Jeff Dahl Print E-mail
Written by Dom Daley   
Sunday, 27 September 2009 19:02

 

jeffdahlstiv

There are some musicians who go through decades and changing styles and have an unshakable belief in whatever they do and who care passionately about the music they create, no matter what the critics might say and what music fashion is hip at the time. In fact, there are some who are always hip and stay in love with the music they listen to and create. Jeff Dahl is one of those people. From the West Coast punk explosion of the late 70's, Jeff Dahl has remained an indestructible constant year after year, releasing album after album. In 2009 he still gets excited about entering the studio to make music. We at Über Röck caught up with him to ask him what's going down in the Dahl house and try to find out what this underground rock monster is up to next. Sit back, relax and enjoy the wise words of the one and only Jeff Dahl.....

 


You have an incredible back catalogue of releases. Can you pick any that stand out as your favourite both album and single songs? Albums like 'Heart Full Of Snot' have a really aggressive sounding guitar (very raw) yet 'Battered Stuff' and 'Have Faith' are mellow and seem the total opposite? Looking back, there must be a favourite?

 

The standard answer to that is: "They're like my children and I can't pick a favorite." But the stuff I worked on with Cheetah (Chrome - Dead Boys) like 'I Kill Me' is stuff I like a lot. I think the 'Powertrip' album was ahead of its time. Vox Pop 7" and my first, 'Rock n Roll Critic' solo 7", are also favorites. Having said that I think the best singing I ever did was on the version of 'Open Your Eyes' that I recorded with Poison Idea (Lords Of The New Church cover, featured on an album called 'Dead Boy' that also had a few other Stiv Bators songs on there). That was fun and we wanted to pay tribute to Stiv who was a huge influence on us. Honestly, my records are all really different but I like them all...or I would never have released them! Ha ha.

 

Having begun recording back in 76/77 did you think you'd still be making music 30 years later?


No, absolutely not. I never even thought that that recording would even be released. That wasjeffdahl inconceivable in '76 or '77. I didn't even think I'd still be alive in 30 years!

 

 

Is there anything left you are still chasing musically? Any collaborations or gigs you'd like to play?


Most of the cool stuff  I did already. But I love collaborations. I'd love to record or tour with Cheetah again. And the idea of a Vox Pop reunion of some sort intrigues me...though I doubt it could be pulled off.

 

 

How on earth do you choose a set list from almost 30 albums and 100 7" singles? How is your memory for remembering lyrics and chords to your songs?


There are about 15 or 20 solid fan favorites that need to be in most sets and then I like to throw in a few off the wall songs that might surprise people... and I love playing Stooges covers... but yeah, my memory is shot for lyrics. Most people know my lyrics better than I do.

 

 

You said before you like playing Europe because "they get it" possibly more than people in the USA - do you think this is still true? Surely now in 2009 the world is a smaller place, and people have knowledge and music at the press of a button, it is easier to spread the word no matter where you live?

 

It's more a matter of appreciation. In Europe and Japan, a lot of the older US punk bands seem to be more appreciated. It was the same during the 50's and 60's for US blues and jazz artists. In America they were all but forgotten until the Stones and the Yardbirds started playing their songs to a wider audience. So the access to the knowledge is available, it's a question of if someone wants to check it out. But in the US, and all over the world, there are small groups of people searching out the cooler, more obscure stuff. Same as always I guess... it's just that with computers and the internet it's faster and easier.

 

 

I think it's well known you got into The Stooges from the beginning.  What else influenced you when you started?

   
  

With The Stooges, remember that I grew up at about the same time as they did so I listened to a lot of the same music they did. Blues, garage rock, hard rock... even some jazz and soul. And at the time I started writing my own songs and playing guitar. It was right after the 70's glam rock ended. There was only disco happening then. So, like a lot of the early punk rockers... like The Clash, the Null and the Vibrators... punk rock was the logical progression from bands like the Stooges and T-Rex and the New York Dolls. That glam rock connection is crucial to early punk rock.

 


Didn't you record your first single when you only knew a couple of chords?


Yes, I recorded what became my first single two weeks after I bought my first guitar. I'd seen an advert in my local record store for a 4 track studio to rent for $4 an hour. So I wrote a couple songs just to see what they'd sound like... the rest is history. That's still my motivation even now. I love writing songs and the recording process of putting it down on tape, or the computer now, is still one of my favorite things to do. I love recording. It's never been about the technology for me... how many tracks, equipment... It's always been about the song. There's an old saying about recording in the studio, "Everything must serve the song." Some of the best music is stuff that is badly recorded or maybe the singer is not the best or the guitar is a little out of tune... Primal, raw... I love that stuff.

 

 

jeffstivcheetahI've got  footage of you playing with Stiv Bators and Cheetah Chrome - you also played with some other great bands and singers;  any stories that stand out?

 

I've been getting asked a lot about that video footage with Stiv & Cheetah... that was the last time they ever played together. So that's a really special memory for me. Playing with the Samoans in New York in '81 was a lot of fun... And I remember when I played at the A7 Club with GG Allin & The Jabbers... Playing with Battalion Of Saints and Discharge in San Diego... so many cool shows.

 

 

You mentioned that you played with GG Allin. What did you make of the guy? He was always an extreme guy, of that there is no doubt, but what was he like to play with? He certainly performed on the edge. Some of the footage out there is difficult to watch, but musically his early stuff was great....but he let the myth grow bigger than the music and overshadow it. What is your take?

 

I played with GG very early on when he had an actual band, The Jabbers. Before any of the really crazy stuff started. I remember we talked for an couple hours about Brian Jones and the Stones and just music in general. He was a lot smarter than people seem to think. Later on, if you wanted that character, he'd give it to you. But we kept in touch over the years and there was a lot more depth than people know.

 

             

It's a shame you never recorded with someone like Stiv - was it ever discussed? A Jeff Dahl, Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan and Stiv Bators collaboration would have been awesome!


I've got no doubt that if Stiv was still alive we would have done something in the studio together. We did talk about it. I certainly would have loved to have done it. I never actually met Johnny Thunders. I spoke to him on the phone a couple times. I love his music and his guitar style and songwriting. It's still great music after all these years. But I never spoke with him about recording or playing together. Sadly it'll never happen.

 

                                                                                

Would you ever consider playing as The Angry Samoans or recording some newjeffdahlsamoans material?


If it was the Samoans of my era... Todd Homer, Gregg Turner, Billy Vockeroth & PJ Galligan... it would be fun to play those songs with those guys again. But I think what Metal Mike is doing with his current version of the Samoans that is playing and touring is very cool and I hope he keeps playing for kids to see and to keep the Samoans legacy alive.

 

 

You've always released cover songs - some household titles like 'Ziggy Stardust', 'Paint It Black' or 'Personality Crisis'. If you were to release another album of covers what would get on the record? Say from the last 10 or 15 years?

 

Well, like I said, I love great songs! And those are all such fun to play. If I were to do a cover album of more current bands... The Urgencies from Texas, Labor Party, Jet, Diamond Dogs, Antiseen, Texas Terri, Mommy Sez No, Sioux City Pete, Jacobites, Hammerlock... I might even throw in a Sheryl Crow song just to fuck with people.

 

 

If  I were to introduce someone to your music where would you suggest they start? How much of it is still available?


Start with the Triple X Records, Best Of album... I don't even know if it's still in print but you can find copies on eBay and Amazon. Honestly, I don't know what of the older stuff is still actually in print or available, if any. All the last Steel Cage releases are available. Check out the newest one, 'Back To Monkey City'... a lot of people are saying that's my best one in years. Go to their web site.

 

 

In the UK people might know you for the split you did with Diamond Dogs on 'Atlantic Crossover' - did you choose the Diamond Dogs track 'Bite Off'? Did you think they did a good job of 'I'm In Love With The GTOs'?


That's cool! I love that record. Yes, we each chose which track we wanted to cover. I was really amazed with what they did with '....GTOs'. They made a very cool version. I love those guys.

 

 

Are you working on anything at the moment, writing or producing?


Yes, I'm finishing up writing a new album and I'll start recording soon. I'm always writing new songs... so I need to start recording before I get too many more.

 

 

Going back to your live gigs, do you have any tales from the road that could be classed as a gig from hell considering who you've shared a stage and bills with?


Too many to list, maybe I should write a book. In the Angry Samoans I bit off a piece of my tongue when I was singing. I did one tour in Europe of 40 shows in 40 days when I had pneumonia but the show must go on, so I still played all the shows. I've never cancelled a show on tour in all those years.


 


What fact about you would surprise a fan of Jeff Dahl? Any skeletons in the closet like Hawaii Scrabble champion three years on the bounce or you're very active in  your local neighborhood watch helping to distribute leaflets and organising talks?


What is Scrabble? On that basis, I'll pass there however - I think some people know this - I've been into long distance running all my life. I've done marathons and 50 Mile Ultra running races... half Ironman Triathlons... I'm not in that kind of physical condition right now... too many old injuries. But I do still run for enjoyment. Oh, and I recently learned how to make stained glass art, so I've been doing a lot of that.

 


How do you view modern music media like downloading? I have the impression that you champion vinyl as you have released over a hundred  7" singles. Does illegal downloading have a great impact on you as a recording artist? Before long it will almost all be via the computer - the shops are all but gone in the UK already. Any thoughts?

 

I can only speak for myself, but I still love to buy albums... vinyl, even CDs... a download, I can understand why people like this method now, but I like to hold it in my hand. It goes back to when I was a young boy... buying a new album was a big event! You'd take it home, take off the plastic wrap, put the needle on the vinyl, study the artwork and the liner notes... it was like a whole world in my hands. But things are changing and there doesn't seem to be a lot we can do about it. A download just seems like you're getting short changed.

 

jeffdahllive

 

When will we see you live in the UK?


 

I don't know, I've just gotten up on Myspace and Facebook and a lot of new interest has been coming up. Possibly, when the next album is released I may do a tour to support it. I would really, really love to play the UK. I've done over ten tours of Europe but I've only played three shows in England back in 1990! A lot of that is just how it works out economically and logistically. But considering all the music that came from England and how much it's influenced me... I'd love to play the UK again. (Mmmmm I wonder if my local clubs are up for a bit of Jeff Dahl seeing as I live at Wales's Rock n roll central?!?)

 

 

Of all the many albums that are out there you win the prize for the best names, 'French Cough Syrup', 'Scratch Up Some Action / Pussyfart K.O.', 'Teenage Glam Fag',  'Motherfucker 666', 'Heart Full Of Snot' and The Spiders From Uranus played on 'Leather Frankenstein', 'I Kill Me' and 'Street Fighting Reptile'. Any names that didn't make it?


 

Thanks! There's nothing worse than some pretentious, boring album name right?. I've still got a couple good ones still saved away but I'll keep 'em secret or someone will steal 'em!

 

 

Finally 'I Kill Me' - autobiographical? And the track 'I Haven't Had A Drink In A Long Time' - is this still the case? You've been called a rock n roll survivor. But there are many who started off down the path of rock n roll who never made it this far, through one thing or another, and there are others who are still going strong. Have you had a good support network around you to help through the tough times?

 

 

Yeah. A lot of my songs are autobiographical but I've been straight for a long time now. Honestly, and I don't want to sound like I'm taking it for granted, but it's not something that I still struggle with. I guess I just did so much of that stuff that I had my fill. When I stopped, I just stopped. I just don't live my life that way anymore. In that respect I am very, very, VERY lucky and I know it. But it's kind of a ghost that follows me around... it's in the back of my mind and I respect it.
 

 

That's that then! Jeff Dahl is now working on a new album and is officially a friend of Über Röck! If you haven't heard any of his stuff then go to his myspace at http://www.myspace.com/jeffdahlbandand check out some tracks off his last album and the Lords cover of 'Open Your Eyes'. Better still, pop over to http://www.steelcagerecords.com and pick up some cd's or vinyl.