The Like Totally 80’s Festival Interviews with John Easdale of Dramarama
The Third Annual Like Totally 80’s Festival took place at Huntington State Beach on a brisk Saturday in Southern California, headlined by The Human League and The Motels. And even though rain was in the forecast, the bright and shining sun made an appearance anyway, making this a classic day at the beach listening to some of your favorite bands from the 80’s. One such collective who made their way to the Like Totally 80’s stage was the legendary Dramarama, whose rock and roll entreaties such as Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You) and Last Cigarette absolutely enraptured the crowd. Highwire Daze Online caught up with the one and only John Easdale backstage at the Like Totally 80’s Festival to discuss all things Dramarama, including their much covered Anything, Anything manifesto, appearing on the Ellen Show, his take on the state of music industry today, and a whole lot more! Read on…
Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Dramarama.
John: I’m John, I’m the singer.
Mark: I’m Mark, I’m the lead guitarist.
What are you guys looking forward to the most about today’s Like Totally 80’s Festival. It didn’t rain.
John: The weather is gorgeous, I’m so thrilled about that.
Mark: It’s a nice day, man. That’s all we ask for.
John: The audience is here and it’s all up to them, really, we’re gonna play our show. We’re gonna play our rock and roll and I always say – I hope they have as much fun as I did, but if they’re here and they have a good time, then that’s all you can ask for.
For those who missed it today – what did they miss from a live Dramarama show?
John: Well today it’s a rock and roll blast, I think we get about 30 minutes to jam through a bunch of our old favorites. If we were playing at a tavern near you, we’d probably play longer and play some more and newer and more varied material. Today we’ll just hit them with all the highlights.
Everybody Dies came out in 2005. First of all, while looking back, what do you think of that album now?
John: Still really proud. It’s a record I’m as proud of as any of our others. The record business was going out of business at the time and we allied ourselves with Tower Records who manufactured that record and distributed it. They went out of business less than – I’m not sure how many months, it was less than a year but it was a matter of months after – it came out in November and I think by summertime they were gone. So it ended up being a bad idea, but aside from that – aside from the debacles of the marketplace, I like that record as much as any of them. In fact maybe it’s a bit more personal.
Around that time you appeared on Ellen. What was that experience like?
John: It was a surprise birthday gift for her. It was right before she married her wife and I think she had been asking the DJ to play that song Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You), so he kind of called me on a Monday and said “hey could you guys get here and play on Tuesday for Ellen’s birthday? It’s Ellen’s birthday week and I want to give her a present.” So, we were her surprise gift.
How close are you guys to writing and recording all new material? I think it’s been something you’ve been holding back on.
John: We’ve been playing a lot of it in concert for a number of years. We have a lot if on tape and ready to go. Holding it back is a good way to describe it. Our experience the last time has made me hesitant and I really don’t even recognize the “marketplace” anymore [laughs]. It’s basically just give it away for free and go play concerts.
You have Mike Davis in the band with connections to Halford and Lizzy Borden. How has his metal credentials embellished your sound?
John: We rock harder than ever before of course. Rock is rock you know, and people put labels on things – and sometimes they’re appropriate, but we just play rock and roll. I wear a cowboy hat but some people – you know when you see me at an airport they think I’m gonna sound like Garth Brooks or something but you know – it’s just clothes.
Did Patti Smith ever hear or comment on your cover of Pumping (My Heart)?
John: Never had the opportunity to meet Ms. Smith and I never heard anything – I don’t know if she’s aware of it.
Anything, Anything has been covered by Buckcherry, Lucky Boys Confusion, and a bunch of other bands. What do you think of other people who cover your songs?
John: That is the greatest gift. That’s the ultimate compliment, you know? And I know a lot of bands that play it that have never recorded it – a guy from Warrant used to do it all the time.
John: Yeah there’s a couple of YouTube videos of him doing it, both with Warrant and then by himself. A couple of other bands, it’s just the greatest compliment. I talked to Travis Barker, who I interviewed years ago when I worked for a radio magazine. I said, “I wrote that song” and he said, “Dude I played that song in every band I was ever in.” I love that line and another friend of mine calls it the “Louie Louie” of alternative radio. I don’t care if people don’t know who I am or don’t even know who Dramarama is, it’s amazing that people know that song. A lot of people for various reasons, really identify with that. I’m very lucky. I’m very fortunate.
Do you ever get tired of playing the hits?
John: The only thing that’s hard is that it’s a really hard song for me to sing, always has been. It’s a little bit out of my range. That’s a teenage boy’s voice singing that, and when you get into your forties and your fifties, it makes it harder. Hopefully I pull it off. And luckily, if it’s that song, I can ask the audience to help. We don’t like to cheat, you can always tune down half a step, it just doesn’t sound right.
Who are some current bands that you like?
John: I like The Fratellis and I like Arctic Monkeys. There’s this guy named Jamie T out of England. There’s a lot of good bands. What the internet has done instead of 100 bands selling a million records, there’s a million bands selling 100 records. There’s a lot of great music, it’s just hard to break through into that atmosphere of 29 Pilots or whatever. I don’t know who else is in that realm. Even guys like US and Paul McCartney can’t do it anymore. What hope have I? But at the same time, just be here and to be a part of this is amazing. It’s a miracle. It’s easier to win the lottery.
What’s up next for Dramarama?
John: Hopefully a new record but we have a summer of shows and we’re traveling all around the country and we’re going to England for the first time this summer. We’re playing at a festival – it’s not a music festival. It’s a press festival, it’s comedy and it’s for independent journalism it’s called The Byline Festival. I’ve been outspoken on my social media and I was invite to come and be a part of it. John Cleese is going to be there, Hugh Grant is gonna be there. A bunch of old punks and me, and the Dramarama boys and I’m really delighted, really thrilled.
(Interview by Ken Morton – Photos by Joe Schaeffer)