Gyroscope Frontman Dan Sanders On The Impact Bowie Had On His New Project

28 September 2018 | 12:24 pm | Dan Sanders

On the day David Bowie died, Gyroscope’s Dan Sanders was so affected he wrote the track 'I Want An Axe To Break The Ice'. Now, with the release of the debut album under the XIII moniker, Sanders writes about the impact the music legend has on his writing.


Bowie is and always will be an inspiration and influence on me and my music making. Maybe it doesn’t show in my jam, but I don’t think it’s about that anyway. It's not really that kind of relationship. It’s more about how I feel and sense his influence in my headspace sometimes when I write. I’ve always loved his genre bouncing. Doing what you want because you want to, I can dig it. To me it’s the ultimate art. His moods, swagger, and maybe his way on words or rhythms is a big reason why I pick up instruments. Not just him of course, I take influence from heaps of stuff but I feel his presence a lot when I’m alone in my studio.

I don’t much care when it comes to anything sounding like this or that; as long as I am enjoying my music, I’m in a good space. Being able to write about imagery, attitudes or just venting my shit, Bowie puts me in that space and I enjoy hanging out there. It’s comfortable in a way for me as I feel I can get on a vibe with him where I can explore the songs in my head without any inhibitions or outside input. Sometimes trying different and weird shit, say with my voice or a guitar, and, like, only having yourself judging what should come and go with structures or instrumentation is a buzz, but man, that’s all well and fine, right. 

I wanted to do this for real and record it. I went and got a bunch of instruments I needed to make this happen and built me a humble studio in my yard called The Cabin. Most nights I’ll take in some moonshine then head up there. Now after spending fuck loads of time up there and teaching myself how to play those instruments I wasn’t all over, drums and bass and all the things I’d been around for years but never really picked up and had a crack at. I mean, I had tinkered but never serious.

I just wanted to have a go at writing a record by myself and then playing all the stuff myself to sort of challenge me and myself, and fuck, I realised I fucking LOVE drumming. Anyway, with this I probably tend to have in my head some sort of rough idea and a slight vision of what shit should sound like. So not tampering with the initial vibe, some nights I would sort of get into a Bowie mood or whomever, depending on things, and I’d just let them make me wander around a bit in a different suit.

I remember on the night he passed, I grabbed a couple of bottles of red and headed to The Cabin to finish a cover song I had started with Drew. From what I recall I had headed over to his shack one evening and at some point he mentioned something about Bowie, this was six months before Bowie passed mind you, and we decided over a spliff that we should head to the studio then and there to cover a song. It ended up being Hallo Spaceboy and we smashed it out. Got about three quartz through recording it and it all sounded so cool. Then I guess we finished up and didn’t do much to it. I did listen to it heaps over the following couple of days thinking we did a pretty cool version and that it would be great to actually finish it sometime.

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So back to the day/night I found out he had died, yeah man, I didn’t think it would rock me that hard but I got into The Cabin and cried a bit, remembering and asking, ‘Why did you leave? What am I gonna do now?’ Haha, the usual shit and the same thing happened when I was a grom when Kurt went pretty much. Felt the same, just gutted. Anyway after letting out a bit of whatever I focused on finishing this cool Bowie song Drew and I had recorded. In the dukes’ honour! Knuckled the fuck down hard and finished it in record time, couldn’t believe it, like so much inspiration it was fucking weird.

So, then I saved the shit, went outside, breathed, smoked, pissed on the citrus trees and probably woke up the chooks. Then went back inside, drank a bit more and remember feeling like I needed to write a Bowie song. Not a song that tried to sound like him but more something I can relate to and with him through lyrics and melody. So, I did and it became I Want An Axe To Break The Ice, which in itself is a lyric from one of his songs.

His death didn’t influence the album, I had been writing this record for years but it sure did influence that one particular song. He definitely inspires me to make music. Along with Kurt. Along with… shit, I’d need a whole bunch of time to try and get savvy with all the different and mixed influences that went into me writing and making this album, but that’s cool. The writing part, I know how she goes somewhat as it’s what I do, but overall, I was curious to see if I could actually play with my own hooves, everything I had in my head, and then to see if any of it was any good. I love to write and record in a group atmosphere as that passion continues and always will, just as I love getting insular a tapping into the other side a bit. It’s nice over there, plus me and the ferryman have a sweet deal going on.


Bloody Banks Of The Swan is out now; listen to the full album here.