Thanks to Danny who took time out of his busy day to answer these questions for me! Also, Brandon Allin conducted the first half of the interview and I conducted the second half. You can view National Productís AP.net profile here.
Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to be here with us today. Now, please state your name and position in National Product.
Hey! My name is Danny, and I sing in the band National Product.
For those of our readers who are unfamiliar with National Product, can you give us a quick history lesson on the group?
Of course. NP is basically in short form, a band comprising of best friends. It started in Hawaii and moved to California where we added members to the existing foundation. We grew up writing zines' (magazines for those kids who now do everything online) and we spent our entire time while growing up in Hawaii, dedicated to bringing bands from the mainland to Hawaii. Some of the bands were able to bring or assist on bringing are bands like Ataris, Homegrown, Good Clean Fun, and Countervail. We all grew up listening to so many different styles of music and because music is a really big part of Hawaiiís culture, we wanted to be apart of something that created passionate, sincere and honest music. Thatís the short of it =)
You mentioned the band relocated from Hawaii to California. Was it difficult to adapt to new surroundings, and do you felt this move was an essential stepping stone towards success?
Well, it was essential because we hit a ceiling in Hawaii. Donít get me wrong, we are proud as heck to be from Hawaii and Hawaii is, to me, the best place on earth. My family is there, and itís a very spiritual place however. As a band, you will get as big as you can get, like a goldfish does, and there comes a time to expand. If youíre just playing to be the biggest in your region thatís awesome, however, we are very big on our message and our music and we want to in a sense be missionaries of our music. We are essentially a rock n roll band. We party, we have fun, but there is also a very serious spiritual side to us, and we kind of want to Johnny Appleseed the world with our music and meet as many people as possible and hug as many sweaty chicks and dudes along the way while having fun.
Was performing to a national audience the band's aim from the beginning, or was it a goal that was developed as your careers raged on?
Yeah, I think with anything life, your goals change as you start realizing your achievements. This band started in a bedroom, moved on to a garage, from a garage to a rental studio, from that to a lock out. We never set goals to be rich, to get chicks, to be famous. Those were, and still are NOT our goals. I think if those are anyoneís goals, youíre fooling yourself. The only thing we chase is the ability to continue doing this for a living and playing for anyone who will listen. My heart and soul is so deeply invested in this industry because it honestly is what wakes me up in the morning, keeps my alive thru-out the day and helps me sleep or haha, not sleep at night.
You just wrapped up recording your debut, full-length release with producer James Paul Wisner. What can fans expect from this release, and do you feel you accomplished everything you had in mind with this recording?
We have recorded several EP's and lots and lots of Demos before we signed and long before JPW did the full length. I think we were very strict with them and chose not to release more than a few thousand copies that were either pressed or burned and sold on tour. I guess it was more like wanting to feel like we were completely happy with the craft and James was the one to help us finalize that. We presented 25+ songs and cut 12 to record. But, Iím a perfectionist so I donít even think Iím happy at the end of the day with the way Iíve brushed my teeth but thatís something Iím learning to let go more of now a days. I do know that it was very hard to record 25+ songs and watch only 12 get used for the record. Each song is your child and you love it like the rest and itís hard to watch any of them not get their chance in the sun I guess. I am extremely happy with the record, I would have liked some of the piano stuff we were writing to be used but I think we all just decided we would bring those in on record 2. I will say that because of the response the advanced copies have been getting within the industry I am deathly scared and insecure about my future. The responses have been amazing and I think itís made me feel like Iím high school again trying to find my identity as a person and just hoping that we arenít lumped in a category or the record isnít passed off in the way a lot of records are looked at these days. For me, the fear is a gigantic motivator but it also keeps me up at night wondering if Iím ready for what some people think is going to happen, then asking myself if I even want anything more than what I have. I actually got a little reclusive after the record, I trashed my room, and now Iím selling everything on eBay or giving it away. Iíve started to simplify my life on an extreme level to gain more clarity on who I am, what I desire, what is important to me. I donít want to get to deep here but if anyoneís interested they can go to my myspace (myspace.com/dannycasler) and read my blogs and the events that have taken place in my life in the last 2 years and it will bring a lot of clarity (<~~great record) to what Iím saying.
How did you go about selecting James Paul Wisner as a producer?
This is actually a pretty cool story. I grew up on JPW's records. The Moon is Down is one of my all time favorite records and the way that record moved me is beyond words. There are many aspects to what make a great record. When you listen to The Beatles - Abby Road or records alike, itís obvious the artists are amazing but it takes a true producer to bring out the bands talent and make it translate. So....
I was moved by his work, and in a dollar store (before we got signed) and my buddy Bobby Lee told me, "dude I have James' number, want it" So I called the dude randomly and asked him to listen to our demos online. He said that he really liked them and would produce him. I told him we were talking to labels and we wanted him to be our guy. He sounded apprehensive to moving forward based on the reality that certain labels choose the producer. I told him "the label we sign to will let us choose, I promise you"
I called him a year later and got to sayĒ Hey James, remember a year ago when I said you were gonna do our record? Well you are" That was the greatest moment for me.
Did you formulate a list of potential candidates, or were your minds set on James from the beginning?
Yeah we chose 5 and compared two songs each to one another for the label and it was unanimous that all around, James was the man. We wanted him from the start but it never hurts to make sure the label saw our vision.
How is Luna different from anything you've done in the past?
Itís a true record with pre production and well thought out meaning. We let the songs move naturally, we didn't think to hard about how to make it a hit or anything but we made sure that each part of every song meant something. We would sit down and go "what does this mean to you, this lyric, this drum fill, what do you want it to mean to the listener etc" That aspect is what I FEEL will make LUNA a standout true sincere passionate record.
Where did you get ideas for some of your lyrics? Can you cite a few songs and what inspired you to write them?
I am inspired by more than just music, but everything around me. Love, Death, Life, Family, Friends and much more. Some days ill sit and write a song that is a complete romantic love song full of appreciation and then depending on how I'm feeling another day, it could be a song that makes me want to punch myself in the face haha. It varies I guess.
What would you say are some of the differences between living in Hawaii and in Southern California?
Besides the obvious of an island, clean ocean water and spam, the differences arenít much. I tend to focus more on making everywhere I go or live my own personal Hawaii. An old punk rock band called DFL used to say "Home is where the heart is" and itís really true. I know people that live in Hawaii and hate it and I know people who are in Iraq and love it. Itís all preference.
Why did you choose to live in California?
I chose California because it had a lot of Hawaii food places, and the church I used to go to, started in Orange County and I kind of felt like it was a great place for NP/me to start my new life. I donít really go to church like I used to but im still a spiritual dude in my own right and I live my life with a strong understanding of treating everyone with love and compassion however I am human so I donít always walk the sharpest line. I experience, I learn, I pass on my experience to others and live my life without regret and with the least amount of damage to myself or others while having the most fun.
How often do you go back?
We go back 2-3 times a year for shows and family. Its almost required for sanity purposes to at least go back once a year to reconnect with our roots, our hearts and all those important things that can easily become overlooked and swept under the rug in this industry.
Tell me about the show you just did with Emery in Honolulu. What type of response did you get?
The show was AMAZING! 1st off, I love Emery so that was rad. 2nd, being home now with a song doing major spins on clear channel, along with morning shows and major press going on, it was a new experience. People were treating us very differently now that our face is on TV and our song is on the radio. I don't know if that's good or bad but itís very interesting. One thing it has done positively is reconnected me to a lot of people I grew up with but had not heard from in a long time. So I guess thatís really cool.
You guys have been to pretty much every corner of the United States, what are some of your favorite places to go/visit and why?
Alaska, Hawaii & Orlando. Those 3 places blow my mind and are always so much fun to visit. Hawaii for the food, ocean and weather. Alaska for the nature, fishing and people. Orlando for the nightlife, girls and friends.
Describe your show, visual and musically.
Loud, Full Sweaty, Chaotic, Melodic, Comedic, Ethereal at times and always a lot of fun.
You have toured with a bunch of bands, what are your favorite bands to tour with?
Saosin, Over It, Delux, Fiore, Never Heard Of It, Its Like Love, You In Series, Lives of Famous Men and a lot more. Tons of rad bands really. We did a lot of one offs with others too like Rise Against, Yellowcard, New Found Glory, Mickey Avalon, Mute Math, Dear & The Headlights, Unwritten Law, Zebra Head and more, so that was an honor to play with some of our favorite musicians and see how they captivate an audience. I do however really wanna do some extensive touring, and obviously this is a DREAM and probably wont happen, but ill just throw it out into the universe....with Jimmy Eat World, AFI, Saosin extensively (love those dudes), Paramore, Starting Line, Halifax, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Goo Goo Dolls.
You've mentioned that your friend's bands like Hometown Hero and Moments in Grace have been screwed by major labels. How does this change your perception of the music industry?
Well, you know for what its worth, this big machine that we call the music industry has so many factors in it that need to turn in order for a band to be successful. I donít want to blame a lot of what goes on specifically on ONE label or ONE person. Itís a matter of many factors. The publicist, the head of the label giving a shit about the band, radio releasing the RIGHT single, the single connecting to an audience and so much more. Itís just very disheartening that we are in an era where labels are scratching for money but they put themselves in that position. If labels developed artists more, signed less acts and focused more on creating timeless music verse signing a shitload of bands and hoping one sticks, then the industry would be in a much different place. There is an over saturated market of bands out there and so many options and a lot of kids are buying into bands for the wrong reasons...you know what, I take that back. Who am I to say whatís right or wrong, but in my opinion, I refuse to buy a record based on what some kid in a band LOOKS like verse how that persons music IMPACTS my senses. My perception of this industry doesnít really matter in the sense of, I donít cut checks, I donít decide who gets signed, but for me and mine, I do get to decide who we sign to, who produces our music, the message we are trying to convey and much more...the band we wish to be remembered as. I want our fans to listen to us when they grow up and have children, I want their children to listen to us. I am not here to gain one demographic of listener for 2 years and then no longer be apart of the music industry. Even if my band goes off to do separate things. My foundation is that im here for music first. Also, I heard from a friend last night, that a band we all know, who broke up recently. A lot of the members stopped answering phone calls from friends or fellow musicians because they no longer want to be associated with music, the scene, the industry etc. That makes me sad because it shows how fucked up this whole industry can be to completely push you away from the passion of wanting to create something, whether it is meant for just you, or for everyone to hear. One day, I would like to just make music and give it away to people. I donít need to be a millionaire ballin or anything, even tho that all sounds fun and nice, but I just want to make music that people can enjoy and if they want to buy it, they will, and if not, then they wont ya know. Whatever, I donít even know what im getting into with that one but im getting carried away. Ill just end this question by saying that Moments in Grace and Hometown Hero were two of the most amazing and talented bands to come out in awhile. They made very intelligent, powerful, thought provoking music and I guess it kinda goes back to there possibly not being a market for music that makes you think like that? I donít know. They both should have been massive. I know Jeremy is producing bands and still singing his ass off and Ray from Hometown is now in Bangkok 5 and the other dudes are in Under The Influence of Giants. Check those bands out.
And were you cautious about what labels you wanted to sign with? For example, why did you guys sign with R&M instead of the other indie/major labels courting you?
Yes overly cautious. This is my baby. In a sense I have nurtured this in my ďwombĒ meaning my mind, and I've thought about all the things I wished for it to be and all the ways that I prayed for it to not get manipulated, raped and destroyed. We did the dinner, drinks and touch your wieners thing for sometime and every meeting for us, was an interview to find the right family. When we found R&M it was a blessing. They came from a very artistic passionate background. Our VP was with A&M Records for 20 years and was very instrumental in guiding many artists like The Police, Janet Jackson, John Mayer and many more so he comes from a background of understanding an artists vision and needs and our CEO is from a background of coming from a trailer park to having the world and treating everyone with an incredible amount of respect and compassion. The staff at the label and the team we have with our marketing, publicist and more, is amazing: Fanscape, Indie Click, Ear Shot Media, Variety Artists Booking, Icon MES...we could not be more happy. A friend on a major once told me after we signed 2 years ago....Ētell me in a year how happy you areĒ...Hey buddy, its been 2 years and we are still happy =)
What are your thoughts on music being "leaked" nowadays?
I have 2 feelings. One and the most obvious is that it takes away from the artist in the end. It means WE (all musicians) have to work THAT much harder to prove to the label that we are worth the investment. It means that we have to prove to ourselves we are worth someone's extra cash, and that they believe in us enough to support us. It hurts my heart sometimes when I hear an artistís record has leaked because I know that this record wasnít just done yesterday. This is years of this persons passion, their heart, their soul and all the bullshit that led up to getting it tracked, mixed, mastered, the smiles, the frowns, the artwork planning, the big anticipation of the lead up to having it released and well received by press and fans and then to watch it just blatantly given away. Thatís shitty to me. Itís raping someone's livelihood.
NOW, on the other hand...it is exposing people to new music that normally would not have it and thatís a cool thing to know that Joe Schmoe out in bumfrick Arkansas found your record and loved it enough to go buy your merch and come to your shows. If a kid does NOT have a lot of money, I want them to have the record. I mean, like if this person tells me ďDanny, I donít have the record because I cant afford it, but I want your record bad.Ē Ill find a way. Music is meant for everyone, rich and poor. I will devise a way to get that person the music for free. We will trade. You get your friends into the band and acts as a rep of NP and in return the CD is yours, you know. I can see right thru people so I know who really can or canít afford it. The people who can afford but steal it anyway. I just hope they get it when it comes out because the artwork is a very symbolic thing to me and I canít make everyone see what I feel but I can try my best.
Who in National Product is the biggest myspace whore?
Youíre talking to him. I love to write kids and I spend most of my time replying to the ridiculous amount of emails that come thru. I just really fuckin love music man. I love everything about it and i'm fascinated how it takes all of to make this work. It takes the listener, you to tell people, us to make music, a label to market it, a distribution company to get it into stores and much more. Itís an amazing machine and we are all one big family.
What are your thoughts about Paris Hilton going to jail?
I think it shouldnít be a surprise and anyone who is, is retarded. Sheís human and money does not change who the hell you are in a legal standing. If you break the law, you go to jail. What was she thinking, that it didnít apply?!?. I donít harbor anything against her personally. I only know what I see on TV so I wonít make personal judgments other than that. I do believe that in her heart of hearts sheís a good woman and once she can realize and channel her power and financial clout towards helping others and bringing awareness to the things in this world that need it more than trucker hats and purses, that it will bring her into another level of being a human existing in the real world and not the world thatís created around her. Also, I went to jail and I was scared shitless. There is nothing cool about jail. I was in a cell with a dude playing with himself in the bunk below me, a drug addict on the bench next to the gate and a Japanese guy who obviously did not know how he got there sooo...I donít blame her for freaking out.
Do you have anything to say to the people at Absolutepunk?
Yes, I love all you guys, even the ones I disagree with. Itís a rad community because I know I can always go on, learn something from someone, hear another person's opinions whether right or wrong and then tell people mine. The staff has always been really cool and iím just stoked to be apart of it not just as a musician but as a fan.
Thanks for the interview and ill see you kids on the board.