Wednesday 13 December 2017

Shining Deacon

Ahead of his first Irish show in years, electro wizard Dan Deacon talks to Eamon Sweeney about working with Francis Ford Coppola and performing here

Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Dan Deacon has just added another astonishing string to his bow in an already highly accomplished career. The man who almost single-handedly invented the goofy electro-pop genre that became known as Baltimore is really batting in the big time. He has just scored the forthcoming Francis Ford Coppola gothic horror movie Twixt starring Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning and was the esteemed director's personal choice for the job.

"Francis heard me being interviewed on National Public Radio in the States," Deacon starts to explain. "I was talking about re-contextualising the live experience and I think he just wanted to continue the conversation, so he invited me out to his vineyard in Napa and we hung out for a few days talking about film and music.

"He knows what he wants, but he's also really open to experiment, which is cool, because the more successful some people get the more set in their ways they are, especially the likes of directors.

"He was always super friendly and accommodating and gave me confidence in my work. He really knows how to get the best out of people. Also, I met Val Kilmer through this project and Val and I hopefully are going to work on something soon. He's a real character. This is a whole new chapter that I certainly wasn't expecting."

It's fitting that Deacon's wild and gloriously unpredictable career should somehow lead to Hollywood. He played tuba with singer songwriter Langhorne Slim and guitar with acclaimed grindcore band Rated R.

Since 2003, he has churned out eight albums and reached a tipping point with Spiderman of the Rings and its demented anthem The Crystal Cat, which enabled him to tour the world.

His live show is one of the most wonderfully chaotic experiences you'll ever have in your life. Deacon performs on the ground in the midst of the crowd, crouching over a table of gadgets like a mad professor.

Crowd participation is the key as Deacon directs all sorts of crazed carry on. Not surprisingly, it has struck a chord with fun-loving Irish audiences with a string of memorable performances at Whelan's, Andrew's Lane, Vicar Street and Electric Picnic.

The booker of Electric Picnic considers it the best show the festival has hosted since Arcade Fire in 2005. Interestingly, a Dan Deacon show I saw at the Primavera festival did not have half the craic or incident of any of the shows I've seen in Ireland.

"Electric Picnic was part of the craziest whirlwind tour ever," he recalls. "I played Los Angeles, New York and a festival in Ireland in the space of the same weekend, which is absolutely insane scheduling.

"It was the first time I played a big festival on the ground and the people running it didn't give me any shit whatsoever, which was great. They weren't worried at all. There's a really good video online where you see someone fall and everyone helps them and that's what I love about Ireland.

"People come out to have fun and go crazy, but they help each other and look after one another. The audience really shapes the show much more than I do. When I start off the set, I do a group activity to test the audience and see how connected and together I can get them.

"The more connected and together, the more group activities I'll do. Sligo was also a great one because it was a really small intimate show."

He playfully describes his sprawling, ambitious and inventive music as "two Sheryl Crows meeting each other and 400 Phil Collins".

Deacon has several irons in the fire in addition to his Coppola soundtrack. "I should start working on something and just steam roll straight through," he reflects. "I should hold off talking about things that only partially exist. I reckon if I announced a child it would stay in the womb forever."

Despite an ever-burgeoning schedule, he still prefers to manage himself, enlisting the services of an assistant rather than a manager.

"I've never had a manager, but hey, neither does Bill Murray," he reflects. "When I'm in a situation where most people deal with a manager they sometimes think I'm a complete chump, but I'm not a goon and I want to prove that I'm not a goon.

"I'm now involved in a huge amount of logistics and I deal with this project as if I was running a small business and that only dawned on me last year.

"Luckily, I happen to like that. It's fun, weird and as time consuming as fuck. The main thing my business does is make music and I have to make sure I have enough time in the day to make music.

"I don't want to exist in a bubble, I'm too freaky. Even if I had a manager, I'd still be micro-managing. Maybe by this time next year not only will I have a manager, I'll be one.

"If this interview is veering into the absurd then I apologise, I'm like this in the mornings."

Dan is very much looking forward to his first Irish show in years and has ambitions to play all over the country, especially Baltimore in West Cork.

"I'd love to do a two-week tour of Ireland with a few days off in the countryside," he says.

"I'd love to play Baltimore, as I've always wanted to go there. I'd love to do the most absurd tour of Ireland that's ever gone down."

Now, that really could be something.

Dan Deacon plays the Button Factory, Dublin, on Friday August 5 with Patrick Kelleher and his Cold Dead Hands, Angkorwat and Last Days of 1984.

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