Watch Dan Roberts and Thomas Krane talk passion and musical inspiration for Dickies

Music can be likened to a time machine. Just one song – the lyrics, the melody, the mood – can take you back in time. For Thomas Krane this is specifically true. Not just a band, Thomas Krane is an on-stage persona and is the brain child of Dan Hampton.

Over the past seven years, Thomas Krane has become a well-rounded artist who is recognised and loved by many for his soulful singing voice and insightful lyrics. Thomas Krane is someone who, over the years, has developed an appreciation for the Dickies clothing brand and recognises it for its long history and its high-quality clothing, saying he appreciates Dickies because “Dickies started as a workwear brand and has kept those roots, with really nice, good-looking pieces of clothing”.

In the same vein, SAMA-winning music producer Dan Roberts has had a lengthy career as a stills photographer, film director, music producer and composer, spanning over 30 years. Having directed over 300 TV commercials, music videos and documentaries, Dan has also been involved in founding three companies in the industry: The Gatehouse, Left Post Production and Terraplane. During his career he has recorded, mixed and made films and stills for the likes of Die Antwoord, Johnny Clegg, Jesse Clegg, Laurie Levine, The BLK JKS, Madala Kunene, Hugh Masekela, Arno Carstens and more.

We caught up with Dan to speak about the music industry, the mechanics of song-making, and how he believes the Dickies ethos aligns with his passion for music. 

What is the monumental difference between the music industry in JHB and in CT?
I don’t think there’s anything monumental that I’m aware of. I’ve worked with great talents from both places and everywhere else too. Music is such a universal language, I’ve worked with Malian musicians from West Africa who spoke no English and we had a ball playing music. Do you mean, is there a signature style? I’d have to say not in my experience, there’s more difference between Jo’burg and Soweto than CT and Jo’burg. But you get guys who’ll argue over definitions of Deep House of which there seems to be at least 14 types. Most people you meet in Jo’burg weren’t born there and the same for Cape Town. If it’s industry related, I’d say that the traditional industry is based in Joburg – but then so is 70% of the economy. Many Cape Town and South African artists work through the Jo’burg companies so it doesn’t seem to matter where you live. In my experience, there are great artists living pretty much anywhere they please: Durban, Springs, Knysna, Tulbach, Tugela Ferry, Soweto. When we get together it’s about music, there’s melody beat and chords. 

Which instrument do you wish you could play?
Violin, I like things with strings. 
When you listen to a song, are you drawn to the lyrics or the melody?
Both must work, it’s a bit like asking ‘beat or melody?’ Because both should be there. I am drawn to lyrics, I suppose (Dylan, Cohen) but I also listen to music in languages I cannot speak so as long as it works musically, I’m fine.
What is the challenge in adapting to an ever-changing music culture? How is the music landscape different today from when you first stepped into the industry?
I think it changes way way less than you think. I listen to new music because there are issues of new technologies, but I’m aware of what came before, so it’s more like a continuum. The ’60s owed a huge debt to the Blues and Soul from the 50’s – rock and roll came out of country and stride and Boogie Woogie from New Orleans and the Jazz masters going back to the ’40s, ’30s. It’s no different now – you are always standing on the shoulders of the giants that came before. One big difference is that Pop has dumbed down even more than ever before and operates in very narrow parameters (I blame commercial radio to a large extent). Also electro/digital technologies have meant that a lot of music has perfect pitch and perfect tempo, a robotic, metronomic influence we seem to like, though it’s not that human. Then again, I’ve been listening to Electro since the ’60s with bands like Kraftwerk so it’s not exactly new. Hip hop I first heard at the dawn of the ’80s in New York so that’s 40 years old now.  We play the identical scales that Beethoven did, and the African beats that pervade all contemporary music are ancient. I like it all. All contemporary music owes it’s place to New Orleans in around 1900 when African Beats met the classical instruments of Europe first started interacting. The reinvention hasn’t stopped.

What are the parallels between Dickies and the music industry?
I’ll quote from a song by Guy Clarke that could be about Dickies:
“Stuff that works, stuff that holds up 
The kind of stuff you don’ hang on the wall 
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel 
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall”
America has the ability to make a thing iconographic. A baseball cap, Hi-tops, Hoodies, Jeans, cars, music, the rest of the world just understands that it’s cool and are drawn to it. Go figure.
What is the highlight of your musical career?
Many. Working with great talents would be up there, I’ve learnt from them all (forgive me for the one’s I can’t fit here. I love you all): Hugh Masekela, Vieux Farke Toure, Johnny Clegg, Die Antwoord, Arno Carstens, Laurie Levine, Money Mark (Beastie Boys) Radio Kalahari Orkes, and then, most recently, Above Atlas, a bunch of skinny-jeaned 18 year olds who no one knows. Yet. All they want to do is make music all the time, and that goes for all of these mentioned here. 

Which is your favourite Dickies piece?
That’s tough. I’m useless on bests. The work shirts, the boots, the jackets, the jeans.
Like Guy Clarke says:
“I got an ol’ blue shirt 
And it suits me just fine 
I like the way it feels 
So I wear it all the time” 

This piece is sponsored by Dickies South Africa. 

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