I’m resurrecting this dormant feature where I interview bands about food. About time. Dan Higgins plays guitar for Brit rock band The Duke Spirit whose new album, Neptune, was recorded in Joshua Tree, CA and is miles better than anything the band has released to date — where the music is really worthy of powerhouse vocalist Liela Moss. They’ll be playing Mercury Lounge on Wednesday (sold out) and Union Hall on Thursday (still tickets).
Bill P: I know Liela is a staunch vegetarian. Where does the rest of the band fall on that subject?
Dan Higgins: Well, we care what we put into our bodies, really. It’s gotta be good. We’re all pretty healthy people. I’m not a vegetarian, and none of the others apart from Leila are either, but we all try to eat well. I try to eat organic as much as possible. I don’t’ like to be hypocritical. Some people say "I’m not going to eat meat because of how badly animals are treated," and then they go and snort a load of drugs. Somebody suffered down the line for that, you know? So I do eat meat but I try to buy from farms or whatever that treat the animals in the best possible way.
BP: How hard is it to eat well when you’re on the road –- in Middle America for example?
DH: It is, but it was never as hard as I thought it would be. In most cities you go to you can always find something or somewhere that’s fairly decent. Surprising, but maybe my expectations were too low. In a way, everywhere you go you get the lowest common denominator in food. I can’t tell if it’s better or worse in America. But it was never too hard. When you’re living in a van, you just have to remember take lots of fruit with you to see you through. It’s a funny thing to worry about.
BP: Was there a particular food that fueled the making of your new album, Neptune?
DH: I think it might have been Dave Catching’s cooking. He plays in Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone age and owns the studio we recorded the new album. He used to be a chef and he’s a master at the barbeque. So I think it would have to be barbecue. Barbecued corn and hot sauce.
BP: Now the new album is starting to make a little more sense.
DH: (Laughs) Well, maybe but we wrote the record in England so it could be a product of the food we ate there as well. The Bagel Bake in East London or the English Breakfasts. All the cabbage in the fields, the traditional English roast dinner. It’s the sum of all those things maybe.
BP: I know you spent a lot of time here in America touring. What was the first thing you wanted to eat when you went back to England?
DH: Hmmm… fish? I come from the countryside of England, down by the sea. So maybe just a good sea bream or something. Or something homey, like a good roast beef.
BP: Is there a city you look forward to playing, partly for the food?
DH: What I really love is Southern food and Cajun food. So in the South – Tennessee, Louisiana… oh and Mexican food! Texas, L.A. and all of California. The Mexican food is just fantastic. You can eat so well, you know? New York City is great too, but the Southern and Mexican food is just amazing. Because you can’t get that in England. For there to be a great taco stand in London would be a dream, but it just doesn’t exist. So I always look forward to Los Angeles because you know you’re going to get the best tacos, tamales or quesadillas…[makes the Homer Simpson drooling sound]… I just love that food.
BP: You realize I’m going to have to write "Dan makes Homer Simpson noise" don’t you?
DH: Well it’s true – I’m almost drooling myself! The other thing that’s really great in American cities, that you don’t get to the same degree in England, are the macrobiotic restaurants. Or good vegan restaurants. Because, sure, sometimes when you’re on tour you may want a steak. But sometimes you want something that is more, um, nourishing. Where you’re doing yourself such a favor by making sure you eat this great food. I like that democracy in food. I hate people who say, "Ooh I don’t like Spanish food or Indian food. I don’t like that, I don’t eat that." It’s all life’s rich platter, isn’t it?
BP: Especially in places like New York where you can get just about anything.
BP: Except maybe good curry.
DH: I don’t know. I’ve seen a few places that I like the looks of. There’s a place in the East Village called Tastes of Pakistan or something.
BP: Do you eat before a show?
DH: No I can’t because I tend to get really nervous. Plus, I want to get all G’d up, you know, feel a bit of power before I go on. If you eat too much you feel like you’re in some sort of chubby ’70s pub rock band, standing there looking bored. No energy. I like to feel a bit of Holy Magic Power before I go on stage. Usually that comes from booze. I eat afterwards.
BP: And are there any foods you dislike, just don’t like the taste of?
DH: Marmite. It’s like vegemite. I just can’t get with it, though I wish I could. I really want to like it, it’s so quintessentially English. But I can’t. Maybe that will change one day.
BP: It’s still popular?
DH: Oh yeah. That’ll never die.
BP: Literally. It never goes bad.
DH: (laughs) I don’t even know what marmite is made from — malt or something. It’s an arcane process to make it, I think. But yeah, marmite and the cockroaches — someday that’ll be all that’s left.
The Duke Spirit’s new album, Neptune, is out now as a download. The CD will be out April 8.