Daniel Koek most recently starred as Jean Valjean in the West End production of Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre.
His theatre credits also include: Joseph Cable in South Pacific (Barbican/UK Tour/Sydney Opera House/ Australian Tour), Anatoly in Chess (Tour), Tony in West Side Story (50th Anniversary Tour). He has also appeared in Saturday Night Fever, Jason And The Argonauts and Pacific Overtures.
Following his departure from Les Mis, Dan has released his second studio album which is entitled High. Tracks include 'Bring Him Home', 'Oceano' and 'February Song' as well as duets with Jonathan Ansell and his former Les Mis co-star Carrie Hope Fletcher.
Have you been keen to do a second album for a while?
Yes, definitely. The last album was done over five years ago and it was more musical theatre material to coincide with me playing Tony in West Side Story. Obviously I’m very proud of it, but the new album is more of a commercial venture in keeping with the aim of becoming a recording artist which is the next step I want to take in my career.
I’ve been listening to it and it’s not a stereotypical musical theatre album at all. I love that you’ve taken a few risks! How did you go about selecting the material?
It took a while to come up with a shortlist. I recorded a lot of things that didn’t make it onto the album, not because they didn’t work but because there is a limit to the number of tracks you can have. Over the years there have been a few periods in my life where a particular sound track has signified certain things - as cheesy as that sounds. I think certain music can touch you in a way where you need to hold onto it and express it in your own way. There are also songs I just love to sing and some tracks are included because I thought it would be a smart commercial move in my attempt to move towards being a recording artist.
My favourite track is 'Set Fire to the Rain' which you have totally made your own…
Cool! My management said: “You’re really going to do an Adele song?!” I explained I was keen to do it but turn it on its head.
Do you enjoy the process of turning a song on its head?
Yes, I think that with any song that is not your own – hopefully my next album will have a lot of my own writing – when you’re trying to get signed you need to find a happy balance… the labels want material people know and are going to want to buy. I really enjoy the process of making things different. There’s a lot of material on the album which is not necessarily well known by a wide audience. There are quite a few songs that Josh Groban has done; I’ve upped the production values on them and made them bigger but keeping true to the actual melody rather than hiding it.
Les Mis fans will be thrilled with your duet version of 'Bring Him Home'!
It would have been a silly mistake not to have done that song because even though it’s been done to death there’s a reason that Les Mis has been running for twenty years which is the music. People want to hear it and people want to hear different artists doing it and I’ve always thought, especially out of context, there is such an underlying beautiful harmony line in that song that my musical arranger and I sat down one afternoon and wrote it out, and I thought how beautiful it would be having two men doing the song and that’s what we did. We changed the arrangement slightly to suit a more commercial nature so it wasn’t true to the show, but I think it really works and Jonathan and I performed it live at the album launch and it brought the house down, everyone really loved it.
You’ve also got your former Les Mis co-star Carrie Hope Fletcher featuring on a song. It must have been nice to work with her?
Yes, definitely, she is a dream with a voice completely out of this world and, as you know, there are a couple of tracks on the album: 'High', which will hopefully be a single, and 'Remember Me' which has a bit of a middle-eastern theme. I have a bit of a passion for that kind of sound. I just knew that she would sing the absolute s**t out of that song and she did!
"I’m sure Les Mis isn't a closed chapter for me..."
Going back to Les Mis… it’s such an intense show and a very demanding role, have you recovered yet?
It was exhausting and as soon as I had finished Les Mis I had to gear up for the rehearsals for the album launch. I didn’t really have time to get upset about leaving, or miss it, or consider being exhausted, because I had to work so hard on getting the album material up to scratch to perform and liaising and getting ticket sales and that kind of thing… it’s an amazing experience but it’s all-consuming and you really don’t have much of a life outside of doing the show. You have to really rein it in, you can’t drink, you can’t go out late, you can’t talk loudly, you have to completely wrap yourself in cotton wool and live that part.
Would you return in the future?
I got a lovely signed print from Cameron on my last day saying, “I hope to bring you home to this role once again in the future” which was a nice thing to have. It was mutually agreed that I would leave after the first contract - I think you have to, particularly for this part as it’s unrealistic to churn it out any longer than a year and still love it. I wanted to leave while I was still loving it rather than thinking, ‘oh my god I’m so exhausted I can’t imagine doing it any longer’. I think that if I were to return to Les Mis I would have such fond memories of doing it that it would re-ignite my fire for another period. So that’s how it was left and I’m sure Les Mis isn't a closed chapter for me, it’s just a break to enable me to pursue this other project which I’ve wanted to do for years.
How are you finding this new chapter?
It’s hard! Theatre has been my bread and butter for the last six years so this is a bit of a risk, but I think the timing is right. Coming out of Les Mis when I did and the timing in terms of other musicals the door had shut for the next season which is fine by me as I need at least a year to try and make the new album fly and go on tour with it. It’s cost a lot of money and effort and I think it deserves the chance to be performed. Nothing in this industry is easy - you mustn’t rest on your laurels or take no for an answer.
It must be very reassuring to have so much support from you? Especially from all the dedicated Les Mis fans!
It would be wrong of me to say that Les Mis hasn’t completely changed my life, not only from an acting point of view and growing as an actor and a singer and a performer but, as you said, Les Mis has a very dedicated following and if you can win them over then they will remain very loyal, and in terms of gaining lifelong fans it’s an important part of the business aspect of becoming a solo artist as well. Les Mis has definitely helped to escalate that part of my career. And, of course, it’s nice to be known for that part and reviews and forums and that kind of thing are comparing me to Colm Wilkinson. People are always going to have their favourites and, of course, not everyone has seen Les Mis. But I did the show for a year so about 50,000 people would have seen it for the first time and I would have been the first person they saw playing Jean Valjean so that’s a beautiful thing to have happened as well.
Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
Daniel Koek plays the London Hippodrome on 28th November. Click here for tickets.
Please visit www.danielkoek.com to purchase Dan’s new album.
Please visit www.danielkoek.com to purchase Dan’s new album.