Moving South doesn't have to mean your plans go south, too. Garage rock impresario Dan Melchior settled in Durham from New York City last year, having arrived in America from his home turf of London in 2000. But, even in the slow South of the summertime, Melchior can't be accused of slowing down. He's got music coming out on no less than four labels, and he's busy working with local musicians to feed his writing and performing craving. Indeed, his reputation as a blues-punk purveyor preceded him here by miles. But you'd expect a guy whose past links him with the surly Billy Childish and who named his old band the Broke Revue and current one Das Menace to be a bit ornery. Turns out what drew him to the Bull City was quite the opposite.
"The initial experiences that made me fall in love with this town were the fact that people actually say 'Hello' to you in the street around here and treat each other like human beings," he said last week from his new home. "Plus, it's a very beautiful but very grounded and unpretentious place. And then on top of that we have The Regulator, Bull City Records and Offbeat, so I'm covered as far as my major obsessions go."
Obsessions is right: Melchior writes poetry and fiction and tinkers with collages and painting. Now that he's moved from the cramped confines of a big city to a roomier house in Durham, he thinks he'll have more room to paint. Melchior painted the four scowling visages on the cover of the Broke Revue album Bitterness, Spite, Rage and Scorn. His brushstroke technique mirrors the flavor of his music: In rough streaks of deep, dark-tinted colors, he depicts both the ordinary, a pet budgie's face, for example, and the surreal, where a crude cube hovers imposingly over a serpent-rabbit's head. Those mediums, he says, only feed his primary obsession—songwriting.
Melchior's full of surprises in that respect, too. He's stretching from being the typecast in the misanthropic garage-punk role, and his writing has turned to current interests and world-weary folk somewhat akin to Nick Drake. Egads! What will the punks say?
"I listen to Bill Fay a lot more than I listen to the Sonics," he says. Who knows? Maybe the nice guy from Chertsey, England, will turn a little countrypolitan some day, too?
Dan Melchior plays a solo show Friday, June 22, at Broad Street Café with Early Morning Swim and Sugar in the Dirt. The show starts at 9 p.m. and costs 5 beans. He also plays with Das Menace as part of the Future Kings of Nowhere CD release party with Titus Androcinus, eberhardt and Midtown Dickens Saturday, June 23, at Ringside.