Ahead of His Appearance at New York State’s JetLAG Festival This Weekend, the New York-Based Russian Musician and Producer Dan Veksler Talks to Us About His Career

The New York-based Russian musician and producer Dan Veksler has been working as a musician for over thirty years now. The eclecticism of his taste is evidenced by the plethora of acts that he has been a part of. This weekend, Dan will perform at JetLAG Festival in Downsville, New York. Before then, we talked with him about his career.

Hi, Dan. I was wondering if you could give us a little information on your background. What got you into music, and who have you played with?
I was always a musician, and ever since I can remember myself, all I have really wanted to do, and to be good at, is music. I grew up in Russia, so my first influences were Russian, most notably the unique singer-songwriter Vladimir Vysotsky. Later, after my family and I emigrated to the United States, I became very influenced by The Beatles, of course, and other classic rock. Now, I have been a multi-instrumentalist for over thirty years, playing guitars, basses, keyboards, drums, and singing. When I was 21, I moved to New York City, and have now lived there for over 20 years. That entire time, I have had all sorts of musical experiences – from playing the Lower East Side club scene with bands like Zambri and Mother, to performing at festivals, touring internationally, and playing a residency at NuBlu with the international outfit Mad Meg. Additionally, I produce other people’s music, and also write my own – both songs, and instrumentals. I have released a number of albums of original material, most recently the album I’m Him, available on Spotify and all major platforms. [Editor’s Note: Since this interview, Dan released a new album, called Heartburn]. Today, as an adult and a mature musician, my influences are so wide-ranging, reaching far beyond just music, that it would be impossible to attempt to list them. 

How have your listening habits as a music fan changed since you’ve been working as a professional musician? 
The more music I play, the less I listen to, except for my own when I’m working on it, or something else I’m working on. 

Has your sensibilities been influenced by your fellow bandmates?
Yes, playing with people always changes how you play – I play somewhat differently in every band I’m in. As for influences, I sometimes discover new things through my bandmates and other collaborators, but on the whole, we often already know a lot of the same stuff. 

Beyond your collaborative work, you also work as a solo artist. How do you feel that your solo career differs from your other endeavours?
It’s natural that it would differ. Every band and every artist is different. My work as an instrumentalist or producer in other people’s projects is aimed at supplementing and complementing their work, whereas my original work is presented according to how I feel it should be. 

There’s a lot of storytelling found in your songs. Beyond music, which writers (i.e. playwrights, authors, etc.) do you enjoy and how much would you say they influence your work? How much is autobiographical and how much is fictionalised?
Very kind of you to notice! I don’t know that any of it is really autobiographical in a literal sense. I’m interested in myth-making. The emotional charge in the songs, and the more personal touches, as well as some of the feelings, and fragments of personal experience, are autobiographical, but as far as the storytelling is concerned, it’s fictional. In fact, a lot of it is kind of abstract, and isn’t exactly a literal story anyway.  As for writers and playwrights, I love a lot of American playwrights – Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard, Edward Albee – and some from the UK – Martin McDonough most notably. For non-playwright fiction writers, I really like Edgar Alan Poe, Italo Calvino, and Daniel Defoe. So, mostly a lot of old stuff. 

Your second album, I’m Him, was released last November. Could you tell us about the album and what influenced it? How does it differ from your first record, 2021’s Dear Northern Atlantic?
Dear Northern Atlantic and I’m Him are not my first albums; I’ve been making and releasing albums since 1998. Dear Northern Atlantic is a homemade record that was recorded in a period of intense emotional upheaval, and in the middle of COVID. It was written and recorded in many different places, and a couple of the tracks are literally demos made on my phone, whereas I’m Him was recorded in collaboration with a co-producer, all in one studio, at a much more stable time, and contains all brand-new material. They sound very different from each other, they are about different things, and in general, I feel like they have little in common, other than they are both mine. 

How have you found the reception to I’m Him?
People seem to like it. 

The cover of I’m Him
Courtesy of 1K Music PR

Do you have plans for album number three, and, if so, what are they?
I have two more albums in the can and ready to go, and another one that’s currently half-finished. They will be released soon. One of the two finished ones – Fisher Howe – is the biggest production I have ever undertaken. It contains songs written over the course of 20 years, it took almost 3 years to record, and it features many amazing musicians and singers. It’s basically a musical about intergenerational family trauma. Another one that’s already finished and consists of brand new material like I’m Him and Dear Northern Atlantic, was recorded at home. As for the third one that is not yet finished, I’m not sure yet what it’s called or when it’ll come out. I am also planning a rerelease of a lot of my older stuff, as well as an album of unusual covers, and an album of instrumental music. 

What do you have planned for the rest of 2024?
In June, I’m playing the JetLAG Festival in Upstate New York. Other than that, I’m going to keep playing and releasing music for as long as I physically can. 

Finally, is there anything you would like to add or plug?
Please follow me on Instagram, Spotify, Bandcamp, and/or wherever else you’d like. I post all upcoming releases and shows there, and there’s plenty more stuff coming out! 

Dan Veksler’s latest album, Heartburn, is out now to stream. You can follow Dan on his website, Instagram, Spotify, and Bandcamp. You can catch him at the JetLAG Festival this weekend in Downsville, New York. Tickets are available here.

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