Music Writing by Carson Arnold


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So I decided to interview Dredd Foole (also known as Dan Ireton), who has  traveled through the Boston music scene and beyond for well over two decades. He has appeared with various people at random moments, worked with Mission Of Burma in the early eighties, cut two records under the collaborating act Dredd Foole and the Din (Take Off Your Skin {PVC}-Eat My Dust, Cleanse My Soul {Homstead}, delivered his home-recorded solo album- In Quest Of Tense (Forced Exposure)- and in short, continues to be very active in expressing his work.

The controversial responses that I received after writing a review of Dredd Foole and the Din’s performance at the Stone For Festival, inspired me to get to know this man. Who is he? What is he? And of course my everlasting why is he? which strangely shines itself throughout the course of our hour long conversation. Though I must admit that I  find Dredd Foole’s work very odd, this certainly does not stop us from introducing ourselves and carrying out a cordial visit that would hopefully answer any questions to a fan of Dredd Foole or even doubts to an observer. Due to the fact that our dialogue is written out thousands of words larger to be cramped via e-mail, I’ve posted the rest on-line.

We met at The River Garden, a sunny “for the arts” eatery/plaza located in downtown Brattleboro,Vermont where Dan (Dredd Foole) has lived for the past few years. Dan arrived at quarter pass twelve, dressed in blue jeans along with jean-jacket, red and white stripe shirt, and shades that were kept on throughout the entire interview. We settled ourselves at a wobbly table on the outside empty patio overlooking railroad tracks and a sparkling Connecticut River during a very windy and crisp autumn day. Dan spoke slowly, choosing his words carefully and changing many of his sentences midway. He also had a chuckle that sort of reminded me of a Count. I press record and we begin..

Carson: what does the name Dredd Foole mean?

Dan: (chuckling) It doesn’t mean anything actually. It was a name I started using when I was writing rock criticism for Boston Rock in the early... late seventies early eighties. And I forget how it started but... I just started using it to write... um... and then when I started making music I just kept the name, it sorta stuck.

C: So no tarot cards at all or “oh god, that’s dreadful” or something like that?

D: {chuckling} No. No, it was just a name that I pulled out of the air and...started using.

C: And the Din?

D: Same thing.

C: Just the Din?

D: Yeah it just seemed to... when we first started it just seem to fit so that’s what we picked. It was totally my thing some of the other guys wanted to call it, Clint Conley, wanted to to call it “The Red Hot Pokers” but I though that was really stupid. Clint’s known for his bad band names.

C: In a interview I read that Byron Coley did with you back in 98’, I couldn’t help but notice all the eras that you’ve gone through that many have gone through who grew up in the fifties and sixties. You said you liked The Ronettes, grew up with Motown, watched Dick Clark, loved Bob Dylan, and then later of course punk rock. So, through all this absorption what made you do this very stripped down side to music that could come across to some people as (an) exhibitionist or very interesting? All those eras, what made you do it?

D: {chuckling} I’m not sure, do what... exactly?

C: This very stripped down sound.... {recorder drops on table}

D: Oh, I’m sorry

C: This very stripped down sound like In Quest Of Tense , it’s very stripped, the vocals, it’s almost uninfluential.

D: (pause) Well, the thing is, I do several different things. That particular thing I guess was influenced at the time by um....... it was sort of a combination of space-rock, free-jazz, well at least in my head, space-rock, free-jazz, and... I guess folk music which I was....Generally what I do reflects what I’m listening to, what I really am’ into at the time. I mean, that basically, that record’s from like 94’ so it’s been awhile. But that’s basically what I think at the time what I was thinking.

C: That’s the only record I’ve heard of yours, you have others after that?

D: Uh, not since that, no.

C: And before?

D: Dredd Foole and the Din had one single and two albums and that {In Quest Of Tense} was my first solo thing and only solo thing.

C: Alright... uh,cuz’ you know I didn’t hear too much Motown, {Dredd replies “oh no”}or Ronnettes, or Phil Spector throughout. How come?

D: Uh, that for me was past I just, you know, was in somewhere else at the time so...

C: So did Punk-rock have a huge influence on you?

D: Oh, huge.

C: Did it anyway change...

D: Changed my life.

C: So it changed perhaps the influences from the fifties and sixties?

D: Yep. Absolutely.

C: Even Bob Dylan?

D: Yeah, for awhile. I mean, when punk-rock first hit in the late seventies I sort of... ignored everything else for awhile because it seemed like that was the only thing that was important.

C: Oh yeah, you still feel this way?

D: No, not at all. But it was at the time because it changed everything because up until that point unless you knew how to play an instrument really well you couldn’t play music... so anybody listening or caring.... Then all of a sudden the rules changed completely, it was like anybody could do anything. Anybody that’s got any kind of interesting angle on things can do it, find somebody else to pay attention and say “yeah well that’s cool”. So that’s the main thing that did it I think.

C: So um....

D: And it made rock ‘n roll exciting. I mean in the mid seventies, mid to late seventies, rock ‘n roll was incredibly dull, there was nothing interesting. And all of a sudden it became exciting, there were local scenes, and you know it created all these.... which has always been my main interest which has been local, small- I’ve never been into like arena rock or anything like that. Even in the sixties, I never went to big shows, I always went to clubs and stuff.

C: How come? You never had an interest in mainstream in any artistic sense or...?

D: Not really, well... I didn’t, I never liked huge crowds. I didn’t like being in them, and I uh.... In the sixties, I did like what became mainstream. Things like The Doors and The {Jefferson} Airplane and.... although when they first came out they weren’t considered mainstream, but eventually they became mainstream. And then yeah, I was into that stuff, but I would never travel into Philadelphia, which near where I lived, to see a big concert, I just wasn’t interested.

C: I criticized your performance at the Stone For Festival....

D: {chuckles} You did...

C: Did you notice?.... And I hadn’t realized your background in music, I didn’t realize all the work you had done in the eighties- Mission Of Burma, been affiliated with a lot of different set-ups in that scene- Boston art-rock scene- I pretty much thought you were a regular guy playing music {Dredd chuckles, says “I am”). Do you feel in anyway that your music and perhaps experimental music , or what you would call your music, has to be fully embraced with a following , a cult following, a myth, or a legend?

D: {chuckles} I mean that’s not up to me, I dunno, I have no idea. I just.... {sighing}...I just go along with what I, you know, at the time I... My following has always been Dredd Foole and the Din in the eighties in Boston, our following was always other musicians and artists- they were always the people that were into what we were doing, the general public never really latched on to us.

C: So you never feel that this in any negative way- it’s just the same crowd singing to the same crowd, crowd to crowd and-

D: Well it’s never been that though. It’s always grown, it’s always changed, I mean...

C: You never have an interest in setting your vocals into some other different type of music totally different from what you’re doing in Dredd Foole and the Din?

D: Oh, I do that. I already do that. My solo thing is totally different then... Dredd Foole and the Din, the show you saw, number one, is a once a year show, I mean it was done with the same group of people that we get together, sorta like a family reunion or something, every year we get together, and we’ve been lucky to have good weather every year.... And just have fun, and you know, play for each other. Dredd Foole and the Din I don’t do outside of that, generally once a year is the only time I do that- although I did do another show this year under that name.

C: How’d that go?

D: Uh... it was with other people... And see that’s the thing, Din is not... that band this year that you saw, first time those people had ever played together. I mean, the changes, like last year, it was Thurston {Moore} and Jim O”Rourke, Gene {Moore}, and, I forget who else played {thinking}...Just you know, it’s always different people it just... And then at Flywheel this year I did a show that was called Dredd Foole and the Din and it was with Jack Rose from Pelt and Matt and Erika, Matt Valentine and Erika, and... Chris {Corsano}. Usually Chris is involved if it’s going to be Dredd Foole and the Din because I feel that has to be a drummered thing.

C:Has it been the same- you released one album back in 85’ right? Under Dredd Foole and the Din?

D: Two of ‘em, yeah.

C:Has it been the same members this whole time?

D: At that, no. Completely different. The original Din on the first seven inch was the Mission Of Burma, it was me and the four guys from Mission Of Burma. We did several live shows like that- Roger {Miller} had problems with his ears, he quit Mission Of Burma, after that, the Din became Peter Prescott’s band which was Volcano Suns. And they backed me up for, that was actually the longest running Din, and we’re the ones who recorded those two records- is that band, the two albums...

C: I wanted to talk about your performance in general, your performance, your vocals - what are you trying to do with your vocals , they almost disturb me when I listen to them? {Dredd chuckles, says “I can understand that}. What’s the theme of your vocals ? You have a confidence that I see and there’s a lot of questions I wanted to ask about that.

D: Well the theme, I dunno, “theme”, but what I do with vocals is generally I’m trying to make the voice another instrument, not just something that carries the words, but something that conveys emotions just by the sound and the feeling and the textures of it.

C: That’s what it basically sounds like, but to me-- at least personally-- it doesn’t move; is it more for the mind or body, would you say?

D: {sighing} Um...I guess the, er’ I dunno, I never thought of it. I guess ideally it would be both.... I dunno, I mean you have to realize that I also have a solo thing that I do which is acoustic guitar and voice and that’s based around lyrics and vocals. So that’s a whole different thing-

D: Yeah, well, the songs are...

C: Structured?

D:...basically structured, the only improvisation is I change them every time I play them. I sing them differently, I often change words, I often... change the way I play them, yeah, there’s a basic song structure that I use for every song- every song has a basic structure.

C: What do you think, I mean, of your performance, do you ever try to draw attention in any way during your performance? I’m only using one in particular performance as an example.

D: Well, I honestly don’t think about it, I mean I.... Ideally when I perform, I’m not really concious of what I’m- I mean, the idea of it is to become part of the music and just let it carry me and whatever happens sort of happens. I mean I believe that music is a transforming thing, I mean it’s something {that} really can uplft people, can change things, you know it’s.... My basic, the problem that people have with me, in general what I’ve been told over the years, is that I sort of have a tendency to be naked like when I perform. I mean, everything I do is not concerned with appearences, it’s about feelings and you know what you’re doing, what I’m doing... I basically expose myself every time I play- (cough) not physically.

C: Absolute improvisation, right?

D: Uh, the Dredd Foole and the Din thing we did that Sunday you saw was total improvisation.

C: How come you do only one rehearsal of that band?

D: That’s been the tradition.

C: So you never thought of making it a collaborative.... continuous

D: I’m not into- I don’t want to play in a band, a rock band, I’m just not-

C: You call Dredd Foole and the Din rock?

D: {chuckles} It’s my rock! It’s a close as I’m going to get these days.

C: So you never.. never back in the first two?

D: The original band was a rock band. Totally, even that was improvised to an extent. But they were basic song structures and everybody- My idea has always been to give the people the structure and say you know, “bring your thing to it”, but I’ve always played with the best players. I mean, I’ve been lucky, I’ve always played with the best musicians, it’s amazing to me some of the people I’ve played with. And you know, why would I tell them what to play? And it’s always been this mesh of various things. I mean, the Dredd Foole and the Din that played for the longest time had two of the most disparate guitars you could imagine, but when they played together it was just sort of magic.... to some people.

C: So your performance, you never are trying to- I just want to go back to my original question- draw attention, exhibitionism, not that I think it’s bad thing, certainly a lot of people do that- to get an audience involved, to draw attention? Usually I think of your type of music and people who do it usually is, “if it’s unusual, weird, it must be good, can get away with anything” in that sort of sense you know, putting that in quotations.

D: I mean I don’t really think about that, I dunno. I’ve always been a performer, I’ve always been into performing and there has been times when I’ve- Dredd Foole and the Din in the eighties I spent- especially towards the end when it got really frustrating- I would spend a lot of time in the audience. Sort of getting people involved, but I don’t do that anymore really....

C: Have you gotten a lot of criticism over the years?

D: Hmmm, not really. Like I said, most of the people that have followed have been writers, artists, and musicians. So I’ve never, I mean I’ve had audiences not like it- I mean in writing, no, but I have had... yes, from audiences. Well, generally it’s not even dislike it’s usually like total mystification, they have no idea what’s going on.

C: So is it usually generally the same crowd that follows your concerts? Say the art-crowd or you know...

D: Uh, back in the eighties, yeah. Now, I don’t know, it’s been you know really- I just played for- solo, which is another thing again- See solo, I sit down and play music, so no there’s no exhibitionism or anything going on. And I just played for J Mascis’ audience which I wasn’t sure what to expect and they were very receptive, so I’m sort of in an interesting point now- I didn’t really know what they were going to think.

C: And the solo stuff, do you do the sort of vocals that you would do in Dredd Foole and the Din, kind of flailing screeches?

D: I use that stuff...

C: More words in your solo stuff?

D: It’s all words, I mean they’re all songs with...

C: You’ve been compared to Tim Buckley....I’ve never seen any solo shows, is that sort of a reflection of your solo shows?

D: Well, only in the sense that my, I often, my vocals are sort of free-form at times. I mean I have a wide range, I can sing really high and can sing low. I mean, I think that’s where the Buckley thing comes from mostly.

C: Um... so In Quest Of Tense - it’s the only album I’ve heard and I thought it was quite interesting- you composed it and innovated it in just a couple of nights, right?

D: Yep.

C: You happy with that album? Have you been happy with that album?

D: Yep. I still like it.

C: Five songs, just all yourself. Home recorded?

D: Yep. In my bedroom.

C: Experimental music seems like, like I said, if it’s weird, it’s unusual, it’s different, it sells, people will automatically like it, perhaps for no reason-

D: {chuckling) Wait a minute... who does it sell to?

C: Not sell in a market sense, but sell in a audience you know... sense.

D: Well, you talking about sort of cult-things?

C: Yeah, cult following, the legend, the myth, somebody like Jandek or something like that. Somebody might say to me, “ do you like it?”, and I say well, {“yes”}, but I don’t really know why, you know. That type of thing. It seems like experimental music, first of all do you call your music experimental music?

D: I guess in a sense- I don’t call it anything. But I guess in a sense it’s definitely not mainstream.

C: No, it’s unconventional

D: It’s unconventional, yeah...

C: So somebody would call experimental, I do.

D: I guess, yeah, I guess...

C: Alright...

D: I mean that’s fine, I don’t care. I just never think of it. But yeah, I guess...

C: Sometimes it seems like- not your music- but experimental music in general, meaning everything, the whole history, seems like it has an elite, you know, elite in its avant-garde to {the} mainstream-

D: Well elite in what sense? The fact that there’s a certain group that gets it?

C: {mumbling} Well no, just the whole general thing, it’s elite against anything that has mainstream, is mainstream, or has structure, has any sort of popular following to it. First of all, do you oppose the mainstream?

D: {pause, chuckling} Uh, do I oppose the mainstream? I’m not generally interested in it.

C: Without your music, I mean, without the mainstream you think your music would have existed, might have spawned?

D: {pause} I don’t know. Maybe not. Well, I think, my music is not really a reflection of anything ideally than myself, so I don’t know... I grew up on the mainstream- The thing is, it’s hard to explain, is that in the sixties, particularly the late sixties, the mainstream was the most interesting and innovated music in “rock”, I mean outside rock certainly there was other things.

C: But once punk-rock came it sort of abandoned that? Obviously-

D: Well no, it became. The mainstream became like it always does, bloated, and laid down, and you know, it lost its contact with the real audience which is, you know- I guess punk-rock was people trying to take back rock ‘n roll again- one more run at it or something.

C: So but... do you at all thank the mainstream- What you’ve created in your music I would think you would almost have to thank the mainstream in some sense, or a lot of experimental music.

D: I’m really not sure what you’re asking...

C: Say without The Beatles for example, without The Beatles perhaps your music wouldn’t have happened {Dredd says “right, certainly”} because you didn’t have that pop-culture future. So I’m wondering since you’re a part of experimental music and I’ve talked to enough conventional people to talk about the obvious, I want to know like exactly why you went into experimental, why you choose to do experimental, why you might not like the mainstream, etc. etc.

D: Cuz’ it’s dull and boring {chuckling}. I like excitement, I like music that challenges me, I mean, you know. How did I get into experimental? I dunno, I’ve always been into- I mean I’ve always, even like grade school and high school, always the kid that knew about music that other people weren’t interested in. I always really into The Beatles before they became popular. Particularly The Stones, I was really into The Rolling Stones and they were really hated. But I mean, things like you know, then in the sixties, like late sixties, I got into jazz, then I got into free-jazz- just because I like to be challenged. I mean I like things that are interesting, I don’t like- You know to me, it’s dull to listen to a song that’s exactly the same as a million other songs.

C: But so experimental music challenges you? Dredd Foole and the Din challenges you?

D: Uh...

C: The music itself artistically?

D: (slightly laughing) I guess... Like I said that’s not my thing.

C: All right, your solo stuff then.

D: My solo stuff, yeah, it keeps me interested. I mean, basically, I guess maybe what you’re asking, if I’m not interested in something I can’t perform it. If I’m bored, I just don’t enjoy it, then I stop.

C: Do you, when you think about the mainstream, do you sort of think about the market of it? Or the music of it? {Dredd replies “never”}. Just the music strictly?

D: Yeah, I’m just interested in music, I’m not a business man, I never was.

C: So when you say you don’t like something {like} pop-culture, perhaps you’re thinking of the market instead and not music? ‘Cuz when I wrote my piece about the Stone For Festival I had a friend who commented on how we should all be open to all different music, and I was wondering if people who are in your field- the art world- are open to the mainstream musically?

D: Well I’ve listened to it. It’s not like I ignore it without ever hearing it {Carson says “you’re not elite against it”}. I’m aware of it. And some of it I like actually I mean there are things that I- Depends on how you define mainstream, I mean I dunno. If you’re talking about things that are incredibly popular right now, I’m probably against most of it. Not against it, I just don’t find it interesting. {pause} See the thing is, I’ve been through so much of this stuff, to hear it all over again is {inaudible}. I mean I’m always looking for something to tweak my interest I guess.

C: Do you feel- are you to all experimental music, do you feel a lot of it needs criticism?

D: Sure, anthing needs criticism.

C:But I mean it seems like the general attitude of most people that are into the artworld, seems like “everything, anything” goes.

D: Wow, what art world are you in? I dunno, I’ve never experienced that... I think, well if you’re saying what I think you are, I think you’re misinterpreting it. I mean I think.... you know, the things that are excepted is being good aren’t necessarily- People aren’t open to everything. Nobody that I know is open to everything. And you know, I think there’s a lot more judgment going on that you seem to be {“inter-meaning”- inaudible}. I don’t think people just accept anything if it’s weird. Usually, and there’s a lot of weird shit out there that’s terrible.

C: It seems like people get more of a thrill out of weird things these days rather than say maybe your solo stuff. I haven’t heard any, or somebody’s solo stuff where it’s “heart-on-the sleeve” type of thing. Seems like people get more of a kick out of unusual, eccentric, just...

D: Well but, you’re talking about a really small group of people. I mean a real small group of people, I think.

C: I think the art word is pretty big now, you don’t agree, I think there’s a lot of people out there.

D: And you think the art world’s accepting of weird music all the time? (chuckling) I don’t know...

C: It’s the same as the mainstream, I don’t separate the two, you know. If I criticize, I’ll criticize both the same {Dredd agrees}. I don’t separate musically either of them, so... I just think there’s a lot of the stuff in the mainstream that definitely needs to be criticized and is taken way too seriously and I think a lot of the stuff in the art world is taken a little too seriously.

D: Oh, I agree with that. {Carson chuckles}.... I agree. I mean yeah, I don’t think it’s all good if that’s what you’re asking, no I don’t. Just because something is weird doesn’t make it interesting. I mean, I’m not even a huge fan of Jandek or any of that stuff. You know, that stuff’s- I know why people like it but-

C: I don’t know why. I guess I don’t I mean, what I... I guess I don’t know why people would like Dredd Foole and the Din, which I saw at the concert, why people would like that. I just really don’t understand {Dredd laughs, says “I don’t know either I guess”}? Not to go at you at a personal level or anything, but I guess that I’m just trying to wonder what you’re getting at- your mode of expression, what you’re trying to do, the direction of your music?

D: Well, the whole second piece {of the Stone For Festival} was just a requiem for Peter Kowald basically. Somebody who I really liked a lot, not personally, I never met him, but I liked his music a lot, and felt kind of touched when he died. That’s sort of what that was about. I mean, I don’t know what they were thinking-

C: Oh, they liked it.

D: No I mean the band. I don’t know what they were thinking about, I know what I was thinking. That whole day was, you know...

C: Well, it’s having fun right? {Dredd relaxed says “yeah”)? But you were playing in a public space- it was a free concert, I honor that, I like how people put on local shows, wish there was more of that. But, it was in a public place, in the middle of a town, lot of diverse people, and not a lot people came to the show except the people that were probably invited right?

D: Yeah.

C: So it was pretty much the same people watching their friends and everything like that, but it was also in a public place, so it’s not really immune from criticism.

D: No, not at all.

C: And experimental music itself is never really immune from criticism?

D: No, nothing is. I mean, if you put yourself out there, in any sense, then you invite criticism. Positive or negative, whatever. I don’t have a problem with it. I didn’t really have a problem with your review. The main problem I had with it, was the way you made it- You made it sound like the audience totally wasn’t with Josh {known as Joshua} at all, and that to me was so ludicrous because we’ve all been there for him through the whole thing.

C: Well I was kinda talking about the whole conformity of the audience and the town too. It’s more a holistic sense of the whole entire day within that setting, the church, the kids that I talked to, and just the general attitude of the whole town that I kinda found that everybody’s attracted to, this sort of... weird things.

D: {chuckling} And you felt, I mean what Josh does is totally none mainstream .

C: No, I think it’s more naturalistic, it’s more open to everybody, all people. You agree?

D: No, because, well, it is theoretically, but I don’t think realistically it is because people you know... Talked to some kid on the street whose into N’Sync or something, to them, Josh is like an android from outer space.

C: Well that’s the thing I would like to express, that’s what I try to express to someone whose into N’Sync or rap music or heavy-metal music. I try to more express that there is something out there and what they’re listening to is also important, I don’t de-grade N’Sync or any of that music I think it’s equal.

D: {pause} Yeah, that’s a dangerous proposition- equal, I guess. I mean to something that’s crafted to sell the same as something that’s created from somebody’s inner person? I mean, see I disagree.

C: Well-

D: -N’Sync is this group of people who were brought together, taught how to sing, taught how to dance, taught how to sell to the mainstream. Now that to me is totally different than Josh who comes out there, loves British-folk music in particular, and follows his own muse using that as a basis. I mean that’s totally different.

C: Yeah, it is different. But the people that are accepting it- I accept Josh’s music {the same way} some girl who might accept N’Sync, and we both like it {Dredd says “oh sure”}. We both like it, and that’s what’s spawning the reaction- so it’s two reactions that are important.

D: Ok.

C: They’re influencing-

D: To who? Important...

C: Each other, anybody. One person to me, they’re influencing each other. Influential. No?

D: I guess. I dunno. Influencing each other {said quietly}. I don’t think, well I dunno, ok, go ahead. I’ll accept that, I’m not sure exactly what you mean.

C: Alright, say you’re a listener of your own music, what would you think?

D: {laughing} Wow, that’s a question. How can I answer that? {Carson says “it’s an impossible one”}. Well obviously I guess because it reflects what I care about and like, I guess I would like it.

C: You would see the message you’re trying to bring across?

D: I think so. It’s hard to know.

C: As you said, wordless lyrics, right?

D: Um, not now. I mean I have done that. I do that sometimes, but not in my solo stuff, no there’s lyrics to everything pretty much. I do a couple songs that are open, and I do use lyrics if I’m in the mood, if not...

C: What kind of lyrics?

D: {silence} What kind? {chuckles}

C: I read somewhere, Byron {Coley} said, " philosophical mumblings" - I’m quoting that wrong.... At least In Quest Of Tense , that’s what I’ve heard.

D: {pause} In Quest OF Tense that’s, I think that’s all got lyrics. I mean, that’s a long time ago. I mean, my solo stuff is more related to that than to Dredd Foole and the Din, but it’s not as spacey, it’s not as improvised... anymore... It’s similar in a way I guess. But those all had lyrics, all those songs...

C: You like to stripped down music to its... kind of realistic sense maybe? Is that what you’re trying to do? Make everything your music everything, right? Your words, your vocals are.... as you said earlier?

D: Uh, I’m not sure again what you’re asking.... I like to strip it down. I guess.

C: Make it so, I’m trying to-

D: I try to make it emotionally... Well I don’t try and make it anything, but it comes out emotionally raw, it’s not covered up by layers of... mystery or anything, it’s basic.

C: But it’s unconventional-

D: It is unconventional.

C: What are you trying to do with your vocals when you’re singing? You have a specific sound, a specific Dredd Foole... theme that I hear throughout your work that I’ve heard. What are you trying to do with your vocals, they’re obviously different...

D: ... I’m just trying to convey- I mean, I basically- The songs that I do change as I do them, it depends on how I feel at the moment when I do them. And they’re basically, ideally, are exhibitions of how I’m feeling at the time, I guess.

C: So, are you a realist at all in your art, your work?

D: I guess, I think so, yeah.

C: Sometimes in realism in art, I find it, everybody’s trying to strip it down, make it sound, have everything what they’re singing the whole.... naturalistic world around them. I find sometimes that they always try to make art realism, but in the real life, they want their shoes tied, you know, they want their car locked, they don’t want food stains on their shirt. What do you think about that? What do you think about this sort of realism in art?

D: {long pause} Realism in art art {said quietly}. What do you mean by realism in art? {Everybody speaks at once}. See, I’m not into these terms that much. I mean, realism in art? You talking about painting...?

C: Music.

D: Who are you talking about?

C: Take somebody like- I’m also when I criticize experimental, I’m also criticizing people I love too, like Varese or early {modern} classical, Debussy or anything like that, that got out of the mainstream, got out of the whole... system, and they tried to make art realism. They tried to put realism into their music, sound, environment, liberation of everything into their music. And I sometimes find in their own lives, those laws aren’t existing at all.

D: But why do they have to?

C: I dunno, I dunno.

D: I mean there’s no reason-

C: Well if they’re trying to make art real-

D: Are you saying their art is not valid because their lives are different than...?

C: Not valid, but perhaps it’s not realistic at all... it’s an outside world.

D: {pause} Hmm. Boy, you got me. I never even though of it {Carson chuckles}. I don’t consider... Art generally is an expression of somebody’s soul somewhere if it’s good. But that doesn’t mean that’s the way they live, I mean people are so neurotic and messed up, and I mean everbody’s got their problems. So you know... To live, I guess ideally, in artist would live his vision totally, but you know, who can do that?

C: Uhh, a lot of people can do that.

D: You think so?

C: Sure. Writers can do that.

D: All of them?

C: Not all of them, not all musicians can either.

D: Right, that’s what I’m saying. I mean some can and some can’t. And any... You know , that doesn’t change Varese’s art for example because maybe you know he left his shoes untied or something.

C: Well it might {chuckles}

D: I don’t know, I mean, I really think you’re being way too esoteric about this.

C: Too theoretical? I mean I thought you were very theoretical, and that’s what I was assuming that you had many opinions on the art world. At least to back up your music, I’m not sure, I dunno.

D: I guess I do but not quite so intellectual. I mean the whole thing is emotional. Things that touch me are emotional things generally.

C: Do they usually touch other people, you know? Have they ever told you?

D: Well sure. I mean, I know people who like a lot of the same things I do. I’ve known people over the years- and certainly it’s changed because I’ve been through several generations of things. You know, it hasn’t been the same people- I mean I don’t play my music for the people I was in bands with in the sixties or anything, they’re all somewhere.... doing something completely different. In fact, if they heard what I was playing now they’d think I was nuts.... If that’s what you mean, yeah, you know. I don’t play for the same audience at all. I mean, my audience has changed several times.

C: My impression {was} that you were playing for the same audience, just by that show and then what I heard and what I read about you, it seemed like your consistently; the audience has stayed with you. No?

D: Not at all.

C: What was your connection anyway with Mission Of Burma? It was sort of incoherent with understanding that.

D: Um...Well, we started out as fans. I ended up- I used to hang out with them a lot. And... even before they got together as Mission Of Burma, they were in another band called Moving Parts for awhile- Roger and Clint. Then they met Peter, and they started Mission Of Burma, and I you know started going to see them. And you know, it was a local...

C: Your recorded with them?

D: Yes. Then, a friend of mine took me into the studio with them, cuz’ I had been writing songs and sending to Boston Rock, this guy who was doing a tape column. And he got real interested in what I was doing and he got them and me in the studio together and we started- they hadn’t never even heard me play- and we just played. We did five songs. Two of them came out on the single.

C: What year was this?

D: Uh, 1982. And... then we did some live shows together. And that was the extent of that. And then Peter {Prescott}- or when Mission Of Burma broke up- Peter started Volcano Suns. And then they started- he said you know let’s keep doing Dredd Foole and the Din.

C: Uh... Then you did Cul De Sac recordings too, right?

D: Yep. I recorded a couple of songs with them.

C: Anything else, anybody?

D: Uh... Well over the years I’ve been backed up by different- Christmas, at one point was The Din.

C: Been in a lot of guest appearences too.

D: Yeah, a lot of guest appearences. Yeah... The family tree for The Din would be extremely huge and complicated {Carson chuckles}.

C: You would never want to make it into a huge draft, array of musicians all over the local area, just pounding in through the whole show? Be interesting.

D: Yeah... it’d be interesting

C: That’s what I thought you were doing actually. I didn’t know it was annual... thing. One-rehearsal. I thought it was this whole array of musicians.

D: No, no. It’s just once a year.

C: Because, maybe I was disappointed cuz’ I thought it had a lot of potential maybe. At least to me, I dunno. It’s something maybe...I would think might work out.

D: {pause} Yeah, well, if I was interested in pursuing that. But that’s just not where my interest lies right now. I’m really into writing songs- And I also do a duo with Chris Corsano with vocals and drums that is my improv thing, and I’m much more interested in doing that...

C: What do you do with your vocals in that? More jazz... free?

D: It’s all free. It’s totally improvised, we don’t rehearse or anything, but.... He and I have done several shows together, we’re really on the same plane. We’ve been told we do good things, I dunno, you may or you may not like it. But it’s uh, I think it’s interesting. And he’s like you know one of the greatest drummers I’ve ever worked with- amazing, I don’t know if you’re familiar with his work.

C: I’ve heard some of his stuff.

D: Yeah. Chris is incredible.

C: What do people usually think of these shows?

D: They go pretty well, I mean we’ve gotten real good receptions from what we’ve done. You know we’ve haven’t toured, you know, taken it around the country or anything.

C: Why not? {chuckles}

D: Oh, he’s busy, I’m busy, you know. It’s not his number one thing, not mine, so...

C: Doing that?

D: Doin that. And it’s very stressful on my voice. I couldn’t do it you know several nights in a row, probably blow my voice out.

C: You scream a lot?

D: It gets pretty intense. He plays loud, so you know I have to keep up with him {chuckles}.

C: You use any effects or anything like that?

D: Yeah, I use reverb. I have a digital reverb that I use, change around sometimes during the show.

C: You a fan of Meredith Monk at all?

D: Yep. Her early stuff particularly.

C: Been influenced by a lot of that?

D: Some. Not so much her as... Well {Tim} Buckley was an influence, I mean he’s- {Captain} Beefheart was an influence earlier on, Buckley... as far as the avant-garde world, you know, I guess Meredith Monk a bit. I’ve listened to some avant-garde vocalist but never been totally directly influenced I don’t think.

C: Cuz’ I heard a lot of sort of Meredith Monk on Josh’s {Joshua} {record} when you guest appeared on it.

D: Yeah maybe, I wouldn’t have though of it, but yeah...

{people are now eating lunch around us in all directions. Dredd Foole’s voice lowers after awhile}

C: So uh, you a fan of atonality... mainly in your music, your laws?

D: Mainly? I dunno. Um... I’m a fan. I’m mean, you know, I’m into it....

C: See basically you don’t have much theoretics or laws {Dredd says “Well I try not to”}? Basically improv, you sound like an improv man, right?

D: Well, except for my solo thing which is my main thing, so I don’t know. I mean I believe in freedom, yeah.

C: You don’t intellectualize your art?

D: I try not to.

C: No. You let everybody else do that {everybody chuckles}.

D: I mean I don’t know that intellectualizing it does anything for it. I mean it’s interesting, but...

C: Ahhh....

D: I mean, you know, you got to realize I’ve been through this so many times that it gets to the point where you know, ok, fine, take it apart. I mean I wrote rock criticism for along time too, and.... So I understand it, but it doesn’t really interest me that much. I mean to categorize things now just doesn’t...

C: Yeah, criticism I understand, it comes from more of a personal judgment, you know...

D: Well it’s all personal. I mean really, people you know claim to be objective... but I don’t think that’s possible.

C: But I do think it- The reason why I don’t disagree with criticism is because I think it can show a potential to the artist.

D: Sure. Oh, I mean, I didn’t mean it’s not worth it. I just mean it doesn’t interest me personally...

C: Where, uh... So where you gonna go now with your music, you’ve been doing this for over twenty years now, well over right, what’s down the road?

D: Umm... Well, right now I’m in the middle of building a solo career- that’s my thing right now. I have two records coming out. I have one coming out that’s an improv record that was done with Jack, Mike, and Patrick from Pelt, Chris Corsano and Thurston {Moore}- we recorded a bunch of material. And that’ll be the first one out. And I have a solo record that’s already been approved that I have to mix. So that will be, hopefully, not too long after that.

C: You’ve pretty much been doing this your whole- What kind of work have you been doing to stabilize your music?

D: Umm... You mean what kind of job? {chuckles}

C: For the young-up-and-coming musician who can’t afford...

D: Mostly uh... Mostly record stores, stuff like that. I worked with Forced Exposure for awhile in the warehouse, stuff like that.

C: They brought out In Quest Of Tense, right?

D: Yep.

C: Been a lot of failures too in your work? John Fahey in Days Gone By {wrote there is} extreme failures in experimental music. You agree with this?

D: {chuckles} Failures to what, make money?

C: No, failures just artistically.

D: Hmm. I guess. I guess that’s right...I mean, you know, it depends on what you mean by- Failure, no one likes it?

C: Yeah.

D: That’s not always bad, cuz’ a lot of times people don’t like something and then ten years later they all a sudden catch on. So I mean, just because somebody fails right now I don’t think really means it’s a failure.

C: He also talked about how when he appeared his early albums in the sixties, they came more out of a judgment of his own personal experience, they were sort of a falsehood of his own experience. And it of course attached a lot of following, great deal of following... to this day.

D: Right... The other thing that was different then is there was people, people in general were open to new things. The mainstream itself was even open to new things. And it’s not true anymore.

C: It’s not true anymore you don’t think?

D: No.

C: People aren’t open to new things in the mainstream?

D: In general, no, I don’t think so.

C: Why is it you think?

D: Well because number one, back then rock was not yet big business. Rock was run by people who cared about music. And now it’s run by business men. I mean there’s a huge gap between musicians and business men.

C: So as young musicians, somebody like me, listening to somebody like you, years older having far more experience, what should we expect out of this? What can we do to change this?

D: {chuckles} Uh...

C: It’s pretty absurd, I mean I sorta disagree, I think there’s probably potential within the system I think. Heavy-metal music, techno-

D: Well what about heavy-metal music?

C: I think there’s a great deal of potential within it-

D: For what?

C: Not within the market, but just the particular sound, the emotion, the energy, just the...

D: But the potential for what?

C: Well did you read my last piece H(ear) #2 {concerning the politics of heavy-metal}?

D: Yes.

C:Just... The potential for a change. Like I said, the people that are into that music are intially the ones that great literature and great art was written for. They’ve been deprived, and now they’ve been stuck into heavy-metal. I think there’s a great opportunity. I think it’s been used also a lot for almost a tool for fifteen year olds to beat around too, it’s almost like a tool for somebody to punch a wall. It’s never been used to its full artistic sense.

D: {pause} Used for what?

C: Musically. Expression. New expression.

D: So you think that heavy-metal is where there’s room for... I mean, heavy-metal’s been beaten to the ground, it’s been done over and over.

C: But in the way like a twelve year old would hit a wall, you know. It’s never...

D: So you think it could be taken to high-art?

C: Oh sure, yeah.

D: That’s interesting. I guess, I dunno... Yeah, I mean if that’s where you want to go, I mean, maybe there is a place for that.

C: They took like, again, Varese’s ideas and they made techno music...

D: Well they took more than that. But yeah... Techno. I found techno really interesting. But that’s also become dull.

C: {strained} Everything’s dull.

D: Yeah, when it becomes you know...

C: So is experimental music sort of a recluse- not a recluse- a... a comfort zone for people who find this whole other world dull?

D: {pause} Well, I really think you’re twisting my words but... No... I don’t think the world is dull.

C: I didn’t mean the whole world, I meant musically.

D: The music world. Yeah, I don’t think the whole music world is dull, but I don’t think a lot of it is that interesting anymore. I mean, there all little interesting things going on. But you know, what’s interesting to me is not going to be interesting to a sixteen year old kid or something. I mean, I’m not saying for me, should go for anybody else. But to keep me interested I need something that’s at least trying to push the envelope a bit. I mean, you know, I don’t like something that’s commodified and has been sold a million times.

C: But that’s just the market. That’s just business men talking it’s not the music. It can create a reaction to a fan, anything, and that’s what’s important I think- the reaction.

D: Right.

C: It’s not how it’s marketed, it’s not how it’s distributed, it’s more the reaction of whose receiving it. It can create influences.

D: Yeah...and?

C: Which can push the envelope which means anything.

D: Well not if the influences have been done you know a hundred and fifty times I don’t think. Basically, another thing I think you have to realize, is that rock music has been around long {enough} that I think a lot of the avenues have been explored, I don’t know if there’s a lot more to do... It’s not always going to be the music. The young people. I think part of the electronic age has changed that already. It’s- A lot of kids aren’t interested in rock anymore they’re more into electronic music. Which started out being very experimental and it’s become more commodified because it’s big business. But there are still experimental things going on within that area that are interesting... You tend to group things together and I think you’re missing the fact that there are more than one thing going on in the same group. I mean, all heavy-metal isn’t the same and...

C: I’m not saying that. When I... I subtract, when I think of mainstream music, I subtract the market and I concentrate on the music. I concentrate on the reaction that can be created. The same with experimental music. And I think both groups that listen to them- not are the same, meaning they’re clones- but have the same conformity, have the same-

D: Within their genre.

C: Right, right. Which is all the same. Which I think is a good thing.

D: I don’t know if that’s true.

C: I don’t classify... it into its own classes.

D: Yeah, I dunno if that’s true. I mean... all the same in what sense?

C: All the same in how they’re participating, liking, it can all be... it’s very positive.

D: {pause} Yeah, I really don’t know what you mean. {Everybody sighs and chuckles} I’m not trying to frustrate you I just have no idea what you’re talking about... I mean, you’re talking in real theories, it’s like, none of it is that interesting unless it’s happening in front of you.

C: True. I guess... I hate talking about the obvious.

D: But you are talking about the obvious.

C: I’am.

D: Yeah, to me. I mean, you’re saying all these sort of obvious things. I mean yeah, ok. But I mean, what do you think? What do you think should happen? What is your view of heavy metal?

C: Well I was just using it as an example, other things... {tape ends, Side B quickly turned over}

D:... experimental classical, experimental techno, what? I mean, what do you mean by experimental music? Anything that’s not mainstream?

C: Anything that, like you said, is pushing the envelope, anything that’s unconventional.

D: So that crosses barriers?

C: Yeah.

D: Ok. So how do you classify all that together?

C: People are people. People are listening as one is listening to the other.

D: Right. But they’re not listening to the same thing. But they’re all experimental in a sense.

C: I just think everything is suffering from a class... you know... segregation.

D: A class segregation?... Hmm.... So every music-

C: The crowds are listening to the same thing... music’s made for the same crowd, continuous, continuous, continuous. Goes with great music too. Classical, experimental, heavy-metal, all music. But perhaps I’m theorizing.

D: So you’re saying within any {inaudible} everybody’s just playing and listening to each other and it’s just... But ok, if you wanna accept that as true, for something that’s non-commercial, that’s not mainstream, you need a small support group. You need a group of people who believe in the same thing. Nothing ever happens unless you have a group of people who believe and feel the same way, that take it up and support each other and- That to me is why small scenes count, I mean that’s what they are. I mean any kinda music. I mean... rock in the beginning started out, you know it wasn’t hundreds of people, it was like a few people that were into it and it grew and grew. And the whole psychedelic rock in the sixties, you know it started out in San Fransisco, and the next thing you know it grew and it grew. But it had to start with a small group of people. Generally with the most intelligent, creative, and interesting people, that’s how something starts, because they have the way to create something. And then other people see it and understand or get or are into it for whatever reason. And that’s how it grows. So...But you know, on the level we’re talking you have to have a small, it can’t be huge, I mean you have to play for the same people, has to be the same people, using the same ideas or some of the same ideas maybe. Like the whole punk thing started out, it was these little scenes all over the world, and they weren’t all the same. I mean, in Boston where I was there was tons of different bands. You know everything from The Grrls to Mission Of Burma, it was kinds of different people. But they all had the same basic feeling that something new needed to be created- we had to change things the way they were going. But the most interesting time in any art to me whether painting, is when it’s small and most creative people are involved. Cuz’ when it spreads out and spreads out, you know, the lowest common denominator is how things spread, and it becomes diluted.

C: So you’re highly optimistic about the local scene? Local scene that can create something, small venues, free.

D: Well I dunno, that’s what I find most interesting. I think that’s how things change, that’s how new things are created.

C: Has the most potential in that scene.

D: Is changing, creating new things, yeah.

C: Yeah, so do I. I just also think there’s great potential in the mainstream to separating the market.

D: Well you can’t separate the market from the mainstream, that’s what it is.

C: But musically. I don’t get why you can’t musically. Take the emotion, the drive, the...

D: Well what are you defining as the mainstream?... I mean the mainstream to me means the commercial middle of the road, I mean that’s what it is, isn’t?

C: Yeah, but are you thinking of the music when you’re thinking of this?

D: Well I’m thinking of... Well how can you separate it? You’re talking about music aren’t you?

C: Yeah.

D: So how can you separate music from mainstream?

C: Business?

D: Well the business is what drives it certainly.

C: Maybe we’re at a wall here.

D: At a what?

C: We’re at a wall here. {chuckling}

D: Well what drives the mainstream?

C: Drives the mainstream? Yeah, it is the market, but the music, I’m talkin’ about the music.

D: Yeah... But what drives the music in the mainstream? It’s the business.

C: It’s the business, but I think that’s a very unrealistic reality.

D:..An unrealistic reality? {chuckles}

C: It’s unrealistic.

D: The fact that it does, or what’s unrealistic?

C: The very business itself.

D: It’s unrealistic? Yeah, that’s probably true.

C:But I think the music...

D: Yeah.

C: After years now of watching this, you now take the music out of it. You’ve seen what’s gone on, you’ve seen the... disease of the whole mainstream, the market I mean, now we can take the music and make something out of it perhaps. Because it’s not been used it its full benefit.

D: {slight pause} Well yeah, that’s always been true. But you know, how do you do that? I dunno... what is your idea? I mean, what would you do?

C: It’s up to other people I guess, I’m just trying to make a point.

D: {chuckles} That’s all good but I mean you have to have a vision. If you’re going to say things like that you should really have a vision for you know what... It’s easy to say well lets take the music and do something with it, but do what? I mean you know...

C: Play it.

D: Well everbody’s already doing that

C: Then that’s what’s important.

D: Well that is what’s important, really. I mean I’ll agree with you, that’s really what’s important. People play music... I mean that’s been my whole life is been music. I love music more than anything. So I can’t disagree with that at all. But I don’t... I don’t know what you mean by separating the music from the mainstream. I mean, mainstream music... I mean, I don’t dislike it because it’s mainstream if that’s what you’re driving at... I just...You got to also realize that I understand, I have very different tastes, most people don’t have my tastes. That’s fine, that doesn’t bother me. I have a lot of friends who could care less {pause}. But I do believe in the power of music obviously {pause}. But the power to change things I don’t think can come from the mainstream. The power to change things is always going to be down on the street, the very bottom level, where people are not caring about anything except changing something. I mean that’s basically what I’m saying.

C: I agree with you. I’m just trying to make a point within an argument.

D: Ok.

C: I think we’ve answered it, or not.

D: Or not, right.

C: Any upcoming shows?

D: Uh... No, not planned. I don’t have anything- The things with J {Mascis} were the last things I had planned. So...

C: You do a lot at the “Flywheel”?

D: I’ve played there yeah, a bunch of times. Solo and duo. Never been there?

C: No, I haven’t.

D: It’s a good place. I like it. It’s real funky, it’s not much of a... comfortable space or anything.

C: Any people in Brattleboro {Vermont} you’ve been- Any musicians in Bratlleboro?

D: That I’ve played with?

C: Or young musicians in Brattleboro that you know of or played with?

D: I haven’t seen too much. There’s a couple of singer/songwriters that I kinda like... But no, I haven't seen much music or anything. I haven’t done any shows in Bratlleboro. I’m hoping to do some soon. There’s a guy whose starting to talk about doing shows up here. I do stuff with Matt Valentine whose now a Guilford resident, and Erika. But as far as people up here, no, I don’t really know that many musicians... Most of my comrades are down in Western Mass.

C: Big scene down there. Whole Boston-art-rock scene.

D: {chuckles} Big? I don’t know. But yeah, there’s a bunch of people. Bunch of good people. It’s not real big though. I don’t know what you mean as big.

C: It’s impressive.

D: {chuckles} I guess... I guess. Yeah, there’s a lot of good people. People doing interesting things, keeping things- Like Josh. I love Josh’s stuff. And you know, Matt and Erika’s thing is really interesting. {inaudible} There’s a lot of people from New York that come up and play. Sonic Youth. I guess they can be considered a Western Mass. band now.

C: Alright. To sum up this interview, still listen to The Ronettes?

D: {chuckles} Mmm, well, not really. I mean occasionally I might, not very much probably. There still in- I still have their records if that means anything to you. Maybe once in a very great while. I still think they’re great. Still appreciate...

C: Alright. We done? Got anything more to say?

D: Uh... No, I guess... I guess I’ve said as much as I can think of

October 2002

copyright 2003 Carson Arnold

Other Interviews ~



AFTER THE REHEARSAL (A Scott Rosenberg Interview)

RAINBOW SPLASH (An Interview with Essra Mohawk)

MIDNIGHT ANGEL (An Interview With Joshua)

Calling Dudley Laufman (An Interview)

Sunday At One-Thirty ~ An Interview with Peter Siegel


H(ear) Reviews and Essays

H(ear) is an online music column consisting of interviews, articles, and investigations written by Carson Arnold. As a freelance writer for various magazines and liner notes, living in the woods of Vermont with his family, Carson widely encourages one to submit their art, writing or any interesting piece of material that you would like to share. H(ear) is accepting both promos and demos for review or any other valuable music-related subjects. If you wish to make a comment or would like to receive H(ear) weekly by email please contact Carson at [email protected]

Thanks and enjoy!


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