One-half of Wellington’s famous Yeabsley twins, Dan, didn’t start playing music until he was 17. It was his brother, Christopher, who had the great idea for them to learn to play a musical instrument. Failing to find lessons for his first love, the double bass, in the local newspaper, he saw an ad for saxophone lessons and jumped at the chance. Dropping out of university, where he studied three different kinds of mathematics, economics and computer science, he pursued his passion for music and never looked back. Now a member of the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra (WIUO), Dan took some time out to relax with a coffee, and speak to FishHead at one of his favourite Newtown cafés, Baobab.
If it has been a long day playing music and I’m in need of a drink I’ll be… Somewhere with live music and good beer, so The Rogue and Vagabond, or Havana, or the Laundry Bar.
The next day if I’m in need of a hearty feed and a cup of great coffee I’ll be at… Probably Mum and Dad’s. Is that acceptable? Mum makes the best food and my brother bought them a fancy filtering coffee machine, the one with the glass sort of vase thing (That’ll be a Chemex, Ed.), so that’s where I’d be!
For a slice of culture, I’d head to… The Museum of Wellington City and Sea. It’s my favourite museum in Wellington by far, and I like how you get a real sense of how Wellington has changed. Also the building is beautiful. If you go upstairs, they have got the old port council chambers — it’s amazing!My favourite Wellington landmark would have to be… The Henry Moore sculpture in the Botanic Gardens. Or there used to be an old sculpture in front of the BNZ building. It was like a wire-mesh boulder hanging off the ground, and my uncle welded that, so that was my favourite.
My Sundays consist of… Sometimes playing music, and then I go to Mum and Dad’s for some vegetables — well, a Sunday meal.
I think Wellington’s best-kept secret is… Otari-Wilton’s Bush, because I don’t think many people know about it and it’s really big — it goes on for miles. There are heaps of beautiful spots, streams and picnic grounds. There’s also a place if you walk for about an hour called Flax Clearing, and it’s just this big hillside and all it has got is these enormous flax bushes on it. It’s really cool!
I am most ashamed to have never visited… The Museum Hotel — never been there! I’ve also never been to a show at the St James. I’ve played in the foyer a couple of times but I’ve never been to a show there, so that’s pretty stink!
My favourite place to play music is… For the people, Rogue and Vagabond is great, but acoustically the best place to play is The Black Sparrow. We used to do a gig with a real piano, double bass and drums, and it was great because I wouldn’t have to bring an amp or anything, just play.
My most loved instrument has to be… At the moment definitely the tuba. I’ve only got one, but I think I need another! It’s this 1960s tuba. Usually, the bowl sticks up — like the Salvation Army ones — but mine looks like a periscope and it goes out the front, so it looks really cool! I’ve also got all the saxophones, apart from the silly ones. So I learnt saxophone, clarinet, flute (I’m terrible at both of those), and then when I turned 30 I thought, I’m a grown-up now, I can do what I want.
My most memorable experience being in the music industry is… Definitely playing behind John Rowles. We did a gig at the Auckland Town Hall. This was with a band called The Utes, we were the house band and we got to play two songs with John Rowles. He had named a lot of his songs after his sisters — one was his big hit ‘Cheryl Moana Marie’, so we played that. Actually, there was one sister that didn’t get a song named after her — that’s a bit stink! Anyway, playing behind John Rowles was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It was great.
The biggest highlight of being a part of the WIUO has been… Probably two highlights. The first was when we were just starting out. We used to rehearse on Wednesday mornings at 8am at Deluxe, and that was so exciting because I had just started playing the bass, and just playing was exciting. Then last year we went to Edinburgh for the Fringe festival and that was really exciting too — playing a month in Edinburgh and realising it wasn’t just Kiwis who liked it!