Stereogum & Andrew W.K. Interview Daniel Higgs
Tomorrow night (3/17) at 11PM, we offer the third installment of our ongoing Tuesday Sessions at Santa’s with Spencer Sweeney. This time we’re happy to present a night curated by Matt Sweeney (Chavez, Zwan, longtime Will Oldham collaborator, etc.). He’s wisely chosen legendary Lungfish (etc.) frontman, tattoo artist (and straight-up artist), writer, and Baltimore favorite son Daniel Higgs with one-time Lungfish bassist and current Human Bell, Nathan Bell. Both men are set to do solo performances with accompaniment by special guests. You can check out the flyer at santospartyhouse.com.
Growing up, Lungfish was one of the most important bands in my musical cosmology: The Dischord crew that tapped into something incantatory with a questing, spiritual, and (most importantly) punk poetry via an awesome, raga-like minimalism that Higgs has followed into his excellent solo material, where he’s shifted his focus to long-neck banjo, jew’s harp, and fried/crusty atmospherics. If you’re unfamiliar with the man, check out just about any Lungfish album, but especially Rainbows From Atoms, Talking Songs For Walking, Pass & Stow, and (maybe not considered as highly by most) Sound In Time. As far as the new solo works, I really love Ancestral Songs. (Also see Metempsychotic Melodies and the instrumental Magic Alphabet.) We figured we should expand upon all this Higgs excitement by asking him a few questions. Andrew W.K. is excited as well, so he also queried the great bearded one.
I first saw Dan Higgs perform as the singer for Lungfish in about 2005. I had never heard the music before, but I heard the band name for many years. Matt Sweeney demanded I had come see the show, but he wouldn’t tell me anything about Lungfish other than that I would like it. I’ve always trusted Matt when it comes to music, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the power of the performance that night. When Dan Higgs and the rest of the band kicked into their first song, I thought, “This is cool– what a great vocal phrase!” Then they played another song — I thought, “Wow! Another amazing riff!” After about four more equally life-changing songs, I was almost passed out in a state of shock and joy. I had never heard better music in my life. And witnessing Dan Higgs on stage was like rolling up a hill with a snowball in each hand! Since then, I can safely say that seeing Dan Higgs and Lungfish perform that night changed my life for the better.
– Andrew W.K.
ANDREW W.K.: Have you thought that music could be defined as good or bad? And even if it could be, is all of it still “music” and therefor valid?
DANIEL HIGGS: Music can be defined as True or False, with authority, as it is perceived into the psycho-spiritual-architectonic construct, that is, the unique orientation and vantage of the listener (the musician is a listener). True music may behave as though False — False music may behave as though True. And True music may become False, False becomes True. I can say more another time.
ANDREW W.K.: Have you defined yourself as “an artist” or “a musician”?
DANIEL HIGGS: Artist and Musician are ways of concisely describing integral aspects of my Vocation, my immediate Pathway.
ANDREW W.K.: I’ve heard a lot about your amazing work as a tattoo artist. Do you think tattoos give power to those that obtain them?
DANIEL HIGGS: Tattooing is an unclean practice, left-hand — easily abused.
ANDREW W.K.: Do you have powers?
DANIEL HIGGS: I have powers as dictated by the limits of my immediate human incarnation, that is, limitless powers in combination. I am a power, as are we all. This plain fact should humble one, prior to exaltation in The Lord.
ANDREW W.K.: When you’ve written your vocal melodies and lyrics, have you written them with the music, or away from the music, only using words and thoughts of music?
DANIEL HIGGS: The lyrics arrive with a seed-melody. Instrumental melodies arrive in Truth and Counter-Truth, weaving. Please consider a type of melodic movement in a stream of images.
I asked Higgs more specifically about tomorrow night, then a bit about present-day Baltimore and the future of Lungfish
STEREOGUM: What can we expect from your and Nathan’s set next week? Songs from the recent solo albums? Some long-necked banjo and jaw harp? Maybe you and Nathan will revisit a Lungfish track or two? Any of Nathan’s compositions? Human Bell?
DANIEL HIGGS: The show on Tuesday, as i imagine it coming down, will consist of Nathan Bell playing banjo, and perhaps trumpet, performing some composed pieces, improvised pieces, music-pieces, with accompaniment by a variety of other musicians. For my part, I will sing while playing banjo etc. Nathan and I might present one song from a new body of banjo and jew’s harp duets that he and I stumbled upon in January.
STEREOGUM: There hasn’t been a new Lungfish album in a few years. I guess the band’s not officially active, but it seems like you guys have never officially broken up either. Any plans for new work at some point?
DANIEL HIGGS: There are presently minor Lungfish stirrings … no way to know what comes of that.
STEREOGUM: Baltimore has become a destination for a generation of younger music listeners. As a member of one of the area’s formative bands, am curious what you think about Baltimore’s current musical landscape.
DANIEL HIGGS: Baltimore is a Magic Garden.
[Higgs photo by Hans van der Linden]