The Baltimore-based avant-garde electronic musician Dan Deacon is famed for his exuberant live shows, which generally involve a lot of physical crowd participation and frenetic dance games.
Born on Long Island, New York, Deacon boasts a degree in electronic composition, endless record releases, and a touring history with the likes of No Age and Deerhunter – not to mention the fact that he recently took to travelling with a 14-piece backing ensemble. His latest album, Bromst (Carpark Records), is heavily laden with chipmunk backup singers, reprogrammed player-piano melodies, and intense vocal and glockenspiel layering. He played at Berlin’s CTM.10 festival in February.
Have you always used crowd interaction and complicated aerobic-like games in your shows?
It evolved slowly over time, starting with a dance contest. After seeing how much this changed the audience’s energy level, I started thinking of more and more ways to get them involved. I think the more people there are, the more intense it gets. When I performed at Lollapalooza there were 30,000 people there and it worked really well. But the options only change: they don’t go away.
In contrast with your earlier work, Bromst involved a more communal recording style. Is this in response to the participatory elements of your live show?
I don’t think it was a conscious choice, but I do think it helped shape a lot of ideas. It was mainly for timbre at first, but the process – doing it with others – was a lot more enjoyable and helped form the idea of touring the album with the ensemble.
What the heck does “Bromst” mean, anyway?
It’s the name of a dragon’s cave in The Silmarillion, a collection of incomplete works by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Your influences are so diverse. What are you listening to right now?
I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One by Yo La Tengo; The Coasters – Greatest Hits; Bridge & Flocking by James Tenney; “Drumming” by Steve Reich; and The Singles Collection: The Specials.
How would you define love?
I wouldn’t define love.