northridge, Dan had to go there that afternoon to visit his parents' house. He invited me to come along, and on that drive we just laid our lives on the table for the other to see. Dan could do that, he'd take a risk on you and pour his guts out hoping you'd oblige. Many didn't. I did. From then on we were pretty much inseparable.*** I've often said that one could hope to meet a small handful of people in the world who could play like Dan. He could just eat up whatever you threw in front of him. His passion for all things percussive was unparalleled. We'd share the stage and it was so electric for me. He was so humble about it all. I was so bent on trying to make a name for myself and get some career going, meanwhile Dan would just be quietly going about blowing the doors off of every hall he ever played. There are good drummers and there are great drummers. And then there's Dan.*** I was penniless and starving in those years, and whatever little money I scraped up I spent on gear (a passion Dan and I shared, yet he far outdid me with that too!). Dan was fortunate enough to have resources in the area of finances and was amazingly generous. When we'd go to a restaurant and I'd look in my wallet to find an IOU and maybe $3, Dan would take the tab. This happened a hell of a lot and is just one example. Here's another -- Dan and I shared a house after CalArts, and by then he had worked up an endorsement with Paiste cymbals and was hanging around there quite a bit. While at Paiste, he found a 24" Sound Creation Dark Flatride, believed to be the only one made in that size. Dan decided that I MUST have this cymbal. Dan was so insistent like that, and once he set his mind to something he busted his ass to make it happen. Anyway, he comes home and just hands it to me having paid for it himself. I still have that cymbal. Needless to say it has new meaning for me.*** Dan introduced me to more musicality and culture than I could ever list here. His knowledge of all things good was so far beyond his years, and his desire to go further was tireless. I just hung on for the ride.*** Over time, our lives went different ways. I became a dad and moved to the East Coast about 4 years ago, and although we stayed in regular phone contact, I only saw him 4 or 5 times after I left town. I was often saddened by the distance between us, and had fantastic thoughts of returning to L.A. and getting back together with my brother Dan. He often told me that I was the Rock of Gibraltar, but in retrospect it was really the other way around. Dan did all the stuff I wanted to do. He did it - I just dreamed of it.*** As for Dan's health problems, they were constant, they were a flat-out bitch, and you accepted that to be around him. That's nothing for us to remember him by, and that's all I have to say on the subject.*** By sheer luck or whatever you call it, I was with Marie Morris the night before Dan's funeral, and she asked me to help select some items to go into Dan's casket with him. I don't know if any of the items made it in there, but among the items were a pair of drumsticks, a video, a toy and a CD. Dan had like 2,000 CDs - so pick one. I chose Bill Bruford's "One Of A Kind."*** I so miss him. I miss him a hell of a lot. Goodbye, Dan.
Michael Berk:
This all comes as such a shock...I don't really even know what to say, but feel like I should share a few thoughts.*** Along with Steve Parker, who comments above (I've not talked to Steve in many years...I hope you're doing well), I was also a member of Dan's first band, also my very first band. If I recall correctly, he had a pretty nifty for the time green-and-white Pearl drum set. We struggled through the pop tunes of the day, played some more-or-less embarrassing gigs, and tried to get one another interested in whatever music we were all beginning to discover.*** Dan and I lost touch in high school, though we had common friends, but reconnected years later, bonding over our mutual interest in the developing scene around Nels Cline's New Music Mondays at the Alligator Lounge, and for a while we again played together occasionally and split a house off of Venice and Fairfax. This was during a period in which he was playing with Quartetto Stig (and just about everyone else in town), teaching at CalArts, working hard on his tuned-percussion and Carnatic chops, and generally making a name for himself.*** To this day I think of Dan whenever I have Japanese food -- always a man of great taste, he used to take me to a little place in the mall by the New Otani hotel that was incredibly excellent -- and of course whenever I have any sort of encounter with birds (I think he had 11 or so when we lived together), and whenever I hear XTC or David Sylvian, and whenever I'm around videogames (he turned me on to the Halo precursor Marathon, which was the bane of both of our existences -- or at least our rent-paying abilities -- for several months.*** I eventually moved away to New York City, and we again lost touch, speaking only occasionally over the last few years. (I've never met Marie; my condolences.***) So sad...such a terrible loss.
Steve Parker:
I was in Dan's first band. "Euphoria" was formed at Nobel Jr. High School by Dan and me. We had Music History, English and Art together. The band didn't last long, but we stayed in contact through high school, losing touch shortly after that. I tried to get in contact with Dan via MSspace a few months ago, but to no avail. It's sad news to hear, especially when I was living minutes from the guy, and now the regret of not being able to get together with him, musically or socially, is sinking in.
perry ostrin:
well i met "danny boy" as our teacher alfred ladzekpo called him at cal arts in the fall of 89..we where roommates for a few semesters and i remember him being in the bathroom for it seemed like hours battling a kidney stone or the long nights making him listen to "weasels ripped my flesh" by zappa while he was trying to sleep! but then he had revenge and would put on some eno or sylvian with weird ambient loops going on..he was in both my recitals and we did lots of different performances together there..we kept in constant touch after school and went to each other's gigs..i was so fucking proud to see him with smashing pumpkins in a concert hall..he missed my wedding cause of that tour and i remember the message he left me saying he got the gig and was in chicago rehearsing but i couldn't be happier for him..he then moved just down the street from me and we would hang, eat, play video games, smoke from his hookah, play with the dogs and watch the office (british version) and i never left his pad empty-handed..there was always a film, cd, video game or dvd he insisted i watch..i have a drum podcast and my last time with him was like in october eating at gabby's and him showing me his new i-phone..i was gonna interview him for the podcast but he was so upset with the music business and lifestyle of it and was more into the video game industry, which he was so excited about..we decided to maybe do an interview at another time if he felt more inspired..but he was recording a young band and doing other projects at his studio and was writing new music..i called him a week before he fell asleep cause i was playing down the street and we talked about hooking up for a hang but of course it didn't happen..i'm grateful i got to say goodbye to him at the hospital at least..i think about him a lot and wonder what he would think about this new band, cd, film, game..please feel free to listen to my short dedication to him on my podcast site as well at www.perrysdrummingpodcast.mypodcast.com..i will miss him forever but i feel he's in a better place turning others on!