(PCM) It was incredibly surprising to learn that a band that has such amazing popularity and have no doubt traveled the globe, Hall and Oates have never performed a show together in Dublin, Ireland. That is precisely one of the main reasons that Dublin was chosen for the recording of the duo’s new concert film “Daryl Hall and John Oates Recorded: Live In Dublin”, as there was just something magical about that particular night and that particular performance.
Much to the delight of fans, the film was released in a select number of movie theaters through Fathom Events on February 19th. Daryl Hall and John Oates are part of that special breed of musicians who have been able to withstand the test of time within the music industry as the duo have been performing together for over 40 years.
Hall & Oates have weathered just about every change imaginable in industry and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees have managed to still hold their title as the number one selling duo in history. The duo continue to grow and expand their fan base even to this day!
In addition to the release of “Live From Dublin”, Daryl Hall and John Oates have recently made appearances on both the Howard Stern Show and The View and have an upcoming gig at The White House performing at the 2015 Governors Ball. And did we mention they are touring as well … definitely quite the busy men these days!
We recently had a chance to catch up with both Daryl Hall and John Oates to discuss the concert film, touring, new music and more!
Q: At this point in your guys’ career as a duo, you and John, what is the nature of that? You don’t really record anymore so how do you guys view and treat the partnership?
DARYL HALL : Well, you know, John and I started as friends, back when we were teenagers, and I think that that friendship, because it was that before it was a musical or creative or business partnership, has sustained us. We’re friends. We’re friends first, partners second. We did all that work together, over that period of time, through the ’70s and the ’80s, and into the ’90s, and even more recently, really.
We have all this body of work that we really enjoy playing. It’s hundreds of songs, and that, you know, we like doing it. I guess that’s the bottom line answer, is we like playing together. We like having a band together. We like playing our songs that we’ve created together. Even though we’re not doing anything currently together as far as music, what we’ve done in the past is certainly enough to sustain us.
Q: Does the relationship with the songs and the music change over the years? I mean, do the songs feel different to you now than they did in ’75, ’85, ’95, whenever you did them?
DH: Well, some of these songs were written, that we play and still deal with, the songs that I wrote when I was 21 years old. Twenty years old. Twenty-two. My life has changed. What was real has become ironic, and what was ironic has become real. You know, all these kinds of things. Life changes the perception of the songs.
What surprises me is how a lot of these songs that I wrote when I was a kid seem to have come true in my later life. That constantly surprises me.
Q: I know you’re not a guy who really likes to dig into the past because you have so much that goes on in the future, or in the present and in the future, but this year is 35 years for Voices. What’s your 2015 take on that, because that really was a kickstarter album for your guys.
DH: Well, I always knew that I was going to be doing it for a long time. I was trained in it and it’s my greatest love and preoccupation in my life. The fact that I’m still doing it and with a certain kind of strength is great. It’s not surprising, but it’s great. I’m very happy that it’s crossed generations. There’s a certain timeless quality to the music that seems to resonate with people of all ages, even young kids now. It’s all very fulfilling, to tell you the truth.
Q: I don’t know if this Dublin concert film, did it start out as something that you saw as being a theatrical release type thing, it would have that component to it, or was it different in any way, I guess, from … You’ve done a few different live DVD kind of things. I’m just curious about the scale of the project and how it came together and the intent of it, to start with.
DH: Well, we did a tour last summer. We did a UK and Ireland tour last summer, our European tour. When I found out that we were playing in Dublin, I had played in the Olympic Theater in Dublin back in the ’90s as a Daryl Hall show and not with John. My memory of that place was that it was an outrageous concert. There’s something about the crowd, about the room, that was, at that time, very magical to me and really special. When I found out that we were playing there, and that Hall and Oates had never played in Ireland ever, which is kind of strange but true, I suggested that we record and do something with it, you know, record the performance.
The company Eagle Rock, who I’ve worked with before,and we decided we were going to film the project, without any idea that what was going to happen happened. After we did it, it exceeded my expectations. It was just an outrageously good night. Not only was the band really on, but the crowd was just crazy. The company called Fathom, who puts these things for theatrical release, saw this performance, and they came to us and said, we’d like to put this in theaters, if you’re into it.
That’s really how it happened, very step by step. I knew it from the beginning that it was going to be a special night, and that’s what it turned out to be.
Q: One thing I’m curious about is, not having seen it yet and not having seen you guys in the past few years, I wonder if you feel the concerts you do now and the kind of thing that was captured on the Dublin film, if you feel like the concerts have a different feel or a different sort of intent or different whatever from the kind of shows that so many people saw during the ’80s, when you guys were so big on radio and you were putting on big shows and stuff.
DH: It’s really different. A few of the things are different. Number one, back in those days, we were really concentrating on what was current to us at the time. In 1985, we would play music from what was going on in 1985 in our world. What we’ve done in the more recent past is that we … Our set, it varied. It changes night to night, and it comprises of songs that we’ve written over all of our career. We’ll mix songs from 1972 with songs from yesterday. In that respect, it’s a much more varied show and it doesn’t relate to just one moment in time or anything like that.
Our band, without any doubt in my mind, this is the best band we ever had. A lot of these guys have been with us for a long time and there’s a few new guys, but the combination is just the best. They understand us and we have a fantastic communication and understanding of the music and so I think it’s better than it ever was. I guess that’s the best way I could put it.
Q: As you said, touring still continues to be something that you and John clearly want to do together. Does that not extend to recording new music? Why is touring so high a priority and recording new music not?
DH: The touring has to do with what we did when we were together and at a period of time in our lives. Right now, we have grown into a place where we’re very individualistic, more than we ever were. We are our own people. I don’t think either one of us has any particular desire to sit in a room and try writing songs with the other guy. We didn’t even really do that that much through our whole career, but we did share album space and stage time. In that respect, we are very much together. We’re together for the sake of that, really, and because we like doing it.
I don’t really feel … I mean, if I want to write a song, or record a song, I just go in and do it, and so does John. I don’t call him up and say, come on and join me on this. It’s just one of those things. Life changes. People move on. Time moves on. People develop. They grow as people, the whole thing, become more individualistic, I think, as you get older. All those factors are … I’m sure they lead to the separateness of us.
Q: I wanted to ask if you and John generally agree on what your best material is, in terms of writing a set list.
DH: Oh, well, our set list changes all the time. We put our set list together depending on what occasion we’re involved in. The mood of the room, I mean, it’s a very flexible thing. We sometimes change it on stage. We’ll say, let’s not play this. Let’s play that instead. As far as agreement, I think it’s sort of a … It’s the whole band agreement, really. We play what we feel is appropriate to the moment.
Q: In terms of different eras of Hall and Oates’ discography, is there parts of it that you prefer, or that John prefers? ’70s, ’80s …
DH: I think we’re both partial to the ’70s as a musical time in general. I think of all the eras that we’ve worked together, it’s definitely within. I think that ’70s music is the time that interests us the most. That’s just personal taste. I guess that’s the answer to that, but other than that, I mean, it’s really a cross-section of our whole writing career. We just draw from anything that moves us at the moment.
Q: Fathom does a lot of these things with a lot of rock bands. Green Day, Springsteen have all done it. I’m curious if you’ve ever seen one of them and also what kind of experience you think that a fan will get watching it on the movie screen compared to seeing you guys live?
DH: Well, I have not ever seen one because I pretty much never go to the movies. As far as what people will see, I think it’s a really good example of what we do. I was involved in the rough cuts and everything so I made sure that it was very, that it really captured the moment. As much as you can without actually being in the room as it’s happening.
It was a very … What’s the word I can use? A very loose and laid back and direct version of our show. We weren’t, and I say this in the best way, we weren’t trying. We were just playing. We were there. There was no pressure. I don’t think anybody in the band felt pressured about it. It just felt like we were really just up there having a good time and experiencing the moment. I think that that communicates in the show and I think that the audience will also experience that.
Q: Also, I know you have a few summer dates already penciled in but are you and John planning a more extensive summer tour?
DH: Well, no. We play all the time. I mean, I have so much going on in my life between television shows and everything else that we don’t have any time for any long tours. What we do is we constantly tour for short periods of time. We go out for a week, ten days, something like that. That happens just about every month we do that. Nothing particularly long coming up in the summer.
Q: How does such a timeless band reinvent itself in the digital age?
DH: Well, I can say it very simply. Live From Daryl’s House. It all happens coincidentally with my show. I think that I started, and as far as dealing with modern technology, dealing the digital age or whatever, dealing with the Internet. It happened because the Internet happened and allowed it to happen. It’s a show that showcases me in a timeless way, working with young people, working with veterans, playing every kind of music you can imagine. I think that perception has carried over into a new perception of what I do with John as well. I really do see that there’s an immediate correlation between that show and the resurgence of our popularity.
Q: A lot of artists today are using apps, whether it’s social media apps like Facebook and Twitter, or even things like SnapChat and dating apps to promote their albums. What are your thoughts on that? Is that something that you guys are looking to do more of?
DH: The way to communicate any idea now, you’d have to use a million different things. You have to use whatever’s there. You can’t just expect that you’re going to put out a CD and have people go out and buy it or anything like that. The answer’s yes. Anything that I can do and need to do to get the people whatever I put out there, I will be involved in doing. That’s for sure.
Q: I was interested when you were talking about your band before. You have a really great band playing with you on this show. I know some of them have been with you for a while. Wondering if you could tell us a little bit about this band, how they came together, and how long you’ve been playing with them.
DH: Okay. Well, I can start with the oldest member is Charlie DeChant, who plays saxophone and some keyboards. He’s been with us from almost the beginning, from 1975. He is by far the longest and oldest member of the band. Then let’s see. The second person would be Eliot Lewis is our keyboard player and I’ve known Eliot for a long time. He’s been with me for quite a long time too, since the ’90s. Klyde Jones, the bass player, I’ve known since the early ’90s and he’s played with us on ad off for that period of time as well. He’s been a permanent member of the band more recently. Brian Dunne is a relatively recent drummer. I’d say now, it’s been about 5-6 years that he’s been with us, and who else is left?
Shane Theriot is the newest member. He’s the guitar player. After the death of my friend T-Bone, who played guitar, we had a bit of a scuffle to see who was going to take his place and for a while, Paul Pesco was playing guitar and now Shane has taken that role and done an amazing job. Did I miss anybody? I don’t think so. That’s the band.
Q: Your career is so focused on your hits and you guys perform most of the big ones in this movie. How do you guys keep those songs fresh for yourself and keep them from feeling like an obligation after so many decades of playing them?
DH: Well, all of our songs we play in our set. Not just the hits but including the hits. They evolve. As we evolve, as band members change … Walking away from them sometimes. One of the good things is if we don’t play for even a month, when we come back to it, something different happens. We have the kind of band that we have an almost telepathic ability to change things on the spot, evolve things and make things different all the time.
Plus, there is a built-in improvisation in the music, just because of the kind of music I write. Soul music, there’s a lot of freedom in it. All those factors, they allow it to be fresh. We drop songs and we don’t play them for a while and we bring songs from the more obscure era and all those kinds of things. It just keeps it all fresh.
Q: There’s always been a lot of talk about how people are back into Hall and Oates because of nostalgia. It struck me that they’re just hungry for decent songwriting again. I was wondering what you thought about that.
JOHN OATES: I think you’re probably right. I think our songs have been … We started out as songwriters. We have always looked at ourselves as songwriters, in addition to the other things that we do, performers and singers and players and producers and record makers and etc. At the core of everything is the songs and you know, I look back on things like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and stuff and I seriously doubt whether we would have ever been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for the songs we wrote. Therefore, I will agree with you on that for sure.
Q: Are you ever surprised by some of the older songs about how many opportunities there are to revisit them and reimagine them?
JO: Well, that’s the beauty of a well-crafted and well-written song, is that it can be interpreted and re-imagined in a lot of different ways. That’s why our songs have been sampled so many times and they’ve stood the test of time. It’s all about the meat and potatoes, about if the song really got it, do you know? Can you sit there with an acoustic guitar or a piano and play that song for someone and achieve the same emotional impact that you can do by fleshing it out with a complete production and a recording. Here again, all about the songs.
Q: John, obviously you and Daryl have mined this incredible soul music from America that’s really one of the greatest exports to the world. You guys have obviously led a charmed life in this era but so many of your predecessors have fallen on hard times. Why is it so important for us as a musical community to reach back and pay tribute and homage and let a lot of these living legends that are still around, the Little Richards, the Chuck Berrys and all them, really know what they meant to us and show them love?
JO: Well, that’s a very good point. I’m with you 100%. They are the direct link to a legacy of American popular music that, as you prefaced your question with, has really changed the world. It’s been, in my estimation, and I know I have my own opinion on things, but I think it’s without a doubt one of the greatest exports that America’s ever given to the world. It’s done nothing but create a positive image for America. It doesn’t do anyone any harm. It’s certainly changed popular culture in the Western world. That’s a pretty heavy contribution to history, in a way, and I’m glad I feel like Daryl and I are part of that. We’re proud to be part of it and the people who paved the way for us should be recognized and honored and appreciated during their lifetime as much as possible.
Q: What was it like to go back and listen to this live recording, this Live in Dublin recording when you were preparing it for release? Was there anything that surprised you about your own performance or about the audience’s reaction?
JO: I was surprised and not surprised by the audience’s reaction. The only reason I would say I was surprised is I had never played that particular venue. We’d never played in Ireland. I did a songwriter’s festival in Ireland a few years back but never played with Daryl. I knew that it was going to be an exciting night, having never played there. The venue was so cool and legendary. It had so much history. All the ingredients were in place for a great night and a great performance. Certainly, I think we captured it. The band was on fire and the crowd was into it.
You put all those ingredients together and you get something very special. I’m so glad we committed to filming this particular show. When you put your eggs in one basket and you say, okay, this is the night we’re going to film this concert. Let’s hope it’s a good one. Here again, all the stars aligned for that.
Q: I’m curious to know, we’ve seen so many changes within the music industry over the years. Probably one of the biggest ones is seeing the uprise of social media and all that. Of these changes, which one has probably had the biggest effect on you personally?
JO: Well, just musicians’ ability to basically make a living from their creative skills. I’m a professional musician. I’ve been a professional musician for a long, long time. I believe that creativity has value and copyrights have value. I don’t believe it should be free. In that regard, I wish there was better ways of selling our music.
Unfortunately, I think the establishment, the music business establishment, the old guard, blew it when the digital revolution began and didn’t see the writing on the wall. Unfortunate for a whole generation of musicians to come. Not so bad for me and Daryl because we already have a large fan base and we have a legacy. I work with a lot of younger musicians and I feel their pain. I see how difficult it is for them to break through. It’s a very complicated subject.
Q: With your long career and so many classic songs, how do you decide which songs you wanted to perform in concert, specifically to the Dublin show, knowing that people around the world were going to be seeing the show? Did that affect the set list at all?
JO: Not really. Not very much. That set list is capturing a moment in time. It’s the set list that Daryl and I have been working off of, with some variation, over the past year or so. It changes. It evolves. We drop certain songs. We add certain songs, but the core of the set are the big hits. In a way, I believe we have a professional responsibility to play those big hits. We’re proud of them. They’ve stood the test of time. That’s why they are the songs they are.
In that regard, we have a really good problem. We have a lot of hits. We sneak in the deep tracks, and we do that because we like it and because we feel like it shows a little bit more of a broader scope of who we are and what we’ve accomplished over the years.
I would like to go more in that direction one day, but the Dublin show is capturing the moment in time. If we do another DVD in 2 years or whatever, it’ll be a different moment in time. This is the band. This is the Hall and Oates band right now, right as it is today, with one of the best backing bands we’ve ever had. With Daryl and I, I think performing pretty well at the top of our games, so I think it’s a great moment to capture.
Q: Now, I know you’re also touring solo with your most recent album as well. How is it different playing songs out there without Daryl and do you tend to do more solo stuff there or do you mix your solo stuff with band stuff?
JO: My solo shows are totally solo. Every once in a while, I’ll do a different interpretation, like I’ll do a Delta blues version of Maneater or something like that, and I’ll do an acoustic version of She’s Gone, but my solo shows are all solo. People come to see what I’m doing now. If you want to see Hall and Oates, why see half of Hall and Oates? That’s the way I look at it. Come see a Hall and Oates show and you get the real thing, but if you want to see what I’m up to and the kind of things that I’m into on my own, then it’s a completely different experience. I like it that way. I think that’s as it should be.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the evolution of Hall and Oates into a performing entity, from a recording to whatever degree writing entity? It’s been very interesting to see you guys become what you exist as now.
JO: Well, I think really … First of all, you don’t have enough time. That’s the first thing. Secondly, we began to play live from the moment we got together. In fact, that’s what we did. In fact, that’s how we got together. We got together as a reaction to what we were doing with other people.
Daryl was doing studio work in Philly and he had made some recordings with some people and he wasn’t satisfied or happy with that situation. I was playing in some blues bands and playing folk clubs and things like that. We got together almost as a reaction to all that, and we said, let’s just go play our individual songs together. You play a song. I’ll back you on guitar and I’ll play a song and you’ll back me on piano or mandolin or whatever.
We started and we started playing coffee houses and art galleries in South Philadelphia. That’s how we started our reputation. Really, we were a live group from the very beginning. We never were anything but a live group, and to this day, we still are. Our recordings came, actually, after that. We started live so it was actually kind of backwards from what you initially said. Like I said, I think one of the reasons we’re still around is because we never stopped playing live ever.
Q: What are you up to now? You did that very interesting … I don’t want to call it single period, but you know, putting out a song at a time.
JO: I did that in March of 2013. I released 6 or 7 digital singles from Good Road to Follow. That became a solo album. Then my current project’s called Another Good Road, which is a DVD version of that music. I wanted to extend the life of that music because I was very proud of it, so I did a DVD, which is being currently played on Palladium. It’s available. I went into a studio in Nashville with a lot of the players and singers who I perform with and record with. We cut it live and with some … It’s kind of a documentary, a musical documentary.
That’s what I’m up to. I just finished a month-long tour with my solo band, and getting ready to go back on the road with Daryl.
Q: I personally always stuck with you guys, but there was a period of time where Hall and Oates were not as fashionable as they are again. How does an artist withstand that period of time?
JO: By not identifying your self worth and your own value by commercial success. Artists and people whose self worth is completely intrinsically linked to their commercial success are doomed to fail. I’ve never thought of myself that way and I know Daryl doesn’t either. We cared about the musicians. Every decision we ever made from the time we started pretty much has been what will allow us to continue to do what we love to do and what we were born to do.
When you use that as your starting point, as your criteria for decision-making, you don’t fall into the trap of worrying about whether you have a hit or not. If we had to go back to clubs, we’d go back to clubs. We did that periodically during our … We went from stadiums to clubs and back to stadiums. Now we’re doing the same thing. I play clubs every night. I think it’s fantastic. Then I play big venues with Daryl and that’s fantastic too.
You just have to believe in yourself and fortunately for us, we had enough commercial success to give us that foundation to do that.
Q: I was curious to know if you could talk a little bit about the generational appeal of your music. I’m sure now you’ve seen the fan base grow over the years. I’m sure now you’re seeing parents even be able to bring their children into this, especially the live shows.
JO: I saw that in the ’70s, believe it or not. What Daryl and I noticed right away when we began to start playing live in the early ’70s, before we had any hits, we would look out in the crowd, even if it was a small little coffee house or a small club or whatever. We always had young people and old people. We had people who were way older than us, back in the early ’70s, and we had people who were younger than us. It’s always been that way.
I believe that it has to do with the songs that we write. I think we appeal to people on a universal level, in some way. There’s something about the things that we talk about that seems to not be tied to age and generation. The younger generation who’s rediscovered us now is an open-minded generation because they’re not being force-fed what’s hip and what’s supposed to be good by rock journalism and by mainstream big business record companies.
They have the Internet. They have the world at their disposal. They can research anything they want. They can find any kind of music they want from all different styles and eras. They just care about good music. Whatever touches them and moves them. I think that’s one of the most positive things about the new digital generation. Maybe that’s why they’ve latched on to us because here, again, our songs seem to stand the test of time.
Q: I was thrilled to hear you mention that music is this universal language that everyone can relate to, even in a different way. Was there a particular point in time that music began to speak to you?
JO: From birth. Really, honestly. I started singing when I was a little kid. I have a recording of me singing Here Comes Peter Cottontail when I was 2 years old at Coney Island Amusement Park in New York. Then I have another recording of me at the same amusement park when I was about 8 or 9, singing All Shook Up. I’ve been playing guitar since, I think, 6 years old. It’s just been part of my DNA, I guess.