She might look like your quintessential girl next door from Seattle, but Dagna Silesia is anything but. She’s rocked stages across the country with some of metal’s heaviest acts like Nevermore and Warrel Dane’s solo band, and currently plays for The People Now and Ghost Ship Octavius. And as if that isn’t baddass enough, she also owns her own guitar repair shop that she tends to when off the road. We managed to get a hold of Dagna recently and spoke to her about her life, her music, and her love of guitars.
GGM: There’s not a lot about you out there on the internet, so tell us a bit about yourself? Your childhood, how you discovered music and the guitar?
Dagna: I was always interested in music and was into heavier stuff from the very beginning. I was raised in Poland, and although I was interested in music and was taking piano lessons there, it wasn’t until I moved to Sweden at the age of 12, where I got “invited” to join a rock chick band that music really took a hold of me. It was the best thing that had happened to me- I have been hooked ever since. It was a school of rock type of deal, where we had a teacher who was teaching all of us how to play our instruments. It was a great way to get exposed to all of the instruments in a rock band and to learn how they work together.
GGM: Name five bassists that you feel have had the most impact on you as a musician.
Dagna: Oh wow… I must say that for the most part I am not one of those people who got inspired so much by individual players; as much as by bands and their music. I play music so that I can be part of that big machine that a band is, and have that awesome effect on other people that my idols had on me. I must mention a couple of bass players though who have helped me along the way and whom I do bow down to: Billy Sheehan, who has inspired me to do finger exercises J and the late Marcel Jacob of Talisman, who was my bass teacher for a while and pushed me into grabbing opportunities as they arose (he even let me perform with him, as part of my learning- how cool is that?). Both of these guys showed me how the bass can be an equally important instrument to the guitar and drums, and independent of the guitar. It is something that guitar players don’t like to think about.
GGM: You’ve worked with some big-name acts in the metal scene like Warrel Dane and Sanctuary. How did those gigs come about?
Dagna: Yeah, I actually met these guys through friends, through the scene here in Seattle, and we were friends for a while. Warrel knew I was in a band and actively playing. He was looking for band members from the local scene, which is so cool, you know? So I was one of his lucky picks, I guess! So we ended up doing an American tour, but that was it. Then Nevermore were going on tour and needed a replacement bassist for Jim for one of the nights, and I was more than happy to fill his shoes. I went as a merch girl and fill in bassist! One thing happened after another and I ended up playing 10 shows that tour. So later on, when Jim had to have a brain surgery and was laid up for a long time, I got invited to play their whole European tour. It was quite the experience!
GGM: What was it like being the only girl on tour with some of these bands?
Dagna: Oh, no problem. At least not for me! I’m not fussy unless I’m cold and hungry, and I can hang with the guys and their fart jokes. There was no sexist disrespect going on, these guys are sweet. Sure, you gotta put up with filthy bathrooms and such, but really, you’re having so much fun, who cares? Plus, I was lucky to have had the company of either another female musician or merch girls on our tours.
GGM: Your current band The People Now seems to be making quite a bit of headway of late. What can we expect from you guys over the next month, the next year, and the next decade?
Dagna: We are so excited to see these wheels starting to turn! We just opened for Lacuna Coil here in Seattle, and then we got two gigs with Sanctuary both on November 14th in Seattle and 15th in Vancouver, BC. We are working on some new material too and recording songs one by one, which we will release as an album once we have enough material. Meanwhile, we’re talking to other necessary people in the industry to help us get this show rolling!
I would also like to mention that besides The People Now, I am involved in a brand new project with old friends of mine called Ghost Ship Octavius, with Matt Wicklund (ex God Forbid, Warrel Dane, Himsa), Van Williams (Ashes of Ares, Pure Sweet Hell, ex Nevermore) and Adon Fanion. It is a very melodic and creative metal project, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where it goes. We’re in the process of recording the debut album as we speak.
GGM: What was the inspiration behind learning to become a luthier?
Dagna: I could not figure out what to do after high school. All I knew was that I love playing and I love doing things with my hands- I am very detail oriented and love “picking” at stuff. I saw the luthiery school in Phoenix being advertised, and just kind of went “Eureka!” Mind you, I was still living in Sweden then and I was working at a music store, learning the very basics about guitars and doing simple fixes. I decided that getting better at that was my calling and I needed to do anything I could to make this school happen, and I did! I strongly believe in the power of will, by the way. I was 20, and came to the U.S. all by myself, not knowing anybody here, because I had that crazy, incredible drive to follow my dream.
GGM: Do you identify as more of a bassist or as a luthier?
Dagna: Hmm, I think the bassist/musician is more deeply rooted in me. I actually get really unhappy when I don’t play or don’t have a band. With the luthiery, it’s a profession; it’s just mixed in with my hobby. I could go on to something different I guess, like art restoration and have my artistic needs satisfied, but the music would never stop haunting me. Of course, I would like to remain a luthier, it’s where I have gathered expertise and I love the creative work that comes with it.
Initial Inlay Work – JWB for
Bird Inlay on Walnut by Dagna Silesia
RELATED STORY: Interview with Randy Parsons and the Girls of Parsons Guitars
GGM: What do you think most guitar service centers lack that you want to help provide with Silesia Guitars?
Dagna: First of all, I am often struck by the lack of personal attention and engagement that I have seen from other repair people, and I think that it’s a very important part of good customer service. People that leave their “baby” with a repair person want to have confidence that it’s going to be well taken care of. It is something very important for me to establish with my clients. Then, there are a lot of jobs that luthiers turn down just because they don’t have any experience doing and maybe they think it’s a bad idea. Having some guts is essential in this business, ‘cause there will always be that project that you have never done before, but what better way to expand your horizons than taking a leap at something like that?
GGM: What are some of the most challenging repairs that you’ve pulled off on a guitar?
Dagna: Those are usually within the restoration area. When a guitar comes in smashed up in one way or another, and the owner has almost no hope, I take it in, having no hope myself, but step by step, one part after another, the guitar comes back to life, regains its function, and then even looks good- that’s the most rewarding type of job for me. Totally nerve wrecking, but one with a result better than expected.
GGM: Any parting words for our readers?
Dagna: For anyone interested, my shop is a full service guitar repair center, and we also have teachers giving guitar lessons. You can check us out at – http://silesiaguitars.com/
Cover photo: Dagna playing with Nevermore
Photo credits: Photos provided by artist with permission for use – credits as noted on photographs