Interview by Robert Otero
When asked about his origins Dan Cable sheepishly admits, “I’m from southern California,” nearly blushing through his iconic bushy beard. The fact he resides among the most heckled classes of Portland transplants is not lost on him, yet it has not phased the 31 year old. His earnest and affable temperament have served him well in his 4 years since arriving in Portland. His podcast, Dan Cable Presents, has garnered a nomination for Willamette Week’s 2017 Best Of Portland Readers Poll under the “best local podcast” category. Most weeks the program (lovingly referred to as “the progrum” by Dan and his followers) showcases local musical talent with interviews and live performances at Portland’s Mountain Air Studios. In addition to the podcast, Dan Cable Presents produces video episodes of the live in-studio sessions. The high quality of content coupled with Dan’s passion and proclivity has turned Dan Cable Presents into somewhat of a local media sensation. The baker, podcaster, promoter, musician, concert-goer, and all-around lover of music sat down with NextNorthWest contributor Robert Otero at The White Eagle to talk about who he is, what he’s doing, and where he hopes to go.
NNW: Have you participated in any sort of new-media projects like Dan Cable Presents before?
Cable: Nah man, I played in bands. I was a musician growing up. I kind of spent a long time out in the L.A. scene. Playing shows and making a big polished record with the band over 3 years. Did all that and the band dissolved. So then I kind of continued doing some solo stuff.
NNW: Were you a singer-songwriter type?
Cable: Yeah, so I was like a singer in the band and I couldn’t really play an instrument. After the band ended I really wanted to play music still so I picked up the guitar and figured out a little bit.
NNW: Are you still playing now?
Cable: I mean, when I first moved up here I pretty quickly recorded a four or five song EP. Last year I played maybe six shows, just solo with me and a guitar.
NNW: So you were on a mission to get to Portland.
Cable: Yeah, I had the opportunity to break out of where I was and I had been looking at the Northwest as a potential place to end up. I’d been up to Portland a couple times and I had some family up here. I had something in my personal life fall through and as soon as I had the opportunity to I was just like, “I’m going.” This was my opportunity to do something, when I moved up I had some strong intentions to make stuff. I wanted to continue to explore making music and also I had grown this addiction to listening to podcasts. It became my favorite thing over movies or TV or anything. I thought, “this is the realest content I’ve ever been exposed to.” Completely uncensored. It’s whatever it is every week. Sometimes it’s two hours sometimes it’s a half an hour. I loved how there were no boundaries on it. So I messed around with some ideas.
NNW: Were there other iterations of the podcast before Dan Cable Presents?
Cable: Yeah, the first one was just like conversations with friends. So I tried to do that for a little bit but it was pretty inconsistent, I put out like 15 of those. Then my buddy and I started a sports podcast for a while. That was cool but we just didn’t keep up with it regularly. Then I started booking this open mic singer-songwriter showcase downtown. That was one of my first interactions with the local music community. I’d been going to a lot of shows but they were mostly national touring acts.
NNW: So there you’re seeing people coming up who hadn’t necessarily made it quite yet?
Cable: I was starting to meet people and I was recognizing, “Oh man, there’s a lot of good local music here,” and that was just in the singer-songwriter realm. I wanted to do something with more of a focus and I thought, “this is it, this is the podcast.” The very first episode, which is no longer available, I just talked to a band. It was fine but it was hard to hear and I didn’t have a good understanding of how to use my mobile recorder. After that I thought this would be really cool if we could do this in a studio and get some performances and kind of do it KEXP style. That was a big influence for me. I asked this local singer Sarah Wild (of Portland duo Fox & Bones) to hangout and maybe play a few songs. I felt good about it and everyone who came down for the podcast was like you should keep doing this.
NNW: That was at Mountain Air Studios?
Cable: Yes. That’s who I was booking those open mics with, Mountain Air Mike. Mike Johnson. He was hosting those open mics and when I first moved here I showed up to that open mic and he was a super nice dude. I ended up recording my EP at his studio and later down the road wanted my input on a new open mic they were setting up. So, it was kind of like a no brainer that I would want to do the podcast out of his studio and he brought a cool element. He comes from a radio background.
NNW: Yeah, you can tell. He’s kind of like your Ed McMahon.
Cable: (laughing) Absolutely, that’s kind of Mike’s thing. And I just trust his ear.
NNW: So it’s been you and Mike for every episode in the podcast’s current form.
Cable: From the first episode that’s available Mike has done all the engineering on all the episodes and most of them, I would say 90% are in-studio. There’s a few where I’m just meeting up with touring bands or meeting with people just recording a conversation but I think it all serves the same purpose. I’m just trying to introduce people to artists around town that I like.
NNW: Now that you’re at this point and you have some notoriety and you’re starting to gain some popularity, do you think it makes sense for the podcast to try and have a guest that’s a little bigger, a little more popular? Will you always want to have the local open mic types on the show?
Cable: I think landing a big fish, a big name artist, would be good for the podcast. I’m definitely reaching out to touring bands when they’re coming through. I would love to get some bigger bands. Obviously, I have some bucket list bands. That’d be great. But, I think ideally it’s all about trying to promote the people who maybe wouldn’t have those opportunities normally. I would love it if it was a good balance but predominantly the local Portland bands I dig or some Seattle bands. I’ve had a couple bands come down from Washington. I would love for it to be a platform to break certain artists. If the podcast did grow in a big way that’d be awesome.
NNW: Are there other avenues you’d like to explore with the podcast?
Cable: After like the fifth or sixth episode there was some interest from someone to start filming. I started to realize how important filming the studio sessions was and how important it was for bands to have those high quality videos. That’s not the type of resource that was around me when I was coming up and playing in bands. I also don’t necessarily think it’s important how big a band is. I like listening to podcasts for the stories from people. The creative process is interesting whether or not they have the crazy road stories or the big name drops. That’s the best part, just getting to connect with all the folks around and show love to all the artists. It’s crazy just how it’s grown already. The original idea was just to do my little podcast. And now there’s a website and a YouTube channel so it’s almost become a web series and I hope that can attract people who enjoy those KEXP sessions. I’ve also kind of become a promoter, not with just the live Dan Cable Presents events but also with putting local bills together once a month or so. It’s almost becoming it’s own production company in some ways which is cool because it all sort of feeds each other.
NNW: It kind of sounds like you’re mostly trying to have fun with it and just let it grow organically.
Cable: Yeah absolutely. You know, I have some ideas for things. Hopefully by the end of July we’ll be putting out our first documentary which is a little profile on one of my favorite bands in Portland: Tribe Mars. But it’s just kind of chasing these whimsies and thinking, “I think we can pull this off.” I would like to ultimately make it something sustainable, but I’m definitely having a blast and seeing the positive reactions from the audience and the bands have been really great.
NNW: Now that you are past 60 episodes do you have a sense of what makes a really good episode?
Cable: I think a good episode is when I’m as present in the conversation as possible. I think that’s the hardest part sometimes. I always have some loose notes to help guide us in case there isn’t a whole lot of natural conversation but the best episodes to me are when the conversation is flowing. Maybe not even necessarily when we’re talking about music stuff. That episode with Zeke from Young Elk is one of those. That was one of those episodes we went deep with. We hardly talked about music and that was one of my favorites. So yea, I think the best episodes are when I can get people to feel comfortable and feel good about opening up. I’m always learning. Sometimes it’s about knowing when to ask questions but sometimes you have to understand people’s boundaries. I don’t want to push too hard. I’m not Marc Maron.
You can listen to Dan Cable Presents‘ latest episode here.