06/09/2010 11:32 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dan Black Gives Us Symphonies, Discusses Mashups and "Awesome Bizarreness"


Last year around this time I got Owl City's debut album, and instantly knew I'd be hearing "Fireflies" Ad nauseam on radio stations all summer long. That song, while at first infectious, was admittedly a bit unoriginal. I'm kind of getting that vibe -- minus the unoriginal part -- about "Symphonies," the first track off UK soon-to-be sensation Dan Black's debut album UN. The song, and the entire album for that matter, feature the singer mastering his craft with a fresh sound, honest lyrics and arguably the best use for a synthesizer since Herbie Hancock gave us "RockIt." Yeah, I said it.

While Black's debut is just that -- a debut -- he's actually been around for a bit, gaining some notices two years ago for his self-released Rihanna/Notorious B.I.G. mashup "HYPNTZ." (That song's beat, by the way, is the backdrop for "Symphonies.") In any event, I spoke with the hybrid innovator about his current album and living life in the "synthscape," as his bio calls it, and found the man as delightful as a mid-afternoon cup of tea -- if you're into that.

I used to work with a guy named "Dan Black" -- that's not you right?
It is me. I just had extensive, full-body plastic surgery.

I knew it! Anyway, you broke out a few years back mashing up Notorious B.I.G. and Rihanna -- what's more fun creating your own music or mashing up?
There isn't that great a difference for me. Writing songs is in many ways like doing a mash up, but just in your head. But also I'd like to think the Biggie track was more than just a mash up, with "original" stuff in there by me, too. I prefer the term Frankenstein!

O.K. Frankenstein, which two artists should never be mashed together?
Never have rules in music!

Deal. Your video for "Symphonies" with Kid Cudi is pretty awesomely bizarre. Was that a conscious decision>?
Did we (I do all my videos, artwork, etc. with Chic & Artistic) consciously pursue it being "awesomely bizarre"? We definitely wanted to try to do something that was not boring. Not sure any one specifically chased awesome bizarreness -- that was a happy accident...

Awesome bizarreness is where it's at. Anyway, you just released your first full album -- what are your expectations for it?
In general, with most predictions, whatever I expect it won't be. Good or bad, so I try to keep expectations in check. Writing, making, releasing and promoting an album is a bit like climbing a huge mountain. If you kept looking up at the peak, as you climbed, you would soon lose heart as it would just seem an insurmountable task. Best thing is to look at the immediate ground in front of you, and just worry about the next step you are taking, hopefully one day you look up and suddenly you are the top.

That is so deep, man. Let me deflate that by asking you this: have you been compared to another artist?
Sure. Loads. Often bafflingly, occasionally flatteringly.

Owl City? Probably not, but what do you make of that guy?
I don't really know much about him. I saw his big song on a TV a couple of times. Didn't hate it, didn't love it.

What are your expectations for your current tour?
I expect the unexpected.

Well, you're playing Lollapalooza later this summer in Chicago. The lineup is unreal. Who are you most excited to see perform there?
I have no idea of the lineup yet. Need to get on that! I will say I was a big, big Jane's Addiction fan as a kid and I can remember when Perry Farrell did the first Lollapalooza back in the early '90's and looking across the see with envious eyes, so to finally be playing it is a bit special for me.

I can only imagine. Many of your lyrics center on you wanting -- essentially more out of life. Would you say that's true?
Sure, that's definitely in there. It does beg the question more of what though, right?

More Owl City? Kidding. Is there a motto you live by? Is there a motto you can recommend for me to live by?
Ha! God, not really. I tend to just bungle my way through mostly. Maybe, "Don't ever take advice from Dan Black!"