David Daniels: Healing as an active verb

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After quite a while off the radar, Rasta bard David Daniels (spoken-word-artist/playwright/actor) returns to the Twin Cities. Last the general public heard from Daniels, he’d been elected vice-chair of the Republican Party’s 4th District in St. Paul some years ago. Owing to health concerns, he didn’t complete his term. He left for Florida, moved to his beloved Denver and, now, is back in the Twin Cities.

On his return, Daniels put off performing for about a year, coming out of hiding in 2009 to collaborate with country blues troubadour Charlie Parr at Duluth’s Teatro Zuccone.  And, last year, made a point of appearing in Minneapolis at the Party For Life benefits to support his friend and fond professional associate, the late Jazzy J. He sat in with the Stevens Brothers Band at Acadia Café and went back with his new outfit, The Project, a trio of David Daniels on oratory, percussionist Dhanny Boldt, and guitarist Serdar Guvenc. Daniels’s previous band Talkin’ Roots Crew saw considerable success, including the disc 4:20 Report following Daniels’s solo disc Talkin’ Roots. Both have sold out of print. By now, since he’s always writing, he has plenty of material laying around should the spirit move him to take The Project into the studio.

David Daniels is something of a living legend, by turns famous and infamous. Twin Cities hippies love him to death, spreading such word of mouth in advance of his gigs that he routinely packs the house. On the other hand, more than a few venues hold Daniels in not the best esteem: he’s been banned from the Playwrights’ Center, the Bryant-Lake Bowl, and a good half-dozen other places. Counter-culture devotees may dig him sparking up on-stage a la Malcolm X Meet Peter Tosh, I Edgar Hoover, Kolorada…a western tale, when scripts call for a character to smoke herb. Operators of law-abiding establishments tend to have a problem with Daniels’s notion of artistic integrity.  It says a great deal about David Daniels’s popularity with the stoner set that, despite being told not to come back to Twin Cities venue after venue, wherever he shows up, the place is mobbed.

David Daniels answered questions via e-mail.

How and why did The Project come about?
I like to create, experiment, and bring people together who I feel can complement each other and provide a musical vision behind the words and stories. Serdar had expressed a desire to work with me again and Dhanny and I have always enjoyed a real chemistry in working together. 

Are you writing everything, is any of it collaborative?
Serdar has created most of the musical arrangements behind my spoken word material. Dhanny is contributing poetry. 

Any plans to record together?
As far as we know, this is a one-time collaboration. However, we are planning to record and release as a free download “A Tribute to Jazzy J.” We hope to make that available prior to our December 18th performance [at The Nicollet].

What irons do you have in the fire for your solo career?
After our highly successful collaboration, Charlie Parr and I are looking forward to presenting “Adventures in Music and Storytelling: Chapter 2” in Minneapolis sometime in 2012. I’ve been writing [a] theatrical monologue centering around this cancer adventure I’ve been undertaking the last couple years.

How is it being back on your old stomping grounds?
Once I left, I never expected to be back in the Twin Cities.  After all, Colorado has nicer weather, the Denver Broncos, and medicinal marijuana, which was tremendously helpful in [my] battling cancer. But, I’ve been part of this community for over 20 years now, and sometimes healing involves being close to those people and places that have been a part of one’s life for so long. It was the right decision and I’ve been enjoying my return.