Danny Sage, as he explains in the following interview, was the original guitarist and a founding member of D Generation. Previously Danny had played in bands with Jesse Malin and Howie Pyro, most notably Heart Attack & Hope, and all had been friends for many years before D Generation started creating a huge buzz around NYC in 1991.
Since D Generation broke up in 1999 Danny Sage has been out of the spotlight but he has been busy recording a new full length album, that is yet to be released, and playing some live shows in LA. After some hard searching I finally tracked Danny down and he kindly agreed to answer some of my questions regarding what he's been up to for the last six years and what we can expect from him in the near future... as well as getting down to the nitty gritty with some of those unanswered question about D Generation.
© scotty ramone
- Interview with Danny Sage 20th January 2005 -
Would you tell me something about how you got into playing music for a living and some of the bands you’ve been in? I understand you were in Heart Attack and Hope before D Generation - were you in other bands as well, and did you record anything with these bands?
I always was into music. All kinds, but rock n' roll and punk rock, in particular. I had Beatles albums from a very young age, my mom used to go to the library all the time, she loves to read... and I took out a copy of 'the white album'... and I never returned it. I think I was about 6 at that time. I always wanted to play in a band, that's all I wanted to do. So I learned how to play guitar, made a band called The Possessed in about 1981, and started playing shows in New York City. I was about 15, very into The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers... we made demos, never released them... and then I was asked to join Heart Attack. I played in Heart Attack for about a year, then I think I got thrown out because I wasn't punk enough or something. They got into like, the whole Crass-type hippy-punk thing and I wasn't into that. A few years later, I played in Hope, and did that for a few years... then I quit... and I started writing more, changing a lot... then in a few years I was asked to join D Generation. Danny with Joey Ramone at Coney Island High
Danny with Joey Ramone at Coney Island High
There are tons. Obviously, The Beatles. The Ramones, the Sex Pistols. Elton John, Neil Young, the Stones, Bowie... The Clash... Led Zeppelin... but then I like other stuff that people never expect... like Captain Beefheart, Joni Mitchell, Patsy Cline, Devo, Howlin' Wolf... Blondie... James Brown, Django Reinhardt, X, Frank Black, The Pixies, Aimee Mann, The Pretenders... I could go on and on... these people all kind of inspire me, I love their records... so it made me wanna do it, too.
I heard you’ve recorded some guitar parts for the new forthcoming Kowalskis album. Are you just playing on one song on the album?
I was asked to play on a few songs, but I think I just really came up with parts for one, ‘The Road to Barstow’, which is cool--it has some significance for me and Kitty Kowalski.
Have you recorded with any other bands since you left D Generation?
I messed around with some other people, but nobody that I was really interested in playing with. I have been approached to do some things that might've been a help to my career, or maybe my wallet. But it was always something I didn't wanna do. So I didn't do those, either. I just kept my head down, made my album, and stayed under the radar...
You’ve recorded a solo album, did you start writing material for this album before D Generation split up?
Yeah, it was never a question. I had it in my head that if I was going to do anything, it was going to be by myself. I started writing for it in about 1998 or so, actually a little bit before that. I started writing and singing in 1980, so it was nothing new. But my writing really changed around 1997... and I kept a lot of those songs to myself.
I heard ‘The High Road’ demos you recorded about 4 years ago. Are the songs on that demo (‘You’ve Got To Be Strong’, ‘Turn Around’, ‘Declaration’, ‘Somethin’ For Nothing’ & ‘She Just Passed Me By’) on the new album you’ve recorded?
Probably most of them, if not all. I re-recorded those songs in 2002, and tracked about 10 more over the last 2 years... but I think the album will have 10 or 11 tracks, I’ve whittled it down from about 15 or 16... maybe it'll be called "Short and Sweet"...
Umm, ‘Hold on Tight’ and ‘Wish I Never’ are two I like.
Do you have a title for your album?
I keep changing it, I’m in between changing it right now!
Do you have, or are you looking for, a record contract to release the new album?
I am looking, however lazily... with one eye open, ha ha. If it was someone I liked and they liked me, I’d do it. I’m kind of over working with people where it's just this really adversarial relationship... I’m really gun-shy about the business side of all of it. And that makes it hard. But that's not why I ever did any of this. I look forward to working with people who actually like my stuff.
When can we expect your solo album to be released?
Your guess is as good as mine! I really hope it gets to come out this year, sooner rather than later... it's been delayed enough already. I wish it would've come out two years ago, then I could've already made another one!
Do you play many live shows? Are they with a band or have they been solo acoustic shows?
I played about a half dozen shows last year, they went really well. I did some solo acoustic, some electric with a band. I did the knitting factory in Los Angeles; that was fun. I really liked playing with a band again. And I hope if all goes well that I can go back out and play all the time.
Do you have any plans to tour when your album is released? Maybe even in the UK and Europe?
I would love it if I could do that. I will tour anywhere, anywhere I can, as long as I have the ability to do it. That was always the way I was... that's the only part of all this I really enjoy... playing in front of people.
Can you tell me something about how D Generation formed as a band? I believe that you’d all known each other for quite a long time.
It's a really long story, it depends when you want to start. We all knew each other, had all played together in some form or another. Jesse and I had been friends since 1980 or something... and Michael is my brother... and we were playing with Howie... Then, there was a band that was almost the same line-up, except for Rick, in the summer of 1991. We played a few D Generation songs, it was the template for D Generation. But it was a nightmare because of personalities, a lot of arguments and screaming at each other: it really WAS the template for D Generation, in more ways than one (ha ha)... so, it didn't work out. I quit, they got Rick and our old friend Georgie [Seville] to play guitar, then Michael bailed... then a few months later me and Jesse went to L.A. to hang out, and I was asked to join some band out there. I didn't want to do it, it wasn't my cup of tea. So while we were out there, we kind of made up a plot to all play together again. I mean, me and Jesse had been really good friends for like 12 years already. We had been through a lot of stuff together, playing together, growing up. And we had written a few good songs together. So by the time we got off the plane in New York, it was all settled. I think we played our first show back together 2 weeks later.
Except for the first album which was available in the UK for a very short period, none of D Generation’s albums were released here in the UK (even when you were touring the UK & Europe in 1998). Was this down to really bad marketing by Columbia records, or was it a management decision? Did the band want to play more in Europe?
It was really amazing management, and a really ground-breaking marketing idea! 'Hey, that would be a really cool idea: DON'T release the albums: great!' No, it was the record label. They totally dropped the ball... they dropped all the balls, and we had a lot. I wanted to play EVERYWHERE. I can't say that enough. I wanted to just tour constantly. I don't think everyone agreed with that, other people had other desires and things they were involved in. There were a lot of distractions. But the label seemed to want us to hang out in New York and do drugs and get drunk, throw parties and take pictures. It was a fuckin' disaster. If anyone ever cared to look at how NOT to have a band succeed, they could use that business plan, if there even was one. We didn't know we were a BAND, not a marketing firm or an advertising agency.
Do you have any favourite D Generation songs? Why did the band dislike the first album so much? (To me it’s the greatest Rock’n’Roll that has ever been recorded… So far!)
It’s nice that you love that album, thank you. But I remember that it felt really sterile. The band was a live thing: we totally blew it on record, if I remember it right. We were great onstage, really almost, I don't know, dangerous. And the album seemed really bland to me. Most of the songs seem really forgettable. Someone asked me this the other day. I liked the 45 version of ‘No Way Out’, I liked ‘Guitar Mafia’, I always really liked ‘Scorch’. Maybe 'Vampire Nation' was good, though I think everything was probably way better onstage on a good night.
What are your best and worst memories of your time in D Generation?
There are a million good memories, and to me, that's the only redeeming thing about having done it. I couldn't even go into the stuff that went on; most things no one would get except us five. We were all great friends, and we all came from next to nothing to do this great thing together. And everyone in the band was really, really funny. And our road crew was like a fucking comedy troupe, too. So it was always a good time, there was never a dull moment... a LOT of crazy stuff, a lot of drama... everything was an inside joke, everything was a dig at something or someone: vicious, bitchy shit, but really funny. Certain gigs stand out for me, they capture those feelings in my memory, like early gigs at the Continental: the band would play and then stay there, drunk, till 10 the next morning. Then playing Irving Plaza a bunch of times, selling it out, out of town shows where people looked at you like you'd just stepped out of your fuckin' spaceship, and driving in the van with those guys. That was all magic. But after about 1995 or so, it went really bad.
Why did D Generation split up? Would Columbia Records have supported another studio album had you wanted to continue as a band?
The reasons bands split up is all clichéd, but it's all real. I think Joe Strummer once talked about how, when you're coming up, there's something to be united against, so you're tight. But then, after the record deal, and all that, you're not as unified because you don't have that common goal. In some ways that's really accurate: we all changed, and we all acted really badly, mainly to each other. People turned against each other. It's really like a stereotypical rock n' roll thing: all of the drama and nonsense and bullshit… record labels, managers, egos, drinking, drugs, girlfriends... and unhappy people trying to blame each other for their unhappiness. People being really insecure and acting on it. Sony had had it with us, they thought we should go out and sell 64 zillion albums because the editor of some downtown magazine had a crush on us or whatever. They had NO idea of what they had bought, and when we didn't sell those albums, they were disappointed. Once they saw that that wasn't going to happen, or, it wasn't going to happen IMMEDIATELY, they totally bailed and hung us out to dry. Through The Darkness was made knowing that they weren't gonna support it, or, at least, I felt like they weren't gonna. And I was right. I mean, I used to have to BEG for tour support: “Please let us go out and work!” But that whole time, definitely '97,'98 and '99, were really unhappy times for me. Mostly, I didn't even wanna be there.
Will the proposed D Generation album of unreleased tracks and the live album and live DVD of the last D Generation show at Coney Island High ever be released?
Jesus, I hope not. As far as I know, we have no good live representation of the band. Who proposed it? Not me. The line-up at the last show was some cobbled-together band that we threw together. And we recorded the gig and it's not very good. Me and Jesse spent weeks listening to it in 2000, and we set it aside. Unless there's a good recording of the real line-up, I wouldn't really wanna do it. I wish there were good recordings of gigs with the real band, I just don't think there are any. It’s a shame, because that band was really good onstage. Really exciting and volatile. That was the real D Generation, the albums are probably a really weak substitute. I think the only real thing that mattered in that band was the gig, which is as it should be.
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