by / May 29th, 2009 /

Interview with Dan Deacon

Ringmaster to Baltimore’s Wham City music scene, Dan Deacon is the majestic mad cap electro acoustic composer of the quirkiest dance-pop gems imaginable. He and his 14 piece ensemble are currently touring the US with his second album, Bromst. As many of you may know, Deacon has created a now infamous interactive show that exercises the body and mind. A demented evangelist / shaman this neon skull talisman’s show commands chanting, flaying and some synchronised knee-popping manoeuvres. So it’s with no surprise that Mr. Deacon is slightly jaded when State caught up with him in Chicago. Dan and his crew will be playing Andrew’s Lane Theatre on Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th.

What the hell is ‘Woof Woof’ all about?
‘Woof Woof’, like most of the songs, is about the predawn of the apocalypse and the new world order. ‘Woof Woof’ focuses on the death of bees, the rise of Monsanto and the backlash of their awful practices. A cleanse or purge.

Where did you come up with concept for your live shows? Were you influenced by shows you attended?
It grew organically over time and as the audience grew. I never sat down and was like, “now what am I going to do on stage”. Most of it started by improvising at shows and see what worked and what didn’t.

When writing Bromst, did you have the ensemble in mind?
No, but I had human players in mind.

Do you think Bromst could be performed on a smaller scale, without the full ensemble?
Yes, totally. I’ve been touring the tracks on Bromst for a few years now. About half my set on the Spiderman of the Rings European tour was Bromst material.

Each time we’ve seen you in Dublin and surrounding festivals your shows have been brilliantly raucous to say the least. But friends have reported differently from Sligo to Sydney. Can you tell me stories how countries or cities differ?
It greatly depends on the crowd and what they are like. The audience shapes the show much more than I do. When I start off the set I do a group activity to gauge the audience and see how connected and together I can get them. The more connected and together the more group activities I’ll do. Sligo was awesome because it was a really small intimate show.

Have you ever experienced a show where you thought “I’m not going to win this crowd over?”
Yes, not often, but of course it has happened. I think every band has been there. Sometimes it’s the most fun playing a show knowing you are going in as an underdog and coming out on top.

There’s definitely a Baltimore scene happening, can you explain why Baltimore houses such creativity?
I can’t really. It just rules.

Which Baltimore acts should we look out for?
Future Islands
Jimmy Joe Roche
Ed Schrader
Gay Bomb

Check them out and you will know why.

Outside the Baltimore scene what current acts impress or inspire you?
Lucky Dragons
Bird Names

What are your favourite,

Singles
I’m more of an album person.

Ok, albums then.
Harvest by Neil Young
Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel
Soak the Saddle by Arab on Radar
Rainbow in Curved Air by Terry Riley

Films
The Jerk
Powakatsi
Lords of the Rings movies

Books
Breaking Open the Head by Daniel Pinchbeck
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Is the sheet music available for Bromst and have people joined you on stage to play yet?
The sheet music is going to be saved for the fall tours. Some people have joined us, like a marching band in Providence.

You’ve described yourself as a “composer and performance artist” and your sound like “two Sheryl Crows meeting each other, and 400 Phil Collins.” How would you describe yourself and your music today?
Still like that but with some Enya as a bird.

In a recent interview an Irish traditional musician, Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh, says that music has “real powerful effect on your heart, and nearly affecting your brainwave patterns or something. It’s hard to quantify, but it gives a certain physical feeling and state of being.” What effect does performing, or listening to, music have on you?
It depends on the music. True music has great power to affect. But so much music is false and made for the wrong reasons. Ultimately it’s truth that speaks and shines.

Photo above taken by Loreana Rushe at Primavera Sound 2009.