Sometimes it appears that too many rock groups adopt the current flavor of the month to gain that sought-agter record deal and attain the good life: sports cars, supermodels and the mansion in Malibu. In the process, originality and creativity can be sactificed to industry sharks seeking to buttress the bottom line, the almighty dollar.
When a band comes along with the members firmly ensconced in successful careers, they don't have to follow a trend and the music will have the integrity long embedded in rock. Because they have good jobs, it is the artist's love for the music that is the motivating factor, not the fantasies of being featured on Robin Leach's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."
Injecting a newfound enthusiasm sparsely found in today's corporate rock. Two Law and Order refugees. Phil Allocco (vocals/guitar) and Sean Carmody (bass) hooked up with drummer, Dave Femia and guitarist, Randy Dzelak to form Dogma and create an edge sharper thatn fresh horseradish. Playing with conviction, Dogma's trademarks are anguished heartfelt vocals, and penetrating riffs that cut through the bullshit of rock gimmickry.
Feeding the Future, the quartet's debut (Mercury), ranges from the sublte, melodic "Lies" to the pent-up angst of "Seven Miles" and the wicked overdrive of "Too Many People." They also swing the pendulum 180 degrees left with "Unsaid", an acoustic cut that may portray Dogma as a bith more versatile thatn the run-of-the-mill hard rock band.
Or it can five their following a cause for alarm, fearful of a quick sellout. However, it is just an illustration of Dogma's musical diversity. The inclusion of "Unsaid", a ballad starkly different from the rest of their material, was recorded for a private reason, not a commercial one. Says Carnody, "It is a song that meant a lot to Phil personally. It was about his parents."
At a down-home, downtown Manhattan establishment specializing in soul food and an endless list of brews, the group's rhythm section, Sean Carmody (bass) and David Femia (drums), briefly curtailed their drinking talk about their favorite band.
With a name like Dogma, the first thought that enters a skeptic's mind is which political cause are these New Yorkers proseltyzing for? Bosnia? Homelessness? Racial unity? AIDS Awareness? Tupac Amaru? Zapatistas?
The ultimate trendsetters, the irony in the name is, "That everone should follow their own beliefs. By saying that now, I have a Dogma, a belief. Even though we're saying don't follow, come up with something on your own, it's inevitable," says Carmody.
Planted firmly in reality, they admit it would be great to have a platinum record and not have to work. But rationalizes Carmody, "There is nothing we can do to make it happen except to just play our music and hope people like it. It [selling records] hasn't ever changed what we do."
Not expecting to top the list of Forbes "Top Grossing Entertainers" tomorrow their lives haven't been dramatically altered. "We work every day", says Femia, a lanscaper clinging to his blue-collar roots. We work now. There is no difference. When we go on tour we won't work. When we come back from touring, if we made enough money, where we don't have to work, we won't work. We're not 18-year-olds anymore. We don't think like that. I think a lot of younger bands have that impression; once they have a record deal and get all this money, you won't have to work. It's not reality at all. Reality is you have to work."
Living together in the woods of upstate N.Y. and snowbound by the multiple blizzards of 1996, the group was in a quasi-claustrophobic environment for the recording of Feeding the future. With nothing to do but "drink and smoke pot." the two agree it was a harrowing situation, hanging out with the same people for a month straight, without seeing another human being. And though it is hard to argue with the results, both would be hesitant to do it again.
After giving props to producer Steve Thompson (Clutch, Metallica, Blues traveller, Guns n' Roses) for the live sound captured on Feeding the Future. Carmody, as expected, becomes very animated discussing their effort. Featuring "some great sounds, great performances."
Carmody provided a glipse of the studio vibe during the making of the record. The lead track "Cancer" was originally recorded as a scratch track, he explains. When the rhythm section started jamming and the others joined in, the four were in a zone that musicians long for. According to Femia, they tried to play the song the same way several times more but never succeeded. Thompson just went with the flow and it is the scratch track that kicks off Feeding the Future.
As the first rock band in recent years to sign to Def Jam's roster, known for it's hip-hop artists, the two rave about how psyched they are about dealing with a progressive company. Carmody draws a parallel between rock and rap, declaring both hard street music.
Continues Femia, "One thing that Def Jam is definitely in touch with is the young, urban crowd. And not that we're trying to be in touch with the urban crowd, they [Def Jam] are in touch with how to get out ot the younger crowd. When we tell them about things, they are just trying to gfigure out how to get them into the rock field, whcich is how the people at Mercury help out at."
And what about rap kingpin Russell Simmons?
Carmondy met him once but, as one can imagine, Simmons was very busy handling the various tentacles of his operation. Even with numerous matters on his mind, the bassist stresses, "He was very friendly. He's like, what's this rock thing? You're gonna sell a lot of records? It is very exciting to him."
Manipulating his immense skills as a web site designer, Carmody spliced together a few photos from a medical textbook, and with the imput of the rest of the other fellas, created the eerie cover concept. The twisted, inside cover, a drawing of an eye procedure, was painted by the multi-talented Allocco. Though the disturbing picture shouuld have the singer psychiatrically evaluated, Carmody says it was part of the plan, going "with a medical theme and all that cool stuff."
While on medical topics, the two engage in an argument about cloning which borders on a fast-paced comedic skit. "Cloning," begins Femia, "is interesting. I can see the problems. They did a monkey, they did a sheep, someone is going to do a human. That's the way it is. The problem with that is then it becomes almost an inbred society, everything becomes unified."
Counters Carmody, "Yeah, but you can get rid of disease." Femia agrees on that point but believes originality will become extinct. Ever the answer man, Carmody replies, "They will not be you because you were raised a certain way. I think there are definitely a lot of issues here but it isn't like some creepy science fiction movie. People get creeped out by it but they [clones] aren't you."
Regardless of their scientific views, it is because of their day jobs that the band has the luxury of writing music they love, a style that reflects, yes, a dogma and ignores the heavily treaded path.
Defiantly, Femia states Dogma's credo, "If it doesn't make us happy, we can't expect it make anyone else happy."
BY Ari Nussbaum
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