Monday, May 17, 2010

Interview: Deakin // Josh Dibb

In 2010 Josh Dibb began performing live under the solo moniker Deakin, also "Deacon", with his first show here in Baltimore at the Ottobar on January 1st. Taking a step back from Animal Collective for a little while, Josh has been brewing some sounds of his own.

Earlier this year we posted the audio from his Ottbar set back in January, and I recently had a chance to catch up with Josh. We talked about his amazing trip to Africa, ODDSAC, and Dan Deacon's polite request to change his name back to Deakin from Deacon...

Brett: Seems as if it’s been a crazy year for you so far, how the heck are ya?

Josh Dibb: It has been a crazy year. In a really good way. For me the decision to go to africa was sort of a moment of psychological cliff jumping that i had been shying away from for a few years. I've really been pushing myself to take on tasks and challenges that have seemed beyond my spiritual means if that makes any sense. Aside from my solo shows in africa, europe and the u.s., I have been putting a lot of time into touring with ODDSAC which is a movie that we made with Danny Perez over the last few year. In february I spent much of the month working on music and getting ready for an installation piece that we did at the Guggenheim in March. Since then I have been either on tour for ODDSAC or working on music and recently i have been helping other people record and mix their records. It's been incredibly busy and doesn't seem to be slowing down. I'm happy for that. I feel that i don't really have enough time to do it all. I prefer that feeling over feeling like i have more time than i know what to do with.

It’s been a couple months since your first solo show in Baltimore, were you happy with how that night turned out?

Absolutely. my expectations were low in many. Not in a bad way. I just never have played by myself before and all I really wanted out of the night was to get through my set. It was great to play with all the people who played that night. and it was an auspicious place and date to play that show. So i was really happy about that.

Do you have names yet for any of the songs played that night?

I don't have names yet. I am still treating the songs that i am playing as rough idea or outlines and i don't necessarily see them as completed enough ideas to give them names. I want to keep them in a bit of an amorphous state so that i can find whatever comes out of them more naturally.

Dan Higgs is clearly an inspiration for a lot of us, what does his music mean to you?

Well... to be totally honest, my knowledge of Dan overall is pretty limited. I'm not actually very familiar with lungfish and I've really only seen Dan play live a handful of times in the past few years. To me he represents an idea of how to play music which celebrates the humility of the process. I've had some good conversations with him about the idea of being a conduit. not a new idea to art by any stretch, but watching him and listening I have found that that idea is transmitted pretty directly. not even in the music specifically, but in the energy that he brings to it. I have found for myself that the more rigid i get about how exactly what i do is supposed to happen the less i find true joy in the process and the more... rigid i feel the music becomes. I revere both the idea of mastery in the sense of knowing how to construct and compose a song as well being the selfless and thoughtless conduit. I try and search for the balance between those two. I have been excited at dan's shows because they really open up that second door for me. remind of something pure about music.

What else has guided you through your own music process as of late? How have these influences changed since recording with Animal Collective?

It's a very personal journey and one that i don't necessarily feel equipped to explain in this format. but i think that generally it just has to do with trying to make sense of my own sense of self and the way that that interacts with my interpersonal life. I have always spent a lot of my mental and emotional energy trying to make sense of my relationships and the relationships of people around me. I was forced for a number of reasons in the last 5 years or so to really take a hard look at the behavior of my own mind. there are so many things that i found myself doing unconsciously that were in many ways working against the goals i have. So i think my music comes either from the place of trying to figure these things out and also is in and of itself a way to experiment with my own will to achieve. hmmm.... these are difficult things for me to describe. I don't feel i am the most eloquent at saying some of these things. I find that i am more inspired or driven to create from this world i am speaking about though than i am from direct musical or artistic influences. though of course... there are many of those too.

After the Ottobar show you headed out on quite the journey, tell us about it.

I traveled to Mali to play at the Festival Au Desert in Tombuctou. It was an incredible experience. I had never been to africa before and only briefly spent time in any developing country. It was an incredibly moving experience to see that part of the world. the standard of living there is very different from our own and to see that firsthand is overwhelming at times. it felt very strange and uncomfortable at times to see in the eyes of the people that woudl approach me what i represented. what it meant for me to be there. the resources that it took to make it happen. I am incredibly happy that i had the guidance to put so much energy into using my trip as an opportunity to raise money and awareness for the area that i was travelling too. it certainly felt more balanced than if i had not. I found an organization in Mali called TEMEDT that does work to raise awareness about class inequality and slavery in Mali as well as very hands on and direct work with newly freed slaves. i felt that in the end, my trip to Mali was far less about the music i played there than it was about the education i was getting about the reality of things i had only read about. but in the end.... I was in Africa for only nine days. I flew in and of Bamako. I drove in a caravan on a two day journey from Bamako to Tombuctou. I spent three days at the festival and then drove back. I saw some amazing music. My favorites being Khaira Arby, Super Khomeissa, Koudede, Terakraft.

How was the festival in Mali?

It was both way more like any festival i have been to in europe or the US than i was prepared for and also nothing like it all. It took place in Saharan dunes just outside of Tombuctou. There was one stage. maybe about 8000 people, the majority of whom were from Mali. It was very organized considering, but that still meant a level of chaos that is difficult to describe. the music ranged from the tight and professional bands like Tinariwen, Amadou and Miriam, Bessekou Kouyate to some really raw and incredible local bands. We lived in tents on the sand for three days and saw a lot of amazing music.

How has your set evolved over the last few months?

well.... to be honest... I don't know. I have "written" a few more songs. I have changed parts of the old ones. I have gotten tighter and also learned how to be looser. I think my voice is improving in the sense that it is more reliable to do things i imagine. I still feel very shaky about it though. the first month or so of shows i played, I felt very locked into certain things because i felt that my setup and the way i wanted things to go meant i needed to follow certain specific rules as i played or it would all fall apart. but i am beginning to feel the space in the things. I feel more comfortable guiding the chaos that i have setup. I would like to be playing more than i have been, but I have been incredibly busy with AC related things like ODDSAC and the Guggenheim project and the recording that i have been doing for other people. I am feeling that this summer is the time to really make some headway on evolution.

You changed your name back to Deakin, any particular reason?

My name has been "Deacon" "Deakin" "Deaken" depending on which release you reference. I had gone with Deacon initially when i was setting up these shows and whatnot only because it was the original spelling. But Dan Deacon got in touch with me and said that he felt that it would cause some confusion. he politely asked if i would spell it another way. so I went with Deakin.

What are you working on now?

The last month or so i have been helping some Paw Tracks bands record and mix. I just finished a remix for Pantha Du Prince. Now i have a little bit of time to start working more in my own music for the coming few month. I have plans to help a few other people record during that time and will probably have to do some more traveling for ODDSAC. I am going to begin working on a book and record that is related to my trip to Africa. the idea has evolved considerably since i first proposed in on Kickstarte in December. My new plans will involve a lot of work but I am pretty psyched about that too. it looks to be a busy 2010 through and through. thank god.

When can we expect to see/hear more of your work?

I couldn't say. Soon?

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