I N T E R V I E W
Dan Satherley of Dharma Police
by Ian Duggan
‘Dharma Police’ is a side-project of ex-Hamiltonian Dan Satherley’s ‘Anecdata’, which focusses on releasing synthpop songs with lyrics primarily relating to the TV show ‘Lost’. Dharma Police has just released a new album, its third, called ‘It Only Ends Once’. We talked to Satherley about his shift from releasing songs about Trump to Lost, the origin of the Dharma Police name, and why he writes songs about the TV program.
HUP: Your most recent release was Anecdata’s ‘But her Emails’ album, which concentrated on President Trump in the time leading up to his inauguration. I imagine you are glad to leave behind that real-life train wreck to once again concentrate on this fictional plane crash?
Satherley: It might seem that way, but working in news as I do, it's virtually impossible to avoid the Trump wrecking ball on a day-to-day basis. With the sheer amount of chaos going on over there, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a 'But Her Emails II' soon enough!
HUP: I have to admit, I gave up on Lost at about the time the polar bear appeared on the island. Can you give us some background on what the name ‘Dharma Police’ means, and what some of the songs on the new album are about?
Satherley: You gave up waaaaay too early. On finding out I'm into Lost, people always, ALWAYS ask: 'What's with the polar bear? Did they ever explain that mystery?' Yes, yes they did. There's a six-episode run in season three where two of the main characters are literally held in the cages where the bears used to be kept by the Dharma Initiative - a scientific group who ran experiments on the islands in the 1970s (yes, islands... don't complain about spoilers, it's been a decade since that episode aired!).
So, Dharma Police - well, the Dharma bit's obvious, and the police, well, it rhymes with 'Karma Police'. I don't have to explain that to anyone, right? And Sawyer - if you gave up in season one, you'll remember him as the redneck asshole - ends up joining the Dharma Initiative security crew in a particularly amusing subplot from the most balls-out crazy season of the show - the fifth.
HUP: Lost played on TV from 2005, finishing in 2010. To date you have released two albums, both in 2012, and an EP in 2015. What has motivated you to release another ‘Dharma Police’ album in 2017?
Satherley: Most of 'It Only Ends Once' was written at the same time as the first two Dharma Police records - it's just been sitting around this whole time, waiting for me to get bored of guitars! That also explains how it's come so soon after 'But Her Emails' - it was already written and mostly arranged, it just needed to be committed to tape (well, hard drive).
HUP: Lost seems like a pretty niche topic to release an album about, let alone three! Who is your audience, and are there any more plans for more Dharma Police releases in the future?
Satherley: I actually wrote four records' worth of material in the space of about a year, so there's another dozen or so Lost-inspired songs waiting their turn... if the world needs them.
The audience? Who knows. But when you write an absurd number of songs, sometimes you have to find absurd things to write about to fill them all! No one wants to hear songs about going to bed at 8pm because you've got a 5am start the next day, as is my daily life; so why not write from the perspective of a drug warlord from Nigeria-turned-priest who believes it was his destiny to sit in an underground bunker and press a button every 108 minutes to save the world? Or an award-winning physicist who goes back in time, only to be shot dead by his own mother? Or a 19th century Latin American man who gets sold into slavery, only to be gifted immortality by a 2000-year-old Roman who's trying to win a bet with his shape-changing brother?
There's no other show that so effectively combined emotional depth and batshit insanity. I could probably write four albums' worth of material based on season three alone!
Actually, that's not a bad idea...