Expect the concert to serve as an escape from the real horrors found in news headlines
Dan Deacon has never set foot in Otherworld. In fact, he'd never even heard of the immersive East Side interactive art installation prior to being booked to perform at the space. Even so, after reading up on it, the venue compelled him enough that he accepted the space's invitation to play a rare Halloween show outside of his Baltimore hometown.
In an email interview, the electronic musician said he's a lifelong fan of the holiday — his favorite costume, Cap'n Crunch, actually dates from adulthood — which has carried over into his fondness for themed, costumed shows, including a stint opening for Arcade Fire (a tour on which the Canadian band requested fans come wearing either formal attire or a costume) and regular Halloween gigs, which he described as having “the same vibe but amplified through a creepy pumpkin lens.”
It's also a welcome escape from the all-too-real global horrors that have dominated newspaper headlines in recent years, as well as events more specific to Baltimore, including the Twitter attacks leveled at the city by the current president (“Fuck that clown. Keeping him out of our mouths is the best thing we can do,” Deacon offered in response) and the mid-October death of longtime congressman Elijah Cummings. “I was in India when he passed away, and the news took a few days to reach me,” Deacon said. “His office is only a few blocks from my house. It's tragic, to say the least. His legacy was amazing, and I feel lucky the city had him at our service for so long. He was a great voice and power for Baltimore.”
For Deacon, Baltimore, and specifically its music scene, remains a vibrant motivating force, and in his email he name-checked fellow locals such as Butch Dawson, Abdu Ali and Kotic Couture, along with nearly a dozen others, who have him excited for the present. “I've been in Baltimore for 15 years now and I can't imagine what it would have been like if I lived elsewhere or moved away,” he said. “It's so much a part of the fabric of my being.”
The topsy-turvy world outside of his city and scene, however, has sometimes made the act of creation more of a challenge.
“I think the game being played is a design of chaos and unease. It's made to keep everyone in panic, fear and distrust. It'll be a fucking intense decade coming up, with deep fakes, facial recognition in law enforcement, the widespread impacts of the new tax code, deepening radicalization of the right, etc.,” said Deacon, who performs at Otherworld on Thursday, Oct. 31. “It's hard for me to work creatively when stressed or in a state of conflict. But I think that's the goal of the current ruling class: to make it hard for people to do anything besides consuming products, hating and fearing. It's hard to keep one's head above the bullshit, but it must be done.”
To that end, Deacon, who has immersed himself in soundtrack work more recently, drawn to collaborating with folks that “bring a unique tint to my process,” as he described it, just announced the release of a new album, Mystic Familiar, his first since 2015's Glass Riffer. The album, which centers on the concept of “a supernatural other being that we carry with us everywhere in our head,” according to a press release, is due in late January next year, and a coinciding tour includes an April stop at Skully's. (Since our email exchange took place prior to the official announcement, Deacon replied to a question about new studio recordings by writing, “On 9:30 a.m. EST Tuesday the news to this question will be answered.”)
The musician described himself as a “grass is always greener” type of composer, a genetic thread that can be traced through his discography, which ping-pongs between playful Technicolor bursts (Spiderman of the Rings) and more measured, stately turns (America) while remaining uniquely his own.
“If the whole goal of making music for me is to explore, I want to always be going to new places uncharted on the map,” Deacon said. “It's nice to sit and bask in a place for a while, but getting comfortable is dangerous. It's hard to crawl out once you've settled in. I hope I'm always making a new set of sounds every few years, but I hope they always have enough me in them so that the dots can be connected to my past work.”