Dan Deacon Interview On 'Bromst': Manic Dance Music, With Lasting Effects Electro-acoustic wizard Dan Deacon made his name as a frenetic one-man band who embedded his act on the dance floor. But on his new album, Bromst, he's aiming for a meaningful sort of pop — and employing a 15-person touring ensemble.
NPR logo

Making Manic Dance Music, With Lasting Effects

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/102752117/102769463" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Making Manic Dance Music, With Lasting Effects

Making Manic Dance Music, With Lasting Effects

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/102752117/102769463" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


(Soundbite of song, "The Crystal Cat")

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Smith.

When electronic musician Dan Deacon performs live, most of the audience never sees it.

(Soundbite of song, "The Crystal Cat")

SMITH: You see, Deacon made his name as a one-man band out of Baltimore, all electronic loops and synthesizers. And he usually sets up his table of computer equipment right in the middle of the dance floor. Hordes of young people swirl around him, and sometimes, all you can see of Dan Deacon is his hand in the air, pumping out the rhythm.

(Soundbite of song, "The Crystal Cat")

Mr. DAN DEACON (Musician): (Singing) I'm going to get my bathing suit on, going to get my base face on, going to get my hat out of loan, going to get my space face on. I'm gonna turn all snakes into bone

SMITH: Now Dan Deacon is climbing back up onto the stage. His new CD is called "Bromst," and it features real, live musicians playing drums and pianos and horns. The one-man electronic band is now conducting a mini-orchestra.

(Soundbite of music)

SMITH: Dan Deacon is in the early stages of a big tour, and he joins me now from our New York studios. Hey, Dan.

Mr. DEACON: Hello.

SMITH: So tell me about the new album, "Bromst." What does that mean?

Mr. DEACON: It doesn't have any meaning other than the name of the album. I just wanted it to be a low, sort of percussive-sounding word.

SMITH: So we're supposed to say it bromst, like that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DEACON: Oh, you can say it however you like.

SMITH: So people think of you as this one-man band, oftentimes traveling from place to place on buses with your electronic equipment, and now you have this almost orchestral kind of album out. Why'd you make the change?

Mr. DEACON: I guess because it was something I could do at the time. I sort of composed based on what's available to me. When I was a solo act that was - all I can really do was afford to tour by myself. Well now, you know, I can tour with other people, and I've never - it was never the goal to be a solo performer. It was just something that made the most sense at the time.

(Soundbite of music)

SMITH: Now, one of the things fans will notice about this album is that there's a lot of real instruments or samples of real instruments. Why don't you explain to me what you're doing there?

Mr. DEACON: It's a mixture of both. There's acoustic instruments and synthetic instruments and

SMITH: What do we hear on it? We hear a marimba. We heard a glockenspiel at some point, right?

Mr. DEACON: Yeah, there's glockenspiel, drum kit, a couple of synthesizers, vocals, processed vocals.

SMITH: Were the songs on this new album "Bromst," were they a reaction to some of the critics who listened to your first album and said oh, you know, it's kind of clownish, it's wacky, it's, you know, cartoonish? Were you sort of responding to them in this album?

Mr. DEACON: I don't think I was constantly responding, but it certainly had an impact on the way I thought about it. And I just wanted to make a record that wasn't escapism. Like, I didn't want to write another record that was devoid of a meaningful content. I feel like there's a lot of that going around, especially within dance music. A lot of it is just, you know, music that's written exclusively for abandoning reality in an altered state of mind; and I think an altered state of mind is very important but in a responsible sense.

SMITH: A responsibility for what?

Mr. DEACON: For your actions and your consequences. Like if you do just party every day and don't really do anything of meaning, it just seems like a waste. And after years of touring, I started to think what am I doing other than just the immediate sort of, like, candy reaction, the way candy is like oh, this tastes really good, I enjoy eating it, but when it's done, it doesn't really have any lasting effect. I wanted to start working on something that had a lasting effect.

SMITH: Well, suggest one of the more nutritious tracks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: Give me some vegetables here.

Mr. DEACON: That's what I was trying to do.

SMITH: Where are my vegetables?

Mr. DEACON: "Snookered."

SMITH: Let's pull in some "Snookered."

(Soundbite of song, "Snookered")

Mr. DEACON: (Singing) Been round this road so many times, feel like its skin is part of mine. This taste of milk is almost gone, still got no shame, but not for long. Been wrong so many times before but never quite like this

SMITH: Now when you go out to perform, are you going to bring live musicians?

Mr. DEACON: Yup, there'll be many of us.

SMITH: That creates new challenges for you. A guy who's used to traveling alone, being your own manager.

Mr. DEACON: Yes, (unintelligible). Quite a few in fact.

SMITH: Well, explain to me the problems now.

Mr. DEACON: It's just very different, like rehearsing was quite a challenge, getting 15 people to have large blocks of their schedule free. Finding a space where we can practice for large periods of time with three drummers and large PA speakers, and not drive people insane proved to be almost impossible.

SMITH: One of the ways it seems you're going to try and get around these challenges of a large band in recreating the album is, I read, you are going to distribute the sheet music to your album when you go to a city and invite people on stage. So how do you envision that working?

Mr. DEACON: I guess, you know, we'd send out the parts and be like if you're interested in this, you know, review the part, see if it's within your abilities and e-mail us at least, you know, a few days or a week before. And then we'll arrange to, I guess, sort of, have like a weird, creepy, awkward audition. And if it works out, they'll join us. And if it doesn't, we'll do it next time.

SMITH: So now that you've moved from a one-man band to 15 musicians, any idea how big this can go? Do you think you'll be collaborating with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra next?

Mr. DEACON: I would love to. You know, it'd be a dream come true. But I don't really want to form any ideas until after this tour. By the end of this tour, I might be saying, well now I remember why I was a solo act because it might not work. The first couple of weeks might be awkward in trying to figure out how these new shoes fit without disenfranchising my current fan base and the new fan base that's coming in. Do you know what I mean? That's sort of what I'm saying, is like

SMITH: Yeah, there's no room to fail.

Mr. DEACON: But there's tons of opportunity to. So - but that's the exciting part. You know, for the last three years, I've been working on "Bromst," and that's all that encompassed my brain. And now that it's out, it will change the way that I think musically, which is something that I'm very excited about.

SMITH: Musician and composer and now big-band leader, Dan Deacon.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: His new CD is called "Bromst," and it's available through Carpark Records. Dan Deacon's tour lands in Williamsburg, Virginia, tonight. Later this week, he's in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. You can hear full cuts from Dan Deacon's new album at nprmusic.org.

Thanks so much for coming in.

Mr. DEACON: No problem. Thanks for talking with me.

(Soundbite of music)

SMITH: How old are you, Dan?

Mr. DEACON: I'm 27.

SMITH: I ask your age because we're doing - a couple guys have written a book about the myth of 27 and rock stars always dying at the age of 27.

Mr. DEACON: I know. Everyone keeps telling me about this. It's frightening.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: So are you more careful now, at least until your birthday?

Mr. DEACON: No, I think I only think about it when it gets brought up, and then, you know, for the next, like, hour or so, I'll be like I better look, you know, both ways again.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.