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Firsties and Faves: Dan Deacon

Hold tight—shit's about to get nerdy and very strange.

by Davo McConville
May 25 2014, 6:00pm

Continuing the deluge of amazing artists Noiseytalked to at Moogfest, we hung out on a hangover with Dan Deacon at Moog’s warehouse of infinite electronic joy. Deacon, as will become clear, is a gear man. If you’ve ever seen his live show, you’ll know that he has an unhealthy amount of gear surrounding him: he’s swimming, drowning, wallowing in it. It’s a joy to behold and the sound that he makes with all this gear is pleasing to the ears too.

Below is a recent gig in Baltimore: Dan jacked a church organ, somehow plugged MIDI into its brain and then threw Ableton sequences at it (not sure why it was filmed on a potato). This makes perfect sense for a man who is single-handedly bridging the gap between digital and analog worlds. And I mean literally bridging the gap, like I wouldn’t be surprised if he was using his own body as part of the electrical circuit.

It was, therefore, a pleasure to nerd out about cables, alcohol, the arcanity of MIDI programming languages, and the state of the political landscape. For now, let’s stick to the topics at hand: firsties and faves.

First famous or fictional crush:
Probably… Chun Li of Street Fighter 2 comes to mind. I’m trying to rack my brain… I remember being in grade school, like third or fourth grade, my friends having like swimsuit catalogues with Cathy Ireland on the cover, being like “Oh, this is what people think an attractive woman is, I should think this.” But it was always sort of weird. Not that I wasn’t a pervert hunting for rain-sodden pornos in the woods, but… yeah, I’ll stick with Chun Li.

Wait. I never had a crush on Chun Li, what am I talking about! I don’t think I ever had a fantastical, delusion crush. I used to pretend I was Face from the A-Team, and would get to make out with all the women that Face made out with in the show. But that was more vicariously living through him… a handsome man! I had a crush on his life.

Favorite sensation:
I’d have to think about this one. I do love a sine wave! Sen-sation. Favorite sensation. Um… I really like when I’m working on something and I get actual tingles. And it’s like, “Oh, this is good. I actually like this and I will keep working on this.” Or when I’m playing a show and it’s a rare feeling, but it’s definitely my favorite. Love the tingles.

Favorite type of cable:
Any proprietary cabling is just bullshit. My favorite cables in the world are IEC cables. They’re probably like the least popular of most popular cables—the power supply cables. Anything that’s not an IEC drives me fucking crazy. I don’t know, this is getting dry… but people wanna know! Fuck wall warts. Or just things that have unique shapes for power, it’s just so bizarre to me. You look back, I think one of the reasons why MIDI is such an impressive thing is how the fuck did they convince everybody to standardie in this time when everyone was doing… can you imagine the sheer logistics of being like “No, rival companies—integrate my new thing into all of your shit.”

First show I went to:
Uh, Aerosmith and Collective Soul at Jones Beach Ampitheater. It was awesome. The Get A Grip tour. [Laughs] And the second show was Primus. That show was also awesome. I played in bands in high school, so I went to DIY shows a lot. But first electronic music, I’m going to count Grand Buffet. They were a hip-hop group out of Pittsburgh. It would have been in college. At that point I was going to school for music and reading Xenakis and shit like that. I was making electronic music at the time, but I didn’t really like IDM, or I never really listened to Aphex Twin or anything like that. I had a very limited and ignorant musical taste. I take that back! They Might Be Giants. Definitely not electronic music, but I think anything where the focus for the music is to experiment with timbre, where the goal isn’t for every song to sound the same. Where if you were to remove the vocals, which is the one non-changable element—that’s also a completely absurd statement – but you wouldn’t necessarily know it was made by the same band other than the character.

First drug experience:
Well I was pretty straight edge—straight edge in the non-political, just like suburban I don’t drink or do drugs sense—till I was 21 or 22. So I’m going to count alcohol as that. I was in college, a sophomore. I was really bored. Two of my friends had just gotten kicked out of school for shooting this really realistic BB gun. I went over to a friend’s house and they were all drinking in the living room and I was like, “this is boring.” But then I thought it would be really funny if I got drunk and no one knew, because I don’t drink and they would just think I was weird. So I didn’t know how mixed drinks worked. I tried drinking a beer and it was grotesque and I thought, “If I’m gonna get drunk drinking these, I’m gonna be completely full. I can’t chug two litters of soda, I’m certainly not going to chug two liters of Old Milwaukee. So I was like, what liquors do they have? Not knowing that the liquors that they had were mixers that they didn’t have the real mixers for. So I had Sambuca and milk. And Triple Sec and apple juice. And it was just the fucking worst! And I got smashed. And no one had any idea what was wrong with me.

Eventually they were like, “You’re fucking wasted, aren’t you? Why?” I got embarrassed so I left and then I thought I’d ride a bike. I saw a bike lying there, and thought “they won’t mind if I borrow this bike.” I’m glad my first instinct the moment I’m drunk was to operate a moving vehicle. I never ride a bike, and I’ve never been drunk and now I’m riding a bike drunk, in the dark. Great choice. Every time we—me and the bike—went inbetween street lamps, I would get really scared in the dark that demons were gonna possess me. I used to have a really great fear of demons. So I immediately brought the bike back, and the guy was like, “Why did you take my bike?” I said “I’m drunk!”

I was really religious growing up, or really prescribed to it. Especially the fear and guilt aspects of Catholicism. And I was convinced demons were real. And it sucked. It just sucks that there’s this group of people that are like, “Oh this shit we’re making up is really popular, but a lot of people think these demons are real. Can’t we just go out and tell them, don’t worry, demons, not real.” People would thank god! I’m not gonna get possessed by a demon. We can look at schizophrenia as an illness rather than a crazy demon inside someone’s body.

Favorite singer:
My favorite singer? Ed Schrader. Of the band Ed Schrader's Music Beat. Awesome performer, so much passion. I highly recommend him. New record coming out, I think this month.

Favorite food that reminds me of home:
I don’t eat a lot of food that I used to eat at home, but… I’d go with ice cream. My dad really loves ice cream, he used to eat it all the time, so whenever I have ice cream, it’s good. I’m a big vanilla fan. And a lot of people talk shit because they’re fucking stupid. It’s an insanely complex flavor with nuance and depth. I love it.

First rule you broke:
Oh, I don’t know, lying. Are we talking about my whole life? Sure, lying. I probably did something and said that I didn’t do it, but I obviously did. My parents were like, “Yes you did, why are you lying?” I’m going with lying. I was thinking the other day how different the world would be if lying didn’t exist. And did lying always exist? Were lies a new concept? Do birds lie to each other? Like are fish liars? Are there lying fish? Is lying a human concept? Do dogs lie to other dogs, “no, I don’t have any bones. No dead food over there.” If they are lying, I wanna know what these lies are. I wanna know what cats say to each other. We’ll find out.

Davo and Dan are starting a cabling company together. Invest heavily. Find out how on Twitter - @battery_licker.

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