August 15, 2018 Interview – John Easdale of Dramarama
Begun in township of Wayne, New Jersey, Dramarama always was and always will be a working class Rock-n-Roll band. Initially put together by good friends back in 1982, Dramarama would combine the rawness of Punk Rock with the power of Pop Rock to make a sound all their own. An unsung pioneer of early Alternative Rock, Dramarama’s story all but ended by the mid-90s only to find people wanted more, thus sparking the band’s reunion in 2003.
Going strong ever since, they are out on tour through the rest of 2018, including shows on the Lost 80’s Live Tour, as well as their first ever show in England! Inspired and ready to rock, founding Vocalist/Songwriter John Easdale sat down to talk the wild ride of Dramarama, the legacy of their hit song “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You),” the potential of new music, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – Dramarama came together some thirty five years ago and built a name for themselves as a unique Rock band. Through the years, how would you describe the interesting ride of the band?
John Easdale – Honest to goodness, it was never something we did thinking we were going to have a long 35 year history. (Laughs) The guitar player, Mark Englert, and I have known each other since we were young, young children, before kindergarten. We lived one house away from each other in Wayne, New Jersey. He had a guitar from the earliest days I could remember – he took lessons when we were in elementary school. I played drums back then and we started jamming before we were out of high school.
We kind of fell into playing other people’s songs, as you do when you are young, then graduated into playing our own songs. It was never something we expected to become a career or even make records. We made our own records, but we didn’t expect anyone to sign us to a record deal. We started our own little record company, put out our 45 and 12-inch, after that, it kind of took off on it’s own.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool. For a long time, Dramarama were very much a indie band. Do you think the self-start attitude helped you as time went by?
John Easdale – I think it’s definitely been a part of our DNA so to speak. We never really had to answer to anybody, except for a brief period in the late ’80s and early ’90s when we got signed and became a part of the Warner family. For the most part, we have always kind of done things our own way, had our own vision, and been able to follow our own lead, rather than to be dedicated to in anyway. Certainly now, that seems to be far more common than it was back then. A lot more people make their own records, do their own recordings, and act as their own record label so to speak. In the ’80s it was not as common to do stuff like that. I think it sets up really well for the modern day, but at the same time, I think we are still stuck in the olden days when it was old vinyl records. We worked at record stores, it’s changed a lot. It’s weird to see the way the music business is now a days.
CrypticRock.com – It’s true. It makes you wonder, is there a music business anymore? The only way a band can sustain themselves is to tour.
John Easdale – That is absolutely true – if you sell tickets and merchandise. Selling music is very passé and old fashion these days. (Laughs) People get it for free, between YouTube and streaming services, people don’t by records. Even downloads are going the way of the dodo. I believe next year Apple has announced they are going to stop selling downloads.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, it’s really a strange way to see the way music consumption has gone.
John Easdale – I think the digitization of everything has caused it. It’s happening with movies too. It’s a shame, but making it all free changes the entire structure.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly does. Dramarama has put out a lot of music through the years. Interestingly, your song “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You)” became somewhat of a cult classic. Covered by several bands and immortalized in film, are you often surprised to see how the song has taken on a life of its own?
John Easdale – Absolutely, there is no way we had any idea that would be the case. It’s very flattering, gratifying, and miraculous in a way. I didn’t approach it or write it any different then any of the other songs I’ve written over the years. It’s something that is extremely personal in a way, and yet, I think it’s more universal. That seems to be the case, people take it, and feel like it’s about them.
CrypticRock.com – It’s cool to see how big the song is. As mentioned, that particular song was prominently featured in 1988’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
John Easdale – Yea, and it was on TV shows. It was most recently in the show Entourage and Private Practice. As you said, bands continue to perform it. It’s mind-boggling in a way, but it warms the heart. You have to pinch yourself. They still play it on radio and now we are doing what I guess they used to call oldies shows. We are playing ’80s festivals and we are still invited to play all around the country and do stuff mainly because the strength of that song’s staying power.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, but Dramarama obviously have a lot more music, and the fans know that. Following some time off in the mid-90s, Dramarama returned to tour consistently in the 2000s. What inspired the reformation of the band?
John Easdale – It was entirely the result of being on a TV show on VH1 called Bands Reunited. They had a series where they would show up at either your house or where you worked. Kind of like candid camera, they would show up and say, “Hey, want to get your band back together?” They did it with a bunch of bands, a lot of them got together for that one show, some even said no thank you, but we got back together. We then played the show and the response was so overwhelmingly positive that 3 of 4 original members have opted to continue. Now we’ve been together longer reunited than we were the first time.
CrypticRock.com – That is awesome to see! You are currently performing on select dates of the Lost 80’s Live Tour. How excited are you for this run of shows?
John Easdale – It’s amazing to be considered nostalgia. Thirty years before we started the band, Rock-n-Roll hadn’t really started yet for all intensive purposes. Now, thirty-five years, after starting the band, it doesn’t make sense and it’s not something we anticipated in anyway. It’s certainly delightful and astonishing.
CrypticRock.com – It is a wonderful thing to see the band still appreciated. It has been over thirteen years since Dramarama has released a new album. That in mind, is there a possibility of some new music in the future?
John Easdale – We have, and we have some stuff that is ready to go. I believe, if we are lucky and all things run smoothly, we can hope to see some new music before the end of the year. In the past, one thing or another has prevented that from happening. I’m hoping before the end of the year there is some new music to listen to. We have the Lost 80’s Live dates and we are heading to England later this month for our very first time, we have never been before. Fingers crossed, not only will we not be an old band with old music, we will be an old band with new music. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – It would be great to hear some new music from the band. Dramarama has always had a unique sound. The music is raw, lyrics very ear-catching. It is really Dramarama. What are some of your influences?
John Easdale – It’s everything that you think, say, do, or experienced, filtered through my eyes. I write all the songs for all intensive purposes, one of the guys help me here and there, but for the most part, it’s my vision of musical entertainment. All of the subject matter is intensely personal, whether it’s something I’ve experienced myself or something I have observed. It’s all filtered through my brain and comes out through my pen and voice.
CrypticRock.com – It is certainly unique. As we mentioned, your music has been featured in a lot of TV and films. What is that like? It is a great marketing platform to have.
John Easdale – In some movies we have been really fortunate, in that the songs are featured in such a way that people can actually hear them – they are not just in the background or on the radio. For instance, in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. Also, featured in this movie called Two Night Stand (2014). The song is featured as a plot point.
In A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, it is featured while a guy is doing his martial arts routine. He works out to the song, and then he gets killed by Freddy. Later, his spirit enters his sister’s body, they use the song to tell the audience, “Now his spirit is entering her body.” Now all of a sudden his sister can do martial arts and kick Freddy’s ass!
In Two Night Stand, there is a scene where a couple is snowed it. The guy plays the record for a girl and they dance around. It’s featured in such a way, that people leave and think, “I wonder who that band was?” A lot of people who never heard of us come to hear of us that way. It’s incredibly cool and not something that we said, “It would be great do this.” It is something that people heard the song and put it in there. It’s very flattering and unbelievable.
CrypticRock.com – It seems music is used differently in films nowadays.
John Easdale – Oh yea, the montage has gone away, I think it’s became almost clichéd. I think Team America: World Police (2004) kind of ruined it for filmmakers. (Laughs) It was definitely a way to move the plot forward with editing and with just a cool song, not to say our song was cool. It was a technique that was very popular back in the ’80s.
CrypticRock.com – It was fun too! Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
John Easdale – Honest to goodness, I would say until I was around 12-13, my dream was somehow be more involved in making what I called monster movies. I always enjoyed Science Fiction and Horror as a genre, but at the same time, when it started becoming really mainstream, I think I backed away. When the Slasher films started having 5-6 sequels, and once they started becoming really popular, I kind of backed away. Although I still enjoy them, I was not as keen.
I liked it better when it was an underground thing, like Punk Rock. From the age of 5 to about 13, I really wanted to be a filmmaker and loved genre movies more than anything. Between Star Wars and the popularity of films in the ’80s, I was always an elitist bastard, and was too cool when everyone else suddenly fell in love with it. The same with comic books, I was the king of comic books, but now that everyone loves comic books and superheroes, I am like eh. (Laughs)
Still, favorites would be the Universal classics. The ’50s movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Curse of the Demon (1957), really good movies. I loved all those films. I liked Alfred Hitchcock too. I guess he was more of a suspense filmmaker – he got more a name from the TV show and his books he had with is picture. Back then, my whole bread and butter was that genre.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting to hear. It is quite understandable why you lost interest. For example, like comic books have become so mainstream, they have killed the zombie sub-genre.
John Easdale – Exactly! It’s too common. Now zombies are in everything. It’s almost like a joke, they are in funny commercials. It’s too mainstream. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I totally get that. It becomes cute, instead of really terrifying. It’s no longer something that you fear, it’s something everybody knows about. It takes away from some of the uniqueness and something you feel is uniquely yours, and you have to share it with everybody.