Studio Visit: Dan McClure
Where Creativity Works: Inside Dan McClure's Southeast Portland Studio
Untitled Magazine visits the working studios of PNCA students, faculty, staff, and alumni, taking a closer look at lives and spaces of sustained creative practice.
Libraries are unique and wonderful beasts. PNCA’s Charles E. Voorhies Library is no exception. (Ed. note: As of 2015, when the College moved into its new home on the North Park Blocks, the library is now the Albert Solheim Library) Over its front door is a quote from Michelangelo: “And still I am learning.” Inside, a fleet of typewriters is lined up attentively under an aquarium filled with mini-dinosaurs, and the always-occupied chairs and couches offer unspoken permission to relax for a bit, to enjoy your lunch or your new book. At the same time, the rows of books impart a quiet sense of purposeful industry. There are plenty of treasures to be found here.
This is the daytime domain of Dan McClure, PNCA librarian extraordinaire. McClure, with his team of intrepid archivists, assistants, and volunteers, helps connect students with the information they need.
“I was in journalism school,” said McClure of his first interest in library science, “and one of the librarians came in to give an introduction to LexisNexis [the world’s largest electronic database for legal and public-records related information]. And I thought that it was incredible that one person could teach something that would transform the way we did research. And I thought that it might be for me.”
After McClure graduated, he had to choose between a job in advertising and a job at his local library. He chose the library. The rest, as they say, is history. One Masters in Library Science and a few years later and McClure was back in Oregon (he grew up in Eugene) and on the path to PNCA.
We’re familiar with the bow-tied, MacGyver-esque librarian, but not everyone knows that McClure’s life outside the library hours is equally creative. He plays guitar and bass in two bands: The Fasters (with Tom Sprenkle, Ted Broberg and Eric Knutsen), which is more punk, and is famous for their letterpressed show invites; and Sans (with Eric Jensen and Dave James Clark), which plays “some thick, fuzzy, poppy, postpunk stuff.” 
“The Fasters is more collaborative, and there’s more singing,” McClure explains while he shuffles through a stack of letterpressed Fasters show cards [Sprenkle is lead printer at Egg Press], “and Sans has a honed sound. We can get away with good musicianship.”
McClure writes, plays, and sings in both bands. A few years ago, The Fasters moved to a practice space downtown, but Sans still plays and practices in McClure’s basement. Fortunately, his neighbors are okay with the noise.
A few weeks ago, photographer Matthew Miller ’11 and I visited McClure at his home. We visited his chicken coop, met his cats (Seto and Mrs. Peel), got a tour of his basement practice room, and heard the story behind McClure’s new tattoo (Dr. Strange, and “I’ve wanted it for years”).
Behind McClure’s house is the Taj Mahal of chicken coops. Inside, live Uta, Lily, Imogen, Sally, and Hannah. McClure and his wife Noelle named them after famous female photographers. There’s also Silverbell, and Wishbone.
We also got a peak at a handful of McClure’s many guitars.
McClure’s first guitar was a 1967 Melody Maker. He got it from a store in Grand Canyon, Arizona in 1986. When he graduated from high school, his parents gave him a late 40s Gibson acoustic archtop. He owns a Heritage Les Paul from Kalamazoo, Michigan and a green beauty made in Tennessee by Jerry Jones. Among others.
“I wanted one for years,” said McClure. “And about a year after I bought it, Jones retired. He doesn’t make them anymore. Now, they’re more than a thousand dollars on eBay, even if they’re totally thrashed.”
Growing up, McClure worked in a Eugene guitar shop.
“People around the world are into American guitar heritage craft,” explains McClure of his impressive guitar collection. “It’s America’s last heritage industry.”
McClure started playing guitar in 1981, and he was really into punk rock: “When you’re a teenager, you’re really into the things you’re into,” said McClure, recalling his early music playing days. “I was really into punk rock bands in Eugene.”
Though his taste has expanded since then, he still listens to his favorites.
“I listen a lot to the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols,” explains McClure with the attitude of one warming up to his subject, “and the Clash, Wire, New Order, The Jam, an 80s British mod band, and …”
What’s next? McClure just finished a theremin class through PNCA’s Continuing Education program. He’ll keep playing with The Fasters and Sans. The Fasters will be playing December 14th at Ted’s Berbati Pan with Charming Birds and The Hoons; and on New Year’s Eve at Slabtown with Bloodtypes and Chemicals. In January, they’ll be playing the Big Ass Boombox, a free pop festival all around Portland.
And if you need him, you’ll probably find him the library. Ask if he’ll show you his tattoo.