A dream come true, an artist from Canton on the joys of making “musical wallpaper”
Aug 10, 2021 –
When we launched The Underscore Project in the summer of 2020, Danny Thomas immediately came to mind. His hip soundscapes are already on our radar. What we didn’t know then, and are learning now, is that music beds are his passion.
I sat with Thomas in his kitchen in Canton, New York this summer. Eddie the dog kept us entertained as we discussed the joys of music. Click the link above to hear the story told by the composer of NCPR’s Northern Light theme and many other songs you’ve enjoyed on North Country Public Radio. The transcript below has been edited slightly for clarity.
Doyle Dean: What’s the best part?
Danny Thomas: The best part about making music?
DD: From this process.
DT: Hear it on the radio. I’m not even kidding, like 100%. This is the reward.
DT: Music For me, it’s like escape, right? Daytime work. It’s fun and always has been and I grew up in a musical family. My dad and mom were both like folk musicians. One of my earliest memories is the bicentennial, I was three in 1976. And we played folk songs, like songs by Woody Guthrie, all day in the park for the bicentennial. And you know my dad plays gut, like hippie shit.
DD: So how do these pieces fit together? Can you walk me through the steps?
DT: Yeah, it’s interesting, the process fascinates me. And honestly, I don’t feel like a song is never over. My process is really often that I start with a few loops, you know, like a bass loop and a drum loop. And I really work on a loop. And sometimes it’s loops that I find, or that GarageBand provides, or sometimes I write a loop and then play with it. And usually it’s drums and bass or drums and a melody.
DD: So you made hands like “a guy who plays bass” when you say “maybe i will start with a loop or throw something in there. “Do you physically play bass guitar? When do you do that?
DT: Rarely, almost always, is it digital and I’m just you know, turning buttons or pressing buttons on an iPad. And it’s definitely something that gives me impostor syndrome, right? Because I am not a technical musician. As if I didn’t … I never studied it. And then the fact that I, you know, do a lot of what I do with a computer and it’s computer generated, it kind of feels like I’m pretending. But I like being able to generate all of these sounds with just one box. That’s why I’m doing it digitally. I don’t need to carry a big, heavy instrument and a bunch of strings.
DT: My real aspiration is like music that is in the background and you don’t notice it until you notice it. And then when you do, it’s like, “oh, there’s a lot of layers there.” It’s like wallpaper, right? Like music wallpaper, it’s like you’re not really looking at the wallpaper. And then when you do it there, there’s this incredible scene in the web.
DD: This Underscore project happened, and I knew about your music and it was perfect. And that’s perfect because of what you just said.
DT: Exactly. Well I’m so glad to hear you say that. And that’s I mean, honestly, it’s the strangest thing to say but it’s like a dream come true to make music beds. Like, this is the kind of music that I want to produce.
Immerse yourself in Danny Thomas’ music world here. Learn more about all the regional artists you’ve heard from as part of our Underscore project here. Support here the unique experience you have as a consumer of regional public radio.