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Musician And Libertarian Daniel Coxon

How long have you been making music?


Daniel Coxon: I started piano lessons when I was in the third grade. I learned how to read music, but I wasn't very good at piano. My older brother started teaching me guitar when I was 10 or 11, and I got my first drums when I was 12.


Then, when I got to high school, I started playing in bands. It was a lot of simple punk and reggae at first, but after a couple years I was playing with guys who were into more complex stuff and were good musicians. We sounded halfway decent for a bunch of high school kids by the time we graduated.

What are your influences? Who or what inspires you?


Daniel: I grew up on the standard English language rock n roll cannon: Elvis, Beach Boys, Beatles, Zeppelin, Floyd, Hendrix, Doors, Grateful Dead... all that good stuff. There was also a lot of reggae in the house.


I grew up in Sonoma County in the wine country north of San Francisco. It was full of hippies, and I listened to hippie music. On the drums, I’m really aiming for a sweet spot between John Bonham and Stewart Copland. Thunder and lightning.


What can you tell me about your bands The Riot Professor and Tell Me Tell Me?


Daniel: The Riot Professor is a genre-defying psychedelic indie jam band. Our shows have a lot of improv. Our recordings are stylistically all over the map, with an emphasis on creating unique textures and soundworlds for each song.


Tell Me Tell Me is a dance-grunge band. Dirty riffs over sweaty beats. Think Nirvabba or Earth, Wind and Melvins. The recordings are tight and simple. The shows are high energy dance parties.


Do you create art with a specific message? Or do you prefer art for arts sake?


Daniel: I don't write many lyrics, but when I do I usually have a pretty coherent idea of what they're about, though I don't know if that really makes it a "message." It's more like they're painting a picture or describing an experience. If I have an explicit message, my instinct isn't to put it into a song. That's what prose is for. For that I have a podcast called Statebusters, but, like writing lyrics, I don’t put out many episodes.

What is your creative process like? What tools and methods do you use?


Daniel: As a drummer in a rock n roll context, I spend most of my time working on other people's music. That's just the nature of the gig. I think of the drummer as the first audience member. A lot of songs get their start with a guitarist showing an incomplete idea to a drummer. The drummer's job at that moment is to find something about the song to fall in love with, and communicate back to the songwriter what that thing is. Then you can genuinely play it with a passion and enthusiasm that it might not yet warrant in its infant state, but that it will definitely need to reach its full potential. It's unreasonable to expect the audience to love a song if you haven't loved it first.


How long have you considered yourself a libertarian?


Daniel: My dad was Harry Browne's editor for decades, so, when I was a kid, there were always printouts of Harry Browne articles in various states of completion just lying around the house all marked up with my dad's red ink. For a while it was seeping in by osmosis, then, at age 11, I read Why Government Doesn't Work while they were working on it, and it really stuck. It was a coherent and tidy story. I didn't understand why everyone didn't get it - and I was not prepared for how upset people get when these ideas are voiced.


What do you think the role of art should be in the libertarian movement?


Daniel: The only way to fight bad ideas is with better ideas, but most people are not systematic thinkers seeking logical consistency, and their habits of thought aren't going to be altered by one more perfectly crafted logical argument from some autistic libertarian nerdling.


The State and its idolizers are extremely competent when it comes to inserting their ideas into art and getting that art in front of people. Simply creating art that is uninfected is a victory, but it's not enough. It's got to be good. It needs to be excellent. It needs to be honest. I think people are starving for honesty, and when they finally get some, it hits hard. So, the best response to bad art is better art.


One of the most important things that every libertarian can do is to strive for excellence in whatever field they're operating in. No one is going to care what you think about complex political problems if, day after day, they see you do your job poorly. Art is no different. Push yourself to do better. Be so good they can't ignore you.

Are you working on new music?


Daniel: Always! Riot Professor just released a new song called Momentum, which is a part of an ongoing release of material we recorded a few years ago and have been trickling out. Riot Professor has a big backlog of unreleased material. It will be a long time before we run out.


Tell Me Tell Me also recently released a new song called Tell Me. It’s a rocker.


Where can people go to listen to your music?


Daniel: The best way to hear my music is live. Riot Professor doesn't have any shows lined up at the moment, but Tell Me Tell Me is very busy around the San Francisco Bay Area right now.


Both Riot Professor and Tell Me Tell Me are available on all the usual streaming platforms like Spotify, and we’re on youtube and bandcamp and all that stuff. Some K-pop band had a song called Tell Me Tell Me a few years ago, and they might eat up the first page of your search results, but keep looking. We're there.

 

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