Published Dec 23, 2010Forward-thinking dance party initiator Dan Deacon had a rough time when he performed at Toronto's Great Hall back in October with Lightning Bolt. As previously reported, the green, light-up skull that has accompanied all of his performances since starting to tour in 2004 was stolen, prompting Deacon to do some serious soul-searching about who he is as an artist. But as he recently explained to Exclaim!, all has turned out well thanks to a good-hearted Torontonian.
In an interview, Deacon says he always tries to keep the skull close to his person, as it's been stolen four times prior to the Toronto incident. That night, however, he let it out of his sight for too long. "As soon as we finished [our show], we started loading onto the balcony. A girl was standing there and I just handed her the skull and she put it in the stairwell and it sat there until the end of the night," he recalls. "Then when we were packing up I was like 'Oh shit, where's the skull?' We started walking throughout the building. As soon as I saw the mic stand without the skull or the strobe light I knew what had happened. I sent out a bunch of messages on the Internet and people made up actual flyers and hung them up around town."
Hoping he could force the skull home, Deacon even vowed he would never perform in Toronto again if it wasn't returned to him. One month later, he went back on that threat, returning to the city for his Wham City comedy tour. Deacon explains that his decision to return stemmed from the realization that the skull was probably gone for good.
"Lightning Bolt and I talked about us having a prank war going but when the first tour was over they promised that they hadn't stolen it," Deacon says. "It seemed real, like it was actually gone."
While many would see the loss of a tacky green skull as something one could easily get over, the realization hit Deacon hard. "It's become such an iconic part of the set," he says. "I don't really like strobe lights but I like the effect that the strobe gives and I like how this thing emits light but it's not going to burn your eyes. Without that one piece, it really alters the entire atmosphere of the night. I was pretty bummed. It was disheartening. I give a lot in my performances and I trust my audiences with a lot."
The loss of the skull inspired what Deacon describes as "a 'what am I doing, why am I here' situation" as he looked back on his whole career. "When I first started touring in 2004, I was a very different person and I was writing very different music. I'm still sort of putting on a performance that has that same ideology, but I have a different ideology now. Not an ideology that's separate from that, but I feel like it encompasses more. When I was younger I was more into loud, fast and out of control, and I think the skull embodies that spirit. I'd like to continue down a path that has a wider road rather than a narrower path."
To find that wider road, Deacon teamed up with New York lighting expert Peter Edwards of Casper Electronics to develop a new, advanced light show that will accompany him on future tours. "Him and I are working on a modular lighting setup that's going to make the lighting aspect of my show a lot more intense, versatile and malleable to easily go from ensemble to solo, and back and forth," Deacon explains. "It will also integrate into the house lighting system, and it all be controlled via synths and multi-control inputs."
But incredibly, after months of loss and planning an entirely new stage show, Deacon's glowing skull was returned this week by a friend in Toronto. "She was at a party at a friend's house, and her friend was complaining about a roommate and how the roommate was a jerk or something like that," Deacon recalls ecstatically. "They added, 'Oh yeah, they also have Dan Deacon's skull in their room.' So my friend went in there, stole it back and sent it to me."
Turning back to his live show, he adds, "The skull will probably poke it's head back out again, but I'm honestly not sure."