All the world’s a stage for local composer

Danny Cocke

Photo By Ashley Downton

Danny Cocke has played many parts in Sacramento’s music scene: composer, producer, guitarist and teacher—roles that led him to work with musicians Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) and Danny Lohner (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle). Even a bout with cancer couldn’t keep Cocke away from music. As a guitarist for local band Owltrain, he has an optimism that leaves people feeling drugged. Get a dose at or

How did you first get interested in music?

My dad played guitar my whole life, and he actually would come into my kindergarten-through-sixth-grade class. You know the poems by Shel Silverstein? He would turn those into his own songs and sing them in his own way and play it for the whole class. So, it was kind of, like, always around.

And then my cousin, when I was, like, 12, he had an electric guitar and started playing Metallica songs and all this stuff. And I was like, “Wait, you can play that stuff?” And I just became obsessed. I had my dad’s acoustic, and then my uncle donated me one of his old guitars from the attic, and I was just obsessed. And I don’t think I missed a day for years.

What’s the story behind your work with Mike Shinoda?

Simplistic [Cocke’s former band] made a four-song demo in September [2000]. It was the first time in a real studio, and we just went and played. We didn’t know what the hell was going on—totally newbie kids. We made this demo, and Nick [bassist and vocalist] went to a Linkin Park concert and gave the demo to Mike—they would all come out and talk to the kids. And Mike called us two weeks later and said, “I really like your band; I want to meet you guys.” So we went up to Yuba City when they were playing Ozzfest. And he’s like, “I really like your guys’ stuff. I either want to sign you guys or get you guys signed.”

What happened to Simplistic?

We started talking to Danny Lohner in April [2004]. … He was totally involved in doing all kinds of goofy stuff. This guy is awesome. So I would sit there and talk to him on the phone for hours. He was like, “I really like your band.” And I was engineering our demos at the time, so I was recording everything and producing and sending those in, talking to him about that stuff and about the music. Just even the talks on the phone were crazy. We got to go down to his house and basically do a couple-song demo to see if he could be the producer for our album, but that’s when I got diagnosed with [testicular] cancer.

Did anything positive come out of the experience?

The awesome side of it was it brought all my family and all my friends really close to me. And I got a chance to be on the sideline of life and look at things in a completely different perspective. Total birds-eye view of humanity, of soul, of everything. The experience had changed me. Being around my family, in that comfortable—uncomfortable—situation. I took it as a positive. As soon as I found out, I got scared for a couple seconds and then I was like, no, it’s going to be fine.

When did you become involved in producing film scores?

At the beginning of August [2007], I went to Seattle and looked at possibly reforming Broken Iris [a band in which Cocke played guitar] in a weird way, but also looking at the film-score school up there. And it was right at the crossroad of, like, all right, do I pursue film score 100 percent? ‘Cause that was something that I started doing [for] a movie called Anxiety. I do the music to that. I’m obsessed with that. That’s, like, a huge passion.

How did you make the decision to focus on playing in a band?

Success to me is to travel as many places as possible, no matter what the size of the show is, and connect with as many people as possible and then have grown as a musician by meeting as many possible musicians around the world. And just do that. I have been kind of here in Sac learning a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff in the studio, but not, like, out. That’s another huge goal. I can’t forget about that. I can compose at any time, but while I’m young and I have the band and I have the opportunity, I gotta go do it. But it was a conflict for sure.

Are you getting paid for any of your work?

The Anxiety thing will be after. Nothing else right now, just lessons. Driving around to kids’ houses, showing them how to play guitar. That’s cool. That is cool. It’s crazy to think that I might be to that kid what my cousin or dad was to me when I was 12, and how much that music changed my life.