An Interview with Dan Mason

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Logo-Preview-2-1.png
Dan Mason WIP and One Offs's stream

We continue our series of cool and interesting interviews with a turn to the indie side of things. Today, we’re focusing on everyone’s favorite micro-genre, Vaporwave. A few months ago, I taught you all about Vaporwave here. This time around, we get to “sit down” with one of the true innovators within the genre today, Dan Mason. To pigeonhole Dan Mason as simply “Vaporwave” would be be doing him a disservice. In truth, Dan’s unique take on the genre has been expanding and bending the minds for years now. If anyone is going to keep the Vaporwave genre moving forward and fresh, it’s Dan Mason. If you aren’t familiar with his work, I highly recommend you head over to his Bandcamp here. So, get out there and show Dan and this niche genre some support! But, before you do that, settle in and take the time to get to know the artist a little more. Enjoy!

Andrew:
Dan, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us about your backstory. How did you get into music? What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Dan:
My biggest influence for getting into music would probably be my dad. He was a Bluegrass and Rockabilly guitarist. Seeing him play guitar and tell stories of all his gigs got me wanting to do the same. I picked up guitar when I was 10 and learned some classic riffs (‘Smoke On the Water,’ ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ and stuff like that). After a while of taking lessons, I started writing my own songs and discovered audacity and took off from there. It also helped that mom my used to work at record shop as a kid and we had PILES of vinyl in the house to take inspiration from. Everything from Sade to Led Zeppelin. Really got the music juices flowing in me from a young age.

Andrew:
While you are often lumped in with Vaporwave only, in reality your music crosses over many genres. Along with the obvious classic Electronic influences, I hear elements of Chillwave, Pop, and Ambient throughout your music. Would you agree? What more can you tell us about that?

Dan:
I’m totally heavily influenced by Chillwave, City Pop and Ambient music like many others in the scene, but as of late I’ve tried my best to incorporate other genres I feel Vaporwave should connect with. I’ve done my best to bring in more New Jack Swing, Midwest Emo, and Boom Bap. Might even try bringing more acoustic sounds to this genre. Bridging genres I feel helps keeps things fresh and moving forwarding. Stagnation can kill a scene in my opinion so it always needs to keep growing.

Andrew:
A lot of Vaporwave music tends to trend toward more ironic stylings, which is cool in its own right. What I notice about your music is it seems to rely less on samples, and more on original compositions that include original lyrics and some pretty-sorrowful vocals. Did you intentionally try to break away from the constraints of the genre, or did it come naturally to you?

Dan:
It kinda came naturally. I felt I hit a point where I’ve done all I wanted with samples and started spreading into to original composition. When I started writing my own works, things became more personal and introspective. I also feel Vaporwave has always had a bit of sorrowness and loneliness in its sound already, so if felt right. Though obviously, the jump from happy upbeat Future Funk to Sad hypnagogic Pop about heartbreak and sleep disorders was kind of a hard turn but it still felt right.

Dan Mason - Fade - YouTube

Andrew:
Forever Nothing and Hypnagogia were kind of genre breaking in my opinion. You really took things to the next level with those two releases. What can you tell us about those albums? What was the inspiration?

Dan:
Both Hypnagogia and Forever Nothing where attempts to merge Vaporwave, Chillwave, some Boom Bap and Emo all into one. Both are very personal and are reflections of my own experiences. One about my struggles with sleeping and the other about a long lost relationship. Like I said earlier, going this direction just feels right. I feel like I’m growing towards something.

Andrew:
Thankfully, your classic album, Miami Virtual finally got a proper release on vinyl this year. That album is so beloved throughout the community. What does the album mean to you?

Dan:
Miami Virtual is the album that started the ball rolling for me. I released it in the right place at the right time. It gave me a fan base and got me to where I am now. Before Miami Virtual, Vaporwave was just a hobby I dabbled in. I originally wanted to do Post-Rock to be honest, but Vaporwave became my outlet and my job. That album got me here and I’m always thankful for it.

Andrew:
Who are some of your biggest influences musically?

Dan:
American football, M83, Blank Banshee, New Edition, Seal, and to be honest many others but those are some of the first that come to mind. I would say New jack Swing as a whole along with Midwest Emo are my two biggest genres of influence.

Dan Mason ダン·メイソン music, videos, stats, and photos | Last.fm

Andrew:
Thinking back, how have you evolved as an artist today, compared to where you were when you were just getting started?

Dan:
If you had told me back in 2013 that Vaporwave was going to be my job, I would’ve laughed. When I started I doing Vaporwave, it mostly as a joke but as time went on, I took my production much more seriously. I was going to school for music production and learned so much, I applied it to my music and it grew from there. My sound has changed so much since then though. I feel I evolve every time I release something new, and grow in different directions more and more. I sound nothing like myself 2 years ago and 2 years from now, I’m not sure I’ll sound like I do now.

Andrew:
Two of the biggest issues in the Vaporwave community are FOMO and scalpers. These releases are all so limited, and the prices get insane in the aftermarket. What can be done better to help thwart the scalpers that plague the community? What would you say to the scalpers out there?

Dan:
A lot of labels have been issuing limits of one or two per customer on many releases. For popular releases that’s definitely the way to go, as it helps stop people from just taking the whole lot. I wish scalpers weren’t a thing though to be honest. They’re why I get so many sad comments about missing runs.

Andrew:
Shifting gears here, is there anything within the industry that you would like to see change for the better? What improvements would you like to see that you feel would be beneficial to us all within the vinyl and music community in general?

Dan:
COPYRIGHT LAW REFORMS PLEASE!!!! Copyrights on music last 70 years beyond the death of the artist. WAY too long in my opinion. Literally nothing will become public domain ever again. As someone whose roots are in sampling, that’s killer to your growth.

Miami Virtual | Dan Mason ダン·メイソン | My Pet Flamingo

Andrew:
A lot of people try to define what genre your associated with. You seem to like to disassemble genres in a way. What are your feelings on that? What are your thoughts on the idea of genres in general?

Dan:
If people have to try when describing my genre, then I have done my job to bridge the gaps. I love putting a couple of different sounds together, and keeping things familiar but different somehow. Genres are more adjectives to me. When I describe a song, I usually use genres for my description. I feel most people understand you when you say this is a Rock song or even when you say it’s Prog Metal with a Rockabilly twist infused with Jazz Fusion. It’s good for communication of ideas and moods.

Andrew:
The way I initially discovered your music was through Bandcamp and Reddit. In your opinion, how important has both Bandcamp and Reddit been to the Vaporwave scene and for Indie music in general?

Dan:
Reddit was definitely important at the beginning. The scene basically grew out of there and then on to Twitter, but Reddit is definitely where the scene began. Got my first couple of listeners there. I know I’m not alone on that either.

Bandcamp is literally on of the most important music hosting sites on the internet. It literally gives a place for anyone, and I mean anyone to host their music. It is literally one of the best sites for indie musicians. Can’t praise bandcamp enough.

Andrew:
Vaporwave has existed in digital forms for a long time. What do you think of the rising wave of support for vapor-vinyl over the last few years?

Dan:
It was only natural that people would want physicals from their favorite artists and vinyl is definitely an amazing way to go. Vapor-vinyl was certainly something people wanted back in the early days of the scene, but as our community grew, it became more and more reasonable to invest in vinyl production. I’m so happy to see even smaller releases able to do vinyl runs. Vinyl is personally my favorite medium for physical music.

No photo description available.

Andrew:
Another interesting development in the Vaporwave community has been the sudden resurgence of cassettes. Did you see that coming?

Dan:
I purchased my first cassette in 2014. It was Silver Richards and Telepath’s Night Life (taken off Bandcamp recently). At the time, I thought it was funny that someone was releasing on such an archaic medium, but since then, I have purchased about 50+ cassettes and releases about 10+ times on cassette. I think initially it was out of irony but it makes sense once you dig in. Cassettes are a very affordable thing to do runs of in smaller amounts like 50-100. Vinyl usually is a minimum of 200-300 and can cost $2k to $3k up front where cassettes you can do 50 and it’ll cost a tenth of that. Cassettes are an awesome choice for a niche sound or artist.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? If so, what are some albums that mean the most to you? Where do you like to shop for music?

Dan:
I have quite a bit of vinyl and cassettes. Some of my favorite vinyl is George Clanton’s 100% Electronica, M83’s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, and Mort Garson’s Plantasia. Cassette-wise, my favorites are Mac Demarco 2, Christtt’s No Lives Matter and American Football. I usually shop online for current vinyl and cassettes, but thrifting is where I get most of my vinyl. I’ve got crates full of vinyl I bought for $1 (and mostly got for the art to be honest).


Andrew:
It’s been a crazy year. Once COVID-19 dies down, what’s next for Dan Mason in the future?

Hopefully participating in more vapor music fests or the like. I miss meeting people so much right now.

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve always embraced the DIY approach in regards to your music. What advice do you have for young musicians trying to get their start?

Dan:
Get established online. Set up social media pages. Get connected with your community. Be friendly.

Image may contain: 1 person

Interested in sampling the music of Dan Mason? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: