Daughn Gibson's long distance noir
Sub Pop songsmith talks alter egos, dream collabs, and 'Me Moan'
Daughn Gibson, née Josh Martin, has traversed a postmodernist's take on country and electronica, resulting in the aural equivalent of Scott Walker or Roy Orbison using laptops, rather than acoustic guitars, steeped in neo-noir mystique. The Carlisle, Pa., native made a modest name for himself drumming for Drag City stoner crew Pearls and Brass while taking on any trade job or day labor opportunity that presented itself, be it long distance trucker, warehouse worker, or broadcast tower technician. These random experiences inform Gibson's solemn tales, best captured on Me Moan, his second LP and first for Seattle's Sub Pop Records. While on tour in Minneapolis, Gibson took a few moments to explain his pseudonym, the perks of performing with a band, and his dream collaborations.
How did the "Daughn Gibson" identity take shape?
It was a nickname between friends that started a few years ago. There's this little group of friends and everyone calls each other "Don" for no reason at all. Everyone has a different spelling of it too. Mine happened to be this spelling. So it's more or less a nickname that not every single friend of mine in the world knows about. My friends at home call me Daughn and I introduce myself that way. It's not strange really, to me. I go with the flow. I have seen someone try to explain it as a reference to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gibson guitars — something crazy — that they pulled out of the sky. I was like, "I fucking hate Stevie Ray Vaughan. I would never do that."
Where do you find lyrical inspiration?
Newspaper, Maury Povich, somebody I meet somewhere who tells me something ... Half the songs are just about me — the personal love songs or anti-love songs. There's no shortage of stuff in the world to write about. I could go down to the local watering hole and open my ear up to someone at one o'clock in the afternoon and I'll probably come away with 20 pages worth of shit.
Do you prefer performing your songs solo or with a band?
I'll take having a band any day of the week. Playing solo is totally whack. It's no fun and I hate it. It can't get loud enough for me. You can only get that with a live drummer.
How have the songs changed since incorporating a full band?
When we first started playing, we didn't know what would happen. I still use Ableton and use backing tracks even though the mixes are a little different. But these guys are adding a huge amount of color to everything. They're adding countermelodies on countermelodies and different rhythms, really that's the task. We're still locked into one sample that might be on a loop but we're developing with a guy on lap steel. And I still play keyboard or knock around on my Akai, so there's room to jam out on songs.
How did these new players alter the songs?
I hadn't met Jim Elkington of Brokeback before, but I'd hung out with John Baizley of Baroness beforehand. We ran with the same Drag City pack and were both huge fans of each other's work. John came in for four days and it was still very loose. A lot of the solos on the record were more or less John or Jim laying a pile of notes down on the table. I would go back into my little cave, extract the notes, and resample them. I basically was resampling a human. And it was all for efficiency's sake. Because I'd been doing it all along, it was like "I can sample a whole record, why can't I have this dude lay stuff down and I can pull what I like out of it. Cut up note for note how I want this solo or melody to be. But the great thing was, the whole pile of notes they laid down was beautiful, so it was really easy. They have very different styles and I got very excited being able to pull out of different styles of metal and stuff. That's a genre and type of person that I relate to. And yes, they're coming in to do weird country music but that's the fun part. That's the challenge and to me, that's where the most interesting things come from — when someone is in that moment of confusion. They're doing what feels natural even though it's not a style of music they play all the time — that's when something cool happens. These things aren't conscious. It's hard for me to get in the 50/50 split, collaborative mode. There's not a lot of room for compromise with me, but I'm completely open to having my mind blown by other people playing.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
I was talking about this recently, actually. I want to do a duets record next. There are so many good voices out there to use. Like Angel Olsen would be cool. And of course there are really huge artists out there that would be great, like Kris Kristofferson or Emmylou Harris, those would be huge dreams but I don't know if those would come true. I want to get different vocal styles in for the next album. I'd keep production to myself and get help when I can get it, but at the end of the day it'd still be my kid.