Danny Barnes at Mountainstage

Danny Barnes appeared on Mountain Stage last February (2010.) The episode is scheduled for distribution on affiliate stations on January 28, 2011. For a complete list of stations and airtimes, please check here:

The following week, his set will at posted at and archived for continued access.

You can also connect with Mountain Stage on Facebook at and the podcast is available on iTunes and Feedburner.

Barnes kicked off both nights’ festivities performing solo on the “barnjo” - a custom-made hybrid banjo/electric guitar that he debuted this summer at Northwest String Summit. Melding the hammering drive and fine detail of his banjo-work on an instrument that allows him to fully embrace plugged-in rock-and-roll aggression, it proved the perfect outlet for his own wonderfully mercurial musical nature. Unlike the FolkTronics approach he had previously taken with his music, where he used Ableton software to craft a broad palette with the banjo, looping the instrument and incorporating beats and samples, this method had a considerably more stripped-down aesthetic. But this was some pure diesel, as Barnes travelled between sonic moods and textures with a tight, dizzying quickness.

It was cool to hear the open-throttle versions of songs spanning his career over both nights, from Bad Livers (“Lumpy, Beanpole & Dirt,” “Little Bitty Town,” “Legend of Sawdust Boogers,” “Going Where They Do Not Know My Name,” “Love Songs Suck”) through his latest album, the brilliant Pizza Box. Take, “Sleep,” a claustrophobic tale based on a friend of Barnes who went to jail. He told Barnes he was relieved when the cops finally busted in his door, because he knew they were coming and he could finally get some sleep. On Pizza Box, it unfolds like an unhinged dream, but the barnjo interpretation tapped its murky, shuddering dread in direct, close-to-the-bone cuts.

Meanwhile during “Everything Fades,” on the line “Everything fades/That was made by a man,” Barnes simply let a lonely, lovely hum hang in the air, as if to emphasize that point, before spiraling down into some heavy Stooges-like stomping. Barnes utilized the instrument with equally potency on more delicate tunes like Things I Done Wrong’s “Big Girl Blues,” which he nicely segued into T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” on New Year’s Eve, and “Overdue,” where he let the notes gracefully float and dissolve in the air. Plus you have to appreciate a man who wrote “Love Songs Suck” – which lent itself to a crushing barnjo interpretation perfectly - writing “Overdue.” It’s a love song which, to put it mildly, in no way sucks at all. That’s how you show ‘em how it’s done.

The barnjo also allows Barnes to more-readily tap the punk rock heart that has always set him apart from the often-tired roots music scene. He even played Minor Threat on the first night of the run for, "All the designated drivers out there," ripping out a vicious cover of “Straight Edge." It was a pretty ballsy song choice, especially on the cusp of a holiday that’s become associated with getting as FUBARed as possible. Barnes has always had that element of subversion in his music, and this latest badass development is no exception.

A LABEL LIKE "GENIUS" gets tossed around too often by music critics to be taken seriously anymore. Just about anyone with marginal talent that commits an idea to tape can and will be labeled as such.

But in the case of Danny Barnes, that label is wholly accurate. Listening to Barnes' catalog is nothing short of revolutionary for a music lover.

Successfully flying under the radar for the past decade, Barnes has made a career out of thinking outside of the box.

"I've been blessed with a lack of success and I don't have to worry about alienating any of my fans," he said.

"Most of my audience are musicians and people who have eclectic taste in music across varying genres - vertically and horizontally. I have a lot of freedom and I feel like it's my duty to exploit that."

Danny Barnes is a big ole boy. In jeans and white concert T-shirt, he doesn't exactly overdress for success and comes across very much the common man. As his set began Friday night at Last Concert Café, Barnes moved around the stage like a panther who'd just been let out of his cage.

"We've been in the car all day, so we're just glad to be up here playing for y'all."

And that was about all Barnes had to say for the first 30 minutes as he tore through a huge slice of his latest album, Pizza Box.

Whether he's whanging on something with strings or writing a tune, Barnes has always been an acerbic intellectual. Judging by his two-set performance Friday night at Last Concert Café, the always-choice picker who never stands in one spot musically for long, has moved his game into spheres of virtuosity occupied by the likes of Sonny Landreth.

Follow the link above for complete review.

Danny Barnes is a study in contrasts, a banjo player who's as comfortable at a punk-rock show or an opera as he is at a bluegrass festival. One night he may be playing his "Barnjo" with a drummer as his sole accompaniment, the next night working with Dave Matthews or Robert Earl Keen Jr.

And although he's firmly grounded in bluegrass, his musical vision stretches from Bill Monroe to jazzman Bill Frisell, from recently deceased art-rocker Captain Beefheart to punk pioneers the Sex Pistols.

Click the link for the complete article.

a. you aren't listing to it in the right format

the other day i did a little test. while researching some new music, i stumbled across a wide array of little labels that were doing cassettes only. i got to digging around within that. whoa, there is some really cool stuff being done within that realm. and also being a person that likes black, round records, i went on the net and researched some new vinyl records that were being released. not re-issues of older stuff but currently made music. guess what?

all my musical dreams have come true! it is as though, viewed through that lens, all of the mainstream has disappeared, and all we have left is interesting, cool music being put out in inexpensive awesome sounding/looking formats. imagine my surprise and happiness at this revelation! damn.

here's a bit of an analogy. i read a fair amount, and i have an electronic reader, plus i read some stuff on my smartphone and some stuff on the net and all that. and i guess virtual reading is a valuable resource and a badass way of tapping into the database of all extant information {symbolized by the letter "e"}. however, you don't really get the experience that way. if i really want to jam, i have to dig the real book. it's kind of like computer flight simulators. they have some really nice ones, where a person can basically fly all over the u.s. within a detailed simulation of the earth with random weather and all that. guess what? it's not as breathtaking as actually getting behind the yoke of a little plane and taking off and flying around.

it's a simulation. it is not the actual experience.

within my own system, that is analogous to the cd/mp3 experience. it's a valuable tool. very convenient on so many levels, and i download stuff like it's going out of style. and gosh being able to get on youtube and research like crazy is an amazing tool. but it's not the real deal. it is a convenient simulation.

the real jam, is cassette and vinyl, and ultimately the live show. for lots of reasons that i won't get into here.

think about this. if you go into a record store, the folks that are the heaviest into music will likely be thumbing through the vinyl. only your friends that are really heavy into music know who is playing next week in that filthy club downtown.

in reference to format, here is a definition to consider: objet d'art: an article of some artistic value.

b. you got so caught up in what you were doing, you forgot to listen.

kind of a cliche story arc to american life goes like this: a person goes through school, and music is part of the fabric of their life. their friends listen, and they listen, and they create the soundtrack of this kind of movie of their lives. then they either go to college or start work. in the former example, they still groove with friends and stuff for a bit, but in either case, eventually, the old clock on the wall starts ticking and the grind starts. the person starts sweating real estate, and retirement and kid's college, or whatever success or goal in their work world, however that gets played out. the result being they get so wrapped up in the struggle of the material world, that music really just becomes burdensome. here are some common phrases of this particular rut:
"well they just don't make music like they used to!"
"i'd go out and hear music but it starts so late!"
"well i used to like music but then i had to get serious about my life!"

all of that stuff. sometimes a person gets to be 40 years old or so, and they often think that whatever was popular when they went to the senior prom is still the best music ever, so since that artist is dead, music is over. the rat race and the propping up of the system will push the search for great new music aside, as well as the search for unheard old music. {the system needs you working a bunch and in lots of debt, and probably on lots of meds.} perhaps that is why the eagles play at casinos, and pretty lights doesn't.

c. you got lazy

you know, even with all this data so readily accessible, the one constant in my life is that it still takes about the same amount of work to uncover cool stuff as it always did. the ratio is still about the same. so one has to spend a certain amount of time digging. and it's much easier to let that slide, and just complain. and not be blessed by glorious music.
don't blame the artists. "they are all so lame now!" actually there is more cool stuff being done now than ever. and there is more access to older stuff than ever. this is really a great time to be a music fan. try just pretending the mainstream doesn't exist.

d. your friends don't listen so why should you?

one of the primary places to find out about great stuff is through having friends who like music. that's where i personally find out about lots of stuff anyway, through my more knowledgeable friends. if a person's friends aren't into it anymore, that can be a bit of a disincentive to a tribe member to seek things out on their own. "well geez no one at the office is jamming, so i better not either. wouldn't want to upset the apple cart."

i am so blessed by having great friends that are way into different musics. it's like having a support system or something. life support.

e. you never did listen to it anyway {music never did mean that much to you}

when i was a young man, growing up in a small town in the 70's there were basically two channels. jock or freak. the freaks were really into music, the jocks, not so much, though they had their own soundtrack to their rituals. i still see this kind of weird dividing line in our society, decades and time zones away. {they have lots of music for folks that hate music, just like they have books for folks that hate reading, and so on.}

f. you are kind of a dick to begin with

the thing about art, it's kind of a one way deal. the person makes it, and you have to deal with it, or not. i think self-centered people may perhaps have a hard time letting this control go. for some odd reason, many folks think that artists are interested in hearing opinions about set lists and other business decisions. kind of like armchair quarterbacks {jocks}. it's amazing to see giant groups of people struggle with, and subsequently not be able to affect, decisions from artists. it just doesn't work that way. {okay, i suppose it does happen in some realm that i have no interest in, where the art is focused-grouped, but i just pretend that shit doesn't even exist.} in order to be really blessed by a music, one has to give up some control, but it's okay, you can always turn it off or leave it it gets too intense but it's worth checking out. for a super control freak, this can be really hard. to a certain mindset, listening to music would involve cessation of self-thought, and lord that ain't gonna happen!

i notice that sometimes if i get feeling kinda agitated and weird, it can be fixed by turning up some great music and listening and being swept away by that. in that place, all the negativity and un-fairness and stuff just kind of melts away and i feel good again. i love hearing new music. i even love finding old music i didn't know about. to me it's a process. and not an event that happened back at some other point than now. for example in my system, music is proof that time doesn't exist, or is at least elastic. i can go and hear music from all these great artists, and in many cases i can find more stuff on them now than i could when they were alive and putting out music. that realization will put a spring in your step!

my point, is that you might be happier with some great music in your life. it's a place where all that other negative stuff can melt away. don't forget about that feeling.

What will you remember most about 2010?
this was a pretty wacky year for me. i think that bringing the barnjo, which is my electric guitar/banjo hybrid, and getting that up and running, has been the highlight of my year. by virtue of that instrument, i can play all my repertoire at once. so that has me pretty excited. i think pizza box is the best record i ever did, that feels pretty cool to be able to say that {it came out this year}. i've been out here since the late 80's driving in vans and playing clubs. it feels good to be getting better. i just keep practicing and working and developing ideas.

one of the main lessons i learned this year, is i'll get to working on something, and in the midst of working, i sometimes realize the goalposts will get moved on me, but then something else really cool will happen that i didn't plan on, that's actually hepper then what was initially conceived. and learning to just trust that process. it never fails, i just worry that it will. as long as i don't wig out at the wrong moment, something badass will happen.

What album or albums appeared most often in your iTunes?
well i've been going to through a hardcore trip this year. lots of hardcore. i like the early black flag and the bad brains. this ep by a knoxville band called koro is really hep. that's older stuff. clockcleaner, homostupids, there's a bunch of newer hardcore that's awesome. that video on youtube of the dillinger escape plan at the virgin mega-store where the singer runs across the crowd is perhaps the best 8 seconds of music ever made. that music, and like, ornette and stuff, sounds like my life. like when you walk down a city street or you're out dicing with the 18wheelers on the interstate. my life does not sound like bluegrass, or contemporary country. my life sounds more like the yellow swans.

What was your favorite show or tour in 2010?
well i really enjoyed playing with honky at emo's in austin earlier this year, that was badass. bobby rock is really one of the greatest metal guitarists in the world, ever. i really dug this last tour i just did with my friend branden harper, we've been playing drum kit, samplers, and barnjo turned all the way up. and that's been such a far out trip, i intend to stick with that oeuvre through the coming year for a record and tours galore. there's about a one minute video this guy sent me of us playing, and it sounds like metallica ornette blues. so. how can you lose?

What emerging band should readers watch out for in 2011?
i'm really interested in this guy stripmall ballads. i guess he's not really emerging, but if you haven't heard it, it's new.

Who would you want to collaborate with next year?
mitchell froom, eyvind kang, josh homme, i like dj shadow's drum sounds. a split 7" with zeke. i don't know, lots of stuff. i'd like to come out with my own skateboard.

a. results are produced indirectly.

b. if you think you know the answer, you've just discarded at least half of the answer.

c. things only exist in their particulars.

d. observing things causes them to become. or rather to cease becoming.

e. time doesn't exist.

f. there is a universal set of all extant knowledge {ideas}. symbolized by e.

g. the seen proceeds from the unseen. there is another world, or other worlds, behind the world we see.

h. proof is weaker than matter-of-fact.

i. in a way, everyone is right, in relation to the data they are dealing with, or able to deal with.

j. things exist in more than one place.

k. as we proceed further from the initial cause, slight changes in the space/time continuum produce more radical results. chaos and disarray increase. within which is hidden the creative.

l. at the top of the hierarchy is unity.

m. language is an inadequate means of conveying philosophy. conversely, language has the ability to communicate much more than simply information.

n. spirits exist. there are group spirits, individual spirits, spirits of place, and so on.

o. god is. and he speaks and acts.

p. cause and effect are only part of reality.

q. in a complex system, there are many unaccounted for resultants.

r. if a system is hefty enough to explain itself, it will be fraught with contradiction.

s. given data density, humans, fearing they are actually dead, behave in ways to elicit a reaction of some sort, thus proving for a brief moment, to themselves, that life exists.

t. synchronicity is more efficacious than direct action.

u. the universe is self-correcting.

v. in consonance is dissonance, and within dissonance, consonance.

w. process.

x. we don't get to select the outcome for actions we take.

y. win/win is a better relationship than win/lose. win/lose is ultimately lose/lose.

z. there is a fairly high degree of probability that an iteration will invoke it's opposite.

“Caveman” begins with a few banjo strums before bass, drums and slide guitar come crashing in along with five-string master Danny Barnes’ easygoing voice, making this track seem like a happy mixture of equal parts John Hartford and Dave Matthews, a combination of talents that hover over the rest of this 11-track, 41-minute CD.

Danny Barnes is a fascinating individual. The Bad Livers co-founder is a banjo player who grew up playing his instrument to Ornette Coleman and Led Zeppelin records. He’s gone on to develop his “folktronics” approach in the live setting which he describes as “a highly processed banjo sound with a lot of loops and atmospheric samples flying around.” In early 2009, while recording on the Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King an invitation from that band’s namesake led to a deal with ATO Records. John Alagia (DMB, John Mayer, Ben Fold Five) produced Pizza Box which ATO released earlier this year. The following conversation offers deep insight into Barnes’ creative process as well as the development of Pizza Box, which Barnes marvels at as “the best record I’ve ever made.” Ladies and gentlemen, Danny Barnes… [3-page interview at]