Making Music His Own Way
He was being profiled by the careful eye of the hotel security guard. While viewing his surveillance monitors, he noticed a 6'4" ominous figure hovering over her desk. From his camera angle, he noticed the large bearded man was wearing a gray hoodie with dark sunglasses. The security guard immediately left his office and rushed out to her desk. The larger than life man had just left. “Is everything alright?” the security guard asked. “Yes, why?” she answered. He continued to probe, “I mean with that guy who just walked away. Are you okay?” “Oh, you mean Daniel?!” She sounded surprised. “That’s Daniel, he’s a regular. He comes here all the time. He may look fierce, but he’s harmless.”
Daniel Barnes, professional studio musician, is a drummer. His looks, dress, and voice give him away — hardcore rock and roller. Tattoos drape his towering body, which at times are visible under the black leather he frequently wears. His dark features: hair, mustache, and goatee, frame his most prominent attribute — his eyes. Dark eyes filled with wisdom from the ages, as if somewhere in there he knows something the rest of us don’t. And then there’s his voice — deep and British. “Kin” is family, “Cah” is car and “Luuv” is love.
He’s been drumming since he was 13.
“I had a lot of energy and it was very easy to say something with drums. I wanted to be loud and drumming was a very good way to do it.”
Daniel was born 43 years ago in Sheffield, England. His message began straight away.
“The message has always been happiness and love.” he says. “I don’t say that because someone told me to, I believe it. I know, because I did the other stuff. I know what it’s like to live a dark life and I know what it’s like to live in a light life. So music, love, and happiness together, although it sounds really like a cliche, it feels good!”
Daniel lived the dark life of sex, drugs and rock and roll for ten years.
“I jumped into it at twenty and crawled out of it at thirty. I came to America with just a dream, like everybody, and it worked for a while. But then I don’t know which started running faster, life or the dream.”
Following his dream, he moved to San Francisco to study progressive music.
“I didn’t learn anything progressive about music at that time,” he says. “Unfortunately, the connection most of the time wasn’t with music, wasn’t with creativity — it was just this lifestyle of staying up really late, introducing people, networking. I was very good at sitting in a chair all night, just talking absolute nonsense.”
His family and friends watched his descent into darkness. An intervention had to take place to save Daniel’s life. He was admitted to a hospital.
“I didn’t know that’s where I was going,” he remembers. “I was told I was auditioning for Guns and Roses. I was so intoxicated at the time that I would believe anything. And then the next thing you know, I woke up in a place where you detox. They hold your head down. They make sure you don’t bite your tongue off and you go about that business of becoming normal again (pause) ish.”
He talks about the six months he spent in detox.
“I’d given up on life. Totally given up on everything. I had become a professional drug addict. The first month or two were intense. I didn’t feel good, in fact, I didn’t feel good for a long time.”
“We really jarred this one,” he says, referring to himself in the third person. “You know, I’d had a couple of strokes from using cocaine and I’d malnutritioned everything: the brain, the body, the soul, you know I had just become invisible. I couldn’t see a reflection of myself. It was going to take a lot to put it back together.”
A feat which did happen and one he is proud of. “The same person that you see swarming around today closer to happiness than he’s ever been, it took a long time. In fact, next month it’s thirteen years since I stopped drinking. I’m proud of that. There’s a couple of things I’ve really got to say to myself, ‘I’m not perfect, I’m not even close but the fact that I never went back to the one thing that I absolutely relied on, is impressive to me.’”
As a single parent, Daniel’s also proud of his four-year-old daughter, Lavender. He lights up with pride as he describes being a daddy.
“I’m not just a father of my kid, once you become a parent you’re a parent to everyone’s kid and everybody’s feelings. I like being a daddy to people’s feelings when they’re having a bad day.”
When asked what he would say to Lavender if there comes a day when she wants to experiment with drugs and alcohol, he is quick to answer, “I would say, ‘There’s no need to go about ruining your life doing something that lasts a very short time. I can tell you from experience drugs and alcohol don’t make you happy, they make you high. They change the way you look at things, they change the way you talk to people, they change everything, instantly.’”
“That’s a tough one,” he adds, commenting on the question, “because your children are so innocent. You don’t ever want anything to hurt them. You just want them to be safe and you know these things don’t make people do safe things. You’ve got this little bean that’s been pure and untouched and not exposed to the world and now she’s saying, ‘I want to get plastered.’ And it’s like, ‘Oh God, I knew this day would come.’ And the answer is, ‘NO! You ain’t going anywhere. And if you think that you’re going to do it, guess what? I’m coming with you and you can go drinking with your Dad, cause he drinks tea!’” After some contemplation he adds, “She’ll do whatever she does and you know something, I’ll be there.”
His musician’s journey has taught him about life, connection to others and the meaning of success.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing with as long as you’re playing. It doesn’t matter who you sing with as long as you’re happy. You see I made the mistake for a long time thinking success was an indication of how good something is. I could join this band, go off and tour the world, make a hell of a lot of money. But it’s about who you are, where you’re from, who you believe in.”
The wisdom in his eyes sparkles through when he adds,
“This is what I’ve always wanted, I’ve always wanted to be myself. I’ve been everybody else’s puppet for a long time. But I was never myself. That’s the most important thing to me. Happy, content, comfortable — I’m getting there. I really am.”
The security guard would agree.