Music News

Dan Deacon hasn't let his education get in the way of making music

Dan Deacon's name should be familiar to anyone keeping an ear to what's going on in American underground music. As one of the founders of the Wham City collective, Deacon is one of the pillars of the modern DIY movement in Baltimore. Deacon's exuberantly playful electronic music bears none of the scars of his extensive formal education. In fact, his best-known music sounds like it could have been written over the course of an especially inspired week rather than out of endless premeditation, and his live show is typically a joyous and interactive affair that combines electro-pop's buoyancy and goodwill with punk's catharsis. While finalizing a spring tour in support of his ambitious forthcoming album, Bromst, Deacon was able to take some time to discuss his art and the ideals informing it.

Westword: Do you feel that your academic background has helped you in making music, or do you feel that it has funneled your creativity into definite channels of expression? Some people I know who have formal training feel like it limits them, so I was curious what you thought and your experience in that area.

Dan Deacon: I totally agree, and I was cognizant of that when I was going to school. I went to school before I studied music. Part of me didn't want to go to school for music for that reason. I didn't want to analyze everything that I heard. I didn't want it to be like if I sat down to eat food: I want to enjoy the taste of it and not think about everything in it. Any knowledge affects your perception of anything, so I can't say for better or for worse if my music is any better because of it. That's why I focused on non-traditional music when I was in school, because there's less of a focus on the analytical side of music. When I had to analyze Bach pieces and do a structural analysis of those, I would also listen to Arab on Radar and try to understand why it was so awesome. That's the most important question, and unfortunately they never ask that in the conservatory.

What do you hope audiences come away with from one of your shows?

I hope they feel like they were part of something instead of just watching something. I don't want them to feel like they were just standing there watching and listening to music. I want them to feel like they were part of the process of the show. I do a lot of group pieces where I get the audience to do certain activities together. I want them to feel like it was an active and not a passive experience.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.