Three Great Things: Diane Coffee

How skateboarding, food, and a 15-year-old Brussels Griffon shaped the artist that is Shaun Fleming.

Three Great Things is a new feature in which artists tell us about… well, three things they think are great right now. Ahead of his new album Internet Arms (out April 19), Shaun Fleming of Diane Coffee kicks the series off and tells us how skateboarding, cooking, and his dog Brando have influenced his life and work.
—Annie Fell, Associate Editor, Talkhouse

1. Skateboarding

My history with and love for skateboarding could make up the entirety of this write-up. It’s by far one of my favorite things in this world — it shaped who I am. My sense of perseverance grew out of the repetitive trial and error of skateboarding; it taught me to train my brain, body and attitude, to identify the smallest shift or adjustment in order to learn and land a new trick. The endless punishment of hitting the pavement over and over and busting up my body was also quite the motivator to get it right. It taught me skills that I now consciously and subconsciously apply to my work and art.

I discovered so much music through skate videos, as well. The soundtracks from videos like Baker2G, Fulfill the Dream, and the On Video Magazine series opened my ears to a variety of music I otherwise would have had no exposure to. Some of those songs and artists helped shape who I am as a musician today, so much so that I’m currently putting together a playlist of my favorite songs that I discovered through skate videos.

Due to a few injuries that affected my performing career, I eventually felt I had to stop skating. It was heartbreaking, but I still keep a close eye on the scene, and even follow the updates on the local skate park that is being constructed here in Bloomington, Indiana by Hunger Skateparks and sneak in a session now and then. To this day, I still hang my head out the open window like a dog, looking out for that new ledge or that 10 stair with a nice run up and perfect landing, imagining how it would all feel. I’m left haunted and longing, but I’m so grateful for my relationship with it; like an ex-lover, skateboarding has left its impact on me.

2. Cooking and FOOD!

I love flavors, sensations, and creating so, for me, cooking is a passion. I’ve always been obsessed with cooking shows like Iron Chef, Chopped, Top Chef… I eat it up. It’s like I can actually taste the meals they create; it’s titillating and relaxing at the same time. Growing up, there was always cooking going on in our kitchen, and I was fascinated by the transformation of simple ingredients into works of edible art! When I was in high school, I was torn between pursuing music or going to culinary school. I still wonder what my life would have been like had I taken a tastier path.

3. Brando

The third thing that I love — really, the first thing — is my Brando boy. He is a 15-and-a-half year old rescued Brussels Griffon who didn’t care for me all that much when we first met (which I respected), but we eventually found a mutual unconditional love for one another. I have spoiled him in his later years; I have single-handedly ruined his good behavior and training with excessive treats and by bowing to his every whim. However, doing so created a bond like nothing I’ve ever had before.

Even when I’m agitated with Brando, he gives me pure joy. I can be stressed, or even down, and just taking him for a walk will make me chuckle. He has a funky little shuffle walk that I just love. The personality on this guy… Pinocchio’s “I’m a Real Boy” is how I feel about him. He speaks to me in these guttural sounds, and communicates what he wants by smacking his paw on it — whether it’s the drawer with his treats, the door to go outside, or my guitar, it’s his favorite way to get my attention. Our relationship is so pure and simple, it makes it feel very powerful. Check him out on Instagram: @realboybrando. I started the account to archive some of my favorite moments with him. I really started it just for myself, but since he is my favorite thing, I am sharing.

(Photo Credit: Alexa Viscius)

The ever-evolving spectacle that is Diane Coffee — the gender and genre-bending alter ego of Shaun Fleming — returns with Internet Arms, a swan dive into a lush, digital glam wonderland.

Fleming’s path to stardom can be traced all the way back to his childhood days as a Disney voice actor, but for the past six years he’s explored the depths of his identity and channeled it outward in the form of the enigmatic and exuberant Diane Coffee.

In 2018, after performing as King Herod in the Lyric Opera’s critically-acclaimed run of Jesus Christ Superstar, Fleming emerged from the recording studio with Internet Arms. Born from the fear and uncertainty of a future in which humankind is both dependent on and poisoned by technology, the album finds Diane Coffee trapped in a digital world, enslaved by AI. As a whole, Internet Arms marks a significant new phase for Fleming, a testimony to the idea that Diane Coffee will endure as a fluid form of expression that continues to defy expectations of sound and genre.

(Photo Credit: Alexa Viscius)