- By Emily Oldfield

I had very little idea what to expect when I sat down to interview Black Lodge – a DJ-Producer currently based in Salford whose recent launch event for his album Bitter Blood included a human skull which accompanies him to all live events. Sounds like my kind of interview…

Black Lodge – aka Dan Dwayre, currently based in Salford – was signed to Mo’ Wax in 2001, a time when the iconic Trip Hop label was entering a more obscure phase. Black Lodge had previously been behind a 2000 remix of Disillusion by Badly Drawn Boy, and his debut release on Mo’ Wax, Horse With No Name/Ha Dili came a year later.

Yet despite the connections, the Black Lodge back catalogue is distinctly difficult to track down online. This is a concept of his artistry which could be considered additionally intriguing and somehow adding to the depth of the material, especially in this over-saturated digital age.

He’s also the artist behind the alluringly obscure Hotline – mashing up telephone operators with electro-oddity– a track which Mo’ Wax missed out on as the label folded… but it was far from the end from this eclectic underground artist.

There were flurries of activity in the 2000s, but it is 2018 itself which has seen the biggest spike of attention towards Black Lodge’s work.  Back in July earlier this year, Warp Records’ Arcola imprint released a six-track 12’’, featuring remastered cuts which Black Lodge had prepared for Mo’ Wax in the early days.

And that’s not all. Disciples have also released Black Lodge’s Bitter Blood – a series of recordings created at The Kings Arms and coming together in intense anthology form.

By The Kings Arms, that means The Kings Arms Salford – the location Black Lodge still uses to push his own creativity, as well as all involved on each record, to the very limits.

“The more recent works involve live improv recordings with real and talented musicians,” Dan reflected. “I invite a range of those I know and see who comes along. Every Thursday we’d go to The Kings Arms and make something. This involved changing up instruments, getting people out of comfort zones. I wouldn’t let them leave until we’d done something real and genuine. I feel that’s what’s completely lacking in lot of music now… when musicians get a success, they just stick with it.

“If, as an artist, you think about the audience… then you are already lost. It’s to do with your own dialogue and testing yourself. You just know when it feels right.  So the recording took time… I had to shout at them, really push them (the other musicians) to get the real performance, the zen, out of them.”

The Black Lodge approach of pushing people out of their comfort zones, is also inspired by Dan’s interest in The Church of Satan.

“Because it’s against, it’s resistance,” he reflected, in terms of his interest in the area. “The last thing a Satanist should do is worship anything beyond the self. It is not against Jesus. It existed beforehand. With this philosophy you can embrace what life actually is. Rather than be crushed by it. Never be a victim.”

It is this forward-thinking approach which has propelled Black Lodge in his music also.

 “I’ve been making music since I was about 19,” He considered. “It was actually a fall-back position. I was doing video work, including video works at a Communist video production place in Moss Side - but it wasn’t cost-effective, I couldn’t afford to hire an Edit Suite. However, my friends had access to a music studio, and I just got used to a music format.”

Music has in turn become an area where Black Lodge has not just broken creative barriers, but broken social confines too. He grew up in Newhey, a Northern industrial town close to Rochdale – where he attended college – before living around Manchester and Salford.

“I moved to Manchester in the mid-‘90s. Before then I was doing art at Rochdale College. It was a weird time in terms of education too - I saw it divide between free-thinking lecturers of the ‘60s who wanted to encourage creativity, and then those who wanted purely results-based learning. There was definitive moment where they had a new Head of Department, The Industrial Design Department – and you could really see that he hated artists.

“However, it was my crazy alcoholic lecturer who sent me to Germany. That was an amazing opportunity… a student from Rochdale sent on an art trip to Germany.  It was the Free International University (FIU) for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research, as founded by Joseph Beuys (with Klaus Staeck).  There I stayed in squats with anarchists, Autonomen.

“There was no going back. The second time I went, it was to East Germany just after the wall had come down. This poor anarchist guy ended up putting us up– petrol bombs were everywhere. There are a lot of misconceptions about anarchists. It’s actually totally about community and responsibility, not letting other people make decisions for you. It’s about growing up and being aware of other people’s needs.”

It is this awareness and perception which has pushed Dan into continuous creativity, especially recently. The Bitter Blood album launch took place on the 8 November at Northern Quarter bar Common and a further album Black Lodge - Kings Arms Sessions Vol.3: Lodgewars dropped later in the month.

“I just bash shit out – if you’ve made a mistake you’ve learned from your mistake. You’re a long time dead,” he said, on his prolific year so far. But this doesn’t mean that Dan is splashing his work out over public platforms. He typically opts for more alternative approaches…

“I usually only do stuff by invitation, and occasionally just have an idea or find something cute. For example, I’m going to have a series of performances at Forsyth’s Music Shop – there’s a basement there which can hold 50 people! I do stuff at Partisan too.”

Black Lodge’s non-standard approach also extends to the band of musicians he works with.

“It’s kind of like a drop-in, but for invited people, when it comes to being part of the band, recording.” He reflected. “It adds to the element of the unexpected – I love it – anything’s better than a computer. I hate live music too.

“My friends who are DJs I am really inspired by… there is bravery in that, they are pushing at the barriers between genres; between techno, noise and disco. I think it’s so much more open-minded.

“There were two people at my recent record launch who I think are doing great things in particular… Scott Young from Hong Kong who’s playing really heavy weird techno and then there’s Sofie K who is doing stuff in lots of very different styles. So yes, when it comes to music in terms of DJs, I think the future’s good.”

Photo credit: Helen Darby