My name is Dan Bull and I am a musician. In sixth form I was given the award for “weirdest behaviour” and I am one of the few people on earth to have looked Jeremy Paxman in the eye and seen fear. That’s all you really need to know, but if your thirst for knowledge is not so easily quenched, then read on. Note – throughout the following story, you’ll see links to my many videos. Click them and explore…
I came out of my mum in the sleepy town of Bromsgrove in 1986. My first musical memory is of wearing out a tape copy of the soundtrack to the film Ghostbusters. I still believe that the film’s theme song is the greatest piece of music ever written. By the age of twelve I had already decided that I wanted to be either a comedy sketch writer or a musician.
As a teenager, I formed a rock band called MatronsApron. We described our style as “alternative alternative” and made peculiar songs about old women and anthropomorphic pigs. We spent several happy summers pissing about with guitars and drinking copious amounts of “borrowed” alcohol.
Once it was time to leave school, everybody fucked off to university, half of the band going to Oxford, and myself attending the friendly domestic terrorist nursery, Leeds Metropolitan University. This was about the time of the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, so inevitably I didn’t do any work, and swiftly dropped out. My malaise was compounded by my break-up with my first girlfriend, who I was idiotically convinced I’d be with forever.
Adult years and my first album – Safe
In the midst of the most depressing decade since the 1940s, I hibernated in a Morrissey-like fugue of self-pitying poetry and alienation, interrupted by several stints in hospital. The result of this was my first album, Safe, which was released on January 1st, 2009. I must thank my parents for allowing me to dole about in their house rent-free for several years – without their kindness and understanding, my musical aspirations would doubtless remain mere aspirations. If I’d come from a less tolerant background, I’d probably have ended up “defending” my country in Afghanistan.
Producing the album gave me a new-found quiet confidence, and I began to venture out of my shell, collaborating with other artists and travelling the country to meet them. The Macclesfield-based Innit Records crew became my closest IRL musical buddies; and I regularly hop on the train to drink beer, make music, and weird videos with them.
Despite the three years it took me to record Safe, and the countless DJs and record labels I sent it to, nobody really cared for a slightly annoying self-absorbed hip-popper with a British accent, until I wrote a song about another slightly annoying self-absorbed hip-popper with a British accent, Lily Allen. The video went viral overnight, and I suddenly found myself overwhelmed with messages of support, interview requests, and a fanbase who were asking for more music. Screw CDs then, I thought; YouTube is the place where people will listen to me.
Overly confident that my overnight success meant that anything I subsequently shat out would be pure gold, I embarked on an erratic spree of video making. Entering environmental competitions, explaining the workings of glaciation, and singing strange mashups of songs from the charts, I found my work once again going un-noticed, until, attempting to replicate the formula of my first viral video, I was under the spotlight once more. It seemed that videos of myself narrating sarcastic e-mails was the only way to go. I published open letters on autistic hackers, Islamist prats, and public radio stations. The approach worked, and I was soon contacted by BBC Comedy, who wanted me to work for them.
A foot in the door?
I spent months pitching ideas to the BBC before they agreed on something. Being a John Lennon fan and fellow punsmith, I decided to commemorate his birthday with a musical biography, consisting of as many Lennon and Beatles song titles as possible. As well as catching the attention of Yoko Ono, who apparently enjoyed it, the video resulted in my being interviewed on BBC Merseyside by former Cavern Club DJ, Billy Butler. I’m not sure which I consider higher praise. My attempt to follow it up with a Beatles parody song was not well-received.
I was approached by a number of other TV companies, and was slated to feature in the ill-fated second series of the BBC Two show Chartjackers. However, the plug was pulled, and I slunk back to my bedroom.
At about this time, the British public elected a new coalition government. Oh, wait, they didn’t, but never mind, that’s not how democracy works these days. David Cameron was subsequently made Prime Minister, Nick Clegg his limp-dicked deputy, and Gordon Brown disappeared into obscurity, being replaced by the stranger-looking of the Miliband brothers.
Daniel the sports fan
To be honest, I’ve never seen the point in sport, aside from getting mildly excited about the Superbowl and the World Cup. However, during my obsessive news-jacking phase, I dipped my musical toe into the arena (that’s such a clumsy mixed metaphor that I’m going to leave it in). For the vuvuzela-infested 2010 World Cup, I created the character of Terry Bull, a man that a number of people still believe is my uncle, and had a go at releasing my first proper single, “Four Tigers“. Naturally, nobody bought it.
Cricket bores the shit out of me, but nevertheless I was determined to write a song about it. Somehow, with my creative juices strained through the sieve of a sport that sends me to sleep, this happened.
One physical activity I do enjoy is swimming; I had lessons for years. Unlike most sports, I find swimming a calming way to escape from the rest of the world, and settle into the rhythm of my own thoughts. God, I’m a pretentious twat.
Daniel the activist
My vehement defense of filesharing has struck a chord with a range of internet users, and I made music on behalf of supporters as diverse as The Pirate Bay and TalkTalk (the former featured my anti-ACTA video on their homepage, and the latter commissioned a cheesy 1980s pop song from me, which was shown on the BBC’s Panorama). I was also bafflingly misquoted by Russia Today, which I actually found rather entertaining.
I am a believer in free speech and open government, so I keenly watched the WikiLeaks saga unfold. In the age of the internet, it’s becoming much harder for governments to keep information under control, and social networking has allowed for a new era of creative protest. I think movements such as Occupy Wall Street are a fantastic sign that my generation care about the planet they live on, and want to see change. Unfortunately, the internet makes idiocy easier too, and petty violence and vandalism become confused with campaigning for a better world.
Speaking of a a better world, I prefer rationality and reason over dogma and religion. I’ve nothing against Jews, Catholics or people of any religious persuasion, but I believe that religious institutions and the beliefs they propagate are not conducive to an improving world. It’s also really irritating to hear ridiculous arguments such as the one about the shape of a banana being proof of God’s existence. Like other rationalists before me, I try to embrace the fact that we’re only here for a limited time, and there is no magical afterlife to compensate for the way we’ve squandered our precious time on Earth.
My most recent piece in defense of digital rights came about after I was struggling to come up with an idea that didn’t require a camera (I don’t have one). It occurred to me that a lot of other people have cameras, and a lot of other people care about our digital rights, so why not get them involved too. The resulting video was “SOPA Cabana” which garnered quite a bit of news coverage, including an article in the Washington Post.
Daniel the gamer
As I mentioned earlier, I was hospitalised and severely ill for several months. Having nothing else to do whilst recovering, I rediscovered my love for computer gaming, and had tremendous fun recounting my pixelated escapades in my first gaming song, “Generation Gaming“. The video was seen by a fellow at Machinima, who invited me to become a director. My brief stint at Machinima began with a re-upload of the very same song, followed by quite a shit summary of 2010’s E3 convention. I became disillusioned with Machinima after they botched an upload of my Fallout 3 tribute. The video was glitched, and after a couple of hours it was taken down and replaced – I was never compensated for the lost pay-per-views.
Focusing on my own channel again, I uploaded a review of the trailer to Grand Theft Auto V (a quasi-remake of the same game that caused me to drop out of university). It went down well, thanks in no small part to coverage from the guys at Kotaku, and I was encouraged to produce more gaming songs. As an avid fan of the Elder Scrolls series, I was pant-wettingly excited for a sequel to my favourite game, Oblivion. My wet daydreams came true when Skyrim was announced, and shortly before its release I published my ode to the game that I knew would be stealing several months of my life.
The Skyrim video was massively popular and is my most successful video so far. I quickly followed it up with odes to Minecraft, Assassin’s Creed, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and saw my fanbase multiply tenfold in the space of a couple of months. I love writing songs about games and I plan to do many more.
Second album – Face
At the end of 2011, I quietly released my second album, Face, which most people discovered through a link in the video description for “SOPA Cabana”. Face is an upbeat sequel to Safe, and in it I have experimented with a bolder, stripped down sound, upon which I announce my determination to succeed in the face of the troubles described in my first album.
Where am I now?
Although my corporeal form ambles around somewhere in meatspace, I live on the internet, and for the internet. You can find me loitering here: