Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dan Mangan bringing intelligent folk-rock to Chicago


Canadian artist Dan Mangan's introspective songs continue to win him critical acclaim.

This week, Mangan released the 7-inch vinyl release "Radicals," which contains the song "We Want To Be Pleasantly Surprised, Not Expectedly Let Down," a song left over from last year's "Oh Fortune," as well as a cover of Yukon Blonde's song, "Stairway."

Mangan,, will open for fellow Canadian band The Rural Alberta Advantage Oct. 29 in a sold-out show at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

I had the chance to talk to Mangan about his latest activities.

Q- Congratulations on your recent wedding. I understand that Yukon Blonde was your wedding band. What did they think of your cover of their song, "Stairway?" What inspired you to cover the song? 

I was up late one night and had the song in my head. I think because I was tired I started hearing it really, really slow, and thought - that might be cool.

I was happy to hear that they really liked the cover, actually. They've been tweeting about it. 

They were incredible at the wedding. Their cover of Bowie's "Let's Dance" basically made my head explode.

Q - You collaborated with many musicians on "Oh Fortune." How did you go about choosing who you wanted to work with on the album?

Well I've been lucky to have been surrounded by incredibly creative people. Vancouver has this underground avant-garde music scene that lots of folks don't know about. It all started with my drummer, Kenton Loewen, who brought in Gord Grdina on guitar. 

Those guys have been blowing minds in the free-jazz world for years. Once I had Kenton and Gord in my band, I could basically ask anyone in town to jump on board. 

Eyvind Kang was the wild card - we pulled him up from Seattle. He's a total genius, and has worked with Laurie Anderson, Beck, Bill Frisell, etc. He played viola and wrote a lot of the orchestral arrangements.

Q - Of course, you picked up two JUNO awards this year, with "Oh Fortune" being named "Alternative Album of the Year" and you receiving an award for "New Artist of the Year." Is it humbling every time you receive an award?

Yeah it's crazy. I'm programmed to assume we'll win nothing, so it always feels awesome. But then you have to forget about it a few days later.

If you think of yourself as an "award winning artist", then it changes your creative process. All that industry masturbation has to be a consequence of your music, not a muse for it.

Q - You received the "New Artist of the Year" award even though you've been on the music scene for several years. Is that frustrating?

Not really. To be honest, I do actually feel like I'm just beginning to get a hold on what it means to make music.

I've played thousands of gigs and made a bunch of recordings, but most of that time I had no idea what I was doing - it still might be that way. 

Q - How do you think your music has changed and evolved since making "All At Once?" 

Oh god. I'm sorry you know about that. I got that demo in the hands of Ed O'Brien of Radiohead many, many years ago. 

I then got a very honest and constructive note of feedback basically saying it was a pile of crap. But he was totally right, and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

I'd tricked myself into thinking it wasn't a pile of crap, but deep down I knew there was so much more that was possible. Sometimes a tasteful bit of tough love can make you work harder. 

Q - You've been called one of the most thought-provoking artists of your generation. How do you take such a compliment and does that put a lot of pressure on you?

By not really believing it. If you define yourself by what people say, then you have to believe the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. 

It has to come from inside, not outside. That's a kind quote, though.

Q - Your music is very reflective and introspective. Is it refreshing to you that there is an audience for your music, especially when the music industry at large is so hits driven?

Yeah it blows my mind. Our crowds are getting bigger all the time everywhere we tour, and musically we're getting more chaotic and strange all the time. 

We could get more or less popular, but I'll still sleep at night so long as I know we're doing our best to grow and evolve as people/musicians.

I want to have a long and weird enough career that people can describe their favourite "era" of it. That's right, in Canada we spell favoUrite with a "U".