with Jon Dawson of Third of Never
Name: Jon Dawson
Bands: Third Of Never, Electric Forgiveness, Taboo Stu
Websites: www.343Collective.com, www.thirdofnever.com, www.jondawson.com
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a professional musician?
Jon – Probably 11; around the time I heard “I Can See For Miles” for the first time. It was catchy, ominous, & had some teeth.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your musical career?
Jon – Collaborating with John “Rabbit” Bundrick (The Who, Bob Marley, Free, etc.) in Third Of Never & Electric Forgiveness. Recording a few tracks with Dennis Diken of The Smithereens was a thrill, as they’re one of my favorite bands. Jim Babjak of The Smithereens actually recorded a guitar part with my Rickenbacker, which was a big music geek moment for me. Having a song from our first album chosen for the film A Good Old Fashioned Orgy starring Jason Sudeaikis, signing the contract, receiving a clip of the film with the song in it only for the producers to cut all music out of the film. Bill Scheft of the David Letterman show trying to get us on the show for around a year & being able to do shows with Scheft’s band The Truants. Being scheduled to appear on In The Attic with Pete Townshend & Rachel Fuller only to get bumped by David Bowie.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Jon – I was married at 23, so we had plenty of time to think it over. We had our first child when I was 30 & whipped up another one six years later.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Jon – The overwhelming positive is the support & not thinking what I’m doing with music has been a waste of time. More bands have been broken up due to jealous spouses than anything else. The only negative from the family is that if I’m out of town for several days, I get incredibly homesick & actually feel sick for a day or two before I leave town. This isn’t the family’s fault, I’m just a bit of a ninny.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Jon – I’ve made some friends for life through music that have become friends of the family. Our oldest daughter used to plunk around on my guitar & drums & is now taking piano lessons, which to me makes more sense than taking dance lessons. She can play piano till she’s 90 if she wants. After that last recital, the dance thing is pretty much done. I can’t really think of a negative towards the family. I never got into drugs or drink & I’ve been moderately successful at keeping band problems from ending up on the family menu.
QRD – Have your children effected the music you make &/or listen to?
Jon – No, but I’ve found myself paying more attention to the music they listen to. Most of the music produced for children is a big pile of hot garbage, so when I come across someone like Danny Adlerman who makes great children’s music that’s goo-free I make sure to pick up a copy.
QRD – Do you think being involved in music has made your children different than their peers?
Jon – Absolutely. For one thing they don’t see as much TV because as time goes on we listen to more music & watch less TV. As a matter of fact, since “30 Rock” went off the air I haven’t followed an over-the-air show since & even in that case the music (composed by Jeff Richmond) was another character on the show. I always put on music at suppertime. Last week we listened to Tycho, The Amazing, Panda Bear, Dereck Higgins, & Herb Albert & The Tijuana Brass while dining.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from a musical career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Jon – I’ve always kept several irons in the fire. Right now I have three side projects going outside of Third Of Never & keep insurance up for everybody & put something away for their future every month. I also have gigs writing album reviews, humor columns, & press releases. I’ve read too many stories about musicians who regret ignoring the needs of their families until it’s too late & I never wanted to be one of those idiots. How anyone can bring a child into the world & not put their welfare at the top of their priority list is beyond me.
QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on being a touring musician, would you have toured more earlier in life if you’d known?
Jon – We beat down a pretty good path between Greenville & Atlanta before I relocated the band to New Jersey. I’m the only North Carolinian in the band since 2005, so I have a major commute for rehearsals, shows, & recording sessions. I know it sounds nuts, but being based out of NJ means we’re an hour from NYC & Philadelphia. I’d love to tour the south again or at least play some festivals down here. I’m trying to put together an improv group locally, so if we can find venues interested in crazy music I’ll be playing around here again soon.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a musician has a greater impact on your community?
Jon – Definitely being a father. Absentee fathers are one of the biggest problems in our society. That’s not to say musicians & artists in general aren’t important, especially with the way the arts are taken for granted in the United States. When I see a great band in a club playing to six people & the next day read about 100 people showing up for a cup stacking competition I just want to slam a door on my head to make the thought go away.
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become musicians or parents?
Jon – I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.
QRD – Both family & music seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Jon – I can’t focus on the music until I feel I’ve spent an adequate amount of time with the kids first. They’re in bed by 8:30 so afterwards it’s usually music up until around midnight. On the weekend I’m usually doing something with the kids till noon, then it’s music from noon till around six when we have the evening meal. Sometimes they’ll come out to my studio while I’m working on a song & want to jam, which is usually a nice break. You haven’t lived until you’ve played guitar for a 5-year-old drummer wearing a hand-me-down Strawberry Shortcake nightgown & pigtails.
QRD – What do your kids think of your music?
Jon – I don’t think it’s cheerful enough for them. I’m a bit of a goof, but the songs I co-write with the band & my side projects tend to come out a bit weighty. The children know dad to be silly & they’re not sure why his music isn’t the same.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a musical project with your children?
Jon – I’ve recorded both of them recounting dreams they’ve had & that dialog will be used on a side project that should be out by the end of 2015. I’ve recorded some jams with them that would make Sun Ra blush, so there could be a berserk trio project in the making.
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Jon – If you enjoy music & have no interest in sports there is nothing wrong with you. Pulling some strings over a piece of amplified wood to make an organized noise is just as valid as throwing about a ball of air while trying not to be tackled. & if you get into music, don’t become a drunk or a junkie just because some dead guy that Rolling Stone magazine worships did it. As Frank Zappa told a young Dweezil before going on stage, “You see those people who are acting really stupid out there? They’re using drugs & alcohol as an excuse to be assholes.” Flaubert said “Be regular & orderly in your life, so that you may be violent & original in your work,” & I subscribe to that.