Oldies Icon Returns to the Days of Singles

Thursday, December 22, 2011 17:17

An Interview with Dave Mason

by: Casey Pukl

Being an oldies radio junkie, Dave Mason’s music has long been a part of my life. I can still remember singing “Feelin’ Alright” in my dad’s truck, and later cursing his name in college as I tried to transcribe the guitar part in “We Just Disagree” (more on this toward the end of the interview). Mason is an icon in rock music. He’s a founding member of the band Traffic with Steve Winwood, an incredible guitar player (who doesn’t read music), and one heck of a hit-maker. I was fortunate to have the chance to speak with him this morning to discuss his recent happenings including his new acoustic set, how he’s adapting to changes in the music industry, and the charity he’s help found that assists veterans.

CP: What have you been up in to 2011?

DM: I’ve mostly been touring this year with the band. Towards the end of the year, I started touring this acoustic show with my guitar player, Johnne Sambataro. It’s been really fun to do, and I thought it would be cool to switch it up and do something new.

CP: Have you been recording and writing at all this year?

DM: I’m always doing something. I’m always playing around in my home studio now, but I don’t think I’ll ever release another record— not with the way the industry is right now anyway. But I’ll be releasing stuff through my website. We’re redoing the site right now, and I’ll be adding some new things as we go.

CP: You hit right where I was headed. I’ve been talking to so many artists lately who have been in this business for decades about how technology has changed the way they conduct business and record.

DM: It’s not the technology so much as it is the lack of radio. There’s nowhere to promote and get the airtime. There are no more national radio formats. The internet just gives you another way to access the information. Well, I guess it also allows… well… to be quite frank, it allows mass theft, really. But the radio problem is the weakest link in the whole thing right now. 

CP: Do you feel like the internet has allowed you to have a closer connection with the fans that you previously had, but it has made it tougher to find new listeners?

DM: I see the internet as just a way to access information differently. It doesn’t grab new people. It does connect my fans with my website and they can purchase my music, but again, it’s something they know is there. I’m not grabbing new fans through it.

CP: Going back to your writing for a second, do you have a typical writing process, or does it really vary each time you sit down?

DM: It’s different every single time. It could be a phrase, a musical line, a rhythm, a word. It could be anything that starts it off. Then there’s those times where you just get a flash of inspiration that happens maybe two or three in a lifetime and the song just comes.

CP: What song or songs stand out to you as those flashes?

DM: Definitely the song from a while back, “Every Woman”. That one for sure. 

CP: What kind of software are you using in your home studio?

DM: Pro-tools mostly. I’ll use whatever works. I mean, Traffic used to record on a 4 track. (Laughs).

CP: Will we be hearing any of the projects you’re recording?

DM: Yes, but the only place I’ll be releasing new music now is on my website (www.DaveMasonMusic.com). I’m going back to how it all started, and I’m just releasing singles. There’s not a huge selection on there right now, but there will be soon. There is a great version of “Dear Mr. Fantasy” on there. 

CP: Going back through your career, is there one particular moment that stands out to you as one of the highlights?

DM: I’d have to say recording with Jimi Hendrix would be one of those. There are so many moments like that, but recording with him was cool.

CP: I’ve heard you comment previously that he was actually a really quiet guy?

DM: Yeah. When he wasn’t playing or working, which wasn’t all that often, he was just a really nice, quiet guy. I played on his Electric Ladyland album. I sang on a track called “Crosstown Traffic,” and played acoustic guitar on “All Along the Watchtower”. It was a definitely one of the highlights.

CP: I read recently that you’ve been doing a lot of charity work with your own organization, “Work Vessels for Veterans.” Can you tell me about this?

DM: Absolutely. The charity idea was started by John Niekrash and Ted Knapp, and I’ve been kind of the mouthpiece since I’ve got access to people. But we started about four years ago, and the goal was to help veterans transition out of service and into businesses. We like to say that we don’t give out hand-out’s, we give out hand-ups.

CP: That’s such a great idea. Sounds like a fantastic program.

DM: It really is. Most of the time, people leave the service and go into other civil service jobs. But one of those jobs is creating new businesses to employ other people. The program is great because once the companies we help get started start to turn a profit, they put some of it back into the program, and they employ other veterans.

CP: Do you know how many businesses have been started since you started?

DM: We’ve probably helped about 65 vets get their ideas off the ground. There’s an office cleaning service in St. Louis, a blueberry farm in Florida, trucking companies, you name it. It’s probably the thing I’m most proud of in my life.

CP: I can see why. That’s a great way to give back.

DM: If people want to check it out, they can go to (www.wvfv.net) for more information.

CP: Can they donate on the site?

DM: Yes, and donations don’t have to be just money. We take computers, trucks, boats, anything that can be used to start the business.

CP: Very cool. Tell me a little bit about your upcoming shows at Anthology. Anything in particular you’re looking forward to? 

DM: Well, we’re playing the acoustic show this time, which I think is going to be pretty cool. I’ve been to Anthology a few times before, so I thought it would be cool to do the new show there. We’ll be playing a little bit of everything— old, new, little bit of all of it. But I’m excited to come back. It’s easy to be personable and interact with the audience in that room. You get to chit chat with the audience, so that’s always fun. But I’m excited to be in San Diego. My sister lived here, and she passed away, but my niece and nephew still live here. It’ll be nice to see them and have them at the show. 

CP: Sounds fantastic. One last thing before you go, and it’s really just an observation, but it’s something I have to put out there. “We Just Disagree” is really deceptively hard to play.

DM: (Laughs) Oh yeah?

CP: Yes! I remember trying to learn it in college, and it was far more difficult than it sounded!

DM: Yeah, it did take me a little while to learn to play and sing it at the same time, but I got it.

CP: I’m still working on putting the two together. It’s tough!

DM: (Laughs) I guess it is.

Special thanks to Dave for his time! Be sure to check out our Spotify playlist of Mason favorites! You can also purchase tracks from his website below, and be sure to check out his charity, “Work Vessels for Veterans”!

Dave Mason Hits

WHAT: Dave Mason
WHEN: Wednesday & Thursday, December 28 & 29, 2011, 7:30pm
TICKETS: $19-$79 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile