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3 Unlikely Musical Artists Who’ve Influenced Me, by Damien Moyal, aka Damien Done

Photo: Nathaniel Shannon

Better known for his vocal work in such bands as Culture, Shai Hulud, As Friends Rust, and Morning Again, Damien Moyal is also a talented singer-songwriter in his own right. But don't expect the usual sonic and lyrical stylings one usually thinks of when the whole "singer-songwriter" tag is brought up (plaintive folk, acoustic, etc.). Nope, when Moyal writes and records material as Damien Done, the results fall somewhere in the gaps between '80s post-punk, new wave, and goth-rock.

In a few weeks, the Damien Done project will see the release of Charm Offensive, a full-length album that follows the Stay Black EP and the He Really Tried 7”. The track "The Lord Fox" is a great way to take in what Moyal is doing with this solo journey.

In addition to writing the material and performing the vocals, Moyal also tracked piano, percussion, programming, and drums on Charm Offensive. He also co-produced the sessions alongside James Paul Wisner (Further Seems Forever, Paramore). Since his album has such a different sound from his hardcore-related discography, I asked Moyal for three unlikely musical influences that helped inform his Damien Done work.

Serge Gainsbourg

My father was born and raised in Paris, and one of his favorite artists (having come of age in the '60s) was Gainsbourg. I remember, even as a young kid, being fascinated with his unpolished voice and ungroomed appearance, and with the chain-smoking in every photo. There was a crude mystique about him — a mythos that only crystalized as I got older and was able to better understand his seedy, sleazy persona. I remember being a budding young punk and learning that "Je t'aime... moi non plus" was banned in certain countries, and then placing Serge in that same elite category of irreverent, rebel artists, like 2 Live Crew and Dead Kennedys. And of course, as an adolescent, I was pretty taken by the song's hallmark pervasive moaning, and later wondered if it somehow informed Guns N' Roses' "Rocket Queen" or even God Forgot's "Sex is a Weapon." Anyway, to me Gainsbourg was an early lesson in the complexity of beauty. Here was a diminutive, unkempt, big-eared womanizer whose exploits and irreverence never once hindered his ability to seduce. He bucked the pop system by refusing to sugarcoat love, and cynically, poetically addressed its less commendable features.

Pulp

At some point around 1995 I was given a mixtape that included "Lipgloss" and "Do You Remember the First Time?" from Pulp's His 'n' Hers album, and was an instant fan. But once Different Class came out, I'd pretty much decided that Pulp was a Top 5, and that Jarvis Cocker was perhaps the greatest living lyricist (I haven't really backed away from that opinion since.) As a punk, the themes of class disparity — the working class taking revenge on the bourgeoisie — captured in songs like "I Spy" and the ever-popular "Common People" really resonated with me, and I absolutely loved how content so heady could be delivered in such a slinky, sultry, cynical way. A huge influence, and an all-time favorite.

Black Moon

I'd written a pretty long thing about Randy Newman here, but have decided for whatever reason that I needed to delete it and talk about Black Moon instead. In the early '90s, my love of hip-hop was deep, and revolved mainly around Native Tongues artists and the sound spawned from that collective — the jazzy, witty positivity and that whole daisy aesthetic. Black Moon's Enta da Stage had all of the same smarts and smoothness, but offered something that a lot of those other artists couldn't deliver on: grit. The album ticked off all the familiar boxes for me, but introduced an element of darkness that never felt showy or insincere. It was thick and moody. Too backpacky to be gangster rap, but too gangster to fall into the same bucket as artists like De La Soul or Tribe. Buckshot's flow on that album is fucking tremendous. His cadences and phrasing are playful and varied and just absolutely top notch, and the album quickly rocketed him to the top of my Favorite Emcees list. Enta da Stage was also my introduction to the entire Duck Down/Boot Camp Clik universe, and subsequently to many of my favorite artists and emcees of the genre.  I'm not sure how/if they've influenced me, but I think the mood of Enta da Stage has a lot of conflicting elements, and my music seems to as well. So... maybe.

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Damien Done's new album, Charm Offensive, will arrive in stores on Feb. 16 via Mind Over Matter Records. Check out Damien Done's Facebook page for more info.

Tagged: damien done, damien moyal

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