Published Feb 25, 2015It took the writing and recording of Gliss Riffer to finally get Dan Deacon thinking more about the most natural instrument a musician can use: the human voice. While he incorporated vocals into his early compositions in a desire to bring an element of physicality to his music, the experimental electronic auteur was known to use his voice in a textural sense rather than having it take the spotlight.
After taking a different approach to composition on his newly released studio record, he discovered how crucial the lyrical aspects of a song could really be. Stepping away from the orchestral elements that adorned 2012's critically acclaimed America, Deacon focused on writing purely electronic music that was informed by the recording process of his prior work with acoustic instruments.
"It really led me to make the voice more prominent and the voice to have more space around it," Deacon tells Exclaim! "Once the voice had more space, lyrics became important, because you could hear them. That also made me realize how vulnerable they were, which really amplified the anxious tension in the lyrics."
From enjoying the work of bands such as Nirvana and Boredoms growing up — two groups whose lyrics aren't always the most discernible on first listen — Deacon was drawn to the parameters of pitch, texture, volume and tone. In writing songs for Gliss Riffer, the parameter of lyrical content made all the difference.
Influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan and Joanna Newsom, the man's self-described love of stream-of-consciousness lyrics are quite apparent in the psychedelic sing-song of "When I Was Done Dying" and the racing "Mind on Fire." The anxiousness and tension that came with writing these lyrics helped Deacon to discover what he calls a "stress addiction," thriving off of the thrill that comes with working on projects under pressure.
"I remember having a commission for a piece at Carnegie Hall, and I got it six months in advance but I was touring the whole time and working on other projects," he explains. "I said 'I'll just do it the week before,' and then I had three shows that week. I was basically left with 48 hours to prepare this piece for what was quite possibly the biggest opportunity of my life."
Since realizing it was "a terrible way to live," Deacon is quick to credit actor Bill Murray with the sage advice that helped him reach this realization. From that point forward, he began noticing his justification of stressful situations and made an effort to limit them.
"I saw an interview with him from the Toronto International Film Festival where he was being asked about philosophy and his approach to his craft," Deacon recalls. "He said 'you do the best you possibly can when you're very relaxed. The more relaxed you are, the better a job you can do.' This blew my mind, because up until that point I was making everything a problem or a nightmare that I was trying to solve when it shouldn't have been."
Deacon has a few performances lined up to round out the month of February in the United States. After taking March off, he will set out around North America for two months. Take a look at his upcoming tour dates here.
Gliss Riffer is out now on Domino.