Visual Arts — December 27, 2017 11:55 — 0 Comments

An Interview With Danny Denial

Danny Denial might be the most intriguing artist you’ve never heard of. Or, if you read Afro Punk, you have heard of him. Denial, who recently moved to Seattle, is on the verge of creating a beautiful and distinct blend of music and film, showcasing sorrow, confusion, hopeful creativity and a strength of force that many other Seattle artists don’t exhibit – and are likely afraid to. As 2017 comes to a close, we thought it would be worthwhile to ask Denial, one of the artists to look out for in 2018, a few questions about his history, motivations, projects and what’s coming up next. Enjoy! 

When did you move to Seattle?

Two years ago at the start of 2016. I’d been living back and forth between L.A. and Atlanta for a while – I have family in both places. But I was working in L.A. in film production and marketing. I eventually decided that I wanted to get out of all things film for a while.

I know you as a musician primarily, but what is your orientation to film?

I always saw myself going into film. I always loved music but I never took anything about my music seriously. I thought it would be something I’d do in my bedroom for fun. I thought I would be a filmmaker and screenwriter. But in L.A., as I was working in film production, I was trying to get scripts out there, writing screenplays. But it was discouraging and incredibly formulaic and cliquish. How everything worked was set in steel. So, essentially, I decided I was done with film.

When I came out to Seattle, I wanted to focus more on music. I put an EP out online; I was doubling down on music. It really progressed from there. I was still working on a screenplay or two but mostly it was songwriting and music production. I got really heavy into music and I started seeing music very visually. So I began working with cinematographers and strangely got fed back into film. In 2017 I wanted to do something more ambitious that tied music and film. I began looking into a project that I’d never seen before starring musicians who were not trained actors – it’s like marrying the two. I feel creatively confident when I’m in both worlds.

What about that blend works so well for you?

When I look at things I’m heavily inspired by in film and in music, there is always a strong component of both. So, this art form or this style exists but I didn’t really realize it until this past year, this marriage of the two. I feel I’ve taken it a step further – taking completely untrained actors who can bring a reality to a role, treating it in a real Meta way and still being a movie.

Along with feeling this creatively, do you feel this ‘blend’ idea applies to you as a person, too?

I have a hard time legitimizing myself as either a filmmaker or a musician. When people asked me, I’d cringe if I had to answer, like, what I was. I don’t feel like a musician and I don’t feel like a filmmaker. If anything, the one title I could own without hiding in the corner is probably a writer. As far as writing and lyricism goes, that’s something I’m more confident in. Writing is the common denominator. I identify as a writer and creator – all other titles are costumes, in a sense. But with music, I feel I might be turning a corner. I’m letting myself call myself a musician. With my band, Dark Smith, I’ve abandoned the guitar – I never really felt like I was a good guitar player – and I’m focusing on synth soundscapes and lyrics. I’m focusing on my strengths and I’m definitely growing into it all as I find myself, creatively.

Are there specific emotions you try to mine when you create art?

I’m always open – I hate the idea of falling into a corner where you have your thing and that’s your thing – but at the same time I do like the idea of an arc. Where there are artists who leave specific imprints or stories behind throughout their career. For me, I’d like it to be a boldness to say what’s really going on socially and really going on – there’s a lot of anger, discontent and frustration in the world but I feel like I’m not seeing a lot of it displayed artistically. I think it’s important to be a mouthpiece – there’s obviously still so much going on in the world socially and politically that’s fucked up. Responding to that is important while not also being a people-pleaser or too careful with words. Rather, it’s important to be raw and authentic, no holds bard.

I think that’s something people have responded to with my work because there’s not a lot of it out there. And I get it – it’s hard to sell records, it’s hard to get streams, you want to make your material as accessible as possible. But I respond to and try to create work that’s also anarchistic, anachronistic, unapologetic – but also hopefully truthful. Anytime I try to do a lighter project, it always falls flat because it’s not really true to me.

What’s coming up for you in 2018?

Right now, there are three projects. Dark Smith is going to release an EP in February. And I’ve also been in post-production for this film for the past two months. I’d like to get it to festivals and in the hands of people. It’s called Kill Me To Death and there are a lot of awesome artists involved. And then I also have a solo album coming out that I did in a vacuum, lo-fi garage rock. It’s fun and messy and more aggressive. I’m going to drop that Beyoncé-style and let myself see what happens.


Jake Uitti is a founding editor of The Monarch Review.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney