An emotive rock singer with a soulful style, Dan Reed initially came to prominence in the late '80s as the lead vocalist with the Portland-based funk- and rock-influenced outfit Dan Reed Network. Inspired by the genre-bending sound of Prince and showcasing a multi-ethnic lineup, Reed and the Network issued several widely hyped albums on Mercury including 1989's Nile Rodgers-produced Slam, and 1991's The Heat before disbanding. Following a period away from music, Reed embarked on solo career with 2012's Coming Up for Air. He also reunited with the Network, issuing 2016's Fight Another Day.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Reed was raised on a 200-acre farm in South Dakota. Growing up, he was often teased by other children who said he did not look like his parents. At age 14, he was told that he had in fact been adopted and that his birth mother was white and his birth father was Filipino. Two years earlier, he had also developed a passion for Elvis Presley, and as his identity began to coalesce in his teens he further embraced rock music, listening to bands like the Doobie Brothers, Van Halen, and Ted Nugent. He bought a guitar and formed his first band with his school friends. By the '80s, he was regularly making trips to record stores in Minneapolis. There, he discovered Prince and was immediately infatuated with the singer's androgynous image and dynamic blend of funk grooves with a hard-rockin' edge. At age 19, Reed quit college and moved to Portland, Oregon where he formed the band NoBoy with a North Dakota friend, drummer Daniel Pred. He also played keyboards in the new wave outfit Nimble Darts. All the while, he kept a notebook full of musicians, club promoters, DJs, and other useful contacts that he dubbed the Dan Reed Network.
In 1984, he and Pred joined forces with two African-American musicians, guitarist Brion James and bassist Melvin Brannon. At Pred's suggestion, they named themselves Dan Reed Network after Reed's notebook and began playing gigs around Portland. The group's ethnically diverse, stylistically cross-pollinated sound was immediately distinct, but it wasn't complete until they brought on Japanese-American keyboardist Blake Sakamoto in 1987. By then, they had gained the support of several industry heavy weights including manager and iconic concert promoter Bill Graham, and executive Derek Shulman, both of whom helped sign them to Mercury. In 1987, they released their debut album, Dan Reed Network, which featured production by Bruce Fairburn (Bon Jovi, Poison, Loverboy). Included was the single "Ritual" which peaked at number 38 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although the album enjoyed positive attention, it was somewhat overshadowed by the success of similarly inclined bands like Living Colour, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Faith No More. The album also suffered from poor label promotion.
Nonetheless, they enjoyed a fervent core fan base, as well as continuing support from the label. After parting ways with Graham, the band signed with Q Prime management, who were then working with such marquee clients as Def Leppard and Metallica. The band followed up in 1989 with the Nile Rodgers-produced Slam, which featured the singles "Tiger in a Dress," "Stronger Than Steel," and "Rainbow Child." They also gained further attention joining Bon Jovi on tour. Despite the fact that the band were making good music, radio wasn't biting and the group were often tagged as being too funky for rock stations and too mainstream for R&B stations. Caught up in the pressure of the moment, and looking for some sense of control, Reed impetuously shaved his long rock & roller locks, a move that displeased his management and drew confusion from fans. Following a supporting tour slot with the Rolling Stones, the Dan Reed Network released their third album, 1991's The Heat. While the album hit number 15 on the U.K. album charts, its slick commercial rock sound was largely overshadowed in the U.S. by the rising grunge movement, and in 1993 the band broke up.
After leaving the band, Reed briefly joined former Lenny Kravitz bandmembers in Adrenalin Sky. He also made forays into acting and screenwriting, eventually appearing in the 1997 indie thriller <I>Zigzag. However, by the late '90s he was primarily involved in managing the Portland nightclub Key Largo, where the Network had often played, and in which he was a joint owner. During this period, he lived with his parents who had sold their farm, and he often took care of his father, who'd been diagnosed with cancer. Surrounded by the party atmosphere of the nightclub, Reed began using crystal meth, and eventually became addicted to crack. Following his father's death in 2003, Reed finally decided to get clean.
He sold his shares in the Key Largo and began to travel, living for a time in Dharamsala, India where he studied Buddhism at a monastery. He then lived for two years in Israel, where he built a recording studio and began making music again. By 2008, he was living in Paris and playing solo shows around Europe. In 2010, he released his debut solo album, Coming Up for Air, which showcased a sophisticated adult-alternative pop sound. That same year, he also moved to Prague where he met his wife. In 2012, he welcomed the birth of his son. A second solo album, Signal Fire, followed in 2013. Also around this time, Reed reconnected with his Network bandmates, playing a 2012 New Year's Eve reunion show in Portland. Since then, they have continued to stay active touring and releasing albums, including 2016's Fight Another Day and 2018's Origins. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi