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The (Y)id and Yang of Egodog
By Mr. Mike, On-Air Personality
Friday, April 12, 2002 @ 4:17 PM
MIKE: Tony and I met when we were in different bands playing a Phil Lynott tribute show at The Palace in Hollywood. A few weeks later, I ran into Tony again at a King’s X show at The House of Blues. We were in the middle of recording the basic tracks for what would become Free In Captivity and had just given our old singer the boot. Tony agreed to sing on that project if I agreed to play guitar on a solo project that he was working on. We shared the same work ethic and musical visions, so it all just seemed to click together. KNAC.COM: Through three studio albums, Egodog has seen a few personnel changes. Tell me about the other personalities that help make up the Egodog team?
MIKE: The current line-up has been together for about two and a half years now and just keeps getting tighter and tighter. Our drummer Joe (Higgins) has been playing with Tony, on and off, for the better part of 15 years now. Rounding out the group is Damian Pampena who comes from a very funky background. He credits influences to guys like Bootsy Collins and Flea. Anybody that’s ever seen us live knows that the D-Man is a ‘monster’ on stage. KNAC.COM: What’s the story behind the Egodog name?
TONY: Despite being the only band member unable to own a dog (damn allergies!), I’ll cop to being behind the moniker. I’ve been very influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy is very much based on self-empowerment and individualism. I combined her Objectivist concept of Ego -- which despite all the negative connotations means simply a sense of self -- with a more… canine image! The Great Dane on the cover of our first CD Free In Captivity is pretty much exemplary of our states of mind; stuck in traffic, growling, yet grappling for inner serenity. KNAC.COM: Through the use of double entendre or by words of inspiration, each of the three studio releases has employed unique album titles: Free In Captivity, Words Are Kerosene and the most recent The Pleasure Of Action. Where do these titles come from?
TONY: We try to take lines from our lyrics, as in our first two albums. Words Are Kerosene stems form our belief that language is a very powerful weapon; it can incite people to do either horrible, inhuman acts, or conversely, to achieve sublime and wonderful things. Words are therefore, flammable. That CD’s cover features art from an old Soviet propaganda poster, with Lenin gesturing to a mob of ragged masses. Funny, I was in an airport in Seoul, Korea and struck up a conversation with a group of musicians from China, who were on their way to play some shows in the U.S. In broken English, one gentleman pointed at the CD and asked quizzically, “You know… this is…” I said yes, I was aware that a communist graced our album cover. I then tried to explain the concept of words being inciting and able to ‘catch fire.’ Unfortunately, I think any poetic impact was lost in the translation!
The title of our latest release comes from an Ayn Rand quote that we relate to greatly, regarding emotional fuel being self-perpetuating; we’ve found there’s no rush like “the hard, exhilarating pleasure of action.” This theme works well with the album cover, designed by Daniel Thompson of Inkoherent.com, who also happens to be a soldier we met in Bosnia. The artwork is centered on a statue created by a sculptress in Texas named Bobbie Carlyle (www.bobbiecarlyle.com). It’s a figure chiseling himself out of a piece of granite, entitled “Self Made Man.” My Mom actually spotted the piece and thought it was very us. Good catch, EgoMom! KNAC.COM: There seems to be a lot of thought and effort as to what the title of the finished work will be. Does it have to be a thought provoking title -- why not just a self-titled album?
TONY: We never view anything we do, musically or professionally, as just ‘ok for an indie band.’ We feel that’s a cop out. Our goal is to make every Egodog album as timeless as possible. This includes the concepts behind the album titles as well as their coherent themes – which, as a fan of bands like Pink Floyd and The Catherine Wheel, is very important to me creatively. While I don’t think you’ll ever see any pseudo-Roger Waters ‘concept pieces’ out of Egodog, we nonetheless like to run certain threads through each of our releases. Maybe it’s growing up listening to The Beatles, but we view an album as a piece of art in itself, down to song selection and order. We are pro-active in every aspect, down to the last detail. KNAC.COM: Egodog’s history with KNAC.COM began with the song “Bad Guy” from the Words Are Kerosene CD a few years back. Give me the run-down on how you got involved with the Pure Rock Station and how the “Bad Guy” video came to be shot on the KNAC.COM soundstage?
TONY: “Egodog was brought into KNAC.COM by Joe Seta, who ran the Artist Underground section of the site. Joe, in turn, gave our last CD, Words Are Kerosene to both Bob Ezrin and Long Paul, who subsequently wrote us up in his UBL column, and gave us our favorite review quote: “These guys are so close to breaking, it makes my butt itch!” What else can you say to that? Joe then brought us into the KNAC.COM studios to film a live performance video of “Bad Guy,” which we recorded sans-monitors! Ah, we love a challenge!
Long Paul thought since we were there, why not introduce the listeners to Egodog with a quick interview. We were shuttled into the studio, which caught the on-air DJ a bit off guard, especially with such short notice, nor much info on who Egodog was! But, to her credit, she rolled with it nicely and Mike and I just started doing our radio-interview thing, talking about our latest tour and everything we had happening at that time. She just let us go -- perhaps out of her dearth of options!
Being on our third album, Mike and I have logged a few interviews and feel totally at home in front of a mic and/or camera. So, on this day those experiences paid off. KNAC.COM: By embracing a D.i.Y. philosophy, how has your proactive stance helped in making your future a reality?
TONY: I think our D.i.Y. status is a blessing in disguise. Because a record label didn’t pick us up in our early stages, we’ve been allowed the opportunity to explore various elements of running the band as a business. This allowed us to have a certain level of autonomy we certainly wouldn’t have had if we were signed to a major label. For instance, I maintain and update the Egodog (www.Egodog.com) myself. I edit content whenever necessary, which is huge. These days, a web site is really the conduit between an artist and the listener. With that in mind, all e-mails to the band are actually answered by the band.
We know of several artists’ web sites that are, ‘run’ by their label, and yet haven’t been updated in several months. Some label deals even require that a band sign over their domain name to the record company as well. In the case of Egodog, that’s how we stay in touch with our fans, and we have no intention of relinquishing that, no matter how much money a label wants to throw at us. It’s less about money and more about creative control.
To be honest, ‘getting signed’ is far from our raison d’etre. Firstly, the industry isn’t about that any more. We have musician friends who have signed to tiny labels with no distribution and no tour support, yet they’re doing back flips because they’re ‘signed.’ If someone thinks they can help us reach a broader audience, awesome, but they’d better have something to bring to the table that we don’t already have -- as well as being prepared to work as hard as we do! KNAC.COM: How did you get involved with the Department of Defense tours?
TONY: The Department of Defense tours have been an amazing opportunity. Over two years ago I got a call to fill in with a classic rock cover band going to Bosnia; they liked to job I did on stage and off, and asked if I wanted to take my original band next time out. Egodog works well within the military parameters, since we’re punctual, respectful to authority, patriotic -- all the anti-musician traits! Another big plus is that we’re not substance abusers. Most bases we play are dry of all alcohol, not that it’s prevented Egodog from instigating a few bloody mosh pits! KNAC.COM: By starting on such a huge international stage, do you feel this has helped you gain a more educated look at how to be a successful band as well as how you view the world?
TONY: Travel has been such a blessing, on so many levels. I thought I appreciated America before I started working abroad, but now that’s just been reinforced.
MIKE: It never fails. Every time we head out of the country, I gain more and more appreciation for it. The tiniest things that we take for granted here are big deals everywhere else. When we were in Norway, I realized that they had two types of mustard -- the yellow mustard and the dark mustard. And the same company that makes the ketchup made them. After coming back to America and standing in front of an entire shelf of mustard, I said to myself, “That’s what makes America great. Two hundred and fifty different types of mustard!”
TONY: But your perspective grows in different ways, sometimes more objectively and less predictably. For instance, we’re currently writing a song about Americans traveling abroad and not appreciating the cultures they visit, which unfortunately, you see a lot. It’s called “How Ugly, We.” I’ll leave it at that for now! KNAC.COM: Although you have built a global following, how have you established and embraced a connection with your local fan base?
TONY: We like to think of playing military bases as musical shrapnel bombs. After those shows we don’t just take off back to our rooms -- well, usually we’re sleeping in tents anyway. We like to hang out, sign CDs and meet these soldiers, find out what they do on a daily basis -- for OUR benefit. A lot of times, the conditions these guys live in, especially for nine months at a time can be described in one word -- Heroic! Whether you’re playing to two or 300 people, it really doesn’t matter. It is these people who then return to their respective hometowns, with the positive experience of the concert and the CDs they bought in hand. They then spread the word by telling their friends, and so the name and music of Egodog spreads. As a result, we have fans on our e-mail list all over the States and in dozens of countries worldwide. I just got a mail from a guy who saw us in Bosnia, and now he’s stationed in Korea.
But as far as local, LA performances, we’ve pretty much scaled it down to the parameters that we’re comfortable with. We’re not going to play a club, being rushed on and off the stage, asking our fans to drop a ton on a cover charge and valet parking. We did that for years and it burned us out. Maybe being working musicians is just spoiling us. But when we play, it has to be an enjoyable scenario for everyone, which is why we’ve started to throw rehearsal studio parties instead. That way, all our LA-based fans and friends can see us play live, but we also get to hang out and have fun, without the other logistical hassles.
We also do the occasional flyway -- or in our case -- drive-away show in the Southwest. ‘Evil’ Laurie Steele had us out to Las Vegas recently. We were invited into the studio for KOMP’s morning show for an interview and acoustic jam followed that evening by a rockin’ performance at The Boston to an extremely responsive crowd. KNAC.COM: Mike, your musical influences trace back to early British pioneers like The Clash, XTC and The Jam -- with the Beatles and Queen as your two biggest influences. How then did the likes of American guitarists Neal Schon and Edward Van Halen guide you to the Berklee College Of Music?
MIKE: Ever since I was a kid I was into a lot of the music coming out of England. During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s America was going through the big disco phase so I started listening to bands like The Clash, The Jam, and Elvis Costello or American bands like Cheap Trick who were influenced by The Beatles. I also wanted to become more proficient on guitar so I enrolled in The Berklee College of music right after high school. I was listening to guys like Eddie Van Halen (of course!) and Neal Schon, but my favorite to this day is Brian May. That guy just amazes me every time I listen to a Queen album. KNAC.COM: Those influences come shining through on the lead track, “My Wonderful World.”
MIKE: I think you can hear a bit of my influences in that song. Tony and I were chatting outside of a Chicago Bears bar in Southern California one day when he mentioned that if I ever had something to say in a song that I should go ahead and sing lead on it. I had some personal stuff that I needed to get off my chest so I made a little 4-track recording of what I told Tony was my ‘therapy song.’ He took it home and called me immediately afterwards saying, “Do not change ANYTHING on this song!” So he gladly stepped back and took on rhythm guitar and harmony vocal duties.” KNAC.COM: Talk about a wonderful world, lots of good things has been rolling your way as of late. Tony, how did you get selected to carry the Olympic torch?
TONY: My Aunt is a 3rd Grade teacher in Illinois. She’s had me in her classroom on a few occasions to discuss my travels and my work for the military, even geo-politics -- she has smart kids! She nominated me to be a Torchbearer and I was accepted. Something like 200,000 people were nominated, with only 11,000 actually selected to carry a leg of the run. Quite an honor, and an experience I’ll never forget. Especially after September 11th, the patriotism was palpable; people were lined along the streets cheering and waving flags. I still have the cute little white sweat suit, which I can’t see ever wearing again! But the Torch I carried is proudly displayed in my office. The nutritional supplement company I endorse (www.sportsnutrition2000.com) even dedicated a web page to the day. KNAC.COM: In addition to that, you have also been selected to sing the National anthem for the Long Beach Ice Dogs as well as for the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. How did these amazing experiences come about?
TONY: My biggest non-musical passion is the Chicago Bears. Until this past season, this has been a rather… unsatisfying pursuit! But a few years ago I had sent (George) Halas Hall a demo and letter stating that I’m not only a professional vocalist wanting to sing the Anthem, but that I am, in fact, a card-carrying member of the Bears Fan Club. Lo and behold I got the call and it turned out to be one of the greatest days of my life. My whole family was there, we got to hang on the sidelines with the players -- it was simply amazing. It was an honor I took very seriously, especially with my Grandfather, a WWII vet, in attendance. KNAC.COM: What’s in store for Egodog for 2002?
TONY: Due in no small part to the urging of our fan base here in the States, we’re working very hard to procure a domestic booking agent and a tour this summer. The bigger the stage, the better, as we have claustrophobia! We are very excited as we have also just finalized a to return to Bosnia/Kosovo, for 15 dates in June and July. In addition, dates in Japan as well as other Department Of Defense shows are also in the works. Origin: Although the members of Egodog have come from all different parts of the country, they now all call Los Angeles their home. Line-Up:
Tony Oros - Vocals
Mike McManus - Guitars and Vocals
Damian Pampena - Bass
Joe Higgins - Drums About The CD: The Pleasure Of Action is the third album from Egodog released in 2001. Preceding that were Words Are Kerosene in 2000 and 1997’s debut CD Free In Captivity Producer: Mike Chidgey, Tony Oros and Mike McManus Label: Unsigned
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