Dan Deacon (born August 28, 1981) is an American composer and electronic musician based in Baltimore, Maryland. Since 2003, Deacon has released eight albums under several different labels. Deacon is renowned for his live shows, where large-scale audience participation and interaction is often a major element of the performance.
Life and education
Dan was born and raised in the suburban Long Island, New York community of West Babylon. He graduated from Babylon High School in 1999 where he was a member of the local ska band Channel 59 alongside Tim Daniels of The Complete Guide to Everything. He later attended the Conservatory of Music at State University of New York at Purchase in Purchase, New York where, in addition to performing his solo material, he played in many bands, including tuba for Langhorne Slim and guitar in the improvisational grindcore band Rated R, and had a small mixed chamber ensemble. He completed his graduate studies in electro-acoustic and computer music composition. He studied under composer and conductor Joel Thome and Dary John Mizelle.
In 2004 he moved to Baltimore, Maryland and moved into the Copycat Building and, along with friends from SUNY Purchase, formed Wham City, an arts and music collective.
His first two albums as a solo artist, Meetle Mice and Silly Hat vs Egale Hat were released on CD-R on Standard Oil Records in 2003 while he was a student at SUNY Purchase. The albums are collections of both computer music and live recordings of ensemble pieces. They are markedly different from his first popular record, 2007's Spiderman of the Rings, in that they contain almost no tracks where Deacon sings or uses vocal manipulation. Most of the pieces are instrumentals or sound collages. He followed those two albums with a set of records made up of sine wave compositions. "Green Cobra is Awesome Vs The Sun" is a 42-minute piece consisting of six slowly drifting sine waves. "Goose On The Loose" is a 60-minute piece featuring a Wavetek 180 signal generator being processed through a DigiTech Whammy and a Line 6 DL4.
His next two releases were the EPs Twacky Cats on Comfort Stand Recordings and Acorn Master on Psych-o-path Records. Spiderman of the Rings was Deacon's first commercially distributed full-length album, released by Carpark Records in May 2007. The album was well received and was included in the Best New Music section of Pitchfork. The album was also ranked as number 24 on the website's "Top 50 Albums of 2007".
Ultimate Reality was released as a DVD in November 2007 and marked a return to composing music for others to perform. The pieces for percussion and electronics were performed by Jeremy Hyman of Ponytail and Kevin Omeara of Videohippos. The pieces were set to collaged and heavily altered video created by Deacon's long time friend and collaborator Jimmy Joe Roche.
Deacon's next album entitled Bromst was released on March 24, 2009. It was produced by Chester Gwazda at Snow Ghost Studios in Whitefish, Montana and features live instruments including player piano and a variety of percussion instruments. The album was well received; Pitchfork gave it an 8.5/10, and it placed it into the "best new music" section. Bromst also ranked #46 in Pitchfork's Best Albums of 2009.
His latest album, the 9-song America, was released on August 28, 2012, on Domino Records in the US. Deacon has described the album as representing his conflicted feelings toward the country and world he calls home: "The inspiration for the music was my love of cross-country travel, seeing the landscapes of the United States, going from east to west and back again over the course of seasons. "The lyrics are inspired by my frustration, fear and anger towards the country and world I live in and am a part of. As I came closer to finishing the album these themes began to show themselves more frequently and greater clarity. There seemed no better world to encapsulate both inspirations than the simple beauty found in the word America."
Contemporary classical work
At the 2008 Bang on a can Marathon 'Ultimate Reality Part 3' was performed at 4:30am on June 1, 2008.
In 2011 Deacon began to work more outside of the indie and pop music scenes and began working in the contemporary classical scene and film scoring.
On January 20, 2011, Dan Deacon and percussion quartet So Percussion premiered a new piece composed by Deacon titled "Ghostbuster Cook: Origin of the Riddler" at the Merkin Concert Hall in New York as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival. New York Magazine listed the performance as one of the top 10 classical music performances of 2011. 'Ghostbuster Cook' was also performed at The Barbican for the Steve Reich Reverberations Festival, May 7, 2011. On February 3 and 4 the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony conducted by Edwin Outwater premiered Deacons first orchestral works, "Fiddlenist Rim" and "Song of the Winter Solstice for orchestra and electronics".
On January 21, 2011 it was announced that Deacon would score the film Twixt by Francis Ford Coppola.
On August 1, 2011 "Purse Hurdler", a composition for a 27-person percussion ensemble, was premiered by the So Percussion Summer Institute at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City.
On March 2, 2012 Deacon performed with So Percussion at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto Canada. His compositions 'Take A Deep Breath' and 'Bottles' from 'Ghostbuster Cook: Origin of the Riddler' were performed.
On March 20, 2012 Deacon premiered a new composition for a chamber orchestra titled "An Opal Toad with Obsidian Eyes." The piece was premiered at the 2012 Ecstatic Music Festival and was performed by the Calder Quartet, NOW Ensemble and Deacon on electronics controlling a Disklavier player piano. The piece was met with positive reviews.
Deacon made his Carnegie Hall debut on March 26 as part of the Carnegie Hall’s American Mavericks series with So Percussion and Matmos. The concert was a tribute to composer John Cage to celebrate his 100th birthday. The program contained compositions by Cage and others influenced by the composer, including two works by Deacon, 'Take A Deep Breath' and 'Bottles' from 'Ghostbuster Cook: Origin of the Riddler.' This concert was also met with positive reviews.
Deacon has said that he wants to start mixing some classical compositions for release next year.
Dan Deacon is famed for his live shows. When playing solo he performs on floor level within the audience, his musical devices being set up on a low table, and surrounded by the crowd.
In stark contrast to Deacon's electronic performances, the Bromst tour was with a 14-person ensemble of members of various Baltimore bands including So Percussion, Future Islands, and Chester Gwazda. He was accompanied by various acts including Nuclear Power Pants. This tour is also notable for the musicians' use of a vegetable oil powered bus.
In the summer of 2009, Dan Deacon went on tour with two other notable acts, Deerhunter, and No Age, on the "No Deachunter" tour.
In the fall of 2009, Dan Deacon was forced to cancel the small remainder of his North American tour, which included shows at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut due to health complications involving a battle with acute sciatica, all of which were rescheduled in winter of 2010.
For his America tour, Deacon created a smartphone app that synchronizes with the live show. It is usually used during the song "True Thrush."
Deacon's tour van is a reworked, "vantastic" school bus that runs on vegetable oil.
Deacon recorded the track "Drinking out of Cups". In 2006, Liam Lynch created a video to accompany the piece. The compilation has been viewed more than 20 million times on YouTube. As the video spread, rumors of what the video was and how it was made quickly began forming. One popular rumor is that it is a recording of someone on LSD locked in a closet. Deacon has stated numerous times that this is not true. Deacon has also collaborated with Wham City Comedy, on Live Forever as You Are Now with Alan Resnick, an infomercial parody, created for Adult Swim and "Showbeast" the web series created and directed by Ben O'Brien.
Film composer and curator
In September 2010, Dan Deacon collaborated with Jimmy Joe Roche at the Incubate festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands. While in residency there, Deacon and Roche worked on a new piece of video art. Material was shot at 't Schop, a farm in Hilvarenbeek, and in the area surrounding Tilburg. During the festival, the movie was shown at the farm before Deacon's performance.
Together with Jimmy Joe Roche, Dan Deacon curates and hosts the Gunky's Basement Film Series, a Maryland Film Festival series of films that are favorites of these friends and collaborators.
- Power Moves Forever Quest (with Dan Breen, Josh Van Horne, Chase O'Hara, 2011)
- Meetle Mice (2003)
- Silly Hat vs. Egale Hat (2003)
- Goose on the Loose (2003)
- Live Recordings 2003 (2004)
- Spiderman of the Rings (Wildfire Wildfire, 2007)
- Bromst (Carpark Records, 2009)
- America (Domino, 2012)
- Gliss Riffer (Domino, 2015)
Extended plays & singles
- Green Cobra Is Awesome vs. the Sun (single, 2003)
- Porky Pig (Standard Oil Records New Music Series, 2004)
- Twacky Cats (Comfort Stand Records, 2004)
- Acorn Master (Psych-o-Path Records, 2006)
- The Crystal Cat (7" single, Carpark Records, 2007)
- Dan Deacon/Adventure Split (12" single, Carpark Records, 2009)
- Woof Woof (single, 2009)
- Ultimate Reality (soundtrack) (Carpark Records, 2008)
- Twixt (soundtrack) (with Osvaldo Golijov, 2011)
- I Said No Doctors! (2017, Dymaxion Groove)
- August 1, 2006: Acorn Master hits #162 on the CMJ Radio 200 charts.
- March 24, 2009: Bromst hits #199 on the Billboard Top 200 charts.
- September 15, 2012: America hits #147 on the Billboard Top 200 charts, and #5 on Top Dance/Electronic Albums charts
- March 14, 2015: Gliss Riffer hits #2 on the Billboard Top Dance/Electronic Albums charts
- Silly Hat vs. Egale Hat #18 in Top 30 most played albums on WFMU in November 2003
- Meetle Mice Third Best Album of 2003 on Top Ten Albums by OCDJ
- Best Solo Performer 2005 Baltimore City Paper Critics Poll
- Best Solo Performer 2006 Baltimore City Paper Readers Poll
- Acorn Master #1 in Top 30 played albums on WFMU in July 2006
- Spiderman of the Rings named Best New Music on Pitchfork Media in May 2007 with an 8.7 rating
- Bromst named Best New Music on Pitchfork Media in March 2009 with an 8.5 rating
- "Wham City" was listed #30 on Pitchfork's "Top 100 Tracks of 2007"
- Awarded "Best Awesome" by COOL! magazine
- Spiderman of the Rings named one of the best records of 2007 by CMJ New Music Monthly
- "The Crystal Cat" Single listed in top 100 singles of 2007 by Rolling Stone magazine
- Spiderman of the Rings named one of the 25 best records of 2007 by Pitchfork Media