publication: November 99
Among other things, Dallas
Good of Toronto's The Sadies would like to tour with Atari Teenage Riot,
partly because he's a fan but also because ATR take a hacksaw to musical
conventions. Recently, The Sadies were in Edmonton for a two-night stand
at the New City Likwid Lounge. Chris Andrich hooked up with them in the
hotel room before their second show. The interview is mostly with guitar-player
Dallas Good, but also with his brother Travis, acoustic bass player Sean
Dean, and drummer Mike Belitsky.
Chris: How did the Sadies come about? What
was your main idea when you got together to form a band?
Dallas: Carl Perkins was our number one reference.
Shawn and I had just come out of troubled rock bands, we decided to start
a troubled rock band of our own. We did that for a while, started playing
shows and stuff and doing music as a three-piece rock band. We were doing
a lot of instrumental music at the time, but it sounded totally different
because he had an electric bass and the instrumentation was more stripped
down. It naturally DE-gressed for a while, we started playing with him
on the upright and me on the dobro as a two-piece. And it grew from there,
with Travis doing stuff. A lot of the material we still do with Travis,
and we had a set of the rock and roll stuff, a lot of which we don't do.
Some of it we still do. We just purged them after a while. That was almst
6 years ago now, May of '94. It's changed a lot.
Were you in the band Phonocomb at the same time
after you were in the Sadies?
Yep. The Sadies started up before Phonocomb. Shawn
and I were living together with the drummer at the time in a studio space,
where I had a small recording studio. Shawn was working til midnight every
night, we would rehearse basically one til dawn. I recorded the Jad Fair
and Phonocomb record at that studio, while the Sadies were playing, and
really it was that project that formed Phonocomb too. It was the first
time that I'd worked with those guys. They pretty much ran side by side
I guess, band-wise. In retrospect the band definitely was not nearly as
active as we could have been had we had 100% focus on the band back then,
but I thought it just helped things along in terms of what we became.
Influences and stuff like that made it more natural, with other things
on the go. Shawn was playing with the Atomic Seven for a long time, which
was Brian Connolly's band, well Shawn, Brian and Neil's band. I was with
Phonocomb, Travis was with the Good Brothers, Mike was with the Pernice
Brothers, Jale and stuff. We were all doing other things, The Sadies was
something we could do in Toronto and do well with it too. Toronto was
always really supportive of us. We had good shows even before we had a
CD out. So it gave us a chance to get tighter together.
Did you always have the idea to do your own take
on country music, and blend that with instrumental music?
I think it's been our idea to make traditional music
with integrity that can appeal to absolutely anybody, while still being
original and something we believe in. And that's not easy. We spend time
on it. And either we end up ripping off something we like or we do something
that's solely for us that no-one can listen to. The newer records are
starting to do that. But we're just starting as a band. Our first record
was stuff we'd been working on for years, and we had never even heard
recorded. And this record is stuff since the last record. And a lot of
it materialized in the studios. It has a different sound all together,
and I think that just leads us to our next record, which is going to be
How did you guys feel about the sort of alternative-country
music, spearheaded by Bloodshot Records and bands, I guess doing something
along the lines of what you'd thought of? Did you see yourselves as contemporaries
of those bands?
Not at all. I'd never heard of the label before we
started working with them. We met them through Neko, who would definitely
be more affiliated with that pocket of whatever, of country music. For
example, we would be opening for rock and roll bands, versus the alt-country
bands that come through town. It had no appeal to us. Furthermore, it
didn't make sense. And when we did hook up with Bloodshot I think it makes
sense that we're on that label, I don't think it's misleading, but it
certainly... I don't know. Our music is a lot different, but then again
now Bloodshot is doing these ... what is it? re-issues? Revival? And that's
amazing. Spade Cooley, and Rex Allan, and Hank Thompson, now their music
isn't so dated. It doesn't sound like it's just a product of whatever
Eagles-style rock and roll, it's more diverse. I don't think that we stand
out on Bloodshot, cuz there's lots of bands that are totally diverse now,
but I guess when I first heard of Bloodshot, I thought it was all one
song. Now, I love Bloodshot. I think the bands on the label are really
good, doing something. It seems like a band setting out to do something
in the path of someone else is going to be jinxed from the get-go, whether
or not they get attention or not. I guess some types of music is easy
to categorize and others isn't. Ours is familiar enough that it's easy
to categorize, but then it ends up being described in a fucked-up way?
The thing I find interesting is people are getting
more interested in roots and Americana music. More so than ever. There's
been a lot of re-issues. The Bloodshot r-issues. There's a lot more bands
willing to own up to influences like Hank Williams, to the Louven Brothers,
and combine that with a sort of punk sensibility, make the music more
Would you not also agree that a punk sensibility
can also be described as poor musicianship? Which is basically music with
intergrity, played for the right reasons. And so in a lot of ways, I don't
know, just play your guitar, make music. Don't worry where it fits.
Travis: And tune, you motherfucker.
I want to ask about the CD you did with Andre Williams,
and how you hooked up with the legendary rhythm and blues singer, who's
had something of a comeback in the past couple albums he's put out.
We were asked by our label to do it. But we were
fans of Andre Williams beforehand, but Bloodshot wanted a new record,
and we were on Bloodshot with our first album. That's just how it worked
Was Andre Williams ready to work with you? Did you
have a good rapport?
Dallas: Yeah. It was a pretty interesting way of
recording. He definitely tries to build songs up while he's in the studio,
and that is wearing. And that's a bit different from the way we usually
do things: live, just documenting songs. And seems with Andre he wanted
to layer stuff. He's pretty easy to work with.
Travis: It was almost like on the songs he went in to do, like the covers
that he knew he was going to do, he walked in completely as the producer.
Even though the drums may have been laid down before he got there, he
just had visions for every single song we touched in that way. For the
originals, he liked them so much he just said, "you boys keep doing
what you're doing. Just do your job." In that way it's perfect, you
got someone with visions and ideas, and good ideas, who's also going to
give the band complete artistic control over a lot of stuff. On the other
hand, we were under a pretty tight schedule.
What do you think your audience is?
I wish we were asked to play summer fairs and fall
fairs and whatever, but unfortunately, probably because of the Bloodshot
tag, we're considered bratty little rock and roll country players, when
really I think we're at our best doing old-time music to make little kids
dance with their grandparents, while the parents get drunk. It's perfect.
That's the way I see the band, and always have. And the thing is, name
one band that you like and your parents like and your grandparents like.
Whoever you come up with is going to be totally fucking obvious. The Beatles
or Johnny Cash or someone like that. But there's not very many, and they're
also impossible to replicate. You can't set yourself out to be a superstar
amazing songwriting band. Well, that's all you *can* do actually. That's
*my* goal, anyhow.
I know your parents were in the Good Brothers. What
would be the difference in your take on country music and your parents?
Dallas: First off, the similarity is exactly what
I just described in terms of what I envision us wanting to do. They were
a band of hippies doing redneck music. They could easily bridge that gap,
playing for old people and young people. You can't be totally middle of
the road and appeal to kids. Soundwise, they were totally commercial records,
it wasn't really my bag.
Travis: I think it mainly influenced us not to listen to country music
as youngsters...But eventually I've learned to appreciate it. And we've
rooted through their record collection and got all their good bluegrass
and country records, leaving them with only Eagles and...
Dallas: Yeah. It's bleak. Their records have been picked over so many
times, not just by us but the other cousins.... Now it's our records from
the ages of 5 to 10, and my mother's dancercise records. And the Lisa
Lisa and Cult Jam records. It makes them look really bad. It's just a
collection of the absolute worst.
How is Chicago for you? Is there a supportive musical
I think so. Just by virtue of being on Bloodshot
we have a sort-of built-in fanbase, not to say that if we sucked they
would still be there, but they certainly gave us the benefit of the doubt
just for being on the label. So the first few shows we plaed their, and
we played with Neko too... but it's more than that. Previously I was in
Phonocomb, which was on Quarterstick Records. I had recorded with Steve
[Albini] in the past and stuff, and the Sadies had played in Chicago at
least a year and a half before we put out our record, about 8 months before
we even knew what Bloodshot was, so we already had friends in town from
that time, and from all our experiences independently in Chicago.... Jale
recorded there, a branch of Phleg Camp's label was there...
Do you find with someone like Steve Albini recording
musically he's sympathetic to what you're doing musically?
No way! It comes back to our style of music. It's
really kind of unique that we can produce records together. He's great
for working for the band. He works so fast, and he just sits on the fence
completely. It's not like you have him go, "Wow, that was so great!"
or teasing us, and he's famous for fucking insulting bands he doesn't
Do you find to produce you he has to understand what
you're doing musically?
In that sense he absolutely understands us, in terms
of how to get our instrument sounds. We trust him to such a degree we
left the city while he mixed our last record. If we didn't think he understood
us, I would have said, "I don't want him mixing alone, I'll be there..."
I think we have a lot of faith in him. I think it works in our favour.
For the records we've done with Steve Albini, this one sounds the best.
And I think it might have something to do with me not being around him,
standing around him... 'Is that what I sound like?' It's probably more
pleasurable. And that's good, it sounds better. We made one recommendation
for the album, to turn the bass up. And I don't think he ever did. (laughs)
I asked him, "I think we might want the bass up, at least on some
songs or whatever..." and I don't think we ever specified what songs...
What are your plans for the next record?
Travis: Outsider psychedelica... lots of tablas,
timbales, sitars, and stuff. It's gonna be crazy.
Dallas: We would never want to make a record that sounds like a 60s record.
Both records we did with Steve have all been with vintage microphones.
Every piece of gear was with pre-1972. But I don't think they sound trashy.
I think they sound like hi-fi records. That's one of the things that goes
back to what we were talking about earlier, we would never try to emulate
a sound. We would be inspired by a certain sound. For example, I want
to work with string sections, which is obviously a product of 50s and
60s records that I like, but I don't want to make it sound like an old
record. I would record in a 2-track studio, but I wouldn't run a 24-track
studio's mix through a tiny tape recorder to make it sound trashy or something.
There seems to me like a kinship between you guys and modern garage rock
bands in some ways. Probably just because the people who make garage music
like 60s punk rock, which I totally love and am obsessive about. That
would be the only similarity really. I could see where it would seem like
everyone is inspired and influenced by each other, but I'm sure they're
all just influenced by the same sources.