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Posted at 10:16 AM ET, 11/ 6/2008

Q&A: Dan Deacon

By David Malitz

Baltimore electronic musician/indie-kid ringmaster Dan Deacon rose to prominence in 2007 when he released a fantastic party record, played countless major festivals and won blog-world praise ("Dan Deacon changed my life!") for his thrillingly interactive live show.

In 2008, the Baltimorean added "art-world cred" to his resume, as his rowdy show was welcomed by the Getty in Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. On Friday, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden joins the arts institutions hot for Deacon, inviting him to play the After Hours bash. (Advance tickets are sold out, but the Hirshhorn folks say there are a good number of tickets still available at the door. Our advice: Get there early, because the event generally sells out by about 9 p.m.)

If the quarters at the Whitney seemed tight, the Hirshhorn will offer a little more room and Deacon plans on taking advantage of it; he will make his audience run in circles outdoors on the Hirshhorn's plaza.

Between coming off a tour and heading off for R&R in Brazil, Deacon took time to e-mail with us about the show and what he's been up to since the release of his last record "Spiderman of the Rings." And for an idea of what Deacon's live show entails, check out this video from that performance at New York's Whitney or his 2007 set at Pitchfork Music Festival.

Can you describe the concept behind your current live show? How do you get the audience to become active participants in the music? Do you always find the audience is willing?
When I first started it was a tricky operation making the live show entertaining. I realized quickly that if the focus was shifted from being focused around me to being focused around the atmosphere, it would make the performance a lot more engaging and memorable. Over time, as the show grew in numbers, it became more focused on getting the large groups of people to interact together.

What exactly is on your table? I've only seen a lot of wires.
Those wires are plugged into effects pedals, oscillators, an iPod, a vocoder and a Casio keyboard. I also have a [bad] lighting board and lighting set up.

(More after the jump.)

I've read your Pitchfork interview in which you described your upcoming record, "Bromst," as more organic. Can you tell me a little more about the sound, what influenced it and what it will play like live -- you'll be with a full band in the future?
The new record is a lot less of a "party record." It's still dance music and upbeat, but the songs are more intense. Less pop-based and more psychedelic. The last record has a lot of single-esque songs, while this album is meant to be listened to as a whole, in one sitting. I guess the biggest sonic difference is the use of live instrumentation. The record has acoustic drums, player piano, marimba, glockenspiel, vibraphone, xylophone, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone [alongside] the electronics and computer. In the past I would [have] just had those be MIDI or samples but if I kept doing that I would [have] just been lazy. In the future I will be playing with other people. I don't know if I'd call it a band as much as an ensemble but that's probably just me being a pretentious [jerk].

If your performances are set to undergo a shift soon, is it fair to say that this current round of shows is the last people might see of this sort of show?
I'll be doing shows with the ensemble as often as possible. But even when I am touring with a group I'll do stuff solo. I never liked how when a solo artist or duo (like They Might Be Giants) started playing with a band they never really played without the band. The pieces I wrote from electronics and computer will stay electronics and computer. Anything I wrote with real instruments will hopefully be realized by humans on the instruments they were written for.

How is playing a museum or art space different than playing a club or a tent? What do you do differently, if anything?
I really like playing a sterile or otherwise non-freak-out-go-nuts kind of place. It's the most fun to try to get people to let loose in a space that is usually really uptight.

What do you have planned for the Hirshhorn in particular? What will the show look like, sound like?
I'll be playing a lot of material from "Bromst" that I haven't been playing live yet. I'm pretty excited for this show, I haven't played D.C. in a long time. When I first moved to Baltimore I went down to D.C. and went to the Hirshhorn, and I saw they were having an electronic music show (I think it was DJ Olive or someone like that). I've always wanted to play there ever since then. I can't believe it's actually happening.

--Lavanya Ramanathan

By David Malitz  | November 6, 2008; 10:16 AM ET
Categories:  Music  
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