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Imagine Dragons is a band that has reached levels of success most musicians can only dream about.
They just ended an international tour and are looking to the future.
Drummer Dan Platzman, who is only in his 30s but already has had a long music career, joins State of Nevada for the first time to talk about what the future may hold for the band, which is now in its 10th year.
Platzman is also venturing into scoring music for TV and movies. We'll talk to him about that and about what it's like to go from obscurity to fame in just a few years.
On joining Imagine Dragons:
“Imagine Dragons’ success in those early years did not seem like a small blip on the radar to me. Ben McKee, the bass player, was my roommate at Berklee College of Music. We had lived together for three years... He had actually dropped out his senior year to join a band with our mutual friend also from Berklee - Wayne Sermon, the guitar player. Wayne moved back home and started the band with Dan [Reynolds]
Imagine Dragons success was definitely registering on my radar. They had a drummer. They had a great drummer. Bands go through things and they had not gotten signed yet. They had reached a crossroads of sorts as a band identity and the [Andrew and Brittany] Tolmans decided it was in their best interest to leave the band.
I had made a joke with Ben that if they had a drummer availability to call me immediately and I would move out of New York on a whim. Three days later he called me and said, ‘how serious were you?’ I put all my stuff in storage, moved out to Los Angeles joined and just a few later they were signed to Interscope.”
On the evolution of the band:
The whole music scene is always evolving so if you as a band aren’t evolving with it then you’re being almost counterproductive.
It’s one thing to chase trends and be like, ‘this is the in sound so we’re going to chase that.’ That is very inauthentic but absorbing evolutions of music and observing them and acknowledging them as a musical truth – that’s just how things work.
On setting the pace for music:
We’re painfully between genres. We don’t even like saying we’re a rock band because anytime you commit yourself to a genre you are weighing yourself down with rules.
That is one of the biggest things that has changed in music over the last ten years. With the streaming sites and the accessibility to so much music, the everyday listener is so sophisticated. They know so many different styles of music and they can hear inauthenticity.
We don’t see ourselves as setting a pace. We’re not trying to set trends we’re just trying to be our authentic selves.
On working with the other band members:
At the end of a creative period, when it’s time to decide what the next Imagine Dragons album is, we just really try to select the very best songs that make sense as a group.
One thing we still believe in the rock ‘n’ roll tradition is definitely the album. With streaming services, today’s listener really loves singles. It is very easy to say: ‘I like this single from this band or this single from that band.’
We still remember getting an album and putting it on and listening to it from front to end. We still try to create albums so that listeners could have the experience.
On the creative process:
I have always been lyrically challenged. Since a young age of trying to create music, I have always considered myself lyrically challenged. And when it comes to Imagine Dragons songs, Dan Reynolds is writing 100 percent of the songs. He’ll ask for input sometimes… but at the end of the day, he is mayor or lyric town.
When you care about anything, you get passionate and argue. It’s like brothers. Brothers argue. Brothers fight, especially if they think they have an opinion that is going to help the group that is being overlooked.
You all are taking care of this baby together and you all have different ideas of what’s best for it. You’re going to disagree. That being said, there is a well of mutual respect there and clearly, everyone respects each other’s opinions because things are going great. Clearly, everyone’s ideas are valid.
On his early years in music:
My grandfather played violin. My dad played piano. I, as a 4 year old, asked to play violin not realizing I was signing myself up for this prophesy and I was very upset that I had actual lessons the next day.
My parents actually met doing musical theater in Boston at the Gilbert and Sullivan troupe at Harvard even though neither one of them went to Harvard… My dad played piano and my mom was in the operettas.
So, they were very supportive of playing music. From a young age, I was playing Beethoven and Mozart, sight reading with my dad, but quickly that became old if the only person you’re playing music with is your dad. And as I got older, I started to realize I wanted to play music with kids my own age. So, I switched to drums when I was 9.
On the Tyler Robinson Foundation:
Anytime we as a band get to do something for TRF, it makes our day. We have such self-indulgent jobs of just talking about ourselves… Anytime we get to take that and create tangible good that we can see, it really means the world to us.
The Tyler Robinson Foundation got started because Dan received a Facebook message from Jesse Robinson, Tyler’s brother, when we were doing a show in Provo – I want to say in 2011.
He messaged Dan saying that is brother Tyler was sick with cancer but that “It’s Time” was his chemo song. He didn’t want to make any demands. He just wanted to let Dan know.
Dan told us. We were all really moved. Before playing “It’s Time,” Dan announced that he had received a message from Jesse and during the song Jesse put Tyler on his shoulders and there was this big moment… of Dan and Tyler embracing – forehead to forehead- really powerful moment of them both singing the chorus to “It’s Time” and the whole venue goes crazy.
We stayed in touch with Tyler. He ended up going into remission but then it came back, all of the sudden, very tragically and he passed. It wrecked us all. We thought he was in remission. We thought he had gotten over it and it devastated us.
We talked with the Robinson family. What could we do to honor Tyler’s legacy. If there was an organization, what would it do to help the Robinson family.
With them helping us along the way, we created the Tyler Robinson Foundation, which doesn’t pay the actual medical bills. It pays all the unforeseen costs. Sometimes the doctor says you have to send your sick child to a doctor an hour away. So, there is a commute. There’s gas. Sometimes it’s in another city and you fly and there’s hotels. Sometimes there is a very expensive diet you have to eat and none of that is covered by insurance.
The other thing the Tyler Robinson Foundation does that I love is these families are dealing with so much. The idea of actually having to crunch numbers and create budgets… that’s just unfair.
The Tyler Robinson Foundation also puts families in touch with financial planners. So that they can really focus on being there for their families and know that somebody else has all these numbers crunched and that everything is going to be okay.
On scoring movies and TV shows:
Being a film scorer is a very unique job where you get to write all sorts of different styles of music. You have lots of freedoms but also, you’re not the main show. The movie is the star. You are the accompaniment.
It’s not the solo. It’s the background. It’s complimentary.
I think knowing the roles is one of the most important things in music. What sounds are fulfilling what roles is basically what determines genre.
I’m a drummer. Accompaniment is kind of my bread and butter musically. That has always been my thing. I’m in the rhythm section. Our job is to take this thing that exists and make it work. Make it sound better.
Same job in film scoring. Being a drummer is very similar to being a film scorer. Your role in the band is similar to your role in the movie. The movie exists – you got to make it work.
Sometimes that means do nothing. Sometimes that means do a lot. It’s a mixture of all sorts of things that I love. You have to understand what the scene is trying to do and what function your music is going to serve.
On playing jazz:
On “Night Visions,” we have a song “Nothing Left to Say” and the way we ended up writing the end of that song was more like jazz than anything else. Where we had a three-minute song that we liked and then at the end we kind of just started experimenting with things and letting it run long and letting things run and having people improvise over it. We ended up with this really magical thing that if we hadn’t had our jazz training we never would have landed at that spot.
I ended up making these jazz records. They’re jazz puns because I took the melody of one song and the chords of another forced them over each other. Then took the two titles and made a horrible pun out of the words.
For example, Thelonious Monk wrote a song called “Skippy” but he also wrote a song called “Gallop’s Gallop.” So, I smushed those together and have “Skippy’s Skip.”
It’s not that I would go crazy doing Imagine Dragons’ music all the time. I would go crazy doing any one thing. Any one thing all the time – I would lose it.
Music is a language more than anything else. Therefore, you can use it to communicate the whole spectrum.
Me doing jazz is a very necessary thing that I have to do. I don’t need to do it at anyone. I’m happy doing just for myself. I’m actually teaching myself trumpet right now.
On the band’s musical tastes:
I think diversity is definitely one of our strengths. Between the four of us, we are all over the map. And very rarely do two of us overlap over our musical areas.
The other three guys have vast musical knowledge of totally other types of music. They’ll play music all the time that I’m like, ‘what is this? I love it!’
We’re constantly inspiring each with music that already exists that we like.
On coming to an agreement on songs for an album:
When we’re figuring out the final collection of what it’s going to be, it’s always – let’s get out the white board and let’s start tallying votes.
But quickly, you realize the top 10 songs have two or three votes unanimously because everyone recognizes that these are great. Only when you get down to the deep cuts do you start getting the arguments, usually, most of them are moot.
On the end of the band:
We talk about taking steps to not burn out, which probably is effectively seeing the end and trying to not rush into it. We definitely love the band and create as much longevity as possible.
Basically, as long as, it’s rolling and as long as it feels authentic to us, we’re not going to stop. And this still feels very authentic to us. I don’t think we’re stopping any time soon.
Dan Platzman, drummer, Imagine Dragons
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