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Toody Cole (Of Dead Moon)

Toody Cole (Of Dead Moon)

Interviewed by
Tam Dirtbag
Wednesday 23rd November, 2016 8:45AM

In a few short weeks our shores will be graced by the the grandparents of modern garage-punk, Fred and Toody Cole. The couple, who are arguably best known for their music made with Dead Moon, will be in New Zealand for three semi-acoustic shows in December that - from all reports - will see them dipping into their prolific back catalogue to include material from projects such as The Weeds to The Lollipop Shoppe to The Rats to Dead Moon, and more recently Pierced Arrows. So in anticipation of their arrival, Tam from 95bFM's Dirtbag Radio wrangled some phone time with Toody and have a great chat about their current goings on, their epic 1992 tour of New Zealand, their grandkids, and one of their favourite pastimes...

Tam: So I know that you're outside the casino at the moment, and that you and Fred like to play nickel video keno during your downtime...

Toody: Oh yeah!! Yeah, we'll be back doing that soon. Soon as whenever, yeah. Just took a break this afternoon.

So, what's the deal with that game?

I dunno, we're just fascinated by it. It's the whole challenge of trying to beat the computer. It's like playing computer chess, except you're trying to guess what the damn thing's going to do and what numbers it's going to go to, and it's very rewarding. It's making big money on a pretty small bet, you know, when you hit stuff. We've been doing really well. Fred especially, he's been kicking my butt, he's been beating me. But at this point we're both ahead. So, you know, good to go. It's like a free vacation [laughs].

Oh so good. I really wanted to know about your first tour in New Zealand in 1992. I read that you committed to a 20+ date tour, which must have been the strangest experience...

[Laughs] Yeah... I was talking to John Baker, because he's the one that booked that tour when he was still doing Cosmic, Cosmic Daisies?? Yeh. But yeh, that was crazy ... I go "Jesus man, we played more cities in New Zealand than half the Kiwi bands I've ever talked to", and he goes "Yeh I know," he goes, "I just figured why not?" And I figured, yeah why not, I mean, we never go out in the States unless we have more gigs than that. So it was just like every little place, not a problem [laughs]. As a first experience it was wonderful, it really was, to see the whole country and it's such an amazing place. And the two islands are so different. I'm really so lucky to have seen a lot of spots that most people, as tourists, are the only ones that go to these places.

Yeh, I read you went to Haast, Whanganui, just out of Greymouth. And these are places most Kiwis don't go...

Yeah, Invercargill, and New Plymouth and Dunedin and Christchurch. And just all over the place, yeah.

That's so great. I have two co-hosts on my show. Two insanely loyal and committed Dead Moon fans. They recently saw you at Goner Fest...

Oh yeah! It was a great Goner Fest this year!! Really nice. We've played several of them, we've played as Pierced Arrows and Dead Moon as well at different Goner Fests, but this one was a great turnout and really just had a nice feel to it. Great crowd and we had a really enjoyable time playing there. It was awesome.

I think two of my friends came up to you. I think one gave you an ashtray via another friend..

Oh yeah yeah yeah!

And I think Rapley, gave Fred a Dead Moon belt buckle...

Yes yes, a brass one. It was amazing. Yeah I remember those guys. They were great, [laughs].

 So I'm just wondering, these people are just such insanely loyal crazy fans of Dead Moon, what do you think connects people to your and Fred's music?

Oh wow, I think it's the music first, but I think it's a lot of things. I think it's us personally, it's our lifestyle, it's a lot of different things. We just tend to really relate to pretty much everybody and I think that carries over for everybody, like your two friends that we met at Goner Fest. It's like meeting some of your distant relatives or cousins you didn't know you had. Everybody just feels like family to us, and it's really a special thing.

That's super lovely. I know my co-host Rapley once described your song 'Can't Let Go' as "an ode to the highs and lows that come with chasing your dreams, all because rock n roll runs through you and must come out no matter what."

Oh that's awesome, that pretty much sums it up. That's great.

Do you guys still feel that way...

Oh yeah, very much still do. Oh yeah. It's just something that's in both of us. It's something that's so fantastic for us to be able to share together, and to have had the opportunity to play music together for all these years and share the same memories and experiences and all of it. It just makes us tighter as a couple and all the rest of it, than if we were going out and seeking that dream independently of each other. It's been a really unique thing.

And I know you've spoken before, I think it was when you took the break between Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows, and I read that you had planned a longer break but it ended up being shorter because you two got a bit antsy at home...

Oh yeah!!!! [laughs]

And I was wondering if that's why you're on tour again, did that feeling kick in...

Yeah it does, and we've actually been doing quite a bit of touring. We did the whole US thing when we went back for Goner Fest, we'd just come back from a few weeks ago. And then we'll be spending most of December over in Australia and there in New Zealand, and then we have a couple of shows in Tokyo which is fantastic, because it's been one of Fred's dreams to play Japan. We've never been there or played there. And then in February we are going to go back to Europe. So we've actually been playing and touring a lot. And really really enjoying the hell out of it. It's great.

So how do you decide what to play on tour, given you've got the most prolific catalogue?

It's been a bit difficult, we're kinda changing it a little bit. We've just added a medley, that we're doing at the end, of four Dead Moon songs that's actually been really cool and really fun to do. So we're trying to bring back more of the Dead Moon material, and we're playing a little bit of new stuff that he's written, and we're still doing a couple of Pierced Arrows songs, couple of Rats songs, it's a gambit of everything from here to there. But it is very difficult to choose, and there's a lot of different songs that I would still like to work up when we have the time. And we also plan on going and doing some recording ourselves, again, when we have time to do that. A lot on the plate right now [laughs].

Yeah I can imagine. So that means us Dead Moon fans have some new material to look forward to in the near future??

Yeah, yeah. I think we've got three or four songs that I don't think anyone over there has heard yet. That we've never played live before.

That is super exciting. I also wanted to ask you about your experience as a female, in what is an extremely male dominated industry. Has it shaped you as a musician, has it shaped you as a person, has it changed the way you do things?

I've pretty much always been involved in things that were more guy-orientated. I've always felt more comfortable around that. Just ever since I was a kid, I was a real Tom Boy and I always just gravitated to wanting to get involved more in what the guys were doing than in what other girls were doing. So it hasn't really changed me as far as that goes. I'm really thankful that I've had the challenge, and been up to it, that kind of comes with the fact that it's kind of a male-orientated career thing. Other than that, not really. I've really enjoyed meeting all the different women that play in different bands over the years, and I can just tell they are kind of the same way. They would've gone that route no matter what.

Do you have any advice for young women??

Just get out there and do what you were meant to do, whether it's music or it isn't music. It's just important to be happy and to love what you do, to where it's not work - it's a passion and you feel the need to. And it's something that you’re passionate about that you want to share it with other people. That's the whole goal. And most everybody that ever plays music isn't doing it for the money. A few of us make decent bucks here and there, but for most of us - it just makes you feel fantastic. That's the most important part of it. Just get out there and do it.

It comes through in your music, absolutely. It's not a question of "if". You have to. All the different things I've read and seen that you guys do, like, raising all your children, having your grandchildren doing marathons. Recording and releasing...

We like to keep busy, you know [laughs]

Yeah, so it would seem. So what do your grandkids think? They must be super proud...

They think it's awesome. Morgan, she's the oldest, she was in New York for quite a long time and she just decided to go back and she's going to law school down in Southern Cal, so she's down in Los Angeles. So we see her when we're on the road, so she was at the show we did a few weeks ago in Los Angeles. So she pretty much follows what we are doing with music more than any of the other kids do, but her sister Gwen has come to quite a few shows as well. The other kids are too young. Whedon's son Christopher, he's 16, he just came and saw kind of an outdoor thing in the summertime that was all ages here in downtown Portland, so that was the first time he'd seen us play since he was a little kid at some other outdoor festival we did when he was like 10 years old [laughs]. So they all come at different points when they are able to, but they are all very supportive and think it's cool.

Oh it's super special. I can't imagine my friend saying 'hey come and see my grandparents band play...

[Toody laughs heartily]

I'd be like, 'your grandparents are probably the coolest people in the world"! Since you've been playing these Dead Moon tracks semi-acoustically have any of these older songs taken on a new meaning, or are you playing them slightly differently...?

Yeh, a lot of them we are keeping true to the original. There are some, like 'Running Out Of Time' for instance, was basically that kind of a song already - and that's one of the Dead Moon faves - so we're doing that. We're doing 'I Hate The Blues', which is another song that is more vocal orientated. And then, we're doing a little bit of a different version of ‘Rescue’, which is a real rocker, and I'm enjoying doing that song again. Some of them we've changed a little bit but a lot of them are just true to the original and just work really well that way. Most people want to hear the songs the way they remember them and we're more than happy to do that. A lot of them - to me - can't really be improved upon [laughs]. Don't mess with it!! [laughs].

I think there are so many people here in New Zealand - the younger generation - who didn't catch you guys when you toured before, who are so incredibly pumped. So excited to see you...

Yeah, it's great. That's happening here in the States as well. We've got this whole new audience out there of kids that were too young to come and heard either Dead Moon or Pierced Arrows, so it's fantastic to see them widening their horizons and doing the history lessons. Finding out what music came before the stuff that they enjoy right now. It's great to see them come out and become big fans. Love it. It's great.

UnderTheRadar Proudly Presents…
Fred & Toody Cole

Thursday 15th December, Bodega, Wellington
Friday 16th December, Kings Arms, Auckland
Saturday 17th December, Blue Smoke, Christchurch

Tickets available now HERE at UTR and in-store at RPM/Slow Boat (Wellington) and Flying Out (Auckland)

This interview originally aired on 95bFM’s Dirtbag Radio Show and has been slightly edited for readability. Head over to the Dirtbag Facebook page to stay up to date with your fine hosts Rapley, Sam and Tam. And head over here to listen to the Dirtbag Radio podcasts.

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