Interview: Dave Hause

Photo by Ben Morse
Written by Daniel Rourke

Dave Hause is one of the few left within the punk scene to embody the relentless working-class spirit that created punk in the first place. Between his emphatic solo project and his plethora of past bands - The Curse, Paint It Black, The Loved Ones - Hause has never been one to sit down and rest, and it shows, as he is currently crawling through the UK on his third tour this year, with his band, The Mermaid.

We caught up with Hause before his show with legendary My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero to discuss working with The Mermaid, touring and much more.

Burn After Writing: How's it going?

Dave Hause: It's going good, I'm doing well, man. We had a day off yesterday so Tim (Hause) and I took the train to Manchester to see The National play the Apollo, so that was wonderful. It was a welcome alternative to just sitting around on the bus in Leeds, it was also real inspiring.

Today, it's just great to be back in at the Manchester Academy. The last time I was here was for the Revival Tour in 2011.

BAW: Ah, the one with Brian Fallon and Dan Andriano?

DH: And Chuck Ragan, yeah. We had a real special show here in 2011.

BAW: How were The National?

DH: Oh man, it was kind of like seeing Nine Inch Nails after 'The Downward Spiral' or seeing R.E.M after 'Green'. It was like a band at their peak, well - maybe they'll continue at this peak, but they really are in complete control of their aesthetic and playing beautifully. They were great, it really inspired Tim and I.

An old friend of mine is their manager, so they took good care of us. We had a great place to see the show from, and they really just delivered on every front, it was cool.

BAW: As for yourself, you're touring under Dave Hause and the Mermaid, but that isn't where it started out for you. Your roots are firmly in the hardcore and punk scenes...

DH: They were, when I got started yeah.

BAW: Obviously you're three albums into the solo project now, how have you found that transition from hardcore/punk to a more Americana tinged folk?

DH: For me, just like anything in life, as you grow and change you take the things that are applicable for you and good, and you leave the things that aren't good. I think I learnt a lot of lessons as a young songwriter, or entertainer, or whatever you might want to call it when you're in a punk rock band. A lot of it has to do with energy, you learn a lot about how to make a show coalesce and bring people up and down. It's all about songs though, all of my favourite hardcore, punk, Americana, country bands are always well crafted. For me the thing that grabs me is well-crafted songs, so that's the thread.

The transition was helped by some of the chances that some of my friends gave to me - so the chance to open on some of the tours that I did earlier on helped usher in what I was doing under my own name as a singer-songwriter.

It was a naturally occurring thing, I guess the difference for someone who's a fan is that I don't come here that often, so it does seem drastic, but for me it's an incremental shift, little-by-little. I started to play on my own, then I brought my brother in, then a band, so I was always shifting, growing and changing depending on what the music was shifting me towards.

BAW: You mentioned your band there, obviously, Tim your brother is in the band, alongside sing-songwriter Kayleigh Goldsworthy, and Miles Bentley on bass - I believe Bad Religion played a part in Miles joining?

DH: They sure did. We did a tour opening for Against Me! and Bad Religion around this time last year, and we got on really well with Bad Religion's bass player Jay - he's sort of like their manager as well, he's been there the longest. He took a shine to what Tim and I were doing, he was a big believer in my song-writing, which is a mind-blowing thing to start with - he's a punk rock warlord.

Somewhere on that tour he asked if we were going to go full-band on the next record, and I told him if we could get it together then we'd love to. He suggested Miles and it thankfully worked out, it would have been awkward if it hadn't [laughs]. He's been a great addition to the team.

BAW: This run with Frank Iero is your third time playing the UK this year - headlining in March, then supporting Gogol Bordello in the summer...

DH:  Yeah, we played Leeds with Gogol Bordello, Beckett, I think it was.

BAW: Those three crowds are all significantly different, how's it been playing to much diverse audiences?

DH: I think in order for anything to grow you have to bring new blood into it, you have to show people what you're doing. I prefer to play our own shows, it means you're in control of the playlist, the way the room feels, you can also play for longer, it's just more of the evening that you want to deliver. Of course, in order to keep that going you want more and more people to be aware of it.

You can't help but respect and enjoy what Gogol Bordello or Frank Iero do, you know? Both of their crowds are music lovers in their own right, so it felt right to come play for their crowds. The opportunity was there and we're a working band, we want to keep working. There's a lot of gigs on, so in order to make your next Manchester show exciting you want a few people to come from Frank Iero, a few people from Gogol, a few that you found with Chuck Ragan and whoever else I've been out with, and then hopefully the show is where we deliver the exact vision of what our music is. It's part of being a working band and it's part of a bigger picture.

Would I prefer to headline? Of course, but I'm super thankful for the opportunity to play to these lovely people that Frank brings in from his culture of what he does. He's an honest guy, he's a good guy who is bringing something special to his fans, you want to be a part of that as much as you can fit into that.

BAW: You also recently got married...

DH: I did.

BAW: It also seems like it's the most prolific you've been with touring in the UK...

DH: You're right, yeah. I was really busy between 2012 and 2013, and we sort of didn't do much in 2014, '15 and '16. We did come back for Reading and Leeds Festival, but I don't think I got here at all in 2016.

We wanted to come back with a vengeance and remind people what we're doing, and I don't think it'll be so long again. The welcome has been kind, our headline tour went better than we hoped, there were people at Gorilla, there were people at Leeds at the Brudenell. It felt so gratifying to know that we had people still wanting to hear what we were doing, hopefully we delivered for them that night.

Some of this is gathering new people and turning them on, and next year we'll be back with something, I don't know what exactly, but we're working on that now.

BAW: How do you find balancing your personal life with this more hectic schedule?

DH: Balance is the key to life, and it's really hard to get. I have a new song with the lyric: "I can't get the balance right" - I think everyone can relate to that, whether it's the sound in the show, the air-conditioning in your vehicle, it always seems like something is out of whack.

When it comes to your home life you work at it, you make sure you're in communication, you try to be giving of your time and you try to develop your empathy as much as you can. Whether it's with your band or your significant other, you want to make sure you keep other people's time in mind - for forty-five minutes or an hour or whatever we play it's about that show, but you realise when you get older that it's not about you, it's about others and that's how you're going to live a fuller life.

BAW: These past three runs are the first time people in the UK have seen you play with a band, how are you finding it, do you prefer the band to playing solo?

DH: I do. I like the challenge of winning a crowd over by myself, I like the comfort in which you can travel, and obviously financially it's a lot easier and lot more profitable to tour that way.

Aesthetically I like rock 'n' roll music, I like the pounding of the drums, I like the keyboards in there and the loud guitars. I like to be able to cast a bigger spell. That's not to say I won't go back to playing solo and doing solo shows, I do love doing that, but for me I bore easily. Musically I like to keep creative and I like to keep challenged, so I think I like doing a bit of both. It's a balance thing, again, you want to get the balance right - You wanna come with a band and have people get excited about that, then maybe come back and do some solo in a different room, it's about developing balance, that's the trick.

BAW: The first time I saw you was at the Apollo with The Gaslight Anthem...

DH: Okay, I wasn't sure if the Alkaline Trio or Gaslight show was at the Apollo.

BAW: I'm not sure about the Alkaline Trio show, but Gaslight was definitely at the Apollo, with Blood Red Shoes?

DH:  Okay yeah, that would have been 2012.

BAW: One thing that always sticks in my mind about that show was a speech that Brain Fallon gave towards the end of their set. He was talking about how they attack their shows and try to change it up each night like yourself and your old band The Loved Ones. How do you go about doing that on nights like tonight where the crowd - while being music lovers - come from a different school of thought?

DH: Well I think you want to use the ferocity, you want to be ferocious in your trust, so like: 'I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep them compelled by opening the show with this song, or closing the show with this song.' Hopefully if you're playing to people who are going to be excited about playing music, and want to hear something new and take the ride with you, then they will. That's as simple as you can keep it.

There's often conversations within the band about what will grab the crowd, but I often try to steer it away from that. In other words, you want to be fierce in your vision, you want to trust it, sometimes you're wrong and what do you do with that? Well, hopefully you have another chance to play Manchester, but usually I trust my gut.

Again empathy comes into it, you want to empathise with these kids who are here. For my crowd they aren't kids, but for tonight's they are, so I'll try and remember what it's like to be a kid. I listen to this one particular song when we play with Frank, it's by Brandi Carlile and it's about a friend of hers who killed themselves as a teenager. The song does a magnificent job at tapping into the mind-set of what it's like to be in high school - the anger and the sadness and all that stuff. So I listen to that song with Frank every night before we play because it hopefully puts me in a place where I can understand where some of these people are at. I think if you try to communicate in that way then you can successfully bring the people who are open to coming on-board along with you, then beyond that it's out of your control.

BAW: Obviously when Frank was in My Chemical Romance they were huge over here, they headlined Reading and Leeds, and pretty much did it all. How are you finding touring with him?

DH: He's a friend of mine from that era, The Loved Ones started in 2004 and he was an early adopter of the band, he liked us a lot and came out to see us around the time My Chemical Romance really started to gain steam. He's a big fan of The Bouncing Souls and they're some of my best friends, so we sort of just kept in touch.

To me he's always just been Frank, and he's great. He's a great guy, he's a generous and kind soul, he's a family man, a man of integrity. It's fun, it's really a trip to see how people respond to him, he really is a rock star, especially to the kids that wait outside for ten hours. To me he's just my friend, Frank, and he doesn't make you feel any other way, and that's cool. There's plenty of people who have got to the height - or even half of the height - that don't treat you with that much dignity and respect. It's quite nice, he's a good guy.

BAW: Finally, you touched on a new song earlier, you've also got a tour with Beach Slang in the States coming up. What does the future hold, is it a case of balancing new material with touring 'Bury Me in Philly'?

DH: I wanna go right in and make another record, I wanted to have a record out on a year to the day that 'Bury Me in Philly' came out, but we've done so much touring and we've had so many opportunities, so it's been pushed back a little. We're talking about doing stuff in the new year, some of it is really cool, but I'm very much into the idea of making a new record, I have song ideas, and Tim and I are crafting them. It's a constant ping-pong of ideas back and forth, so it'll be busy for the the foreseeable future, whether that's writing and recording or touring. This is my job and I have a cool band that are on board to go with me, so I'm just trying to steer that ship in the right direction. For now that's the plan, whether we come back just the two of us, or me by myself, or the full band, it'll still be making music and playing it for people who are interested.