Danny Miranda: The Best Music…Ever

By Jeb Wright

Danny Miranda knows a thing or two about good music.  For starters, he grew up in Long Island during the late 1970s, and like many others his age, he was quickly addicted to the huge post-Woodstock boom of greatness that surrounded him as a teenager…but that’s not all.

He ended up playing bass guitar for a decade with Long Island’s most famous band, Blue Oyster Cult.  Then he played bass for Queen + Paul Rodgers and most recently, for Meat Loaf at his Las Vegas residency.  This guy knows good music.  And he loves it.

It was a joy to sit down with Danny and learn about how one can play next to the some of the greats on stage without throwing-up from nervousness and how his employer at the time- a guy named Brian May- was just his good friend Brian, even though Brian had just met the actual Queen! 

Danny Miranda is not a household name, but rest assured he is an ‘in-demand’ musician.  He is dedicated, professional and solid as a rock.  What is most enduring about Danny is the fact that despite his many successes, he is still a fan of music and still finds passion in those seven essential notes that make up all songs.  Whether you know his name or not, you will be able to relate to his rock and roll experiences growing up.

Jeb: Do you miss the band gig, like you had with Blue Oyster Cult, or is this stuff with Meat Loaf and what you did with Queen + Paul Rodgers, being the side guy, is that more what you want to do?

Danny: Once a year, I get a call from BOC even though I quit the band nine years ago.  I seem to play with them for a few weeks a year.  I really enjoy it when I am there, but that is only a month’s work. 

The way they travel is different.  They are what we call Weekend Warriors.  A lot more bands are doing this nowadays.  I will tell you a lot of really big country groups do that.  You leave on Wednesday, or Thursday, and you come back on Sunday.  On paper, that sounds like an ideal lifestyle, because you’re not gone for months at a time. The backend of it is that you’re not home long enough to get anything started, other than doing your laundry.  It is a bit rough. 

That ‘older you get, the harder it is to do’ -that kind of traveling.  You have to get up at the crack of dawn and take two, or three, flights to get to a gig and then do it all over again.  It is a lot different than what I am doing here in Vegas.

I just am sitting-put in Vegas for two, or three months, at a time.  I have so much free time I almost feel guilty about it.  I do love the fact of being on the road, that things are constantly in motion.  I think that is really cool, and it makes you feel like you’re in that dryer just going round and round. 

Jeb: I could not believe I saw you at the Moondance Jam with Blue Oyster Cult.

Danny: That was my first gig with them that year.  It was in Walker, Minnesota, and it was really cool. 

In the past, we would do things like one week we would have a gig in Frankfort, Germany and the next day we would be in Arizona or something like that.  Some people would think that sounds exciting, but most of the time you are on a plane and you don’t even know what time it is, or where you are.  You get home and you feel like you need a vacation and you have to do it again in two, or three, days. 

Jeb: BOC’s motto is on the road forever. 

Danny:  They ain’t shitting, man.  Those guys are older now.  I think Eric Bloom is something like 69 years old now.  I bitch and moan a lot less when I think of that.  Eric has twenty years on me and does it, so I am like, “I better keep my mouth shut. “

 Jeb: What was the Meat Loaf gig in Vegas like?

Danny: He doesn’t want to tour much anymore.  We did a sling around Europe last year and we have yet to really do the States, or go back to Australia.  They’re fiddling about with that now. 

The idea of a sit-down thing…it is certainly easier on his voice.  It is easier for him not to travel.  It is interesting, because more and more rock bands are doing this now.  I just saw this big thing at the Hard Rock that Guns is coming for a residency.  Def Leppard did it last year and it was very successful.  It is not just for Celine Dion anymore. 

The cool thing about Vegas is that there are lots of rooms of all sizes.  There are theaters of 1500, like we did Meat Loaf.  Celine plays bigger theaters and then there are big arenas that are built specifically for music. 

Bands don’t come here and play basketball arenas.  When you play the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, it feels like a place to play basketball and it sounds like shit.  Here you play at the MGM, or somewhere, and it sounds like a million bucks and you feel how great it is.  You have clean power, good lights and everything sounds great.  These are the things that you sacrifice when you play hockey arenas.  Those places were made for sports, or anything but music.  You realize how much of a compromise a lot of this stuff is. 

Even outdoor gigs can be horrific, because you can have winds blowing and all you hear in the monitors is the wind blowing.  Not to bitch and complain, but there is an upside to doing this kind of a gig in a controlled environment. 

Jeb:  You are a very versatile performer.

Danny: I’ve always been open-minded, and I love different kinds of music.  The other night I went to see a 12-piece Salsa band…I love that music.  I am going to see Pat Metheny tonight.  In the course of an hour I can listen to everything from Joni Mitchell to Slayer.  I really try to listen to, and play as many kinds of music as is possible. 

Prior to my tour with Queen, I came to Vegas to play in the We Will Rock You musical, so I was already in that ‘John Deacon’ mindset.  It is different than being in a cover band.  In a cover band you don’t need to play it 100%, as long as you’re playing it in the style, then it is cool.  When you’re playing a whole show based on that music, then it really needs to feel and sound authentic out of respect to the band. 

Jeb: Some people didn’t think Paul Rodgers was a good fit, but I saw it live and that was a hell of a show. 

Danny: They waited a very long time to get a singer.  I hesitate to say replace Freddie.  Nobody can replace him, but Paul is nobody’s sub, either.  The easiest thing they could have done is get somebody who sounds exactly like Freddie.  That would be a short cut, and Queen didn’t take short cuts; they went out of their way and put their balls on the line with everything.  They’ve risked their entire career with every move they’ve made.

Just imagine presenting “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the record company and telling them it is going to be huge.  I am sure the record company said, “You’re insane.  No one is going to like this.”  They did “Crazy Thing Called Love” and the record company went, “You’re Queen, you’re not a Rockabilly band, or Elvis.  What is this?” 

Once they get the feeling they can be comfortable, then they go the opposite direction.  That makes them not just a rock group, but rather, an artist.  Like Led Zeppelin when they wrote one of the greatest rock songs in “Stairway to Heaven.”  They never wanted to write another song like that ever again.  They go the opposite direction and that is what makes them real artists. 

Their attitude with Paul was just that they were going to do the Bad Company and Free stuff because that is Paul’s past.  Queen was very into Mott the Hoople and Free. 

Free was big in England.  I didn’t realize they were huge over in the UK, but they were huge.  Everybody wanted to sing like Paul Rodgers then.  He was, and is, the best blues rock singer that has ever lived, in my opinion.  Everything I love about soul music, like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and the Temptations and the Four Tops is Paul, the same with Muddy Waters; it’s all there.  For heaven’s sakes, he sounds better than he even did forty years ago. 

Jeb:  With Meat Loaf you did a lot of fun stuff.

Danny: When we did the last tour in Europe, we split the show in half and we did a set of hits and the second set was Bat Out of Hell front to back.  The Vegas show was a combination of Storytellers, a rock show and a Dean Martin roast. 

Meat is up there and he is really great at holding court.  There were video screens, and he had his iPad and he would show videos of Jim Steinman talking.  He shows his high school football picture and all of that kind of stuff.  He tells stories about how this song came about or that one. 

We do about a dozen tunes throughout his career and we don’t do Bat in its entirety.  It is about telling stories and he takes questions from the audience.  It is a like a personal big living room thing. 

That is one of Meat’s real forte’s, to be honest with you.  He is really comfortable and generous, one-on-one.  He doesn’t speak at the people, he speaks with them.  He has an incredible memory for the past.  He started in the theater and he did Hair, and he remembers living under a rock in Hollywood back then.  He remembers all of this shit, but I can’t even remember where I parked my car!  

Jeb: What’s it like playing the bass parts for Bat Out of Hell?

Danny: When I play the Bat Out of Hell bass parts, I tread lightly.  You don’t want to stray too much.  Some of his music in the ‘80s, or ‘90s, was a real wall of sound and there is some room to breathe. 

When I came in the band, Meat’s career was 35 years on.  When you listen to live versions of the band from ten years ago, or whatever, the songs have changed over time.  They have formed into something else.  They have changed from the record before I came along.  So, they have grown up a little bit.  That is not to say what was on the record needed improvement, but as time goes on, things change.  I would listen to the original records, but I also listened to how they sounded on the past few tours.

Jeb: Did you buy Bat Out of Hell back in the day?

Danny: Oh fuck yeah.  I was in seventh grade when the album came out.  We had a teen center where we hung out at on the weekends.  Bat Out of Hell, the first Foreigner album, Street Survivors, Song Remains the Same and Toys in the Attic were what we were listening to. 

When you would hear “Two out of Three,” you would ask a girl to dance.  That album was part of my DNA growing up.  Like those albums, like Born to Run or Toys or Bat…they were all complete different directions from one and the other, but they were all really good music.   Even if you said, “Meat’s not really my kind of vibe. I like Ted Nugent.”  That was cool.  Even though you liked Nugent you would still listen to Meat.  No would say, “Get this shit off.” 

It was music and it was good and it was all really important to the big picture of what was evolving in rock music.  It was a really great time to grow up.  Everybody had the same records.  No one would say, “I’ve got to get around and buy Houses of the Holy.”  If you liked what you heard the first time you heard it then you borrowed the three dollars from your mother and went out and bought it right away.  You didn’t put it on cassette, or borrow it from a friend.   You bought the record.    

Jeb: I remember not eating lunch at high school so I could save enough dollars to stop by the record store at the end of the week. 

Danny: Oh yeah, dude, absolutely.  There was a record store down on the corner from my house.  My mom would give me two dollars for lunch.  If I saved thirty cents a day then at the end of the week I could buy a couple of Elton John singles, or whatever.  I would play them until I died.  Our attention spans were much better then.  We didn’t listen to a song and then ten seconds later forget it. 

While you were listening to it you had the album cover.  You would look at the album credits and read the lyrics and we would study the album cover while we were listening.  Now, between the size of CDs, and my eyesight, I can’t see shit! 

Jeb: This music will be gone soon.  What is going to happen?

Danny: I feel bad for our children and grandchildren.  People get emotional at these shows.  It’s not because the music is sad.  It’s because it means so much. 

When Blue Oyster Cult and Meat and McCartney are gone we are stuck with Green Day.  No offense to these bands, but we knew back then that the stuff that was happening was going to last 1,000 years.  Obviously we were right, and now we see people bringing their kids to the show. 

I have met nine year olds who love Led Zeppelin.  Are you kidding me?  The last thing I wanted to do when I was nine was to admit that I liked my parent’s music, you know what I mean?  Now they are like, “This is the best music ever.”  It is amazing when you see people bring in their kids.  It is really something. 

I don’t know what we are going to do.  The way things are going is that people are being brainwashed into believing that art is more disposable and less significant to our culture.  We spent the first 40 years trying to prove rock and roll is art.  It is an art form and it is one of the few things that we created. 

Jeb: As a music fan, not just as a professional musician, when you look over on-stage and see you’re playing with Paul Rodgers, or Meat Loaf, or Brian May, or Buck Dharma, do you ever get used to it?

Danny: I have to psych myself out of it, because if I really ever see the reality of it, I think I will have a heart attack. 

When I auditioned for We Will Rock You I was up in the pit.  I had not met any of the Queen guys yet.  I was reading the music and I think we were playing “Under Pressure” or whatever.  I see out of the corner of my eye Brian May.  He sits down next to me and takes out a camera and he starts taking photos of me.  I thought, “It does not matter how well I play because I am going to have a stroke.”  This was Brian May and I am playing his music, and I can’t emotionally handle this.

I have to think of it as, “This is my friend Brian” or “This is my friend Eric Bloom.”  I have to think, “This is my friend Meat Loaf, and I can barge into his dressing room anytime and sit down and have a cup of coffee with him.”  I can’t think of them as legends as it is very intimidating.  It is distracting. 

When I first started rehearsing with Queen in England, the ritual was that I would get up in the morning and have my breakfast and get ready… I would turn on the news and I would wait to get picked up to go to rehearsal. 

Once day I am waiting and I am watching something about Buckingham Palace.  They had something going on that previous evening, and I see Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Brian May.  I am like, “Holy shit, I am going to see Brian in twenty minutes.”  It was like I had forgotten that Brian is a fucking icon.  Then I start getting nervous, because for six weeks he has been my ‘buddy Brian’, who I am making music with, and he was with the Queen last night while I was eating at the Sizzler.  It puts things in a very strange perspective. 

What really helps is all of those people, Meat included, are so down to earth and normal.  They are stars when they have to be stars, but when they hang-out with their bands, they are really great, normal people, which says a lot for people who have not done their own laundry or food shopping for 40 years. 

Jeb: Outside of the day-job, what have you been doing?

Danny: I have been doing a bunch of writing.  I write a lot of instrumental stuff.  It is kind of Pink Floyd and Jeff Beck type of stuff.  I’ve been working on a lot of that.  I have been doing some pop stuff with a singer.  It is pretty much what I’ve been doing. When I am back in New York I do some sessions. 

Jeb:  You are from Long Island and so is Blue Oyster Cult. You ended up with them for many years.

Danny: Back in high school it was a really big deal that one of the biggest bands in the world was from basically down the block.  It was something that Long Island was tremendously proud of.  I think the biggest band from there before them was The Rascals.  They didn’t get nearly as big as they should have, because they were a groundbreaking band. 

It’s great that Blue Oyster Cult not only hailed from Long Island, they were proud to wave the flag.  A lot of bands from Long Island say they are from New York City and I am like, “Bullshit, you grew up in suburbia like the rest of us. You weren’t from the mean streets.”

Jeb: How did you get the gig with BOC?

Danny: It was a really big deal to join that band.  John Miceli, who is now drumming for Meat Loaf, was instrumental in me getting that gig.  BOC was in between drummers and he subbed for them.  They were talking and said they were going to need a bass player, and he said they should check out his friend Danny.  I had met Eric before; we did a couple of cover gigs.  I just went down and auditioned.  I never officially was told that I was in the band.  They just had me stick around for ten years.  Maybe I never was in the band?  I just wouldn’t go away.  I am just like a fucking cockroach with that band. 

Jeb: Blue Oyster Cult is an amazing band that I love.  You were on a couple of their albums. You were on Heaven Forbid and Curse of the Hidden Mirror.   

Danny: I was.  There are a few of my songs on Curse of the Hidden MirrorHeaven Forbid and Curse were the last two records they did.  It was a lot of fun to do that.  I was really flattered to do that.  I was in the touring band but they could do whatever they wanted in the studio. I was flattered they asked me to do that.  It was a great honor and a great learning experience. 

Jeb: Heaven Forbid  is a huge album, musically.  That is a great album. 

Danny: I think I was in the band a year, or a year and a half, before they went in to do the record.  They had written a few things like “See You in Black” and “Harvest Moon” and we were playing them in the set.  I was like, “Fuck, these songs have to be on a record. Why has this not been recorded?”  We eventually got a deal and we did the record.  I am really pleased that we did because it would have been a shame if it had not been documented.  They were in their fifties and they were writing great music and people needed to know about it. 

Jeb: Last one:  What’s the story behind you wearing a bandana all the time?

Danny: Oh man, I just started wearing them because I was sweating so much on stage.  I guess it is just part of the vibe now, so I might as just stick with it.