Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dave Speaks

Here's a transcript of an interview with Dave Malone conducted last year shortly after the Radiators announced that the band would close up shop.

John Swenson: I had the interesting assignment to go on the road with The Band in 1976 and write about their last tour. They were on the road honoring their commitments but

there was friction. Robbie Robertson seperated himself from the rest of the group but the others weren't ready to stop. This strikes me to some extent as a similar situation.

Dave Malone: I guess it should be made clear that the band did not decide to stop. A key and most people would argue the key guy decided that not only could he not take the

road anymore and believe me I totally get that because the road always wins and eventually ... we all have a hard time recovering. I'm 58 and I'm the youngest guy in the band.

In theory we could have kept playing around local stuff or hand picked gigs but he wants to just quit completely. He not only wrote most of the songs, he sings more of them

than I do and plays all the keyboards, he's also made every set list that we've played, of course we generally ignore them but they are guidelines. When somebody that

important decides he doesn't want to do it anymore, what can you say?

J.S.: Can you imagine continuing?

D.M.: Yeah I can imagine it. It remains to be seen. It means trying out another keyboard player and it would have to be someone who can sing but sure it could conceivably

happen. It's way too soon for me to say one way or the other about that but the question was 'Is it conceivable' and yes it is conceivable, of course.

J.S.: You're playing out your commitments.

D.M. Ed had agreed to play through Jazz Fest and after a day of sorting through the email I called him up and reminded him that there were other gigs we had booked beyond that

that he wasn't necessarily aware of because I handle that stuff along with Josh our road manager. When he found that out he agreed to go to the last booked gig. Then he called

me back an hour later and said I think the last gig the Radiators play should be at home. I had been thinking the same thing. So Tips would be great, hopefully we could have

farewell shows at Tips on the second weekend of June next year. That's what's going on.

J.S.: What's been the reaction?

D.M.: Disbelief and... sadness, I guess you'd say. Pretty much sad people. People have been calling me up, people I don't talk too that often, crying. It's awesome to hear

that this music means so much to so many people but it's kind of heartbreaking to hear.

J.S.: How does this feel to you personally?

D.M.: I don't know actually. Im sure when it gets closer to the end date I'm gonna be way more emotional than I am now and I am emotional now already. It's the end of

something that's been more than half of my life. Even thinking about him not being there is like having to think about your parents not being around. This steadfast thing

thats been in your life for this long a time to be suddenly gone is gonna be very weird.

J.S.: Do you think of your identity as a musician as Dave Malone of the Radiators or do you think of yourself in a larger context?

D.M.: I've done side projects that felt really good but for the most part yeah because I've been playing with this group of guys for so long, more than any other thing, you

start to question whether it will work in some other setting. I don't have arrogance and ego to think anything other than that. Luckily I've been doing outside projects

enought to indicate to me that there's more to me than being Dave the Radiator.

J.S.: But you will continue to play.

D.M.: How can you not play? That's what we do. I'm a guy who plays music with a guitar. What would I do? My youngest daughter wrote me out a possible future career list.

Number one was cowboy. Number two was bodybuilder and number three was a wood carver. No, I think of myself as Dave the guitar play singer guy. Hopefully I'll do some stuff

with my brother Tommy, hopefully I'll do some stuff with my daughter, my son, with some of the other musicians I love playing with. I don't know that yet. I'm still trying to

digest that the Rads aren't gonna be in my life anymore as such anyway.

J.S.: Fortunately there's still seventh months.

D.M.: Yeah you might think I have all this time to make a decision but I have all this time to be sad too. Thank god it didn't happen like it could have happened. We tempted

fate, we tempted death for a lot of years and at least we're not breaking up because a band member died. I'd be a blubbering mass of jelly if that happened.

J.S.: Maybe there's something to be said for stopping while you're still at a peak, like the baseball player who retires after a great season.

D.M.: That's easier said than done. It's one thing if your monetary rewards made retirment not an issue but we have to earn a living of some sort. It's a dilemma someone whose

in the world of being an artist, but you also have to pay the electric bill.

J.S.: People I'm talking to are looking at this as the end of an era.

D.M.: People calling me up and saying this stuff to me, it's just tearing my heart out. But I'm proud also at the same time. I'm having my heart yanked out because there are

so many people across the country whose whole friend base and love life, families even, are based on being around the Radiators. They're calling and saying they can't imagine

their lives without us, weve played their weddings, people have built social communities out of connections to the band, which is really incredible. I'm honored to have such a

big part in making their lives what they consider to be good, it's really touching.

J.S.: It's also the end of an era in that the radiators are the one rock band left in New Orleans with a direct tie to Professor Longhair and Earl King.

D.M.: We played with both of those gentlemen and they were super influential on our musical environment, but we also have ties to all of New Orleans rock and roll, we do

versions of some pretty obscure New Orleans songs. Lots of people don't even know that they're not our songs. We were lucky to grow up in an age when we could hear Ernie K-Doe

and Benny Stillman and Earl King and the Hawkettes on the radio and we were thinking everybody in the country was hearing this stuff because at the same time we were also

hearing what were national hits. We found out later that wasn't true. There are some bands coming up that are connecting themselves to some old brass bands way of playing,

even reinventing the songs. There needs to be another wave of kids appreciating the golden age of New Orleans rock and roll, all the Cosimo recordings and all that stuff.

There probably will be but we are the only band I know of that plays those songs regularly and understands how important that was in our musical formation.

J.S.: And you play those songs in the same context as songs by the Beatles and the Stones and the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers and all the blues and country stuff.

D.M.: We have that eclectic taste because back then the radio had free reign to play whatever the disc jockey wanted to play. You could hear Hank Williams Sr. and Otis Redding

and (laughs) Gary Puckett and the Union Gap back to back. We have all these diverse musical influences that were all brought to the table when we created our own songs as

well. I dont think we have a polka. We have to work on that.

J.S.: How thick is your schedule?

D. M. This just happened. I have to figure out how many gigs the guys want to play.

J.S.: Are you gonna do a Last Waltz type event?

D.M.: That's the idea. We've been talking about doing another studio album. The Last Waltz was not only about the band but also about all the people who had anything to do

with them. Some of the feedback has been that people just want to see the rads. We'll have to make a judgement call on that I think.

J.S.: The Last Waltz was clearly not just the end of The Band but a capsulization of a whole era of music. Maybe this being the end of a different era maybe that's the feeling we take away.

D.M.: I'm getting weepy just talking about it. I want it to be joyful, honest and honorable.

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