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Hi Handpan enthusiasts! Today I have the pleasure of having Dan Mulqueen with me on the MasterTheHandpan blog. Today is the first in a series of interviews we will be running on the blog, focusing on the handpan players who are influencing our community and delighting our ears.

It will be a chance to discover some of them for the first time, or get to know others a little better. We are often familiar with the music they play, but don’t always know a lot about the player themselves. I couldn’t be happier than to kick things off with Dan Mulqueen. When I first heard him play it sounded so fresh to me, a true inspiration!

So bro, could you please introduce yourself?

What’s up everyone?! Dan Mulqueen here…I want to start off first by saying a huge THANK YOU to David Charrier for inviting me to be featured on MasterTheHandpan and THANK YOU to you for reading this article.

I’m 27 years old and live in New Jersey (USA). My life in music started when I was about 10 years old when I took my first drum lesson. My dad is a huge fan of music and I grew up listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and a lot more classic rock and always wanted to play the drums. After years of practice and jamming with other musicians in my neighborhood, I really started to enjoy playing in bands. Over the years I’ve played everything from rock, metal, hip-hop, jazz, blues, latin, hardcore, EDM, reggae and more. I really enjoyed using drum patterns and fills from one genre and mixing it with something from a different genre…so using latin fills over a reggae song or metal fills over EDM music. Through all these different bands and styles, I learned a few different instruments and became amazed with music production.

As I became more familiar with multiple genres of music and creating my own style that wasn’t locked into just one…I became really interested in fusion music and producing my own music.

How did you end up playing handpan ? What’s your story?

Thats where the handpan came into play.

I first discovered the handpan on YouTube in 2007. I saw Davide Swarup’s “Promo for Hang – 1” video and was completely amazed by the sounds of the instrument. A few clicks later I came across Manu Delago’s “Mono Desire” video and was completely blown away. Seeing Manu create a melody and a rhythm and a bass line and a lead line and using drum fill patterns and SO MUCH MORE just completely shocked me. I was immediately drawn to the sound along with the idea of having one instrument that you can create melody and rhythm on all in your lap.

The first time I touched a handpan was in late 2007…a first generation Hang (G Pygmy scale) followed by a second generation Hang (8 note D Minor scale)…so I had a very high quality bar set on my first night of touching the instrument after months of watching videos and doing research on the instrument. Also before I touched the instrument, I found an old cymbal I had that I didn’t use anymore and put 8 stickers around the circle to start practicing my scale runs and some of the wrist movements I noticed while observing the players I watched.

The day after I played these two PANArt Hangs, I received my first pan from Marco della Ratta in Italy. I loved it. I practiced every day for hours and even though it wasn’t a “top shelf” instrument, I was determined to get the sounds out of it that I heard online. From the years of playing drums, I was never one to blame my shortcomings on my equipment…I firmly believed that a good drummer can make any drum set or cymbal sound good…so why should the handpan be any different?

What do you like the most about handpans?

I really enjoy the freedom that the handpan provides to musical expression and composition. When I play, if I’m working on a new melody and want to hear a bass line or snare hit in a certain spot, I don’t need to wait for a drummer or bass player to play with me…I can re-adjust my pattern to allow for that “snare sound” and a “bass line” all while using my drum fills when the song permitted. I really enjoy knowing that the only real limitations on the instrument are ones that I put on myself. It seems that with enough practice and composition, if you hear something in your head, you can get it out in one way or another on a handpan…whether it be insanely complicated or beautifully simple.

If you were lost on a desert island with only one scale, which one would it be?

Ah….this is a tough one. Right now I can’t seem to put down my D Aegean scale…but anything F Integral is always a favorite of mine.

How would you describe your handpan style?

I would describe my handpan style as very beat heavy with a wide variety of flare/chops all built around well thought out melodies and chord structures. Personally, I think the most important aspect of being a musician is establishing your own style…obviously there is always influence from others, but I think creating your own style is the most important thing in becoming a better handpan player and better musician overall. I also produce a lot of beats to compliment the handpan…using very deep bass lines and glitchy drum beats along with some other bells and whistles. I think the production around my songs helps my style stand out as well.

At the end of the day, I think if nothing about what I do is distinguishable from other players/musicians, I will get lost in the crowd…so I strive to find new inspirations every day and make music that I really enjoy and hope that my style/compositions are liked by a few people in the process =)

On which handpan are you currently playing?

Currently I play on Aura Handpan, Ayasa Handpan, SPB Handpan and Jan Borren Handpan.

Could you describe us this brand new album you’ve just released? atmosphere, influences, other instruments, featuring?

YES!!! Finally the album is done. It is called “Handwriting” and releases on April 6th, 2018. The album process took a little over a year and I’m beyond happy with the end result.

It is a double album featuring one disc of all the songs produced with beats/bass lines/features/etc… and the second disc featuring all the songs solo on handpan just as they were composed in the beginning of the process.

The album features Jeremy Diffey on a song called “Levels” , Leanna Padalino on a song called “Losing Myself” and Marion Boivin on a song called “Stone In My Chest”

The production on this album varies a lot but in most of the songs, there is a very heavy bass presence…i love upright bass and sub bass sounds. There is a lot of minimal drum patterns with a bit of glitch/trip-hop element to them. There is also a lot of electric piano / Rhode sounds in there as well.

How do you compose? any method, ideas to share with us?

I compose in a number of ways, but for this album all the songs started as handpan solo compositions to which I built the beats and bass lines and other production around.

Which track is your favorite one? and why?

Well, I am super happy with all the songs on this album, but I have to say a 3 way tie between “Levels” “Unicycle” and “Home” all for different reasons.

Levels features Jeremy Diffey on bass clarinet is one of my favorite songs to play on handpan by itself…then throwing Jeremy’s tremendous skill/touch on top of that makes it one of my top 3 for sure.

Home because of how much fun it is. It is easily one of the more technical songs on the album…you can hear the technicalities more clearly in the handpan only version (Disc 02)…but it is so much fun with the heavy electronics and bass lines and break down at the end. This is a very new sound for me, but I really enjoyed the result.

Unicycle for a number of reasons. Starting with technically, I really enjoy this song for the simplicity of it. I often hear things like “I love your fills” or “your beats are so heavy and clear” or “the fills are so fast!” and to me, those things are super nice to hear and I appreciate all of it…but overall, I think sometimes my melodies are not so stand out. For me, the slow melody of this song really stands out and I’ve heard great things from listeners of both the live version and the recorded version I’ve sent to a few friends. I always strive to be a well rounded player and I think having a slow song with no crazy fills or beat heavy grooves but still captivates the listener is something very important.

Secondly, the message I remind myself when I play it. This song was written very shortly after the passing of a dear friend at a very young age. His passing is a constant reminder to me that life is short and every moment has value. When I play this song, I think about my friend and other people I have lost and remember the time I was lucky enough to spend with them during their lives. I also think about my family and friends who I am fortunate enough to have in my life and how every time I get to see them is special…no matter how else we may be feeling. I always invite the audience to think of someone they might be missing or someone they want to improve a relationship with when I play this song. Sometimes we forget to remember super important things in our lives, so when I play this song I try to remind people to remember…even if its only for 3 minutes or so.

Any fun stories, anecdotes during the recording or during the making of this album?

Well…I live in an apartment complex and have a home studio here…and while its very insulated and sound isolated…I can still hear my neighbors. So on more than one occasion, I’ve been 75-80% finished recording a song and have heard a shower turn on or a toilet flush or a kid running or a mother yelling at their kid for running. After the initial frustration of this, I decided to record when everyone was asleep. So a fun fact to this album is that EVERYTHING was recorded between 2am-5am. Some of the early outtakes where you can hear my neighbors are very funny.

Other than that, the only breaks I would take would be to eat food and watch kung-fu movies…I watched A LOT of kung fu in the past 7 months!

We are also all interested about your handpan recording equipment. Would you mind sharing it with us?

Sure! Overall, it’s pretty basic. I’ve tried using 6-8 mics on my pans (most songs I have use two at once) but found better results when using just 3-4. For this, I used an RE-20 to capture the punchiness of the pan, two Rode NT5’s overhead, 1 Neumann U87 for a few things above the pan, and a Shure SM7B to capture some of the more defined slap sounds as well as some room sound.

Where can we buy your album? How can we support it?

The album will be available everywhere online (iTunes, Bandcamp, Spotify, etc.) on April 6th! To support it, you can check out my crowdfunding that I am treating as more of a pre-order but with perks. You can see that page by going to http://www.bit.ly/HANDWRITING

From now until April 6th, you can enter to win a FREE Iskra Handpan from Sean Beever at Symphonic Steel! This is just one of the great perks available on my indiegogo…there you will find others for shirts, USB drives, digital albums, handpan lessons, house concerts and more!

Website? Facebook page?

My website is http://www.DanMulqueen.com and my Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/DanMulqueenMusic

Where can we find your previous albums?

The best place to hear my previous albums is on bandcamp! Check out the link here: http://www.danmulqueen.bandcamp.com

Dan! Thank you so much for sharing your music and passion with us. I am sure your new album is going to be a masterpiece and very inspiring for many of us. Thanks for all you bring to the handpan world. I love you bro!