photo by Tinker Coalescing
With April 17 - 26 in The Club at La MaMa, composer/performer Dane Terry paints scenes of childhood and adolescence in the off-colors of standard-issue American neuroses, featuring songs from his new album, which will be released concurrently HERE. Dane graciously took time away from rehearsals to talk to us about boogie-woogie, lease-less living and getting audiences to trust you.
1. How did you come by your "liquid country western" piano-playing style? Are you particularly influenced by any regional sounds or artists?
Well it's an interesting cocktail of influences... I started playing piano in earnest when I was about 12. I loved boogie-woogie, Gospel, R&B and rockabilly music and I played that kind of stuff exclusively for about 5 years. By that point I had started to get my first gigs playing background music at art openings and weddings and such. Since I couldn't get away with playing 3 hours of straight boogie-woogie I had to pretend like I could play the sort of light, wallpaper jazz that people expected at those kinds of events. I aped that style (in between boogie-woogie numbers of course) for years as a living. All the while I was studying classical music in college. So thats why I sound like if Little Richard and Liberace had a baby (I would watch that movie) and Elton John taught it how to play Rachmaninov.
2. Is there a trick to blending humor and emotionality in performance? You're so good at it, but it can be very difficult.
Thank you kindly, sir! Hmm. Being funny makes people trust you... You've made them do something they couldn't control, made them show their belly, and in that moment you didn't carve up their gut. So I think that people who are funny have an easier path to the hearts of their audience, should they choose to exploit that. Exploit. Listen to me. Jeesh. Also, humor has something to do with truth and honesty. I don't quite know the mechanism... Looking at it too close is probably not a good thing.
3. Bird In the House features your music - What else should audiences expect from the show?
To revisit a few unsettling events from (my) childhood. It will be like someone dropped an opera on the floor of a saloon and a drunk Ray Bradbury took it home and bottle-fed it.
4. What can you tell us about your collaborators: Tova Katz, Rose Emily Quinn, John Hubbell and Sam Weber?
Tova Katz and Rose Emily Quinn are both stunning performers, artists and songwriters in their own right. We met because I happened to live with them and a rotating cast of Brooklyn queers in one of those lease-less collective apartments full of artists and the like. They have a band together: Glittered and Mauled. They sing like one animal. It's breathtaking. We became friends and played shows together and eventually I asked them to collaborate with me on my piece for Squirts at La Mama in 2014. I played with John Hubbell back in Ohio years ago and met Sam Weber through him once we were both in NYC. I was music directing Justin Sayre's show at Joes Pub and needed a good band, so I figured I would start with a good drummer and asked John and he brought in Sam. They are all insanely talented. I am so excited to be working with them.
5. You have some pretty evocative titles: Bird in the House, Color Movies. They appear innocuous, but (to me) they also bring up some interesting metaphors and are a little subversive. For example, why say Color Movies? Normally movies are black and white or just movies. Am I reaching? I guess I'm asking, how do you think about and relate to the titles of your work?
That's the feel I was going for with Color Movies. That ambiguity is slightly anxiety inducing. Also, sure, it does reference a bygone era. The album is soaked in my childhood, but childhood is not only the events lived as a child but the world, and the past, as it was spoon-fed to us. So on the album theres the Cold War, WWI and WWII, The Challenger Disaster, Harry Truman, Spaghetti Westerns, Mickey Mouse and Unsolved Mysteries right alongside my mother and father. As for Bird In The House, well, have you ever experienced a bird getting trapped in your house? Its traumatic. Not just the palpable panic of an animal in your home. But a familiar, friendly thing suddenly becoming violent and alien.
In general, I think titles can provide a translucent image, a filter through which one can see the work. Titles are really the first moment of your show.
6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
I remember someone when I first moved to New York mentioned La MaMa in passing and I said I didn't know what that was. They said "Oh, you will..."
I mean obviously theres so much history and great art thats been hatched there and licked clean by loving mothers. Storied boards for sure. And it is a true honor to be a part of that lineage. BUT, to be honest, it's La MaMa in its current incarnation, the people who are there now, that I fell in love with. As soon as I started hangin' around I folded into a group of very kind folks that instantly made me feel loved and supported artistically. Not to get all brownie-points, but it's true. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to perform and develop in such a nurturing environment. I will keep coming back, sniffing out all your squirreled pianos, as long as y'all will have me.
La MaMa presentsBIRD IN THE HOUSE
written and directed by Dane Terry
April 17 - 26, 2015
The Club at La MaMa
74a East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003
Tickets: $18 Adults; $15 Students/Seniors / 10 tickets at $10 are available pre-sale for every performance
For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE