Working in Baltimore: How Does Dan Deacon work?

Dan Deacon on What It’s Like to Be an Electronic Musician: A Working Podcast Transcript

Dan Deacon on What It’s Like to Be an Electronic Musician: A Working Podcast Transcript

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May 17 2017 5:30 PM

The “How Does Dan Deacon Work?” Transcript

Read what the electronic music artist had to say about his daily grind.

Dan Deacon.

Jacob Brogan

This is a transcript of the May 9 edition of Working. These transcripts are lightly edited and may contain errors. For the definitive record, consult the podcast.

Jacob Brogan: This season on Working, we’re taking a trip to Baltimore to chat with some of its residents about the various ways they make a living there. We’re hoping to learn a little about the ways that Baltimore shapes their work and the ways they’re shaping Baltimore by working.

For this episode, we spoke with Dan Deacon about making weird and wonderful music in a city full of creative people. He leads us through the practical details of the job, including his approach to merchandising and the way that he navigates luggage restrictions when he’s on tour.

And further, he tells us about the actual process of producing a song from his initial sketch to the final product, and he discusses the effort that goes into putting on a live show, explaining the origins of his penchant for audience participation. I will say here that, though I’m not a live-music guy, I’ve never not had fun at one of his shows, and I’ve never not participated.

What is your name, and what do you do?

Dan Deacon: My name is Dan Deacon, and I’m a musician.

Brogan: What kind of music do you do?

Deacon: I make electronic music. It’s the kind of electronic music that people would dance to but not in a dance club. It is not the kind of electronic music that normally would get called electronic dance music. It’s definitely in, like, the middle of—I think everyone likes to think their music is in the middle of multiple things, but I don’t know. Whenever I go to a festival, if it’s electronic festival, I’m the indie act and if it’s an indie rock fest, I’m the DJ. I’m somewhere in there.

Brogan: How much of your time do you spend actually making the music that goes under your name?

Deacon: Nowadays, not nearly as much as I used to. When it becomes a job, you all of a sudden have other jobs and you become like a manager of time. If you have no ability to do that, your job gets very hard very quickly. I’d say a couple of hours, but it used to be all day every day; and I look back on that kid longingly but at the same time I was doing that to get to a level of success. It sort of this ...I don’t know. I’m going to stop going down that road of being like, “I wish I just...I wish it would just all go away.”

Brogan: What are some of the actual managerial or business tasks that consume your time now?

Deacon: Well, yesterday was sourcing Legos.

Brogan: Legos?

Deacon: Legos. I’m trying to get all the equipment to not be destroyed by TSA or just travel, in general, is—

Brogan: The equipment you use?

Deacon: Yeah, the equipment I use, ’cause I use everything that looks like not an instrument. Even though they’re all mass-produced electronics, I guess some of them were boutique-produced, but it’s still bewildering to open up a suitcase that’s just like tons and tons of wires and they don’t know what it is so it’s constantly getting ripped up. I thought Legos would be the best way to secure it so it could just snap right back on top. Even if they didn’t do it properly, it would still affix. There’s a lot of logistical planning that goes into being an electronic musician. Figuring out...I think that’s been my entire career, ’cause when I first started, I was taking the Greyhound bus everywhere, and my whole life had revolved around the luggage restrictions of a Greyhound bus which is two suitcases and a backpack, but if you make a bunch of bags out of clothes, they can’t tell that they’re bags when you get on the bus.

The airport’s a little more strict about that but it’s kinda similar, too: two checked bags, but now I travel with the crew so we have a little bit more. It’s merely just like meeting with the crew figuring out what’s working about the show, what isn’t working about the show, how it can evolve. It’s kinda like, you know, a boulder just smashing down a hill and sometimes trees get stuck to it and you’re like, “Oh, I like these trees,” or like, “These trees are really screwing up the mids.” Lot of email. Email’s a huge part of the job.

Brogan: Is that about planning out shows and touring and stuff like this?

Deacon: Exactly. Getting schedules together, seeing who can do what shows and who cannot. I have a management team, which is great. That’s really returned probably 25 percent more music writing time back into my life.

Brogan: Is there a business end that’s not you?

Deacon: There’s a ton, there’s a ton, and it didn’t use to be. I’m a real micromanager, and I was so used to doing everything that it was hard to give up, but now there’s a lot. Like obviously the manufacturing of the records and the CDs and figuring out who’s going to host on Spotify or iTunes and stuff like that. I have no idea how to do that and I don’t want to. Things will have gone south for me if I’m Googling like, “Oh, I got my new record on Spotify.” That’s how I think I sound in my head.

Brogan: Our listeners can decide but I don’t think that is how he sounds.

Deacon: I just thought they’re going to be like, “There’s no difference in them.”

Brogan: Yeah, that was the same voice. What about merchandise? How involved are you in that? I mean, I assume that that place has a significant role in profits and income.

Deacon: It does, ’specially on the road. I like designing a lot of the shirts. That’s fun.

Brogan: Is that mostly what you sell, shirts?

Deacon: Shirts and pins and then the media itself.

Brogan: Yeah, the CDs or tapes or whatever. Are tapes still in?

Deacon: Tapes are in. Tapes are probably my highest-profit margin.

Brogan: Really?

Deacon: Yeah, I mean, I don’t sell that many of them but they’re super cheap and even if you don’t own a tape player, if you’re like me, you’re addicted to buying something that’s cheap because it seems like a deal. “It’s pretty cheap. It’s the cheapest thing on the table. I don’t have a car but these are pretty good car air fresheners. I should get these.” I think tapes appeal to that group of people, plus like cars with tape decks are now affordable, so I feel like a lot of people are in these cars. No one has CDs anymore. Tapes are such an elegant format.

Brogan: Yeah. When it comes to actually like producing this stuff that you’re designing the T-shirts, coming up with—

Deacon: Sometimes I work a designer, like with the last record, we worked with visual artist Joanna Fields who did the artwork and then we started designing complementary merchandise to go around the look of the artwork but I’d say just about every tour, I design one or two shirts. It’s just fun to do.

Brogan: Do you have a favorite shirt that you’ve designed?

Deacon: Can I cuss on this show?

Brogan: Yeah, 100 percent.

Deacon: I had this shirt that said, “Sassiest Fuck.” It was a purple shirt in like a magenta ink and it was in the curls font. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with curls font, and it had this like kissy lips on them like lipstick imprints. I don’t know what you would call it ’cause I call it kissy lips.

Brogan: That sounds right.

Deacon: Obviously. When you get your master’s in composition, you got to design kissy lips T-shirts, like straight off the bat. That’s my a little tip.

Brogan: Do you actually enjoy the business side of it?

Deacon: I do. I thought I wouldn’t, but it’s fun because it is completely—like running a DIY venue was the same exact thing but just on a smaller scale and a DIY tour is the same thing. You’re just running a small business. Like we live within the paradigm of capitalism. Even if I’m going in playing these anarcho spaces, I still have to buy gas. I remember pretty early on walking around, playing a venue that didn’t have a door person so they’re like, “Oh, just go around and pass a hat around for gas money.” I was like, “All right, that sounds like a great idea.” And I was going around doing it and I was like, “Do you have money for gas? Do you have money for gas?”

I was like, “I’m just out here like grassroots fund-raising for Exxon. This is insane,” and started thinking about how it needed to have some sort of structure or else the only people that were going to make money off of what I was doing were going to be, you know, alcohol companies and gasoline companies. Anyway, that’s tangent, but I like the strategizing and thinking about how things are going to fall and thinking of different ways to engage with fans. Ultimately, the goal is for the music to be heard by as many people as possible.

Again, going back to the paradigm we live in, the only way to do that is if I can sustain living off of it. If I can’t live off of it, I’m not going to be able to make as much music. Do you know what I mean? My time will have to go to something else. I guess, that’s kinda why I moved to Baltimore because it was so much more affordable than New York.

Brogan: When did you move?

Deacon: Twelve years ago? Basically, right out of college, and it really shaped how I thought about music, moving here, ’cause from a logistical standpoint, you can be in New York and back that night. You can play D.C. and Richmond and be back. You can hit Boston that day. Same with Chicago. You can hit so many of the East Coast cities and it just seems very close to all of them. And it was a city that a lot of touring bands passed over so when I was living here, I tried to book as many shows as possible to change that to bring other bands in ’cause it is a favor economy where it’s like, “Oh, thanks for booking me. I can book you here now.” That worked out really well. Yeah, so I cannot imagine what it would have been like if I stayed in New York. I would have been working at least full-time just to pay rent in a very tiny place where I couldn’t have had shows and probably couldn’t have recorded or been loud at all hours a day.

Brogan: Do you have a sense of now, since we are talking now about the economics of making music, of how your income breaks down, like how much of it comes from touring, how much from album sales or Spotify or whatever, and how much from merchandise?

Deacon: Merch is nice to have for cash on hand on the road for gas and stuff, but I still think the bulk of it comes from actually playing the shows. This is the longest stretch I haven’t done of touring and I’m trying to learn what it means to be still. I haven’t been still in a long time. Yeah, touring is definitely the largest income. Then after that, records. Then after that, I guess sometimes I do a lot of, like, non–Dan Deacon work. I still write music many hours a day but lots of times it’s for a film score or for a theater project or some sort of “non–Dan Deacon project.”

Brogan: Something that I’m not going to find on Spotify or wherever.

Deacon: Exactly, until a rarities comp of music no one really wants to hear comes out—

Brogan: I’ll probably listen to it.

Deacon: I’ll get like 35 cents from it. I don’t know why, I just disparaged work. Yeah, so I spent a lot of time doing that. I think the hardest part is figuring out what to say no to because the whole start of your career is just begging anybody to let you perform or to contribute music to something. Then it’s like turning on a faucet because the moment it’s on, people are like, “Oh, you can do stuff? All right. Well, you want to do it every single thing? Some of them really suck. Some of them are going to be bad people.” Then you’re like, “Uh, uh, yes. Yes, I’ll do it.”

Then you break down the hours you put into it and what seemed like a nice payday turns out to be like 1940s minimum wage but then you start thinking like, “But I’m an artist and I should be doing this for the love.” Then you’re like, “But you took this particular project for the money. You could have been doing what you loved for almost the same amount when you think about it.” That’s the hardest part. Again, that just goes back to time management. Knowing that I shouldn’t just take every single project I can get because if I’m never bored, I’m never going to just sit there and riff. Do you know what I mean, if I’m constantly—

Brogan: Yeah.

Deacon: I try to think about it in terms of cooking as much as possible. If I was like a chef and I’m cooking all day, I’m not going to come home and make myself an elaborate meal. Maybe I would. Maybe that’s what chefs do. I don’t know what chefs really do.

Brogan: I have no idea. The indie generation kinda immediately before you, they had a lot of anxiety about selling out in their work. Is that even a term that you think about these days?

Deacon: I think more and more, that term is different, and if you think about the way that people consume music, it’s different. Also, I think a lot of that was really good PR in the ’90s. I think Generation X was really good at playing their, like, I think the closest we had was Jordan Catalano, what was that show? “My So-Called Life.”

Brogan: I think so.

Deacon: Just to kinda like, “Oh, I’m just this like super-handsome privileged white male and nothing’s going right for me.” To me, that’s like the ’90s successful bands. Being like, “Ugh. Everyone just wants to use all my songs. Ugh, I just don’t want to let them so I tell my publicist so they write a big feature about it in Rolling Stone magazine.” That’s how I kinda like viewed selling out. I don’t know. It’s also hard because once, you know, I grew up with working-class parents who definitely, definitely would be disappointed if I didn’t take particular jobs being like, “What are you talking about? I would have worked years for that money in like, actual physical labor.”

So there’s a privilege to not selling out. You already have to be in a position where you can look at that money and not care about it. I think that’s something that more and more people think about and realize and be like, “Why wouldn’t I do this? Because if I do this, I could do this.” Do you know what I mean?

Brogan: Yeah.

Deacon: I don’t think I’d write a jingle for like Halliburton or Monsanto. Again, I do give so much money— Oh, so much of my income goes directly to oil companies. I wish that wasn’t the case.

Brogan: Just because of all the travel.

Deacon: Just ’cause of all the traveling. I mean, I try to get around by getting that bus that ran on veggie oil but it still needs to turn on at some point. Obviously, selling out is an issue but it’s almost like an uncanny valley where you can be pretty unpopular for a while but you’ll have die-hard fans that love you. Then as you get more popular, it’ll be great and people will be excited for you and then you get to this middle-level popularity and people are like, “Oh, you’re not famous but you’re also not—we know who you are.” You’re just this like hideous disfigured music. Unless you get super popular and everyone’s like, “Oh, yes. He’s awesome. I love him. I’ve always loved him.” There’s that realming to worry about.

Brogan: You’re listening to “Meme Generator” off Dan Deacon’s album, Gliss Riffer. After this brief break, he tells us about how he generates his own songs.

*  *  *

Brogan: What is a typical music-making day like for...I mean, you’re not making music every day, right? Or do you try to?

Deacon: I try to. I’m definitely, like, groggy if I don’t.

Brogan: OK.

Deacon: It’s got to be like the equivalent of someone who likes to run. If they can’t get their running, it’s like, “Ugh, it’s terrible.” I definitely can tell by the end of the day, I didn’t make any progress on anything, even if I had done a bunch of like— As you can tell, I’ll let the dishes pile up to the point where I get a little bucket to put them ’cause that’ll make it seem like I’m doing something about it.

Brogan: I actually thought that those dishes were done.

Deacon: No, those are dirty. The trick worked. Even if I don’t think like, “Oh, I haven’t written any music today,” I can just tell when it piles up and I haven’t and I just have to, but then the hardest part is getting back into it. The job is completely structureless and I think that’s, again, all it goes back to time management, which is funny ’cause I’m a musician. That’s all you do is place objects in time, and I guess those objects are not objects, they’re sounds. But I can’t do it on a macro sense. I can plot a tour very well. I think I can place rhythms and pauses in time well but I just can’t ever remember like, “Grocery shopping. I have to get food in the refrigerator. It doesn’t just appear.” Since I don’t have a regular schedule and my partner’s a schoolteacher who wakes up at like five in the morning, I’m constantly waking up super early in the morning, sometimes going immediately to the airport, and then working till three in the morning.

Brogan: When you say “working” here, you mean—

Deacon: I mean, like, traveling.

Brogan: Doing shows?

Deacon: Yeah.

Brogan: If your days are amorphous, as they sound, is there a time when you’re sort of optimally primed to...That was a transformer. Is there a time of the day that’s best for you to make music? I mean, are you a guy who likes to out those sounds in the morning or is the evening best?

Deacon: It’s really just the large blocks when I don’t have to think about what’s to come. Like if I have an appointment. Even if I wake up at, like I said, five, and I don’t go back to sleep and I stay up and I don’t have anything until four, I’m still always thinking, “Ugh, I got something.” The nights work good for me because I can just work all night and I’m very good at pushing things back in the morning. I think it’s really just like if I have a complete day off, it’ll just happen.

Brogan: We’re in your apartment now.

Deacon: Correct.

Brogan: Is this where you make music or do you have a studio space?

Deacon: I do. The studio’s behind that wall of paintings. Then this closet over here I turned into a complete dead vocal booth so I’d run like a snake into there. I’ve got a larger space across town like two miles away for drums and piano and loud big things that you can’t bring down the stairs, but, really, the hardest part is not letting little things get in the way. Email is a mind-killer. Like, I really think getting a smartphone is the worst move I ever did in being a musician because while we’ve just been talking my phone’s vibrated like 15 times and I only get push notifications for like two apps, so either like a bunch of houses are going up for sale right now or someone’s like, “Why aren’t you emailing me back?”

It’s just hard to stay in the moment. I can understand why people go to retreats to write and stuff like that but I don’t have the time.

Brogan: When you start working on a new track, what are the first things that you have to start bringing together or working on?

Deacon: Well, it’s a lot like just sketching in a sketchbook. I’m often just writing just to write. I’m not writing with...If I write, like, sitting down with a goal in mind, it’s always, like, the worst. It turns into a ska song even if I’m trying to write like a horror movie sound track or something.

Brogan: That would be a rarity I would listen to. “The ska music of Dan Deacon.”

Deacon: You can find my high school ska band online. It is. It’s like you’re sketching and then it’ll get to a point where it’ll be like, “OK, that was nice. I’ll save this but I don’t really care.” Then if I choose to work on it again or if I’m working on it in that session and it clicks, I’ll save it as an addition like “OO1.” That’s sort of when I know I’m going to go back to that and try to flesh it out. Sometimes that again falls to the wayside but I realize the whole process is just to keep my skills honed and to know the software and to trust my ear. When it becomes a song, I think, is when I start thinking about where we’ll live. If I start thinking, “Oh, I can play this live,” or “Oh, this could be like on an album,” or “I think this would work well for this particular project,” or “I should save this in case I get a project that needs something ethereal” because I’m not really this ethereal dude, this could work, or I’m writing for a context outside of what I do. That’s sort of when I think about where its final essence will go, that’s when it completely changes. If it’s live, I’ll start adding percussion and a lot of it and leaving room for me to put vocals on top of. If it’s an album track, it can be a lot more free and can go anywhere, but if I can’t think of a home for it, it kinda just lives on my hard drive until I go back and like, “Oh, that was cool, but I don’t know what to do with it.” Kinda like, again, like a sketch. Does that make any sense?

Brogan: Yeah. What’s actually involved in that sketching process for you? Are you doing something specific in a specific program in a computer or you’re noodling around with an actual instrument?

Deacon: I’d say about half the time, it’s sitting down at the computer and opening up either two programs simultaneously or one of two. I mainly work in Ableton Live and I’ll try to rewire this program Reason into it. I used to work exclusively in Reason but now I work outside of Reason, which I really just like saying that. Sometimes it’ll just be something will get stuck in my head while I’m doing the dishes and I’ll just think about it and then I’ll sit down with the bass to—

Brogan: Sort of like humming a tune to yourself?

Deacon: Yeah, yeah. It’s rare I start with melody, I normally start with texture, but start to just like hum textures.

Brogan: What’s the difference there for you, melody versus texture?

Deacon: Well, I think a lot of electronic musicians are drawn to starting with texture because the whole reason we’re working with electronics is to try to create new sounds or sounds that cannot be created acoustically. When you’re doing that, it’s nice to be able to just create a different palette for every single song. I feel like a lot of electronic music sounds like...Each album sounds like a compilation more than it does a band. I mean, they might have pedals and stuff but the drum sound’s going to be pretty consistent throughout the whole record. The bass, the guitar, and the vocals are all constants where with electronics, it’s just all over the place. You can be sampling like a New Orleans brass band on one track and then on the next one, it can just be pure sound waves and that’s the same band.

Yeah, I tend to start with texture since I’m not like virtuosic on any instrument. But I know my rig pretty well, I think that’s a nice place to start if I just want to build something to riff on top of, but, yeah, I guess, nine times out of 10—well, we’ll go with five times out of 10. One time out of two, it’s at the computer and then the rest of the time, it’s going to be anything, like playing with little keyboard or singing into my phone. Something like that.

Brogan: As a track develops, as you go from OO1 to two, three, four, do you bring in other musicians or you’re still building it all yourself?

Deacon: I tend to build it until it’s ready to go. I keep trying to break this mindset but I still treat the studio largely like a camera and I would like to treat it more like a tape recorder. I say that with other people. When I bring in other people, it’s pretty much like I know what I want you to do, and it’s either written out on sheet music or there’s like a macro-structure set and they can riff on top of that. There are a couple of musicians I work with a lot, Andrew Bernstein and Owen Gardner, who were just really heavily used on two projects, and I really love and trust improvisation. But for the most part, it’s pretty much like, “Yeah, please do exactly this. Thank you so much.” Being so close to Peabody makes it easy to find real skill.

Brogan: What’s Peabody?

Deacon: Peabody’s like a really renowned music program attached to John Hopkins.

Brogan: Do you draw a lot on Baltimore’s music community?

Deacon: It definitely is like a community. It’s such a small city but has such a large scene and I really like it because it’s so much easier to play a show without—this is going to sound negative but it’s not: It’s easier to play a show without any consequences. Like I can go out and play a set of all-new material and it’s very unlikely that a blogger’s going to be there and tear it apart before it’s had any sort of essence. Do you know what I mean? Like whenever I’m in New York, I’m always just like, “Oh my god, half these people were probably just being paid here and they hate me.” Probably not, but that’s how my mind works.

Brogan: At what point in writing a song do you start thinking about lyrics?

Deacon: The very end. I think most people who write songs probably start with the lyrics or the melody, maybe some chords, maybe they get chords. I don’t know what musicians do but for me, it’s always kinda like, “Oh, yeah. I need to put lyrics over this.” I kinda start with just like phonetic gibberish and try to come up with a melody that I like. Then I try to adhere lyrics to that. I’m more concerned about the rhythm and thinking about the human voices like just a constantly changing textured instrument. Whereas the piano is one timbre, obviously. I never been like, “Oh, this piano’s...I never knew piano sounded like this.” It always sounds exactly like the piano while the human voice can sound completely different from one syllable to the next. I try to think about it more like that.

Brogan: How do you know when a song is finished, when it’s ready to go, when it belongs in an album or whatever?

Deacon: The finishing is definitely the hardest part. It’s, you know, you can polish it forever and then whittle it down into something it wasn’t and be like, “I need to build it back up,” which is why some tracks have 400 versions. But I guess you know when it’s done when...I have a maximalist approach to sound when I can’t find any more space to put new sounds.

Brogan: Your music does have this often this very layered feel, a lot of different kinds of sounds jangling up against one another.

Deacon: Yeah, it’s pretty dense. I’m trying to utilize space as a composition element but I’m just not good at it.

Brogan: What do you mean by that?

Deacon: Like the space between sounds like using silence as an element. I was really into it in college but then I was just like, “My computer can do anything. My Compaq computer.” I’m really bad at knowing when it’s done and that’s why I really like...It’s hard being the only person in the room and to me, it’s the closest I’ll have to like bringing something into the world. Is it really a beautiful baby or do you just have to say it is ’cause it’s a baby? I don’t trust myself to be like, “This is good. I can present this, and I should present this. Why have I been doing this for so long? I’ve been sitting in the window in this room all summer. I must be insane.”

Then you show it to somebody and there’s no reaction you can really get that, for me, satisfies what the process was. Ultimately, again, I’m doing this because I really like to do it and I don’t know what else I would do. I’d probably drive a co-worker in a restaurant insane ’cause I’d be like, “Oh, sorry. I’m going to speed that up. It’ll sound way different when...It’s called varispeed technique.” Writing a song is kind of like growing your own tomatoes, where you get the seeds and you plant them and you watch the vine grow and you get that weird tomato metal thing and that grows up and you see the first little tomato and you’re like, “There it is.” Then you just got to wait till it’s just ripe and you don’t want to wait too long. You don’t want too ripe but you want it. “Oh, it looks so good.”

Then you couldn’t and you have a friend over and you got all the sandwich fixings out and you sliced the tomato. Then they don’t have any idea that you made it and you’re taking a bite and you’re like, “Oh, this is the best tomato,” and your friend just eats the sandwich, doesn’t say a fucking thing about the tomato. Then you’re like, “Ah, I grew that tomato.” Then they’re like, “Oh, it’s good. It’s a good tomato.” That’s kinda what it feels like sometimes, but you still have the satisfaction of growing it yourself and it’s not like you want your friend will be like, “What? Take it out of my body. I want to eat it again. It was so good.”

I don’t like saying like fanfare needs to happen but it’s so odd especially when you’re in a community of so many creative people. It’s not like, they’re, “This guy wrote an album. Stop the presses. Get the mayor. Everyone needs to know.” So it’s weird to spend so much time on something that has such little consequence in anybody else’s life other than they probably will enjoy it four or five times. If they enjoy it once, they’ll enjoy it a couple more times while they’re doing the dishes or driving or fucking or something. I often envy a filmmaker or a playwright or an author where people are like, “Yeah, I sat down every night and read your book and it was beautiful.” Or, “Yeah, I went to the movies and all I did was watch the movie because that’s all you could do at the movies.”

Where with music, it’s like, “Ugh, I love your music. I listen to it while I’m jogging thinking about how I hate my body.” But it is also the privilege of being a musician is you can have your music in this documented form and play it live and that’s, I think, what draws me to it the most.

* * *

Brogan: You’re famous for these incredibly immersive, audience-engaging live shows.

Deacon: Thank you. See, I think the best live shows take you out of the moment into somewhere else and I really...This can be true of recorded music too but my favorite live experience is sort of this transcendendent—is that the word? Transcendental?

Brogan: Transcendent?

Deacon: Transcendent. I’m going to definitely redo that one. When I’m at a show or listening to music, I really like not knowing when I zoned out. Music that can help me zone out and think about ’cause it’s obviously still going into my ears and into my brain and it’s almost steering my thoughts. If it’s happening in such a way that it seems so natural that like, when there’s a change in the music, I come out of it. I love that and I love that feeling. Then I start realizing I’ve been hearing it the whole time and I remember where it was but it’s just sort of like it has taken over me for a little bit and I can, I don’t know, think in this very psychedelic fashion if that makes any sense.

Brogan: Yeah, but when you are preparing and pulling off the show, I mean presumably you can’t zone off. I mean, I assume that there are million—

Deacon: Well, the whole goal is zoning off. I want to always be...I always want my mouth to be like two steps ahead of my brain and I want my hands to move without thinking. I want to be able to dive into my computer or use my controllers without having to be, like, “Hmm, what would be a good choice here?” You just want it to happen like the same way the sweat’s rolling off my face. It just happens and there’s the—

Brogan: Does a lot of prep go into making sure that that can happen, that you can lose yourself in it?

Deacon: Yes, tedious amount of prep and “prep” is a much better word than “practice” because it is more like prep and my show is...I’m very glad it has the reputation that you described because to me, it has the reputation of pretty much constant failure of like the computer, just stopping or the interface’s not working or like, ’cause we’re definitely pushing the computer to the brink and since we’re using the maximum amount of stuff, we don’t have any redundancy so a lot of acts have like a whole secondary safety rig so if the computer goes down, it triggers another computer and then the MIDI pops up. That’s sounds great. Super pro. I’m not fucking with that.

Brogan: Why not?

Deacon: Because I’d have to bring twice as much stuff and if I can bring twice as much stuff, I’d rather bring twice as much other stuff. Do you know what I mean?

Brogan: Yeah, more stuff.

Deacon: More stuff. Then when I go to Europe, I can’t do it because everything over there is smaller and the travel restrictions are different so I can’t...You know, the weight restrictions changing. We are at like 49.9 pounds on every single one of our suitcases and if they were to change it to 51 pounds, we’d be at 50...You know like, we’re putting gear in our pockets when we get on a plane. When we’re driving, it’s a different story, like when I do...I cannot believe I said “if.” When I do a road tour for the next record, I will most likely have a redundant system, it’ll be great, but if I’m flying to a festival, I’m bringing basically everything that I can and leaving things I wish I could take home. That’s the role of the dice. Luckily, as you can tell by how I don’t shut up, I like to talk, so—

Brogan: When something fails, you just start chatting?

Deacon: That’s how my show came about was through dealing with failure. The first time I ever did any audience participation was because of a mistake. I left something in my...I was opening up for Cat Power at SUNY Purchase, the college I went to, and I left this one adapter to hook my microphone up into the pitch shift pedal which back then was like my bread and butter. I’d set up this elaborate audience participation setup just by rambling and I ran home and got the adapter and got it like—

Brogan: While the audience was doing it?

Deacon: While the audience was doing this thing. I don’t think anyone even noticed I left the room. Then plugged it in and just started going. I thought, “Oh, thank God for that.” Then I was in New York, I would think I was still in college. I could have just moved to Baltimore but I was playing this like basement show and I’m playing in New York a ton. You know, there are a million things to do in New York trying to get anybody, even you’re friends, to be like, “Come see me for the first time doing all the same songs.” This was the first show I did that was packed. It was one of those random nights it was probably like two people’s birthdays and we’re like, “Let’s go to the Apocalypse Lounge.” It was a small basement place probably half the size of my kitchen but people were into it and then like the circuits blew. I was like, “No,” ‘cause I know if people went outside to smoke or...I was just upstairs at the bar. The vibe was over, my set was done. Luckily, the light was still working so I just stood up on this box and I started rambling, “Make a circle. Make a circle.” Then started giving instruction...‘Cause I was watching them trying to move the amps to get to the breaker box. I was like, “If I can just keep this going until the power comes back on, we’ll be good. Nothing will have changed.” So I was just riffing on this like, ideas for a dance contest, just like they had to dance like [unintelligible] or something. Eventually, the power came back on and the show, not only did it keep going but it was like 10 times crazier because the circle created this potential energy where there could be people in it. Then it also shifted the focus where the audience was no longer looking at me or my direction. They were all looking towards the center of he circle. Then when it collapsed into chaos, that potential energy turned into this writhing kinetic audience. Ever since then whenever something goes wrong, I kinda have to just riff on what to do. If it works, I add it into the set just like a song.

Brogan: But do you use these strategies even if things aren’t going wrong? It seems like it’s central to the kinds of shows you put on. People come for that, in my experience.

Deacon: If it adds to the show...I mean, ’cause sometimes these things suck and people are like, “Why are we doing this?” You know, I definitely have some like staples that I play just like songs.

Brogan: Staple games that you play with the audience, you mean?

Deacon: Yeah.

Brogan: Can you give some examples of the kinds of audience participation that you do now?

Deacon: Sure. I think the main thing I do every show, and I guess most performers do this, is engaging the audience, but I like to engage the audience in a very direct way right off the bat by starting the show with giving them the choice to participate or not because that’s the choice. By choosing to participate or not, you’re participating. Do you know what I mean? And I can figure out what their level of participation’s going to be and where I can go into crowd.

Brogan: You’ve learned to read the room to some extent?

Deacon: Pretty much, and I just try to do like a group participation like even just ask people to raise one hand in the air. I can very quickly say, like, that’s basically me saying like, “Are you going to participate tonight or would you rather not?” Then people will just either say yes or no. Then I can figure out if I try to pull it out of them or if they’re ready and going for it. At this stage, people...Like you said, the show has a reputation, they go for that in mind but the show needs people to not participate. It needs people to be spectators and I like people switching back and forth being like, “I was participating.” Or, “I’m just watching.” Or, “I thought this guy was crazy. Now I still know that he is but I’m going to participate anyway.”

Then it also goes on the venue as well, plays a huge part. When we show up, I try to walk around the space and see if there’s like multiple ways in or out. See if we can go outside. If it’s not a busy street, can we block traffic? Stuff like that.

Brogan: But the music is still going.

Deacon: The music is still going. Again, I like the idea of—

Brogan: Assuming the circuit board hasn’t blown or something.

Deacon: Assuming nothing’s blown up, music’s still going. That’s one of my favorite parts is when we all go outside and then you can sort of hear it like the throb of the bass through the wall and then you turn a corner and it’s still going. To me, I think that’s similar to like getting lost in the zone of being like, “Wow, this is still happening. That’s crazy.”

Brogan: Sort of like being underwater?

Deacon: Kind of, yeah.

Brogan: What are you doing when you’re on stage? Are you...Is it just press play and it goes or are you actually like fiddling with knobs and dials stuff like that?

Deacon: There’s a lot of fiddling. There’s definitely stuff that’s preset, like, I’m not a drummer and the computer’s a great drummer so I keep the drums pretty much sequenced and the songs have song form. They’re set and ready to go, so I’m playing on top of tracks, but my goal is to do everything that I possibly can. Do you know what I mean? Anything I can’t do, I’m not going to not have it in the song.

Brogan: Is that because you want it to be a live experience?

Deacon: Exactly, and I like to perform. It’s much more fun having something to do than being up there being like...I’m not really the kind of electronic musician that stands on the table and pumps their fist. I like pumping my fist but...Early on I had like...Again, my reaction to the like esoteric early 2000’s electronic music was very negative and I started thinking about what a performance meant to a non-musician. I started thinking, well the two oldest instruments ate the human voice and percussion and every single person can relate to that. Someone opens their mouth and the sound comes out, everyone’s nose and watching a hand move and the sound happens.

It’s very easy to just put the physicality to the sound and you can immediately...Even if you know nothing about music, you can be like, “OK, I see what’s happening and unfolding here.” The smaller the instrument or more hidden it is such as electronics, the more esoteric it becomes and in my mind becomes boring watching someone go like this and that has no direct...

Brogan: Fiddle with dials.

Deacon: It’s just a complete abstract motion, not attach to any sound. I mean, that could be for an event that happened five minutes from now. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. I love music like that but if I want to see it live, I’d rather be in a seated theater. I don’t need to be standing with 400 people crammed in to just hear something. Do you what I mean? For some reason, music has abandoned seated halls unless it’s like Adele. Yeah, I’m on stage trying to...I do a lot of singing but I don’t really sing as much. I’m more just using my voice as like a signal to be processed. Does that make sense?

Brogan: It that something you think about when you’re creating tracks in the first place, as well? I mean—

Deacon: When I first started—now that I’m playing with better PA systems, I think about my voice as a voice and to carry lyrical content—but when I first started, I was playing into bass amps or whatever speakers there were. I just wanted my voice to be something that when I opened my mouth and the sound happened and it was a crazy abstract sound, people still knew like, “Oh, that’s...He’s triggering that with his voice.” Just so it had some sort of human connection. I wanted the electronic music to have a visible performative aspect other than just like pumping my fist.

Brogan: You’re creating slightly different versions of songs—

Deacon: There’s always that the macro structure is always set but the manipulation that’s attached to my voice, the synth, and when the synth comes in are constantly changing.

Brogan: Do you play a version of it or create a slightly different variant of it and you think like, “Fuck, I wish it had been the album version.”

Deacon: Constantly, especially when I’m playing with a drummer because, you know, once the drummer learns the material, they’ll start to internalize it and play it with their own voicing and I just...Especially this one drummer I worked with, Jeremy Hyman, about a year into touring, we were just like, “I really wish we’d written all these songs now, rather than two years ago.”

Brogan: What kind of synthesizer do you actually have or what is the equipment that you have up there?

Deacon: When I’m live, again, it’s a lot of using the computer. I’m running Ableton Live. When I’m running, I use Ableton Live to also control the lights through some custom software that Patrick built. I guess the synth is, it’s a poorly named synth, but it’s just called Analog. They really should have not called it that ’cause it makes it very hard to differentiate from an actual analog synthesizer. I use that as a monophonic synth and I control it with a series of Faderfox MIDI controllers. But in the studio, I mainly use, for the newer work, for the last record, we went down to Moog in Asheville. Moog is a synthesizer manufacturer and I think it was the first record to ever track the Sub-37 synthesizer because it wasn’t out yet and they just let us have free rein of the studio and all their synths. That’s the bullshit police alarm going off there, but it’s actually true. Now I’m tracking mostly with our 2600 and slowly getting into the realm of modular synthesis.

Brogan: What’s the difference there?

Deacon: Modular synthesis, or modular synths, rather...Imagine the keyboard as one instrument where a modular synth is each individual component can be taken out, moved around, and you have to physically patch them with cables, kinda like, imagine old telephone cables.

Brogan: What do you after shows? 10:30, 11:00, whenever the audience has left?

Deacon: I would love it if the audience left at 10:30. That’d be amazing.

Brogan: It’s midnight, 1:00, the audience has left.

Deacon: We tend to wrap around 12:30 or 1:00. I mean, it depends on the city but many of times it’s pretty late. It’s a pretty long load out and packing everything up, so really just chill with the crew.

Brogan: How large is your crew?

Deacon: Right now it’s four of us. Me and my front-house engineer, Al Shots, who’s really brought the show into, like, version 3.0. I wish I had started working with him in...I often look back,. in like 2009, I went from going complete solo on the floor to like a 15-piece band. I really liked it but it was a logistical nightmare. I had no idea how to do it. We didn’t have a sound engineer. Nothing was mixed. We didn’t have monitors. We weren’t playing to a click. Everything was free and it was just chaos.

I kinda think now I could go back to doing that with Al and I’ve never had that confidence before. I have a lighting designer, Patrick McMinn, who I’ve been working with since 2012, around the same time as Al, who’s also completely revamped the show. He’s a real programming genius so he builds a lot of custom software for me, both for lighting and sound. Then my tour manager, Chester Guas, who actually lives right upstairs, we’ve been working together since Bromst which came out in 2009. I guess, it’s since 2008, in very various capacities. Sometimes he drives the bus, sometimes he produces the records, and currently, he’s the tour manager. Sometimes he plays bass.

Brogan: So after the show you’re hanging out with all these guys—

Deacon: Or just trying to go to bed.

Brogan: Or just trying to go to bed. You have a hotel usually near the venue?

Deacon: If we’re staying in a hotel, hopefully it’s near the venue. Sometimes we still crash with people, especially if they’re friends. It’s been a while since we’ve done the like, “We need a place.” I do love that style but when I’m, again, when I’m on a road tour, I ride in my bus so we stay on the bus ’cause it’s just ...

Brogan: OK. What kind of bus?

Deacon: It’s a school bus that we gutted and converted into an RV. I mean, it’s not really an RV but that’s what it is on the insurance, so it’s an RV. It’s got nine bunks so we sleep on that, it’s got a little kitchen. Then that’s when we we “stay with people” because we need sure power to like plug it in if we want to charge our phones at nights and it’s always nice to go to the bathroom indoors.

Brogan: When you’re hanging out with the crew after show or just generally that time after the show, do you ever interact with people who have come to see the show or is that...

Deacon: I try to always go to the merch table before we pack up ’cause, again, we tend to go until the venue is about to end so there’s always like 30 minutes of trying to go out and say hi and thank you and pictures and stuff like that.

Brogan: Can we speak a little bit more about Baltimore and how that has shaped your trajectory? You moved here near the start of your career after college. How has being in this community shaped the kind of music that you’ve made?

Deacon: I certainly got more interested in making more like sort of wild music here. When I first moved here we were living in this warehouse called the Copycat and our unit was called Wham City and we’d have shows. The shows were like...You know, the art school’s like over there and I guess you weren’t supposed to flier. The building...We weren’t allowed to have shows but I didn’t know and I would just flier like crazy and the shows were huge very quickly and that was bewildering and people just wanted to go crazy and the audiences were just like...

I mean, when I would tour, my goal was to try to get like the 15 people who were there to hopefully dance by the end. I remember playing a show early on in Baltimore and the moment I started, people are dancing and I was like, “My whole show is ruined. I don’t know what to do. They’re already doing it. I don’t have anything to do. Well, what am I going to do?” So then I started writing music with more and more drumming, more and more of a pulse, and since there’s no stage, I just started thinking, “Well, no one’s going to see me anyway. I’ll just do whatever the hell I want, and the audience will go crazy.”

That wasn’t the case in other cities ’cause I’d have to go back to performing and being like, “No, no, no. Seriously, you may like this if you give it a try.” Baltimore definitely changed the way I thought about, one, living, and two, it’s just such a very unique city.

Brogan: Over the course of last decade or so, a lot of bands have ended up calling it their home. I think Beach Houses is based here, Future Islands, and others. Been through the whole range of sounds and styles, does that musical diversity of this relatively small scene inflect your work?

Deacon: Totally. I used to book these round-robin tours. It’s been a long time, but in 2008 we did a tour with, like, 60 people and Beach House and Future Islands and myself and then also noise bands and performance artists and you could very vividly hear the difference in everyone’s music after that tour. Like being on tour with such a wide array of music, I feel like definitely changed the way that the scene was working in any community can be kinda clickish. This was not, by any means, like bringing the whole city together. It was more just like these, you know, it was where you’d see a noise band opening up for Beach House and then that happened every night for two weeks and then it just sort of started to change and that’s what I like about Baltimore. It’s kinda like this tide pool of, like, there’s a lot of people coming in. There’s definitely a transient community of musicians and artists and people want to live here or come here to work on a project or who grew up here and then moved away and then live in New York or Los Angeles now and then come back for a little while. Then there’s a lot of people who are very content on just living a lifestyle based on Baltimore and then there’re people who like to live here because they can also live here and travel. I feel like that’s, I don’t know, I really like it.

Brogan: What’s made it...It seems like a sort of fertile ground for artists and musicians is that it’s cheap to live here. That’s also a consequence of, it’s in the economic disparities that I think are pretty central to the city’s existence right now.

Deacon: It’s also, I think, largely just, the city used to be 1.5 million people and now it’s 600,000 so there’s an insane amount of space and it’s also massively...It’s certainly like overly policed in some neighborhoods and then massively under policed in other neighborhoods. For a while, it was very easy to have shows because the cops just didn’t give a shit. Yeah, it’s a very, it’s definitely an insanely segregated city. It’s largely an apartheid, and I’d say since probably 2014, a lot of the white-artist community that was like either willfully ignorant or just ignorant in general has started to realize that, and I think a lot with the work of local performer and promoter Abdul Ali. I feel like the city’s like simultaneously twice as big and half the size and largely this venue called the Crown.

I feel like the Crown has really changed the way that Baltimore music and nightlife has occurred. Like the club-music scene has very much become pivotal. It used to be very separate like the noise music community and then like the weirdo rock music and the rock music and the club music and everything was separate. Now at the Crown, I feel like it’s very much like all those shows happen constantly and people just go to see what’s happening and that, I feel like didn’t used to happen before.

Brogan: How do you reconcile the kind of pleasure that you take in your own work, that delight, I assume at what you’re doing, with the kind of pain that this city, I suspect, feels in so many ways?

Deacon: I don’t know, I think every city is that, I feel like it’s amplified in Baltimore. Especially from an outside perspective, I feel like people who don’t live in Baltimore look at Baltimore as like, “Oh, Baltimore. If only we could help.” I try very much to not have like a white savior complex where I’m like, “I’m going to bring my joyous music and I’m going to use that and that’s going to save the city.” I think living here and being a part of the community and trying to be part of as many communities as possible within the city, the best thing that anyone can do in Baltimore is just to be a part of it and contribute to it and to not see it as...A lot of people from outside the city see this city for its blight and I feel like people who live within the city do the opposite and see this city for what defines it as, in my mind, the most beautiful place to live. You can’t ignore the problems at all. I mean, you can choose to but that would be, you know, a detriment to both you and the city. I don’t know. I just try to get as involved as many things as possible and to realize when my voice is appropriate and when I should listen and when I should try to organize something and when I should be a part of someone else’s organization or a tool to help. I think it’s going to be a growing role. I mean, there’s a lot of escapism within electronic music and within the arts in general. So much of it now is like making something flashy on the internet so it an be noticed and you hope that it can lead to something larger, but I feel like every city is built off of the oppression of someone else, and you know, all the instruments that I use and make are, you know, I’m sure the miners who got the metal sacrificed a bit more than I did, obviously; and the people who work in the factories even like the microphones you’re holding right now, obviously, every material in them was slave-made. I think as people start becoming more and more aware of the effects of globalism on both like how their electronics and how their like the comforts of their lives come about, and then also localize it in the same sense thinking about, “Well, if this club exists, what do the neighbors actually think about it?” I think, you know, that conversation happens a lot in Baltimore especially in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland that had a huge reaction here in Baltimore. The fire department came down very hard on many, many spaces and a lot of people got evicted and lost their homes and lost their space, which is the source of their livelihood. The mayor put together this artist task force on trying to create safe spaces, and I was appointed to the task force and just trying to, it  does constantly make me think about...’Cause people go to these meetings being like, “I want there to be ... There’s no reason that artist should have preferential housing like if there’s going to be an artist community where artist can live cheap, there should be nursing community where nurses can live cheaper, teachers’ community where teachers can live cheap.” It’s just trying to find a way that like your city’s whatever you let it to be, in essence, and other people are going to try to...You know, there’s definitely like a thousand forces that would love to see Baltimore just crumble and go into the ether so it could become just like a place of further exploitation.

Then you start finding people who’d generally want to make it a beautiful place. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in being an entertainer because if at the end of the day people want to forget about their problems or to process their problems through something joyous, I think that’s ultimately what my role in this is.

Brogan: Thank you so much for your time to talk to us today.

Deacon: Oh, no problem. Anytime.

Brogan: My pleasure.

Deacon: Can you guys mind just raising both your hands in the air as high as they can go. Do you mind just very gently, if you’d like, just holding the hand of the person next to you? If you don’t want to do this, that’s perfectly fine, of course. Can we just close our eyes? Our eyes are closed but can we focus as hard as we can? Focus as hard as we can on the image of the face of the person who means the most to us in our life? Think about them looking at you. Think about them smiling. Think about all the joy that you’ve brought to their life and all the joy that they’ve brought to your life. Maybe this person is no longer in your life or no longer amongst the living. Maybe this is someone very new to you or someone you’ve known since the moment you’ve been alive. Think about how different your life would be without this person and how different their life would be without yours. Now, if we can just slightly and gently squeeze the hand of the person whose hand you’re holding. Feel that grip, that presence. Now, can we just let lose our hands. Let our arms down and relax and just enjoy the rest of the night.

* * *

In this Slate Plus extra, Dan Deacon gives us a tour of his apartment, showing off his home recording studio and giving us a peek of the board game he had set up when we visited.

Can you walk us through your recording spaces?

Deacon: Sure. Why don’t we do this dead room right here.

Brogan: All right. Dead room, kinda creepy name.

Deacon: I don’t know if we can all fit in here but—

Brogan: I think we can.

Deacon: I don’t know if anyone’s going to be able to hear.

Brogan: [inaudible] shoes.

Deacon: Oh, that’s all right. People come here with shoes on all the time. This is where I try to record vocals when I’m like...I’ve never recorded my own vocals in here but I produced another band last year and did all their stuff in here. There’s all this green Auralex. They’re these like little green pyramids.

Brogan: It’s like phone padding, basically?

Deacon: Yeah, it’s like sound absorption and then behind that are tons and tons of cotton fiber installation. It’s just in a large closet next to my kitchen and bathroom. Then I’ve got a Neumann U 87, my favorite microphone ready to go. Little music stand, a kind of dangerous looking light. I don’t know why there’s a tack stuck in it. We take that out. Then a couple of mike stands and one of those stupid Ikea cow pelts on the ground. That’s that. I’m pretty proud of it. I think it came out all right. This is like a spillover room right now. That synth is our 2600 that I was talking about. This is the modular synth. Then I have these robotic drum triggers so that’s largely like a drum brain, company’s mutable instruments. Here’s where the Legos come in. Again, trying to get this equipment to affix in a way that TSA won’t freak out about but can still...

Let me unplug this. All right. Making it so that’s easy to set up night after night. That can come apart pretty easily. If they screwed up, we’ll have more Legos to reattach.

Not really as fullproof as I want it to be. Trying to design...I hate the aesthetic of a laptop so using this Mac mini in this ridiculous roll of waterproof keyboard because sweat pours into everything. This is our laptop computer. The bottom level’s one of those Lego baseboards. Then we have the Mac mini. Then we have a wireless radio transmitter ’cause I wear in-ear monitors when I’m playing rather than having speakers blast.

Maybe I should explain. A lot of musicians...Well, a lot of nonmusicians, I feel like, don’t know monitors exist. Monitors are the speakers that play the music that the musicians hear to a different mix than what’s coming out of the front-house system. This controls my ears. On top of that is this, like, crazy cheap, lightweight, but I think, beautiful screen. Next to that is the audio interface, which takes all of the incoming sound and also does all the outputting sounds so we can send eight channels to the house so my sound engineering can discretely mix and tone to the room the drums, the synthesizer, my voice and then the click track for me and the drummer to play along with.

‘Next to that...This is always so boring for anybody that’s not looking at it. The pitch-shift pedal that my voice runs through and then these are the MIDI controllers which control the bulk and the synthesizer and the mixing and there’s a little OP-1 keyboard.

Brogan: You use that pedal to create different vocal tones?

Deacon: Yeah, it’s like it’ll just raise my voice in octave or two higher or lower or I can set it to particular intervals. When I move the throttle back and forth or now I’d MIDI controller it with a dial ’cause the throttle’s made for feet and I play with hands. It’ll adjust the pitch to go like, “whoop.” Like it’ll just change it from high to low or low to high or whatever interval I want it to be.

Brogan: Makes your music easy to sing along to.

Deacon: It makes it easy for me to sing it all.

Brogan: Yeah.

Deacon: Then this room over here. This is board game Cave Evil that I’m really obsessed with.

Brogan: What’s this game called?

Deacon: Cave Evil.

Brogan: It looks fucking awesome.

Deacon: It’s fucking awesome.

Brogan: It’s also, like...Is that a 12 sight? The only time anyone has figured out a use for a 12 sight besides Barbarian hit points. Cave Evil’s fucking awesome.

Deacon: Cave Evil is cool.

Brogan: I’ve never heard of it. How many players?

Deacon: Up to four, two to four.

Brogan: You’re a big board-game guy?

Deacon: Yeah, I really like playing games. It’s hard to hang in Baltimore as an adult unless you want to go out to a bar, which I don’t mind, but it’s just...I would just like to do other things. I don’t know if that’s true in other cities but like, what do adults do at night?

Brogan: Board games. Dungeons and Dragons in my life.

Deacon: That’s right. I had a guess staying also but this is my main studio where I do the writing. Two screens set up ’cause I do a lot of film scoring. I guess that’s mostly the outboard gear like the compressors and limitors and stuff that like sculpt the dynamics of sound which you can do with a computer but I just like the way the hardware does it better. Then some more synths, largely Moog synths and some more modular units yet to be installed.

Brogan: You’ve got a ton of synths here actually. Do you plug those in and stick them in your computer when you’re working? How do you use these?

Deacon: Most of the time, I riff all within the computer. Then if I get a sound that I’m not happy with, I’ll replace it with hardware but the goal of this room...This used to be someone’s room and then when they moved out, I was like, “Oh, I need another roommate.” I don’t know why I keep doing that voice for myself. Anyway, the goal is to have everything patch wired, ready to go so I never need to plug anything in so it will be plugged in. The same way that the computer is just drag and drop. I’d like the hardware to be exactly the same. I think that’s like two months out if I can just actually devote like two hours a day, I think we’ll get there.

Brogan: Why are there four speakers?

Deacon: There used to be six. Speaker’s like a human voice, sound comes out of every speaker set differently so I wanted to listen to one set of speakers as my main speakers. Then I’ll AB it with a second set to see like if my speakers are actually coloring the sound or if the sound I’m going to hear is going to be true across all users. Then I’ve got a third set in the other room that I listen to to make sure it’s not just the room doing the con ’cause obviously this room, when they built it in 1840, wasn’t really designed for acoustics.

Brogan: Or for electronic music.

Deacon: Definitely not electronic music.