And then the chimney spoke....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Interview: Dennis the Fox

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Hello friends! I'm pleased to present to you, the one and only Dennis Caldirola aka Dennis the Fox in a recent interview I did with him. His LP "Mothertrucker" is a magnificent slab of 70s wildness, great in every way, whether you're coming to it from a psychedelic/lounge/underground musics perspective, or just looking for new and interesting unheard sounds. One thing I love about the LP is where your mind will wander with it, epic moments of wacky hardboiled grit as he describes in the song "Piledriver" - 'when it comes to really living or somewhere in between there's a high steppin side steppin' life outside you ain't never seen', which seems to have inspired true wonder and perverse glee in many - sampled by DJ Shadow, championed by the Psych Mafia, fawned over by those who have plumbed the depths of the private press world... it's one of a kind. So without further ado.... Dennis!

What kind of stuff were you listening to that influenced your music? I hear alot of different sounds in the mix.

Exactly. As I explain on my MySpace page, the project was originally a demo tape to try to get a record deal.. In our naivete, my manager and I tried to make it as versatile as possible to show the genres I was comfortable with - all the stuff I had been playing since I was a kid. Big mistake from a marketing point of view. For example, did you know "Nellie Was a Lady" was published by Stephen Foster in 1849 and made famous by the (original)
Christy Minstrels? I learned it from a local band called "The Magic

Was this project your first, or had you been in bands, etc. before this?

No, I started playing in bands when I was 16. (DTF was recorded when I was 24). My first band was called "The Rum Runners." The DTF project was an outgrowth of a rock opera I wrote when I was with HUGG.

What kind of places did you play at? What was your biggest show?

Mostly teen dances, frat parties, that kind of thing. The Rum Runners opened more than a few big concerts, once at Eagles Auditorium for the Yardbirds. On that date, of course, the promoter skipped w/the funds and we got stiffed. It wasn't until I went back to Italy and founded Dennis & the Jets, that we actually played big concerts w/screaming fans, etc.

The cover art on "Mothertrucker" is totally fantastic! It almost reminds me of stuff you would see on Sci-fi books back then. Who was the artist?

A 25-year old artist named Robert Barbarus. You're right, he dabbled a little in comic book graphics back in those days. Now he teaches art at a local high school, sad to say.

Why "the Fox"?

Damned if I remember. My manager and I were trying to come up with a catchy alternative to "Dennis Caldirola" which is (was) unwieldy to say the least. Dennis Carlo (my father's first name) was floated for awhile.

A song off the album that totally blows my mind is "Like A Stone Man" ... what is this song about?

A guy who's so macho, he's impervious to emotion - conquering as he goes. Of course, in the last line, he gives in as his "walls come tumbling down."

Alot of people refer to your LP as lounge, or "lounge rock"... do you take offense to this term?

I've heard of the "lounge rock" designation. I guess the versatility of the project (discussed earlier) might've thrown some listeners (too many folk songs and ballads, for instance) but judging from the bootleg compilations coming out of Europe at least, many consider it "country-rock."

Is Gunther Haydees a true story?

Gunther Haydees was a band from San Diego (I think) that I met one day - never heard them play - and they had just made up the name. They pictured "him" as some kind of a troll or ogre or something. A few months later, I wrote the song in the studio in about 1/2 hour.

Have you ever been to the Barbary Coast?

Well, I've been to Morocco but not, of course, as a pirate.

What was the gist of the rock opera "Whistle Stop" was from?

Daily adventures of an unknown band on the road. Unlike "Still Crazy" or "Spinal Tap" it was more cute than funny. Like "The Commitments," the group breaks up at the end.

Piledriver is an awesome song. Did you know it has been sampled by hip-hop DJs? It almost reminds me of an old James Bond theme song... Is there a real woman behind this song?

Well, the worst part of it (the various compilations) is I've never received a dime from any of them - they never even ask for permission! Which leads me to sampling: who? when? where? Not that I ever expect to collect, I'd just like to listen to them. No, "Piledriver" was just the product of a 22 year-old's fantasy...

It's funny, because in a review of said compilation, the reviewer laments exactly what you just expressed: "Best of them all is the extraordinary countrypolitan funk of Dennis the Fox's "Piledriver", on which Dennis uses his laconic Fat Elvis drawl to exalt "a mean mother-trucker of a girl" before the female back-up singers swoop in to hi-jack the payload. It's enough to make you question a world where Kenny Rogers gets to make five movies based on "The Gambler", while Dennis the Fox gets squat. Where, I ask you, is the justice?" [Matthew Murphy]

To wrap things up, do you keep in touch with any of the old bandmates/back up singers etc? Any stories on where they wound up?

Yes, I'm still in contact with a few of the musicians from the project and most of them are still playing music one way or another. A couple of the others have passed away and nobody ever really got famous. But if they all had as much fun as I did, playing rock n' roll and being "in show business" for twenty years, they don't regret a minute of it.

On that note, many thanks to Dennis for stopping by, and as an aside, anyone who sees their work written about here is welcome and encouraged to share their thoughts! Please drop in!
See you next week…. -CG

P.S. If anyone out there has a copy of this they'd like to sell please let me know at: