Along with Apes & Androids and Wire, this weekend’s barrage of live music in the city featured another year of the Bang On A Can marathon, stretching over twelve hours at the World Financial Center from 6PM Saturday to 6AM Sunday and including performances from Marnie Stern, Owen Pallett, and Dan Deacon. The good Deacon’s been making headlines away from the fest — for his Ultimate Reality DVD and for his impressive self-awareness in this interesting interview with P4K about the new, live-instrumentation and direction promised on his forthcoming Bromst album. His 4AM performance at the WFC Sunday morning has added a little more news to the cycle. Abbey sent an email soon after it was over:
Dan wasn’t even onstage, it was two (albeit amazing) drummers playing Ultimate Reality Part 3. The whole set couldn’t have been longer than 12 or 15 minutes. All the kids had waited til 4 AM and then poof it was over. They wouldn’t even let the audience up to the front of the stage and tried to keep people from dancing. Some good crowd surfing … though- can’t keep the fans down.
The proof is in her picture:
Indeed, the commenters over at Brooklyn Vegan seemed to have loved every one of those fleeting minutes, and the New York Times said “no one else is quite like Mr. Deacon” while calling his 15 minutes “a high point of the 12 hour event.” From the look and sound of it, incorporating some Banging On A Can — or more specifically, on a set of skins — suits Dan well:
Gives us hope for the post-Spiderman Of The Banana/iPod Shuffle incarnation of the Deacon. In the aformentioned interview, here’s how he described Bromst:
It’s a much darker album in tone, and elements of the story have been really weighing down on me. Not to say it isn’t a positive record, but it’s just more balanced in emotional range than Spiderman of the Rings.
The people I’m working with on the recording are very skilled and practiced at what they do, and it’s bringing elements to my music that haven’t been present before. The album focuses very heavily on percussion. Most of the pieces contain two or more drum kits, with a large mallet section of marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, and vibraphone. I also returned to using samples mixed with electronics. I wanted a more overall organic timbre for this album. My last record was very much synthetic, and that was the point. A wider scope of sound sources then just my pedals and synthesis was the timbral goal of this album.
The pieces are a lot more intense and mature on Bromst than on Spiderman of the Rings. I think anyone who’s been to one of my shows lately and heard the new stuff live would agree. When I was writing and recording SMOTR I was playing small house parties out of shitty amps or busted PAs, basically whatever I could get my hands on. So when I was writing songs I had to keep that in mind, making sure I worked within the parameters of my performance limitations. After that record came out, I started playing to larger crowds with much better PA systems. This allowed me to start working with a denser, more percussion-based pallet, again pushing the PAs as far as they could go, but this time filling them with as much space as possible with a fuller, richer sound.
As a result, my approach to writing changed. Not to say they aren’t dance songs, but they are more about mass movement rather than dancing at a party. They are more developed, focused pieces. Sort of like a culmination of my past few years of noise-based pop songs. There are still tracks that I think are the party-type jammers I’m associated with, but there are also a lot more tracks that are great for relaxing or just listening to. I think the music on Ultimate Reality [DVD/tour collaboration with Jimmy Joe Roche] is a good bridge between Spiderman of the Rings and Bromst.
Another aspect of the shows getting larger was that it changed the atmosphere of what was happening and how the audience and I interfaced. The show is now very focused on interaction between strangers, large group activities, and other social games, as well as dancing and freaking out. I get a lot of reviews stating the show has a religious or cult-type feel at times. This new album falls in line with that idea.
When it came time to record the album, I knew it wouldn’t make sense if it was just another album of electronics, MIDI, and voice. So much of what I had written was for real instruments, not taking the time to realize the parts live would have just been lazy. At first I was worried about how the live performance would sit with the heavily quantized backing computer tracks. If it was off at all, it would take away rather than add.
But the players and producer did an amazing job. Kevin O’Meara of Videohippos and his father, Rich O’Meara, perform all the mallets. Rich is an amazing composer and performer with an extensive background in new music for percussion. Jeremy Hyman of Ponytail and I supply the rest of the drums (90% Jeremy, I suck at the drums). Chester Gwazda, an old friend who has a recording studio in his station wagon, recorded all the sessions. He drives around the country recording bands for room and board. Without him, Kevin, and Rich, this record would never be.
Looking forward to Bromst, Dan. Also … don’t call him wacky:
I remember reading a They Might Be Giants interview when one of them said if they could never hear the word “quirky” ever again they would be happy. I know exactly how they feel (plus or minus 20 years). When a single element of your music is the only thing exploited by the press, it’s maddening. I think a lot of writers have a hard time dealing with music that is serious in nature but contains absurdity, humor, or has a causal nature to it, especially if it isn’t being made by model-esque youth. Obviously I have elements of humor in a lot of songs, titles, and at my shows. However, when “wacky” is the main word used to describe my music, it fucking kills me. So much of the music ISN’T wacky but gets overlooked because it’s easier to mention a looping cartoon sample or a silly t-shirt then to mention the interplay between two sine waves. It’s really effortless for the media to latch onto the childlike aspect of some pieces and label them as wacky or “simple,” which is fine. But there is a large difference between absurd and “wacky.”
And getting pigeonholed sucks shit. Words like “wacky” or “quirky” are different than a band being called emo or indie or new wave or hardcore. While those words also describe the attitude and nature of band, to me, those words aren’t as destructive or at times condescending. “Wacky” quickly turns into “goof ball,” into “man-child,” into “stupid,” which turns into a public that doesn’t take the music seriously.
About eight years ago, when I first started writing music in this style, it was important for me to write music that was both simple and complex at the same time. Esotericism and pretension were (and still are) my archenemies. The goal was to create work that could be fun to listen to and dance to at a party but that wasn’t stuffy or sleazy or sexual or like “dance” music. It was written to play at noise shows where people who were just listening to harsh noise would get up and dance. It’s hard to present that attitude without being lumped into a bunch of people who don’t take what they do seriously or are just based on novelty.
Noted. And looking forward to the not-at-all wacky new stuff, Dan.