Dan Dare grew up in a town that toughened his skin and sharpened his teeth.
“Well I got kicked out of school when I was 13, and sent to a youth program unit because I was a bad kid and would disturb the class.” he tells me, “No school would accept me back in.” At fifteen he started to play grime music on pirate radio stations. Laughing; “most of [the tracks] were about how hard I was, or how bad I thought I was. We were all young once I guess.”
As he got older, he realised that “it’s actually okay not to be okay” and the songs grew into honest insights into his past. Growing up on a musical diet of Otis Reading because of his dad, Elvis because of his mum, and gangster rap because of his older brothers, Dan absorbed every last element and at eighteen fell in love with The Streets and started writing and producing for artists. “I went through a load of stuff in my early twenties, and couldn’t really write pop songs about all this dark shit, so I thought eff it. I’m gonna start my own project.”
The project is called SLANG, and it’s a result of “versatility and an open minded approach to music.” Garnering quite the honourable reputation as a modern wordsmith with his fast-flowing verses of the brutalities and realities of life; from intoxication to technological zombification to street crime, SLANG’s latest mixtape is a snapshot of so many people’s 2017. Featuring friends who he has grown up doing music with and band members/roommates Ryan Keen and Toby Faulkner, the mixtape is doted as “a homage, thank you, and a continuing collaboration.”
It listens as a perfectly concocted mix of diverse personalities all sharing similar struggles and celebrating their own small triumphs.
Creating his own meaning of the protest song, telling tales from the streets and airing emotions and struggles, “Grime’s the new punk” Laughing that he might start making some pure grime tunes again, the mixtape shares the same observational honesty and values. Admitting that he’s felt stuck in the mud for much of his life, but has found liberation as the years have passed on, he feels the need to be vocal and speak out. “It is like therapy,” Dan starts, “I mean I had a tough up bringing but I’m not writing sob stories about it. It’s more from the angle of being like cool you can go through all these things and still achieve something regardless of when and where you come from.”
‘Uxbridge Road’ is testament to this. A soft piano led, spoken ballad of his home, it asks over and over, ‘If i told you where I come from, where I grew up, would you understand?’ and ‘Learning The Hard Way’ is a retaliation, showing the effects of a personal battle – where bruised lyrics are softened by gentle, empathetic delivery only searching for acceptance rather than sympathy.
When discussing mental health and self-healing, education and awareness is “pivotal”. ‘Pure’ is a song that closes the mixtape on an unforgettable note – the storytelling is raw and tragic, a dark insight into the groundhog day of every day with depression and coping mechanisms.
“When I was going through hard time I was lucky enough to have amazing people around me to guide me back on the right path.” Dan says, “But I think If I didn’t have those people around and if I had had a little bit of know-how with meditation, therapy and forgiveness practice, the weight would have felt a lot lighter I think.”
The mixtape shows different faces of life. ‘Alcoholic’ is an upbeat frenzy of denial, a tongue in cheek chant of ‘Why the fuck is everybody calling me an alcoholic?’ runs its mouth with swagger and joviality about the next bender. Whilst ‘Good In Life’ discusses a working class childhood with melancholy remembering the kids in the city that have lost their life, and the loneliness that brings. SLANG’s approach to discussion is unique, and some may even say it’s brave, but through our conversation I see that it’s essential – to start the conversations.
“I’m a very honest and open person. Music is all about taste and opinion.” he explains, “I’ve learnt not to be precious with your ideas and always accept help on a production or writing level if it can make it better…” The contributions to the tape have made it an eclectic mix and conjured up a variety of perspective. “I don’t want to be in a genre I just want to make music and if people like it great.”
One common theme across all genres, all songs, and all lives, is love. And SLANG is no exception. “I think we’re all softies and romantics at heart,” he starts, and his songs cross from loving your mother to loving yourself, to the conventional relationship, “We’re all born with one thing and that’s love and the feeling of wanting to feel attached to someone. What’s life without love, ay?”
Opening track ‘Cheating On Your Phone’ is a cheeky number outing a lover for their text messages. “You can message anyone on any platform now so kind of every social media platform is a dating app in reality.” Dan suggests, admitting, “But you can’t beat the age ol’ spark when you first meet someone and you’re like, ‘feck, I’m in trouble here’ and if they feel the same. Hallelujah.”
Discussing how the pressure of social media “does cripple relationships if you live your life online,” he says, “it’s more about being aware of what’s real and what’s fabricated.”
In a year where so much wrong doing has happened in the world, Dan says, “the media makes everything ten times worse and we’re at the mercy of our phones.” explaining, “news is instant now, I see stuff on Twitter way before BBC news have caught wind.” When people look back to 2017 in one hundred years’ time, they’ll probably be like “Propaganda took over people’s brains and everyone allowed it too, mainly because that’s all that is served up constantly.”
With SLANG, there is no propaganda, just straight up realism. His friends have helped add some frills, but the fwENDz mixtape is no-shit no-nonsense. Describing himself as being born in a chaos and a child of the chaos, SLANG just tells his life how it is.
the fwENDz mixtape is out 29th Sept
Get tmrw delivered to your door, sign up for our six month subscription, here.
Words by Tanyel Gumushan