The Acclaimed Pinkish Black Frontman Talks His New Electronic Project With Pallbearer’s Joseph D. Rowland And His Undying Penchant For Doing Strange Shit.
Daron Beck has already had a storied couple of decades in music at this point.
After spending a number of years as one half of Dallas’ celebrated Pinkish Black duo (and in Denton’s The Great Tyrant before that), the theatrical performer is now releasing a record as part a new project called Information_Age.
Working alongside Joseph D. Rowland from acclaimed doom metal act Pallbearer, the new effort falls more in line with giallo film soundtracks of yesteryear.
To celebrate the release of his new duo’s self-titled debut, we caught up with Beck to see how he handled life as a creative during the pandemic, how his new project came to be, the status of Pinkish Black and, yes, even his thoughts on the ABC version of American Idol, a show on which he once appeared as a ringer back when it aired on FOX.
You survived multiple heart attacks a few years ago. How did that affect your behavior through the pandemic, if at all?
I had two heart attacks two weeks apart. The second one was due to being prescribed medication that doesn’t work with my system, and it caused blood clots. I got some stents, was prescribed a few medications and made some dietary changes. Things feel pretty much normal now. I was pretty good about staying home during the last year, and thankfully avoided getting sick. I was worried what might happen if I had gotten COVID. I’m glad I didn’t find out.
Let’s move on to your new music. How did Information_Age come about? How did you and Joseph from Pallbearer come to meet in the first place?
We met the Pallbearer guys at a show we played together in Texarkana when both bands were relatively new. We hit it off immediately. I told them they sounded like a Journey 45 rpm record played on 33 — which, coming from me, is a huge compliment. We did a two-week leg of a European tour with them in 2017 and spent a lot of time on the bus discussing and playing each other music, most of which was electronic music of one subgenre or another. When Joe reached out for me to do some vocals on the music he’d been writing, it was a trip to hear that it was going in the direction it did. I wasn’t sure if my vocal style would fit with it, but I was very happy with the end results, and it’s been a blast working with Joe on it.
How do y’all go about sharing and working on the music? Do you have the monthly Dropbox unlimited plan or just a full Google Drive folder?
Pretty much a full Google drive! Joe would send me the music tracks, and I’d come up with some words and send multiple vocal harmonies over for him to mess with. The same goes with the Zombi & Friends covers project I was a part of over the last six or so months. Steve Moore from Zombi would start the tracks with keyboards and guitars, and send it to A.E. Paterra (also of Zombi) for drums, then to Bryan Richie of The Sword for bass parts, Jeff Gretz of Zao for percussion, Philip Manley of Trans Am for guitar and finally to Kane Banner for graphics for the YouTube videos. They pretty much would send a rough mix for me to sing to, and Steve would put it all together. I haven’t actually been in a room with another person to make music in about 17 months, which has got to be some sort of record for me, having been in bands pretty consistently since 1988.
You recently told Stereogum this new Information_Age project is the kind of music that made you want to be a musician in the first place. Who are those primary influences?
I’ve been a fan of electronic music since my sister turned me on to Depeche Mode around age 11. I got really into Skinny Puppy as a teen, and my musical tastes have varied since then. Aside from the Giorgio Moroder-meets-Bauhaus “idea” I had for where my vocal style would work in this project, it harkened back further in my record collection to a lot of sophisti-pop stuff I grew up with — like ABC, Dead Or Alive and even “Slave To Love”-era Roxy Music. Not a lot of people go down those musical paths unironically these days, but I truly love that stuff. One of my favorite bands of all time is Danny Wilson, which is basically a sophisti-pop Steely Dan.
What was it about those musical influences that made you believe you could play? I ask because there seems to be an “a-ha!” moment for people when they realize it. Like, seeing Johnny Ramone play barre chords on TV, and people thinking, “Hey, I can do that, too!”
I got a guitar around age 10 and taught myself how to play by learning Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” and pretty much just mixed the chords from that song around to make my own songs for the first year of playing. Around age 13, I went to this place called New Day, a partial-day mental hospital in Fort Worth for about a year. They had a music teacher there that taught me power chords for the first time by teaching me “Mother” by Danzig. Around the same time, I learned barre chords from playing Pixies songs. That opened up a whole world of notes to me. In my late teens, when I started seriously trying to play keyboards, the simple fact that I could make much more noise — and also more fleshed-out compositions by being able to play the bass parts and leads at the same time — really changed the way I went about writing.
When listening to “We Were Alive,” I feel like I’m watching a good Dario Argento film from the early 1980s. Do you take that as a compliment?
But of course! Aside from Fleetwood Mac, my first musical influences were horror movie soundtracks. Return of The Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre turned me on to punk at age 10, and Dawn Of The Dead was my intro into keyboard-driven prog via the Goblin music on the soundtrack. I will be forever grateful that I got to spend a few weeks of my life touring with Goblin and seeing them play every night. Some dreams do come true! [Laughs.]
What’s the status of Pinkish Black? Are you hoping to do shows or release material sometime soon?
We have been in relaxation mode for the first time since the formation of The Great Tyrant in 2005. We’ve been enjoying not having to worry about “what’s next?” for a minute. We do have a potential tour on the horizon, but probably nothing until 2022. It’s doubtful that we will have a new release this year since we never got to fully tour off our album Concept Unification that came out mid-2019. I’m sure we will have some recording in the works within the next year. I think we’re more concerned about getting a repressing of any of our records because they are sold out and we have none to sell on tour.
Do people ever ask about when you guys opened for Sleep at the Granada a few years ago? I still think about that concert as the loudest show I’ve ever seen. I was standing in the back of the balcony for that show, and it still rocked my world. It was crazy. I’ve seen Dinosaur Jr play with eight amps behind J. Mascis, and it still wasn’t as loud as that Sleep show.
[Laughs.] That was a fun one! Once again, a band I’ve been fortunate enough to do several shows with and am even be able to refer to as friends at this point. Sleep rules — and, yes, they are loud as hell, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. We’re pretty loud too, but I’m hoping one day to have a setup like theirs and be the loudest two-piece synth band in the world — if we aren’t already. [Laughs.]
Rather than be another person that asks about when you were on American Idol, I want to know if you’ve watched the series since it moved to ABC. It seems like they actually want the people they bring on now to succeed, even if they don’t win. And it seems like the awkwardness they once created for TV is now mainly reserved for contestants with helicopter parents.
I can’t watch that crap now. It was a different era when that show started, and the way I looked at it was as a vehicle for true “outsiders” to get on TV. It was a weird and kind of mean show back when it started, and I thought it would be hilarious to see what they would say about my voice. Of course, I never really thought I would be an actual contestant, so it wasn’t as heartbreaking for me as a lot of these kids who get their dreams dashed because their musical ambitions only go as far as the show. For me, it’s just more weird shit that I’ve done along with the other weird shit that I’m doing. The last time I watched the show, it had Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Steven Tyler as judges. It was terrible, and I didn’t wanna look at it. The whole thing was awkward and not in a good way. I’ll take the days of William Hung over what they have now.
Buy and steam Information_Age’s debut album right here.