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Dan Deacon pushing sonic boundaries

By Greg Cochrane
Newsbeat music reporter

Baltimore's guerrilla gigging pop electrician explains his theories of 'community', new album Bromst and how he wants to play in a hot air balloon.

Watch: Dan Deacon's video for Crystal Cat

In 2007 Dan Deacon released a record which set the digital domain alight with contentious chatter.

That album, Spiderman Of The Rings - his breakthrough LP - was a provocative, bewildering and inventive feast of samples and sonic mutations which sounded like Woody Wood Pecker playing turbo-punk on a re-wired iPhone.

Some heralded it as absurdly annoying, others as the innovative imprint for the future of electronic music.

Whichever side you fell, it showed indisputable enterprise. But Spiderman Of The Rings was just part of a broader, more intriguing picture.

The 'collective'

"I remember being in high school or college and thinking 'I'm different from people, and I don't relate to people - I don't like mainstream media, music or movies," says Deacon, a self-confessed science-fiction fan and conspiracy theorist.

Besides his music Deacon is one of the founding cornerstones of Baltimore, USA's much lauded "radical pseudo-experimental art group" Wham City.

Dan Deacon
New album Bromst is released in March

Essentially a commune of artists, film makers, actors and musicians all holed up in warehouse space The Copycat Building, Wham City sees upward of forty people working in creative unison.

"Important to me is the idea of community and the idea of people working together and feeling connected," Deacon explains.

"When I started Wham City we weren't so much as an art collective as a group of people who bound together and worked under a common name to help bring attention to each other's work."

And now? "It's this beast which wields itself."

New album

However, Bromst, released in the UK in March represents a new dawn for the 27 year old.

"The main difference [from Spiderman...] is that it's not a completely electronic record," he begins. "The last record was very much like a party record."

This time around, Deacon has employed a selection of players to create rich textures with marimba, vibraphone and various other percussive experiments.

It's a startling listen and its creator is amazed that people will actually hear it.

"I never really thought this album would exist," he says thinking back. "The idea of doing this project with a lot of people three years ago you might as well have said, 'In three years you're going to grow fangs and wings and sink an island' - it'd be just as insane as that.

"I think that working through that pressure free context made it easy for me to make something unique with a spirit of its own.

"Spiderman Of The Rings somehow reached a public that I never thought it'd be available too."

Dan Deacon
Live shows are expected to be confirmed in May 2009

Communal show

It's not just the showering facilities at Wham City HQ the Copycat Building that are communal. Deacon's live shows are spectacular meetings of sweaty bodies and geeky worship.

"For the past 5 or 6 years I've played on the floor in the audience," says Deacon, who, until now, has avoided conventional stages. "As first it was to make it easier to communicate."

However, such is his rabid reputation [where he often engages the crowd in pre-gig warm-up aerobic exercises] upwards of 2,000 come to see him. His gigs are now less of a concert, more of a stampede-waiting-to-happen.

"The activities that I do can't exist on an individual level. You need a large group of people to do them. The group is the focal point of the show.

"It's not about a bunch of people watching one person do something."

Deacon is well aware of the danger factor. "Now that the shows have insanely grown I feel like I've taken that idea as far as I can personally take it," he admits.

He's not surrendering to conventional forms of entertainment just yet though.

I'd love to play in a hot air balloon - that would be really cool
Dan Deacon

"I'd love to play in a hot air balloon - that would be really cool," he laughs. "I really want to do more guerrilla style tours where we find an electrical outlet and just play."

Indeed, after playing in museums and churches, he's looking for new venues to showcase his own brand of tech-pop anarchy.

"I'm playing a show in a cave, and I've always wanted to play a show in a cave - there's a series of caverns [outside Austin, Texas] and one of them has electricity."

Despite being the centre of the crowd, Dan Deacon stands resolutely alone with his ambitions and dreams.

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