Before No Doubt's show on Halloween at the Bren Events Center, I had the opportunity to sit down with Tom Dumont, guitarist of No Doubt, and ask him some questions. The following are the questions and answer from the interview with Tom. EZ indicates me asking him a question and TD indicates Tom's response. I hope you enjoy it.
EZ When did you start playing in the band?
TD I started with the band in... lets see, it's 1996... probably in 1988, a year and a half after the band got started. They had gone through a couple guitar players. It was kind of a transitional point in my life too because I had started college, and I had quit my heavy metal band and decided I wanted a change of pace musically, you know, I wanted to do something that was a little more exciting to me and a little more challenging I guess. A little more fun. When I met these guys and found the band it was just like the funnest thing I'd ever done.
EZ How did you meet the rest of the band?
TD I was in this heavy metal band and we used to rehearse at the same rehearsal complex in Anaheim. It was this industrial place that had a bunch of rooms they'd rent out to bands. I used to watch them rehearse sometimes, No Doubt, there when I had long hair back then and everything. One day I had quit my band and saw their flyer, "No Doubt Needs Guitar Play", and I called them and they let me in and that was pretty much it. I just kept trying the best I could to fit in and to adapt myself to this new style of playing.
EZ You said you were in a heavy metal band. What were some of your musical influences back when you joined No Doubt? TD Kind of all the typical ones. Kiss. A lot of people my age got into rock I think because of Kiss. That was one.
EZ Do you know that they are playing tonight a couple miles away?
TD I know, that's true, huh? I was kind of bummed about that. I wanted to go and see them. Okay, some other ones were Rush, Iron Maiden. Those sorts of bands. Those are the main ones. I don't know. Black Sabbath. Then I got into some weird progressive rock stuff like Yes and Kansas, you know. I still like some of those records, but I don't listn to that stuff as much now.
EZ What kind of music do you listen to now?
TD I just got a CD that I've listened to a lot by this guy named Ron Sexmith. He's like a, kind of a folky, for lack of a better term, folky kind of singer songwriter guy. It's really mellow stuff. He just plays guitar and sings and he's got a really soulful, humble voice and I listen to that CD a lot, and I got the Geggy Tah CD, these guys are playing with us tonight. Just basically a lot of stuff I guess.
EZ How was Disneyland when you went a couple days ago?
TD Disneyland was, you know what, honestly, I got there a lot, well, me and my girlfriend go there from time to time to hang out, but it was kind of a let down, this contest thing for KROQ. It wasn't KROQ's fault, it wasn't the winner's fault, but the lady who won was like this 35 year old lady who previously was not really a fan of the band and she was very nice. She went out and bought our CDs and tried to play the part of the excited winner, but there was a lot of people who would have probably been more excited to win than she was. She was nice, but you know what I mean, it ws a little weird just some weird flick happened and she wasn't much of a fan for it, but it was okay.
EZ I read in the Orange County Register that, I don't know if was you or someone else
in the band who said it was just totally diferent because you got like the royal treatment
when you were there.
TD Oh, you know what, actually Gwen said that. It didn't happen. We thought they were going to escort us to the exits and cut in front of everybody, but you know what, we waited in line. But they did have Disneyland escort people with us. They said they only do that of people are getting mobbed, and we weren't getting mobbed. So, we waited. But all the lines were like 15 minutes for the best rides. It was a good day to go. It was fun. I love that place. There is a lot of really great, creative shit that they've done there, you know, and some of those rides like Haunted Mansion and even newer ones like Indiana Jones to me there is a lot of brilliant art stuff like that Fantasmic show. From a creative standpoint they have dreamed up and built some really amazing stuff. That's part of a little bit of the theme of the title of our album, Tragic Kingdom, and even the song, the lyrics of the song a bit is about how in Disney's case there is creativity in society these days is all mixed in with business. Like there is this balance of commercialism and art. I guess what we do is the same thing. It's music, but at the same time there's selling records and promotions and marketing that isn't our thing, not really, and I feel Disney, they are this huge, huge corporate entity that from where they started and even what they still do there is a lot of great, creative, artistic stuff that they are able to do within the framework of a business. I think it's inspiring in some ways - I'm not saying everythig they do is great. I can name some shortcomings that Disney people have. It's just kind of a theme we have to wrestle with ourselves every day. Even doing shows like this, we have to decide how much to charge for the tickets and we decide how much to spend on lighting and sound. Thre are always these creative versus business questions. There is always this balance we have to try to acheive.
EZ Talking about business, how do feel when people say, after listening to your older
stuff like Beacon Street and now Tragic Kingdom. What do you say when people say No Doubt
is "selling out?"
TD It's a good question. Well, there is a reason that the sound of our music has changed and it's not because we've sold out, easy for me to say. Eric, our keyboard player used to write most of our songs. He was the main creative force in the band for many years. And at a certain point after that first album came out, he had this personal thing, like he didn't like touring, he didn't like all that stuff. He just liked to sit down and write songs. That's him. He's the artistic side, the total Mr. Creative.
EZ Who is writing all your stuff now?
TD Well what happened is when Eric decided to leave the band it left the song writing to us, me, Gwen, Tony, the rest of us and it's a really natural thing for our song writing style to be different than Eric's. Just we're different people. I mean we've learned a lot from him and he taught us a lot of things about song writing, but we write simpler music. We have a simpler style. We're not quite Genius like him I think. This album was our first attempt. it was Gwen's first time really writing all the lyrics herself so to me, it went the opposie from selling out we have done something that is even more personal. In the past, Eric was writing songs about his life and having Gwen sing them. Now we have Gwen singing and writing about her own experiences. it makes it more natural. She's a singer, she should sing about herself or sing what she wants to sing. Ithink that is the main reason why our musical style has changed. On the other side of the coin is whether we consider this selling out and I don't think we do. I think in some way we always aspired to be on the radio and on MTV and I don't think we ever said we were going to try to make a lot of money, but most young people grow up listning to the radio and us to be on that is not a question of selling out. It is just not us. We had a lot of sensitive feeling about it, but we are really happy to be in the position that we're at. We are really happy to be able to have a couple of string players come up on stage with us and make the music better and be able to visualize the show and create it. We're musicians and this is about music and bing a band. It's not about being independent record labels or not being on the radio or that kind of stuff. We're hopefully making good art and I am sure some people think it sucks. This is going to be a cheesy analogy, but when you go and see Neil Diamond, maybe it's cheesy but there are some fuckin' great songs there and that's the kind of ethic. We want to make great music and not whether it is underground or whatever. That's not what it is all about.
EZ How do you feel as a band working with one another. Are there tensions in the band
when Gwen gets all the attention like this month when she on the cover of SPIN magazine by
herself. Is there any tension when that sort of thing happens?
TD Yeah, there is and it's been the most difficult thing we've had to deal with with this success is that that and some oterh tensions. We've never been pulled apart like this before like when SPIN calls up and say we want Gwen on the cover and if you guys want to be in the magaizne that's what you have to do. We were so bummed. You know, it feels relly bad as a person.
EZ Were you mad at Gwen for taking the offer?
TD No, but it was a difficult choice to make. We decided all four of us that we were going to go ahead and have her do it, but that isn't what we wished we could have done. I mean, we could have said "Fuck SPIN" and we're not going to do that, we're a band, and that is kind of how we felt, but in the end Gwen was really happy to be on the cover and we are happy to extend her that curtousy and it was a good chance to ge an article about us out to, I guess out to the masses. To a lot of people who hadjust heard these songs or seen these videos, and really don't know anything about us. There's a lot of people out there who aren't from Orange County and don't know our history and this is a chance for us to tell our story. But there was definitely tension.
EZ Going into a little bit what it says in that article about the suicide of a former
bandmate, how did that along with the death of Bradley Nowell affect the band?
TD we were all friends with him [Bradley] and especially in the last year or so we didn't hang out as much because we were always touring, but in the year or two before that we seemed to hook up with them a lot. We played a couple shows together, we oured with them a little and I think tehre was a bit of a bond. We were just huge fans. When Brad died it was different than when John died. John was the original singer. When John died he committed suicide and Brad died of an accident, but when John died everyone was in high school. Everyone was 16 and 17 years old and that's a really traumatic age to be at and experience something like that. Emotional things were way more aplified than they are now and it was a really terrrible, terrible thing. When that happened, I wasn't in the band though, and there was a few months there when the band did break up for like a week or two and then everyone decided they just wanted to keep playing. When Brad died, it was a huge shock, but at the same time I think we knew a little bit about his heroin problem and when you know someone is using like that there is always a question how long they are going to be around. It's the sad truth. It was just a really sad thing. He was super talented. Who knows what else he could have done. I think out of the whole scene of this kind of rock coming from the Orange County / Long Beach area, I think he had the biggest chance of having the longevity of a real talent in the music world. I think he could have wriiten songs for years and still done really well and sustained a really creative career
EZ Going to back to the issue of drugs, are there drug problms in No Doubt?
TD No, and that's the honest truth. I can tell you that no one has ever done heroin thats for sure. I think we have all done our share of drinking beers here and there and marijuana has been around, but no one is a pot head and noone is a drunk. It really hasn't been a problem. When we started touring on this album it was really easy to have a lot of drinks every night and free beer everywhere or whateever, but after a week or two of that you realize you cannot sustain it. It totally gets old and it is physically really hard to live this kind of lifestyle and to be fucked up all the time.
EZ About touring, do you like touring with the band? How is that affecting you?
TD Touring is fun. I like it a lot and I think we always wanted to be a touring band. We always wanted to play live. That was our strongpoint was playing live and so when we had the opportunity to do it, we said that we wanted to go and not come home. They said okay and we'll see what happens. I mean you want to come home after a while and we just had 3 weeks off, our longest break in 13 months and it feels really good to be home for a while and drive around in your car, but at the same time having 3 weeks off makes us really itchy to go out and play again. I think at the ends of the last few tours we were starting to get burnt. It affects our relationships, you get sick of hanging out with each other a little bit, you get sick of playing live. So taking a break for 3 weeks kind of recharges our batteries.
EZ Have you started working as a band on a new album? Have you recorded or written
TD We've starting writing a little bit and we've thought a lot about writing, but unlike Eric used to be, we're not super prolific writers and we're not always writing but we're starting to think about that. We're going in January to record some songs for a couple of benefit records we're doing. We're doing somehing for the Museum Of Tolerance and there's some more really good charities we're going to record for and then there is a movie or two also so we're going to step into the studio again and try some different producers and it will be a warm up for recording. Around that time we will start writing some more of the new album. We have like four or five songs.
EZ Are you going to be playing anything new tonight?
TD No brand new songs, but there are some songs we haven't done in a while and some songs we haven't done live much this year and it's kind of a longish set with like I think 16 or 17 songs.
EZ Are yu going to do anything special for Halloween?
TD Gwen wanted to have pumkins on stage so she went on the radio and asked people to bring pumpkins so we'll do that and then I think a coupld of us are going to wearing costumes, but the stage set isn't really a Halloween thing, it's just our orange grove thing.
EZ How did it feel to you to get a star and that huge display at the Hard Rock Cafe out
TD It was very strange because in some ways part of us doens't like to endorse places. I mean, "Beverly Hills 90210" asked us to play on their show and Pepsi wanted us to do a commercial and weird stuff like that that we just had to say no to, but we figured that it's pretty harmless and it was an honor. My parents loved it. I think the Hard Rock Cafe is trying to turn around it's image and go for younger people because I think they are more known for an older crowd with all this classic guitar and classic band stuff. We were honored, but we felt a little awkward, not being in the public eye, but being in the public eye in that kind of way.
EZ How do you feel about other Orange County bands like Reel Big Fish, The Aquabats,
that you know, credit you as influences and put you in their liner notes?
TD YOu know whats weird. For many years we felt that Orange county was our scene and we belonged to that kind of all ages, ska-punk scene and there was a certain pint after our first album came out where we started changing and a lot of new bands came out like Reel Big Fish, Sublime, and Suburban Rhytym, The Aquabats. I think it is just a real healthy thing to see the scene do so well on its own, but I am not sure we fit into it the way we used to. We're older. We're in our mid twenties. I'm 28 and most of the people who go to those show are in high school and college and it was time for us to move on from that. At a certain point our popularity did really well on the local scene and started tearing off and then this album came out and it was a different thing. I am proud of what we helped to start a little bit, but now we need to leave it to these new bands and it's definitely not our scnee anymore. They're taking it over and good for them.
EZ Do you still classify yourself as a "Ska-punk" band?
TD No, not ska-punk band. i would say our roots are in Ska and when we started in 1987 we were a 2-Tone ska band. Thats what we were and anyone who says we werent ever, they werent there because we played a lot at the mod festivals and that what they were. But with new people like me joining the band we wanted to do our own thing. We didn't want to be just a ska band. We wanted to do whatever we wanted to and we wanted to play this funky Chili Pepper influenced stuff a while back and fuck those people if they weren't going to support us in doing it. A lot of those ska people stopped coming to our shows. That was back in the day where they all dressed up for ska, not so much like they do today, but like when they were in all the Rude Boy dress and stuff, and those people stopped coming to see us, but at the same time we built our own following. I know we're not a punk band and it wouldn't be fair to call ourselves Ska when we have bands like Let's Go Bowling now playing traditional ska. We have that influebnce in us, but thats not us anymore.
EZ How has MTV been treating you?
TD Well, they play our videos a lot and in one sense its good because it allows us to do big shows and sell records and thats not a bad thing in some respect, but we know that getting played on MTV so much some people will act negatively.
EZ Will there be another single off of Tragic Kingdom for you?
TD Well, we're going to make a video for Excuse Me Mr. in December so that will be the last one and that video should be cool, it'll be kind of fun to make. It lets us be creative. Yeah, that will be the last one.
To get to the No Doubt concert review from this night, click HERE. To see the No Doubt concert photographs from the Bren Center concert, click HERE.