The Darkness Beyond The Fire
(Tres Rosas)


L.A. based singer-songwriter Ned Doheny is a West Coast pop icon and he puts his experience to good use on his 2011 CD, the ten tracks of The Darkness Beyond The Fire. A beautiful production and featuring excellent packaging, the CD captures all that is best about Ned’s approach to song-writing. In the past, Ned has worked with legends like Traffic founder Dave Mason and there’s a definite mid ‘70s Mason like musical influence here. In fact, besides joining Dave and Mama Cass during their brief stint together, Ned also was a friend with Jackson Brown back in the day. Filled with breezy, L.A. style singer-songwriter style pop, The Darkness Beyond The Fire is the perfect showcase for Ned’s smooth pop groove. With Ned singing on all the tracks and handling the guitars, several key players help out and the CD booklet is excellent too. Check out the booklet’s page one photo of Ned strumming guitar as a youngster with record company legends Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun looking on in amazement at this young kid with a guitar. presents an interview with NED DOHENY

mwe3: Is there a story behind the release of your CD The Darkness Beyond The Fire? I heard there’s a mix of new music and classic music.

ND: In Africa, certain indigenous people believe that when you tell stories around the fire at night, the ghosts of your ancestors gather to listen in the darkness beyond the fire. I wanted to hear these tunes as I had always imagined them. You never know who might be listening.

mwe3: What other musicians play with you on the Darkness Beyond The Fire album? Do you have a group of musicians you perform with or record with these days?

ND: Jimmy Haslip played bass on a few of the tracks. Cat Grey and I played synth bass on the rest. Cat Grey and Don Grusin played all the keyboards. Cat played B3 and synths, Don Grusin, acoustic. A word about Cat Grey...Cat was on the Purple Rain Tour with Prince and Sheila E. and is usually asked to play with Prince when he is in town. Cat is one of the best rhythm keyboard players I’ve ever heard. Steve Tavaglione played all the horn parts on an EWI—head charts no less. Steve has graced a number of Steely Dan albums. The drums were a combination of programmed and live with Gary Mallaber and Joey Herredia. Charlie Bisharat is the lone string player and I played all the guitars. Live, I often play alone, but the band lineup changes constantly.

mwe3: Your history in the music world is quite extensive and I know you also worked with Dave Mason and Mama Cass too. What do you remember most and best from that amazing 1969 to 1976 period?

ND: When I was fresh out of my teens, I played for a time with jazz great Charles Lloyd. I was totally out of my depth, but I loved it. In 1970 I was signed to Asylum Records and began my career as a solo artist. The competition was fierce—Jackson Browne, Don Henley and the like. “Oneupmanship” is a great catalyst for creativity. We were merciless with one another. The business was on fire in those days. On any given night, in studios all over Los Angeles, records were being made that would re-write the history of popular music. Los Angeles was the place to be.

mwe3: Your last name is Doheny and you were actually born (or lived) on Doheny Drive in L.A. How did that happen? (lol) What was your family like and what was it like growing up in Los Angeles during the 1950s and ‘60s?

ND: That is actually a misnomer. I was born in Los Angeles, not Hollywood, and at no time did I ever live on Doheny Drive. I think the Japanese dreamed that one up. When I was a kid, there were buses on Hollywood Blvd. that ran on electricity. There was a baseball field next to the Farmer’s Market on Third Street. There were way fewer cars on the street as the population in the US was half of what it is now. There was a toy store in Beverly Hills called Uncle Bernie’s that had a lemonade tree. The ocean was cleaner. The sky was bluer. There were still orange groves. It felt like a small town. My father had three brothers and one sister and there were lots of cousins to play with. Los Angeles was a great place to grow up. I will always be thankful I had a childhood. These days so many kids don’t.

mwe3: Can you say something about your favorite musical influences, groups, guitarists and some of your favorite albums?

ND: I love Howling Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, The Incredible String Band, The Beatles, Booker T, Van Morrison, the Billy Taylor Trio, Ornette Coleman, Oscar Peterson, Bobby Blue Bland, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Smith and the organ trios... I was mesmerized by R&B.

Among my favorite guitar players were: Lonnie Mack (I had a chance to play with him), Jimi Hendrix, Lenny Breau, Steve Cropper, Little Beaver (Willie Hale), James Burton, Merle Travis, Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt to name but a few. I tend to remember songs rather than albums.

mwe3: That’s a great picture of you on the cover of the CD booklet for The Darkness CD where you pictured age ten, with Ahmet Ertegun and Nesuhi Ertegun looking on. Is there a story behind that picture? What do you remember most about the Ertegun brothers and how did they influence you and what do you think they brought to the music world?

ND: My godmother was dating a Turkish gentleman. It was through this association that my parents met the Erteguns. Ahmet and Nesuhi started Atlantic Records with a small loan from a dentist. Their impact on popular music is incalculable: Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Cream, Zep, the Stones... The Erteguns were motivated by a deep love of American music and they pursued their dreams with a fearlessness bordering on naiveté. My memories of them are of two sophisticated and worldly gentleman who told the most wonderful stories and always seemed to be having the most fun. They were the first people I had met in the music business who were actually having a wonderful time and making money at it. They showed me what was possible. The picture was taken at my families ranch. I think they were just being good sports, but they were always supportive and gracious.

mwe3: Can you remember your first guitar? And what guitars are you featuring on the Darkness Beyond The Fire album? What are some of your favorite guitars and amps and how about favorite guitar effects and pedals?

ND: My first guitar was an acoustic “California Model”. I’m a Fender guy—Strats and Teles. On the acoustic side: Martins. I am currently playing through either a Matchless or a Fullerton era Vibrolux. I also love Paul Rivera: he makes the most wonderful amps. I don’t use many effects. I prefer to get my distortion from the amp itself. I have a one of Dan Armstrong’s Purple Peakers, an old Boss chorus, a Fulltone Dejavibe and Supa-trem, an Empress delay and a bunch of vintage compressor/limiters. I love Universal Audio’s 6176.

mwe3: I remember that great album you worked on with Dave Mason and Mama Cass way back in 1971. Can you remember how your involvement with that album came about and what are your favorite tracks from that album? Do you still know Dave Mason?

ND: The album came about because I was briefly in a band with Cass and Dave. Our voices had a really lovely timbre, but the details did us in. As far as the album went, I was out by then. Dave and I are still on good terms, but I haven’t seen him in ages.

mwe3: What was it like working with guitarist Steve Cropper who also produced a couple of albums for you? What albums did Steve produce for you and how would you describe the chemistry Steve brought to your music and do you still keep in touch with him?

ND: Working with Steve was effortless. An easy going Southern gentleman, Steve never sweated the small stuff. He is without doubt one of the most understated and tasteful guitar players in popular music. While soloing has never been a problem for me, my true love is rhythm. Anybody can fill the air with notes, but to only play what’s necessary to further the groove requires real restraint and maturity. There are very few true rhythm players left. I worked with Steve on Hard Candy and Prone. We had a great time and I was lucky to be both his friend and collaborator. We haven’t spoken in ages.

mwe3: Do you have any hobbies, interests or causes outside of the music world?

ND: I surf, practice martial arts and am a decent cook. Camping in the desert restores my soul. After living through the earthquake in Japan last year, I am convinced that nuclear power will never be safe. It is little more than a treacherous way to boil water. I believe that consciousness alone has the power to transform mankind.

mwe3: Can you say something about your future plans as far as writing and recording new music and how about future reissues of your albums and possible CD compilations or DVDs?

ND: The Darkness Beyond The Fire was an example of what the Japanese call: danshari. I have released the musical clutter that has lived in my head lo these many years and with it my attachment to the past. Eliminating clutter frees you up to live in the present. I am working on a bunch of new stuff, but frankly, the music business is in disarray. Like so many others, I continue to search for my audience. Playing music is probably one of the most glorious things that a human being can do with their clothes on, but on a financial level that ship has sailed. I write now because I love it, but without expectation. The first three American albums have been rereleased. I think Rhino rereleased Ned Doheny and I know that both Hard Candy and Prone are available on one CD. I would love to do an acoustic CD and a live CD as well, but time will tell. All four American albums are available for download on iTunes, CD Baby, etc. Look for some live music on YouTube.

Thanks to Ned Doheny @


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