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Meat Beat Manifesto: The Man Behind the Curtain

Meat Beat Manifesto: The Man Behind the Curtain

Jack Dangers began making music in the 1980’s and while in instrumental group Perennial Divide he began recording music as Meat Beat Manifesto, experimenting with hip-hop, noise, jazz, industrial, techno, funk, reggae and more.  Inspired by Public Enemy‘s production team The Bomb Squad, Dangers took off on his own unique path.  As Meat Beat Manifesto (MBM) Dangers’ music has appeared in The Matrix movie, and has inspired many to make music that defies genre boundaries. Impossible Star, MBM’s 11th studio album and their first in seven years, shows Dangers in a playful yet thoughtful mood, a synthesis of the music he’s been making since 1986.  With visual artist and electronic musician Ben Stokes as his creative foil, Dangers will take his multi-media show on the road in 2018.  The day after Thanksgiving I spoke with Dangers from his home in Northern California about vinyl, his rebuilt house, the new album and his legacy in outsider music.

It’s been seven years since we heard new music but I know you’ve been kept busy. You rebuilt your house?

Ya, its thrown a big spanner in the works.  We had to leave the place we’ve been in since 1993.  We rebuilt the whole thing and I was in another studio space for a couple of years.  I was working on stuff there but I ended up redoing it all when I got back into my new place just because I was used to the sound there after working in the same environment after twenty years.  Everything is back to usual now.  I’ve been doing other things in that time, other projects.  So now it’s time for the new album and doing live shows.  We actually just played in L.A. just a few weeks ago. [Cold Waves L.A.]

How was the show?

It was great. A really enjoyable show.  We had an hour set which is probably a good thing. The shows we did last year were two hours long and people still wanted more and I think its a really good thing, leaving people wanting more.  The hour set was a good combination of tracks from our last 30 years and it seemed to go down really well.  We did a track off the new record, did some things from the first one, all the way through. An enjoyable experience all the way around.

Will you be bringing with you on tour a new, updated multi-media show circus this next tour?

We’ve always had the heavy visual component whether it was working with real, human, three-dimensional dancers or just using visuals on screens.  We still do a lot of live video sampling and stuff like that.  So, ya, definitely multi-media. We have eight computers.  We have to set that all up, it takes a couple of hours to set everything up. I’ve got the mixer, I’m doing vocals, I’m doing a lot of vocoder and a alot of video sampling so I’ve got my hands full. We’re sandwiched in between: we have the screen in front of us, a mosquito net so you can sort of see us through it, but its primarily images, then we’ve got a back screen so its all sandwiched in the middle. If we had a normal screen in front, we’d be a bit too lost.

I’m coming up with some ideas for next year’s shows were you’ll be able to see what’s going on onstage a little more.  I’m working on that, maybe live body cameras. We sort of did that in the past, where I would do a vocal there’d be a lipstick camera, these little cylindrical cameras which would be on a stand.  But now we have all these new types of body-cams, you can wear on your ear, or on your head.  I’m going to look around some other things and see what we can come up with.

That should be really interesting.

Ya, even in a video feedback way, you can do interesting things just by looking at each other.  Get it back out next year probably April or May.  The album is still scheduled to come out in January.

I’ve been listening to it for a few days and the first time I heard it was in my car and my reaction was that this sounded like the past few albums, but when I really listened to it without distractions it’s very subtle and varied.

So have you only heard a few tracks?

I’ve heard the whole album, bought the vinyl and the flexidisc. I’ve been seeing you live since before you started adding the visuals in your set.  Now we can see the footage you took all those audio samples from.

Did you ever see the early shows where we had dancers?

I don’t think I started following you that early on.

We did that between ’87 and ’91.

Now I’m going I’m going onto Youtube to find footage of you with dancers onstage.

There’s some up there.  It was a different kettle of fish altogether, visually.  Still interesting, different at the time. We had all these different costumes and stuff.  Not so much me.