Learning about Dan Deacon’s sound recipe


Better get out your binoculars; Dan Deacon is going to split into five birds, and you can bet that any music inspired by his migratory patterns will be “tweet”.

Puns aside, Deacon is not one to shy away from creative pursuits. The electronic music maestro and composer is an active member of Baltimore’s creative community, including arts collective Wham City, and has been making music and pushing out albums for over a decade. His most recent album, Gliss Riffer, dropped in February as a follow-up to his acclaimed 2012 album, America. Not that Deacon’s success rests in the pens or computers of critics – his live shows are known for their exuberant, energetic audience interaction that could likely pass for a workout class at your local gym. And, after watching his live performance at NPR, it’s clear that for even the most discerning music fans, Deacon places a lot of emphasis on ensuring the crowd is content. After all – as he says – “the audience is the show”.

As for creating the music itself, Deacon explains that the writing and recording processes are a lot like sketching in a sketchbook; there’s no real plan. “It just starts to come out and then after a while, I’m like ‘oh, this is worth saving’,” he says. “This is, of course, after 1,000 worthless doodles and riffs.” He adds that, often, the largest challenge is finishing pieces, referring to the act of song completion as “a scary thought”.

Utilizing electronic beats and synthesized vocals to craft songs that are layered in both sound and dimension, Deacon seems to have found the perfect formula for getting people to move. While he explains that “the texture and the textural blend [of songs] are always the most important when a piece is started,” he adds that weaving each sound together is a lot like cooking a meal. “You want as many complementary flavours as possible without going overboard and ruining the taste.”

Although Deacon is known primarily for these textured albums and live performances, he has also expanded his musical resume to encompass scoring film, including on Francis Ford Coppola’s 2011 thriller, Twixt. “It was a really surreal project,” says Deacon. “Scoring films, video, dance, and theatre, is one of my favourite ways to write music. Writing within the universe of a project other than my own music is super fun.

Recently in Toronto, nearing the end of his North American Gliss Riffer tour, Deacon is headed for Barcelona’s Primavera Sound festival, along with a few stops in France. Regardless of your geographical location, you can be sure that whether it’s through his albums, dance moves, or maybe even another film score, Deacon will soon be filling your ears with sounds that inspire moves and grooves.

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