Know Where You Are/ Conflict
The Honest and True Biography of Songrioter Lars Din: Born in Denmark at the request of his grandfather's banjo, Lars Din immigrated with great haste to Northern Florida, where he now mostly lives. The early move left Din with migratory tendencies, and he's rambled: to Romania, Andalucia, Ireland, Mali, and around north America. Identifying strongly with itinerant songwriters like Woody Guthrie, Charley Patton, and Jimmy Rodgers, he dropped out of college at 19 and began composing songs, playing them in bars and on street corners. Says Din of his inspiration to pursue music, 'I discovered a battered tune lying next to a crushed guitar in the old Maxwell Street Market of Chicago. I took it home; it sang to me.' Squatting in Philadelphia with fellow anarchists in the early 1990's, Din formed the revivalist indie folk act the National Wrecking Company. Experimenting with thematic content, rhythm and chord structure, and known to play four hour shows, the National Wrecking Company was, according to one effusive reviewer, 'the best house band since Elvis played Vegas.' When they disbanded, Din hit the road, staying for a time in Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Maine, and eventually settling on the lower east side of Manhattan, where he was spotted by Rolling Stone producer Andrew Loog Oldham. The resultant collaboration with Magic Shop studio producer/owner Steve Rosenthal produced an album's worth of never-released material. Fusing folk instruments and hiphop beats with obscure samples in ways that are now trendy, says Din of the music, 'they're really pop songs, but the labels we approached with it apparently considered it too far out there.' Disillusioned with the music industry, Din returned to his old hometown, where he briefly sang for the Ham. The Ham included members of the Grabass Charlestons and Black Cougar Shock Unit. The band went on tour in the u.s. and recorded an album's worth of material which also was never released. Then joining forces again with other Gainesville musicians, including former members of Bitchin and Less Than Jake, Din and friends created Molotonic, with it's danceable folk punk sensibilities, and songs celebrating DIY life, the Indian bandit heroine Phoolan Devi, and solidarity ('Other Side of the World'). Partly to show that music as a lifestyle and parenting are not mutually exclusive, Molotonic toured with saxophonist (and writer) Jessica Mills' then 2 year-old daughter Emma Joy. Recent years have seen Din focus on the acoustic sound that originally inspired him to play. Still rooted in the folk tradition of Woody Guthrie, the songs tackle any subject under the sun; nor do they shy away from political commentary or ribald humor. 'It's the tune,' he rants. 'it works on a street corner, it works in a theater; it works for a living; it overthrows the government; it sleeps in.' Most recently, Din has been performing and recording with the Lars Din SongRiot, due to release their first collection of Din songs on April 28, as a CD called 'Freedom's Nightmare.' The band features rowdy harmonies and the interplay of mandolin, accordion, banjo, and trumpet. In concert Din is animated, spinning his yarns with the offhand candor of a veteran street musician. Listeners may hear the echoes of earlier Americana, of Leadbelly, Tom Waits, Nick Cave or find similarities to more contemporary songsters like Steve Earle, Iris Dement or Conor Oberst. By tackling thorny political issues in song and on stage, Din shares a musical heritage that includes rabble-rousers such as Utah Phillips, Silvio Rodriguez, Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie, and others, who use art to celebrate the struggle of working people. 'Song is the reminder and the means,' says Din. 'Lyrics are the map; and insurrection is the melody.' While his guitar offers alternately tender fingerwork and rattling rhythm, his voice cajoles, caterwauls, seduces and barks out the universe according to Din. It is a changing place, at turns cozy and warm in the folds of love remembered, starkly political in the reality of chasing a dollar, hilariously apt in the antics of it's gossips. Catch a Lars Din show as he passes through town, and look forward to humming along to his tunes and chuckling over the awkward beauty of the human condition.