Posts in Electronic
Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon is best known for his work as an electronic musician and, more recently, even as a classical composer. He's received tremendous (and well-deserved) critical acclaim for the novelty of the sounds in his electronic music, not to mention his live shows. His new album, Gliss Riffer is the first of his releases to feature vocal tracks, to see his voice as an instrument to ply just like all the myriad instruments we hear on his albums.

As you'll read, my interview with Deacon was not about the specifics of the writer's routine, as many of my interviews are. Deacon sees himself as an artist in the true sense of someone who creates art; he's much more than just a songwriter. So this conversation is more about the amorphous idea of creativity. More specifically, it's about Deacon's frustration with not having enough time to create. As his popularity increases, so do the demands of his career: the interviews, the meetings, the emails. Even the live shows. When he's touring for an album, he's not able create new art. And that means less time to create, which frustrates him.

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Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm, Tanlines

"We like to say that Jesse [Cohen] brings the light and I bring the dark," Eric Emm of Tanlines told me, referring to the yin and yang of their creative output. What he means is that while the music sounds upbeat, the lyrics are dark.  That's because in their songwriting process, Cohen writes the music and Emm the lyrics. The dark sensibility of Emm's words are ironic given that, while by his own admission he can be a moody person, he gets his best writing done when he's in a good mood.

This creative disparity is about the only difference between them, though, because the irresistible melodies in their music are the product of a strong spirit of collaboration and an envious working relationship.  What impressed me most in our conversation was not just how much both Cohen and Emm could reflect on their own creative process, but how much each knows about the other's as well.

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Peter Berkman, Anamanaguchi

"I see no point in being bored. I just don't understand the concept.  So I'm always looking for things to occupy my time and get me excited," Peter Berkman, the songwriter for Anamanaguchi, told me.  For fans who know the frenetic pace of their chiptune punk sound, and especially those who've heard it at their sweaty shows, this is no surprise. Anamanaguchi makes instrumental music from an unconventional source: a hacked NES system from 1985.  But unlike other chiptune bands who rely solely on the sounds of the NES, Anamanaguchi uses that sound as a complement to their guitar, bass, and drums.

Berkman's personality mirrors his music: he's an excitable guy.  And by that, I don't mean hyper.  Instead, he finds wonderment in everything around him.  He sees creativity--literally, an opportunity to create--in any object that he sees.  An NES system? Let's play music! A ball on the shelf at Walmart in the middle of the midwest? Let's buy it, find a field, and play kickball!  In Berkman, I heard a wide-eyed eagerness to make the most of his environment.

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John O'Regan (Diamond Rings)

Sure, when you first see the face of John O'Regan, aka Diamond Rings, you might notice all that colorful makeup across his face.  And you might notice the shiny lips as well.  And you might call him "glam" and not pay attention to much else.

But I think you'd be missing the point.

Because, you see, this is about a lot more than a guy wearing makeup.  It's about theatre, and while Diamond Rings is, in his words, "fastidious" in his songwriting process, he also likes to engage his audience in the visual aspect of his craft.  After all, he's been an illustrator for longer than he's been a songwriter.  It's a creative outlet that, as you'll read, informs his songwriting process. For one, the way he approaches the subject of a painting resembles the way he approaches the topic of a song.  But what's interesting is that he has no idea what a song is going to be about until he picks up a guitar and starts playing.  He's not one to approach songwriting with a ready-made idea.

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Josh Carter, Phantogram

This is how I know Josh Carter of Phantogram is at home in in the rural environment of upstate New York:  he's recorded the sound of his car driving over a bridge.  Not the Tappan Zee bridge, but probably one of those small two lane bridges over the lonely upstate streams and rivers. Having once lived in rural New York near Syracuse for four years, I know what he's talking about.  It's the sound of one car on a bridge, with nothing else around.  Just you, the car, the bridge, and nature.  The sound is pure and unadulterated.

Yes, Carter and Sarah Barthel, the members of Phantogram, live in New York.  With their hip hop beats and electronic rock, this is hardly surprising.  It's a great place to live if you want to make that kind of music, since you are surrounded by like-minded people.  Only it's not New York City I'm talking about.  It's upstate New York.  And I am not talking about the 30 minute drive from the city that residents of New York City consider to be upstate.  I'm talking about Saratoga Springs, New York. (photo credit: Doron Gild)

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