Earlier this year, we featured the latest EP ‘Dark Patterns’ from Pennsylvanian punk band Advocaat which was released on Big Eleanor Records. The band’s drummer, Danny NoNo, also runs the record label and I met up with Danny for a pint and a chat about his music and where he sees Big Eleanor Records going in the future. His enthusiasm, drive and self-belief are infectious and hopefully that comes across in the interview.
You released a lot of music in 2020 only for the pandemic to basically shut the industry down and touring stopped for bands. How did that make you feel?
From 2016-2017, I was talking about doing this stuff so the pandemic didn’t really change anything because I worked my ass off and did it for myself. If other people listen to it and enjoy it then great. I go out my way to promote and be wacky and entertaining but, at the end of the day, I did it for myself. I had an idea to make a song with this energy and I’ve always been making music so now that I’m about “let’s get this music out”. Although I couldn’t play any shows, I have no problem talking to people so I felt like that was an advantage.
What classic album cover is your current mood?
I love album cover art. I’m going to say ‘Muddy Waters’ – Redman is where I am today. If you look at the cover, he’s in his work boots, in the trenches and it feels like where I’m at right now; boots strapped up, sitting next to a TV that is off, at a desk with nothing on it except one sad flower, just here to work.
Did you set up the label so you were able to control your own music (something that has been in the news a lot recently)?
While recording the albums, I worked on images, cover art, studio time and really enjoyed that side of the industry. It’s not because I couldn’t trust the people I was working with but because someone has to set up studio time so it might as well be me. Someone has to promotion so I can do it because I trust myself in getting the job done and the end result will be that much better.
Where did the name “Big Eleanor Records” come from?
Eleanor was a black lab that my wife had that passed away about three years ago and she was in my life for 6-7 years and there was something about this dog that was so pure; if she was a human she’d be an old lady cooking pies and looking out for the neighborhood kids. So when it was time to make a name for what I was doing, a lot of people thought I would just name it after myself or something. So I needed to find a way to show everyone that its not about myself; its about the people that helped me get to this point. And the wholesomeness of the dog brought that together (even though she has a gold tooth in!)
Where do you see Big Eleanor in Ten Years?
There will be an impact left. If you work hard enough, you make enough waves and people are just catching the waves I made a year ago. In ten years, they’ll be talking about what I did five years ago. In 30 years time, people will then be influenced by what I’m doing now.
If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
‘I Am I Be’ by De La Soul (from the 1993 ‘Buhloone Mindstate’ album). This song has struck a chord with me recently. Its the perfect rap song; its sincere, it’s genuine, it catches you every time.
Who were your Influences when you were younger and what did you listen to?
I could be cool and say that in 5th grade I listened to this band but my style of playing is in the exact center of The Ramones and Rush. To this day, I even sit at work in between pictures of those two bands.
What are your next steps?
I always have said I am going to end my music career in front of the drum kit; meaning I will be managing, running the label, helping new artists. But I need to use the drums to kick in the door. Right now, I’ve working with and managing an hip-hop artist called Shaw Calhoune out of Maryland and we’ve been making good progress in the underground world. I need to help get him up and touring and so I have a lot of focus on him. I also have the obligation with Kyle (Patrick Carrey) and Advocaat because, at the beginning when we started, I said we have to do a 3 EP stretch and we only have 2 so far. And if some of the other guys are ready to work and have songs, then I’ll jump right in. But right now, I’m slowly making my transition from behind the drums and a lot of the future in going to be more hip-hop based.
You mentioned that working with Shaw will be your main focus – where do you see that heading this year?
When I connected with Shaw he had one or two projects out and I hit him up as a fan at first as I appreciated his efforts. But when you have two people on your team you can start pushing things together and instead of eight months to get a project out, we could do it in four months. We released one project, ‘Mariana’, in late 2021 and then we figured out what was wrong with that recording process, fine-tuned everything and then we came back and recorded two projects in one weekend. We released one a couple of weeks ago called ‘Goat Cheese’ and we are fine-tuning ‘My Regards’ which will come out in a few weeks. We already have plans for a two more projects so right now, we’re in a work mode. He likes to create as much as I do so we talk every single day on ideas. We are in a pure creation process and we will release a full length project by the end of the year.
If an artist wants to work with Big Eleanor Records, how would they approach you about that?
Anyone can hit me up and throw their music my way to check out; I’m open to all that. I am a fan first of anyone I work with so if it’s not something that personally strikes me I won’t discourage anyone but it ain’t for me. But right now, as its just me (at Big El), I can’t really expand too much. I love brainstorming so if someone had the space, wanted me on their team and I’m a fan then if anyone wants that I can be honest and transparent about how much I can contribute. I’m open to meet anyone; if you have a pure approach in your art, hit me up.
What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
Crema based, ricotta and fontina cheese, prosciutto, peaches, honey, and a touch of rosemary. It is called the “Grace order for me, I am not ready yet.”
Apart from working with Shaw, what else will 2022 bring?
I’ve already started the legwork to get my third skateboard deck out – I design skateboard decks and put out two last year. I wanted to come into the game doing music and skateboards but I found that my niche has been way more on the music due to the local area. So I want to connect more with Skatewagon (a local company) and design more with them. By July, we’ll have two more projects from Shaw and a skateboard deck and I don’t want to look too much further than that right now.
Big Eleanor Records is a diy everything started and run by Danny NoNo. Starting as a drummer, he released four different style rock projects with four different songwriters in 2020 but found more comfort in taking full control over major decisions that could affect fulfillment or compromise creativity. Big Eleanor was first intended to release Danny’s own punk rock projects, but has since expanded into touching different genres as well as releasing skateboard decks. Big El is currently in the process of promoting/managing a hip hop artist into their most ambitious ideas, promoting the follow up project for an indie punk band that he drums on, as well as working with a local skateboard company to design the third skateboard deck release.