The Last Word with Dan Mangan, BA'06
Q: Which famous person (living or dead) do you think (or have you been told) you most resemble?
A: No question. Seth Rogen. Got mistaken for him during the Olympics. Signed a guy’s shirt “Seth Rogen”.
On completing his degree at UBC (he majored in English), Dan Mangan shunned the boredom he feared would come from holding down a “real job,” and decided to try and make his living as a musician. He was drawn to the romanticized notion of being a “travelling troubadour,” and made his way overseas, where he landed small gigs in the bars and cafes of Western Europe. He also toured North America in a borrowed station wagon and even made it to Australia. While the reality was not as romantic as he had imagined – “It was a gruelling process. I basically rambled around like a dishevelled hobo…”– the experience marked the beginnings of a musical evolution that has produced four distinct albums.
The breakthrough album, his second, was Nice, Nice, Very Nice (2009). It was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize and Mangan was named Artist of the Year at the Verge Music Awards. Next came Oh Fortune (2011), which won a Juno award as Alternative Album of the Year, while Mangan was recognized as New Artist of the Year. During this time, he was also the subject of a CBC documentary, which introduced him to a much wider audience.
When he and his band members (whom he credits for much of his success) took a break from the road, Mangan was offered the opportunity to score the soundtrack for the movie Hector and the Search for Happiness, starring Simon Pegg. He’s also explored different writing genres – contributing articles to the arts section of The Guardian newspaper, Huffington Post Canada, and Montecristo Magazine.
His most recent album, Club Meds (Dan Mangan + Blacksmith), was released in 2015 to critical acclaim. But success does not mean he’s forgotten his small‑time troubadour roots or the hard slog it took to get his music noticed; one of his latest ventures is co-founding Side Door, an online booking and ticketing platform that helps up-and-coming musicians, audiences, and would-be hosts connect for intimate concerts in unconventional venues across Canada.
In September 2012, Mangan married long‑term girlfriend Kirsten Slenning at the UBC Farm. The couple and their two sons live in Vancouver.
What is your most prized possession?
I’ve written many of my best songs on a 1957 Gibson J45. So there’s that. But really, my most prized possession is my kettle. It can heat things to six different temperatures and keep the water at that temperature for 20 minutes. Isn’t that mind-blowing?
Who was your childhood hero?
I was pretty obsessed with John Lennon. I wasn’t a very cool kid, but I understood all too well how cool he was. I was also obsessed with Calvin and Hobbes. I think Calvin might have been my childhood hero, and is likely still my adulthood hero.
Describe the place you most like to spend time.
Anywhere within a 45ft radius to my kettle.
What was the last thing you read?
White Noise by Don DeLillo. Incredible piece of work. A must-read.
What or who makes you laugh out loud?
My friend Colin. He used to play bass in my band. One time we were on tour in Europe and “I Will Survive” came on the radio. He ate an entire apple while lip-syncing the song, never taking time to chew. It was all over his clothes, all over the tour van, little bits of half‑chewed apple. He trusts his instincts. I have been in pain from laughing more than a handful of times because of him.
What’s the most important lesson you ever learned?
Being mean to anyone for any reason, no matter how tempting it is, will never make you happier.
What’s your idea of the perfect day?
Wake up at home. Eat all meals with family and favourite people. Read a book. Play a show somewhere in Berlin. Sleep in own bed.
What was your nickname at school?
“Eye-patch Dan.” It’s because my name was Dan and I had to wear an eye‑patch for a year in Kindergarten.
What would be the title of your autobiography?
Make Love To Strangers
If a genie granted you one what would it be?
Ten more seasons of Deadwood.
What item have you owned for the longest time?
Have I told you about my kettle?
What is your latest purchase?
A very large box of diapers.
Whom do you most admire (living or dead) and why?
People who can provide insight and humour at the very same time.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
If you could invent something, what would it be?
A digital platform that matches artists with hosts in unique spaces for incredibly intimate and unique performances world wide... Wait, have I told you about “Side Door”?
In which era would you most like to have lived, and why?
Right now. No matter how much garbage anyone ever tells you about how Millennials don’t have any attention span, or are too big for their britches because they don’t want to eat garbage microwaved food at Applebee’s, remember this: they are the least homophobic and xenophobic generation in history, and they have the world at their fingertips so they don’t have to take their jerk parents’ word for everything.
What are you afraid of?
That the assholes will keep winning.
Name the skill or talent you would most like to have.
I wish I could draw well.
Which three pieces of music would you take to that desert island?
Probably just Radiohead. I’d be too vexed to decide on what comes #2 to me.
Which famous person (living or dead) do you think (or have you been told) you most resemble?
No question. Seth Rogen. Got mistaken for him during the Olympics. Signed a guy’s shirt “Seth Rogen”.
What is your pet peeve?
When bullies find a way to imagine themselves as victims.
What are some of your UBC highlights?
I took a sociology class by a prof named Richard Fredericks (no longer at the school) that actually changed my life. I think that education has become a means to an end in so many cases, and that the “end” is employment. But education in its purest form must just be knowledge and perspective. I’m a better person because of that class.