Week in Pop: Dan Koshute, Foliage, Half Stack

Sjimon Gompers

The rise of Oakland's latest upstarts & innovators—Half Stack; photographed by Julie Juarez.

Dan Koshute

The solo journey of Pittsburgh’s glam band man Dan Koshute; photographed by Christopher Sprowls.

Once there was a Pittsburgh band called Dazzletine that dealt in glam rock aesthetics & attitudes for the new millennial era. For all of us who are too young to have experienced the T Rextacy movement of platforms & polyester flair proper, the group made music that acted as if 2011 was 1971 through releases like Organomy, Lajos, Heart, Mind, Bodies & more. Dazzletine transcended revival by creating music that lived up to their name, with an energy & presence that made for a radiant aura of sound coupled by dazzling arrays of styles.

As the cycle & span of groups go in some cases with the passage of time; lead singer Dan Koshute arrives as a solo artist out of the group’s dissolution & expounds upon a bevy of inspirations from vintage innovators & provocateurs. Stepping out into the fray without any frills, sans eccentric or lavish attire, with the glitter & mascara wiped away—Koshute remains true to their creative core & keeping the party vibe pushed to the maximum limits. The post-Dazzletine age for Dan finds the artist emboldened to take sparks of ingenuity & musical inceptions to new levels that were possibly restrained prior. Moving forward, the singular tunesmith sharpens up chops to reinvent an electric dance pop that takes cues from no wave NYC inventors, Chicago warehouse wonders from the 80s to the 90s rave & rock cultures that would bring us to the outer-limits of what the oughts held in musical/stylistic offerings.

Announcing the upcoming solo album arriving soon, Dan Koshute proudly presents the world premiere of the music video for the title track “All the Way Always”. Created by the Of The Sort Productions team of Kenny Nelson, Brandon Long, Olivia Fennick & video/film editor Pat Coyle; we are provided with a visceral glimpse of Dan’s new musical life that stands as a portrait of the solitary artist starting out on their own. Not one to give up on big buzz saw guitar riffs, Koshute re-emerges with that signature high-tonal/high-octave (with plenty of high-octane) delivery that shoots above the guitar fuzz & hand-clap lead verse percussion. Incorporating the usage of effective precision drum machines in the chorus sections; Dan Koshute also adds backup sections of oooohhhs that gives an added layer of untethered energy & a fervent air to the song’s mix. A performance & party video, Dan Koshute introduces us to the next frontier with “All the Way Always” that casts the artist’s favorite art pop decades & movements into the blender to make one quixotic concoction. This is Koshute reminding the world that they have only just begun, beaming with the aid of fancy stage-lights, an unrelenting presence, surrounded by a dancing crowd & backing band striving to keep up with their mercurial leader. Turning over the tables of take no chances, make no plans types of apathy; Dan Koshute reminds us that is truly only the beginning, while operating on a plane of volition that keeps everything at 100—always…always…

We had the chance to catch up with Dan Koshute in the following candid interview session:

Describe the process of moving from your previous band Dazzletine to becoming a solo artist.

Dazzletine changed my life by being the vehicle to write songs, perform, and record in the grandiose vision of what the band meant. But when it started to take over our lives by defining what I and we could do based on the expectations from exterior forces, it was time to end it rather than change it to conform to what people wanted it to be. Being a solo artist is the solution to the limitations that I started to feel in Dazzletine. I had to go back to myself, without the mask of Dazzletine, in order to move forward on the path and direction I want to go. My writing can’t be defined in any particular way or limited and this now affords me the freedom to be myself.

How have you found your days with Dazzletine have informed your work solo wise?

The new solo project still has all the major points of interest to me about music that I brought to Dazzletine. A sense of spectacle, a larger than life musical vision, a live performance element that relies on showmanship and inclusiveness, these are all elements of what I love about music and what music can be. These are also things that people associate with being exclusively Dazzletine. But a Dazzletine fan will come to the show and recognize that this is markedly different. It’s bigger than Dazzletine, more fluid, less definable, realer, rawer, more sincere, more open, louder and quieter. When I first told people that I’m going forward as a solo artist and making a solo album, a lot of people looked at me forlorn, just sad, and said like, Oh, great. An acoustic, stripped down, Dan Koshute as Nick Drake fucking thing. And I just laughed to myself, I can’t wait to show you it. You don’t have any idea what’s coming. As soon as I played songs from the album to people they had that reaction of This is BEYOND Dazzletine and they immediately got everything I was talking about about ending Dazzletine and being a solo artist. I AM Dazzletine the person/character and also the author of the project, people will realize that I thought up the concept of the group and wrote all those songs and played all those shows. The person who created that is taking it to another level. It wasn’t an accident or a coincidental thing that happened. I literally thought it all up one day in 2009 and got some of my favorite people in the world to stand behind me and back me up as the band. Now I’m on to something that to me is even better.

Tell us the nitty-gritty details about the making of the debut solo album All the Way Always.

As soon as the last Dazzletine album came out, I immediately started writing an average of a song or two a day from November 2016 on. I’m talking non-stop, music and words just pouring from me. My phone has zero memory left from all the demos I’ve done as voice memos. It got to the point where I felt that it was out of control and tried to slow it down by stopping the flow for a second, but then it exploded at an even more rapid pace. So I just kept writing and by the time I got back from the inaugural kick-off tour of my new solo project last summer, I started taking daily walks in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh in July to meditate on my next move and future plans. I thought that I would start recording in six months or a year or something. But the opportunity and challenge to establish a new body of work because I couldn’t use the songs I wrote over the last seven years in Dazzletine inspired me to start the process immediately. When I took inventory of all the songs I wrote I knew I had an album ready to go. Then I set out to record it as fast as I could. No job, rarely went out, only hung out with my closest five or so friends, worked on it everyday, I put everything on hold and held my life for ransom until I finished it. I recorded it all at my Grandma’s house in Mt. Lebanon in a guest room I moved into and drums with my co-producer Darren Diederich just to get out of my head a few days a month. I finished the whole thing, 9 songs, in 4/5 months. Played all the parts. By far the fastest I’ve ever made an album start to finish. And it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done. The process was a kind of a dark night of the soul at points because I did nothing but record for 4 months of my life, but it broke through something and established a new standard of creativity in me. My records from now on will be made much faster and there will be more of them. 1 a year or 2 in 2 years, at least, something like that. Gone are the days of the “Mission to Mars” records of mine. This new benchmark better suits the songwriter I am. I’m a firm believer in the Prince and Marc Bolan philosophy of record making and creativity, an almost obsessive addiction to recording music and songwriting.

Give us too some behind the scenes insights regarding the making of the title track video with Kenny Nelson.

Kenny and I have the same great creative partnership as my co-producer Darren and I do but with video. He’s the more technical side and I’m the creative side. We also worked with Brandon Long and Olivia Fennick on the crew who helped us make everything possible. We filmed the dancing scene in a practice space and blasted it with d.i.y. pink fills and a 1000 watt smoke machine. And the scene where I’m singing with the psychedelic lights we filmed at Kenny’s house with an LED light array that we hacked together to change with the tempo of the song. A big part of the look and vibe of the video is due to the genius of the editor, my friend Pat Coyle, who’s an absolute brilliant editor. He’s a drummer and all his cuts have this musical movement to it that makes the whole thing come together in an exciting way. I knew “All the Way Always” was going to be the single right when I recorded the original demo on my phone in January ’17 and had that image of the mass of people dancing in the pink fog and me singing to the camera with the black background from the start.

What currently has been guiding your creative passions?

My creative passions now that the album is about to come out have been guided by the excitement of what’s to come. Looking forward to playing and touring constantly for the next 2 years with my backing band, Ian, Erik, and Nick.

What sorts of activism has been inspiring you lately?

Time’s Up, MeToo, the Resistance in general, the grassroots campaign to flip seats in districts and vote out representatives that don’t represent anything but fear.

Tell us too what forms of arts from visual, audio, literary, etc have inspired you.

This movie Johnny Be Good from 1988 with Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr. & Uma Thurman, fucking amazing. It’s a terrible movie as a movie but also just so good. Robert Downey Jr. is acting out of his mind. Seriously. On another level. He makes a bad movie a cult classic. Any record that producer/mixer Shawn Everett has worked on. Most recently he did the new Perfume Genius record, The War On Drugs and Broken Social Scene’s new albums. He’s changed the way I think about and listen to music and changed what a record can be. His work has this dimensionality and dynamism that’s just mind blowing. Also the new Bjork album is brilliant. Original “Roseanne” episodes and “Frasier”. The James Baldwin doc I Am Not Your Negro, Ladybird, Denise Levertov poems, Siouxise and the Banshees, The Smiths, The Waterboys, the singers Yma Sumac, Janet Baker, Umm Kulthum.

Spring & summer hopes?

Touring and playing shows non-stop. And that the Pittsburgh Penguins three-peat.

Meditations for 2018?

A change of feeling is a change of destiny, Wayne Dyer. What’s it gonna be? Busta Rhymes & Janet Jackson.

Parting thoughts?

Three of my favorite places in Pittsburgh are Schenley Park, Carnegie Library of Oakland, and Mellon Park. Almost everyday while making the album I started the day by going to these spots, drinking coffee, meditating. It helped me stay focused. Thank you to whoever keeps these places beautiful.

Dan Koshute’s debut solo album All the Way Always will be available soon.

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