Music & clubs

A chat with… Dan Deacon

Baltimore-based avant-garde electronic musician Dan Deacon won't define love. He's back in town playing Schwuz on Feb 20. We dug into the archives to bring you this interview from 2009.

Image for A chat with... Dan Deacon
Photo courtesy of

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.