For the past couple of years, Dan Mangan has been living a double life. Now, don’t get too excited. This is not an exposé on Mangan’s secret “other job” and it certainly is not a reveal piece about his love life, though undoubtedly a lot of you are probably curious.
But for the past few years, Dan Mangan has been juggling the dual responsibility bestowed upon those who choose to take up life as a musician. He has survived an exhilarating though exhausting life on the road, but he has also lived in solitude, weathering the storms of madness as he set to work on his latest masterwork, Oh Fortune.
“I feel that in order to make a good record, you have to go insane,” Mangan says. “I remember after I finished recording Oh Fortune, I was so unbelievably sick of the songs … but going through that process, you get so deep into the intricate textures of the songs … you get so lost inside of whatever sound or word you’ve become fixated upon that you get sick of it all. But then what happens is that you come back to those very same songs and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I like this, let’s play it live!’ So that’s what I’m doing right now; it’s fun.”
Mangan’s excruciatingly introspective creative process stands in stark contrast to his “other” life as a touring musician. While life on the road has allowed Mangan to see much of our known world while meeting interesting characters along the way, it has some drawbacks, too.
“You couldn’t do this if you didn’t enjoy it,” Mangan says. “It’s grueling. It becomes much less about the fantasy of being in a band and being on the road. It gets more realistic and more matter-of-fact; it’s really strange because you try to do normal things — you try to have normal relationships and exercise and eat well — things that you do normally, but under the circumstance of living a totally un-normal kind of life, you have to figure things out as you go along.”
“But of course it’s great!” Mangan continues. “I mean, the adrenaline rush of giving everything you got for one and a half, two hours … it’s pretty amazing. And the awesome thing is that it seems to be working. We’re continuing to grow as a band. We’re gaining more momentum in places all over the world; it’s exhilarating.”
This Thursday night, Dan Mangan is bringing his band, along with the touring half of himself to the Alix Goolden Hall. If the new album and the footage of Mangan’s live set is any indication, it promises to be a wonderful evening. Come on out and get acquainted with Mangan’s (dare I say it?) better half. M
CD Review: Dan Mangan’s Oh Fortune
Dan Mangan’s Oh Fortune is a testament to thrashing in the beauty of ambiguity. Of carving a cache of splendour out of pure astonishment at life’s chaotic processes, without going too far; also proof of the unattainable, the transcendent and the ideal. Us in the red dust, lined up in order to witness the presence of something extraordinary, elevating our imaginations and ambitions towards some crystalline declaration in the heart of space. Something that we indeed may never reach. His casual awareness in “How Darwinian” of ‘I don’t know what I want; I just know I really want it.’ Aspiration and choice versus fate. “Post-War Blues” being comparably up-tempo, a musical evolution to uphold Mangan’s stirring grasp of the potential to end our obsession with martial states: fitting of the tenets upheld by Arts & Crafts. Falling into “If I Am Dead” afterwards feels like a relief. Not to say that it is what is expected of him, but rather that the timbre of Mangan’s voice and his wistful lyrics play so well to this style of song. We have been looking forward to feeling this bitter sweetness. ‘Burn my remains,’ he says. The vocal harmonies during the beating of “Rows of Houses” are more muscular than anything from Mangan’s canon and the electric guitar blazes, authenticating humanity’s recklessness. Whereas his lyrics previously used their wit to convey life’s heartbreaks or small niceties, an existential bent has made its way to the foundation of this work, surely thrust by his capricious rise to fame and resulting world travels. It is an appropriate progression on the personal level, just as it is in the perspective of the public collective. A parallel established between our hope and a horn section. At the core is the wretched soul, beat-up but ebullient. It is wise to the workings of the bestial markets and façades, the uncertainty that comes with being a human in the face of something ostensibly crushing. Accepting these things as real and staring right back at them. Witnessing our stardust upon the background of a vacillating dark energy, without fear.
— Brody Slater