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

Back to Part I

RNW:  You just play it in your sleep now . . .

DL:  "Yeah, exactly.  I certainly can, but its one of those things where I wanted this record to come out the way we wanted it to come out.  I really don’t give a f*** whether its critically acclaimed or whether people who aren’t TONIC fans like it.  I want to hear that the TONIC fans are happy with us.  That we’ve done something, that they still hang in there with us, and the feed back we’ve gotten lately . . . we get a lot of email and its all really good."

RNW:  One of the things that I always do before I talk with somebody is I kind of lurk around the web.  Because if I want to find out about somebody, I find that’s the best place to do it.  Because the fans know every move.  They know what’s going on, what’s coming up tour wise, everything.  So, I’ll go to message boards and mailing lists and just start watching them, looking around.  One of the senses I got from TONIC fans is that they think its absolutely incredible that you guys email. 

DL:  "We do it man.  We take hours sometimes of free time and the email has quadrupled.  Its increasing still, so I definitely hope that we can continue to do it.  I know that people write me back and say 'I can’t believe you responded to me.' and I write back and say 'Look man, I respond to everybody, just please understand when the responses get short because I have very little time sometimes.'  Sometimes I have a dozen emails or something and I have an afternoon of doing nothing, I’ll write them back a page."

RNW:  That means a lot to people, it really does.  And I’ve noticed that a lot of bands are now really paying attention to the interaction with their fans.  A lot of guys will do a tour diary, which I think is great and I love reading those.   I think fans enjoy reading what happens behind the curtain as much as they enjoy what is in front of the curtain.  They like to know that the people they admire are real people. 

DL:  "The internet is actually a little bit prohibitive for some of that stuff, because whatever you do, it can be read by millions of people the next day.  So, its a little bit scary actually.  It’s funny, sometimes you get email back from people who are amazed you write them, other people comment a little more intelligently, like wow, did you ever think you would be able to talk to people who admire you?  And its very interesting.  I wrote them back and said 'yeah, I would have been afraid to write Paul Stanley back in that day.'  I didn’t admire them as much musically as I thought they were f***ing ROCK STARS and I wanted to be them and do what they did.  Another funny aspect of email is when someone will say 'You guys are so cool, you write back, no other band has ever written me back.  Can I send you a photo of the Goo Goo Dolls and have them sign it and send it back to me?'  And I’m like, oh look, I’m being as nice as I can here, but I can’t bother the Goo Goo Dolls!"

RNW:  What do you think are the differences between the two albums and are these differences an evolution in your writing and playing styles?

DL:  "Absolutely there’s some change.  I think its still definitely based on, once again, the most important thing being song writing.  We tried to make sure the song was always the most important thing.  What ever we did musically was to support the song itself.  But its important to note, obviously, that the rhythm section is completely different.  I played bass and wrote on this record as well as sang and I wasn’t on the first record.  Our drummer left at the end of last year and we hired the guy who was in my old band to play drums, so we have a rhythm section with history, but its not a history with TONIC.  It’s kind of like a whole different band.  At the same time, with Emerson being the primary song writer, the melodies, the melodic influences of all the songs are along the same lines.  Definitely as players we’ve all matured after two and a half years on the road playing together.  We had a lot of life experience to write about, things to be happy about, things to be bitter about, things to be sad about.  So the album, in my opinion, has a little sense of maturity.  Even in the production, producing ourselves, one of the things we tried to do was create a little more air, leave a little more space.  The first album was a really hard hitting, jam packed rock and roll album.  This one is still a big rock sound but I think it has a little more space to it.  Put a little more thought into an easier atmosphere."

RNW:  It gives you a chance to be a lot more creative and not give yourself any boundaries.  It really comes across.  I understand the band started out doing acoustic sets in coffee houses.  Do you think that you might ever return to those acoustic roots, maybe do an acoustic album?

DL:  "It probably won’t be the next one.   But I can see it happening.  I mean, we go to radio stations and those two guys play acoustic and I play shaker and sing background vocals.  And it sounds pretty cool, we don’t mind that at all.  So, we’ve been asked to do some acoustic sets at really small clubs.  Back home there’s an Irish bar around the corner we play at."

RNW:  I love the Irish folk influence in your music, its a really cool sound.  During the changes with your record label I understand you put out your own CD, a live CD that was pretty cool.  How do you think electronic interface, not just with fans but with the music industry itself, has changed the way musicians plot their careers?

DL:  "I think its actually become a little more challenging.  Now fans aren’t necessarily satisfied with just a band that they get the CD of, and they see the booklet for two years, or how ever long until the next record.  In our case it was three years.  That live EP that we did on the internet was also an enhanced CD, so it had videos on it, it had screen savers, all this different kind of stuff.  I think that fans now have expectations like that and links to the web site.  Like, I want to go to the band’s web site now that I’m a fan.  I want to see them live, I want to see what they have to offer beyond just the music."

RNW:  And you’ve got to have a killer web site.

DL:  "You’ve got to have a killer web site, you’ve got to have some video on there, pictures, you’ve got to have stories from the road, some kind of insider info. you can’t get unless you are a fan.  I think its definitely more of a challenge, but technology will always move forward and to fight it is crazy.  You got to figure out how to work with it."

RNW:  Have you (not the label) picked the singles for Sugar yet, and do you participate fully in the creative process for the videos?

DL:  "The label probably has the strongest say in what the singles will be, but the good thing is, so far we’ve come to a consensus - the band and the management and the label always agreed.  The band, and myself personally, I love to ask the opinion of all the people on our team because I respect all their opinions.  I want to hear what everybody has to say.  That’s how we try to make our collective band.  That’s the way things should be.  When we were asked to put "You Wanted More," the first single off the new album, on the American Pie sound track, we were like, we love that song but we don’t hear it as a single.  Months later its still playing on the charts and we’re really very thankful that they didn’t listen to us."

RNW:  Sometimes you’re too close to it.  You can be too critical of yourself or maybe a little bit the other way around. 

DL:  "You have to know when to step back and let somebody who you really respect as an expert, let them do their job.  Along the lines of that, we’re constantly trying to get more and more involved with the creative process of everything we do.  You asked about videos.  The first video we really just said you know what, we’re going to do the video that we want to do.  Went to the label, at the time it was A&M/Polydor and told them our ideas.  We wanted to be on roller skates, with tuxedo t-shirts and have all these vignettes coming down this crazy street.  We’re going to ask Mick Fleetwood to be in it.  They were just like, this is so f***ing insane, we love it.  So we actually co-directed that video with someone who was the director of photography and we got really involved.  It was like the most infamous we could be in that people in the industry, the head of the label of A&M came down and joked with us like 'I’d like to have you guys direct all my videos.'  So definitely get involved in the creative process for videos.  We relinquished that director control to the same guy who co-directed us on "You Wanted More."  You find people you like to work with, who understand your creative process and then you work a lot better and you still feel as involved."

RNW:  I would like to think that they give priority to what you were thinking when the song was being created, what you wanted to get across and what you see as the visual part of that.  I think a lot of people, especially if its their first video, they don’t get to do that and that’s sad.

DL:  "Even on the second CD, we had a lot of latitude.  We were able to produce ourselves without our new label knowing us yet.  All they knew were the numbers.  They came down during the process and said 'Wow, sounds good.  We’ve got to be honest with you, we were skeptical.'  But they were very pleased."

RNW:  Is there a solo tour planned for after the New Year?  You mentioned something about Europe, Australia, Japan.

DL:  "We would go  out on our own if we don’t get an offer from somebody that we would like to tour with because we’re going to go out somewhere, somehow.  There’s talk of going to Australia, which I hope happens because that was a great time.  And then I’ve heard of some other, I guess I would say bigger bands, that have expressed interest in taking us out, much like the Goo Goo Dolls did this time.  If the right people ask, we’d probably do that.  It’s all about getting out, so keep your eyes open.  And of course, whatever does happen, I’m in charge of updating our web site so its always up there.  ("

RNW:  Been there!

DL:  "I’ve said that 10 million times!"

And with my questions and allotted time gone, I thanked Dan for his time and wished him a good show. . . 

Visit the Back Stage Pass Special for TONIC, complete with biographical information, my impressions of the show, and the Sugar CD.

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