You've heard his music before. The creepy, creative approach he took to scoring Dexter inspired many a composer (for me it was in a "why didn't I think of that?!" sort of way). His music played a massive role in setting the show apart from others, carving out a niche for itself and launching it to the most extreme heights of popularity.
I met Dan in early 2014, right after my first job in LA as an intern for Bear McCreary ended. Dan was looking for an assistant, and I applied. He invited me out to his awesome Topanga Canyon home (formerly owned by Jimi Hendrix) and immediately relaxed my nerves with easy conversation and a great cup of coffee. It's difficult to overstate just how warm and inviting a person he was. No pretense, no ego, no expectations. He was fantastically friendly and (pardon how cliche this is) radiated warmth--a rare quality in someone so accomplished in such a harsh business.
Ultimately, I wasn't the right guy for the job. However, he introduced me to his nephew and frequent collaborator Jon Licht, whose band The Roustabouts was searching for a bass player. I joined and played with them for a few years, ultimately recording the album Little Brother last spring. Dan was a constant presence the whole way through, nearly always supporting the gigs and joining us for a drink and a laugh afterwards. The band was a sort of Dexter family--the band's drummer, Mark Bensi, was music editor for the show, and Jon wrote a good deal of music for it with his uncle.
It's difficult to reconcile how quickly someone can leave us. I had just spoken to him a month ago about helping him find someone to fill the position I once applied for. His music was and will remain a constant source of inspiration: his approach to writing was inventive, curious, always searching. He could never have enough instruments or make enough new sounds. He embraced mistakes and imperfections with a very Zen, specifically Wabi-Sabi mindset, and nearly always preferred live performance and the human touch to programmed sound.
He left us far too early and leaves a giant hole in the LA scoring community, his circle of friends, and most importantly, his family--nothing else mattered to him beyond his family.
Loss, messiness, and imperfection is inevitable; how we deal with it and move on is the art of living itself, and Dan was a true artist. We'd all be well-served to take inspiration from his approach to music: rather than trying in vain to fill the hole his life leaves in those who knew him, we can instead try to understand and appreciate the beauty that it happened at all.
Thanks, Dan. Safe travels.