KRCX was honored to interview Michael Deni, the auteur of indie rock band “Geographer”. The band released their new album “Ghost Modern” last month, and it’s constantly being played on KRCX. I sadly could not go to the show, as it was a Monday night and I had school work to get done, but I was still able to interview Michael over the phone.
What got you into playing music, and what are your primary influences?
I think it was always a forgone conclusion that I would start playing music. As a kid I started taking piano lessons around 6, and started taking saxophone lessons at 9. It was something that was important to my parents. My dad was in a band in the 60s. They weren’t a big band or anything, but they played the World’s Fair and did other things like that. But, he was a guitarist so we grew up playing music together. And as far as my influences, what do you mean?
It could be anything, it could be other artists or things beyond the realm of music.
Hmm, I’d say confusion. Like when I’m walking around, just weirded out about life, that’s what I try to get out of my keyboard or my guitar.
Okay, so I saw that you went to Berklee School of Music an-
I’m gonna stop you right there, I did not. I went to college in Vermont, but another member in the band was in Berklee.
Oh, well I was gonna bring up some questions about music education.
I mean I know a lot of people there, and I’ve spent a bit of time there, but music education is... (hesistantly) good.
It’s good and it’s bad.
Well you know, Annie Clark of St. Vincent went to Berklee.
That’s true, but didn’t she drop out?
Well, there’s a source of pride for doing it without any education that I think people have. Like, people want to wake up and be a badass, but I believe in education. So I know it’s a source of pride for people that they didn’t graduate from Berklee. But, I also think that some of these people simply couldn’t graduate from Berklee. So, while getting an education is important, I think the most important thing is getting out there. It’s just like life. It’s like college, I feel that in many ways it was beneficial for my mind, but in a lot of ways was just a complete waste of time and money. But, I still find myself going back to my education for writing. I learned to write in college, but I didn’t know how to be a human being until I left college. They really coddle you there, and the amount of studying you have to do makes it impossible to be a real person with concerns and a job and things like that. You know, I was just really sheltered at my little school in Vermont, and then it was a real wake up call when I moved to Boston and tried to start a band.
Okay, so I’ve noticed a fascination of ghosts and this idea of what is and isn’t real in your music with albums titled “Innocent Ghosts” and “Ghost Modern”. Why ghosts?
Well, with “Innocent Ghosts” there were a couple of deaths in my family, so that’s what that is about. “Ghost Modern” is more about the disappearance of self in the modern age. When postmodernism goes too far and is stretched to the limit, I think you have “Ghostmodernism!” I’ve realized that we’re trying to define our identity; we’re defined by the things that surround us, we’re defined by what we like, we’re defined by the things we say, but who are we really? I feel like people are really a blank space that are surrounded by objects, experiences, and fate, and that’s sorta what Ghost Modern is about to me.
That’s really interesting. Okay next question, I’ve noticed a lot of your songs have been in commercials and TV shows, and I was wondering how profitable is this, if you don’t mind sharing, and would you recommend this to other artists or is it like selling out?
I think the notion of selling out is very 90s-- and very dead. If people ever accuse you of selling out, all you have to say is “Buy my record!” So there’s no more selling out, there’s just selling. You have to find a way to stay on the road and stay in the studio, and at the end of the day that’s what my fans want. They want me to make the best albums I can, and in order to do that I have to pay my band, pay my producer, essentially you have to keep everyone from having day jobs. But yeah, I don’t want to share profit details [laughs].
Oh I totally understand, and that’s perfectly fine. And for the last question, what’s your plan for the rest of this year?
Well when I get home from tour, I’m gonna be teaching the new touring band the rest of the songs. And then I think I’m going to go into the studio, which will probably be just for a single for fun, but I’m primarily going to be focusing on Ghost Modern. I’ll be touring a lot, a music video for “I’m Ready” will be coming out soon, and then it’s just more touring and more music videos.
-- Interview by Sye Sharp