Danecdote: The Departure

Paul Whyte

Danecdote is an electronic music project featuring Daniel Nelson from Duluth. The album “The Departure” continues the works of Nelson that fuse various forms of electronic music such as trip-hop, glitch and intricate ambient soundscapes. The album is laid back but is filled with layers of sounds, samples and beats that creates a full electronic listening experience that is constantly moving. The arrangements of songs should be accessible to most of those comfortable with electronic music and reflects another aspect of music from the area. Samples of piano and guitar in songs like “Triceratop Rock” and “The Departure” gives the album a more organic feel at times, but the overall digital manipulation of sounds carries a lot of the album. Tracks such as “I’m Gonna Say You Will” features heavily manipulated vocals from local musician, Brian Ring. The Reader had a chance to talk with Nelson about electronic music and his specific creation process that ends up with the final product of songs.

Reader: Let’s start off where I first met you. You were doing electronic music on your laptop at the Steel Reserve and I remember you showing me stuff back in the day. The first actual project I can remember you working with was Gleam, can you explain a little about your background and what you were doing around that time?

Nelson: I was kind of goofing around still. At that point I was playing around with the bare minimum programs. It was more of a hobby, I switched from guitar to that, so there was that transition. The thing with Gleam is that I wanted to work with other artists and Shaunna (Heckman-Schazenbach) was a friend of mine, I knew her through some people. I felt you could get out there a little easier with other people involved and we also worked with a lot of organic instruments and that’s where that came from aside from Shaunna’s and my passion for electronic music.  

Reader: Before the project Danecdote, wasn’t there Bathaide?

Nelson: I hate that name a lot, but other than that it was my go at IDM, which is an acronym for “Intelligent Dance Music.” It was kind of a take on Aphex Twin or Venetian Snares, some of the earlier pioneers of glitchy, faster and more intricate stuff. That was just my stab at it.  

Reader: Can you talk to me a little bit about the hip-hop projects you’ve been working with recently?

Nelson: Right now it’s just with Scotty Vezina who goes by Non-Fic. Him and I met around a year ago at an after party at a friend’s house, we kind of hit it off. “You make beats?” “You make raps?” and that was it. We’re working an album right now that will slowly be assembled. Hip-hop is always something that I’ve liked from stuff like Atmosphere, Sage Francis and really message driven artists.

Reader: I know you mentioned you play guitar, but primarily you create music with your laptop. I’ve talked to people who have an aversion to creating music on a computer, but yet the final product is music. Explain to me performing live with the laptop and live in the studio.

Nelson: Well, it’s a huge difference. Everything I’m writing is produced and it’s written on the spot. It’s not written like how you can take a guitar and write something and replicate that over and over again. What I’m doing doing in the studio is producing the song. I actually hate playing live because I have to turn this produced song into a live song. I hate it because I’m not playing live, I’m essentially DJ’ing my own songs.

Reader: I noticed in “I’m Gonna Say You Will” there’s a lot of manipulation with Brian Ring’s vocals. If I remember correctly in Gleam, you were manipulating Shaunna’s vocals.

Nelson: Yup, live I would do that. I was kind of in control of her vocals during live. Not too much on the level of what I was doing with Brian, way more subtly. It was more like delay stuff. But with that song in particular it was just Brian and I hanging out and I told them that I had this cool vocal manipulator where you could speak into the microphone and the sound that went in would trigger a synth sound. There’s no synths on there besides Brian’s and my vocals.

Reader: Tell me what you hoped to achieve with this album as far as an experience for the listener.

Nelson: That’s always been a problem of mine, I’ve never been “this album is going to have a theme.”  With this album, “The Departure,” I’ve never targeted it as an album. It was like, “alright, today what song am I going to make?” It would just develop itself however. In the end I’d take whatever amount of songs I had made in a course of time, cut them down to what fit best together. Hopefully some people appreciate it with some electronica love in their heart‚ĶI want it to stand on it’s own too. I feel a lot of electronica music can be repetitive and boring and that there’s a bad name for that.

Reader: I wouldn’t say that this is really repetitive or boring there’s a lot of layers and things going on.

Nelson: Yeah, and that’s what I try to do. To try to spice it up, I needed those layers otherwise it’d essentially be hip-hop tracks.

Reader: What programs were you using when I first met you and what are you using now? This is kind of a question for the gear heads.

Nelson: I was using strictly Fruity Loops when we first met, just stand alone by itself. At that point I wasn’t recording samples myself, I was just using the software samples. Now I’m using Ableton Live as my main recording software and I use a lot of different pieces of software inside of that. Like Reaktor is the number one program I use. I also use Absynth and Maschine, that has some good drums.

Reader: There’s definitely electronic music where someone is playing something like a synth and they can even manipulate that. You’re obviously choosing notes that make the final product. Did you have any prior training in how these notes fit together to create this music?

Nelson: No, not really. I can never picture the end of a song from when I start. It seems cliche’ to say, I let song write itself. I start with whatever mood I’m in and the intro will reflect that. There’s different things I’ll do with notes and depending on how the song writes itself, I do a lot of manual editing or what I call “mouse editing.” Where if I write a synth line, that line might not be exact where I can throw an effect like delay in and automate that or maybe I’ll cut the f**k out of it and chop pieces out of it to make it my own.

Just as a pedal sting fits in well with a country band or a harshly distorted electric guitar fits with metal, the programs on Nelson’s laptop provide him with a sort of electronic palette from which he can pull from to create finished works. The finished project of “The Departure” is a solid example of electronic music that still required one of the things that matters most in music, creativity.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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