Interview with John Connor from Dog Eat Dog

A Few days ago I was lucky enough to chat with John Connor, vocalist and founding member of Dog Eat Dog.
Dog Eat Dog is an American band founded in Bergen County, New Jersey. Considered one of the earliest bands to fuse hardcore punk and rap music, Dog Eat Dog has released four full-length albums and two EPs. Since their formation in April 1990, the band's sound has evolved to incorporate elements of funk and ska.

An overwhelming live show that never disappoints, both at large festivals and in small venues, they are a knockout!
And most importantly, they really enjoy themselves on stage and make it clear that they are a big family. Their Tour Manager Dan is always part of the show, as is their sound technician... All the members of the great Dog Eat Dog family are a key piece of the puzzle.

A band that you cannot miss live.
I leave you my interesting talk with John so that you can get to know them in more depth:

1. Let's talk about the summer. You have been in Europe since June. Many good festivals, playing with many big bands... How was it?

John: Amazing. As you can imagine, after 2020, nothing happened.
In 2021 we were lucky, we came over and played in the Mystic Sk8 Cup. But most of 2021 was difficult for bands too. So you can imagine 2022 starts off and we have played in Nova Rock, HellFest, the show with Offspring there in Prague... So everything feels great. Everything feels back to normal somehow. And yeah, it's like a big relief. And release.

2. How are people after this year? Is the energy back?

John: Yeah, they are back and the energy is back.
And we give a lot of energy too. We're not like, looking at our shoes. We're sweating. I would say we're making every effort to connect. And when you work hard to connect, you get some connections back. So I think the people were fantastic and without them, there's no return to the stage. You need people, for sure.
They were great. They were beautiful. And I saw no change or difference. No post coronavirus weirdness.

3. Are you recording a new album?

John: Yes, we were working on it prior to the Pandemic, making small chances to write, small chances to record. Our producer moved studios from Zurich to Lazarne. So we all had some changes, but when we picked it back up, things were moving pretty quickly. And I would say we're like maybe 80% done. I'm mostly done singing on all the songs, so I think we're in a really good place. I'm excited about it.

4. So when is it coming out?

John: It's coming out next summer. Next May. But we'll have a single this year before Christmas.

5. And do you plan to come back to Europe after you release it?

John: Well, we have short club shows in October and November. Like one week of shows. And we're coming for that. But no tour, just for the single.
Next year when the album comes. Yeah. Festivals and then club shows later, I guess.

6. In the States too?

John: I hope so.
We played a lot more in the States in the last few years than we have in a long time. So we don't plan on only playing in Europe, but like always, we're going to play where people want us to be. Of course, you can't force yourself on people anymore.

7. Do you have a new label?

John: Yeah, we have a small label called Metalville, and they're doing stuff like: Ugly Kid Joe, for instance, and Astral Doors.
To us it made sense because we had a hard time in the music business. We had bad luck with managers. We had that relationship with record company people. So we didn't make an album for 20 years. We didn't have this kind of set piece.

So with the labels, we had a lot of problems in the past and we didn't want that. We stopped management. We stopped with labels we didn't want to record. We just wanted to play the old shit and have fun. And over time we started to for instance, when Roger, our guitar player, joined the band full time, he was like, hey, I really want to be part of this, but I think we have such great energy on stage. Let's try and write. And we're like, okay, we'll try. And we made a small EP, just did it for ourselves and for the fans, and we got a good reaction. And when this label came the contract was on one piece of paper. And this way, of course, we don't need lawyers to tell us what everything means. It was very simple. Hey, we want to put out your music.

We spend money on promotion, we take care of that so the band doesn't, it was very clean and simple. And we said, okay, this is the type of agreement that we can get with you.

So this is really why we went with Metalville. We didn't talk with anybody else. And for us it's important to feel like we have an honest and a good business relationship.

And we know it's small, so we're not expecting to be on MTV or to be touring in arenas. We just want to wait for people to hear our music. And this was the most simple way to do it. And I think in the end, it feels like the right way to do it for us. Yeah.

8. How do you see the difference between the 90s and today?

John: So much has changed in the way humans interact. It 's huge.
The technology alone has been a massive change. When we started, things that were important were: flyers, things that the way to recognize people. No, but we've seen YouTube, we've seen email, we've seen social media sites come to prominence. So all of these things are new and exciting ways for fans to connect with fans. Some great things, like, I don't want to be the old guy being like, oh, technology sucks but the 90s were the best.

9. Now you can do this, but then you are out.

John: Exactly. And I honestly don't feel that way. I feel like, hey, there's been a change. You can't stop change, right? So either you get on, you get on it.
You ride the wave. You get with it, or you get left behind. So we understand these tools. We use some of the tools and some of the tools we don't use. I know TikTok is big. It's a good way to promote your band. But we don't use TikTok. We don't use Twitter. It's not important. But that's it. They're just tools, right? It's like a phone or a recorder or a cup or a table. It's just a tool. It's how you want to use it. And there's so many more tools now, but there's also way more distractions, I think, just like getting back to what I was saying.

The way that you can interact with your fans is incredible. Now, like during the pandemic, because we couldn't do shows and there was no way to entertain because of people staying home, I would just like once a week, I just get on Facebook or Instagram or both sometimes, and just talk to people. Sometimes put out the Ukulele, sing some songs or just talk shit. But it's like suddenly you see people from all over the world connecting. And not only connecting with me or with the band.

The one thing that I really liked to see was the fans and our supporters connecting with each other and being like, oh, hey, how are you? How's things in Poland? How are things in Greece? How is Brazil? Things like that. So the community can be stronger. It's instantaneous. In the 90s, when we got a letter from a fan, it was a letter from a fan.

For example, when you saw somebody on the train or in the city, and they were wearing, like, whatever, a Bad Brain shirt, you knew that person had the same secret as you. They were like part of the same family. Or if you saw somebody with a thrash or a shirt or something, and I don't think it happens right now. People don't even see that anymore.

In the 90s you would have to reach out to somebody. It took confidence and an effort to be like, oh, hey, cool shirt. You know, Sublime. Yeah, they're a cool band or something. Now it's like, oh, you like Sublime? No, it's just a blue shirt. So I'm not saying no. It's weird because just to answer your question, the markers and the ways to identify your tribe were a lot more nuanced. Now it's like, hey, you could see somebody on a website and slide into their DMs and be like, hey, cool show or whatever and have that artist reach back out to you right away in real time. And that's a beautiful thing. But there was also a lovely innocence to the way that we operated in the 90s that's not there anymore.

10. And even with the tapes and recording the stuff

John: Take more effort. And to me, sometimes I feel like those connections are certainly long lasting because I have friends from the know, from the first Muckypub tours and the first Dog tours that we did in the early nineties and things like that. The bands that we toured with, maybe back then, we have strong connections with, because of the things that we went through. And there's just more distractions and it's harder to build those contacts now, but it's easier to reach people. So it's a seesaw. It's like yin and yang. There's good and bad to everything. And I think right now it's a fantastic time to, I don't know, be alive and make music, of course.

You can live the way you want to live. You can choose the tools that you need.

11. Did you reach everything you wanted?

John: I would say in some way, yes. One of the reasons why we were reluctant to reenter the music business and try to make a record and things like that was because we already did incredible things with this band. We weren't chasing after some brass ring or some special moments or trying to get on MTV or Beavis and Butt-Head. We just had been through some really cool shit. We got to meet our heroes. Bands like Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss and Bad Brains and things like this, or cool things like working with Run DMC or Riza from Wu-Tang Clan. All these things have come into our lives that I guess, maybe I couldn't imagine or didn't imagine back then. So it's hard to say if we reached everything we wanted. But in a way, even during the Coronavirus period when everything was locked down, and I remember I was speaking with one of my family members about it, and I said, at some point, like, yeah, if touring doesn't come back, I'm okay with that. I feel like for me personally, or if I never go back on tour again, I'm okay with it. I feel like I've had so many great feelings and done so many good shows and had so many great connections.

But, Who am I to say? I absolutely have to have more of that. Trust me, I'm here right now. I'm happy to be here.

12. But you really get to the point about thinking that this would never come back?

John: I didn't think that, but you have to. To get more into the heart of the discussion, one of the things we were talking about was the vaccination, and how all of a sudden now we were separating unvaccinated vaccinated, and certain people couldn't go, and certain people could, but you have to show this. So I was like, hey, if it’s like this, this is it.

Dividing line, then maybe I'm okay with not going back because I don't feel like this is the right way. I want to go like, you are good, you are not good. I think this is not even a good way.
And I'm not talking about whether the vaccine is good or not.

Dividing society is never a good thing.

John: Exactly. And that's what I mean when it was like, hey, if this is the dividing line, I'm not so sure if I want to go back there in the end. That's kind of to get back to the question. It's like, hey, we've done so many cool things and had so many experiences that I'm not greedy and we're not greedy. But at the same time, I think the reason why we finally decided to make new music and share it with the world is because I think over time we realize that we have a special energy and we have a special chemistry together. And when we work together, we can do something unique. Right. So in 2022, maybe it's a good time for people to hear what we have to say again. Yeah.

13. What is the best part of being in a band?

John: The best part is being around all these guys and sometimes girls. We had a female driver, female sax player, being around our people, our tribe, and all the funny things that happen just during the course of the day at gas stations or at restaurants or in the hotel after a gig, or just spending time. We built a family. And even though I said if I never went on stage again, I'm okay, I would have missed it. That's what I would miss, like being around my family and doing what we do. I think that, of course, the show, everybody is going to say the show, but some nights the show is just the show. Some nights even it feels like work. That's the reality of it. Right?

Yeah, of course. Because you need to do it.

John: Yeah. Right. So the worst part, I think, is like the waiting, getting stuck in traffic jams and being in airports like this. Just the monotony and how boring sometimes life can be when you're constantly moving. But the other side is how funny it can be. Anything can be turned into a joke.

Like when you travel alone and you need to wait.

John: Exactly. And it's funny, I say all the time, like, I love to travel alone because I love to see how the world looks at me and how I look at the world. I think the best way to do it is to travel by yourself. Because when you get out of your comfort zone and when you're by yourself, you have no friend or boyfriend or girlfriend or something or buddy with you. You're like you're all alone and all of a sudden you truly are there with your feelings and emotions and interactions.

14. I want to talk to you about the fans. You are really close to your fans and talk with everyone, take pictures... Right? So, what do you think about what they are doing now? Like, for example, people paying the VIP packages for meeting the bands?

John: I think that so much has changed from the time that we started. Even in the 90s when we were on MTV all the time. We still want to be close to our fans. Before there were camera phones everywhere and we still wanted to be a part of it because Dave and I, who we started the band together, we feel like we are fans, we still go to shows, we still want to meet people that inspire us. And that feeling is still alive. With Dog Eat Dog today, we never feel like we're above because we feel connected. And I think it's if you talk about being connected to your fans, that's one thing. But you have to go do it to really know if you are or not. And why Dog eat Dog has had big highs and also some lows. There were times when everywhere we went was 800 or 1000 people. Now tonight it's going to be 100 or whatever.

But those hundred are important to us.
I'm not disappointed because there's 100. I'm happy that 100 people came here on a Wednesday.
You came all this way even for two people. You have to treat them like they're gold and that they're important. Now, trust me, we're not there because we want to hear every fans opinion, every song or every record. But we also want to know that we're here, that we're close to humans after all, that we're not just some guys up on a stage that came to take their money. And the other side of it is it's very difficult in 2022, like always, to be in a band and earn money from it. Some bands are like, hey, this is our only chance to do this or make money. And that's their choice. So I don't really judge them. But I don't think you would see that in the way that we operate. I think that we have more integrity as far as connecting with our fans. And I think if we need something more financially from our fans, we will find a different way to do it.

15. What do you think about Pay on tours? Because right now many bands need to pay for touring.

John: I know that's the reality of the live music business, one thing that I know for sure is the pandemic has accelerated. But you will see less and less live rock music over the next 20 years. It 's coming down.
We spent the summer here in Europe touring in sprinters and flying everywhere. The costs are extravagant, it's harder and harder to earn. And we're on a small level that for us, especially a band that's been around 30 years, we're lucky we can at least get 100 people in Dresden, pay our bills and keep moving to the next day. But we're not going to keep doing that for the next two, three years if we can't build something a little bit bigger because if it's broken, of course, there's no way.

So I think you're going to see less and less of this. And it's a special thing, live music, but if you don't have people and you don't have a way to do it, it's very difficult.
And I think in rock music, you see it. There've been great festivals, great turnouts this year, but people are into DJs, they're into different kinds of parties now than live music shows. Even festivals, many of the big ones that used to be rock, let's say in Belgium or something like that, have turned over and they're more DJ based and things. So we'll see. We're out here trying to keep rock and live music alive.

16. The best gig you ever played?

John: I mean, it's hard to say. I always try to find some great moments or some great energy in every show. Sometimes it's not easy to get that. But if I have to answer the question, I think that people have looked at Dynamo 95 as a special moment for Dog Eat Dog. And I agree. When you see the amount of people that were jumping up and down and reaction for “Who's the King” or “No Fronts”, so many songs, it was pretty incredible. And that was a great moment for us because all the bands that were there for the weekend that we knew, all our friends and our record company and everybody, it was a really special moment. So Dynamo 95 is up there, but from this year, I would have to say Hellfest was a pretty great one, and we're very grateful that it was recorded live for TV. So that was great. We played Graspop in Belgium, and it was Sunday night and people had been up partying. Three days of bands, and we're one of the last bands to play. And it was truly a special concert. Everybody was jumping and singing and partying like crazy.

I think Graspop is probably my favorite of the year. But I don't know, if you ask the guys, they probably make some different things, too. We've had some really great club shows to just 150 people. Yeah.
Sometimes people break it so much when they are even 50, that's it. And with these festivals, sometimes we know that it's a big moment and it's a big crowd, but you can't make magic happen. Magic happens because everybody adds something to it. So it's like New Year's Eve, you know, if you build it up for Christmas, if you build it up well, it's going to be so big, it's going to be so special.

Sometimes it's not. It's just another show.
Energy. Feel it right. The wave. That's my message.

17. What about the future?

John: Yeah, My wish list is to finish our record and have a successful release, connect with some people, make our old fans happy, get some new fans, maybe get some younger people interested in the band and bring some of that energy to our shows. But I'm not dreaming of taking over the world. There's no more like MTV Stardom or anything. So I'd say what I'm really looking for is to take the Sprinter outside, turn that into a tour bus, right. And make sure that the venue is packed every night, whether it's 500 or 300 or 800. That's the upgrade.

18. A band to tour with?

John: I would say right now, our ex band members from the early days, Dan and Sean, have a new band with Kings Never Die. And I don't know, probably they're openers, but in a year, they might be headliners, but it would be great to tour with some friends that's it.
To me, this is more important than somebody's name or whatever. I want to be around people. Hey, people always talk about Dog Eat Dog, Biohazard and Downstairs in the Nineties as one of the greatest tours, so something like that might be cool, but I just want to be around friends that's all. Be around people that I love to see every day. To me, that would be the best.

So that was it, thank you for this great conversation.

John: Absolutely. Thank you.


Pictures & Interview by Fani Nadki

Some pictures from Dresden (07/09/2022) find the Full album HERE

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