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    Posted: November 23 2011 at 13:00

US act DYONISOS is the creative vehicle of composer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Cowans. When not performing or recording for other projects this is is musical outlet, and since the first Dyonisos production in 1999 a total of four full length productions have seen the light of day. The most recent effort by Cowans is a revamped version of his 2001 digital production Juxtaposition, released in 2010.

I got in touch with Dan and here is his story.


When and why did you set up Dyonisos ? Which other projects do you play in ? Why did you choose that name and which bands were you influenced by ?

I got the name from a scene in the movie, "La Vallee", the 1972 French movie about a group of adventurers in Papua New Guinea. Pink Floyd did the music for it, which became their album "Obscured By Clouds". Several months after releasing my first album, "Haiku", I stumbled across a French band called "Dionysos", who also have an album entitled "Haiku". Talk about a coincidence! This has been the source of more than a little confusion over the years, but I've stuck with the name because I kind of like it. Thankfully, the two spellings are at least different!

In terms of influence, Pink Floyd is probably number one, followed by lots of other classic bands, including early Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Caravan, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, to name just a few.

I've playing in numerous other relatively nondescript bands over the years: Strypes, Indica, Dusty Angel, Yung Devals, Rockin' Horse, and Problem Child. Problem Child is an AC/DC tribute band touted as the "best AC/DC tribute band in the world". I was their "Angus" for a year or so, until they found a younger, more energetic "Angus" and the rest is, as they say, istory. No regrets. It was fun pretending to be Angus and I got a lot of exercise in the process!

How is the local music scene in your area now ?  

The music scene in this area has seen better days. Many live music venues have closed, others have cut back (switching to karaoke or DJ). At the same time, there has been no decrease in the number of bands competing for the dwindling number of available gigs. It has become sort of a cutthroat situation. Not conducive at all to feeling good about one's musical prospects.

Over to your albums. Please tell us more about .....

Haiku from 1999

I recorded this start to finish in about six months, the first half of 1999. I bought a keyboard, an Alesis SR-16 drum machine, and Cakewalk Pro Audio, and went at it. My goal was to create a "concept album", to the best of my ability. So I came up with a story and used the songs to tell the story musically. It's basically about a guy who flies over to Honolulu (former stomping ground), looks up a former girlfriend, and invites her on a hike to the Haiku Stairs (also known as Hawaii's "stairway to heaven". I tried hard to establish a certain mood, and then maintain that mood till the end of the album.

Juxtaposition from 2001

The story behind this one is a bit more involved than Haiku. So Juxtaposition is also a concept album:

"Juxtaposition is the code name of a secret multi-national experiment to warp time and space by shifting the path of totality of an eclipse at the same time a rainbow directly over Kahumana Farm's Mandala Garden traverses Waianai Valley (located on the leeward side of the island of Oahu). This is accomplished via the tightly-synchronized interactions of a large guitar mounted on a hill near Makakilo, the orbiting Space Station Publius, a fake escalator control room in Pearl Ridge Shopping Center, the re-fitted Haiku Omega Station, and oscillations generated and modulated by two agency operatives (KVB and 2325) attending the annual Mt. Hagen Cultural Show in PNG. A test pilot is flying an agency aircraft over Kahumana Farm at exactly the time the eclipse enters totality. Suddenly, seconds after the pilot reports the presence of a strange cloud and rainbow, radar and radio contact with the plane is lost. Several tense minutes later, the test aircraft breaks out of clouds over the North Weald Aerodrome in England, and the pilot establishes contact with local air traffic controllers. Jubilant agency representatives in London report to the BBC that the success of the experiment has exceeded their most optimistic expectations. KVB and 2325 receive the good news aboard an agency helicopter after leaving the Mt. Hagen show grounds to escape a riot that had just broken out."

Dyonisos from 2006

This was my first CD after signing with the Russian label "MALS", and is actually both Haiku and Juxtaposition combined onto one CD. Two CDs worth of music at a very reasonable price.

An Incidental Collection from 2007

This album is a collection of songs written between 2001 and 2005. No "concept" here, just a bunch of songs. Abstract Visions, Leaving Home, and When Silence Has Spoken were semi-collaborative, in that I worked via the interent with a vocalist/lyricist named Joe Hartvilla. The rest were done entirely by me, except for "Pasture in Kahaluu", which featured some percussion recorded by an old friend from the Strypes days, Ron Thunman.

Ages High from 2008

As with "Incidental Collection", "Ages High" is a collection of songs I wrote (1999 through 2008) that did not appear on previous albums. It should have been titled "Aces High", but the typo wasn't discovered until all the CDs and artwork were already in the can, so it was left as "Ages High".

There are some talk about a re-recording of Juxtaposition which has been released or is about to be released. Please clarify this for us.  

I have made Juxtaposition and Haiku available again as separate CDs, at CD Baby. Very few changes were made to the songs. I may have mixed the vocals a little louder.

What is the Dyonisos ethos ?

Basically, the Dyonisos ethos is to create the best music possible within the limits of my ability and limited resources, and to make that music available to anyone who is interested. It's not about making a lot of money or becoming famous. I'm just interested in writing/recording the music and getting it out there.

For those of us unfamiliar with your music; how would you describe your music and which bands would you compare yourself with ?  

I would describe my music as laid-back psychedelic, with the occasional rocker or semi-progressive tune thrown in. I've never been into trying to prove that I'm a musical virtuoso, or the fastest guitar player on the planet. That will never happen and those accolades do not interest me. My "thing" is to just write songs that sound interesting to me, and which might also be interesting to others who like the same kind of music I that I enjoy. Dyonisos has been described as "progressive", but I've never set out to create progressive-type music. My music doesn't showcase the kind of complexity one expects when thinking of progressive music. It's much simpler, with fewer twists and turns. I like it that way.

My sound has mostly been described as sounding "Floyd-ish", and I thinks that's because of the type of songs I write, instruments used (organs, cleaner guitar, slide guitar, ARP Solaris strings, electric piano, etc), reverb-heavy vocals, special effects, and the general mood imparted by the songs. My top three influences when I was learning to play guitar were The Beatles, Moody Blues, and Pink Floyd.

What have you been up to since the release of Aces High, what is your current status and what are your plans for this year and beyond ?  

I have a new CD all but finished, with very little left to do before making it available at CD Baby. It is called "Ghost Ship", and will include songs I've been working on for the last three years. I've done a lot of writing over that period, so this CD will be jam-packed with as many songs as I can fit on it. Musically, I'm very pleased with the songs and feel that this will be one of my best CDs to date.

Other than that, I keep busy working on new songs, and helping friends with their projects. I don't currently have a band for my original music, or I'd mention tour dates! I still play in a couple of local classic rock cover bands, which helps me keep my guitar "chops" and vocals in serviceable condition.

To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview ?

I'd just like to say thanks to everyone out there who enjoys my music. To know that it IS enjoyed makes the effort worthwile. My reviews have been all over the map, good and bad. I am responsible for probably 99.9% of what you hear when listening to Dyonisos: the recording, mixing, mastering, and all of the vocals and instruments. It's very much a solo, low-budget effort, so I take full responsibility for what's good and bad about it, and bear no ill-will to anyone who may have given me an unfavorable review. A person has to take all feedback and use it to do a better job on the next effort. That's how I approach the process.

Again, look for my new CD "Ghost Ship" someday soon. I think you'll enjoy it. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to discuss my music!

Thank you to Dan for this interview

The PA profile is here and the homepage is here

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