Thursday, January 5, 2017

25 Years and Still Going Strong: An Interview with Joie Calio of dada

25 years ago dada burst onto the scene with their debut album Puzzle.  Songs like "Dizz Knee Land" and "Dim" peppered the airwaves and gave the trio of Joie Calio, Michael Gurley, and Phil Leavitt their first taste of rock stardom.  Although the band stopped releasing studio music in 1998 they are still together.  They have weathered the storm of label turmoil, musical changes, and time.  In 2017 they will embark on a 25th Anniversary "dada Forever Tour". Joie Calio was nice enough to sit down and answer a few of our questions.

Fran Chismar - The musical soundscape has changed drastically since the release of Puzzle in 1992.  Do you feel it has stood the test of time?

Joie Calio - Yes, I do for the most part. We weren't really a part of the early '90's scene as much as just music lovers with a band that came together in that era- that kept a lot of the trappings of the times out of our music, which gives it a shot at staying fresh as time marches on. We were all trying hard every day to be the best we could be. There was a lot of passion for the craft. Of course, I think certain songs sound stronger than others at this point but no one was phoning anything in. There is some really great musicianship on those tracks but above all the songs were the thing. I think we all hit our personal strides at the same time.

Is your 25th Anniversary tour a celebration of the past or a precursor of what’s to come?

I'm gonna say this is a celebration of a band and its music that has remained together for a very long time, and that in itself is worth celebrating. The fact that at this point we aren't recording new dada music right now doesn't take anything away from the musical legacy that we three all respect. I don't think anyone knows what the future holds for dada in the studio but for now just that we are all friends and still enjoy kicking out the jams is a good sign we will be around for a while.

How did Puzzle change your lives?  How have your musical interests change over the last 25 years?

There's no doubt Puzzle dramatically changed all our lives for the better. It's the only record any of us have that sold 500,000 copies and the only record with a song that was constantly on the radio and TV. Not to say there haven't been other successes, there have, but Puzzle gave us a foundation and a fan base that is still present today. Personally, I really appreciate the fact that our first record did so well. It made going forward musically from there much easier. To answer the second half of that question- I have been listening to a very wide range of music since way before dada. I will say I was more tuned into what was being recorded by other artist and played on the radio back then than I am now. It definitely helped keep the song writing mojo intact, sort of a personal competition for the times. I still love discovering new songs and artists but more often than not, it's something from the last century. Now I'm in competition with the last 60 years or so.

What were your influences then and what are they now?

Well I guess I partially answered that but, more specifically back then I was listening to R.E.M. and Nirvana of course. I liked some stuff by Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth, The Pixies, The Posies. Pretty much heavy on alt rock at that point. But at the same time, I was really getting deep into '50's & '60's jazz. Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington et al. In general, though I am into an extremely vast array of music and musical genres. I love to DJ on the bus or with friends and can get pretty deep into things just by what I have downloaded on my phone. America, Amy Winehouse, The Animals, Aretha Franklin, Beatles (of course), Black Keys, Bo Diddley, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, The Cramps, Cream, Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Elvis, Father John Misty, Gary Clark Jr., Jerry Butler, Jimmy Lloyd,  The Kinks, Little Walter, Lou Reed, Love, The Meters, Merle Haggard, Nada Surf, Neil Young, Ramones, Ray Charles, The Rolling Stones(!), Roy Buchanan, Seals and Croft, Shuggie Otis, Slim Harpo, ZZ Top... that's just a taste. I'm music sick. 

Looking back would you change anything in the history of dada?

Well yes and no. As hindsight is 20/20 you can always see things you could have done differently or maybe better, but I also feel very lucky with the amount of accomplishments dada has made. I know a lot of very talented people who could have had as much success/luck as dada but for one reason or another never got out of the gates. So yes, I wish every record we made went triple platinum, we toured with The Stones, and our songs were found to cure the worst diseases on earth- but I'm happy we have gotten as far as we have as well.

Your recordings are one thing but do you feel it was your live performances that set you apart from other artists in that genre at the time?

We definitely enjoy playing live and have always had a respect for anyone who can bring their raw talent to the stage- not just hit the marks and cash the checks. But that isn't to say we had the market cornered on that. It's just nice to be recognized for the live shows because we put a lot of heart and effort into them and go out every night with the mindset that if there are minds to blow in the audience then it's our job to get that done.

What was the most surreal Rock Star thing that happened to you while touring in the 90’s?

There were many! One that I will always remember was a 1993 show in Porto Portugal opening for Depeche Mode. We were warned during sound check that the reason we got the opening slot (just after coming off the Sting world tour btw) was because the band that was previously opening got tired of being pelted by garbage. Was it a road crew prank trying to "big-league" us young punks or a report of the facts? We didn't know so I was prepared to accept my shower of crumbled Camel-packs and plastic beer cups with honor. But what happened when we came out and played the opening notes to "Dim" was quite the opposite of my expectations. No garbage- just 10,000 fans rocking-out, bouncing up and down to the beat of every song we played that evening! We were big in Portugal and nobody told us. Surprise!

How do you feel the music industry has changed over the last 25 years and where do you see yourselves fitting in?

As we all know there have been many seismic changes in the music business over the past 25 years. Probably nothing more devastating to its mechanics than the rise of the internet and the subsequent miscalculation of its importance and relevance by the music business. I don't think they really knew what to do with it at the time, which led to some big mistakes with far reaching consequences. We don't have the time or space or patience to listen to my entire take on what happened but the obvious impact is that the system that was in place, for better or worse, was changed forever. To answer the second part of the question, I see myself "fitting in" now as I always have, by not over thinking the business and just working hard at being the best singer/songwriter/musician I can be. Then when we have a finished song or record we deal with the business as best we can with whatever assets we can. It's not easy now and it wasn't easy 25 years ago, just different. Presently dada is more focused on the live performance so that is what I am focused on for dada- until the focus changes.

Will your 2010 recording sessions ever see the light of day?

Good question. I'm not sure about that but just the fact that you are asking tells me it's a "maybe" from the magic 8 ball.

We want new dada music!  Tell us when our dreams will come true.

I love that dada has a seriously dedicated fan base and proud that we have been able to stay relevant for so long. I also appreciate that some dada fans have given the band 7Horse a listen. That is a much easier band to predict the future regarding new recordings- only 2 guys (Phil and myself). With dada there are 3 members and that makes it a bit more difficult to pin down. But don't lose hope! I foresee some sort of dada recordings in the future. 

Thank you Joie.  It's been a pleasure!         

Make sure to see dada in a town near you.

2/16/17        Canyon Club                                 Agoura Hills, CA
2/17/17        The Rose                                       Pasadena, CA
2/18/17        Coach House                                 Orange Country, CA
2/19/17        Hotel Utah                                     San Francisco. CA with 7Horse
2/21/17        Bunkhouse Saloon                     Las Vegas, NV
2/22/17        Metro Music Hall                        Salt Lake City, UT
2/23/17        The Blue Bird                               Denver, CO
2/25/17        Riot Room                                      Kansas City. MO
2/27/17        Beachland Tavern                      Cleveland, OH
2/28/17        Sculley’s                                          Columbus, OH
3/1/17           Shank Hall                                     Milwaukee, WI
3/2/17           The Double Door                        Chicago, IL
3/3/17           The Amsterdam Bar and Hall Minneapolis/St Paul. MN
3/4/17           Firebird                                          St. Louis, MO
3/8/17           Rogue Bar                                      Phoenix, AZ

See you when the needle drops!


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