Nicht mehr nur Solo-Künstler mit Live-Band sondern Frontmann mit Band, neue Platte nach langer Wartezeit, dazu Abkehr vom Blümchen-Indie zugunsten von düster-vertrackten politisch beeinflussten Rock und demnächst endlich auch wieder hierzulande auf Tour! Es gibt wahrlich Künstler, die zuletzt weniger Gesprächsbedarf für ein Interview lieferten als die Kanadier von Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, drum ließen wir es uns nicht nehmen die Band vor dem diese Woche anstehenden Tour-Start zur Rede zu stellen:
1.) Band facts
– Name: Dan Mangan + Blacksmith
– Band members: Dan Mangan, Gordon Grdina, Kenton Loewen, John Walsh, JP Carter, Tyson Naylor
– Residence: Vancouver, Canada
– Current album: Club Meds
– It’s been four years between ‘Oh Fortune‘ and ‘Club Meds‘ – what happened in the time between and if we may ask what did take you that long?
We’d been on the road for about 6 straight years at the end of Oh Fortune’s touring cycle. My wife was pregnant and we were all pretty exhausted, and it seemed like a good idea to relax for a bit and slow things down. It was just what we needed. 2013 was a really incredible year for me in a lot of ways. Being at home was important. When we got back together to record Club Meds, we had a renewed energy and everybody was really excited to get working.
– ‘Club Meds’ is the first record as Dan Mangan + Blacksmith – a band, you worked and toured with already before. At which point did you think that it would make sense to change the name / label and what changes did it bring with it?
We’d been thinking about it for years, but we were always in the throws of a million things and it never seemed feasible to throw in a new name, let alone think one up. Kenton thought up Blacksmith while we were recording the new album and we all really liked it. Craftsmanship meets artistry.
– How was the band influenced in the production process, what were to usual processes while producing a song and how did it feel for you to give away some responsibility?
We spent 10 days in a really nice studio in Vancouver recording the beds (myself, Kenton, Gord, John and our producer Colin Stewart). The guys were extremely involved in crafting the songs. Two of the songs, the music was even written by them and not me. It was a rewarding experience because everybody spoke their mind entirely about every song, and we wouldn’t close the door on a track until we all felt good. It led to a lot of arguments, but the songs are stronger for it. We’re really proud of what we accomplished. We don’t use click tracks, so the beds came out very human and dusty and full of human imperfection and character. Then Colin and I spent 6 weeks or so doing a million overdubs and layers of synthetic instruments. It’s a war between humans and synthetica. Humans win.
– With the change of the name comes also a change in the lyrics and in the sound of the record – how would you describe the change, how did it come to that and was it planned or did it happen naturally during the production process?
The lyrics are just a natural development. I still wrote all of those. I didn’t really approach these songs all that differently, but I do think that I felt more license to speak my mind on a lot of social/political issues. It’s a dangerous thing to put your neck out. You have to be subtle to be effective. You have to understand that these are opinions on concepts that are very complicated. You can’t just stand on a soap box and paint things black or white and assume that you’re just correct all the time.
– Can you tell us a bit about the production process of ‘Club Meds’, what was the best and the worst moments during the process and what’s your most told anecdote from the making?
Kitsch was a real win. Johnny wrote that bassline during sound checks while on tour in Europe, and we all gravitated toward it. The lyrics/melody came together really quickly and then Kenton came up with this amazing polyrhythmic drum part that pulled the feel in this crazy way. A blast to record and arrange. We got into a huge argument when we recorded Pretty Good Joke, and it happened to have been exactly the time when we had a few friends visiting the studio to check it out, so there were all of these people around who weren’t part of the project witnessing one of the most intense moments of the history of the band.
– ‘Pretty Good Joke’ is one of our favorite songs from the record – can you tell us what it is about, how it was done and if there is a story behind it?
It almost didn’t make the album. We tracked it for 8 hours trying one method and got in the argument. We were all so sick of it and exhausted. Then, the next morning, we tracked it a different way and it totally clicked. Seems like wasted time but we had to go there to come back. The song was served by the intensity of the process. Basically, because it’s so fragmented and untypical to the standard structure of song arrangement, we had to approach it differently. Rather than pressing “go” and playing it front to back, I just played a track of midi sequencing blips and beeps and got the guys to experiment with different things. I’d ask Kenton to play in 3/4 instead of 4/4, then get Gord to record a repetitive guitar line, then get Johnny to play a really laid back Jim James kind of bass line. All of the parts were recorded separately and then carefully pieced together after the fact. The truth is that the trouble we started with was that we couldn’t decide how the song should roll out arrangement-wise. We just put all the parts on the table and then walked away. Then Colin and I pieced it together later on in my little studio.
– What inspires you to write lyrics? Is there a special place you tend to write songs at?
I try to always be working on something or other in the back of my head. I feel like I absorb these concepts or ideas about humanity just by listening to the world around me, and then they need somewhere to go. If I can’t articulate them into songs they just swirl around and drive me nuts. Putting them into songs allows me to process them and it feels very cathartic – like I can let them go.
– ‘Club Meds’ is also the first record, which is very political lyrically – what did bring you to change your subject to political themes, what do you hope to effect with that and how did you direct the writing process?
I think I’ve always been a political person but only now had the confidence to put it into the songs to this extent. I think that the opinions were always there in the earlier songs a bit – but more in a humorous or witty way. It’s more overt now, but also I try to be subtle about the concepts. You can’t hammer people over the head with your opinions, you have to ask the right questions and let them come to conclusions themselves. I’m a bit older and I’m starting to care less about what people think of me or the music. I’m a bit more confident. I’ve also been songwriting for a long time and I’ve figured out ways to articulate complicated ideas with fairly simple lyrical phrases. I didn’t use to have those skills.
– From our european point of view Canada always seam to be the political better place, with the – let’s say it like that – more reasonable place to life in, compared with…maybe the US – what bugs you about the political situation in Canada?
We’ve had a very conservative government since 2006. Among other actions I disagree with, they’ve hacked and slashed at funding for science and environmental conservation. They want to get every bit of fossil fuels out of the ground and ship it off to Asia. They operate with less transparency than we’ve ever experienced in Canada and for many years most MP’s weren’t even allowed to talk to the press. It is my opinion that they have ruled and made decisions in a top-down fashion using ideology instead of using factual evidence. Our ‘Minister of State for Science & Technology’ is a chiropractor who may well be a creationist – a beautiful twist of irony.
– From the start of your career up to now you always collaborated a lot with other Canadian artists – could you describe how the Canadian music scene works and what you think about it?
It’s a huge country with not a lot of people, so it’s a fairly small community. For the most part, it’s very supportive. In Canada, there’s a bit of a fundamental judgement of the USA, but at the same time, we’re totally obsessed with it, and every band wants to break in America. It’s fickle, but it’s human. There is a lot of great music in Canada, and we have a longstanding history of it (Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, etc). Part of it has to do with the fact that we fund the arts, and it lets us compete on a global scale and hit slightly above our weight. There is a lot of impending culture coming from the south and funding has been one of the ways we’ve been able to secure some modicum of cultural sovereignty. That said, I think the internet may spell the end of cultural sovereignty in general.
– You also established your own label and are producing and managing acts as we hear – how did it come to that, what do you want to effect with that and what future plans do you have in this direction?
Madic Records is an imprint of Arts & Crafts (the label we’re signed to here). It’s more of a curatorial outlet than anything else – an access point to promote music that I find. There’s a lot of great stuff out there that never manages to hit a wider audience. I’d been thinking of it for a long time but when I heard the Astral Swans demos, I went to A&C and asked if they’d be interesting in partnering with me. Luckily, they were.
– What are you doing when you’re not making music?
Being a dad. My son is nearly 2 years old.
– What did you learn in 2014?
If you don’t tour for a long time you might run out of money.
– Your 3 top albums of 2015 up to now? Why?
Viet Cong – Viet Cong
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Astral Swans – All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson
– Which song would fit to your actual situation?
Kelis – Milkshake
– Which song makes you dance independent of your situation?
Arcade Fire – Sprawl II
– How would your „Bedroomdisco“ look like?
– Who did fill out the questionnaire?
Dan Mangan + Blacksmith (Support: Cristobal And The Sea) auf Tour:
09.04. Gebäude 9, Köln
14.04. Strom, München
15.04. Beatpol, Dresden
16.04. Postbahnhof, Berlin
17.04. Uebel & Gefaehrlich, Hamburg
18.04. Nordlicht Festival, Bremen
19.04. Querbeet Festival, Heidelberg