With this interview we are now back on track releasing weekly new material/interviews. This one comes from Ms. Dinah Cancer - singer for death rock pioneers 45 Grave!
This interview was conducted in 2012.
EA: Greetings Dinah! What a thrill this is for me to be interviewing you for EA! I remember buying 45 Grave's debut album, "Sleep In Safety", at my local record store way back in the day (and I, of course, still have it). And here, almost 30 years later, I'm interviewing the one and only Dinah Cancer! A thrill for sure for me!
I know you just played the Double Down in Vegas. How did the gig go? Did you play a lot of new tunes off the new album, "Pick Your Poison"
DC: Well, thank you for the interview! The show at the Double Down was great! We always have a good time in Vegas. This was our second time there since Frank has been in the band. I had not played there since the Grave Robbers did about 8 years ago. This time we played a few of the new songs…including “Akira” and “The Sorceress”. It's been a long time for some new music.
EA: Being one of the originators of the death rock/goth/punk/psychobilly/surf genres - when you look back on your career - what events or moments stand out? Did you think back in the early days 45 Grave would be so influential?
DC: At the time, we were just having fun going to shows and making music. We had no grand plan to be this influential band. We were just having fun. We were just surviving the times.
I’d say opening for the Damned was big moment. It took us from being a club band into a band that could play bigger places. Adding Paul Roessler on keyboards changed our sound a lot. It became more ‘goth’ and less punk rock. Also, doing the soundtrack for Return of the living Dead. That was such a treat for this horror fan. And I wouldn't change it.
EA: I want to ask about the new album, "Pick Your Poison" but if we could go back for a minute. When the original band got together, you all played in other bands. Did the band set out to play a certain style of music or did you just play whatever came naturally?
DC: Well, we started by playing a lot of Consumers songs that Paul Cutler had. That was from the release "Autospy". the songs started to evolve with songs like Wax and Black Cross. We always stay on the darker side of the scene. We were just doing whatever we wanted. Most of the styles of music, such as Surfbat, Partytime and evil were the perfect reflections of who we were at the time. In Vox Pop we played a lot of 70’s glam influenced music. But, Vox Pop is another story.
“Pick Your Poison” is much more of a ‘concept’. A fan had written about my infleunces that made me who I am. I wanted a record that had all the types of music that make up “Dinah Cancer” . It's what I grew up with. Some of the the songs are brand new. 6 of them in fact. Others songs were were written at various times in my life. We recorded Akira and Sorceress, that were written in the 80'swith Paul Cutler and Don Bolles. Those were on the Only the Good Die young CD. and didn't have a studio recording on disc. Also. Night of the Demons and highway 666 came later when i was working with L. Ron Jeremy on music. So there is a funk song, a metal song, even a country song. I felt like archiving some of the songs as I continue to write more.
EA: Once "Sleep In Safety" was released, what happened to the band back in the 80's? 45 Grave stopped, came back, stopped again, and then came back again. Is that about right? There never was a second full length album of new material released, only the "What Is 45 Grave?" album and the "School's Out" 12inch single. Then a few other releases when the band got back together such as the live album "Only The Good Die Young".
DC: We were all really young! It was easy to be in bands when it was just us, playing in clubs and recording in my Aunt’s garage. When we got on a major record label, it became much more like a job. Paul Cutler was always rebelling against that. He never wanted to play the same thing twice! Part of being ‘punk’ was the freedom to play what you wanted, when you wanted. Suddenly that was gone.
I was also married to Paul Cutler at the time. That was not easy either. After a while people just were not getting along. It was a lot to handle in our 20’s. we had promblems, the usual things.. sex, drugs and Rock N roll took it's toll on us. We weren't speaking to each other.
When we came back several times in the 80's. in 1989, we were just getting going again. Paul was touring in “The Dream Syndicate” so it was hard to do things. Then Rob Graves died in 1990, and then we stopped. I went on with my life, more like running away from music. Just a bunch of damage to shuffle thru.
(1983 "ROTLD" promo photo - Bob Siderman.)
EA: You recently self released your new album "Pick Your Poison" - the first new album in over 20 years (maybe longer)! What can you tell me about the album? How did the new band come together?
DC: I am VERY HAPPY with the new album. The guys all did a great job. I went through a lot of people and worked for almost 8 years to get this CD done. Once Frank Agnew joined and I had a musical partner who could play as well as Paul Cutler had in the 80’s it finally got done.
The line up on the album is Frank Agnew on guitar, Tom Coyne on drums and Brandden Blackwell on bass. For live shows we have a second guitarist, Marc Bolten. He was also the engineer on the CD.
Like I was saying earlier, the songs on the CD represent all of the styles of music I like. They are the ingredients that make my style. Two of the songs were actually on “Only The Good Die Young” (“Akira” and “The Sorceress”) but were never recorded in the studio. the country song " Johnny", was written back in 79'. One of my first songs that Paul helped me write on a dare. A few of the other songs are brand new, that I wrote with Frank. Child of fear was a song I wrote also, in the 80's. It never came to light until I started to work with Frank. The song “Pick Your Poison” was completely written in the studio. Tom and Frank just played it in one take, and then we built it from there. It was a great time being in the studio and i can't wait to get back there again.
EA: Do you have any plans to tour for the album? Maybe a west coast tour? I'm up in Seattle so that would be awesome to see you guys up here!
DC: Yes…we are planning lots of things. The CD just got picked up by Frontier Records, so it will be easier for people to find it. Hopefully that will get us better shows. Right now we are only playing around LA, but we hope to be on the road a lot this year. We did a horror convention in Texas last year, and I want to do more of that.
EA: What do you think of the state of music now in 2012? Digital downloads overtaking physical music sales, social media like Facebook and Twitter being outlets for many bands these days, etc?
DC: We do a lot of promotion on Facebook, (https://www.reverbnation.com/45Grave ) Twitter (twitter.com/thereal45grave) and Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/45GraveVideo) We are going to film a video for the song “Night of the Demons” next month so we can have more of a presence on Youtube.
If you think about it, what we have today is exactly what the early punks wanted. Johnny Rotton wanted to destroy all of the record companies, but it took the Internet to do it.
EA: Outside of 45 Grave and the music world, what do you do for a living? For fun?
DC: I live with my two teenage daughters, Ilse and Eirika. I like to hike in the Hollywood Hills with them.
I love watching horror movies and doing creative things. I'm a internet radio co host for Rob Delamorte's Dungeon of Deadly Delights from Dread Cental and Jackalope radio. I guest host for Stench Radio too. I continue to write songs and poems. I'm working on my first book. So I keep myself pretty busy these days. When we did the pre-sale for the CD, I made each person that ordered a “Death Certificate” by hand. Each one was filled out and painted by me. I love doing things like that.
I really like to play music! If 45 Grave isn’t playing, I sometimes sing with my friends bands. I sing sometimes with Kelly Kaos's band, the F@gZ OC. Last year I sang “Black Cross” with the Yeastie Boys. I dressed like a clown, and we changed the words to the song! We called it “Black Clown”. My stage name was “Dinah Clowner”.
After the original 45 Grave stopped working, I worked in Childcare for 9 years, along with teaching. I also had an Occult shop on Melrose Blvd. in Hollywood during the 1990’s.
These days 45 Grave is a full time job.
EA: Do you foresee a day when you will retire from the music scene? Lay 45 Grave to rest for good? Or will you continue to rock (ala the Stones) as long as the music and shows are quality?
DC:You’re going to keep hearing from me until I am a little old lady! LOL, I love the studio and there are soundtracks to be done. As for 45 Grave it's hard to say. We are doing a few videos this weekend. And with Frontier Records, I can't say what will happen. But, there is always a new project to jump into and especially now that I have a band that is able to support me, I want to do as much as I can for as long as I can.
EA: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me Dinah. The parting words are for you:
DC: Do whatever makes you happy. It's a long life. Make the best of what you have!
(the band live in 2014)
45 Grave Booking
THE NEW 45 GRAVE CD, "PICK YOUR POISON" is available now at:
Follow 45 GRAVE on Twitter @thereal45grave