This article first appeared in The Alt on November 15, 2017.
Dan Maddalone is hunched over a monitor in his home studio, fiddling with knobs of an old digirack—one of the many pieces in his extensive recording gear collection. He gives one a spin, raising the volume as the soft vocals, keys and synth of Another Michael come streaming from the massive speakers at his feet. He turns to his desktop and adjusts the vocal level ever so slightly as lead singer Michael Doherty nails a high note. Maddalone slowly grins and shakes his head, letting out a single, astounded, “Fuck.”
It’s hard to beat his fervent enthusiasm for local music projects and up-and-coming artists. It’s a contagious—if not necessary—driving force behind Maddalone’s work. In addition to making and editing live videos of bands like Another Michael, he has spent the last decade playing, recording and organizing music, setting himself up to be a what some have called a “tentpole” in the local music scene—raising up and drawing attention to the artists he supports.
He is the host of the Going Underground radio show at WEQX and manages the station’s house sessions, playing close to the same role at home, where he hosts regular basement shows in his DIY space The Chateau Providence feauturing some recognizable passers-by like Rick McGuire of Pile and local legend Meg Duffy of Hand Habits. He has recorded albums and tracks for several bands in the area such as Hate Club, Girth Control and Prince Daddy & The Hyena as well as his own band Coupons. He’s been a member of Party Boat, B3nson Recording Collective darlings Barons in the Attic and has done quite a few moonlighting gigs with bands like Hate Club and The Parlor. And he’s not even 30.
When Maddalone first moved to Albany for college in 2006, he didn’t plan on becoming a pivotal member of the scene. He fell into the University at Albany radio station WCDB and suddenly he was in the right place at the right time. Soon after his involvement at the station, he met and joined the band Barons in the Attic and was introduced to the world of B3nson Recording Collective.
At that time, the B3nson Collective consisted of several young aspiring musicians in Albany who were having trouble promoting their music in the city’s small—and quiet—scene. So they set out to expand it. They started collaborating and organizing together, building up the hype for new local music little by little. They popped up shows here and there, setting up a skeleton for what the underground music scene has fleshed into today.
Through their common connections in the college scene, B3nson members were able to get a solid use of equipment and recording space through WCDB and the SUNY theater program and as the years passed they built up a reputation and mastered some incredible musical feats. They got a house together on Myrtle Avenue, where bands could set up basement shows and come to collaborate and record in a common space. It’s the spot where bands like Hop Along recorded breakout records and the now legendary Funsgiving celebration was born—a massive night of music that used to pack up both floors of Valentines on one night and continue back at the two story B3nson home with more music and turkey dinner feast the next. “There were two kitchens—one on each floor—so we could cook two turkeys at the same time,” Maddalone recalls fondly. “I played the first Funsgiving and I was just a little kid, I was like 20 and I had no idea what was going on.”
This year, on Friday Nov. 17, he has organized the 10th Funsgiving celebration, reuniting the central bands that grew up and moved away—including Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned and Barons in the Attic—recognizing the work the artists did to pave the way for the current DIY scene. The collective started the Restoration Festival, with lineups that included Sharon Van Etten, Mount Erie, Man Man, Deer Tick and Titus Andronicus. At one point they had their very own B3nson stage at Lark Fest. Without B3nson, Maddalone says, none of the progress made to elevate Albany as a burgeoning music hub would have been possible—it at least would not have gotten this far.
The B3nson years provided Maddalone with his love for recording and every frustrating aspect of its production. The magic laid in his newfound ability to encapsulate his friends and their art.
He started filming in 2013 during his time with Barons in the Attic, hoping to capture touring memories in the same style of popular early 2000s skate films. His now-film editing partner Chris Leary of Chrome Glass Productions was working closely with B3nson bands as a filmographer and photographer and helped Maddalone make a number of videos for Barons, including their “grand finale” video as the band decided to split: A five-song concert video from their set at Rest Fest, opening for Man Man, that included flip cam and GoPro footage of the band on tour.
“I really like archiving, that’s why I like recording so much because you get snapshots,” he explains. “You can draw this lineage and there are these certain benchmarks where, for the rest of your life, you’ll be able to look back at a video and be like, ‘That was cool.’”
He produced his first record—on his own—that same year. Holed up in the WCDB studio for three days, he and the bandmembers of Binghamton’s If Madrid put together Suburban Campfires.
“It’s still one of the releases I’m really proud of. I look back at how I mixed it and it was insane,” he says, laughing. “I didn’t know what I was doing so I took the long road, but I still stand by it.” It was a meaningful production down to the most painstakingly heartfelt detail. He introduces one song with a voicemail left to him by band member Liam Murphy, drunkenly giving Maddalone the news that he was officially engaged. The designated track, “The Love Song,” was written by Murphy for his wife-to-be.
“Once I did that record I was like, ‘I can do this. I will do this,’” Maddalone said. “I’ve made shitty punk records, silly, weird rock records, folk records. I haven’t stopped recording.”
On January 2, 2014, Dan Maddalone was sitting at his parent’s kitchen table during his holiday break. He was out of school and the B3nson Collective was starting to lull. Many founding band members were moving away, starting new projects, getting married and beginning new lives. Save for Noah Bondy and his housemates organizing pop up shows at The Treehouse, it was getting quiet. He was feeling particularly lost. Then he got a text from Kim Neaton.
Neaton first met Maddalone during a semester spent in the WCDB studio during college. When she landed a job with WEQX, the local alternative radio station out of Manchester, Vt., the station’s resident DJ for the Going Underground show had decided to jump ship rather unexpectedly. The studio needed a new DJ with an ear to the ground for up-and-coming artists and she provided the station with a quick solution.
“Clearly, Dan was the guy to do it,” she said. “He has such a wide range of taste and he always pays attention to new music.”
He was ecstatic. Four years after landing the gig, he says that the text changed his life. “It wasn’t even a thought in my mind. I never really thought about radio being a part of my life. I never really thought about anything. I just did stuff thinking, ‘’ll be happy when I create things and eventually this will all work out.’ I’m still hoping that it does at almost 30,” he says shaking his head incredulously. “Without EQX, I don’t think anyone would know who I am. That radio station—and Kim Neaton—have legitimized me in a way that I can never repay them for.”
Today, Maddalone is the host of Going Underground, a specialty show for the enthusiast to enjoy brand new music and eclectic mix in musical genres and styles every Sunday and Tuesday from 9 to 11 PM.
“The radio show rips. It’s the stuff that isn’t playing on EQX normally,” he explains. “I introduce stuff. It put me in a position to try and help people.”
“He brings a lot to the table with his taste,” Neaton attests. “EQX is a unique exception because we have more independence, but a lot of alternative radio stations seem to be going in this really ‘safe’ direction, and it’s really disappointing to me. But with Dan, I remember one night was was tuning in and he was playing Refused. Another time he was doing this ridiculous interview with Woody Goss of Vulfpeck where they were talking about demons.”
She pauses. “He’s good about that: don’t be safe, expose people to new things.”
While Maddalone is not the recording engineer at the radio station, he has been able to “glob on” to a number of projects such as the house sessions, thanks to Neaton. At this point, he has recorded over 30 videos in which visiting bands such Weezer and Portugal. The Man play a few songs and answer some questions in 15-minute videos that are filmed, audio recorded and edited by Maddalone.
“I had interned at EQX back in 2009 and back then there was this room full of cubicles,” Neaton said. She wanted to start making videos of bands who came through the station on press tours, and she found the space—it just needed to be gutted.
“Kim told me about the idea for the house sessions room before I was even a thought at EQX,” Maddalone said. He helped Neaton and her husband Chris Jordan to clear the room and provided the technical know-how.
“To be honest, all I know about sound is plugging in some mics,” she said. “Dan is really resourceful in making things work with very little. We get a lot of big bands who come in here with big expectations and they’re always impressed with his stuff.”
Not that he hasn’t had some help.
From a central glass room at the WEQX station, Maddalone clicks repeatedly at a Mac desktop and peeks over at the pile of microphone stands, lighting equipment, amp wires and connector cables. Pro Tools isn’t working and he still has to set up for the house session with Barns Courtney in a half hour. He scoffs and calls Scoops.
Nick ‘Scoops’ Dardaris met Maddalone in May 2016 while putting on his own house shows at World Citizen Party House. “After maybe our first or second show, we ended up hanging out mad late,” Dardaris said. “Dan just wants to be involved with music any way he can.”
They talked about music and tech and Maddalone invited the sound engineer to EQX to help record a house session of Sean Rowe. From there, the pair went on to record the recently released Another Michael session together, as well as about a half dozen Prince Daddy & The Hyena tracks. (Two of which were recently released on the Now That’s What I Call Music Vol. 420 split with Mom Jeans and Pictures of Vernon.)
“I provide some of the hype and Scoops provides the gnarly know-how,” Maddalone laughs. “I got the space and a bunch of dope amps—so I’m like the color commentator and Scoops is the brains of the whole thing.”
After a few minutes on the phone, his confidante rattles some quick fixes (“If that doesn’t work, set the whole thing on fire,” he says finally.) and Maddalone is moving. Out of nowhere, he whips out a soundboard and connects it to the desktop. In a crunch, he’s decided to work from a completely different angle: rustling up an early 2000s program, Audacity, and using the analog soundboard for help. He jumps into gear as the band arrives, popping back and forth from his control center to sound check, perfect the lighting and film. When he shows Courtney the finished product, the musician rears back, “You did this on Audacity? That’s the first software I ever used!” The recording is level, crisp and clear.
“To probably most engineers in the world, I am not good,” Maddalone grins. “But you fake it til you make it. I’m just trying to do a good job and that’s pretty much all I’ve got.”
At the same time the house sessions began taking off at WEQX, Maddalone grabbed a hold of of the DIY basement scene. He had been a long time attendee of house shows since his introduction with WCDB, but now he had the know-how and connections to work from behind the curtain. In September 2014, eight months into his new job at the radio station, he had officially moved into his new digs at up-and-coming Chateau Providence venue. He gained some skill setting up shows during his residence at the B3nson house and now he had the perfect outlet in which to use it. (He even went as far as to knock down a wall in the Chateau basement to make room for more of an audience after a packed Hand Habits show in February 2016.)
Maddalone’s engineering go-to has also been a significant help in the DIY world. While Dardaris now lives in Philadelphia where his is recording two new albums with Another Michael, the two have exchanged gear for their home recording sessions and basement shows and Dardaris still helps to navigate DIY recording setups.
“The inception of recording is in-house, but DIY spaces don’t provide the isolation and neutral acoustics that studios do,” Dardaris explains. Having been the house engineer at Overit Media for three years, he’s full of advice on navigating a DIY recording session as close to studio quality as possible.
“When I’m downstairs [setting up for basement shows], I’m cobbling things together to make it work. For the longest time it’s just been—DIY doesn’t even describe it—a fucking Hail Mary, every single thing that I do,” Maddalone laughs.
But his work doesn’t go unnoticed. Maddalone is often seen as a source for hopeful venue runners who are looking for advice on how to draw crowds with solid live sound and there seems to be more of them popping up year by year.
“About five years ago, it was all so sporadic and now it’s like there’s a union…there are several torches being passed to kids who want to do shows. There just seems to be more of a culture of it,” he says excitedly.
“There’s more places to go and there’s more people willing to carry it on, like when World Citizen died—some kids picked it up and called it the Nicolas Cage. They had trouble doing it and they were bummed but it isn’t the house that matters. You still have the mixing board and cables, you still have the PA. It’s sad, I’ve lived in four house venues and you miss them, but… that’s a part of the Albany history, that’s the scene. Keeping a house alive forever isn’t the point—now it sounds like some Disney movie—but it’s the spirit of it. It’s the youthful exuberance, it’s the excitement, people killin’ it.”
Since the primary years of B3nson, the scene has flourished. Shows happen four to five times a week. They’re drawing bigger crowds and diverse lineups.
“It’s regular, people communicate, still poorly because we’re human beings, and there are shows of different kinds. The fact that there can be an emo punk revival show to raise money for Puerto Rico and then I can have Girl Blue and Pile play in my basement and then have a show the next week that’s all electronic noise. It kind of was just indie rock for the longest time, which is great, but it’s just well-done now.”
Maddalone has simultaneously worked through a number of projects over the past weeks which have included the organization and execution of a Chateau show headlining Bruiser and Bicycle ahead of their recent album release of You’re All Invited with Girl Blue, a house session with Weezer (and most recently, Barns Courtney) at WEQX and the release of multiple long-term projects such as Girth Control’s Shorter Faster Dumber album release, which he produced, as well as the Another Michael house session and Prince Daddy track releases. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could keep the management of these projects straight, let alone do them well.
“I think something is legitimately wrong with me,” he laughs. “I just keep moving and changing and trying to do anything that I can to make credible art and help people do as much stuff as possible.”
Maddalone seems powered by adrenaline and devout attention to detail. During house shows, he rushes up and down the stairs of the Chateau with wires and cameras between sets, waving short hellos and swigging sips of whiskey. He double, and triple checks connections, levels and batteries. He will work himself into a panic over a house session edit and is willing to chase a new project no matter how much is already on his plate.
“I’ve been doing it for so long that this is just who I am. I’m pretty manic. A lot of people make decisive moves, I throw a ton of shit at the wall all the time. I fail constantly. It’s constant failure, but constant success. This all means so much to me.”
“He so amped up,” Neaton says, “[In house sessions] If something goes wrong I’ll be like, ‘Ah, well, whatever” and Dan will be running in circles. But it works, we even each other out. He’s so easy to work with.”
The DJ, musician and organizer spends seven days a week doing what he loves, but he’s also had moments where he has felt completely overwhelmed.
“I was almost an insurance salesman because I’ve freaked out like, ‘This isn’t sustainable,’” he says. Before EQX came to him, Maddalone had a meeting with a nearby firm, where the hiring manager gave him an unexpected note of encouragement.
“I was like, ‘I have to do something. How am I ever going to have a mortgage? How am I going to do anything?’ He was like, ‘No. You did well on your test and you’d be good at this but you won’t stop talking about music so why are you doing this?’ This is a real conversation I had, now we’re friends on Facebook,” he grins.
Maddalone has an unbridled passion for the music and everyone involved—the kind of passion that keeps him up and night and ties his stomach in knots, particularly when working on projects with frontrunners in the scene. When pulling together Jouska’s EQX session, he stressed for months:
“I wanted it to be as perfect as it could be. Finally, it got to the point where the deadline was looming and I hadn’t even started it because I didn’t want to see the imperfections of it. I learned a hard lesson of like, ‘OK, you’ve worked yourself up into an actual depression for no reason. You’re really upset. Why?’ I put it out, I thought it went well and the band seemed to enjoy it and I was like, ‘I’m not doing this anymore.’ It’s never going to be perfect, just put it out. I take that to an extreme and that’s why I hassle people. I’m trying to put out so much stuff and never stop. It’s the only thing that’s ever done anything for me and it’s the only thing that really makes me happy.”
Currently, Maddalone is working to release another house session with Northern Faces. He is set to record sessions for Spoon and White Reaper in December and will play on a new Dan LaFave solo record, both of which will be released in the near future. Over the winter—for the first time in his musical career—he will also be working on a number of his own songs he has accumulated over the years.
“I don’t think there’s anyone stupid enough to do what I’m doing. I don’t think anyone would subject themselves to doing this,” he says, smiling slightly. “Since day one, I really have been propped up by so many incredible people. Every year has been weirder than the last and harder than the last, but also more fun.”
Sitting in front of the speakers of his home studio, Maddalone plays the air guitar to “Thrashville 1/3,” lost in the song. As the echoes of cymbals subside he is quiet for a moment.
“I just want to make people proud. I’ve been here for 11 years and it finally feels like it’s starting to pay off… This all just feels like a victory lap and I don’t know what I’ve won,” he pauses. “I haven’t won anything. I’m king of shit mountain and no one cares. But it feels good. I feel good for the first time in a long time.”
Photos by Chris Leary