Dan Deacon

Paranoid adventures in the land of the free

Text by Tim Burrows

Photography by Shawn Brackbrill

Dan Deacon's mind is racing. Talking a mile a minute, he is trying to tackle the subject of his new album. The only thing is, he can't get past the enormous weight of its subject. Because Deacon has named his album America.

Part of the decision to focus on his grand, sprawling, declining country was to try and somehow reinstate the importance of nations against the all-conquering power of global brands. "Countries aren't as important as corporations any more. In my mind, America is almost like a farm for the military rather than a military country. Huge developers and military contractors and mineral operations that need military protection will call on the US to do the bidding of these corporations, under the guise of spreading some sort of democracy. I am trying to reclaim the word "America" from the corporations and the shit heads."

The thrill of the travelling across the big country has long been an inspiration to artists, from John Ford to the Beat Generation. The album itself is an ode to travel as much as anything else. "Prettyboy", for example, rolls along like an electronic answer to a Brian Wilson instrumental. The USA suite on the second half of the album recalls Different Trains-era Steve Reich or Terry Riley, the former, particularly, on "USA III". "My mum and dad were hitchhikers growing up and they would always tell stories about the trips. I felt like travel was ingrained in my mind."

Then, in 2005, Deacon went on tour with Baltimore rapper, Height. "The two of us drove down the east coast and then west to Texas and that's when the country started opening up and became this mystical realm. You could just feel it. Now every tour I take a few days off in the desert. It definitely changed the way I think - you can stare at a mountain and realise it'll be there longer than any of these people will ever be. And a whole other civilisation of people who used to coexist with that mountain have been eradicated by people that I am a part of. It's an insane mix of emotions. I feel like there's so much embedded in the geography of the States."

More than any abstract concept of America - we aren't in Springsteen blue-collar territory here - the record reflects Deacon's slow re-acquaintance with thinking positively about the future of his country; indeed the future of anything. For years he partied like it was the end of days, because he genuinely thought it was. A self-confessed paranoiac, he was addicted to thoughts of Armageddon 2012. He considered stockpiling food and weapons. He read The Road by Cormac McCarthy as a manual for living. "I was that insane person. I was convinced the world was gonna end. My philosophy was humanity is a speck on a giant black vast nothingness."

He managed to break the cycle of thinking that was leading towards insanity in his bunker with a semi-automatic. "It's easy to be nihilistic, to lay around and say 'Nothing's gonna change - the world sucks.' I slowly started crawling out of this idea and realised everything is in sine waves, there's peaks and troughs. I realised that I was propagating this idea that I hated rather than abolishing it."

Deacon appeared at the Occupy Wall Street concert at Union Square on May 1st, and attests to a fair amount of guilt that he spends more of his time concentrating on his music than on pitching in with the protest movement. Not that this is intended as a protest record. Deacon has buried much of the lyrics in the density of the electronics. Above all, he wants to use the overall maximalist feel of the America to permeate the lives of its listeners and perhaps inspire positive action. "I want people to take away a feeling of euphoria. It's supposed to be uplifting. I didn't want to make people feel like shit, but I wanted them to be able to listen to the lyrics to find something about it so they can self-reflect within themselves. I didn't wanna focus on a single problem because there's so fucking many. I feel like the only way to get people motivated is to find their own inspiration to change." §

America out now on Domino Records.

  • Dan Deacon