Dano Heriban is not only a well-known figure of theatre and tv screens but also musician. His third solo album ‘’Čosi úsmevné” was released in July 2018 and with its interesting and playful sound feels like a fresh breeze within our music industry. Album comprises of 12 songs packed with cheerful rhythm and unusual musical riddles carrying one common theme.
Dano visited us to talk about his album, work and something little about himself.
Dano, Hi. I know, that you are active in many different fields of interest. Can you tell us how did you get to the music for kids?
I guess it is connected with the fact, that I myself have kids. Years ago I wanted to play some music to my oldest son and realised there is hardly any of the Slovak production which I might actually like. I think that kids need to be surrounded by their mother language in all its forms and shapes. I find it important to write Slovak texts , especially for kids and there is not enough quality stuff. I was preparing songs for various theatre productions for kids and at that time I got the idea to create something on my own, original. It took quite some time to release the album, I was busy with many other projects. I spent a long time gathering topics for lyrics, searching libraries and even try to get in touch with authors, whom I respect, unfortunately without success and in meanwhile started to write my own lyrics. I suppose the biggest breakthrough was the cooperation with lyricist Jakub Nvota, we have known each other since childhood. We even used to work together in student theatre in Trnava, which he established with Kamil Žiška. Jakub responded immediately and putting our songs together have based the first clear frame work for a new album.
Whose idea is Emil, the Elephant?
It is Jakub’s work. He has been writing lyrics based on my suggestions for topics and it works for us. I try to add something, elaborate and transform them into different shapes. Emil, the Elephant is one of those songs, which Jakub sent me without any previous hint, it was simply his own creative idea, but a damn good one. I love this kind of cooperation, when a writer comes up with lyrics with no additional corrections needed. That’s what I call an inspiration with cherry on top.
Are all your lyrics result of the mutual cooperation?
Not entirely. It is more like a mix of different stuff. There are some texts from Jakub, some are solely mine. Emphasis is on the classical theme of the Wooden dad taken from book by Tomáš Janovic. Album also includes two motives based on the theatre plays, which I have mentioned above. In this case, the author is less known yet excellent Miroslav Nemann.
What about musical arrangement?
Music is my responsibility. For many years I have been working with bass player and producer Filip Hittrich and since his interventions during the recording are essential and undeniable, he has naturally became also the co-author of some pieces.
Not only album, but also videoclips have an very distinctive and unified visualisation. Who prepared visuals?
After we had a sufficient number of songs recorded and the whole album had clear shape I could have moved to the the visual part. I personally like illustrations by Igor Derevenec, made for books of Braňo Jobus. By the way, we even covered one of his plays – Muflón Ancijáš in the theatre in Martin. At that time I met with Igor and as the album was getting more real I asked him to join the project. Since then Igor has been taking care of the whole visual. Booklet and two video clips including. Usually I tend to approach people which are professionally and personally close to me and videoclip to the title song ”Čosi úsmevné” was carried out by two cameramen I know from other projects – Mišo Skotnický and Peťo Kelíšek.
Are you satisfied with the clip as it is or would you change anything?
I am satisfied, there is nothing I would change. As we are getting older, our perspective matures and it happens that something strikes me afterwards. It is natural development, not a reason to feel discontent. Album is out and each time I feel like changing something I tend to submerge myself into other projects. I guess my deep involvement during album recording excluded any necessity of the further interventions. /laughter/
I like the fact it is a long term project, constantly seeking for new inspirations…
Good ideas sometimes come during the night, but putting the album together is way different than recording the single record. Album is like the poem collection. It is not about one short episode, sole picture, idea, story. I tend to search for main character, uniting colour but most importantly main theme. Right now it is all starting all over for me.
Will it be also music for kids?
I live with kids and I enjoy everything about them, including a fatherhood and it leads me to exploring this wonderful world everyday. No ”kids only” music, simply a music slightly more approachable also to children. It is parents who play a music to their kids. Even though kids are able to play it by themselves, they are still being shaped by a parental taste of music, which means that those songs should not drive them crazy. We might say that the ideal balance is when both, kids and parents, like songs. Either way, in my opinion it is important to educate kids by letting them listen to different genres- good ones, not necessarily hit only their music.
What are you working on at this moment?
I would like to dedicate most of the time right now to my family and kids, especially since we got the third baby. Besides that, I have engagement in the National Theatre which means a few evening performances every month. There is also a popular tv show about life in the countryside, keeping me pretty busy.
Are you that kind of person to work on the various projects all the time?
Well, there is no other way, I have always loved that. Life is full of colours and I find it pointless to limit yourself only to one single thing. I have always been lucky to be a part of many simultaneous projects. Let’s say, it used to be a few theatres at the same time, but it was a huge time consumer and I decided to stay in the National Theatre. I enjoy being there and do not intent to take up on other art projects. Maybe an interesting radio play, voice acting project, some ad from time to time…. I value my own space.
It is a matter of time, right?
I guess. Some of my colleagues have this urge to work constantly without a break, even on other projects. I am satisfied with things as they are, I don’t feel like devoting my time into anything else besides my family. I have had my chance. Once there is an actor working in the theatre for many years without such opportunities, he might enjoy the drive which this kind of experience provides. For me it was the other way around. My path started with various alternative but also classical theatres and I have decided to stick with this one for now. Actually, it would by hard to add anything more to the schedule since I want to engage myself with music, project for kids, performances and all that creative stuff. Actually, I work in three separated places and it is just enough.
How did you get to the performances for kids?
Being employed means you simply receive a task. I love it. You don’t have to chew over the choice, you get inspired by the playwright. But working on the children projects has brought me so much joy that I longed for the same experience in my free time.
What kind of music do you like?
I don’t listen to a lot of music on daily basis. On the other hand , there is so much of great music out there, which gives me chills and it is really difficult to mention all of it. For example James Blake, Richard Bone, David Grey, John Mayer, Jamie Cullum, Jeff Buckle. Those are my favourite artists and I tend to return to them even after many years. Talking about bands, let’s say Elbow, Depeche Mode or The Beatles.
What do you like to read?
Everything and at once. /laughter/ With those days full of responsibilities the least I can do is to try to read something before going to sleep, as kind of a mental hygiene. Christmas was ”Prisoner of geography’’ and then there was the latest book about Jozef Tiso. I think we have a plenty of great authors, especially I like those classics from Vilikovský or Dušek. But my all time favourite is Amos Oz or John Irving.
I suppose you have discovered a world of children’s book…
I did, a long time ago. Even thought I reached directly for poetry during lyrics writing, nothing really stroke me enough to combine it with my songs. Except for Janovic, his work is doubtlessly my cup of tea. Speaking of prose, all of those new books have wonderful illustrations but they lack a quality of text which I expect. It is a cover which lures you…. I still put a lot of hope in reedition of classical old fairytales, beautifully illustrated, such as 7 Little goats, Osmijanko or stories of Roald Dahl. Those are amazing pieces and I usually read them to my kids. Regarding a song writing, I prefer more elaborated poetry with funny, casual, rhythmical nature and current spoken language. That’s why I enjoy working with Jakub. I allowed myself to believe that even my point of view might be valuable. Why should I keep looking for song writers when I love doing so. That’s a reason I get to create my own text from time to time.
Regarding the reasons you have mentioned above, I think it is a kind of the natural way to get from producing your own music to writing song’s lyrics. Among ideas, that you have collected, was there any which you hadn’t thought about before?
The greatest moments are when idea comes from nowhere. Or situations like fooling around with kids. My experience with children audience during concerts has proven that the feedback can sometimes turn out differently from what I expect. For example the song about shoes, slipper booties, old worn out boots. etc. Crazy, rhythmical text is easy for kids to understand, they can dance to that and it is a great fun even for parents. I am not fan of songs with strictly educative purpose, there should be a message, deeper meaning behind the topic itself.
How did cooperation with Piskacie begin?
I know Silvia, the heart of whole creative business, for many years. We used to commute from Trnava do Bratislava, she was studying at the School of applied arts and me at the Conservatorium. Our friendship has gone through a lot… When she started with Piskacie, I received one of the first t-shirts and to be honest, I was wearing it quite often. After years, the business has spread and developed significantly, therefore this cooperation felt pretty natural. I wrote her: ,,look, this is my project for kids, wanna join?’’ She agreed, obviously. I believe this is the beginning of something new and we will see where is it going. For now we have Emil, the Elephant (so far). It is not Silvia’s project or mine any more, it has grown into a brand new element conjoining two worlds. Let’s see, how will things work out.
CD ‘’Čosi úsmevne’’ available in all Piskacie shops.