October 2003 - The Show Is The Rainbow
Darren Keen (photo by Spencer Munson)
Part Pentacostal preacher, part carnival barker, part scam artist, and part psychotic stalker. Seeing a performance by The Show Is The Rainbow might have you wondering if Darren Keen forgot to take his medication that morning. Where Johnny Rotten waited until the end of the show to ask the audience if they felt like they’d been cheated, Darren lets you know you’ve been had from the get go, by opening with a song whose lyrics are "Ha ha so you thought that you were gonna see a real band tonight!"
When I was talking with Darren about a show he recently did in Lincoln during a break in his tour, I mentioned that when people go out to see a band, it's generally a "comforatable" experience, in that the band is in it's "space", an the audience is in their "space", and they all play their roles, then go home. People are generally not comfortable during one of Darren's performances, because they don't know what's going to occur from one moment to the next, and whether they might suddenly find themselves participating in the show...not necessarily by choice. Darren's show takes up pretty much the entire room he's performing in. Rarely still for a moment, he's always running, jumping, spinning around, jumping up on tables, doing somersaults, falling into a crowd of people, and flopping onto the floor and pushing himself around the floor like a worm, and all while still singing/rapping his songs. If someone happens to walk out of the room to get a drink refill or take a bathroom break, Darren has been known to follow them, perhaps dancing around them, and ask them where they're going.
Darren's lyrics can be confrontational as well. During the song "Highkick" he sings:
"I can do a highkick I can kick higher than you.
I can do a backflip I can flip backer than you.
then dares anyone to challenge his claims.
Darren was recently back in Lincoln took some time out of his busy tour schedule to talk about The Show Is The Rainbow.
SCS: I know you did the whole band thing with Musico before doing The Show Is The Rainbow, but what was behind the decision to go the route you’re going now, and how long have you been doing this?
Darren: Well, I had been playing around as The Show is the Rainbow BEFORE Musico
broke up. Back then it was just a indie pop one man band that i played
guitar in and had backing tracks for. Musico broke up, and the decision to
take The show is the Rainbow wasn't hard at all. Right around the time of
the breakup was when I had first started working on some of the more hip-hop
influenced shit I do now...so it was all pretty natural.
SCS: How would you try to define your sound to someone who’s never heard you?
Darren: It's a one man dance and roll explosion.
SCS: Let’s talk about your live show. I’ve heard lots of people trying to describe what you do, but find themselves at a loss for words to describe exactly what you do and how you do it, so I’d be interested to hear how you would describe your show? -- If people come to see you live, what can they expect?
Darren: Shit. I don't know. I've never really watched myself. It's different. People can expect something different.
SCS: I've heard from someone who toured with him, that Barry Manilow video tapes every one of his performances so he study his performance afterward to improve it. I personally think it's so he can whack off to himself when he gets home at night, but since you've never seen your show, you might want to consider that...I think with a lot of performers, on some level, one of the reasons they’re playing in a band is to be adored...to be the center of attention, on stage in front of people. You choose to pretty much ignore the stage completely, and perform your entire act down on the floor among the people who’ve come to see the show, and most of the time, you’re performing in the complete darkness of the room. Why do you prefer to do it that way?
Darren: Actually, it evolved that way. I used to play on stages, but would
OCCASIONALLY jump into the crowd...I realized one day that I was really only
having fun when I was walking around, mingling in that quasi-Tom Jones way.
Out of town I play alot of alternative venues, that often don't even have
stages, so that's even better...no one thinks twice then.
SCS: What’s your favorite song of yours to play live, and if you’re playing somewhere that people don’t really know you, which of your songs get the best audience reaction?
Darren: Well, Drug Free and Highkick get the best "crowd reaction" I thnk. I like
all my songs. My favorite is probably "hahaha, you thought you were gonna see a real band tonight", just because it's first in the set, and it's pretty chaotic.
SCS: When not performing, you generally come off as a pretty low-key guy, but on stage, you’re like a whirling dervish on angel dust. Do you have to "step into character" when you do your act, or is it just another side to you?
Darren: 80% of Lincoln thinks I'm an annoying asshole. You are just lucky that
you haven't seen that side of me yet.
SCS: You’ve toured extensively over the last year or so. In your show you mentioned an experience of getting beat up in Texas. Did that really happen?
Darren: Yes. In Lubbock. They don't like seeing fat one man bands sing about sucking dicks I guess. (Editor's Note: Since this time this interview was done Darren mentioned being beat up again in Atlanta in mid Sept.)
SCS: Any other weird or funny stories from being on tour?
Darren: To be honest. Everyday is kind of a freakshow. I wouldn't know where to
SCS: What are some of your most memorable live performance and what makes them memorable?
Darren: My cd release parties in town were both very fun. Touring with Chicago's
Troubled Hubble is always kickass. We are doing another 20 days together in
october, so that should be fun.
SCS: How is the tour going in general? Are you getting good reaction?
Darren: Yeah it's going good. Turnouts are improving. Word of mouth or something
I guess. I don't know it's a little wierd.
SCS: Are you or Suckapunch doing any advance work getting your CD out to the radio stations in the towns you’ll be playing in, or do people not really know your music when they see you live?
Darren: Well, SPR isn't really set up to do anything like that. I have sent a few
things out, as has my friend from Omaha, Mike Perry, but generally, I'm the new kid in town.
SCS: Have you covered pretty much the whole country at this point?
Darren: I leave tomorrow to go to the east coast. I haven't done it yet, but
after that, yes, the whole U.S. will be my pal.
SCS: Since it’s just you and a little bit of equipment, are you just touring in your car and crashing on people’s floors, or do you have a big cushy tour bus called the Rainbow Cruiser?
Darren: I drive my parents car.
SCS: Have you considered adding some scantily clad back-up singers to the act?
Darren: No! Too Har Mar Superstar. I'd add a flashy firebreathing dj turntableist
if I could find him.
SCS: Where do you get inspiration from for your lyrics?
Darren: Some of them are just inside jokes, alot of them are from just generic
personal experiences. I try to write in a way where at first listen, the lyrics / songs sound fun and happy, but hopefully people will see the underside to them as well, each song has a twist or something of the sort that actually makes it pretty dark.
SCS: What types of music and which musicians/groups influenced you?
Darren: I like alot of stuff. I'm really into Todd Rundgren. He's the best. I
like people that create ALBUMS, not songs. That's something I need to work
SCS: Where did the name come from? The Show Is The Rainbow, that is, not Darren Keen. I assume you got that from your parents.
Darren: Both were given to me at birth. Along with these coupons. Hold on, I'm
gonna go find the coupons.
SCS: What things have you learned and could advise to newer local bands to help them make the path smoother?
Darren: Only do it because you love it. Don't be a pussy.
SCS: Who are some local bands or musicians that you admire or feel should be recognized?
Darren: Shinyville, Roarbot!, Mr. 1986, Her Flyaway Manner, and Bright Calm Blue
are all amazing. I saw Wide last night and loved the shit out of it. I always have been a huge Carsinogents fan. There is a new band called Thunderstandable that will knock your socks on your ass. That's probably all. Yes, it is. If your band isn't on this list, it's because I hate you.
SCS: Why did you choose Scott Sholtz (Shinyville) to record your album?
Darren: Because he's the fucking man. His shit sounded so good, and he's just a
fun dude. He's become a very good pal, and that's pretty exciting. One day I
was listening to his mp3's in my basement, thinking "this dude is a genius",
and a few weeks later, we were taking turns doing lines of coke off of a
biker chicks ass.
SCS: Are there any producers you'd like to work with who you think could help to develop your sound even more?
Darren: I just cut an album with Dustin and Marc from I am Spoonbender (San
Fransisco's best band). They pushed me alot. For my next album, I wanna incorporate more sampling and more live insturments. This will take more editing and mixdown time, so I think I am gonna invest and buy myself a bunch of good recording gear. The Mogis' yardsale is in two weeks, and (in addition to that kickass 4 slice toaster) I really have my eye on their focusrite.
SCS: I know at this point you’re playing outside of Lincoln way more than in it, but what do you like and dislike about the music scene in Lincoln?
Darren: I like Lincoln alot. People are into new shit down here. They also don't
mind eclectic shows, which is nice. I guess what i don't like is that Husker game days fuck everything up.
SCS: Do you think growing up in Lincoln had any influence your music, and if so how?
Darren: I don't think so unfortunately. I was only into pop music and rap music
in my middle school days, and in high school I played in a funk/rap metal band, so the lincoln scene is all kind of new to me. I wish I had seen fucking Mercy Rule.
SCS: What is the name of the next album and when does it come out?
Darren: I just got the mixed version back 4 days ago. Title is still up in the
air. It will come out when a label puts it out.
SCS: Do you miss playing with a band?
Darren: Sure, somewhat. No. Yes. Not sure. Sorry.
SCS: Who do you think is the most underrated artist in the music industry?
Darren: Well, I don't feel like alot of people are taking Justin Timberlake very
seriously, but I think he's very talented. You have to remember, George Michael came out of Wham!, and I think with JT, we could have someone of legendary status, an icon, if you will. Also, I feel like Todd Rundgren is currently overlooked. He had some songs on the Virgin Suicides Soundtrack, but his music is so amazing and conceptual...I listen to somone like The Flaming Lips or Grandaddy now and I think...WHY HASN'T THERE BEEN A TODD RUNDGREN REVIVAL?
SCS: Who/What do you think is the embodiment of evil in the music industry?
Darren: Lately, my friend Joe (www.somedaynever.com) has been talking alot about
clear channel. i never understood how shitty they actually are, until
recently. I also can't say I'm a huge Avril Lavigne fan. I am tired of this
garage rock shit too. it's just akward.
SCS: What musical goal would you still like to achieve?
Darren: I want to record a really great full length album. Something that people
won't believe. It's a simple goal, but honestly, that's really all I aspire
SCS: Who was the first person or band you saw that made you want to play music?
Darren: Motherfucking 311. I don't care if it's lame to say that shit now, it's
the fucking truth.
SCS: What was the first album/CD you bought?
Darren: Information Society "S/T". I was in 6th grade, and the first disc I
bought was this neo-goth band from England. My friends all made fun of it, I
thought it was the bomb. I bought it at Pickles.
SCS: Whose music are you listening to right now? -- What other bands would you recommend people check out?
Darren: I've been listening to alot of The Flaming Lips and Grandaddy. I'm really
digging Eastern Youth, they are a band from Japan that Cursive did a split with. I like the Criteria album a whole hell of a piss lot. I got a copy of the new Bright Calm Blue ep "a direct approach for casual conversation". Brendan from Her Flyaway Manner produced it, and it came out on a really killer label (www.level-plane.com). It sounds so good, they have really progressed. I could see them taking off big time in the next few years.
SCS: List off your top five albums of all time.
Darren: 1) A wizard a true star - Todd Rundgren
2) OK Computer - Radiohead
3) S/T - Portishead
4) David Bowie's entire catolouge.
5) i'm leaving this blank. too many other albums would be ignored if i filled this.
SCS: What single song, in the entire history of music, do you most wish you'd written?
Darren: STAIRWAY! NO WAIT! SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT!
SCS: What can we look forward to in the next year from The Show Is The Rainbow?
Darren: A new album. A new Wardrobe. A new discman.
SCS: Thanks for bringing us up to date, good luck on the upcoming show dates. The Show Is The Rainbow has some upcoming local shows on Fri Oct 3rd @ Sokol Underground
Mon Oct 6th @ The Ranch Bowl
Thu Oct 16th @ Sokol Underground
Fri Oct 17th @ Knickerbockers
Mon Nov 3rd @ Knickerbockers
Tue Nov 4th @ Sokol Underground
Go to The Show Is The Rainbow website for complete tour info
- Tery Daly