Out of the Dark and Into the Light, Fire-Dean Makes His Mark
Singer/songwriter Fire-Dean (www.firedean.com) is a natural born storyteller. His second album, Custom Deluxe, testifies to that fact, with songs drawing on both his own life experiences and the stories he's gleaned from listening to others, all lightly seasoned with just enough self-deprecating humor to keep the album from being too dark.
The result is an album that can be appreciated in many different ways - on the one hand, Custom Deluxe is gritty, urban-feeling, with songs about decay and deadbeats and the dark side of life, while on the other, the same album is about taking a step back from all that's dark and depressing and just looking at it with an objective eye and trying to find something humorous in it all.
"When I put the album together, I certainly wasn't thinking that way," says Fire-Dean about this dichotomy. "I don't write things to be funny - in fact, sometimes they turn out to be scary, like the song, 'I Love My Cousin More Than You Do,' or 'Paper Airplanes,' where this guy is clearly interested in a blow-up doll, but the song's really about emptiness." He laughs. "But I think sometimes people just don't get the humor in my music, they don't get that the record's sort of tongue in cheek, and they've kind of missed the boat. I don't want to tell people that, you know. It'd be like a comedian prompting people to laugh at the end of a joke.
"Early on, I wrote a lot about living down in Louisiana," he adds. "That was kind of a tough period in my life. I had a lot of other stuff going on that wasn't so good - drugs and alcohol, mostly, the usual, although it wasn't like I was doing the rock thing. This was all before that, before I got into music, I was really making a mess of things, that, and simultaneously working in this environment that was pretty dangerous. The type of people that I would work next to, if he wasn't in jail, he might have been on his way, and that was just sort of the MO - these are the guys that I was partying with, and they were pretty hard core.
"But anyway, the stories weren't exactly all uplifting, so I had to really struggle to find something positive to keep them from being just sad and depressing. The writing I've done in the past five years, the ones on the CD, most of those, except for maybe 'Caramel,' are sort of about getting away from a dark past and getting a sense of humor about it all. Because I really got sick of writing about a lot of the dark stuff, and I was wanted to have fun. It helped laughing."
Fire-Dean was not one of those people who knew since Day One that they wanted to be a musician. His interest lay instead in writing fiction and telling stories, neither of which seemed to lead to lucrative careers. "Me finding music was one of those typical quests for something that I was really passionate about," says Fire-Dean. "I tried a lot of different things. I worked on an oil rig for five years, then I taught myself computers and sold software for some company in Virginia, then I moved up here to Washington DC. So I kind of took a long time to find music."
Eventually, his quest would lead him to perform in informal gatherings and small nightclubs with his friends' bands. "I would start singing with friends and stuff that were breaking out guitars, you know, doing covers, stuff like that, and people would always comment on my voice, and that gave me a lot of confidence," says Fire-Dean.
MP3: Custom D.
"But I didn't really pursue music seriously, I wasn't sure for a while, and I tried a lot of other things, too, at the same time. But it was all sort of a calculated process, if you know what I mean," he adds. "I mean, I love writing, I had always been a writer, but it seemed like my voice was giving me some sort of genetic advantage, so it was almost a calculated choice to focus on music. I figured I'd be more likely to get noticed that way than in the other things I was trying.
"I kind of have ADD," he says, laughing. "I haven't been diagnosed for it or anything, but I love so much music that it's been really hard to focus on what kind of style exactly I want to write music in. But there again, you know, it was people pointing out my lyrics as something that had real staying power, because they were good stories. If you tell a good story, then the song can sort of transcend anything else that was going on. And since I was a sucky guitar player, that really helped! It was kind of a conservative choice, too, to really focus on just the words before anything else."
Despite being a "sucky" guitar player, Fire-Dean has an obvious talent for crafting the musical aspects of his songs as well as the lyrical aspects. With the exception of the drum loops, which are a collaborations with NYC drummer Roger Foster, as well as the the song "Irradessencent," where he brings in an outside percussionist; Fire-Dean performs all the music on Custom Deluxe, which encompasses a staggering ensemble of tape loops, scratchy phonograph samples, organs, horns, and some pretty decent guitar work, which leads one to speculate that perhaps Fire-Dean isn't such a "sucky" guitar player after all. Or perhaps it's just the fact that he knows exactly what to do with what talent he has, which is, in the end, even more important that being just another Steve Vai study with no soul to back up the technical noodling.
Upcoming Fire-Dean Events
November 28 - Borders Landover, MD
November 29 - Year of the Rabbit - Bowie, MD
Photo by April Sauerwine
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