December 31, 2020 Interview – Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons
If you were to assemble a list of the more unique leading ladies in Rock-n-Roll during the 1980s, chances are Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio would be one of the first names to come to mind. Marching to beat of her own drum, Bozzio took the New Wave scene by storm in the early ’80s thanks to her undisputed style, fashion sense, and ever so quirky voice.
Still passion about music and artistic expression all these decades later, Bozzio is back in 2020 with a brand new album. Released in early 2020 under the Missing Persons’ moniker, Dreaming comes dressed up with some very distinctive renditions of well-known classic tunes, as well as a handful exciting new originals. A collection Bozzio is extremely proud of, she recently took the time to chat about her wild, unpredictable career, the early days of Missing Persons, the inspiration behind Dreaming, a forthcoming book, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have a very interesting and successful music career. First working with Frank Zappa, you would then go on to Missing Persons. Briefly tell us, how would you describe your career in music, thus far?
Dale Bozzio – That is a big answer. (Laughs) For me, my career has been very surprising. On the other hand, it takes its toll. I’ve played with some incredible musicians, so it doesn’t get better, it gets worse. It’s hard to keep up with the echelon of the people I’ve played with, such as Terry Bozzio, Warren Cuccurullo, and Frank Zappa. Frank Zappa saw and heard things from me that I would never corollate with music, but he did. He chose me to be Mary on Joe’s Garage (1979), and that set me to a really different echelon in the eye of the beholder.
In music, people have a little bit more respect for me that I came from Frank’s school of logic, so it gives me a bit of quality. Then being with Terry and Warren in the Missing Persons – that was Frank’s idea. He looked at us one day and said, “You should put a band together and call it the cute persons.” He said use my studio and go get Ken Scott (who had just did David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”). I looked at Frank, Terry, and Warren, and said, “Okay, let’s do that. That sounds like a great idea.” (Laughs) It blew my mind at the moment, but that set the course for the rest of my career. Missing Persons is something that I do every single day. Whatever it is, I put my effort into that music, the people in the band, and the echelon.
Cryptic Rock – It’s interesting to hear how it all began. What is interesting about Missing Persons is the music had a Rock-n-Roll foundation, but utilized synthesizers, and, of course, your very unique voice. What was it like forming the sound of the band?
Dale Bozzio – The forming of the band’s sound came naturally. It’s really bizarre, but we were all coming from a niche with Frank. Terry was also in many bands and he came from a whole other level of musicianship. Then Warren had his own style and tone. I had no knowledge of music or how to read or write it, or even what I was planning to do. I came to Hollywood to be a movie star, not a musician – that was not my plan. (Laughs)
Then when I met Frank, he said to me, “You should be Mary – you go on the payroll tomorrow.” It happened so fast and I believed him. I went in the studio the next day, I became Mary, and for the next six months I was Zappa-oriented with all that was going on in Frank’s camp. After time went by, and after Missing Persons got a slice of fame, Frank asked us back to do Thing-Fish (1984) and that was really unique.
I’ve had a really eclectic musical career. I then went on to sign to Prince’s label. I’m still involved in Missing Persons in my heart and soul; it’s what I made with those fellows, it’s within me everyday. I’m on a tape loop in my head: I need to play new music, because it plays in my head. I’ve got it all.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like it was an exciting time. Beyond the music, the imagery that was projected by yourself and Missing Persons is heavily influential. You can see the influence on artists today. Are you aware of the influence you have on modern pop culture?
Dale Bozzio – I don’t know if I’m aware of it. I personally never really cared if people were thinking of ‘this was stylish’ or not. I designed, with my friend Doug Powell, all the things on the floor of the living room; we designed all the things I could afford to put together because we had no money. We had to turn our concert tickets into things that we needed to buy, like drum supplies, studio time, or lunch. Terry did drum lessons for extra money. Terry, Warren, and I were just three kids trying to get to this rock star dream.
On the way up I gathered into these costumes. I never wanted to look like anybody else; I would never go to the store and buy what was the latest fashion. The ‘latest fashion’ is not me; I can’t cope. I’m only 5’2″, 100 pounds, and I had to put into whatever I could to make myself look like no one you’ve ever seen before. I had to create a condition that couldn’t be ignored, or else how would I make it? I made records with Frank Zappa, who thought I was anybody? I was a nobody girl from Medford, MA, I knew nothing. I just all of sudden fell into this volcano of wanting to be a rock star. (Laughs) I went full force into it, made all these insane outfits, and did whatever I could to run with the crowd. I died my hair blue, I wore the tallest shoes I could possibly walk in; I was daring and I always have been a little courageous.
Cryptic Rock – It shows and you left an impression. As you said, Missing Persons is very much a part of it. You released a new album, Dreaming, back in March of 2020. It’s a very cool mix of cover tracks as well as a few originals. What inspired this new album?
Dale Bozzio – I actually wanted to sing the songs I like whether they are up to par or someone thought it was cool or not. That is my personal karaoke message to the world. (Laughs) If I can do it, you can do it. I really wanted people to hear my voice, not to just be slammed with drums and big guitars that cover up every note I hit and breath I take. I’m not that proud to sing in the shower; I can make mistakes too, it’s okay. I was told by Frank Zappa to never, ever sing on a record anything that you can’t do right here in front of me; don’t do it, because you will embarrass yourself. I took that to heart, I took everything Frank Zappa told me to heart and put it into the music business. I also absorbed everything Terry and Warren taught me like a sponge. I needed to know.
I grew up in a time where there was not a telephone in my hand. I had to go to an encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, or the library to really get the facts and information. I’m really the kind of person who will seek from the source. I don’t have time for mistakes: I have my own mistakes and I’ve got to fix those. I’m not really a musician, so everything I do is tried and true. I’m coming from what I think might work – you might have another opinion.
My music, and what I interpreted on Dreaming, is exactly what I wanted to say. My song “Dreaming” is exactly what I portray and think. I think these lyrics I write, they are embedded in my brain because I think them. I didn’t make anything up. “California Dreaming” is one of my favorite song in the whole world, and the last song, “In The Rain,” is one of my favorite songs by The Dramatics.
Cryptic Rock – It translates very well, you did a great job. The songs you selected to cover you make your own, and you add a unique darker element into these tracks. Did you have that in mind going into it?
Dale Bozzio – No. I am deep; I’m so deep, you don’t even want to know. I’m the kind of person who is great to come see in concert, but you wouldn’t really want to know what I think. I just wrote a book, and it’s called Life Is So Strange. I wanted to write this book to explain to everybody what flies my kite in life, what my childhood was like, and how I became this person.
I had a tragic accident after I made Joe’s Garage with Frank; I fell out a window 40 feet on my head and was really incapacitated. Frank and Terry came to Boston and I went to Europe with them and got better on tour. Frank saved my life and still does. The only reason I make this music, and believe I can, is because Frank said I could. That’s why I do it. Even if I make mistakes, and don’t even sing it the right way someone else think I should, it’s still okay. My mistakes in my silly little career I had in the ’80s made me an icon.
Cryptic Rock – That is very true. Beyond the cover tracks, you have the original songs such as “Dreaming” and “Lipstick.” Is this a prelude to a full-length album?
Dale Bozzio – I don’t know. I would like to do that, but I don’t know. I only made this with Adam Hamilton, he and I put it all together. He’s a great, dear friend of mine, let alone a genius. We work really well together. I wanted this piece to really be more Dale, but I had to be Missing Persons because that is what everybody knows me as. I try to put in Dale Bozzio so people will go, “It’s Dale,” but it’s Missing Persons. I can’t really escape that. I haven’t done that to erase Terry or Warren in any shape or form, but that is what people recognize me as. I don’t know where to go from here.
Cryptic Rock – Hopefully more people will discover the album because they will really enjoy it.
Dale Bozzio – Thank you. One song that is very important that I wrote is called “This Time.” It’s about the world, leaving your ghosts at the door, putting your best foot forward into this life and the future that we have. If things have to change, then we have to change with it. I wish us all the best of health and luck in 2021.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, let us hope for a good year ahead. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
Dale Bozzio – I think as horrible and scary as I can get is the Dark Shadows series. I’m not really a Horror fan, I get scared easily. I don’t watch movies that have sex in them or bleeding in them.
Cryptic Rock – Understood, the genre is not for everyone. What are some of your favorite films in general?
Dale Bozzio – Sunset Boulevard (1950), Sabrina (1954), and then Blade Runner (1982). I grew on a little bit of TV with Alfred Hitchcock, The Twilight Zone, and waiting for Outer Limits. I kind of grew up in a black and white movie world. That is why I wrote the song “Lipstick.” For me it is about the black and white era of movie stars.