Missing Persons featuring Dale Bozzio
By the time the '80s kicked into high gear, there were a million bands jumping on the scene. Many were fashion statements only with quite an arresting look but not much in substance. Missing Persons rode above the herd of also-rans because they had both musical ability in spades and, thanks to Dale Bozzio, a cutting edge fashion sense.
Dale, along with then-husband and drummer Terry Bozzio and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, first came to the attention of the public at large as part of Frank Zappa's band, which speaks volumes about their skills. Later branching off into their own band, they were a favourite of the upstart MTV. Their videos for the songs "Walking in LA", "Words", and "Destination Unknown" helped propel the band to stardom including a spot on the famous US Festival of 1983. Dale's quirky costumes and unique voice (and the fact that she's flat-out gorgeous) didn't hurt either.
Despite carrying on touring in many incarnations over the years, Missing Persons is set to release their first new record of original material in over 25 years, appropriately entitled Missing in Action. The band now comprises of Dale and a supporting cast. Producer Billy Sherwood was brought on board to help write the material with Dale. Any fan of the band will not be disappointed to hear the new disc. It's full of the great, ear-friendly material that we've heard in the past and Dale sounds better than ever. It was a pleasure to speak to Dale recently to talk about the new record. Here's our conversation:
antiMusic: It's a great thrill to get to speak with you. I was working in the record stores when Spring Session M came out and the EP actually before that. And I just loved you guys and so thank you very much for sparing me from some of the other bad music that was going on at the time.
Dale: Ah, well thank you so much. I appreciate it. Yup, we, the Missing Persons people worked very hard to make that acceptable in the world. And after we came from Frank Zappa it was a little difficult. People at first said they're crazy they're wild. And so we had to fight the battle of fighting in to the mainstream which was rather impossible with blue hair and crazy clothes. So we went through major rejection before we got that deal on Capitol Records.
Dale: Yup, we really did. Everybody refused us and said we were not the music of the '80s. (laughs) We decided that they were WRONG. And to this day it's really amazing to me 32 years later, I can walk into a grocery store and I'm on the radio there. So we had to have done something right. I believe whole heartedly in my music and always did. I'm a humble person really down deep. I looked rather extravagant but I'm really just trying to lead a health, peaceful life now. And I'm graciously lucky enough to have a new album coming out and it's pretty amazing to me. I think I'm singing the best I have in my life. And I really love the music that I just put together here on this record, with Billy Sherwood as the producer. He was with YES for a few years and he's a really magical fellow. Really incredible. I'm very proud of this record.
antiMusic: It's been over 25 years since a brand new Missing Persons record of new material has come out. Why was now the right time for a new record?
Dale: You know actually it all fell into place. I was living in L.A., I had moved from Boston, my father passed away and I took my mom to L.A. with my sons and we re-established a little life. And we had a year left with her and she lived every day and she finally fell asleep and passed away March 4th last year.
antiMusic: Ah, I'm sorry to hear that.
Dale: So at that point I just decided, "You know what? I better gear up. Just call Cleopatra and make a record." Because when I get that sad, I turn all of my motor skills into singing. That's my one great release that I have in the world. And it's the same with me when I go on stage. I own the stage. It's my peaceful place. And I know when I sing, all of my listeners they give me back more than I could possibly, possibly even imagine. So that is my escape actually. And I'm grateful in my heart; I've always tried to turn the most disastrous, most sad moments in my heart into something better so that I can accept it. That's what I do. I sing. I turn to my inner strength which is my singing.
antiMusic: Tell us how you got together with Billy and how the record shaped up.
Dale: Actually I went through Cleopatra because they work with him steadfastly and they just sent me over there and he and I just clicked immediately. Immediately. I gave him this little book. I've just put together this little book called Everything I've learned So Far. My son printed it up for me and it's all of the material and the poems that I've written. I've been writing since I was 11 years old. I write poems and prose and stories and all kinds of things. Actually all the music that came from Spring Session M was derived from this particular book now that I have put into print. And also the songs that have been written by me on the tracks of this new album also came from this book. I have a treasure of writings because that is really what my prowess is, writing songs. I penned 37 of those Missing Persons songs with Terry and Warren and they were treasures to my heart. But that is what is part of me. My power is in my pencil.
antiMusic: Considering your absence on the record shelves, in terms of new material, and the amount of scrutiny would be placed on this record, was there a standard you used to determine when a song was worthy of making it on this record?
Dale: You know what? I took the material and I knew in my heart if I hit the notes and gave it my best shot of making my accent on the Dale tone that it would work. I have no regrets on this record. My favourite track is number 5, "The More We Love". It states exactly how I feel. That song makes me cry actually, it's so beautiful. It hits me at a part of my heart (voice quivering) when I sing it. My mother had just passed away, just days before and I sang that to her.
Dale: Yeah. It's very, very important to me that every note I sing is perfect. And I pride myself on that. Including when I sing live. My momentum now and my focus is singing the notes properly and making the music work more than my outfits or my hair or whatever style would be professed in my life at this point. I'm going to be 60 years old and I pray to God that he lets me live to 100 and I want to make the world a better place.
antiMusic: Who plays with you on the record, Dale?
Dale: Actually, Billy Sherwood played everything on there. He played everything.
antiMusic: Oh wow.
Dale: And I had a friend of mine who is a guitar player called Patrick Boland coach me a bit. He's been helping me quite a bit reaching some incredible notes and do things with my voice, which, once again am still discovering that I can really sing some amazing things if I stretch myself. Which is what happened when I met Frank Zappa. He said to me one day, "You will be a household word with that voice." And I laughed and joked with him and thought, how funny. I wanted to be a movie star when I went to California and this whole thing just landed on me and now I have no escape. (laughs)
antiMusic: Let's talk about a couple of songs. I guess, possibly my favourite on the record is the one you can tell right off the bat, bam, there's the single. What can you tell us about "Hello, Hello"?
Dale: Ah, well, "Hello Hello" I did not write but I sang it as I re-interpreted it my way. And I think I nailed it. (laughs) I really like it. It's an awesome song. And I'm very proud that I had the chance and the opportunity to sing it. Normally I wouldn't sing other people's songs. I mean I have in the past, but nothing that hit me that way. And I do believe in it. I think it's a smash.
antiMusic: What about "Walk into the Sun." That's a captivating track.
Dale: Yeah beautiful. Very beautiful. Really beautiful. Yeah. I'm impressed. I'm impressed with the whole record. It moves me. So I have to think in that genre that I know my listeners will appreciate it because I know that they have a lot of heart. And I have some incredible, incredible friends, which you can call fans, listeners, call them whatever you want but they've been with me 32 years, my whole career. For you a listener, and playing my album and anybody who is still waiting to hear me sing, I think I delivered it. And I have much more material that I'm going to go record with my son who is 23. He's Shane, a guitar player as well, and he's teaching me how to play guitar. And this fella, William Gelvin of Gelvin Guitars is making me my own beautiful, personal guitar that I will have soon. So I'm hoping to be able to play, my favourite song, "The More We Love: on guitar and we'll see how fast I can learn it. (laughs)
antiMusic: Excellent. That would be a trip I would think to be able to play it live.
Dale: (laughs). Yeah, so I'm stretching myself out here a little bit…(laughs) Not saying I'm a pro anything, but I'm going to give it a try for sure..
antiMusic: I love "All The Way". I didn't initially like the way it went from minor in the verses to major in the chorus. It seemed kind of strange…
Dale: That's a song that I wrote. I wrote "All the Way" and I wrote, "If I Can Give You My Mind."
antiMusic: Cool. After the first spin it was like, "Well that's kind of jarring"…but it really made it stand out and I really loved it after a couple of spins.
Dale: Yeah, I took the approach that was a little avant garde, you know. It was just a little bit different. It was kind of like the same thing when I went into the studio and went UH! And did those squeaking notes and Terry said, ":Don't do that. That's crazy. Don't do that. That sounds NUTS. You can't talk like that, squeak like that!" Then we turned and Zappa said to me, "Oh no, don't take that away from her. That's her signature. That's what she does. Let her just go for it." That was the one escape I had with Frank. When Frank hired me he said, "Laugh. Okay, stop. Do this. Okay do that." And when I did it, he would look at me in amazement, and go, "She does it. She can do it." But I have this funny little thing in my head. It's like a switch I can switch on and off so amazingly. And any time I sing a song it just staples in my head like cement. And I can never sing it differently. It just stays there. It's a phenomena that I have.
antiMusic: Yeah, really. The acoustic version of "Walking in LA" is excellent.
Dale: Yeah, that's quirky. (laughs)
antiMusic: It sounds like something that you've probably been playing for a while now, or versions like it.
Dale: Yeah, (laughs), kind of opt out for the Bahama affect.
antiMusic: Yeah, it must be a great encore kind of thing for your show.
Dale: Oh yeah, it's the last song I play every show. Every show.
antiMusic: With downloading and declining record sales in recent years, in your eyes, how will you determine if this record is a success?
Dale: You know what? Personally speaking I don't even gauge success anymore. I feel in my heart the songs I've written with the Missing Persons people will go down in history and this is just one more notch in my belt. I'll be lucky if everybody loves it. That's all that my goal is, is to really deliver to the people who are waiting to hear some more music from me. I think it's incorrigible. I think all the way is really what everybody wants you to be with them all the way, no matter what, through thick and thin. In this lifetime, we can't gauge what this day is going to deliver for us. None of us knows what the future holds. I don't have a crystal ball. And I don't tend to think that I do. I wake up every day and jump into the world and say, "Okay, I hope my parachute works today."
Because basically, what else we friggin got? We got TV. We got soda and ice cream and now you can smoke pot and have a happy day. I mean, I think the world should be free, open and allowing. I mean the greatest mistakes become the greatest inventions in the world. And the same for me. And as well for Einstein and whatever we have here---electricity. I mean I purposefully feel that whatever you do in this life is never a mistake. It's a journey and we need to venture out and do the best thing we can. If we're helping someone, we can never go wrong. I'm all for the betterment of the world and the people, and the babies and little children and anyone who needs a helping hand. I never look the other way for anybody who comes my way and needs my support. And I would hope the same thing, that someone would treat me as I would treat someone else.
antiMusic: Your band was formed in or around '80-81. A lot of other bands of that time were either just a fashion statement or one-hit wonders. Do you think your connection with Zappa and the fact that your musical abilities, either playing and writing of all concerned there, gave you an advantage because you guys were the real deal
Dale: Oh yes without a doubt. When I was engaged with Frank and his music, he gave me the confidence to be the president of the United States. He gave me the confidence in what I do moreso than anything that ever happened to me in my life. And I know that if I was not superb and adequate to work with him he would never have hired me. He hired only the best, the greatest and the most incredible, including Terry Bozzio who is one of the greatest drummers in the world, and will always be. There's nobody who can hold a candle to Terry Bozzio. Nobody can do what Terry does, whether he has one drum where he plays on a dime or he plays on 9,000 drums. It doesn't matter to me and it never did. I helped him design his drums. I helped him set the drums up. I have the utmost respect for him as a drummer.
And Warren Cuccurullo, one of the greatest melody maestros in the world. Incredible, incredible, phenomenal. It's just within his soul. Terry and Warren and I --- Frank Zappa looked at us and said, "Are you going to put a band together?" He supported us in all our adventures and all we thought to be. He gave us strength, momentum, and the opportunity of course, to record at his studio, he didn't give to anybody else except his children. He treated us like we were part of his whole presentation. He believed in us to be a pop band. He believed we would take it to another level. And if he were alive he would be so proud of us.
antiMusic: By '82, your debut record was out and you were playing increasingly big audiences. By the time '83 came, you were appearing at shows like the US Festival. How did you personally adapt to not just becoming a performer but like the master of ceremonies for such huge crowds? Were you comfortable in that role?
Dale: You know, I am. I think I'm a ham (laughs). Amazingly enough I can get on a stage and be able to quell the fears of thousands of people. It's within my heart and my soul. And it's very honest. So that comes to me very naturally. I obviously didn't realize it until I did play at the US festival and saw all those people and realized the situation. But I took it to heart and I eat it up actually. I'm never in fear when I'm on stage. And to myself, in my own little life, I'm extremely introverted. I'm overwhelmingly eccentric and I subside and live with my sons who are all part of my life, they make my world spin around. And I'm dedicated to my sons, my tiny little world outside of all the singing that people see Dale as. I'm a very humble person, just five foot two, little, little girl, who's trying the same way as everyone else here to make it in this life time and envision the positive aspects of the world and hope to be living in a safe environment. I mean seek always the safety of my family and my life. And when I'm on the stage, the world opens up for me. I become a really incredibly happy person there.
antiMusic: Are you planning on a lot of shows to promote Missing in Action?
Dale: I have a lot of irons in the fire right now and a lot of offers to me on the table that actually, this week I'll be deciding to do what have you. I could be going to, I'm not sure, the east coast. I could be going back to Los Angeles or staying here in Vegas. I have a lot of big decisions to make this week concerning my future and I have to kind of weigh out the options that have come my way to see what would be the best thing for myself and my family.
antiMusic: What do you think 2014 holds for Missing Persons and Dale Bozzio?
Dale: Well I pray to God, it's gratefulness and understanding and the peace that I will derive from knowing that my music is still alive. I do want to sing as much as I possibly can. That, as I said, makes me the happiest in the whole world. And as long as I see my sons grow and live productive lives, then I think I did the right thing. I'm all for the children. I want to give a little bit of harmony and peace to any of my listeners because it is a tough world. We all need to find a little space where we can be kind of complete in. I think music makes the world go round.
Morley and antiMusic thank Dale for taking the time to do this interview.
Preview and purchase the new album here.
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