An Interview with Daniel Waples - The Man Behind the Hang

Having followed the world and growth of HanPan for a while now, from the Hang onwards - and with this man being one half of the outfit that first introduced the Hang to our personal MP3 playlist (The Hang Playing Hedge Monkeys), when the opportunity to interview Daniel Waples arose, we jumped at the chance to shoot some questions at the man behind the Hang...
HPM: First, thank you Daniel Waples, for taking time out, and for allowing us a look inside the head of Hedge Monkey A. We’d like to start off by asking you... how close really were you to becoming a milkman? ;)
Daniel: Ha-ha! What a great first Question! Well… As a young teenager growing up on the outskirts of London I did in fact make a few round delivering the ‘white stuff’! My friend’s father had his own float and I helped out a few times now and again whenever I could… Always after staying the night at my friends house. I also had a job setting up stalls on Romford Market at the age of 13; I did this to raise enough money to buy the clothes I wanted and to go Ice Skating as often as possible. My parents divorced when I was just 6 years old and it was never financially easy for us, my mother always worked hard to provide for us three kids and I guess I realized this at a young age. My father gave me a small amount of money on a regular basis but this was never enough to sustain a social holding so I had to work.
When, at the age of 14 I began to get in lots of trouble, my mother sold the house and relocated us to a small town 6 miles from the coastal town of Skegness in Lincolnshire. Within weeks of arriving to this town I began to work in a busy cafĂ©, where I ended working for the next two years before I illegally got a bar job in a local wine/show bar. I kept up the bar jobs, and occasionally turned to DJ’ing & Bingo calling at a Caravan Park until I was 18. By then I had passed my driving test, completed a BTEC National Diploma in Popular Music and saved up enough money to move to Totnes in Devon to study a course at the Totnes school of guitar making.
Since then I’ve turned my hand to many things, but predominantly have always keep music at the core.
HPM: You’ve been back in the studio again, how does that feel? Does it present a welcome break from touring/busking, is it more of a necessary evil, or...?
Daniel: It’s been so nice to get into the studio and work with a producers who’s creative flair’s are so inspiring! For this project I have teamed up with another hang player named James Winstanley. We have recorded most of the album in Bath, England with producer Martin Cradick, the main man behind ‘Baka Beyond. The remaining tracks were recorded in Goa, India, with the producer Shani Bear-Kani of the group ‘Digital Samsara’. I feel so blessed to have been able to work with all three of these guys and everyone else we called in to play the ‘sessions’.
Seeing that I have not had a Fixed address for the majority of the past decade it has very grounding for me, it very hard to refine professionally when your always on the move and so renting accommodation close to the studio has so refreshing.I’m currently writing my answers whilst sat on an Airplane travelling to Bangalore, India, and for the past three weeks I have been performing in the Middle East, so obviously I’ve still got the ‘bug’ for travel and the rest of 2013 looks to be just as busy as the last. I calculated that I have performed in around 23 countries in the past 18 months and somehow I’ve managed to do this independently from any management or outside investment.

HPM: Does the new album have a name yet? And if so, what is it, and if anything, what is the meaning behind the name?
Daniel: We have a couple of ideas kicking around regarding what we will name the album, but you’ll have to wait and see what’s to be chosen upon… Its more than likely going to be self-explanatory I can say though.

HPM: When heading to the studio, have you usually spent a lot of time beforehand working on new compositions, or do you prefer to just get there, and free-flow?
Daniel: For all of the tracks on this album (minus one or two of the tracks we created in Goa with Shani,) lots of time was spent composing. I would say generally I prefer to know what is to be recorded prior, but saying this I do love to step into a new space with a producer or other musicians and to see what comes.
HPM: We’re not sure if you’re aware of it or not, but as far as we can tell, you have the most viewed ‘Hang drum’ video on YouTube, and also the highest rated (at time of writing). That’s quite a feat. Did you ever expect the YouTube community, and the internet as a whole to be quite as receptive to what you’ve been putting out there?
Daniel: You know, its funny, today alone whilst walking around in Central London (with out a hang with me!) I have been recognized 3 times by guys! One knew my name, which was nice, another shouted ‘hang!’ at me as I passed him and the other came up to me whilst I was checking in at the airport with one of my videos on his iphone to verify!
The video you're referring to is one that was filmed when I was in Oslo, Norway back in 2010. It reached 2.5 million hits before he attached my name to it, and even then, he only did so after I began a campaign on facebook to get as many people as possible to comment and message him to try persuade him to include my name… Luckily it worked and my video over took Manu Delagos sometime during 2012. I never expected everyone to be so supportive to what I was doing, I know that when I play live in public many people stop to watch, most taking out their phones and filming a few minutes, but I never expected to gain quite so many views from the world over! If only they all were to see in the street and to drop a coin and not just click ‘like’. ;)
HPM: As an international street performer, you’ve traveled a lot, but where has been your favorite place to play? And why?
Daniel: It's hard to choose a favorite place, I mean, places have been special to me at different times but if I must I would say that to play in India, there is something very special there that I keep returning to. London has always been a pain to survive in, I would do well one day, and then the police or council would come down very hard on the next. This I think is the underlying basis of why I began to travel so much to play. Many players find their ‘spot’ and stay put milking it for all its worth, I enjoy the new scenery.
The Middle East has been incredible to break into, they have next to no street music culture and so has been a real challenge to make-work. Right the way through history there have been troubadours, bards and wandering minstrels present and I feel that I’m tapping into this ancient art form when I move to new places…
Did you know Benjamin Franklin (the guy on the dollar note!) was in fact a busker before he got into politics?

HPM: We know that the idea of busking can be a frightening prospect for some, but you definitely come across as being very at ease. Did you find that this came naturally for you, or were you a little petrified inside the first time?
Daniel: Inside I still feel the feelings that I started with, I think this is where my trademark smile comes from! (yes the nerves!) But I guess over the years I have learnt how to keep these down and not let them effect me too much, I have always figured that I would play music whether in private alone, in the street with a passing crowed or sat on a stage or similar with a captive audience. Coffee has really helped me over the years along with some simple relaxation techniques; the most effective simply taking a deep breathe and realizing that inside of us all there is a simple perfect energy which will always do the right thing at the right time so long as we stay present in the moment and try not to let the past influence the future too much.

I found getting a seat to sit on was fundamental to improving my street ‘status’… Sitting on the floor was never for me so much as I felt energetically; people would look down at you.

HPM: We know that you’ve played a number of ‘Hang-like instruments’ (AKA ‘HandPan’), which of the others has so far been your favorite? And will we be seeing any featured on the new album?
Daniel: Out of all of the handpans I have played up on I have love different qualitites in them all… I would happily accept an endorsement from any of the ‘biggies’ : PanArt, BellArt, Pantheon, or Viktor in St Petersburg…
Scale wise I love the pygmy scales of the early hangs, and obviously the harmonic minor range (my main 2nd Gen PanArt).

HPM: ‘Hang Drum Project’, we’ve got to ask. Is there a story behind this name? While we take no offence to the use of the drum moniker, we suspect that you must be aware that it has its opponents. Innocent name, a name designed for attracting search engine visitors, a statement of some kind, or something else? And how do you feel about the whole ‘Hang’, ‘HandPan’, ‘Don’t call it this’, ‘don’t do it that way’ thing as a whole? Any insight? (and you can tell us to sod off if you don’t fancy answering this one).
Daniel: “The Hang Drum Project” as is called the project from myself and James Winstanley was chosen upon for a few different reasons…
Mostly, when I bought my hang from the makers themselves in Berne in 2006/2007, they were still themselves calling the instruments ‘hang drums.’ So I don’t see any harm in it.  By definition, hitting, striking, exhuming a blow and thwacking an instrument which consists of a resonating sound chamber is ‘drumming.’ Ok, don’t hit it hard, but then, don’t hit table with a drumstick either!
As far as the ‘hand pan’ tag. Well, it it what it is. And yes, it did occur to us that this name would be easily remembered and picked up in the search engines. ;)
I do however see it a shame when some players do not make the distinction between a hang and a hand pan from another maker, each maker deserves to be recognized for their contribution to the art and when one day I begin to play a pan from another maker more than I do my hang, then the name will no doubt adapt suitably.

HPM: Daniel, you’re without doubt one of the most recognizable faces in Hang/HandPan music, and have inspired many with your own playing. But which musician from any genre, from any time, has most inspired you?
Daniel: As a teenager growing up at the time I did I obviously I have to sight Curt Cobain as a major influence, but then I also listened to a LOT of 70’s and 80’s guitar based music whilst I was growing up. My father has always played in various blues groups and I was in a Military Marching Band for 3 years too… I love people who pioneer, taking their sound outside of the already made category and finding new ways to work things out.
HPM: If you could form a Hang Super-group with any two individuals alive or dead, musical, or non-musical, fictional, or otherwise, who would they be?
Daniel: Nice idea! If I could choose anyone to pull together at once, I would love to see
Stuart Coplin or Tony Bozio on drums, Jeff Beck or Santana on Guitar, Jaco Pastorious on Bass, and Ozzy Osborne (when he was younger!) or Laine Stainley on vocals. I don’t know exactly where I would fit in to the equation here, but I do know that lot would make a killa live performance!
HPM: We know that you offer your music for download via your website, on a ‘pay what you think is fair’ kind of deal. Do you find that most people are happy to chip in a little for some great music, or as a starving artist, should we be sending you up a case of beans, and a fork?
Daniel: I have to work hard to keep myself afloat, I have no family home in which I can easily stay for any length of time and from my past I’m pretty used to working ‘seasonal’ jobs so I can make things last. But in all serioucity, I have to work corporate gigs to make the ends meet neatly, something that I would not have dreamed about 5 years ago, but given the choice of allowing people to download my music for DONATION with no minimum fee or charging a solid fixed price, I choose to work the the donation concept because I feel that it keeps an element of the ‘busking/street play’ attached.
HPM: For those who like to count down days, do you have a date for us when the new album will be available for download?
Daniel: For this new album…. . all I can say for now is… SPRING 2013
HPM: Finally, one last question, we've noticed that you have a lot of female fans (we’ll refrain from calling them Hang groupies), How does it feel to be (arguably) the first heartthrob of Hang? And has this led to any interesting propositions, or does a gentleman never tell? :)
Daniel: Cheers for that! It amazes me each time I post a new pic an get some many people ‘liking’ it and leaving their comments…
I honestly do not feel like how you say, but I am coming to terms with the fact that I have to be as respectful as possible with what I say… I have had the odd stalker though I must add… I hope I don’t become the first hang player who needs their own security team following round! (the Axel Rose Syndrome?!?!) ;)

HPM: Thank you again, Daniel, for taking time out from your busy schedule.  It has been a real pleasure!  :)

To get the latest info on all things Daniel Waples, and to keep up with the release of the forthcoming album, you can visit Daniel over at

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