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DAN SMITH


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Villains play a prominent role in the world of film, theatre and in popular culture. Dan Smith is certainly no stranger to cinema, in fact, before he became a musician his ambition was to become a film critic. The passion is especially ignited when portraying these roles throughout the shoot. When he immerses himself into the mind of these characters, it’s almost antithetical to the bubbly persona of Dan Smith that has been familiar to the public eye throughout their nine year career. There’s almost insanity in his eyes, which suits the theme of the shoot and it would certainly get the approval from his favourite director Stanley Kubrick. Nonetheless, we speak to Dan himself about the new album release, club nights and his perception on the insanity within our culture.


How do you feel the reception to the Doom Days’ release has gone?
We absolutely loved releasing this album; it was really fun. Having spent a couple of years working on it and thinking about it loads, we wanted to release it in a way that felt thoughtful, interesting and different. We did a ‘Still Avoiding Tomorrow’ launch on the release day in London which was this theatrical response to the album. This was where four hundred people walked into a room with headphones and these characters would pitch their stories. People would then decide which one to follow as all of these stories interwove and happen at the same time. Then everyone wondered into this other room where we played the album live from start to finish with a gospel choir. The album has a concept and some very set ideas, so it’s been fun working with that. People seem to love the record too which is really satisfying. 

You’ve released nine intimate tour dates labelled as ‘Bastille: Club Nights’, could you tell us more about that?
With every tour we want to do something different. Earlier this year we did a tour to celebrate our mix tapes and help launch the album accompanied by fun visuals. The album is set around a night out and human connection, so we wanted to do a tour that was closer to when we started with small club nights. We’re going to be playing the album in full with some old stuff and be joined by some other bands and some DJ’s. We want to mix it up for us and the people that come to our shows as well.

Are you into clubbing yourself?
Periods of my life I’ve been into it. Not in a way where I’d stay out from Friday to Wednesday morning. I went to Fabric a lot when I was finishing school and just get lost in the depths of that place. On the album we wanted to nod back to nineties club culture and the rave culture. I guess it’s before my time, but it’s great to look back upon pre-social media and mobile phones, where you’d have to call someone to get co-ordinates or follow a car to get to a rave. It was all about being there for the experience and not just posting on your mobile phone to prove you’ve been there. I think people are looking for experiences like that now. That’s what we wanted to do with the ‘Still Avoiding Tomorrow’ launch. All the people there had slightly different experiences but they were there with no mobile phones. I’m interested in rave culture though nonetheless, it’s just something that can’t happen anymore in this age.

Have you had any particularly interesting club nights?
As a band – we played this venue in Berlin that burned down a few months later and we went on this big night out. We went to this club and all got separated, somebody came up behind Kyle who plays keyboard in our band and blindfolded him. They led him off to this hidden room where there were a lot of ‘things’ happening but he had a girlfriend at the time so he was like ‘gotta go guys!’ Then he came back and told us all, I guess everyone else was like ‘why the fuck didn’t we get blindfolded!?’ (laughs).

After the shoot today, do you have a particular interest in film?
Growing up I was really interested in film and I still am. I absolutely love cinematography. The first music video we made was for a song called ‘Flaws’ back when we were a DIY band. We were doing everything ourselves. There was a film called ‘Badlands’ by Terrence Malick that, like all of his films, every frame is completely beautiful. We didn’t have any money to make a video, so I just ripped a version of the film, re-edited it and changed it into a three and a half minute music video. I took out the darkness and just kept in the beautiful landscapes.

How important has photography been in your career?
Artwork has always been important, when Bastille first started I didn’t want to make it apparent if it was a band, solo artist or anything so we were quite ambiguous with our photos. It took a while for us to start doing photoshoots or band shots - as people we’re still not that comfortable with it. The visuals and the cinematic aesthetic have always been key to what we do. Our album covers feel like a film poster but with the mixtapes look like shitty, trashy ‘Bee Movie posters. That’s the look I love.

You’re particularly into running after just doing the marathon, how important do you feel it is for the ecosystem to run or even cycle places rather than driving?
’Into’ running is generous, I did the running because I had to. I hate it. It’s fucking hard (laughs). Obviously it is important to produce less waste - I don’t own a car, but that’s probably because I live in London so it’s easy for me to get around. I’m sure if I lived somewhere else I probably would. I think it’s brilliant that these conversations are happening and at the forefront of people’s minds. Even today, I still feel a bit guilty buying plastic. I think it’s a weird time where people are trying retrain their brains. We want try to be eco-friendly when we tour such as using water bottles rather than plastic ones people use all the time, not using straws. A lot of our job involves travelling on tour buses, flying and we what we can to offset that. It’s more important to try and do a little bit than nothing at all.

In the marathon you were raising money for Breast Cancer Now, how important is this charity to you and have you supported any other charities in the past?
Yeah, we’ve supported the homeless charity called ‘shelter’ another called ‘Streets Of London’ and a fair few refugee charities as well. I think, with charity stuff people go about it quietly. The reason I ran for ‘Breast Cancer Now’ is because my Mum suffered with it and her treatment was successful. You can’t help but want the same from everyone else that suffers from that. It definitely motivated me, I don’t think I would’ve been able to train for a marathon once we were on tour and finish it if I hadn’t had that in the back of my mind.”

You have previously said ‘Doom Days’ is intended to address modern anxiety’s such as phone addiction, do you feel that social media has impacted us interacting in society?
Of course, without a doubt, it’s just changed the world. When I was growing up, Facebook used to be something you could swap photos on drunk nights out, now it can sway election campaigns. That’s fucking mad! Anybody living in the world, we all have phones buzzing all the time - that could be your mates sending you a stupid photo or something horrific that’s happening on the other side of the world on a news alert. Our phones are brilliant in how important they are and how they’ve brought people together but like everything, there’s potential for it to tip into the sinister. It can bring out the absolute worst in people.

As a musician relevant in the 21’st century, how has social media had an effect on you?
My relationship with social media came via our band, I wasn’t someone massively into it. I don’t really have a personal connection to it but it is just normal part of life now. In ‘Doom Days’ we say not to read the comments, but obviously you can’t help but read them. That’s the irony. It’s not supposed to be condemnatory or didactic; it’s us saying ‘fuck we do this all the time even though it’s not good for us.’ In the album there’s a lot of references to the shit we do to escape real life out of habit and we’re self-destructive just because it makes us feel good. We wanted to put life from 2019 into perspective.

Do you think the world would be better without it?
Fuck knows, I don’t know what life would be like without social media (laughs). It’s just so stitched with everything. How we work, learn, play, and listen to music, just everything. I don’t feel qualified to comment on it. On the album we wanted to acknowledge it, but there’s no answer or solution. I’m not self-controlled enough to delete Instagram, Twitter or anything. I think I’d have to be more self-assured as a person. It has had negative impacts though, especially with extreme views but it’s heart-warming to see people reacting against it and companies such as GRETA speaking up for the environment. The figures that rise up to speak against Trump can also give a louder voice for more inclusive conversations. It’s strange ‘Black Mirror’ times. Not to sound like a complete paranoid freak (laughs).

You’ve always weaved in a few political references in each album, especially with tracks such as ‘World Gone Mad.’ What major things do you feel need to be changed in this world?
Oh my god, that’s such a massive question. I just make songs (laughs). In this album in particular, it’s personal but it does speak to bigger things. We wanted to use talking about a breakup to also reference Brexit as that’s another international breakup happening. The language of things like Trump, climate change and whatever we hear, whether we want to engage with them, they’re pouring out of our phones, TV, streams or radio and it’s part of our life in 2019. I wanted the album to be threaded with those sorts of things like protests, riots, internet culture and social media, it is part of the fabric of what we talk about all the time.

‘World Gone Mad’ was about Brexit and those that bang on about being British to the very last and how it’s not that simple, nothing is, I feel it’s open to interpretation. With a lyric like ‘we’ll be the proud remainers. Here til the morning breaks us’ if you’re not British and don’t know what that means you could just read that as being one of those people that stays until the bitter end of a party. It’s going to have different connotations. When we made our last album it was slightly more ambiguously political in a way. At the time there were these huge changes in the world and it didn’t feel like anyone was saying anything about it. Post-2016 I feel people are much more liberated to say what they think. That’s cool, there’s enough individuals in the world saying negative shit online or on podiums, so it’s probably slightly necessary, but fuck knows.” 

What can we expect in the future from Bastille?
Nothing we’re breaking up (laughs). We’re hopefully going to keep making music, we’ve made three albums now that I wrote and co-produced with Mark. We want to experiment a bit, have fun, keep collaborating with people and push ourselves to make a fourth album that feels very different. I think we just feel really lucky and if we could do this for another few years, that’d be fucking amazing. We want it to stay interesting to us and the people listening.



Get the INSANITY issue featuring Dan Smith’s cover story now

Photography: Niklas Haze, Styling: Kay Altamia, Make Up: Christine Dupuis, Hair: Ernesto Montenovo, Production: Imola Fedor, Photo Assistant: Alex Kim, Styling Assistants: Kallan Hughes & Mellisa Schwarz, Make Up Assistant: Miriam Spanu, Hair Assistant: Luca Maurelli