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THE TALENT WILL SURVIVE
by John Burbage
An aura of fragile beauty hovers over the relationship of the artist and his/her work, and in the music industry, with its multitude of distractions and pre-fab hassles, the artist must struggle that much harder to maintain the necessary flow of emotion between themselves and their material. For more than a dozen years now, Dave Mason has carried on a sustained "affair" with his music. This period covers his stormy, but productive, career with Traffic as well as some much-publicized record label disputes. In a sense, Dave is a literal example of a "rock `n' roll survivor" and his new album, CERTIFIED LIVE, shows that his affair with his music is still thriving. And in the live medium, one can easily see how the relationship is extended to include his audience too.
Rock Around the World caught up with Dave and band after a recent gig of his latest North American tour and he updated his activities for us in the following interview:
How did the present lineup of the Dave Mason Band come together?
Well, with some minor occasional adjustments, I had a pretty stable band for several years. Rick (Jaeger), the drummer, has been with me for five or six years. Jim (Krueger) has been around for three years. Gerald (Johnson), the bassist joined us about eighteen months ago and Mike Finnigan's keyboards have been with us on and off, depending on the scheduling of his own solo work and the studio appearances he puts in for other musicians.
At this point in your career, what reflections do you have on Traffic, with and without Dave Mason?
It's kind of weird really, because I could never look at Traffic as being a conventional rock band. I grew up with Jim (Capaldi) and through hanging out we got together with Chris (Wood) and Steve (Winwood). Traffic was created through personalities and it broke up over personalities. Even after I left, Traffic continued to exist more as a ghost than a band. I mean, they could always get musicians together at short notice to record or tour. Without some permanence or stability behind a group, the potential becomes rather limited.
After Traffic, how easily did you manage the transition from Dave Mason, group member to Dave Mason, group leader?
It was a matter of growth more than anything. I didn't have my own band during the period immediately following my association with Traffic. My groups sort of evolved from the Alone Together period, so I guess that my transition, as you call it, wasn't very difficult, but somebody has to lead a group to establish direction. It's a responsibility.
Of the wealth of songs that you've penned in your career, can you narrow down one or two favorites?
No, I can't, and that is probably because each song I've written has a special meaning to me. So, in a sense, they're all my favorites, whether they're all my own songs or my version of someone else's tune. And I think that it works out better for me this way, because I can treat a number of songs as favorites in a live setting, and the audience likes it more that way.
While on the subject of "someone else's tune", what inspired you to do the Eagles' "Take It To The Limit"?
I felt that the song had more potential than the Eagles were able to project. "Take It To The Limit" struck me as a much heavier song in its meaning when I first heard it and I've tried to convey my impression in my delivery. The song just seemed to lack something.
Are you satisfied today with the career that you've made for yourself in music?
I'd have to say yes for the most part. Music has given me not only my livelihood, but a means of expressing myself which I don't think I could have found any other way. I mean, I could never punch in every day on a 9 to 5 basis (laughter) . . . but I don't consider myself lazy. The live album is out now and a studio album is in the can already.
You seem to stick pretty much to love ballads, "good-time" music, and lighter arrangements. Is there any reason why your material steers clear of political and social comment themes?
Because personally, I choose to make those statements separate from my musical statements. I go to a concert to be entertained and to get away from all of that other bullshit. I feel that I owe that much to my audience, and I communicate better with them for it.
What advice would you offer to aspiring young bands, based on your own experiences?
Mainly to always understand that although they may be looking at it and having fun making their music while developing creative ideas, they should never lose sight of the business aspects of rock and roll. Most of your creative years are when you're young, so if you plan on getting into this business, don't ever sell yourself short. You've got to believe in what you're doing, because the agents and record people who come to you all want you to think that they're doing you a favor, but you're doing them the favor, because without the product they have nothing to promote. The musician's average creative cycle isn't that long, so you have to get as much for yourself as you can in that period. I don't mean that you have to be out to take it all, because I think that there is enough for everyone. But if you don't get back materially for what you create, it's like taking two steps forward and three back. When you sit down to sign the contract, make sure you know who pulls which strings and on which end of the scale you're on.
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