Tails of Lost Dogs (and Little Red Riding Hood)
NoteBored May/June 1993
by Steven L. Roth
What a concept. It's a brilliant idea: Take four of the most creative people within "Christian" music, give them acoustic guitars, lock 'em up in a studio together on weekends, and then sell the results. They'll be calling it the second coming of the Highwaymen, the Traveling Wilburys relived, Little Red Riding Hood!
It's true. The Lost Dogs, the unlikely cowpoke quartet of 1992, was no mere freak of nature. Funkster Gene Eugene of Adam Again, experimental guy Terry Taylor of Daniel Amos, surrealist Derri Daugherty of the Choir and one-time new wave rocker Mike Roe of the 77's have assembled once again because:
a. They really enjoy each other's company.
b. They're gluttons for punishment.
c. both a & b.
Catching up with these four ever-in-motion individuals would be a stalker's nightmare. Taylor and Eugene are sequestered somewhere in Studio "B," Roe is somewhere between Studio "B" and his home in Sacramento, and Daugherty might be in the Glasshouse Records offices, Neverland Studios, or visiting Vegas with Dan Michaels. Meanwhile, Billy Ray Cyrus' heart is getting crushed at the Grammys, Eric Clapton has a few more knick-knacks for the guest room, and lost dogs continue to "bark the Nicene Creed and dream of bones to eat."
We've all heard about the blind man's zoo, where everyone touches a different part of an elephant and then proceeds to describe it in his own terms. The four Lost
Dogs are a good example of this. The questions posed to each of them were relatively similar. However, their responses ranged from long, drawn-out answers to
uncomfortably short yes or no replies. Interestingly enough, everyone had some sort of comment about Mike Roe. The following are excerpts from the conversations as
they were interrupted during the finishing touches of their newest album, Little Red Riding Hood
(By the way, the correct answer is "c.")
According to Taylor, "Mike's the surly guy of the band, the one who's always complaining." A musician's musician, everything
about Roe screams "Rock Star." He's got the look, he's got the sound, he's got the attitude, and right now he's got the vacuum
cleaner, tidying up a bit before heading south to put his vocals on the album.
Is this another roots/ rock oriented album?
Not really. We didn't even think of it like that. It's very similar to the last album ------ some country, some blues, an old hillbilly bluegrass thing. There's a lot of Terry Taylor-type folk rock things on it this time.
How many of the songs did you write?
I wrote a blues one, a sort-of period piece, a thing called "Jesus Loves You, Brian Wilson."
What's that one about?
It's just a little letter to Brian, basically. I wrote it 10 years ago but never really had any place for it until this record. We also do "I'm a Loser" by the Beatles, and I think there's a secret version of "On the Good Ship Lollipop" somewhere on there. It's kind of a wacky record, actually.
How does the whole process work between the four of you? Is it all planned ahead of time as far as who does what?
It's very disorganized; sort of a spur of the moment type of thing. The first weekend we got together, I think everyone had skeletons of a few songs and we started laying them down. We did that for two days, just kept tracking these songs that we didn't really know. Someone would sit and say, "Here's how it goes," then we'd all learn it on the spot and record it. Maybe the lyrics were done, maybe not.
Did you bring any of the 77's material?
Well, that Brian Wilson thing, yeah. But I had never seriously pursued or actually finished the song. For these projects I tend to bring in a lot of half-written things that I've always liked but have never finished or felt appropriate for the 77's. I had one other one that I was going to do that everybody liked but it was so complicated, we couldn't
learn it- it had too many chord changes.
What's the atmosphere like when the four of you are together ?
A lot of goofing off. A lot of insults, loud laughing, bad jokes, burps, farts...
Do you have any good stories that stand out in your mind from the sessions?
Well, yeah. Gene was quoting the lyrics of some rap group he had had in his studio recently. He kept quoting these lines and I didn't know what he was doing, but
he just got more and more belligerent, doing it louder and louder. I thought it was stupid. Finally, I said,"Shut up! Please be quiet; it's annoying!"
Were you serious?
Yeah. I said, "A lot of people don't like you because of this." The room got real quiet. We then found out that Dave Hackbarth, the engineer, had recorded this
whole argument on a deck.
Will any of it be on the record?
I think we' re going to try and find a way to get part of it on. I was then able to prove to Gene how obnoxious he was. (Laughter.)
So there was a lot of that kind of stuff.
Do you know how well Scenic Routes sold?
Okay. Not up to what I thought it would do. I thought it would be a big hit. I was disappointed in the sales. I think some people were put offby the county aspect of That may have thrown people for a loop. The thing is, it never should have. If people really knew about us and our bands, it would make total sense. I mean, Terry started with country ---- that's all the way back to the beginning of Daniel Amos. Both Derri and I were raised on country. I don't know where Gene was at with it, but he's just so talented ---- a natural musician ---- that no matter what the style, he's right there.
Musician, producer, songwriter par excellence, it is Taylor who shares credit with Eugene for dreaming up this whole thing. A pioneer of the Christian music scene who at times has been seen as a renegade, Taylor comes across as the fatherly figure of the bunch.
Is this Dogs project pretty different than the other stuff you're working on?
Real different. I'm producing Saviour Machine right now, so it's extremely different.
How does Little Red Riding Hood
compare with Scenic Routes
We' re trying basically to keep it in the same vein. We were tempted at one point to go another direction. But because of the reaction we got to the first record we felt that instead of tampering with what we did, we'd go t he same way. It was so enjoyable the first time, especially the recording process o f coming in sitting down with our guitars, microphones on and learning songs. Part of what makes a record successful is when the participants are having a good time, and it's been a real good time recording this one. I think our fans, overall, appreciated the direction. And then I think there
are also those people who wouldn't ordinarily listen to our individual..bands but reacted positively to Scenic Routes. That made us feel good, because we didn't know if we could pull it off. We just knew the kind of music on the first record was music that was close to all of us but something that wouldn't fit into our individual bands.
What can we expect on Little Red Riding Hood
I have a song called "Eleanor, It's Raining Now," which is basically about a relationship that has its roots in the Genesis story ---- sort of a modem day Adam and Eve. Another one, called "Rocky Mountain Mines," is a story about a young man whose father has died from black lung disease and he
knows his fate is to work in the mines and die the same way. "Together" talks about relationships; staying together through thick and thin. We cover "I'm a Loser" by the Beatles, which we felt was appropriate.
How about "Achy Breaky Heart"?
No, no. We passed on that one.
Who takes the lead for this band?
We all sort of bounce it off each other. There's a great deal of respect for one another's opinion. One of the things I try to do as a producer is to take the attitude that it doesn't hurt to try something. All of us have been in this business long enough to know never to cut down an idea simply because we think it might not work.
What stands out in your mind from the recording of this album?
Hmm, nothing off the top of my head.
Can you make something up?
Just make something up?
Yeah, because then I won't have to.
(Laughter.) Well, the first thing Mike does When he sees me in the morning is says, "Hey, you gotta take me to get donuts." He'll go in and actually have me go into the donut shop with him to witness the process by which he chooses certain donuts. It's always a lot of fun, because he's always asking, "Is that custard or is it, um, lemon?" A lot of that kind of stuff. I guess that's what keeps him going -- a lot of donuts.
Insisting that he had the idea long before MTV Unplugged got going, Eugene is perhaps the motivating force behind Lost Dogs. Picking up the nuts and bolts of the operation, it is he whom everyone comes to with questions and problems. This can be proven by the long, silent pauses during our phone interview as everyone keeps interrupting our conversation to get a piece of the guy.
Are you ready to talk?
Yeah, yeah. I got my coffee and we're taking a little break anyway.
Did you manage to get all of Derri's vocals done?
No. Heck no. We're still a couple weeks away from finishing. The project is due on the 22nd. We'll probably turn it in on the,
What other musicians are on the album?
Burleigh Drummond is on drums again, and Greg Kellogg, who also played with us on the last album. He does all the extra instruments like steel guitar, dobro, banjo, that kind of stuff. Other than that, we pretty much cover everything.
Why is Lost Dogs the four people that it is?
We were just trying to find people that sung and played acoustic guitar at first. There were a lot of people we talked to, but they were either not the singers 'in their band, or weren't able to hang with the acoustic thing.
Steven Curtis Chapman plays acoustic.
Yeah, but obviously these were guys that were front men in alternative bands, which was kind of the slant ----
Uh, I was, uh, kind of kidding when I mentioned Steven...
So, anyway, who else would there be?
Has anybody ever brought in a song where everybody else says, "No, we don't want to play that"?
No, that's never happened. I've never really worried about it, because these guys are all good songwriters.
Will there be a followup to "Bush League"?
Well, there's a little slight political slant stuff on this album, but nothing that would directly be a follow-up to that.
I'm interested in knowing what kind of feedback you got from that song.
Some people were irritated. There's a lot of Christians that are pretty much only interested in one issue, the abortion issue, which I am, of course, interested in also. I just feel that Bush's pro-life stance was not enough to counter all his many pro-death stances.
Clinton is certainly not for abortion, but rather choice, and as Christians, we have more of a responsibility to start educating people as to what the choice should be, rather than try to legislate it, in my opinion.
(Pause.) For the record, I wouldn't make a big deal about the political part of me personally. I'm just a stupid guy in a band.
Who's in charge of this band?
Everybody pretty much sticks in their two cents worth. Maybe if it's your song, you have a little more say about it. I guess Terry and I would be the ones who sit on top of it the most, because we're here the most. But really, everybody has been totally involved.
Derri, the beautiful one. Coming up a little short on the last album, he assures us that this time, it'll be different. Having just completed a demo of new Choir songs and getting ready to start At the Foot of the Cross Volume 2
, the red head with the long, flowing locks tells what it's like being a Lost Dog.
So what can you tell me about this Dogs project ?
I think it's going pretty well, I hope. It's slower than the last one, that's for sure.
You were kind of sparse vocally on Scenic Routes
Yeah, last time I was kind of in and out, as far as spending time there. This time, it's a lot more evenly dispersed.
When did everyone notice that you weren't on as much?
I think it was toward the end. Originally, the intent was people take turns in singing verses and not necessarily whole songs. It that we just didn't have the
time for people to be available to do that. So it ended up more like everyone sang their own songs. On this one Gene and I wrote a song together which we both sing
lead on, I'm singing lead on mine as well as two of Terry's. This one should be a lot different, I think.
In what other ways will it be different ?
It's a little more electric. The last one was more of an attempt to steer away from all of our bands ---- to be something completely different. I think this one is not trying as hard to hide our own band's influences, but rather incorporates that into it, and still do some of the country stuff, though not as much this time. It's not really Neil Young, but kind of like his record ---- a lot of electric and acoustic interspersed. There's no fiddle this time.
Was it a stretch for you to sing country?
No, not at all. I was raised on that; it's like a huge part of my musical upbringing. My mom and dad were both into it. I still listen to a lot of country music. Old Hank Williams, Patsy Cline....
No, no, no. Nothing like Dolly Parton.
Does the creative process always gel between the four of you?
Everybody has pretty strong opinions, but everyone pretty much likes the same kind of music. That makes it a lot easier. We have a lot of the same references.
When Mike Roe says, "I want this to sound like a Bill Monroe thing", all of us know-- what he's referring to. Or if Terry says, "Let's do some harmonies on this like the Beatles on such-and-such song," then we all say, "Yeah, I know that." There's a real good point of reference for all of us.
So there it is, straight from the puppies mouths. What started out as an experiment in cultural Americana is gradually becoming a legend. And all the people said,