Dogtown Balladeers - Dressed Up In Dreams

You will find them in the last seats of the bar at the end of the world, drinking a tear to yesterday with a taste of elegance... The Dogtown Balladeers is of whom I speak. Out of the gutters of New York the band has returned to their South Jersey home. Location may have affected the bands song writing, but not the classic Balladeers sound. The Dogs are a gifted, talented band just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with them. We caught up with the Dogtown Balladeers mouthpiece, and drummer Jacky Rena, and this is what he had to say...

HNF: For those not familiar with The Dogtown Balladeers, tell us when and where you formed and who is in the band.

JACKY RENA:
I guess we formed like two years ago. Traci (Steven Traci Bishop) and I left Scarlet Fever and formed this band and there have been people in and out but, even though some of the band members have changed, the bottom line is that as long as Traci and I are together and we stay true to our roots. The band sound will not change all that much depending on the rest of our supporting cast.

HNF: Tell me, who is on this album. Well, as far as the band before we get to the special guest.

JR:
Well it is always going to be and always was Traci on vocals and me on the drums, we brought back guys from the neighborhood because it just kind of lost its fun for a little bit there. Spencer (Wilhouse) playing guitar and Chuckie (Peters), he's on bass, he's a neighborhood guy. He kind of joined us at the tail end. In the future we'll be pursuing another guitarist, as well as piano player. After a few acoustic shows, the Gospel Girls, Jaynre and Kimmy will join us as our backup singers

HNF: Tell me about the band's namesake, where did that come from?

JR:
Well we're always Balladeers, we are always poets, always into the lyrics. The ones that tell the stories are always the best. So that is where the Balladeer came from. Dogtown, well we are the underdog. That's what it seems like from standing in my shoes. I guess it came from a David Lee Roth album, there is a song called Dogtown.

HNF: So who put that together? Was it you?

JR:
That was me.

HNF: So now you mention Scarlet Fever, whatever happened to Scarlet Fever?

JR:
You just take something as far as you can take it. You just kind of move on. Traci and I are from that band and you know you have to put it to rest at some time and I think we took it as far as we could take it and nothing bad said about it. It was a great time and I thought it was great music for its time but you have to move on. We dropped all that glammy doing your hair and all the clothes and stuff. Now it's just whatever you wear on the street you wear on stage. It's more of a natural thing. Kind of went back to our roots, Stones, Faces, Motown.

HNF: So for someone who has never seen or heard the band, how would you describe it to them?

JR:
Just straight head simple rock n' roll. Real basic, your roots, a lot of fun.

HNF: So up until this full-length release you had two EP's. Tell us about those.

JR:
Ok the first one is called "A Tale Worth Hearing," I think it had two or three songs that are also on the full length and then yet two or three songs that weren't on it. So you had to pick up that, that was "Divine Tears," and a little bit different version of "Days Of Wine And Roses." That one was cut in Dean Davidson's garden instead of New York where we cut the album, different backup singers, with the girls. "All Dressed Up Dreams," the second one had a couple of songs that are also not on the full length. Kind of like a marketing thing. "How Do You Say Love," "Amusement Heart." Then three other tracks from that are on the record. So we threw them on and two or three songs from the basic album. And now the albums been just released.

HNF: So now you have been working on "Antique, Wine and Roses" a long time. Why so long?

JR:
I guess you can say a money situation, band members. I always wanted it to come out even if it killed me, it was definitely gonna come out. I guess I'm glad it took so long because of the fact that everything is like what I have always wanted it to be. I couldn't ask for a better package. And if I would have put it out then it would kind have been rushed and all that.

HNF: Tell us about your producer, Sami Yaffa, and how you came by him.

JR:
Well we rehearse in New York City at a place called Ultra Sound and Jamie Heath who played saxophone with Johnny Thunders, he was jamming next door to us in Alison Gordys band. Alison used to sing back up for Johnny Thunders. We are kind of loud in rehearsal and Jamie came in and wanted to say hi since we met him a couple of times. He's just like oh wow, and he listened in. While he's rehearsing, in Alisons band there is Michael Monroe blowing harmonica of Hanoi Rocks and Sami Yaffa, and a couple other guys from Johnny's band. So Jamie is like do you mind if I bring Michael and Sami in to watch you guys? We were like fuckin' blown away. We're like, "what really? yeah!" So bang they're right in front of us, we're playing "Baby," I can't really remember... and they sat there right square in front of us like the size of my bedroom sitting in two folded chairs. Sami Yaffa, Michael Monroe and Jamie, they're all smoking cigarettes, going "you guys kick ass." Sami came over to me, he's like I would really be interested in producing you guys and we are like "We don't have any money to go into the studio." So we said fuck this, Sami Yaffa, and Michael want to play some harmonica and hang out with us in the studio, we had better get some money. You know we got girl friends, got parents and any one who can help us. So we decided let's go cut. So we cut. First it was going to be three songs and than ten and then it ended up being a total of twelve songs up in New York all produced with Sami. With Sami being there, there is just so much fun. He brought down Izzy Stradlin and Jimmy Ashhurst from Ju Ju Hounds, they came in and had a beer. It's funny, we are in there playing "Shuffle It All," he's laughing and Jonathan Daniel from Electric Angels came in and all of those guys, Shane, The Hawk. Ryan Roxie and Jeff Cease formerly of the Black Crowes. We had Roger Erickson to play some slide, formerly of the Throbs. Brian Forsythe from Kix, he played some stuff. It was like one big party. It was a real good time. And ex Britny Fox, Blackeyed Susan front man Dean Davidson. Dean, really didn't come up to New York as much as cutting in his house.

HNF: I know your long time buddy and bassist Harlan Monroe left the band to join another project and he was also the main song writer. How does that affect the future of your material?

JR:
Harlan moved on to a band called Hot Water, which is good. He's was going down a different road at the time. He wanted to get a little bit more alternative and where everything we do is pretty... I don't want to say planned because it is really not planned but it's well thought out, if were gonna do it, were gonna do it right all the way down to the look, the guitars your playing, the sound your playing. We go for that vintage thing so everything is going to be vintage down to the amp tone you know, what you are wearing basically. If you don't live with it, it's not going to be right. And Harlan going down a different road and we were going down Rolling Stones, Faces road and he wanted to break off and do some alternative stuff. Which is totally cool and he is still my best bro in the world. He latched on to a band that had a deal and why the fuck not? So he jumped on that and that's going pretty good, we are still best bros and you know he is still moving on to different things right now as he is playing with them. So I don't know if Harlan could pen another "I'd Stay A Million." Hopefully he can, because we are definitely going to write with him again in the future. He's like a sixth member of the Dogtown Balladeers. He'll always be my right hand.

HNF: So other than Harlan?, how do you plan on handling the song writing from here on?

JR:
Even when it was with Harlan, if you'll look Traci wrote a lot, I wrote a lot, Harlan wrote a lot. You know I like the new guys whoever they may be. If there is something that fits on that path of the old rootsy rock n' roll, it's more than welcome, I'm not a dick with song writing, anybody can write. It's just got to stay in the book. I know Traci has a few we are all ready to take out. I have a couple ideas. Hopefully we will go from there. We have to keep rolling on too.

HNF: Will the band be working with Jonathan Daniel on a song again?

JR:
I'd love too. That would be cool.

HNF: The art work and packaging is first rate and I understand you are responsible for that?

JR:
Yes, I'm responsible for it and I'll take the pat on the back a little bit, but you also have to buy a drink for Erik Levy formerly Blackeyed Susan, he does all my art work and goes out with my sister. Whenever I need help, Erik makes us look amazing and Boy Roy Ives the photo boy is always there, whenever I need him. My publicist, Alex Richter from that magazine Hard N' Fast and Steve Perry over at Disc Makers are always there too. Carla Draggotti who does the direction thing. She handles Cheap Trick. She does all our mail and our fan club. We're not really managed by anybody but she helps us out a lot. There are a lot of people behind the Dogtown Balladeers and I am very thankful for them.

HNF: Tell us about the hidden track on the album?

JR:
That would be "The Rebel Kid," the thirteenth song on "Antique Wine And Roses." Written by Dean Davidson, originally intended for Joan Jett, and she never used it, so Dean gave it to us. It's a few years old, but still a solid track, and we wanted to give our fans a little something extra.

HNF: So there is a nice couple on the back photo, who are they?

JR:
That's my Grandmom and Grandpop. That picture is from like 1905 or 1910. I stole it out of my Mom's china closet. I gave it to Steve Perry. I said Steve don't take this thing out of glass, my Mother will kill me. It's like all wrinkled up paper and he kept the frame on it too. The frame on the album is a little bit darker than my Moms actual frame but a lot of people comment on that. It was great to see my Moms face when she saw the CD, pretty touching.

HNF: So what would you like to see this album accomplish?

JR:
I guess land it major, you know what I mean? If not land major, just make people happy again and get out there and play to a bigger sized crowd, get better gigs and stuff like that. I'm happy with it right now, I can't complain. I got it done and it's out there in the stores so I'm very happy with that.

HNF: So who is a typical Dogtown Balladeers fan?

JR:
A person who loves good old rock n' roll and appreciate where we are coming from like the tone, of the old amps, the old guitars you know something was done yesteryear. Three chords, a cloud of dust and a bad attitude.

HNF: So what are your tour plans?

JR:
Right now we are just starting up meetings again, we had the holidays off and there are a couple of things lined up. I don't want to say anything yet but WYSP radio station's Loud and Local show in Philadelphia has got a couple things lined for us. There is no set date yet, but I don't want to let something fly until it's finalized. We just want to start off step by step doing like a few acoustic in store appearances just to move the album a little bit. People can come out and hang with us instead of getting rushed around back stage and get on stage. You can't hang with the people, you know I want to have a couple cocktails with the people, hang out, talk to them about life. Get more down to earth with people then we'll take it out and play some live shows but first step is going to be doing a few acoustic things. Me on congas, shakers, and tambourine, Traci on the vocals and you know Spencer on guitar and Chuckie on the bass. Real acoustically kind of vibe.

HNF: So is anybody in the band hooked on the internet as of yet?

JR:
Like I said we do everything vintage. We don't have the money to buy a computer yet. So my publicist handles all of that. But we do have an E-mail address. DOGTOWNB.AOL.COM we answer all E-Mail as well as regular mail, which you can send to us at P.O. Box 7045 - F.D.R. Station - New York, NY 10150-1908. Oh, and our hotline number is (609) 234-5835.

HNF: What do you foresee for The Dogtown Balladeers future?

JR:
Fairy tales and smokey bars. Just like the album cover right there. It goes down a faded dirty old road. It goes into oblivion. We don't know where we are going but we are going down that road and we don't know if we won the war or lost the war but it's good for the soul to come home and that is what we are doing getting it back together and coming back out. But, were taking our time.

HNF: In closing is there something you would like to say to our readers and to your fans, or soon to be fans?

JR:
Please buy our records so we can eat. Keep in mind it is good time rock n' roll the way it started out. Who knows where it is going but hopefully it will always be around. And of course we want to thank all the people who stuck with us through all of the years. Cheers!


The Dogtown Balladeers would like to dedicated this interview to Jamie Heath who passed away of an apparent overdose a few days after this interview was done, God rest his soul.

This interview was made for Hard n Fast magazine, thanks for letting GLAM & GLITZINE use it.