Dan Solo: Return Of The Axeman
“Music is such a powerful force… No matter where I am or what I’m doing in life, music is always there with me.”Dan Ripley
The UK has delivered countless iconic rock bands over the years, providing endless inspiration for new artists across the globe. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, T-Rex, The Jam, The Who… Black Sabbath… Pink Floyd… the list goes on. The names of notable British rock guitarists are also well familiar across continents; Eric Clapton, The Edge, Brian May, Jimmy Page… Slash… Dan Ripley.
Ok, Dan Ripley may not be as widely known as the others in the list but he certainly wouldn’t be out of place. The UK-based guitar virtuoso recalls being fanatical about music from a young age; learning to play the six-string at the age of six whilst living in Australia. He went on to master a number of songs within a few years and dreamt of forming a band so that he could jam out with other musicians.
By the age of ten, Dan was living back in the UK and a few years later, at the age of 14, achieved his dream by forming his first band, ‘Apache‘, who managed to bag a thirty-minute televised slot on a show called ‘You Can Make It‘, Dan points out “needless to say, we didn’t make it at all!”.
Dan joined various bands in the 1980s, playing covers of one of his favorite bands, Thin Lizzy. but hung up the axe for a couple of decades in favour of running his own pubs.
Fortunately, he returned to the guitar and his solo works, and many collaborations with other talented musicians can be found on Bandlab and YouTube – details can be found at the end of this feature.
What first got you into music? Who are your main musical influences?
It was my dad who initially began to teach me to play. By the time I was 8 years old I was learning songs by ear myself. Thin Lizzy have always been my favourite band, although these days I absolutely love the sound of Delain (Dutch symphonic metal band) and Within Temptation. I’d say most of the material I write has a hint of the 80’s rock sound in there. It’s actually not done on purpose either… Just comes out that way.
How would you describe your sound or style?
I think my music is mostly in the Rock Genre, that old 80’s rock sound. It usually has some kind of guitar solo lurking in there somewhere. I love ambient music but have only created a couple of tracks based around this style.
20 years off… that’s a long break! Why did you stop playing, and what was it that brought you back to music and writing songs after such a long time?
I just didn’t have the time and to be honest, it just became something that I used to do. When I started with the pubs it took me away from this area so everything was completely new. I became obsessed with the work involved and worked 15 hours most days… Never used to take a day off. I just totally left the guitar alone… Still had a huge passion for music and my pubs were very music-based; always had a live band playing at the weekend.
When I eventually came out of the pub business it obviously opened up a lot more time for me, and I’d also moved back up to the Middlesbrough area as well. I called round my parents one day and my dad was sat playing his Fender Strat. I didn’t even own a guitar then. All the guitars and amps I’d had years before had gone.
As I was leaving my dad called me back and gave me the Strat. He’s always been an inspiration for me in many ways and he was always pushing me to play again, so that was it… I started playing again.
Once I’d found that passion for playing, I started looking around at all the new gear that had been made available. I started off by buying a Boss BR1200 digital recorder and was amazed by what that could do. I wasn’t even aware you could buy DAWs for the PC. Gear started to accumulate pretty quickly but it was about 5 years ago that I bought my first Daw. That was it then… Plugin addiction kicked in and I was in my element learning all this new gear. I’ve been back playing now for about 7 years.
Where does your motivation and inspiration come from?
Sometimes it can be a spur of the moment thing but also if I hear something that totally captures me then that can give me the inspiration I need. I often wake up with melodies stuck in my head so I get up and record them into my phone so I don’t forget them. My phone is absolutely crammed with guitar sketches which will probably never see full recording time.
Music is such a powerful force… No matter where I am or what I’m doing in life, music is always there with me. I found Bandlab by accident one day when scrolling through Google. Dived in to take a look and that was it!
I’ve found some wonderful people on there who have definitely inspired me to keep making music… K1ngsbl3ndsno – the support that man has shown me over the last year has been phenomenal. You too Mr. C!! Your music is still there playing in my car! Whether it be with Coldcore, Rieneke, or your solo work… Just fantastic stuff!
Do you think that working with different artists and musicians via Bandlab from across the globe has had any impact on the type of music you create? Has that experience changed your approach or perception in any way?
Well, I’ve always written in a certain style so that’s basically what I continue to do. If I’m purposely creating something that I know is for collaboration then I try and accommodate for the other person if I can. I’ve actually just created a bluesy type thing and just had one person in mind to sing it all along. I’m not sure if that really answers your question or not.
Without question, one of my personal all-time favourite tracks on Bandlab is your collaboration with Jen entitled “Don’t Go”. That track hit’s me in the feels every time. Can you tell us a bit about that track – how it came to be, and how you felt about it when you played back the finished version?
I like piano-based music. Love the sound of a piano… I can’t play to any great standard but I dabble with it. For anything complicated, I use Toontracks EZ Keys and program exactly what I want using their software. At the time, I knew of Jen and admired her talent, and thought she’d be good for the track. The track was already there finished but I hadn’t written any lyrics for it. I’m so glad I asked her, she did an amazing job with it in my opinion, and we went on to create another three tracks together. There’s one of the tracks, it’s called Rain… I love it, even if I say so myself.
What does your set-up consist of, Dan – talk us through the instruments and software are you using to create your songs.
My main instrument is the guitar and I sort of scrape by with the rest. I prefer to play the Bass guitar parts myself and also any string sections/Pads etc I also do myself. I program my drums with either Toontracks EZ Drummer 2 or Superior Drummer 3. I’ve also used Toontracks EZ Keys on some tracks and I use Presonus Studio One 5 Professional for recording… love that DAW!
I had the Helix Floorboard but sold that when I realised you could buy the Helix Native Plugin. Sounds identical in my opinion. My favourite go-to guitar SIM is Overloud’s THU… I absolutely love how their pedal FX sound. It’s all personal preference but to me, I get the best guitar sound for my music from THU. My other favourite Plugin is Fab Filter Pro Q3 EQ, I use it on everything… Absolutely stunning Plugin.
I have a ridiculous list of Plugins, which is crazy because I end up going back to the same ones time and again. I must admit I really do like to learn about the Plugins I’m using rather than using their factory presets.
It would be remiss of me not to drill into your guitars, given that is your weapon of choice. What are you playing?
I currently have 12. My favourite is an Epiphone Korean-made Les Paul. I’d bought a Gibson and have to say it wasn’t that great for what I’d paid for it; terrible to keep in tune. I stumbled on the Epiphone and instantly fell in love with it. Far far better guitar than the Gibson. Better build stays in tune, it’s fitted with Seymour Duncan pickups which gives it some extra edge… Love it. I won’t go into all my guitars because it would take forever but I can say that there are no more expensive guitars among them. My most expensive guitar would be the Epiphone Sheraton II and I also have the Epiphone Flying V. All Korean-made ones. They were the better builds with better hardware. I’d never buy another Gibson.
I’m totally amazed by what’s on offer these days for the budding bedroom musician and have a little corner of my bedroom dedicated to musical equipment… I don’t have any real amps anymore!
What is your typical approach when writing and recording new songs, or does it vary?
It really varies. Sometimes I come up with the lyrics and other times the melodies come first…. 90% of my melodies come from just messing around with the guitar. I’ve never been one to practice… really don’t have the patience for that.
The first thing I do when I’ve come up with a melody is program the drums for it and always create that track first.
Next, I’ll track the left-side guitar (I usually have left and right panned guitars) and then record the bass line and right-side guitar. If the track doesn’t sound too full, I’ll usually look for a place to put some kind of string section in. All the guitar solo parts are recorded towards the end and vocals I always leave until last.
You tend to leave a bit of space between new releases, what can we expect from you next?
I’ve always got something on the go… there are four or five tracks at any given time in my DAW. Whether these tracks see the light of day is another matter.
Imagine you’re facing total data loss and you’re able to save just one of the projects you’ve created… which track would you save, and why?
Mmm, what a great question… I think I’d have to say my personal favourite of my own music is You Don’t Know… It’s quite powerful and just sounds good in the car.
Any closing comments from you Dan?
Before I go, I’d like to thank the people who gave their time and commitment to the collaborations that we’ve done. They all mean a great deal to me, and I’ll always be forever grateful to have had the chance to create music with you all. Thank you!!
Let’s get into some of your music, what’ve you got for us?
You can take a look at my YouTube channel here if you’d like. I’ve also created a compilation of about 30 or so of my tracks below… I apparently have 106 in my library… Here’s to making many more!!
We thank Dan for his time with us, and look forward to hearing more from him in the future! Be sure to check out his YouTube page for more music videos.