2006_09_danielson.jpgI first came across Danielson when I was reading the Wikipedia article about outsider music. What intrigued me even more was that he was from New Jersey and went to Rutgers. I'm from New Jersey and know people going to Rutgers. Daniel Smith is opening for the Flaming Lips and I will be seeing the Flaming Lips. Then I realized something: you never see me and Daniel Smith in the same room at the same time. I had to get to the bottom of this.

What's the origin of your name?
It's my name, Daniel Smith. I really had no choice in the matter. Christopher is my middle name; that's the secret part.

What's the most that you've ever been asked about New Jersey in a single interview?
Most people don't want to talk about New Jersey.

Well, here we go. What sort of town is Clarksboro?
When we were growing up, there were a lot more farms and woods around here and, really, no neighbors to speak of. Now there's giant, eight hundred thousand dollar homes going up all over the fields. It's definitely lost a lot of its charm.

How did you deal with boredom?
Our dad would always say, "Boredom comes from within." So anytime we would say that we were bored, he'd tell us to do something about it. We'd usually go downstairs, take out the paste and the paper, the paint, and start making stuff. We'd go outside in the woods and play capture the flag. We grew up with no TV, so we didn't have that to turn to. We had music time with our dad and we all had toy instruments. It was a very do it yourself aesthetic. We all grew up that way, with our mom making our clothes.

Did you go camping often?
Yeah. I was in the Boy Scouts; I'm an Eagle Scout, so I did my fair share of camping. Down in the Pine Barrens, mostly.

Do you have any camping adventures?
Yeah, I have a sad story. One time, we all went camping in Maine and our Scout Master drowned. That's the most intense story. My favorite memories of us camping in the Pine Barrens, running around the woods at night, and making fires. It seemed like it was always raining when we were camping. We'd have to set up a tarp in order to make a camp fire, and the tarp would start melting.

And were you a member of the Order of the Arrow?
I was. That's a secret organization. Are you familiar with it?

Yeah, I have a friend who's a member. I was at his Court of Honor and there were people dressed as Indians. I was amused by the whole experience.
Yeah, I found that to be much more interesting than the Boy Scouts.

What was your Eagle Scout project that you did?
Restoring outdoor latrines at the local baseball field here. Completely restoring them inside and out.

What was the school like that you attended?
Kingsway Regional. It was a pretty small high school. Eight hundred kids. Seventh grade through senior year. Since it was mostly farmland, it covered a big area. I hated high school. Once I finished and went to college, I felt that I could start relating to people.

What was it about high school that displeased you so much?
Culturally, I couldn't connect. I didn't really belong there. I found myself embracing the cultural hostility, though. Growing up in the eighties in South Jersey where Bon Jovi, Cinderella, and a lot of that metal was the music that people were listening to, listening to Sonic Youth and the Ramones was unacceptable. At that age, music is what defines you. And we were skateboard kids.

Where would you go to skateboard?
There wasn't a lot of area to skateboard; no sidewalks or anything. We'd ride our bikes to developments or the convenient store and skateboard around.

What was the most impressive trick you could do?
I wasn't very good. I had a half-pipe that we built in our side yard to get some air. That was it.

Did you go to the shore often?
We'd go to Ocean City, New Jersey about once a year. We're very, very light skinned and the sun is definitely not our friend.

Were you a mischievous youth?
No, I'd hang out with those guys but I usually left when things got dangerous. Most of the kids around here, when they got bored, would just break things. They'd channel all of their creativity into funnier ways of breaking things and I never found that too amusing.

Did you enjoy yourself at Rutgers?
Yeah, I thought it was a great school. And if you live in state it's cheap.

Were there any particular classes you enjoyed?
I went to art school, so it was various drawing, book making, sculpture, and print making classes. I had a print making concentration. I liked it all.

How often do you visit New Bridge , New Jersey?
I'm a big fan of it, but I've never been there.

How do you feel about your albums being available for download on file sharing networks?
It doesn't bother me so much. If people want to see what we sound like, check it out. If people are interested in supporting the band, they can go out and but the record or the CD. We've gotten many e-mails from people that got the albums for free and later went out and bought everything.

What sort of role do you think music critics should play in people's consumption of music?
I think it's fine that music critics wave their opinions around. I just wish they'd get their facts straight. That's the thing that frustrates me. If the facts are completely room there's no forum for the artist to set the record straight.

Would you like to use this as an opportunity to set the record straight?
I don't make Christian music, there's one. I don't only sing in falsetto, that's two. I don't have a third one.

What was it like working with Steve Albini?
It was fantastic. He's a really kind and supportive gentleman. He knows his craft and I respect his opinion. He let us make the record we wanted to make and he made it sound great.

Do you ever write a particular composition with one incarnation of Danielson in mind and then decide to record it as another?
No, all the songs are written in the same way- they're just written. In the past, incarnations have not been about the songs but about the line up of people. Individual songs are never written with some kind of moniker in mind. It's all Danielson music. It started out with my writing alone and my family became more involved and it became Danielson Famile because I wanted to honor their involvement. People grew up and started doing their own thing and following their own dreams. It got more difficult to get all of us together so more friends got involved. It's been very organic that way and, over the years, I've been having fun trying to find that place where we're not a band as much as we're a group of people.

Since you're going to be performing with the Flaming Lips, who are renowned for their stage show, do you feel the need to up the level of your own stage show?
I don't think we're going to do anything different. We have uniforms that we wear. Since it's a local show, we're going to be able to have the full ten piece. We always try to include singing and clapping along.

Let's say money were no object and technology could do whatever you wanted it to, what sort of stage show would you have?
Probably a lot of large props and moving things. I don't let my wander in that direction. I like more intimate shows at smaller venues and something like that would never allow for big props. I saw the Flaming Lips for the first time several months ago. It was very inspiring. They're going to have some new stuff for this show coming up. I haven't let my mind wander that way because money has been an object and we usually don't play stages this large.

What if there were a time machine and also a machine that makes fictitious characters real. What historical figures or fictitious characters would you perform with?
The problem for me is that I haven't fantasized about live shows very much. We're just happy to be together and to play. A huge stadium show with robots and a drum cage that floats out into the audience hasn't been my thing.

What if you could collaborate with a fictitious character or historical figure?
Anyone I mention would be out of my league. But, if I had unlimited skills, I think it'd be fun to hang out and write music with Erik Satie .

What are some projects that you're currently involved with?
Right now I am finishing up producing and recording a record for Ben and Vesper . It's a husband and wife team out of Orange, New Jersey. We have a little label called Sounds Familyrethat's out of Clarksboro, New Jersey. I'm mixing that one. There's an ongoing seven-inch series of Danielson recordings. There's three out now and four that'll hopefully come out next year. It continues the theme of collaboration and relationships that the full length Ships initiated. We're working on a record of my dad's material. Music that he's written over the years that we're backing him up on.

What do you like to do after a performance?
If I have the energy, I like to go out and talk to people at the merch people and hang out with a glass of red wine, if possible.

Danielson will be performing with The Flaming Lips at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Monday, September 25th.