Interview with Disco Biscuits Keyboardist Aron Magner

Disco Biscuits Red Rocks Photo Mike Hardaker | Mountain Weekly News

I first heard about the Disco Biscuits in the summer of 1999 when a friend of mine brought the album Uncivilized Area home from the Gathering of the Vibes. He told me that the band had blown him away and I had to check them out. As soon as I heard the opening chords of Vasillios I was immediately hooked.

It wasn’t until 2001 that I had the chance to finally see them live and understand what everyone was buzzing about. I grew up in western New York, Rochester to be exact. My first chance to see the band was canceled when they were scheduled to play in Rochester on 9/11. Due to the events of the day, the show was obviously not able to go on.

I swore that I would see them before the end of the year. My wish was granted on New Years Eve 2001 when I got to experience the Disco Biscuits for the first time with my brother at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. I knew that this was the band for me from that night on, and I devoted the next couple years of my life to following them all over the east coast. It wasn’t long before I had seen them nearly one hundred times. A major reason that people become so devoted and follow them all over is that you will never see the same show twice.

The Disco Biscuits have made an art out of playing different shows each night and keeping fans on their toes. They often create set lists in which they play songs backwards, and occasionally you will hear them play the middle of a song into the ending, then into the beginning. Sometimes songs will be broken up over a series of shows. In these circumstances they will play the end of a song one night, and complete it by playing the beginning two, three, even four shows later. The extensive variation of set lists and songs constantly keeps their fans hungry for more. The Disco Biscuits have created their own truly unique style.

MWN: This is the third year the Disco Biscuits have played at Red Rocks for Inferno, and the sixth year altogether, including the Mishawaka in 2001, 2002, and 2003. What can we expect this year that will be different from years past?
Aron Magner: Talk to me after Memorial Day and I’ll let you know what was different, we always come into any show ready to blow it the f**K up, you know, that’s always what our main goal is. We always come to bring the heat, sometimes shows have a better response than others, but it’s certainly nothing that was planned in advance. We’re always looking to make it the most slamming show possible. When you start to combine all of the elements, like how excited WE are to come back and play Red Rocks and the fans being just as psyched to see us there, and looking out at a huge crowd and the magical nature that is Red Rocks in general I think all of those things combined make really epic, epic shows. Looking back at the last couple years of Red Rocks shows on DVD, I think we really do rise to the occasion and bring the heat. It’s f**king Bisco Inferno, how can you not bring the heat?!

MWN: What do you guys enjoy about playing Red Rocks as opposed to other venues?
Aron Magner: When you play outdoors it’s just natural that it’s kind off, I mean, look at the physics of it. When you’re playing inside, you have sound that bounces off of the walls and starts to lend for a more live feel. When you’re playing outside the sounds from the speakers just go off into space and don’t have a chance to bounce around at all. The sound of Red Rocks is so amazing because your ears aren’t used to those qualities of actually being outside and hearing acoustics that good, you know those natural rocks, and the fact that they’re even natural and not man-made, it keeps the sound in and it’s amazing.

MWN: It seems that you guys have one of the most devoted and loyal fan bases of any group on the jam band scene (myself included in this group). Why do you feel that your fans are so devoted and keep coming back?
Aron Magner: I always thought they were just rabid, (laughs), rabid and loyal fans. What the Disco Biscuits have built is like a community, a community of people that have literally become a family unit. We have fathers bringing their sixteen-year-old daughters out to shows and this is how they vacation together, I think that the fans are just as passionate about our music as we are, and that’s what keeps them coming back. When the Disco Biscuits started around fifteen years ago, we did it because we wanted to play music that WE wanted to play, that WE really enjoyed as musicians. What was lucky about it was that there were also a lot of other people out there that were just as passionate about the music as the four musicians on stage. With this band you never know what’s around the corner, you never know what’s in store, and that’s also what keeps the fans coming back year after year. The songs and the improvisational element of the Biscuits is what keeps people on their feet and that’s what keeps the band on their feet. It’s what keeps us happy doing what we’re doing every night, constantly changing it up, seeing what kinds of tricks we have up our sleeves.

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MWN: When can we expect the new album Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens to come out, and what is different about this album compared to other studio albums you guys have released?
Aron Magner: IT IS DONE!!! It is done, my friend, I am happy to say that the album, in terms of the Disco Biscuits and what their responsibility is to get this album done, we are DONE. The only step left is that we’re waiting on one or two more tracks to come back from Benji Vaughn, who has been mixing it over in London, we gotta get it mastered, and then we’re ahead of the schedule that we wanted to be on to release this thing which is awesome. The album sounds great, we’re incredibly proud of it, it’s a seminal album for the Disco Biscuits. Of course it’s different, a record is exactly what the word means, it’s a recording of where you were at a specific point in your career. It’s who the Disco Biscuits are in 2011. In hindsight, looking back at what happened with Planet Anthem, if you’re going to take the definition of a record as being a recording of where you were in your career at a specific point in time, maybe one of the problems with Planet Anthem is and I was rationalizing that the album makes coherent sense and that it’s fluid but I think looking back at it, that might be a little bit of a rationalization. I think the fact that the album took three years to make, and we were definitely in different phases of our career during each of those years, that might be one of the reasons that the album sounds a little, not really synched, you can kind of hear it three or four different periods of time that the band was in. You could almost break the album up into that, like categories if you will. And I’m proud of Plant Anthem too, it’s a phenomenal album, but in terms of making an album you want cohesiveness, you want fluidity. You definitely want to make the album seamless from track one to track whatever it is, which is why you spend so much time even after you have all the songs done, figuring out what your sequencing of the album is going to be, so that each track flows into each other. With Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens we did it in about twelve days. We set a specific period of time for ourselves to go into Phil Nicolo’s studio, knowing that we werent even allowing ourselves more time. This is what we have, and whatever we don’t get don’t, we have to get it done, because we’re not coming back in. It was what it was. We also played live on the album which is big, trying to somewhat emulate what we do on stage, we were tracking live with four musicians as opposed to getting some loops together and then overdubbing on top of it. There were a lot of things that were different about this album and haven’t been done before.

MWN: I see you guys have signed on for the Identity Festival this summer, which is basically a traveling festival comprised of an eclectic mix of musicians and DJ’s. Can you explain and elaborate a little on what the shows will entail?
Aron Magner: Some of the artists are going to change up from city to city, it’s not going to be all the same artists, but for the most part it will be. Hitting twenty different major markets around the country, I think it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens. Looking back at the way music has kind of progressed in the last ten, twelve years, when we started as the Disco Biscuits electronic music was obviously the biggest thing, and then it kind of stopped being the biggest thing as bands like Radiohead and U2 started taking the helm and then it was the decade of the rock band. And now electronic music is coming back full throttle, the dj alone as a form of entertainment is some of the biggest acts out there today. And that’s phenomenal to me. The dj is now the rock star. Five years ago the dj lived in the clubs. Now the dj’s living in crazy stage productions in arenas. Simon (Shpongle) is a good example of that, Pretty Lights is a good example of that, and even before he was getting bigger and bigger and bigger it was all about the stage performance and the lights, and the lasers, and building it up the same way that a rock band would build up their production. These dj’s are f**king rock stars! So it was awesome to throw together a festival like Identity Tour, with all of these rock star dj’s, and then the Disco Biscuits who are obviously an electronic band, but the only live band that’s in that entire festival. If you look at the line up it’s well-known dj after well-known dj and then the Biscuits, we are the only live electronic band on there.

MWN:You guys seem to have a solid fan base in Colorado, and you seem to make a couple trips out here each year. What is it about Colorado that sets us apart from other states that you guys travel to?
Aron Magner: The fans are what keep us coming back to Colorado without a doubt. Colorado has blossomed in the last six years, I would say, and it’s such a breeding ground for open-minded people that love music so passionately. It’s no wonder why so many musicians have come out of the Colorado scene, or even how many musicians have been moving to Colorado, it’s a breeding ground for it. You guys have some amazing scenery over there, some great people out there, Colorado’s amazing. The mountains are just sick. Most importantly because of the open-mindedness of the people out there and because of how young of a scene it still is for various reasons, that’s why everybody’s in or moving to Colorado. It lends itself to these really open-minded and passionate music fans. So of course it makes sense that we’re going to cater to that, how can you not cater to where your most passionate fans are? How can you not cater to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country? Of course we’re coming back.

MWN: After Inferno, and Identity this summer, do you guys have any plans of returning to Colorado or is the fall/winter up in the air right now?
Aron Magner: We certainly hit Colorado more than any other market, I mean statistically, when you look at it, we love Colorado. When you look at the statistics of how often we hit a market, and like any band you never want to over saturate any given market, that’s a rule of thumb, You can do really well in market A and really well in market B, but you never want to over saturate it for obvious reasons. I think we dance on that fine line of getting our fix, giving our fans the fix, and trying not to over saturate it. We’re pushing that saturation point a little bit because of how much we enjoy it and how much the fans enjoy it, you know I’m gonna want to get some skiing in in January, (laughs)..

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