2017 Artist Survey: Dana Janssen of Dana Buoy | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2017 Artist Survey: Dana Janssen of Dana Buoy

Janssen on #MeToo, Louis C.K., Trump, Twin Peaks, Amazing Dates, Terrible Shows, and the Time He Almost Died

Feb 07, 2018 Web Exclusive
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For Under the Radar‘s 15th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the last year. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2017 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Dana Janssen of Dana Buoy (and formerly of Akron/Family, who went on hiatus in 2013). Dana Buoy also features Justin Miller and their new album, Ice Glitter Gold, is due out February 23 via Everloving.

For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about the various sexual harassment and assault allegations, the “Me Too” movement, the chaotic first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Charlottesville alt-right rally and racism in America, embarrassing moments, professional regrets, which Breakfast Club character they are most like, the end of the world, and much more.

Top 10 Albums of 2017

1. Tyler, the Creator: Flower Boy
2. LCD Soundsystem: American Dream
3. The Flaming Lips: Oczy Mlody
4. Brian Eno: Reflection
5. Vince Staples: Big Fish Theory
6. Big Sean: I Decided
7. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN.
8. Miguel: War & Leisure
9. Drake: More Life
10. Bonobo: Migration

What was the highlight of 2017 for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

My high point for the year 2017 has got to be working with Bob’s Burgers. I performed with the cast of Bob’s live in L.A. this past summer to celebrate the release of their album of songs from the show. I also performed and sang on the Christmas episode that just aired! We recorded these songs at Sound City. Such a great crew of people! So much fun. My low point of the year has been so strange. I feel like waking up everyday and hearing about something outrageous Donald [Trump] said has kept me in a constant state of confusion. How can this be actually what is happening? Is this proof of the simulation?? Teasing us that we haven’t “got it” yet?? Or is it confirmation of alternate reality theory? I really have a hard time believing that some people are just this awful.

2017 saw sexual harassment and assault allegations against many men in the music industry, film industry, journalism, politics, and elsewhere (including Harvey Weinstein, Matt Mondanile of Ducktails and Real Estate, Brand New’s Jesse Lacey, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, Democratic Senator Al Franken, and others). Why do you think the floodgates opened in 2017 and do you think any meaningful change will come from it or will sexual harassment and assaults continue to be prevalent in certain industries?

I couldn’t say why the floodgates opened up this year. Maybe we just needed a different story to read other than “Donald might have just started WWIII with a tweet.” Although I’m not surprised by any of the names that have been identified this year. Harassment has been around since, well, I imagine it’s been around forever. Respect isn’t something people value as worthwhile apparently. I hope the attention we are seeing paves the way for this type of behavior to dissolve. I don’t think there’s any room for this in any industry. It’s a shame that some people have to deal with this everyday.

In 2017 the “Me Too” and “It Was Me” social media hashtags further brought sexual assault and harassment to light. Have you ever been the victim of harassment or assault, or witnessed such behavior, or been the perpetrator? And what concrete steps can be taken to combat sexual harassment and assault in the music industry and make it a more welcoming place for women?

I am fortunate enough to not be a victim of sexual assault or harassment. I cannot remember any situations I’ve been in where I witnessed it either. As far as steps to be taken, I couldn’t say. People are idiots. It takes a lot to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and ask if this behavior would make you comfortable. Empathy is not a skill that everyone has but I think this would be a good one to try to attain. If we think of it as a skill, like it is, it makes it seem more attainable and maybe more people would be willing to try to achieve it. Although, if you’re an oophbag who would behave like this in the first place….

It has been said that 2016 was the year your favorite artist died, and, because of the litany of sex scandals, 2017 is the year that your favorite artist became dead to you. Which artist did you stop being a fan of this year? Which public person would you be most devastated to learn had a history of abusive or predatory behavior?

I don’t think I can support Louis C.K. after hearing about him. This feels too gross to support. I think if I learned that Barack Obama had a history of abusive behavior I would be pretty bummed out.

Should we be able to separate an artist’s work from his or her actions? Or should an artist’s negative behaviors completely negate the quality of his or her work?

I think a person’s actions reflect who they are. Artist’s works are parts of them too. These cannot be separated in my opinion.

The first year of the Trump administration has been chaotic to say the least. What has President Donald Trump done so far that most concerns or angers you? Is there anything President Trump has done, proposed, or said that you actually agree with? Why do you think his base continues to support him?

Jesus. I think that literally everything he has done completely sucks. Whether it be standing up for hate groups, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, or reducing the size of national monuments in Utah. This man is the most reckless person I’ve ever seen in public office. Why do people support him? I have no idea. To balance the force? Without dark there is no light kind of thing?? I have no idea. I wonder what they think of his tax plan? I’m not sure if his supporters are aware of how this is going to affect them. I have no idea.

Many predicted President Donald Trump wouldn’t last long in the White House and yet he’s still there. At this point how hopeful are you that he’ll be impeached? Barring that, how optimistic are you that he won’t win reelection? And although it’s still very early, is there already a potential candidate you would most like to see run for president in 2020?

Impeachment isn’t enough in my opinion. It seems that every day we are learning more from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and all signs point to criminal activity. And with cooperating witnesses in play I’m hoping to see more indictments for this administration. It reminds me of a long form television show and I’m just hoping it ends with a prison sentence for this guy. Get him out of here. I hope he doesn’t make it to the end of his term. This is way too dangerous for the Earth for him to continue on as he is. Ignoring science is just dumb. Let someone who actually cares about public service have this job. I’d support another Bernie Sanders run. This man has ideas that I agree with.

The alt-right/neo-Nazi/KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the ensuing violence, and President Trump’s reluctance to condemn such hate groups further showed that racism is alive and well in America. What concrete steps can we take to improve race relations in America and the world at large?

I think people need to be more exposed to different cultures and gain experience with them. Learning about the way people who are different that you do things can be a truly fulfilling experience. Most people would probably really get along with those they blindly assume to hate. And we need to not stereotype and assume that one person speaks for the whole. Again, empathy is a skill that we all need to learn.

2017 saw several music festivals cancelled due to low ticket sales (not to mention the Fyre Festival debacle in the Bahamas). Are there too many music festivals right now?

Yes. There are too many music festivals.

Which Breakfast Club character are you most like and why?

I’m definitely Brian Johnson. I was also in math club.

Tell us about the best and worst dates you’ve ever been on.

One of the best dates I was on was with my current girlfriend. It was about six years ago and we had just started dating. I was touring in Australia and I had a little time off so we decided to meet over there and have an adventure. So it’s kind of an extended adventure date. It was her birthday and we were driving to Granite Gorge nature park from the Cairns. We stopped for dinner at an unknown restaurant along the way. It was lovely. Our waitress put a candle in a custard for us. It was getting dark on the way into the park and there were dozens of small fires on the hills around us. Very surreal looking. As we rolled in to our campsite we came upon some nighttime wallaby mating. Very graceful. I picked up a small bottle of champagne to celebrate with and we ended up sharing it with another wallaby who was beyond curious. He came up to us and went right for the booze. Ambitious little guy. The next morning we were woken up by a horse peeking its head into our camper van. It was a great date.

What’s the most embarrassing (or funniest) thing that’s happened to you in front of your bandmates (or on stage)?

Ooph, I embarrass myself anytime I try stage banter.

What’s your biggest professional regret?

My previous band Akron/Family was offered a gig backing up Rodriguez when they reissued Cold Fact. I love this record. I think it was just a tour? We ended up turning it down and I always wonder what it would’ve been like to back him up.

If you heard that the world was ending in one week who would be the first person you’d call and what are some of the things you’d do in that week?

I think I’m okay with the world ending if it were to happen in a week. We aren’t doing ourselves any favors. But, I would try to call J.J. Abrams and pick his brain about Star Wars episode IX. Do you know what happens?!?! I would also get out and do some forest bathing here in Oregon. Hunt for some mushrooms. Then I’d head down the coast and stop at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur. I’d eat mushrooms on the beach the rest of the week.

Would you be open to having your phone and other technology implanted into your body in the future?

I would consider having an implant that helped me regulate my nutrition. I have such a sweet tooth! If they developed a technology that could calculate everything I was putting into my mouth and just “preburn” that extra sugar I’d be good with that. As far as my phone goes, nah. Get it outta here. We’ll all have flying cars and use ESP in the future right?

If you could time travel what advice would you give to your childhood or teenage self?

Don’t sell your guitar. Ride your skateboard to work more often. Don’t worry, IT WILL GET BETTER!

A 2017 Wall Street Journal article pointed out that music critics have been giving less and less full on negative reviews of late. In the era of streaming when almost any album can be easily accessed, do you still find value in music criticism and have music critics gotten too soft?

I can’t say that I read too many critics takes on music these days. There is no review system for these critics and most of them I’m not familiar with so I don’t know how I can trust what they have to say. And with the ease and access we have to new music I feel confident that I can find what I want and make up my own mind on what is good and what is not for me.

Do you think 2017 is a prime time for musicians to speak out and be heard, or are musicians still under pressure to “shut up and play the songs” as some artists that are politically vocal complain? Conversely, have you felt under pressure from fans or other artists to take a stand and speak out publicly on an issue?

I myself have never been pressured to publicly take a stance on something but I do think that it’s valuable to have a platform that connects with many different people. If an artist wants to speak out on an issue they feel strongly about more power to them. They are people who might be affected too so if they have a chance to connect and inspire then I say do it. 2017 sounds like a great time to speak out.

Tell us about your worst/most disastrous show as a performer. And what about your best show?

Tuscon, AZ. August 2012. We opened up for Sylvan Esso at Hotel Congress. The show started just fine. And then everything went sideways. Samplers went haywire, guitar strings broke, cymbals stands were falling apart. God it was a disaster. I also tried the “I can change this string mid song no problem. Keep it going guys…” move. We vamped for quite some time and I tuned, or at least thought I did, and counted us back in. One, two, three, sqwaaaaaakkkkk!!! But even if everything did sound like a trash compactor we still went for it. For another half an hour. Although oddly enough this was the show were we sold the most merch on the entire tour! So maybe it was our best show too? I am still confused about why and how this happened. Maybe Tuscon is just the most sympathetic city in America. Maybe they just love watching it burn. Hahaha.

If you had to rename your band or stage name due to a legal dispute, which new name would you pick?

I would call my band Lamp Light.

A different band performed at the end of most episodes of the new season of Twin Peaks. Which other fiction TV show (so not a talk or variety show) would you like to guest star and perform on? (Also, if you watched it, do you have any idea what was actually happening on the new Twin Peaks)?

I would have loved to perform on Gilmore Girls. Bring it back AGAIN please. Ahh yes, the new Twin Peaks. Well, I think it helps if you rewatch Fire Walk With Me first. Start there and you’ll be good.

Have you ever come close to dying? What happened?

I actually almost died last summer. I was on the east coast for a wedding, and to see mom, and apparently I was bit by a tick. Lyme disease. I never found it on me so it was confusing what was going on. I got sick a week after coming home and it was real bad, real fast. After trying to deal with this for a month and a half on my own I got bilateral facial nerve palsy, paralysis of the face, at which point I decided to go to the emergency room. They admitted me immediately and started testing. (The doctors were all baffled because they don’t see Lyme disease out here very often. Most of my doctors never saw a case of it.) It was pretty advanced and it started to attack my heart. The PR interval? Or AT interval? I can’t remember, but my heart rate was slowing down to the point that they kept an EpiPen at my bedside just in case they needed to kickstart my heart. Ooph. Two weeks in the hospital and a month on intravenous antibiotics.

How hard or easy is it for you make a living as a musician in 2017 without the aid of a day job?

Oh, I still have a day job. Please everyone, lets all buy records again!


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