The singer-songwriter reflects on his own history ahead of his performance at SAIT’s centennial celebrations Oct. 16.
Dan Mangan knows great things take time.
Whether you’re an artist or educator, building a legacy doesn’t happen overnight. It takes innovation, inspiration, heart and patience to become a leader in your field.
As SAIT approaches its centennial, we recognize the many minds and moments that have made our institution a leader in applied education. In celebration, we’re teaming up with two-time JUNO award winning singer-songwriter Mangan — a leader in his own field — for a free, all ages evening show on our 100th birthday celebration Oct. 16.
As we look back on 100 years of defining best-in-class in action-based learning, Mangan reminisces on his musical journey and the evolution of his own profession — and explains why his mother keeps the poster from his first SAIT performance on her wall:
Can you remember the moment or period of time you wanted to become a musician?
“I was in a band in high school and we played at the Dunbar Community Centre in Vancouver. There were 25 teenagers there, all our buddies.
The last song we did was a cover of Everlong by the Foo Fighters and I remember my friend Julian got hoisted up and started crowd surfing. It wasn’t like there was this massive crowd that you could crowd surf on – the whole thing was so pathetic and adorable and teenage, but three or four people lifted him up and started carrying him around. Adorable as it is in hindsight, at the moment, it was like — oh my god, we’re rock stars! That feeling, that exhilaration, was a high I’ve been chasing ever since.”
You grew up listening to your parent's records. Who were you listening to?
“The band I listened to most from my parent’s record collection was definitely The Beatles.
I learned how to play the entirety of Abbey Road on the piano when I was seven or eight years old. I played it ad nauseam driving my entire family totally nuts in that way that kids can repeat something over and over and it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment.
When I think about the songs I sing to my kid at bedtime today, more times than not it’s Beatles songs. Those songs are timeless somehow.”
What was the very first cassette or CD you personally owned?
“My first cassette was The Simpsons Sing the Blues. The first compact disc I bought with my own money was Aerosmith, Get a Grip.”
On your website, you share a blog entry titled “Please Stand By.” Within it, you say “All of my favourite bands played the long game.” What do you mean by that?
“It’s entirely possible for a band to become huge overnight on buzz alone, but it’s impossible for that band to sustain that buzz for decades by accident.
If you focus on creating a body of work that you can be proud of and is an honest representation of your mind and heart, then that will slowly accumulate believers, listeners and supporters. I admire those artists: Radiohead, Paul Simon, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Nick Cave — people who invented and re-invented themselves.
I like the idea that you can refer to their body of work in eras – you can say ‘I love Leonard Cohen in the ’90s and someone else says they loved him in the ’80s. These people have managed to accumulate such an incredible body of work that people can nitpick what they like and don’t like.”
Who has had a big impact on who you are today?
“I had a sociology professor at the University of British Colombia named Richard Fredericks. Every lecture he kind of exploded 100, twenty-somethings’ minds open. I hope every post-secondary student gets a least one prof like that who can ask the questions that make you inherently question everything you thought you knew. That’s very powerful.”
Is there anything that’s become obsolete that you wish would come back (i.e. video rental stores)?
“Luckily record stores are still here. There’s something really special about the weird mixture of nerdiness and elitism. A space where you can discover things is exciting.
Digital music is so disposable — it’s an infinite resource. If you break a record, it’s gone. If you’re truly on your desert island and there’s no wi-fi, but there’s a turntable, you can play the record until it warps and you can’t play it anymore. There’s something interesting about that scarcity.”
What is your connection to SAIT?
“I played at the Gateway in 2009 or 2010. I don’t know if they still do this, but they printed these HUGE posters — massive 3-foot by 4-foot posters. I remember walking in and there was this ridiculous, life-sized photo of me.
My brother took if off the wall and rolled it up. Now it’s in my mom’s house. Every time I go to my mom’s house I’m getting stared at by this life-sized picture of me. People who visit my mom are like, ‘Wow, I guess you really love your son Dan, eh?’
It’s this ongoing joke. All of that awkwardness and hilarity is thanks to the SAIT printing press. I’m expecting a 6-foot x 9-foot poster this time.”