Daughn Gibson

Darkness and Masculinity

By Jazz Monroe"Yeah, hey, do you mind calling back in five minutes? I'm just picking up a bagel." So begins our chat with Daughn Gibson, a giant of a man in every sense. Six-and-a-half feet tall, the Nazareth, PA-born songwriter displays a near-masochistic obsession with callous relationships, wrenching ordeals and brink-of-collapse lives, all of which supplements a dark musical grandeur. Gibson's debut album All Hell — released on White Denim, the label belonging to Matthew K of Pissed Jeans — nailed his colours to the mast and won the affections of Sub Pop, who signed the songwriter for new record Me Moan. We caught up with the big guy to discuss Raymond Carver, the allure of small town tragedy, and what course of action to pursue when some guy takes a dump in your sex store's parking lot.

How was the bagel?
[Muffled] I'm actually chomping on it right now! I only got one bite left, so you can fire away.

Whereabouts are you?
I'm in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, at a place called Ressler's Bagels. It's basically the only place in the state that I can get a really good bagel.

In another interview, you were in Dunkin' Donuts. Do you spend a lot of time moving between fast food institutions?[Mighty laugh] Well, I wouldn't call Ressler's fast food. I think the owners would probably punch me in the mouth if they heard I said that. But yeah, I get around the coffee/bagel places quite frequently. I need to eat lunch, so that's my favourite lunch.

You're working on some stuff for the live show at the moment?
We're ironing out how to make the hybrid computer-human experience happen flawlessly, so we're able to improvise with solos or extended jam parts and not get bogged down by beats and computery nonsense. I love the idea of having this wild drumbeat with samples, and then a dude doing a lap-steel solo over it. It blows my mind to hear it.

One of the interesting things about your music is that you apply technology to a kind of country/Americana atmosphere. It seems to strip the nostalgia from that style.
I don't have this ethos about folk music, where you have to stay simple. To me, the instruments that make folk music what it is are changing. So I can still make folk music with a computer, because really, who doesn't have access to a computer now? It's not like some rich kid's game. I made my first record on a 2002 HP that had half-a-GB of RAM and was a piece of crap. At some point in time, that will be looked at as an archaic instrument. For me, I'm not good at guitar, I play drums, but I still have melodies and rhythms in my head. So I should be able to do them in a way that doesn't take classical training or some kind of course. To me, that's folk music.

What specifically about Pennsylvania does your music evoke?
I'm inspired by rural scenery. The thing about PA and where I live is, I go from being in an industrial, forgotten town and immediately I'm in the country. This erosion in industry. And it transitions so nicely into huge trees, a lot of lush green fields, rolling hills.

I think your sound is sort of the inverse. The core is a rural thing, but there's a city influence flitting around the outskirts.
I think, like, why did all my friends gravitate to Black Sabbath? Well maybe it's because Bethlehem, PA looks like fucking Birmingham. It's an abandoned steel town. What is it that drives us to like that music and try and emulate that music? Why did they make it and why are we copying it? Because similarities are there. As for the electronic stuff, I got into Shackleton, Demdike Stare, Burial — these UK producers. I'm not trying to jump genres, but that stuff in particular really evokes such stark imagery. Mostly criminal and dreadful and awful. [Laughs]

And that's something you relate to PA? Or to you, personally?
I guess [personally], yeah. I don't know why I like that stuff, but I do like shitty horror movies and crime movies, bad stories and bad people. So it all sits in my brain pretty comfortably.

I know you've worked many interesting jobs — non-air-conditioned warehouse, climbing broadcast towers with potential radiation factors, working in an adult bookstore. Did that stuff seem gruelling to you at the time?
All those jobs were great in their own way, and pretty terrible too. It's weird, sometimes I get nostalgic for those jobs, even though at the time they sucked. Sometimes I think back on them and maybe wouldn't bat an eye at not doing this any more, and going to do that. Because at the end of the day, it's all work, there's just different kinds of stress. The adult bookstore stuff was just hilarious, but something I enjoyed doing in a very short term way. Even if I was given the opportunity to own a place like that I wouldn't do it. Because you'll be in court every week for somebody taking a shit in the back parking lot, or cruising around in a van trying to pick people up.
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Article Published In Jul 13 Issue