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I'd like you to meet Dan Lavery of TONIC By:  Debbie Seagle


I had a 5:30 appointment to interview TONIC during their MP3 Technology Tour in November and arrived a bit early.  I tracked down their tour manager and was told they were doing sound check.  He asked if I could hang out back stage until they were done and I said no problem.  I stood contentedly for a while, chatting with a security guard and was totally floored when I heard the sound check taking place.  Whoa, great vibe coming from the arena!  Having played their new CD Sugar for the last few days, I knew I liked the music, but those who told me that I would love their live performance weren't kidding!

I had no idea who I would be talking to this evening.  Emerson Hart, lead singer/song writer, walked past me several times in the halls and I recognized him from his ginger goatee and quizzical look.  (I must have looked like a space invader or something.)  Many other artists and crew are running up and down the halls, getting ready for their performances or just blowing off a little steam before getting down to the business of entertainment.  From behind, the tour manager taps me on the shoulder and says "Debbie Seagle, this is Dan Lavery," and he is gone.  My mind raced to remember what I had read in the press kit just 24 hours earlier - okay, Dan Lavery, bass player, backing vocals!  Dan puts me immediately at ease by suggesting we go talk in the catering department, which, to folk like you and I is the cafeteria, where everyone is having dinner before the fun starts.  I follow Dan down the halls and we arrive at the catering department, where he offers me something to eat.  Since I am full from my typical show night meal of Brazil nuts and diet Pepsi, I pass, taking a lemonade while he gets himself some dinner.  We pick a table in the back, where the volume is at a low roar and we begin our chat as he nibbles his food. Dan Lavery is soft spoken and articulate and I am able to relax immediately as I begin to inquire about this thing called "TONIC" . . . 

Rock N World/Debbie Seagle:  If you had to explain to someone who’s been living under a rock for the last 10 years who TONIC is and what kind of music they play, what would you say?

Dan Lavery:  "Well, its good that you say ten years because I think that one of the more notable things people seem to get from our music is that we are rooted somehow in more classic rock than say, the new rock, or 80’s type influences.  We are definitely a band with influences beginning with the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and end up with modern things like (pause) I can’t even think of something modern, but its definitely a new rock kind of sound with emphasis on song writing, musicianship.  Its important to the song, its the most important thing."

RNW:  I think I heard somewhere or read somewhere that you guys just kind of went over to the studio and decided you were going to make a good record.  Work on things and make them sound the way you wanted them to sound. If it wasn’t sellable, it wasn’t sellable, but at least you would be happy with the finished product.

DL:  "We’ve never been a band of critical acclaim, we simply don’t worry about it any more."

RNW:  When Lemon Parade took shape, did the band know they had a platinum record on their hands or was it kind of surreal when it all started happening for them?  (Note:  Dan Lavery joined TONIC just after Lemon Parade was released in 1996 and has toured as the bass player for the majority of its run)

DL:  "Well, unfortunately I didn’t play on the Lemon Parade, so I wasn’t involved in the song writing process, where Sugar is actually a very collaborative record between Emerson, Jeff and myself.  I joined right after it (Lemon Parade) was released and I have some insight into it, in that I was friends with them before they had a record deal.  I think a lot of the songs existed for a long time.  Emerson is definitely the primary song writer in this band and brought some songs to that first record that had been written for a while, with a few exceptions, that were written in pre-production like 'Open Up Your Eyes,' maybe 'Thick'."

RNW:  That’s one of my favorites (Thick).

DL:  "We’ll actually play that for you tonight.  But, I mean, I had the record before it came out too, and I thought it was great.  Whether you think it will be a platinum record, it’s,  you know, who knows?  I always thought the band would do well.  I never realized I’d be a part of it.  Now that I am, I’m glad that its been doing really well."

RNW:  That’s kind of an under statement.  I think its done better than "well."  (laughter) Definitely!  Are you all pretty much on the same wave length musically or do you have times when you are working hard at trying to get a consensus?  If so, who usually gets their way?

DL:  "This is one of the most democratic bands I’ve ever seen.  When we made this last record, there probably wasn’t one decision made without us having some input on it.  Sometimes, the way I look at it, it seems like everybody has the ability to say 'Look, it just has to be this way, you know?  I feel so strongly about this you guys, and I insist that this is the way its got to be and you’ll thank me later.  You have to trust me on this one.'  In the same way, you also have the power to say, if somebody is on an idea, 'I absolutely can not live with it.'  Having said that, the three of us basically had a pretty good understanding of where we wanted to go.  There wasn’t much creative difference at all on this record, which is why it worked out well that we produced it ourselves.  It wasn’t the easiest process in the world.  I mean, we definitely had a few of those days when you’re like 'Augh, man, I wish this were a day off."

RNW:  At least its not the old days when Aerosmith was working with John Kalodner and he would walk in and say "This one, this one and this one" and all your other babies just kind of went in the scrap heap.  That’s pretty hard.

DL:  "I’ve heard those stories.  Actually, people put a lot of faith in people like John Kalodner, Rick Reuben.  Besides having long beards, they also had a definite musical vision."

RNW:  That’s one thing you have to say about John Kalodner.

DL:  "He has a long beard?"  (laughs)

RNW:  Yeah, but he’s a star maker.

DL:  "The guy who produced our first record, Jack Joseph Puig, I had the pleasure to work with him on some other things, a soundtrack, the Fleetwood Mac tribute record, and he’s kind of a visionary like that as well.  I was a little bit disappointed actually that we weren’t able to work with him on this record because I didn’t get to work with him on the first record.  I see him as one of those kind of people too.  He sees it and he trusts it and you just go with it."

RNW:  The producer of the CD, you could have wonderful material, but if its not produced just right, some beautiful things could die on the vine.

DL:  "Very true. "

RNW:  What were the most immediate changes to your lives when success really became apparent?

DL:  "I don’t know, well, I won’t go into too much personal detail but I can tell you that I’m not around much any more, you know?  I was home, for the last three years that I’ve been in this band, I’ve been home very little.  So even in the block of a month that I was home, when we were doing the record and pre-production and rehearsals for going on tour, we were never home.  We ‘d leave in the morning, come back at night, so that’s the most immediate change really.  And then your free time, its like wow, what happened to that?"

RNW:  For the last CD, you toured about two or two and a half years on that one.  Depending on the success of this one, you could be on the road another two or two and a half years.

DL:  "We welcome that opportunity, I have to be honest. "

RNW:  You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t want it to get to that point.

DL:  "I really love it, you know.  We’re talking about going to Europe, Australia, which we did on the last record, but also now talking about the far east like Japan."

RNW:  The Japanese fans are great, lots of energy from the crowd.

DL:  "I want to go to Budokan and be able to say (imitating Robin Zander of Cheap Trick) 'This is the first song off our new album.'  I just want to be there and say it."  (laughter)

RNW:  Having your first album go platinum and scoring number one hits is a dream come true.

DL:  "Yes it is."

RNW:  We can all agree on that.  But I’m sure it came with a lot of added pressure.  Did those pressures to meet or exceed your successes with Lemon Parade hinder the creative process at all?

DL:  "I’d like to think that it did not.  But those pressures, they were there.  I think they’re probably a constant battle.  Every once in a while, on a day when we were kind of worn out and maybe under stress or trying to get something to work that wasn’t working musically.  In those moments you start to feel vulnerable.  And those pressures start sneaking into your psyche and you think, man, you’re never gonna have a hit like that again."

RNW:  Like, oh my God, what am I doing here?

DL:  "Yeah, I’m quick to squash that.  I have to be.  That’s my job in particular because, like I said, I didn’t play on that first record, so I was a little bit more objective and a little more outside of the situation for the first record.  I don’t know how the first record was made, but I know it took a long time."




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