Original article (in Spanish) published in Revista Madhouse on August 26, 2017
A few days ago we published an exclusive interview with Alan Clayton, the man behind the Dirty Strangers, which also featured Danny Fury, the band´s new drummer. Now it´s time to take a 180-degree turn and present one with Danny himself, with Alan´s participation, which also took place last November in London. How´s so? That day, both interviews were done almost at the same time, which explains why both Alan and Danny are commenting on their bandmates’ interviews. Danny Fury could be considered the quintessential drummer of the Post Punk scene.
With an artistic background that led him to be part of a vast number of bands (mainly the last line-up of the Lords of the New Church), he now spends his time between the Tango Pirates, Danny´s last personal project, and as his role as drummer in the Dirty Strangers. But what better than him to tell his own story?
Somehow I’d thought that you’d been born in England, but I’ve just found out you were actually born in Switzerland. So how did you get to England in the first place? Were you already playing in bands in your home country?
Danny: I was already playing in bands all my life and, if you have a look at my record collection, you can see most of my favourite bands were from England.
When was that?
Danny: That was in 1984.
So what were your main influences at the time?
Danny: First bands were Hendrix, and stuff like The Sweet. All that glam stuff. Alice Cooper, you know. I also liked the Stooges and MC5, but that came a bit later, to be honest. And then came Punk, which to me was like a first breath or something, you know.
I remember some artists from Switzerland, but they all were mostly into Heavy Metal, like Krokus.
Danny: Well, Switzerland was always more about technical artist. There’s no inspiration coming from there. Everyone was just trying to be someone else, it seems, just like today, everybody’s trying to be someone else.
Why did you choose England and not Germany, as there was always a big rock scene there too.
Danny: Yeah, but it’s still more or less the same, they just tried copying other things. There was After Punk for a while, where they tried to find their own stuff. Bands like Kraftwerk came out of that scene. But all in all the German or the Swiss bands were trying to copy the English bands.
Since you played with so many bands, I’d say you’re quite a quintessential drummer in relation to the Post Punk era. Starting with the Lords of the New Church.
Danny: I never thought of myself like that, but if that fits, in a way I’d say “yeah!” (laughs) But I guess there are others too. I just don’t wanna grab all the glory. But yeah, I’ve done a lot of work, that’s for sure. And I’m really passionate about doing so. Yes, people might have noticed that.
So you were in all these bands. Would you say you were just at the right time in the right place?
Danny: Well I guess I just got lucky about running into the right people. It was what it was, it could have been more too.
You were friends with the members of Hanoi Rocks. Am I wrong or you were moistly friends with Razzle?
Danny: No, I’ve actually met Razzle before he died. I was good friends with Nasty (Suicide), the main man. And we played together for a while in bands. Just before the Lords, he was gonna have a band with Stiv Bators and Dave Tregunna, you know.
Did that happen in Switzerland?
Danny: No, I was already here in London. I met Dave when he left the Lords. At the time, he was in a band called Cherry Bombz for a while, and he left them as well. And when I read that he left them, I wanted to start a whole new thing, and a friend of mine knew him, and then he introduces us. In fact, after we did a few sessions, Stiv called Dave one day and decided to do that band.
Which was the very first band in London you played with?
Danny: Well, the first band I was working on a professional level was Rogue Male, which was a bit more like Motörhead.
More heavy metal oriented…
Danny: Yes, quite a bit more heavy metal, you know, although it was more like rock than heavy metal. But they were supporting major bands on a major level, so I wanted to play a bit of that. And it was like going to school, you know. I learnt a lot, and then I met Dave and I was right on the track I wanted to be.
You did only one album with Rogue Male, and then came the Lords. How long did you stay in the band for?
Danny: Well, I’ve played with Dave for many years, but the actual time I was with the Lords…I thought it was longer, but now after they did some research about a film they’re doing on Stiv (“STIV: The Life and Times of A Dead Boy”), I think it’s close to 3 years.
I cannot actually remember how many albums you recorded with the Lords…
Danny: We did a live album (“Second Coming”) and then a 12” in studios, the one with a cover song, “Making Time”, which was a song by The Creation. Yeah, we covered that song.
But you sure did a lot of touring.
Danny: Yes, and that was the main thing, it was pretty much non-stop in those days.
How was it being in a band with Stiv Bators? Was he really that wild, as always described?
Danny: Well, as you can imagine, it was wild and crazy, never a dull moment, you know (laughs) It wasn’t definitely boring for a second.
How close you were to him? Was he friendly to be with?
Danny: Yeah, we were in it together, because he was crazy enough, like staying up for days, you know, and I guess the others got tired. I joined the band, and they were already going for 4 or 5 years, or even 6. And I was the new boy! (laughs) But we were little brothers, you know, I think his birthday was a day after mine. So we were really close from the start. And he sort of took me under his wing, you know. He wanted to educate me into his style of rock and roll.
So, in a way Stiv adopted you…
Danny: Oh, I was his little brother or something, and he educated me on all sorts of things (Alan laughs)
Why are you laughing, Alan?
Alan: Because I’ve done Stiv’s last tour, the Dirty Strangers supported him. That’s how I met Danny first of all. We’ve been always friends of Brian’s and Stiv’s. And then Danny joined. We didn’t know it was Stiv’s last tour. I’m laughing because I know how it was, he was just a crazy man, a crazy lovely man.
It’s always nice to have a straight opinion about him from a bandmate.
Danny: He was very encouraging and very witty. And he just had this aura about him, you know, he was someone special, for sure. When he walked into a room he sort of commanded it without doing much. He just had that thing that some people have. Very interesting. He’s a special person in rock’n’roll.
And he’s still much loved after all these years.
Danny: Yes, he is. Talking about Keith (Richards), I think they were friends as well. Yeah, because he was hanging around with all the punk guys when Stiv was in the Dead Boys, and Stiv told me he used to look after Marlon (Keith Richards’ son) apparently.
I believe Keith got onstage with the Dead Boys in a New York Club in 1981.
After the Lords of the New Church came Kill City Dragons, with your pal Dave Tregunna in the band as well. Do you think you got to a more professional level than what you did with the Lords?
Danny: When you say “professional”, what did you mean by all that?
I mean, maybe they were more your own kind of thing and you were more in control of all that.
Danny: No, not at all, in fact the Lords were actually my favourite band at the time, so they were exactly my thing, you know. I came to London to look for a band that was a bit like the Lords, and I ended up in the Lords so, you know.
Then why did you leave the Lords, or how else did it happen?
Danny: Well, Stiv called it off, he broke it up.
So you never left the band, its actually the band came to an end.
Danny: Yes, Stiv told us onstage that that was it.
He did it during a show? I didn’t know that. Did you or the rest see it coming?
Danny: Yeah, that was actually our last gig, it just came out on YouTube. It’s actually cool to watch, but it’s that long story, if you don’t mind… Sort of what happened was, I was living off the gigs at the time, and they were suing everybody. There was no money coming in other than the live gigs. And then a tour was cancelled. And to cancel a tour you’ve got to have really good reasons, you know, as it costs a lot of money to set it up. And then the band needed a singer for the tour. And that made Stiv really upset, you know.
So the band was stopping, and you were looking for another singer.
Danny: Just for that tour, really. It’s not that we were thinking of replacing Stiv. But at the last minute they couldn’t do it. If he couldn’t do the tour, then we would lose a lot if cancelling it. It had nothing to do with me or Brian or all that, you know. Stiv agreed to have Dave Vanian (of The Damned ) replacing him, but I guess that was not fine with anybody. And Brian put it out in an ad, looking for someone else after Dave couldn’t do it. But he probably didn’t tell Stiv, you know. And then Stiv got really upset. And on the encore he wore a T-shirt with the ad on it. And that’s how it ended.
I know it’s a long story. I think what he was crazy about was having somebody else fronting the band after all those years.
Danny: Yes, the communication didn’t go right, and people got upset, you know.
You were a fan of the Lords before you actually joined the band, which was your very kind of thing, and then you ended up joining the band you ever dreamt of being part of…
Danny: Yeah. I liked the while concept, the things they were saying. And their lyrics, which spoke to me, you know. Just the whole idea of what it was about, to use rock as a sort of atmosphere to a thing. All that information. And it really had that depth that sort of spoke to me. It was more profound than, say, a dance band. Something very unique as well. And a great image too. And Stiv was such a great performer, in a way like Iggy Pop, really wild.
Just like Ronnie Wood, who always thought “someday I’ll be in the Rolling Stones”
Danny: There’s Ronnie Wood, and maybe a handful of others, but there’s not too many people in the world that would have imagined they’d end up playing in their favourite band. In fact I didn’t know if that was really happening, or if I was dreaming, you know.
Not many people get their dreams fulfilled.
Danny: It’s actually funny because I had supported the Lords at a gig before I joined them, and I talked to Stiv at the show and asked him if he knew a band in London I could join, and he said, “well, if Nicky dies, you can have his job” You know, just making fun. And it actually came true. He really liked that, he actually told the Press about that. He was really into the stars and things that aren’t meant to be, things like that. So that fit right into this.
Everything came into place.
Danny: Yeah, he thought that was meant to be, you know.
So that’s when you thought to yourself, “ok, I’m staying in London”
Danny: I was already here, but at the time coming to London was like coming home. It was a place where you could be yourself. Because it’s such a big place, so you can be more anonymous, you could really be yourself. Because I grew up in Switzerland.
Where was that, Basel?
Danny: Yeah. It’s one of the biggest cities in Switzerland, but it’s really a small town. So when you’re walking down the street, nobody cares, you just can be yourself. But at the time the English were kind of reserved, it was easier to meet foreigners, as English seemed to stick more to their own. Still I liked to grew up in London, everything seemed rock and roll, even riding a bus or going shopping. It was an inspiration that I found here.
Where did you live in London when you arrived?
Danny: At first I lived in Hackney, ‘cause there used to be squats in those days, so you didn’t have to pay your rent. You just found am empty place. And that’s actually how many musicians managed in those days, living in squats and stuff. So that’s what I did.
Somehow it´s always thought that people coming from Switzerland are all rich.
Danny: Well, that’s a cliché. Everybody thinks that if you live in Switzerland, you live in a chalet.
Alan: Are you rich?
Danny: Of course I’m rich, I’m from Switzerland! (laughs) The thing is, they really do have a high-living standard, compared to everywhere else, they probably did a bit better than anywhere else. And there’s a lot of rich people too, that’s true. ‘Cause a lot of rich people moved there for tax reasons, or whatever.
Are you still in Hackney?
Danny: No! Back then Hackney was a bit of a slum, actually.
Alan: Yeah, and it’s a trendy place now, isn’t it?
Danny: Yeah, everything’s changed. Now there are luxurious places everywhere.
Alan: It starts out just as anywhere. The artists move in, ‘cause it’s cheap. The artists make it trendy, and then the developers move in.
Danny: That’s it.
Well that’s how Chelsea was in the ‘60s, and who lives in Chelsea now?
Alan: Yeah, rich people.
So Rogue male, the Lords of the New Church, then came Kill City Dragons, and then what was next? Was it Vain? If so, then you had to move to America.
Danny: Yes, that’s why I lived in San Francisco for 7 years, and I loved every minute of it.
So how does a Swiss man that’s based in London starts working for an American band?
Danny: Well, they played with Steven Adler of Guns N’ Roses at the time, and he still had a lot of drug problems. And in the end I guess he wasn’t reliable enough or something, and they heard that Kill City Dragons split up, and they called me up. I guess I just arrived on time. I had spent nine winters in London and the band just broke apart, and I had worked hard for the last 4 years so, and then when the guys in Vain called me, it was like “yeah, let’s go to California! Fuck this shit, I’m gonna get out of here!” (laughs)
That’s probably why many people from England move to California and never come back.
Danny: Here it’s so wet and cold, it really gets in your bones.
Alan: London is 2 degrees colder than anywhere in England.
And mostly wet.
Danny: Yeah, it blows from the ocean.
Alan: I must say it’s not how I remember it was when I was younger.
Danny: It used to be worse.
Alan: Yeah, I think so. Before, it had never been warm till the end of October in this country.
OK Danny, once again, you left the Dragons in 1994 and then moved to California to join Vain. How was to move from London to California? And how long you were in the band?
Danny: Oh absolutely, it was a different planet, a different culture. And I was with them for 4 years, and then Grunge happened and the audiences got smaller and smaller. W started playing stadiums and we ended up playing empty clubs, you know. And then the band members sort of drifted off and there was no work for a long time, unfortunately.
So that meant when Vain was over you had to move again.
Danny: After 4 years I was kind of illegal there, you know. But then I stayed on for another 3 years and tried to get something together. There are a lot of great musicians in San Francisco but I couldn’t get anything together, nothing solid and after 3 years I decided to go back to Switzerland.
What happens to a musician when suddenly a band’s over and you have nothing coming? You’re kind of stranded…
Danny: In my case, it was a big impact. First of all you have to get by, unless you have some money coming in from things you already did, the royalties. So you have to take little jobs and give lessons, or work in record stores. Anything that comes along.
And you managed to do it.
Danny: Yeah! Obviously I’m still here! (laughs)
I needed to ask you that, you know. So then you went back to Switzerland.
Danny: Yes, and it’s hard to get something together if you don’t have any funds or resources. I ran out of funds and things then got a bit deppressive, and I had a big disillusion with the business part of it, you know. I still loved music. I realized in general no one cared about the real things I cared in music, and it really sort of get in my bones. And also the fact that if you’re someone’s drummer you’re supporting a guy with a vision, you know, and if that keeps falling apart and then you start over and over again, and after a while you run out of steam, and that’s what happened to me, so I sort of couldn’t see what I could do. Basically I had to stop playing music for a few years. And then when I had the urge again I bought a guitar and learn a few chords. But I was already writing lyrics since I ever came to England. I was learning English, and that inspired me to write. So I said to myself, “let’s try something else from a different angle”, you know.
At the time you only played drums, or you were already singing as well?
Danny: Yes, I’d never sung, I just played drums. I tried writing songs and I’d never thought I could come up with anything I later realized it was good. I just thought I didn’t have that talent, and then after that break that lasted for about 3 years, I didn’t touch an instrument for that time, I bought the guitar, learnt a few chords, got my lyric book out and just started to see if I could put things together. Just for myself in the bedroom, you know.
So you didn’t waste your time.
Danny: No, I just got into songwriting, but basically I had to go way back and start over. Because I figured if I was gonna do something again had to be more in control. And if you’re a songwriter, people may leave, but you can keep going until other people arrive, you don’t have to find a new songwriter all the time. It’s not easy to find a really good songwriter, you know. But as time passed by my friends went “oh you sing really good, you have a good voice!” and stuff, and that really gave me confidence to put a new band together. And eventually we recorded an album.
The Wild at Heart one?
Danny: Yes, that’s how I called it, and we recorded it in Switzerland, as I got back home as it made more sense ecologically, as I was really like burnt out, money-wise, and it was easier to start again there. I wasn’t even sure if I was gonna release it but I wanted to record it, but then many people came to the studio and I ended up calling Dave to play bass on it.
It’s strange because there’s like a scene of musicians that shift between bands. I mean, Dave Tregunna was once in the Dogs D’Amour, then you were in the Dogs for a while too.
Danny: Well, that’s because in a way we share the same musical taste, you know. And then it’s almost natural that you know people that way along that wavelength, then you call them, as you know they can do that kind of music.
So what happened to Wild at Heart?
Danny: So we recorded this album (“Chasing the Dragon”, 2007) with Dave and a really good guitar player who was a friend of mine and whom I’d been in bands before, but I knew they weren’t gonna be a permanent band. Dave lived in England, and this other guy had his own band, so for a while I was trying to get a line-up that could play live. So I did, but I wasn’t really happy with it, so eventually I thought that I should move back to London. I met a girl over there and she became my bass player, and then we ended up in a relationship, so it motivated me to come back here, as she really wanted to go to London. So I came back here in 2010 and found Timo (Kaltio) and Dave, who were not doing anything, just watching TV and not playing music, so I said to them “guys, I wanna start a band, and you’re just sitting around. Come and play with me” And they did. But I had my girlfriend who was already playing bass, and I wanted Dave. And I couldn’t have two bass players, you know. And I didn’t want to kick my girlfriend out of it as she had already played for a few years, and she’s done a good job, she was the best of the lot, so kicking her out would have been unfair. But Dave was playing acoustic guitar at home, as we lived together at the time, and I said to him “why don’t you try rhythm guitar?”, which was a challenge for him. So finally Dave joined the band as guitar player. And they called it Tango Pirates.
All this while you sang. And the first time you didn’t play drums.
Danny: Well, I had already done it a few years, so I had the biggest experience.
Now that’s a great name for a band! I guess I read the story about the name somewhere, but can you explain it to me anyway?
Danny: Yes, the first blues and Chess guys that came to New York, they didn’t know what to make of themselves, so they called them the Tango Pirates. You can Google it, there’s some hilarious articles in the New York Times from the 1920’s where “they come to the cities to seduce your daughters with sex and drugs, the devil’s music!” and all that stuff, “beware of the tango pirates!” (laughs) And I thought it was amazing that no one actually had used it yet. It’s like part of rock’n’roll history and no one had actually got onto that, you know.
You know, tango is our music down in Argentina.
Danny: Tango was taking over in the 1940’s, they actually were going to jail for dancing the tango, can you imagine? I think that the Church and state were more together in those days, and I think the Church managed to outlaw tango, as it was really frivolous, you know. And then the sexiness of it, as it was too sexual. And you had like 3 months in jail for dancing it, if they caught you. Of course it was originated in South America.
Do you remember this band called Bang Tango? Which I never liked, but anyway those must be the two only rock bands with the word “tango” in their names.
Danny: I really didn’t like them too. However I think the name was catchy, just two easy words to remember.
But the Tango Pirates are still going, aren’t they?
Danny: Well, actually I’m still working, but anyway there was this first line-up that went on for about 3 years, and then sort of that other members became too busy, so I just wanted to work more and find more people that could concentrate on that one band. Before I knew everyone was in five bands, and in the end I couldn’t get them together anymore, and I got bored waiting for them.
You still haven’t released an album with the Tango Pirates.
Danny: We never did an album, I couldn’t actually finance an album. So we did EPs. By now there are 3 EPs out.
Well, Chuck Berry used to release just singles and EPs for a long time, and compilations, and then he started putting out albums in the ‘70s.
Danny: I know, and the Sisters of Mercy also did EPs for a long time before they put an album. It’s just a financial thing, I have enough songs for three albums right now.
So you finally became a songwriter.
Danny: Yes, and that was something that really perplexed me, ‘cause I never saw or thought I’d have that in me, you know. And that really surprised me. I’m immensely happy because now I didn’t depend on other people so much anymore. I could do my own thing. And also, when you do your own stuff it’s more tailored to exactly who you are and where you wanna go and how you wanna express yourself. Of course now it gets difficult as you have to find people that like your vision.
People who are on the same wavelength.
Danny: It’s a problem, but still easier than finding songwriters. But again, it’s a great experience and it also lets me experience music from a different angle, which is completely different if you’re just a drummer.
Drummers usually don’t write songs.
Danny: Normally they don’t, but it helped my drumming ‘cause now I’m playing more for the songwriter than for the show .
Are you writing on your own, or you also do with somebody else?
Danny: I was writing on my own for a long time, because I didn’t have a songwriting partner, by then people started to co-write with me. I wrote a lot of songs with Dave, and some with my girlfriend. There was another great guitar played in the second line-up, who I was really close to, and in the same wavelength, so there are still some really good songs that haven’t been recorded yet and that are really good.
When was it that you’ve been part of the Dogs D’Amour?
Danny: That was sort of in between. I did a tour with them, but I wasn’t actually a full member. I don’t think they have a steady line-up these days, I think it’s just people that tour.
So that was before the original line-up got together again.
Danny: Yes, that’s how it was. The original band was great!
Then how did you end playing with the Dirty Strangers?
Alan: You want me to leave the room? (laughs)
Danny: You know, like Alan said before, we’ve known each other for a long time, and I saw a lot of their gigs, and I guess they needed a drummer and they just called me up.
Alan: Do you know how I got close together with Dave Tregunna? ‘Cause he played in my dad’s band. Dave and Danny were very close friends, and Danny came along to see some shows. And I hadn’t seen Danny for a long period of time.
Danny: And the tango Pirates and the Dirty Strangers, we did some gigs together, so we didn’t lose contact. And a couple of times George couldn’t play, so I filled in.
Is the band planning to a record a new album, now with Danny as a full member? But please this time don’t take another 4 years!
Alan: Yeah, oh no no no…
Alan: I know, we’re famous for that. It was good timing, wasn’t it Danny? Danny filled for George a couple of times, and it was great. And Danny got the songs.
Danny: Well, I tried to progress.
Danny, same question I asked Alan a while ago, what’s your take about the current music scene?
Danny: I do care a little bit. I’d like to be hopeful and see rock going strong but, to be honest, I don’t really see that right now. I see all the old people still doing great, and a lot of nostalgia, and then young kids trying to be something they’re not really, or just trying to be someone else. And I miss personality, string characters like there used to be. And the internet and the social networks have a lot to do with that. Social interaction has changed and that’s reflected on almost everything. But luckily there are still young guys rocking, so hopefully someday it’ll see the light.
Alan: It doesn’t have to be rock’n’roll for a message,if someone’s got something decent to say it can come across in any music.
Danny: I saw on TV kids being asked “what do you wanna be when you grow up?” And they asked “I wanna be famous” But they didn’t sat “I wanna be a singer” or “I wanna be a painter” Just being famous.
Well thanks so much to both of you!
Alan: Are you alright with it?
Sure, it was more than I expected. Come on, it’s gonna be a long one, if you have the time to read it.
Alan: Yes, and always interesting to see!