20:20 — 20 Questions, 20 Answers
Published October 23, 2020
In Part 8 of our series, Dango Rose—founding member of Elephant Revival—answers queries from inquiring minds.
Join us as the singer-songwriter, master-basser, and artist-empowerment coach reveals the heartbreak of the Elephant Revival breakup, discusses Chicago-style left turns, and recalls a “strangest road story” that’ll catch your attention and hold onto it for a minute.
Photos courtesy of Dango Rose
20:20 with Dango Rose
Dango: Hi, my name is Dango Rose. I embrace music as a vital healing influence and spiritual path. I am most well-known for my work as a founding member, songwriter and primary bassist of Elephant Revival.
I embrace music as a vital healing influence and spiritual path.
NWM 2): Pet Peeves?
Dango: I don’t tend to spend much time thinking about pet peeves, really. … I’d rather focus my energy and accentuate the positives. If I had to name one, however, it would be drivers who don’t venture out into the middle of an intersection when waiting to make a left turn. I learned to drive in Chicago. … Ain’t nobody got time for that nonsense.
NWM 3): What are your non-musical gifts/talents?
Dango: I suppose that I’m a writer first and foremost. When not touring as a musician, I’ve worked as a journalist and editor for newspapers and magazines. I’ve also worked as an artist-empowerment coach, so one might say I have a knack for sensing the potential that each of us holds. I also enjoy dabbling in the realm of mystical healing arts, and I love to read the directions and tendencies of water.
NWM 4): Where were you and what were you doing when you realized COVID-19 had just changed your life as a performance artist?
Dango: I was in a planning session with my buddy Rosh of The Blind Café. We were scheduling out performances in Italy, The United Arab Emirates, and New York City for 2020. Within 48 hours, our entire calendar for 2020 and 2021 was wiped clean off the books. My production studio was forced to shut down operations entirely, and every show I had on the books was cancelled within two weeks’ time.
Within 48 hours, our entire calendar for 2020 and 2021 was wiped clean off the books.
NWM 5): If you could see anyone from throughout history perform who would it be?
Dango: Teddy Pendergrass, Because couldn’t we all use a “Love TKO” right about now?
NWM 6): Name three things that make you smile.
Dango: The river, hot springs, and puppies.
NWM 7): What is a favorite of your songs?
Dango: My favorite songs that I wrote for Elephant Revival are “When I Fall” and “The Pasture.” My current favorite songs of my solo material are “A La Glory” and “Ring Out.”
NWM 8): Stevie Nicks or Stevie Ray Vaughn?
Dango: Stevie Nicks all the way. … Because Thunder only happens when it’s raining.
NWM 9): Strangest road story?
Dango: After a show back in 2009 at the Hog Wallow in Salt Lake City, we were heading up over the Wasatch Range at 2 a.m. in our old veggie-oil schoolbus. There was an overturned vehicle in the middle of the interstate and, of course, Elephant Revival was the first on the scene.
A young man was dangling half in and half out the driver-side window with the car smashed on top of him. We circled around him and held space until the paramedics arrived. Bonnie sang while we told him he was protected and that he was going to be okay. A few days later, we read his account in the newspaper—the young man was a local high school baseball star and had mentioned that he had been surrounded by spirits and that the most beautiful angelic being sang to him while he was unconscious and in shock.
In that moment, it kept him conscious and breathing. Nobody ever accounted for us being at the scene, so the story will always stay as such. I will never forget that experience.
NWM 10): Elephant Revival was such a (warranted) success and huge component of years of your life and life as a musician. Is the set of that bar always something to battle? Or simply one of many great phases to embrace from your life?
Dango: After our last show, I created a mini-series of satire videos called #Hiatus. At first, I thought the humor was a good way to bridge the gap of time. However, the episodes started taking on much more of my actual reality.
The end of Elephant Revival was absolutely heartbreaking.
Right after the band split, I jumped right into production work and artist empowerment coaching. This was fulfilling, yet at the same time, I wasn’t paying attention to the inner-voice, the inner-artist. So, I transitioned again in late 2019 and began releasing more original music.
Yet, to answer your question, the end of Elephant Revival was absolutely heartbreaking. I put my entire lifeblood into the entity, and the past two and a half years has been a stretch of immense growth and healing.
NWM 11): What in particular fuels your inspiration? Tell us about your space or what is most necessary for your writing.
Dango: I’d say that listening to the silence and the spaces in between best informs my music. Spending time in nature and more specifically on the river definitely takes precedent. It’s important for the nervous system to relax in order to create, yet at the same time, it’s also important to show up each day to approach the craft.
I’d say that listening to the silence and the spaces in between best informs my music.
My space is my sanctuary, so I give it the attention it requires, as if the space itself were a living and breathing entity. I’m surrounded by plants and wood. I approach my work in a similar manner that Stephen Pressfield expresses in his work entitled, “The War of Art – Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.”
NWM 12): What is a favorite cover you perform?
Dango: At this time, I’d have to say a song called “England” written by the great poet William Butler Yeats and put to music by The Barr Brothers.
Dango: If it weren’t for the legendary David Batiste (patriarch of the Batiste Family) picking me up off the streets during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2000 and putting me on stage with The Meters and other legendary Jazz & Heritage musicians at Saint Augustine High School, I probably would not have chosen music as my path.
NWM 14): Who might we be surprised to find on your playlist?
Dango: Phoebe Bridgers.
NWM 15): What are your before-you-go-on-stage rituals?
Dango: I take a few minutes focusing on breathwork and meditation. Then, no matter who I am with, we circle up and share a moment of gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to share in the music. Music is medicine.
Music is medicine.
NWM 16): What song/album could you play on repeat?
Dango: Well, speaking in terms of a surprise play on repeat—I’ll revamp back to Phoebe Bridgers here. I have gone through several periods of time where I have her collaboration with Noah and Abbi Gunderson on repeat—”Killer and the Sound.”
Yet, beyond that, I’ve also had “Lost for Words” by Pink Floyd on repeat a lot these past few months. The Division Bell definitely has some hidden gems. The lyrics to “High Hopes” for instance, I mean come on. … Timeless.
Looking beyond the embers of bridges glowing behind us
To a glimpse of how green it was on the other side
Steps taken forwards but sleepwalking back again
Dragged by the force of some inner tide
At a higher altitude with flag unfurled
We reached the dizzy heights of that dreamed of world
Encumbered forever by desire and ambition
There’s a hunger still unsatisfied
Our weary eyes still stray to the horizon
Though down this road we’ve been so many times
The grass was greener …
NWM 17): What was your most memorable performance and/or venue?
Dango: Red Rocks for sure. There’s a magic at Red Rocks that is indescribable yet is totally accessible. Being in the crowd feels just as magical as being on stage. Amazingly, the amphitheatre somehow feels like a 9,500 seat living room.
There’s a magic at Red Rocks that is indescribable yet is totally accessible.
Playing with the Colorado Symphony is such a joy as well. Those performances with the CSO changed the way I approach music, mostly with regard to how I approach bass playing and production work with absolute intentionality and precision.
NWM 18): How do you express your creativity other than through music?
Dango: First and foremost, through writing. … My great uncle was a comedy writer for Bob Hope for nearly half a century. I dig satire. (ex: #Hiatus — https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDhduDqWuXUUBmQhLup_rpw10PwA1nwqR)
As well, I used to be a teenage play-write. That feels like such a long time ago. … That said, I’ve got a movie script in mind; just need some time and winter isolation to delve into it. The hardest part is getting the first paragraph down. I think about the first paragraph quite a bit. Yet, thinking about it never seems to get the work done.
NWM 19): What not-so-obvious aspect of your life has been changed by the pandemic?
Dango: Honestly … the life of a touring musician is one of immense output and social activity followed by periods of self-induced isolation. If anything, I’d say that I’ve been able to delve more deeply into true healing work, like following the alchemical trail in the old city of Prague.
NWM 20): What would want our readers to know about which we might not know to ask?
Dango: I’m originally from Chicago and got my start in the basement and garage with my friends, like so many do. … However, I quickly started taking some evening classes at The Chicago Old Town School of Folk Music which was highly motivational. Thereafter, a bluegrass band moved in next door named “Cornmeal.” Witnessing their rehearsals and watching them grow as a band was inspirational at that time, as it shifted my focus into more acoustic music and traditional forms.
Thereafter, I fell in love with a girl in Southwest Virginia and her family introduced me to traditional Appalachian music. Then I played in a street trio on the streets of New Orleans. The next obvious step was to join a cult-punk, old-time string band in Colorado called High on the Hog. We toured the country with road maps and an old Panasonic cell phone for a couple of years.
Not surprisingly, I soon joined an all-female string band called Uncle Earl and then made a move to Woodstock, New York, to join The Mammals. I was fortunate enough to spend some nights with Pete Seeger during this time. I met all the folks from Elephant Revival at different music festivals and gatherings around the country and called together the band in Colorado in 2006 after a two-year stint in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
“Ring Out” —One of Dango’s favorites of his solo songs
Starting in January 2021, Dango will release four EPs of songs he’s written and recorded over the past thirteen years, which will chronicle different phases of his life and experience as an artist. He has also re-opened the Elephant Collective Recording Studio in Boulder, Colorado, and is currently taking on a limited number of artists for production work and artist empowerment coaching.
To learn more, sign up, and buy stuff go to http://dangorose.com/
Dango’s new single “Life’s Too Short” drops November 13th.
You may enjoy our previous 20:20 with Daniel Rodriguez.
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