Dag Nasty circa Smalley, Photo courtesy of: Dag House
To wrap up our Dag Nasty poll where we asked you who your favorite Dag frontman was - Shawn, Dave, or Peter - we went to the man himself and winner of the poll, Dave Smalley. I know I speak for Tim as well when I say that I love Shawn Brown and Peter Cortner and all things Dag...but Dave is my favorite, as is Can I Say. He got our votes. Thanks Dave. Take it away... -Gordo DCXX
Was it hard to step into singing for Dag Nasty after Shawn Brown had already structured lyrics and been known as the singer?
It ended up feeling very natural. As for the lyrics, Brian had some huge input into those, too. He’s known as an amazing guitarist, of course, but he’s also an underappreciated, really good lyricist. I think that no matter who writes what, great lyrics are great lyrics – the main thing, as a singer, is to only do lyrics if they speak to you. Can you sing it from the heart in a way that is unique and powerful? And, is it a strong fit of musicians? I think the original album lineup – me, Colin, Roger, Brian – is a very special chemistry. I love those guys, those songs and our recording sessions. It just seemed to click. Sometimes in life that happens, and when it does, it’s a really unique thing.
Since I was already friends with Brian and absolutely love his songwriting and guitar playing, and also Roger and Colin’s amazing rhythm section playing and personalities, and since we all come from the same era of punk and American hardcore – which, you have to remember, was a tiny universe that created really unique bonds in the early 1980s – Dag Nasty felt very natural. And, I was the band’s roadie before I was the singer, so I knew the songs, and had been able to feel them and interpret them in my own way, and get very comfortable with them. So I was able to hopefully give them a unique feel. Hopefully I was able to do the lyrics justice.
Brian Baker on Coke and Doritos, Photo courtesy of: Dag House
What did you think of Dag Nasty with Shawn singing?
Shawn is great! I’m a fan of Swiz, too. I like all the eras and lineups of Dag Nasty.
What do you remember "going for" and really trying to convey on the Can I Say album when you started singing those songs?
You know, Can I Say is one of those albums that is really unique, and has stood the test of time. And that’s such a credit to Brian’s songwriting and guitar style. So my memory of things was less a planned “what to go for” thing and more thinking “oh man, this is such a great song” (for every song), and let the emotion and heart and mind be free, and go with that vibe. My style of singing I think/hope fits the music well. Brian’s songs (and Sam’s in Down By Law) are great to hear as a singer, because you really have to rise to the occasion, not overthink it, and just ride the wave, naturally. But also you have to be on top of your game, because anything less won’t cut it.
How much say did Brian Baker have in your style and how you sang the songs?
Brian is a very respectful artist, who encourages other artists to be at their creative best. He is a part of the process, but as a friend and fellow artist, not as an overseer. The trick in a band, or in life for that matter, is to get good people together and allow them to do what they do well, and let creativity flourish.
Who you gunna call? ... Roger, Photo courtesy of: Dag House
If you had to pick one song as your favorite off the album, what would it be?
That’s really hard. I honestly think Can I Say is one of those albums where every song is incredibly strong. I don’t think I can pick one, but I will say that in my solo concerts, from that album I play “Values Here,” “Circles” and “Under Your Influence.” Plus “Ghosts” and “Twisted Again” from “Minority of One.” I might add more in future shows.
Colin Sears with Dag Nasty at The Rat, Boston, 1986, Photo: Dave Runit
Can you remember the first time you heard the Wig Out recording? Did it still sound like Dag Nasty to you? What did you think of Peter?
Yes, I do remember it – someone sent me the album when I was in Israel (I had quit Dag to go to grad school, and ended up doing my first year of grad school at Hebrew University in Jerusalem). Anyway, I remember listening to it late at night, in my apartment there, and I cried, because I wished I had been the one singing them. But that was a reflection on myself for quitting, not about the album – because I thought Peter did great. Some of those songs, Dag had been doing before I quit, and so it was very interesting to see the different approaches that ended up getting recorded with Pete.
What type of relationship have you had over the years with Shawn Brown and Peter Cortner? What about today?
I don’t see them much, but mostly because we all live in different places, unfortunately. I have a job and a family, as I’m sure those guys do too, and when I’m not doing one of those things, I’m on tour a lot, either with Down By Law or DYS, or doing solo shows. I would love to hang out with them, though.
Dave Smalley - 279
Shawn Brown - 54
Peter Cortner - 38
Punk Rock Demigod, Dave Smalley, Photo courtesy of: Dag House
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 11:59 PM