Dakota interview May-2004.

Dakota - Deep 6 from 2004!Let me tell you at once - I'm VERY found of nearly everything Dakota has done in the past! Their 2000 release "Little Victories" is among my all time favorites. Again here in 2004 and their brand new record "Deep 6" is an elegant mixture of AOR and West Coast music will appeal to every music lover from fans of Chicago i.e. on tracks like "Right this minute" to hard rock fans of REO Speedwagon and others on tracks like "Eye of the Storm" and "Shut up and drive". Since 1971 when vocalist/bassist/guitarist Jerry G. Hludzik (nowadays only original member) and co-founder Bill Kelly teamed up first under the name The Buoys they have made this intelligent cocktail - but it was in 1978 they made the foundation to Dakota as Jerry/Kelly with their selftitled debut. Since then one of their highlights was their 1984 released "Runaway" and I caught them first with their "Lost tracks" which became "Mr. Lucky" on Escape Music i 1997. This was a triumphant return after 10 years abcense with Hludzik as only remaining member - he teamed up with the current line up of Rick Manwiller (who actually has been in the band since 1981) on guitar, keyboards and vocals, Jon Lorace on guitars and vocals and Eli Hludzik on drums.
I have talked to Jerry G. Hludzik - but Rick Manwiller has also a few words to say:

The Interview:

Q: You have just released a new CD under the Dakota moniker called "Deep 6” and it got pretty good reviews all over the Internet Community - What is the story about the CD this time?

Jerry Hludzik. A: Jerry: Well 1st of all we are very happy the way Deep 6 is being received world-wide … but this one took us on a very crazy journey! Rick had called me to find out if I was ready to give it a go again, which was strange to begin with…cause I’m the one who is always bending his ear phoning him up saying “come on let’s do this.” Once we started to assemble the tunes we both thought it would go smoothly…wrong. We had equipment go bad in the studio due to the summer heat and I had to drive 3 hours 1 way to get there -It was not fun. Needless to say the summer of 2002, we sort of walked backwards. We resumed in the fall and things were going well until end of December. I was in a car accident and out of commission for 8months… then it was back to working on the record however along comes Jon - our guitar player, he too was in a bad accident...and He still had 3 more gtr traxs to finish. Are you sort of getting a feel for this comedy of errors?? Luckily Jon mended after a few months and we were once again back to work on DEEP 6. We finally finished tracking, but in the middle of mixing, Rick got a travel sound- mixing job with a new country music star Jimmy Wayne. It would have been good, if the timing was compatible but…it wasn’t. Rick was gone for weeks at a time, and production was once again on hold. Eli who lives 10 hours away,had also been touring extensively with his jazz funk fusion band Ray’s Music Exchange. Finally in April of 2003, we found a window to schedule him and the studio to do his drum traxs. IT WAS THE ALBUM FROM HELL!!!! It didn’t want to be finished! Total time from start to finish… 18 months----We recorded and mixed the DAKOTA self titled for CBS in Canada/ 1980 in 4 weeks!
But all kidding aside- it was a labor of love. I learned a lot about myself on this one, especially patience. When it was time to walk away from it, I felt good - we did our best.

Q: The album "Deep 6" has been several years in the making - I remember your last release “Little Victories” very well and have expected this album very anxiously. How do you see the newest album compared to your last one?

Rick Manwiller. A: Jerry: Yes now that I listen back to Little Victories, Deep 6 is more Classic Melodic AOR Rock/with big hooks that hopefully you’ll walk away from and remember...this is just the way they came out. We’ve always listened to vocal bands with good harmony melodic structure and chourses that can be remembered longer than 3 minutes after the song is over.
I hope "Deep 6" is to the ear as I described it.

Q: Can you describe the work process doing this new album? How did it start? In my opinion “Deep 6” has a more sharper edge than some of your previous work...?

A: Rick: We are pretty happy with Deep 6 , particularly since we did this one pretty much "in-house" at Closet Studios, our own facility. Everything on the record was tracked there, except that we did the drums at Sound Investments, where we usually do the entire Dakota records. We had some experimenting to do on this one that we couldn't do at someone else's facility, we've have gone broke. So we pretty much took the budget and upgraded our own studio. As I said, we recorded the drums at S.I.R., and we used 2" analog tape for the sound, then we dumped it into the Closet Studios digital system (we use Nuendo) and started overdubbing. To be honest, it wasn’t that easy - Jerry and I had outlined the songs in demo form, using sampled drums. But a lot of the keys and guitars we did for the demos were useable for the final mixes, because I always track at 48K/24bit, even for rough ideas. So, once we had the rhythm tracks pretty tight, Eli came into the picture, and he actually played his drums to the tracks - not an easy trick, as any drummer out there will attest to. But we knew he could do it, because he had done well with that approach years before, as far back as Mr. Lucky, where we had him track a live kit for an alternate European version of the title track. Mixing was done all-digital, using no outboard gear at all - only using great plugins. Not that I have anything against hardware processing - some of it is the best stuff there is. But the studio isn’t set up for a lot of outboard processing, and (b) I was forced to do some pre-mixing and mix experimentation on airplanes and such, and I needed to keep it as digital-domain as possible.
Yes, we wanted it to rock. But I don’t think it’s in the arrangements as much as the writing, because we also wanted the keyboards more dominant than on Little Victories. So, I guess we managed to get more rocked out, yet still bring out the keys as well. JL always rocks, no matter what's around him And Eli- well lets just say we all know whose driven the bus!

Jon Laurence. Eli Hludzik.

Q: How do you see the CD's chance on a very complex market of today? To me "Deep 6" is a scolar example of how to do an album right in the middle of the west-coast genre and half way to the more “edgier” AOR genre. You can do the very complex vocal work as well as the more straightforward guitar-slinger-job...

A: Jerry: Although it’s been getting good press so to speak, with a style of music that is for the taste of only a cross-section of world-wide listeners (and you all know who you are) it’s a constant up-hill battle. The industry that we once knew when we were on the artist roster @ CBS and MCA has vaporized! It’s up to the bands that make the music, fans of the music, the Web-sites and magazines like yours, that keeps the machine oiled and running. We’re all not winning the race, but at least were all still in the race thru sheer love of what we all do for this…it’s worth it don’t you agree?
Rick: Yes I agree this time we by accident, might of just found the right nitch I’d like to say it was sheer genious but it wasn’t. This is just the way the songs took shape this time. We sort of have a plan but we let the songs themselves dictate to us where they want to go. After that we just put the icing on the cake so to speak.

Q: What are your main influences in music? I'm as mentioned not a hard-core connoisseur of westcoast rock, but I can see and hear influences from Steely Dan to Mr. Mister is that a useful observation?

Jerry - posing! Jon getting ready to play.

A: Jerry: Your pretty much on the money with that. We all loved and listened to Mr. Mister and Steely Dan and still do… it was part of our landscape. We were making records for major US labels but that didn’t stop us from rooting for other groups that we admired. My admiration goes farther back than that to my roots of Beatles Hollies CSN Eagles. And as much as you try to… or say that your are original… You know the old saying … you are what you eat, but it’s good eating!!!

Q: The westcoast genre as well the more melodic genres - as AOR, has suffered from less attention the last 5 years, but I think I can sense a certain optimism nowadays with new record companies, lots of websites, and lots of discussion groups on the Internet - how do you see the genre?

Jerry G. Hludzik and Rick Manwiller.

A: Jerry: I feel also lately there’s been a swing towards a forward motion and a much needed push for this genre of music. The world needs it back. I think a lot of people can’t stand what the music scene has become, at least in the USA. If everyone can hold on- just do what there doing to preserve it, we can win small battles enough to make everyone happy. Do I think it will be as strong as it once was? I’d like to say yes but, I think it will never happen in our life-time!

Q:You have chosen to take care of the distribution an releasing yourself as an independent band how come?

A:We were very close to a deal with FRONTIERS in Italy. We liked what direction the label was headed and thought Dakota would be a great fit….however in the final tweaking of the terms, we respectfully declined. We look forward to down the road, having an oppourtunity to work with them on a Dakota project in the future.
We are also now in talks with a few Japaneese labels about a "Deep 6" licensing deal for an early fall release

Little Victories.

Q:How about Dakota - the band? What are you up to these days? And how about a tour in the future for Dakota? Have you ever been to Europe? Do have plans for that in the future?

A:Jerry: Plans for new studio album spring –summer of 2005 and Dakota best of Volume 1 Rick and I also talked about each wanting to do solo projects. Very very busy! At the moment we are working the telephones and the internet, with radio play, magazines etc to promote DEEP 6 . We’ve also discussed possible touring again for the 1st time in years..this would be fun. Right now we are all off doing other things but always close enough that if something breaks, were ready to go. Yes I really believe that touring europe is right around the corner - always have. We’ve now built up a catalog of songs and enough of a following in Europe, that I think it’s definitely do-able. “Promoters of Europe did you hear that?” Anyone who likes our style of music should know we were always a better live band than a studio band (and I think we’ve made some pretty good records). And I think that we’re not too shabby of singers either. With all the material to pick from - and trust me - we’re very good live…can you imagine?
The band is very powerful live it always was. We’ve always takin’ pride in that.
We toured with a lot of bands back then but ONLY in the states. There was talk of Dakota also doing the European leg of the tour but we just did the USA . BUT since I’m on the subject of Queen.... Now this was big time rock and roll. I could tell you stories that would curl up your toes but I’ll be tight lipped for now.
All in all Queen’s entire organization was top notch- they treated us like part of the show not just the opening act. One little flash ... I remember in Detroit after doing their video of Another one bites the Dust They all (including Freddy.. it was only a cymbal on a stand but) helped us and our crew carry some equipment From the back of the stage to the front so we could do a sound check. This was definetly a moment!!!
However about being in Europe... in 1997 Bill Kelly and I were in Holland …a weeks worth of radio and television promo. One of the shows was called Top Pop. I still have the video footage. One of the gems that is in consideration of DVD released stuff. We stayed in Hilvershum and spent time in Amsterdam @ EMI records-and yes I was also informed by Hans Beljjard of AORDreamzones that "Give Up Your Guns" is on the top 100 of all times charts in the Netherlands @ 50! Thanks to Radio Veronica all those years ago. It’s pretty amazing.
Plans are ..... if the band doesnt go the touring route, lately I’ve been missing the live thing ...so I just may pack my bags, acoustic guitar and head for Europe for a few weeks.
I think by now i can find some audiences. What do you think?

Eli Hludzik.

Q: I have already reserved a ticket - just give me a date and a place...
Thank you very much for your time. I hope that Dakota will find a special spot on the music map of today - good luck to you and your band!
Steen Peitersen

Thank you Steen Peitersen and Peitersen.com for all the support you’ve given Dakota over the years we really appreciate it!
Jerry G. Hludzik/Dakota
April, 2004

© Steen Peitersen 1999-2003