Hot on the heels of his fourth album release 'Club Meds', Dan Mangan has set out on tour - hitting both Europe and North America - under his new band moniker Dan Mangan + Blacksmith. The album release comes after a brief hiatus, while Dan took some time out to enjoy the company of his wife and child.
We caught up with the man himself to discuss juggling family life with his career, the best things about festivals and just what makes 'Club Meds' stand out.
Contactmusic: Hi Dan! How are you enjoying being back in the UK?
Dan Mangan: We had our first day off of the entire tour (14 gigs in a row) in Glasgow and we ate curry, walked through windy brisk streets and drank whisky. It's working out.
CM: You have quite a few festival dates coming up. What are you looking forward to the most?
DM: I like the social element of festivals. On tour, you live in a small travelling bubble. At festivals, you get to hang with old friends and make new ones. It's a nice respite from regular touring. Field Trip in Toronto should be nice. It's run by our label Arts & Crafts so it's always a bit of a family affair.
CM: What made you want to start crediting yourself as a band ('Dan Mangan + Blacksmith') rather than a solo act?
DM: We felt like a band but it was always just my name on the ticket. The shared moniker was a bit more representative of the ensemble. And it gives us all more freedom - to be this ensemble, or to operate in other ways should we choose to.
CM: How does new album 'Club Meds' differ from your previous records?
DM: It involves more synthetic audio. A lot of drum machines and synths and midis on there. And more band collaboration in the writing stage. The lyrics and melodies are still mine, but the actual bones of the songs came together mostly in group settings. It was nice. A real labour of love. Months of toiling. I believe it to be the best project I've ever worked on.
CM: What was your most unusual source of inspiration in writing the album?
DM: The album is largely about sedation. Maybe it's going on and I'm just missing it, but I rarely hear lyrics in folk or rock music that talks about anything that strikes a nerve. A lot of the same old banter about love and hurt. I want to find complex truths and discuss them subtly. I'm not here to write songs that distract you from life.
CM: You took a break from music to focus on being a father. Do you find it difficult to juggle a demanding career with family life?
DM: Yeah. It's really hard to be away. I miss the little guy like crazy. We're figuring it out. A lot of musicians have figured it out. I think at the bottom of it all, if a kid knows that they're loved completely, then a lot of the little details that people obsess about (like whether there's flame retardant in their pyjamas or whether they're eating too much dairy or if they're in the right play groups) tend to not be so crucial. Raising kids isn't about aesthetics or external indications of stability, it's about crafting people of character who operate from a place of love.
CM: You have contributed to 'Hector and the Search for Happiness' and 'The Valley Below'. Is the process of writing for a film massively different from writing for an album? If so, in what way?
DM: In the case of Hector, it was much more collaborative. A huge team and everyone has their opinion. It was challenging for me because I'm used to getting my way but that's exactly why it was such a powerful experience (and one that I needed). It really put me on my ass and I'm really proud of my work in that film, even though it got destroyed by the critics. It didn't deserve most of the venom that it received. The trick is to enhance the scene without being heavy handed. It's easy to do too much. You can never say with the music exactly what's being said in the dialogue. I'm open to working on more film scores. I like being in the studio and working from Vancouver.
CM: What song is the most fun to perform and why?
DM: I've really enjoyed singing 'New Skies' on this tour. We tend to close with it. I like the juxtaposition between the happy lyrics and the sombre music. The second verse always gets me riled up:
'The end of the hunger
Hands that knew only need
Burst at the seems
Gone is the greed
The new royal we'
CM: What is your favourite new band/musician at the moment?
DM: Loving the new (and old) Father John Misty albums. Have been listening to the "Who Is William Onyeabor" album a lot, also. It rips.
CM: What is the best gig (of another artist) that you've ever been to?
DM: Radiohead. Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver. In Rainbows tour. Dumped rain the entire time. Nobody minded.
CM: If you could have any skill that you don't already have, what would it be?
DM: I wish I could manage my time better so I had more time to read books and exercise.
CM: Do you have a non-musical hobby or interest?
DM: I'm pretty decent at foosball (at least for somebody from North America. I think it's a whole different world in Europe).
CM: What has been your worst experience on tour?
DM: I've kinda lost my mind a few times and gone to a very dark place where I stop caring about music and that's worrisome. Largely, it's just exhaustion. Most of the time, I can keep my mind right.
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