Published Jan 05, 2011Though he didn't put out a new album in 2010, it was a year of ups and downs for Baltimore electro pop scientist Dan Deacon. His busy touring schedule, which included a stand-up comedy jaunt, had one major casualty as his beloved green skull was stolen in Toronto. As previously reported, the loss of the stage prop prompted a major live reinvention for 2011, before the skull was recently returned by a well-meaning fan. Along with the new live show, however, 2011 will see a wide variety of projects from Deacon.
In an interview with Exclaim!, Deacon reveals that his next studio album -- the follow-up to 2009's Bromst -- has been put on hold while he works on two other major projects.
"One is a a suite of new pieces. For lack of a better term, like new music. I hate the term avant-garde or experimental classical, but less pop-oriented pieces for this percussion ensemble called So Percussion. So that's been dominating my brain," Deacon explains. "The other is a big piece for the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in Ontario. I've never written a full piece for an orchestra. I've written parts of a piece for school, but I've been out of school now for six years. So that's absorbed my life, that's been the main piece of music I've been working on."
The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony contacted Deacon to work with them as part of their Crossovers series, which sees them collaborating with outsiders.
"The collaborators usually have their old pieces transcribed for an orchestra," Deacon explains. "I went to school in composition, and that's the paramount of what you want to do: have your work realized by a full orchestra. I'm trying to write a 20-minute piece for the orchestra, and then a few old pieces like 'Pink Batman' will be transcribed for full orchestra."
The premiere and performance of Deacon's work with the orchestra is taking place on February 3 and 4 at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts in Kitchener. At this point, Deacon is unsure how he will be participating.
"I'll be performing but I might not be performing with the orchestra," he says. "I might do a piece that's suited to a seated audience, like more of an ambient piece. The part that I'm working on right now is a piece for processed instruments with orchestral accompaniment, so I'll most likely be performing. I kind of want to keep it as straightforward acoustic instruments as possible so it can be performed by other orchestras without needing to arrange a backline or find a unique synth. It's rare that I get to perform with acoustic instruments and the orchestra is like a huge living breathing synthesizer, so I think working in just the acoustic element is cool to me. Still, with electronics, those hammers are so ingrained in my brain so it's difficult for me to deviate. I'm not sure how it will stand but hopefully it will be entirely acoustic."
As for the next proper Deacon album, he hopes to soon do more writing in the studio. "I've always written everything on the computer or recorded all the synth parts in the computer and sequenced them, then I've gone in and recorded the vocals and whatever needs to be recorded live. I've never gone in and experimented. I've never gone in with just an idea and tried to flesh it out in a studio context. I'd really like to do that and use the studio as more of an instrument than a vessel for documentation. I know it's been over two years since Bromst came out but I don't want to rush."
That doesn't mean there won't be any new releases from Deacon in 2011, however, as he explains, "I also have these other longer pieces, like 20-minute epic ragers that I want to release as EPs. There's other stuff that would work as singles but I don't think they'd make a cohesive album. I think for the next year I'm going to try to release those staggered throughout the year and still work on a more cohesive album that takes the stuff that I've learned writing for this orchestra and writing for So Percussion but also has more of a pop sensibility than Bromst has. It would be nice to meet those two worlds."