The world according to Dan Deacon
Lincoln Fest's headliner talks about inspiration, piracy, and the terror of acclaim
Dan Deacon is not the typical musician.
Not everyone wanders aimlessly through the T. Fleming Fieldhouse, sprawls out on a leftover foam-landing pit or mingles with fans minutes before the start of his own headlining set at Lincoln Fest.
Still, the revered electronic artist is all business once the show has started and put on what one observer said was “the best hour of any Union Board event ever.” Dan sat down with The Knox Student to discuss musical inspiration, online piracy, his new album and upcoming tour (sort of).
The Knox Student (TKS): Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Dan Deacon (DD): I don’t know. Each time I sit down to write a piece of music … I’d say the inspiration changes or is different. Sometimes I’m just trying to relax or like, you know, let my mind go and see where it takes me. Sometimes I’ll have a specific idea, like, “Oh, I want to write something that would work in a live context,” or something you’d put headphones on and listen to … [My] musical inspirations would be Devo or the Talking Heads, or this band Lightning Bolt. I’m very influenced by geography. Traveling has definitely been one of the things which has sculpted my mind in the last decade more than anything else. Seeing the American landscape has really been the driving factor of this next record.
TKS: With this changing electronic music culture, where do you see yourself in it or a part of it?
DD: I’ve been making electronic music for a decade now, and I’m glad it’s getting popular. It’s nice to know that Americans have finally embraced the computer as a mainstream instrument the same way they look at a distorted guitar. I dunno what the future will hold. I’m hoping that in ten years music won’t be so time-based or linear, but we’ll see.
TKS: You’ve received a lot of acclaim for your albums “Bromst” and “Spiderman of the Rings” in indie circles. How do you look at acclaim?
DD: It’s horrifying! [Laughs] It’s absolutely horrifying!
DD: ‘Cause now there’s a watermark that needs to be reached. I try not to think about it too much, but obviously I think about it endlessly. [Laughs] I mean, it’s great. It’s really changed my life and exposed my music to a lot of people, which is the goal of my music; I try to write very non-esoteric music. And if you’re non-esoteric, you’re obviously pro-populist. So I want my music to reach as many people as possible, and in this information age, media outlets, especially digital ones, can really bring your ideas and music to a lot of people.
TKS: Let’s talk about digital stuff for a second: online piracy is happening, where do you stand on that?
DD: It’s important. It’s part of the culture. I download albums and I buy records too. There’s no sense in trying to stop something that’s obviously become a part of the culture — you know what I mean? I remember the first time I was downloading music: it was probably like 1999 or the year 2000 and I didn’t even think about how it was illegal. It was crazy. It was just sort of like, “oh yeah, this is illegal — that’s weird.” And I think most people today don’t even think about it. Obviously, when ISPs [internet service providers] and large corporations start really proving that they are watching our every step, they’ll start shutting it down a lot more; but there will always be ways to get around it.
TKS: You’ve gotten a lot of acclaim for your live show. Why did you choose to do it the way you have, and why do you think it resonates with people as much as it has?
DD: I think it resonates with people because it’s fun! [Laughs]And it shifts the role of the performance to the audience and it shows how important a good audience is to a good show. My initial goal was to try to create something that would be different, and try to have something that would make a lasting impression on the viewer, and then turn the viewer into a participant so they had a vested interest in the outcome of the performance. And so far it’s been working.
TKS: You said you had all sorts of music plans coming up and several albums in your head, so what does 2012 hold for you? When does the new record come out?
DD: It’ll be out at the end of summer.
TKS: Is there a concept behind it?
DD: Again, it goes back to that geography theme. It’s very much a record inspired by the American landscape and the cultural climate of today.
TKS: Is it titled yet?
DD: It is but I can’t tell you. I’m sorry. The label likes to announce, and it generates press, and yada yada yada.
TKS: Will there be a tour in support of its release, hopefully near Chicago?
DD: I’m playing the North Coast festival in September. … It’s not announced yet, there will be a big tour and, basically from the end of August to the end of December, I’ll be on the road.
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