The Roots Report: An Interview with Dave Mason

John Fuzek: Hello
Dave Mason: Hello, John? It’s Dave Mason
John Fuzek: Hey, how are you? Where are you?
Dave Mason: We are in Florida
JF: Gig there tonight?
DT: We played in Clearwater last night and we are in Orlando tomorrow
JF:   so how many dates are there on this tour?
DM: um, good question, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 13, 14, and I think 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20!
JF: wow, busy tour
DM: not really (laughs)  its not that busy, maybe, I suppose but have done lots more than that
JF: you don’t seem to have an accent anymore
DM: um, I don’t know, I never thought about it, but then again not everybody sounds like the gecko (laughs)
JF: Do you live in the states?
DM: I’ve lived here since 1969
JF:  Well that could be it, you speak like we do unfortunately (laughs)   i have a friend from London and she’s lived here a long time and now she sounds like she comes from NYC
DM: I think my accent is somewhere in the middle of the atlantic ocean
JF: So, we share the same birthday
DM: Oh really?
JF: You’re 15 years older than me though, we share that day with Bono, Donovan, Fred Astaire and a few others
DM: Good company!
JF: So i saw you once and that was 41 years ago, I don’t know if you remember but it was 7/4/76
DM: I doubt it, too many miles ago!
JF: it was pretty important around here cause it was the bicentennial and you opened for Elton John at a stadium with 80,000 people
DM: oh, i do remember that!
JF: that was a long time ago
DM: Ah, yes and no, not in the vast scheme of things, it’s not that long ago
JF: you were 30 and I was 15,  that makes ME feel old! So, a big thing lately with me has been musicians who tell stories on stage. With a rich history like yours, is this something that you do at your shows?
DM: it depends on the songs that I’m doing, but yeah we try to engage with the audience
JF:  you’ve lived and impressive life and played with impressive likeMcCartney Harrison, Hendrix,  Clapton. I am sure you must have some good stories
DM: yes, there’s a few
JF: i can imagine , that added to the music, i mean the music is great,  but when you throw those stories in it makes a night more memorable
DM:  yeah, it was great to be able to make music with them, I was fortunate, lucky enough to be in the situations to do it
JF: it is totally a different time now  was it a big deal to play with them then or is it more of a big deal now? Was it more casual back then?  Was it just like jamming with friends?
DM:  No, they were all very successful bands, I mean Clapton, Hendrix,  Stevie Wonder had been popular since he was what, 12 years old?   You know, they were all enormous talents even then, I was just fortunate to be there and be a part of it
JF: Did you actually play on “All Along the Watch Tower” with Jimi Hendrix?
DM:  yeah, I played the acoustic guitar and also sang on “Crosstown Traffic”
JF: What is your personal favorite memory of recording with people?
DM: I would have to say probably working with Hendrix, it was him and myself and Mitch Mitchell in the studio when we were doing the thing, i just remember doing it and he was just so unique, all of them were extremely talented in their own way, I would think Hendrix would have to stand out from the rest ina lot of ways a because I’m a guitar player and just because he was so unique and innovative
JF: what age were you when you started to play guitar
DM: when I was about 15
JF: what was your inspiration for picking up the guitar?
DM: (laughs) seemed like a good idea, heard all these other bands and thought that was cool so I’m going to learn guitar, I just got into it then it became it just became a passion, I just basically, umm, I am self taught, you know,
JF: Wow, that’s great that you are self taught, I took lesson for a couple of months and then learned on my own
DM:I just learned from listening to records and trying to copy them
JF: I think that’s probably the best way, that’s pretty much how I did it
DM: I mean it would be helpful if i could read and write music and was a little more technically proficient I suppose, but I think I have fumbled my way around ok
JF: well it hasn’t held you back! You’ve done pretty damn well for teaching yourself how to do something!
DM: yeah, I guess so!
JF:  So in you’re shows your doing now, whats going on in the show?
DM: well, were kinda doing the whole album Alone Together which we’ve never done, play all the songs from the album, so we’re doing that but it’s kind of interspersed in the show and I have some Traffic things that I do sort of my own arrangements  of two or three Traffic songs and then some stuff from my other solo albums  and people i know people are going to want to hear “We Just Disagree” and “Watchtower”
JF: what does your band consist of?
DM:   My band is Tony Patler on keyboards, keyboard bass also,   Alvino Bennett on drums, Johnne Sambataro is my other guitar player, he’s been there the probably the longest on and off for 35 years, and they’ve all played with a lot of different artists over the years
JF:   So, you’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I hear a lot of conflicting things about how different folks feel about it, how do you feel about it?
DM: (laughs) I am in with Traffic, you know its nice to be recognized i guess but I don’t know, they didn’t give me a gold watch I know that, no, no Rolex
JF: What kind of guitars are you playing on stage?
DM:  I use a Strat, a custom Strat
JF:  are you playing any acoustic?
DM  of course many of my songs are acoustic based   I use an Alvarez Yari, I have two twelve strings, I have had them for a long time, they are electric/acoustic for using with the band its great, but as a pure acoustic guitar it’s not something i would use, but for the stage they work great
JF: So, you have a new CD,  Alone Together?
DM: I have rerecorded the whole album actually, I didn’t have time to get it finished, i started with a few dates of the Alone Together thing at the beginning of the year and was hoping to have it done but I am not really doing that many dates this year, so we will probably do some more of these shows next year, like I said it is being recorded, the whole album, some of the songs have turned out much better than the original, but it will be only available at the shows which is pretty much how it is these days
JF: CDs are kind of a dying medium
DM: well its not so much that there’s no distribution outlet to expose your music   the great days of FM radio are gone, unfortunately, which is a shame, there’s really nowhere to expose the music,  unfortunately classic rock radio just plays what you already have at home anyway for the most part and doesn’t do, here’s such and such a band, here’s their latest record and here’s one of their classics,  which to me would be a better format, but they don’t do that
JF: how do you feel about satellite radio?
DM: well i don’t know exactly how many people or what the percentage of the population is listening to it people are listening to it, it’s not like the days of terrestrial radio when you had DJs and you had someone there .. i tend to get young people at my shows and talking to them about radio and they say “we don’t listen to it, we know exactly where it’s going, there’s no surprises”   it doesn’t have that connection to people anymore.
JF: I havent listened to radio in years because of that reason  you can turn on the radio at any given time and you can’t tell the date by the music because they are still playing exactly what they were playing 30 or 40 years ago and as much as I would love to hear new stuff they just don’t play it so i just don’t listen to them anymore
DM:  exactly,  that’s one of the big things, more than the internet itself has destroyed, for the most part, the intellectual property for writers and musicians unfortunately there’s no format to expose the new stuff which is important, it’s unfortunate, so basically you take it on the road with you
JF:  True, I think the MODEL for a Pandora and those types of station, you know, if you set up a channel like Traffic they will play Dave Mason, Steve Winwood, and then similar type music, it’s a good idea but those stations don’t really pay fair royalties
DM: Yeah, that’s the other part of it, too, they’re basically screwing the writer and they’re not paying the right royalty and there’s even Washington lobbying trying to get that cut down
JF:  It’s ridiculous, I know people who get 10’s of thousands of plays and get a check for something like .30 cents
DM: Right, exactly,  so if you’re a writer, a songwriter these days, you’re screwed, if you thought you were getting screwed by the recording companies we’re getting screwed worse by the internet companies (laughs)
JF: Exactly!   So, over the years what is your favorite album that you’ve recorded?   DM:  well, one of my favorites is nobody’s really heard, somehting I did about ten years ago called, “26  Letters and 12 Notes”  I think it sold about 12,000 copies, so i have taken four of the song from there and about to put an EP together with a great production person and launch in a whole new way that no one’s done yet, so we’ll see what happens
JF: do you perform these songs live?
DM:  i would never do that until an album is available, I will probably wait until this EP is put together and the songs are on it and everything is in place then once we can get it out there to people, yeah, I’ll probably play it
JF: You’re 71 now how long to you think you’re going to keep rocking?
DM: (laughs) God knows,  I don’t know,   probably, I don’t know, who knows? It might be all over halfway through “Watchtower” one night! (laughs)
JF: I hope not!
DM: don’t miss the last show, man    (laughter)
JF: I  mean do you still feel good, get up on stage and have the energy?
DM: I love playing! I love playing! We all do. basically I’m like the rest of the guys in the band, I’m a working musician, that’s what we do and I can still do it and even better than i used  be able to do it, so I mine as well keep doing it until I can’t
JF: You’re getting better with age!
DM: like a fine wine! (laughs)
JF:  Is there anything else you want to throw in that maybe folks would want to know about but I didn’t have active enough brain power to ask?
DM: Oh, God, I don’t know (laughs), if you’re into real music and want the real thing come on out and see us, it’s a great band and we sing some great songs
JF:  is it just you or will there an opening act?
DM: umm,  I actually don’t know,  someone might be put on by the local venue
JF:   so you’re not touring with anyone
DM: not specifically, no
JF: how long a show are you doing nowadays
DM: about 90 minutes
JF: are you exhausted after?  Do you feel like you want to sleep for a month?
DM: That’s what I do these days,  I travel, I eat, I play, I sleep, I travel, I eat, I play, I sleep, that’s my routine, I feel exhausted but i feel great, too
JF:  hopefully in fifteen years i can still be doing it the way that you’re still doing it! DM: hopefully so!
JF: its been great talking to you, I look forward to the show
DM: Thank you!
JF: Thank you for calling!
DM: You’re welcome, bye!

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