TED POLEY INTERVIEW:
August 7, 2011
Ted Poley has made a name for himself as the frontman in Danger Danger, who returned with the well received ‘Revolve’ in 2009, and as a solo artist. The music business has changed a lot since Danger Danger hit the charts with their 1989 self-titled debut, and today Ted Poley is trying a new strategy. With album sales tanking worldwide Ted has decided to release his new single, a cover of Michelle Branch’s “Breathe”, as a digital only release. The personable singer decided to chat with Sleaze Roxx about the reasoning behind the new single’s digital distribution, the likelihood of never releasing another physical album, and the current state of affairs within the music business.
Sleaze Roxx: What made you decide to cover Michelle Branch’s “Breathe” as your new single?
Ted Poley: I always liked the song. I was doing a different project in the studio with my drummer at the time, Dennis Leeflang who co-produced the track, and he played me an example of what he could do for drum sounds and I was impressed and I thought it would be neat to just do a song. I have a whole album written and ready to go but I wanted to do something real quick, interesting and fun so we could record something at his studio as an example of what we could do there and I picked that song which I’ve always liked. So I thought I’ll see if they will humor me on this and they did and it came out really neat. The fans liked it and as it turned out, we made a really cool video for it which you can see on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ewx665FeOo. It’s got 10,000 hits in less than a month so I’m very happy with that.
Sleaze Roxx: You decided to release the single as a digital download. How have sales been for that so far?
Ted Poley: It was a big experiment because with self financing CDs I don’t think I’m going to do it anymore. I’m pretty well done recording as far as paying for records go, putting them out and having people — understandably times are tough — rip them the next day and then they are available for free on blogs. I understand you can’t buy everything out there and I’d rather someone downloaded me for free rather than not listen at all. When that fan is doing better maybe they can buy something (laughs). I’m all for that.
Whether it’s the times, I don’t know what it is, but it is tough to recoup. It’s the investment of a year or two and the money involved to do these things. I like the way this song came out. I’ve never really done anything digitally. You can get Bone Machine stuff on iTunes and you can get my other stuff, but I never experimented to see if it was only 99 cents maybe that’s a good way to release things. Just as a digital single and see if a fan will just pay 99 cents rather than $18 and have to send away for a CD. They can just press a button and let me see if that works. Right now my statement is running two months behind. Prior to the video, sales were pretty low and those are the paid ones. A lot of people told me they enjoy it and that’s fine. I’m glad they do and once again I’d rather they hear it for free rather than not hear it at all. I’ve got quite a few hundred thousand fans around the world and it was in the hundreds the amount of downloads. That being said I’m sure there will be a huge spike thanks to the 10,000 hits on the YouTube video but I won’t know that for another two months as far as statements go.
Sleaze Roxx: You said you had a new record already recorded, but if you don’t plan on releasing records anymore what do you think you will do with it?
Ted Poley: It will probably go away somehow — I don’t know. I write with the Martin brothers from England and we have a whole CD of really cool stuff and it’s exactly in the same vein as my last two solo CDs ‘Collateral Damage’ and ‘Smile’ and it picks up from there. But right now I’m not looking at record offers or CD deals that would make it worth the time and effort. As much as I do love my fans, I can do things for them in other ways such as tour and get out and play some of these songs for them live which is always my first love over studio work anyway.
The studio work is very much a job to me and not so much fun. Live it’s a pleasure to be paid for that, but studio work is worth every penny because it’s tough and I don’t like it, but I like the finished product. It’s like a root canal — the process is painful but when it’s all over you are sort of happy. If I never have to record a full CD again I’m fine with what I’ve done over the 30 years I’ve been out there (laughs). It would be a shame if it never came out because there are some really good songs. If any label out there is interested I’d love to give you a good CD but I can’t just give it away. So if somebody wants to pay I’m in the studio, otherwise I might try and release another digital single. Will see how this goes in two months.
Sleaze Roxx: When you released Greatestits that sold decently because I think the original cover sold out.
Ted Poley: The only reason it didn’t sell out was because I held back some which I still sell to this day. I like to make them both available but I held back a couple hundred and produced a second cover which is really cool as well. The original was very close to selling out. I still have them available, you can get them on eBay. I sign them, but just make sure you are buying it from TedPoley1, that’s me and I’ll sign them for anybody. I appreciate the support out there. You can go to www.tedpoley.com and pay a little more — I put them on eBay at a discount for the fans, but otherwise you can go to my site and I’d be happy to sign it for you. Greatestits did very well and still does well, and I hope to do volume 2. That being said, it won’t be recording a whole new CD, it will be adding a few things such as this single and maybe record a song or two for volume 2 which I do intend to put out. Basically Greatest Hits and rarer stuff, things like the Bone Machine CD that have sold out almost. But I like to add something new to it to keep it interesting. Volume 2 will be a single CD, volume 1 is a double CD.
Sleaze Roxx: I see you are currently looking for a drummer. How difficult is it to keep a band together these days?
Ted Poley: It’s not difficult in the way we have a great time, we really enjoy each other. We do big things such as take trips as a band. We are going to Sweden and Norway next. We have a few things in between that but the next big thing is that. We are good friends, we have a great time. As much as I still love to play in Danger Danger, and wish every weekend was a Danger Danger gig, we don’t get to play as much as we’d like to because there just aren’t that many opportunities or promoters willing to pay the bigger money it takes for Danger Danger. But I like to stay on the road, and I’m a little cheaper to keep so I stay out there with my band. I’m having a good time.
Because of the fun it’s not that difficult to keep a band together. We truly enjoy doing what we do. But as far as financially, it’s very tough. I tell my guys to do everything they can on the side, it makes it cheaper for me to keep you (laughs). I support everything they do. I’ve got my day job in Danger Danger. But honestly, my solo band is just a kick ass bunch of really great guys, and whether its Danger Danger or my solo band I think you’ll really enjoy it. So if you see us playing near you come on out.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned going overseas with your solo band. How are the crowds over there different than in America?
Ted Poley: They are less inhibited. In America you have to prove yourself until the second half of the set, then they loosen up and drink a bit. Fans in general are the same. It’s a party and they have been nice to us. It’s a blessing to have such cool fans. Overseas it is kind of crazy. The guys are doing soccer chants in Spain and Portugal and Peru. Fans all over the world have embraced Danger Danger — it was a special time in their lives. And now we have some younger fans coming out so it’s a cool time right now. I think they are happy when we show up and we are certainly happy to be there, so the vibe is always good and I think fans around the world are the same, except for the language and the food.
Sleaze Roxx: People compare tape trading of the ’80s to the downloading going on now. What are your thoughts on that?
Ted Poley: Nowhere near it. We used to make cassettes and compilation cassettes and maybe trade amongst a couple of people at school. Now it’s in the millions. It’s more than the actual sales and its really killing the artist. I even see some of my CDs on there. If you go on there you could probably find any one of my CDs on blogs and guys give them away for free. I don’t see the point, they aren’t charging for them. I don’t know if they are trying to look cool but they are killing the artist. They are giving it away for free and costing me $15 for each one. It’s a shame because they don’t understand that obviously if they have heard of me, they must be into the kind of music. I see it on there with a lot of other artists and you can just download it for free. It’s a shame because I know a lot of these bands could use the support, I know I could. If you are into it only 99 cents is all I ask — on iTunes it’s called “Breathe” and I’d appreciate it. I’ll make a living out of this somehow, 99 cents at a time if I have to (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: What do you think has to happen to fix the illegal downloading problem?
Ted Poley: I have no idea. I think it is the death of the music industry in a way, and in another way it’s great for acts that can be on YouTube which is like MTV on demand, so no one has to approve you. No executives sitting in an office has to approve you. You can see a lot of interesting music that you would never see and never see these bands otherwise. I think it’s great. Even with my video people around the world can watch it anytime. They don’t have to wait to see some artist like me, twice a day, once at 3am in the morning and never see me again. Now on YouTube I watch the counter and it goes up. Every minute there is another person around the word seeing it. I think that is cool, it helps me and it helps a lot of people. So in one way digital is cool, in another way it’s a $20,000 video I’ll never see a dime from. It’s a gift for fans and you don’t make money off videos. So in that way, sure it’s popular, it doesn’t cost anything to view. I’m glad people are enjoying it. It’s got some hot chicks, fun band shots and I think it still looks pretty cool at my ripe old age of almost 50. Check it out.
Sleaze Roxx: If you spent that much on a video have you ever thought of putting out some sort of DVD compilation?
Ted Poley: I didn’t say I spent that much, I just said that’s what it was worth (laughs). I called in favors from everyone and I certainly owe a lot for that. But you never expect to recoup money on a video, you do it for fun. If I didn’t think I could arrange it with the help of my friends I wouldn’t have done it. It cost a little bit — it’s always a little bit painful, but no pain no gain. I find that by spending the money and doing things like a giant backdrop that fills up the stage and paying for it, although I’d just about want to pay for anything else out of my own pocket, in the end it looks really cool and I’m happy I do it. It takes money to make money and I’m basically in the business of ‘me’. I don’t have any label support so you have to bite the bullet and take on responsibility which is what I do. It’s scary because every gig with my solo band the first thought that goes through my head is ‘yeah, it’s going to be great’ and then the next thing that goes through my head is ‘wow that’s another 3 grand on flights on my credit card’ (laughs). Then the next thing that goes through my head is ‘yeah, let’s do it again!’ I’d do it every week if I had to. We are like the little engine that could of rock, we just keep chugging along. Either we just have that kind of determination or we’re just too stupid to know what we are into (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: I guess it is what you know
Ted Poley: I think it’s more what I don’t know. I look back and think if I really knew what I was up against I would have been scared to death and never would have pursued this. Sometimes it’s best not to know what you are in for. Again I equate it to dentistry, it’s best not to know what is coming and just strap yourself in go with it.
Sleaze Roxx: On to your other band Danger Danger. What is up with them, any plans?
Ted Poley: Ahh my day job. I still love the guys, the guys hopefully still love me — or are doing a great job of pretending so. We are having more fun than in the old days — smiling, getting on planes, and doing one off gigs in strange and exotic lands. We just got back from Portugal which was awesome because we had no idea we had a pretty big hit over there with the song “Don’t Walk Away” and we had a lot of people. It was a great show. I’d love to have a show like that every weekend. Although it’s getting easier than 10 years ago, this last year was a tough one for touring. We didn’t have many shows but they were good high profile shows and booked up some frequent flyer miles to keep my solo band going (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Was it difficult to return to Danger Danger after 11 years?
Ted Poley: No. Was it that long? I guess it was. The important thing is they haven’t thrown me out yet as far as I know, I haven’t spoken to them for a couple of days (laughs). We are actually having fun. We’re all grown up now and adults, now we don’t need to do this so we actually enjoy it because we want to do it. We end up in some pretty cool places. Portugal was beautiful and the fans were great. You never know where we are going next. As far as I know we don’t have anything else scheduled live for this year so I am doing the solo stuff. But I’m on call, if they call me in the next 5 minutes with something my bags are packed and I’m ready to go. I always keep my passport handy. With D2 it’s never over so we will go on and on hopefully.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think Frontiers Records would be interested in another album from D2?
Ted Poley: I don’t see why not. ‘Revolve’ was actually a really pleasant surprise. I love the way Bruno Ravel treated my voice on there. I’m very glad we decided to do it. It’s one of those things — ‘ugh a new record from an older band’, it’s never one of those things where you think it’s going to be great. But it really was great. I love the songs and I loved his production — I think it is a great record. It would have been a shame for it never to have been done. The fans love it and I think it is one of the best things we have done.
Sleaze Roxx: I think it stayed true to your old sound as well.
Ted Poley: It did — I don’t want to say modern, that is almost a negative, but it’s recorded very well. Recorded with modern standards. Bruno has become quite a producer lately. It’s probably the best sounding thing we have done and I think the songs are great. The guys have matured quite a bit. The underlying Danger Danger themes are there and pop up occasionally but overall it’s a very good mature rock record. I’m very happy with it, I can actually listen to that one. That revived the band a lot too — when you put out a decent record they see you are still alive and still vital and putting out some legitimately good stuff, that’s helped a lot.
Sleaze Roxx: With Danger Danger and your solo band is it hard to get people out to shows these days when they can sit at home and watch you on YouTube instead?
Ted Poley: No there is nothing like a live show. People like to come out and have a few beers and smell the band. I don’t think anything will ever replace a live show. It’s just so expensive to tour and I’m intimately familiar with that because every time I get a gig offer somewhere it’s thousands of dollars to fly the band before you even pay the band and I’m last in line because it’s my business. It’s real expensive these days and you can’t charge as much as you would like because of recessionary times. I’d rather charge less and have more people. There is nothing like charging a lot and having a thin crowd — that is no vibe. So I’d rather charge a little less, as long as we can cover our asses and not lose money — no one wants to lose money at work. I don’t think anyone wants to go to their day job and every Friday have to give the boss a paycheck. It’s a lot like this business. I’ll give you my secret of how do you make a million dollars in the music business? Start with 2 million (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: You said you fly into all your gigs. I take it your days on the tour bus are over?
Ted Poley: The days on the tour bus were over in about 1993 (laughs). Now we do fly dates, or if they are within reason we will take our own personal cars and pocket the fabulous gifts and prizes as change. Sometimes it’s better to drive to the gig and I don’t mind sometimes when there is a hotel provided, but there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed. So even if I don’t get there until 5 in the morning I’d rather drive home after the show. Unless it is too far or there has been drinking involved and of course no one should be driving.
Sleaze Roxx: Has the old struggling musician cliche ever been truer than these days?
Ted Poley: (laughs) I never left that phase. It never mattered. The dressing rooms got nicer and the catering got flasher at certain points…
Sleaze Roxx: And the women probably got better too.
Ted Poley: They stayed pretty good. I was smart enough to cash in while I was still doing well with my wife of 12 years, she’s still hot — I cashed in my chips and I made a good decision. The women always stayed good but the money and scenery was sometimes better. Honestly I think now is better than ever. We are having a great time and the fans are loving it. We hope to keep doing what we are doing.
I want to thank everybody. Come to one of my shows, you’ll hear Danger Danger songs that Danger Danger doesn’t play — I like to keep my set completely different. Plus you’ll hear stuff from any of my 30 other CDs (laughs). There is plenty to choose from and it’s always a fun show. With Danger Danger we all appreciate your support, thank you for letting me continue to live the dream. Please check out my new single and video and if you like it I’m asking for 99 cents. If you put out a single I’ll buy yours, how’s that?