We are starting a new feature called ‘Ask Dan’ where Dan Boeckner answers your questions. If you want to submit a question for Dan, head over to the forum and look for the thread titiled ‘Ask Dan’.
Dan: Probably not in the next year, but Isaac and I tried to book time in January to record some songs together, and I know he wants to do another Ugly Casanova record, so I’m thinking if that gets made then I’ll probably be involved.
2. What goes into writing a song and how does the process differ between projects? How many iterations of phases does a song go through in it’s life before being played live or recorded and how long, typically, does it take a song to go from a germ to a finished product -Hyden
Dan: I mean it really depends on the song and it depends on the band, like a song like Thy Will Be Done, and Confused, Alexei and I wrote those songs the same day that we recorded them. So those songs were written in a day.
Me: So for Handsome Furs is it because there’s less people?
Dan: It’s just a different creative process, the planning stages, I mean partially cause there’s less people, but more cause we work, we usually sketch out an idea on paper or mentally before we sit down and even if it’s an esthetic we want for the song.
Me: Do you have like a notebook where you jot down all your ideas so you can come back to it later?
Dan: Yeah, yeah, and a song like Language City or Soldiers, a song like Solders Grin went through 4 or 5 different incarnations, like just on acoustic guitar, in the band., we played a completely different version of it on tour, I think there are bootlegs of a completely different version of that song. Language City was something I had kicking around for about 8 months before we started recording it.
Me: So the songs sometimes evolve as time goes on, as you get more ideas?
Dan: Yeah, yeah, but then something like F.Y.C got written and recorded in a matter of days, from the first arrangement to the actual recording.
Me: Is each song it’s own separate “entity”?
Dan: Each song is kinda it’s own little thing. There’s some stuff I have from the first Handsome Furs record that I’ve been kicking around that I can’t, that we haven’t had time to work up into songs. But generally it’s a lot faster recording with Handsome Furs than Wolf Parade.
3. Is God Shaped Vacuum a myth that has been created out of the collective imaginative powers of this forum? Are there recorded demos? Are there early Atlas Strategic songs or something else so completely mind-blowing that they have not been released due to the concerns for the safety and well being of the general public? -penguinix
Dan: No it‘s not a myth, God Shaped Vacuum existed. It was Carey Mercer from Frog Eyes on drums, a guy named Reg on keyboards, and me on guitar and singing. It was like a proto version of Atlas Strategic. There were more ballads, like country, not country but more like spaced out ballads. But also really damaged parabou(?) style songs. And there was an early version of a couple of Atlas Strategic songs, like 3 or 4 Atlas Strategic songs. We put out a record called Apocalypse Now! Which was kinda a really good summation of our live show that just involved me baiting the audience and just complete and total destruction every single night. Carey told a lot of jokes, he had a microphone but he didn’t sing.
Me: So what’s Carey’s drumming style like?
Dan: His drumming style is kinda like the drumming style on like, he was really influenced by the 33 albums, so his drumming style is not unlike the drumming for blackout beach, which is to say like very very loose and very cymbal heavy. It was a band that was just doomed, there was no way we were gonna keep that band together for more than like a month. Well we lasted for about 6 to 8 months and made one record and that’s that.
4. I’ve noticed the sabotage cat on your arm. Do you have a particular affiliation with the IWW and similar privatizations, or do you tend to just agree with their stance toward our modern world? -ecto24
Dan: I got the IWW cat when I was 17. Basically I thought it looked cool, and then later on I was working a job at this vegan pizza place, which was just a nightmare of a job, and there was an IWW conference in town and everyone was like ‘right on man’ and I didn’t know what they were talking about, and then I had heard of the IWW but I didn’t know that was their symbol. So then I was kinda stoked cause you know. It’s not the hellcat records tattoo.
5. Do you have a favorite song that you have written? I’m sure that all your songs are important to you, but is there one that you feel clicks on every level, or is most representative of your song writing or world view? -hobomilitia
Dan: I don’t
Me: All of your songs are important to you but is there one…
Dan: I don’t think so, I can’t really pick one. I generally like the stuff I’ve written most recently.
6. What will Hadji’s role be in the band while he’s doing his PHD? Will he still play on the record but tour less, or is he giving it up all together? -Username880
Dan: I think Hadji is not going to be on the next record. I think he’s, he had to make a big decision between school and music, and even though wolf parade doesn’t tour as much as a lot of other bands, it is really, when we do go out on tour, it’s an all encompassing thing. When we started I was constantly loosing my job every time we would go on tour. It’s a real commitment so I think he’s just gonna work on school and do his own thing. But Dante is gonna be involved in the writing for the first time. He worked on his own parts for Mount Zoomer, but with this record I think he’ll be involved right from the beginning stages.
7. What do you feel you accomplish most uniquely through the live setting compared to the way the music is interpreted through the record? (Is there a different feel to when you play the songs live to when you record them?) And how does the tour evolve in order to not get old and tiresome from playing night in and night out? -SunsetSwanParade
Dan: There is a different feel definitely. With both bands we always try, when we’re playing live, to transmit the song with the same feeling and emotion that went into the recording of it. But the recording you know you want it a little cleaner or you want to capture a specific moment in time, and a recording is a document and there is no way to get around the fact that it’s an artificial document right, that’s just what it is, it’s a recording. So when you’re seeing it live, when I’m playing the songs live, I genuinely try to put my entire body and heart into it, as cheesy as it sounds.
Me: How hard is it to channel that same emotion you felt when fist writing a song when you’re playing that song night after night?
Dan: I find it really easy to tap into that on stage though, those specific feelings, cause even if the song is about something specific, the feeling itself is more of a general broad feeling. I don’t really have to think about it, I can just do it and relate it to the moment. I don’t really get tired of playing live. I struggle with being exhausted sometimes, but I always figure that if people are paying to come to the show then I have to put on the best show I can possibly put on that night. With Handsome Furs we did 18 shows in a row in Europe on the last tour, that was a challenge, but we got into it, we did it, we made it through the other side. I think the most difficult thing with touring is when you stop. It’s hard to decompress. I usually have one day when I feel great not playing a show, it’s nice. But then the next day once I get into the rhythm of not being on tour there’s always this weird sort of vacuum where your like, 9 o’clock rolls around and you’re like ‘oh my god aren’t we supposed to be sound checking?’ But then you get over that.
9. What movies are the two of you into? -SunsetSwanParade
Alexei: I like Cronenberg a lot. I’ve been really getting back into that stuff.
Dan: Yeah definitely.
Me: Any Zombie movies?
Dan: I love zombie movies. We just recently, me and Alexei, bought a book. We actually bought it the day we filmed the Confused video. The book is called ‘Eaten Alive’ and it’s a pretty concise history of the Zombie and Cannibal movie genre from Italy. Italians made probably the best zombie movies ever made in the 70’s , filled with gore and nudity and they all had this brutal social allegory that they kinda took from the original George Romero ‘Dawn of the Dead’ ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and sorta amplified it. Lucio Fulci made some amazing films. I love film.
Alexei: We watch a lot of film. We love Fassbinder, Herzog.
Dan: This new Korean movie called ‘The Chaser’ which is really amazing. It is downloadable on the internet but not out yet. So if you look on a torrent you can find ‘The Chaser’. Stars the guy that is the star of ‘Old Boy’ and it’s incredible. I have a big divide with my love of film, where I love art film, like Aki Kaurismaki, Finnish director, anything he’s ever done is amazing. But I also truly truly love trash. I love sleazy trash movies. I think my most favorite era of film is probably 1975-1985 when it was just so good, so much garbage, so much sleazy upsetting trash.
Alexei: Everybody should watch Dancehall Queen.
Dan: Yeah Dancehall Queen, great film. Movies play a big part in the lyric writing, at least for me. For the last Handsome Furs record we buckled down and watched a bunch of Russian films and science fiction. Science fiction for me just gets me going lyrically. All the Atlas Strategic stuff, all I did was sit at home for a week when we were writing the album and watch crap sci-fi films from the 70’s.
10. What’s next for Handsome Furs? Also have you begun to work on anything yet for the next Wolf Parade record?
Dan: Me and Alexei are gonna try and record a new song that we have, a couple of new songs that we have, in August in our week off. Me and Lex have actually been working on stuff for another album,
Alexei: Yeah we have a bunch of new stuff, we just haven’t had the time to flesh it out. Basically as soon as Wolf Parade is done with some of their writing, we’ll be working on recording.
Dan: And Wolf Parade I’ve got a couple of thing written but I haven’t showed them to anybody yet. We haven’t rehearsed since the last tour.
Thanks you so much Dan and Alexei!