Ever wonder what happens beyond the stage? Well we do. These roadies, managers, guitar techs, lighting directors, A&R, and even positions you may not have known about make the music you love come alive! We had the opportunity of speaking with freelance A&R man John Dawkins to see what moves he’s been spinning behind the scenes of our favourite bands!
AMBY: How did you first get into your industry?
JD: My cousin Rich Jones was in a punk band from Vancouver called The Black Halos, they were signed to the legendary SubPop and had some success in the late 90’s early 2000’s. In 2002 he joined US punk band AMEN who were getting NME front covers etc at the time. I was working at the Camden barfly in London and had been for 2 years, he asked me one day if I fancied going on tour with him in the UK for a laugh, learn the ropes etc. From that day onwards I never looked back, working as a back line tech, tour manager, then for a management company and it spiraled from there. So to Rich Jones I am eternally grateful he is my cousin, my best mate, and one of my hero’s for sure, a real gentleman with integrity.
AMBY: Explain to people what you do.
JD: I am a freelance A&R man, which means in terms of the latest Enemy album oversees the recording process. This means helping the band find the right producer to make the record they are trying to make sonically, scheduling time in the best recording studio for that particular project and advising the artist on all aspects of making a high-quality recording.
AMBY: Which bands are you currently working with and which have previously worked with?
JD: Currently working with The Enemy, The Twang and Dexters. Previously worked as A&R and a tour manager with the following acts The Enemy on their debut album, Boy Kill Boy, The Fratellis, Exit Calm, Sergeant, Amen, Raging Speedhorn, Bloc Party, Alexisonfire, The Bled, Black Dahlia Murder.
AMBY: What is the craziest thing to happen to you while being in the music business?
JD: It has to be the debut Enemy album; taking three young lads from the back streets of Coventry to the number 1 spot in under 16 months selling nearly a million albums in the UK, touring in stadiums with Oasis and Kasabian and being asked to support The Rolling Stones. Incredible Journey.
AMBY: What was it like the first time you heard The Enemy?
JD: The first demo I received from the enemy was when they were called BRIDGES- Technically the playing was incredible for a bunch of 16 yr olds, but sonically it was more garage and blues based rock which felt a touch retro. I met them and we had a sit down on what I liked and didn’t like about it. I told them to go away and digest what I said and come back when they felt they were ready to record some new material. 6 months later that call came, I put them in the studio with a friend and they gave me a cd with 40 Days and 40 Nights and a tune called Dancing All Night on it. I sat and listened to both tracks and my spine tingled and hair stood on end, it sounded exciting and vital and with the knowledge they had loads of other tracks ready to go, I got straight on the phone, then back up the m6 from London to coventry for an immediate meeting. I just knew at that point right away what I had on my hands.
AMBY: How vital is it to find and develop new bands for you?
JD: It’s what I enjoy doing, being creative and realising bands and artists vision, and effecting the musical landscape in a positive way for the equivalent young 14yr olds today of what I was in 94′ when I heard definitely maybe. Music is vital!!!!!!
AMBY: How do you feel about what Tom Clarke is doing with NEXTBiGTHING?
JD: I think it’s admirable that a guy in his position is using his knowledge and weight within the industry to give a leg up to new artists and music!
AMBY: What is the best and worst thing about your gig?
JD: Best thing is that we are constantly being creative and making music for a living which is a dream job, and getting paid for it! Worst thing is the texts and phone calls that come in from the parasites during tours and big shows. You’re in a no win situation.
AMBY: Which three albums changed your life?
JD: 1- OASIS – Definitely Maybe– Defined a generation. I was 14 and it made Noel just made me feel as though anything was possible!!!!! Amazing songs, delivered with passion and force. I felt ten foot tall and unstoppable when listening to that record. Massive connection.
2 – Iron Maiden- Number of the Beast– I literally got this record on the basis my older cousin wore the t-shirts, so at the age of 6 I asked for it as a bday present with a ‘ghetto blaster’ hahaha. It was 1986. It scared me to death when I first listened to it, but eventually I fell in love with it. Reason being was that I was the only record I had to play so I hammered it!!!!!
3 – The Enemy – We’ll Live and Die in These Towns– it’s what shaped me as the person I am known as in the industry today, I will always been known for helping make that record! Very proud of what we achieved!
AMBY: Where is the best spot to eat on tour?
JD: I’ve got to say In & Out Burger on the west coast of America, or Chipotle which is a Mexican chain. sooooooo GOOD! there was also an awesome burger restaurant ran by a Jewish and Chinese guy in Toronto called Ginsberg and Wong, that was ace too! They served burgers and fries in a giant metallic dustbin lid type plate. IMMENSE!
AMBY: Tell us about your DJing gig.
JD: In the UK when we were growing up through the late 80’s and always through the 90’s there has always been a link with indie and house – the hacienda and Tony Wilson are probably to blame – I have always loved house and DJ with my mate Ryan McNulty under the guise of Dawks & McNulty at various places across the UK playing house / disco house / minimal and garage.
AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about you that nobody knows yet?
JD: I’m about to go over the shop and buy a twirl and a can of Irn Bru- nobody knows that so shhhhhhhhhh ;)
Thank you very much John, for giving me your answers!