This week we get to speak to Dan AKA A Spot on The Hill!
Who are you?
My name is Dan Cook; I’m a content strategist and a former newspaper editor in Columbia, South Carolina. I’m also a husband, a father and a musician.
I like this question, because it reminds me of something that happened many years ago when I was working as the music editor at the newspaper. A member of a local band showed up at a bar where my band was playing wearing a shirt that said, “Who the fuck is Dan Cook?” I asked him if I could buy one. I don’t think he liked that question very much.
What do you do?
My musical project is called A Spot on the Hill. It’s all instrumental music, falling somewhere between ambient, postrock and contemporary classical.
This is the first time I’ve made a record by myself — I played piano, violin, guitar and keyboards, and my friend Jonathan Bradley played drums on one track. It’s also the first record I’ve made in 18 years. I used to play bass, guitar and violin in indie rock bands.
I’m not much of a pianist — violin and bass are really my main instruments — but I’ve always loved the piano and wanted to use it as the primary compositional tool for this record. So, the songs are mostly built around a skeletal structure of piano, with the other instruments flowing in and out, creating mood and filling out the texture.
What are you currently enjoying?
Honestly, there is so much incredible music coming out that it’s impossible to keep up, even within one or two genres. But just to name a couple things I’ve heard recently that resonated with me, there’s a new release by cellist Julia Kent and guitarist Jean D.L., “The Great Lake Swallows,” which is really beautiful. And the new album by Alaskan Tapes, “You Were Always an Island,” is getting a lot of attention in ambient circles, and deservedly so. I think one of the challenges in ambient music is how to capture that floating, drifting feeling while still conveying a sense of direction and musical purpose, and Alaskan Tapes does that well.
Then, just to mention a couple other things that aren’t recent but are still wonderful: “Upon This Rock” by Jocelyn Pook and “Nothing Stays the Same, Nothing Ever Ends” by Last Days. I could list hundreds of other tracks or artists, but these are just two I’ve listened to recently, and they never cease to inspire me.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m doing a local radio interview in two days. That will just be my second interview for A Spot on the Hill; Minnis2Society is my first. So, that should be fun.
Musically, it’s been a busy couple of months. I released the Spot on the Hill album, “The Tenth Wave,” in July. Since then, I’ve been working on promoting it and writing new material. At the same time, I’ve been practicing with a band I was in decades ago, Lay Quiet Awhile, for a one-off reunion show in mid-September. Once that’s over, I’ll hunker down on writing more. My hope is to have another album’s worth of material written in the next three or four months and then start recording again.
I also recently had one of my tracks, “Fourth-Floor Drone,” reworked by The Oxford Ambient Collective (https://soundcloud.com/oxfordambient/fourth-floor-drone-oxford-waves). It’s been great to work with him (David Smith). It’s possible we’ll do more together; we’ll see.
Today’s best advice?
Stay close to the people you love. Tell them how you feel. We lost a wonderful musician here in Columbia this week, and there’s been a wave of sadness throughout the music community here. But it’s also an inspiration to see how a community pulls together at a time like this. Keep your friends and family close.
If you like to find out more about Dan and his music you follow, listen, and find anything you need below!