The Soft Pink Truth Finds His Way Back to the Dancefloor
a.k.a. An interview with Drew Daniel that touches on house music, disco, queerness and dick jokes hiding in plain sight.
When it comes to dance music, it’s fair to say that no one has approached it quite like Drew Daniel. Over the past few decades, the Baltimore artist (whose musical career began in San Francisco) has zigzagged across the electronic and experimental map, most prominently as one half of Matmos—his wildly creative collaboration with partner M.C. Schmidt, who Drew simply refers to as Martin—but also with his solo project, The Soft Pink Truth. Although the moniker originally began as an outlet for Daniel to make something resembling house music, his creations have never really resembled the “functional” (and often forgettable) dancefloor fodder that populates most 12-inches.
Many people first encountered The Soft Pink Truth via Daniel’s trio of cover albums, in which he approached three notably macho and aggressive genres (hardcore punk, black metal, crust punk) from his own unique—and explicitly queer—perspective. For the uninitiated, such an undertaking might seem like more of an academic exercise than a musical one—and for what it’s worth, Daniel literally is a professor in the English department at Johns Hopkins University—but in reality, the records were incredibly fun. As a legitimate fan of the music he was transforming—albeit one who also felt conflicted about his fandom, particularly in the face of these genres’ troubling tendencies toward reactionary politics—he took on the source material with equal parts reverence and irreverence, and created some thrilling work in the process.
All that said, his most recent album, 2020’s Shall We Go on Sinning So That Grace May Increase?, offered up something totally different, ditching the covers premise and instead offering a lush suite of beautiful, largely ambient sounds. As musical left turns go, the LP was pretty extreme, but it also wound up arguably being Daniel’s most acclaimed solo release to date, and likely introduced The Soft Pink Truth to a new batch of listeners in the process. Many artists would follow up a successful record like that with more of the same, but “more of the same” has never been Daniel’s style. Last month he shared a provocatively titled new track, “Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This? (Dark Room Mix),” a soulful, eight-minute-long deep house cut which seemed to indicate that Daniel had returned to the most unlikely of places: the dancefloor.
“Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This? (Dark Room Mix)” is taken from a new EP, Was It Ever Real?, that’s set to drop on August 19 via Thrill Jockey, but before it even arrived, Daniel announced that he also had a new double album on the way, Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This?, which is due to surface on October 21. Taking cues from disco and house music, and also featuring contributions from two dozen different artists, these records aren’t just another unexpected change in direction from Daniel; they’re potentially the most ambitious work he’s ever done as The Soft Pink Truth.
Looking to find out more, I asked Daniel if he’d be up for an interview. Though he’s currently on tour across the US with Matmos—the full rundown of remaining dates is here—he set aside some time for a late-night call last weekend, and went deep, not just about his new music, but also his own creative process and the role of queerness within it. He also explained the surprising origins of the title Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This?, and why he finds it to be such an intriguing turn of phrase.