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Carl Dixon interview 

Carl Dixon
Submitted by Criss Sexx on 2016-09-24

Well, Coney Hatch. Of course I was aware of them since the '80s... but because of some reason I am not able to explain, I never cared about them. When I first went to England in 2011, because of the Firefest Festival, they were one of the most expected artists then, and I couldn't care less. Anyway, I was there and Coney Hatch was the next band to go on stage. Few times before that I was so wrong, and disappointed in myself! They delivered one of the best shows of the three-day festival. Easily. As I was there with some other people, who were also big music fans (one doesn't go to the other side of the world to watch bands if he or she is not one, just for the record... ), those who had had the chance to meet the guys in the band and get pictures and autographs, I was even more frustrated for not being a fan before. I was so ashamed of myself that I wouldn't dare ask the band for pictures... I didn't even have their albums! Yes, we do stupid things sometimes...

As soon as I got home from England I had the whole Coney Hatch collection ordered and coming my way, as well as some of Carl Dixon's solo albums, the ones I could still find... I finally decided to try to contact Carl and see if I could get his other solo albums I couldn't get by myself. He kindly replied and then I finally told him this very same story you are reading now. I guess Carl was touched by my sincerity and I got the CDs from him and, since then, we kept in touch. Man, not only Coney Hatch was a great band (I got really addicted to their music) but also Carl's solo stuff and his being such a nice a guy made me a huge Coney Hatch fan.

In 2012 my band was recording its third album, and I invited Carl to guest on it. It took him some time to agree, since he was busy doing some project. Unfortunately, when he was available our album had been finished and mixed, and it was then too late to have him on it. But it was for a good reason...

In 2013, Coney Hatch released their last, fabulous last album "Four" (that was why he wasn't available, only if I knew about the making of it!!!), and I was back in England for Firefest, and Carl Dixon's was playing a couple of unplugged solo gigs there, and as we had become kind of friends online, I dared to ask him to guest on my favorite song if he was playing it. He was a bit apprehensive at first, but then he was totally cool about it. I couldn't believe I was going to jam with Carl Dixon!!! I guested on "Girl From Last Night's Dream" and, till this day, I consider it as one of the top, unforgettable moments of my career as a musician. I'll never be able to thank Carl enough for that! A night that will never be forgotten!!! Other than old classics, some of his solo stuff and classic Coney Hatch songs, he played "Blown Away", "Keep Driving" and "Holding On", off the then new Coney Hatch "Four" album.  Years still come to my eyes when I remember Carl saying he had had a dream playing "Holding On" live and having a crowd singing it along with him... Such a magic moment!!!

In 2014 I was back in England for Firefest and Coney Hatch was there again. Lucky me! I could meet Carl again and finally meet Andy Curran and Dave Ketchum. Steve Shelski hadn't been available this time,and Coney Hatch played with another lead guitarist. The guys were great people and their 2014 Firefest show was as good as their 2011 one... WOW, what a band!!!

To go with my personal tribute to the 3rd Anniversary of Coney Hatch's last album, the wonderful "Four", here you have an exclusive interview with the incredible, one and only, band's singer / guitarist / songwriter Carl Dixon. I hope you all enjoy it as we did!!!

01 - Hey Carl, how are you doing? Let’s please start our interview with your telling us how and when you first got started in music...

Hi Criss, Nice to hear from you again. I'm doing great.
My start in music was on piano, beginning lessons at age 4. After 5-6 years I moved to guitar, then drums and finally singing. At 15 I started working with bar bands. 

02 – What have you done prior to being in Coney Hatch? Have you ever worked with anything else other than music? 

I had a few summer jobs while still in school and some temp jobs in construction, otherwise all music.

03 – Other than Coney Hatch, you’ve also worked with The Guess Who and April Wine. Can you talk a little bit about each of these bands?

The Guess Who and April Wine are iconic bands in Canada with wonderful song catalogues. They were both influences on me as a young musician so it was a thrill to play in both bands many years later. That's where I really learned the lasting POWER of a strong song list. It goes on forever.

04 – You were recognized as a music icon because of Coney Hatch. How did you exactly join the band and was it working with them at first? What can you say about each album the band released? Also, what are your favorite songs on them and why?

Coney Hatch was already a working band when I joined at the start of 1981 to replace a nice guy named Paul Van Remortel. He left the band to go back to school. It was an adjustment musically because they were playing heavier music than I'd been used to. Lots of AC/DC. some Judas Priest, etc. We were working on original material right from the start and that made the difference in getting us to the next level.
The first album "Coney Hatch" was a real power declaration. It was all songs we'd been playing live. It exploded here in Canada. 
"Outa Hand" came second and it was a reflection of the experiences of being on tour with Judas Priest, of going to the USA, of being on MTV. 
"Friction" took a lot of blood sweat and tears to finish and marked a lot of changes in our world. Sadly, we didn't know it had done well for us in Europe and the rest of the world. All we heard about was that it was a failure in the USA! We might have been able to keep going if we'd had some good news from somewhere at that time.
My favourite Hatch songs are probably "First Time for Everything" for the soaring melody and tight construction;
"Music of the Night" for the poetry and the feeling of it. "Hey Operator" has been very good to me. The heavier stuff, I like "Don't Say Make Me", "He's a Champion" and "I'll Do the Talkin'".

05 – Coney Hatch broke up after the release of the iconic “Friction” album. What was the reason for the band to split? Also, still about the “Friction” album, there was a line-up change, having original drummer Dave Ketchum replaced by Barry Connors. What can you tell us about that?

Those were both tough decisions made as a result of huge pressure. In the case of the band breaking up, it was more a case of me leaving; I kind of cracked under the pressure of Friction's failure. Steve and Andy kept the band going for awhile into 1986 but it was over. The drumming change was just an immature mistake by young guys who didn't know the value of a team and it's members. Drummers always get blamed it seems.

06 – What did you do between the Coney Hatch break up until the release of your fantastic first solo album, “One”? How was it making that album?

Let's see; I had a year or two of writing and getting over myself. then I started my first Carl Dixon Band, 5-piece which originally had Mark Santer on drums. That lasted a couple of years. Then I started another band which I named "Rough &Ready" with some younger cats, some of whom went on to play with Aldo Nova's Blood on the Bricks tour. That went for about a year. Did a lot of travelling to work with songwriters in Nashville, LA New York, San Francisco to get better at my craft. Finally I got a publishing deal as a staff songwriter with Almo-Irving Music.

07 – Fans say your following solo albums, “Into The Future”, “One Voice, Two Hands”, “Lucky Dog” and the Christmas album “Snow” are way different from what you’ve done with Coney Hatch.What can you say about each album individually? 

"Into the Future" was supposed to be a Coney Hatch album but the other guys backed out! MTM Records in Sweden put a deal in front of me but when Coney wouldn't or couldn't do it then it became a Carl Dixon solo album. They asked me to make a record like Coney Hatch, but it came out more like my portion of the band's influence. That's the point of a band. It combines everyone's ideas in a way that one person, even if they were important to the band's sound, could never come up with alone.
"One Voice, Two Hands" came about because I had begun to do my solo acoustic show every night when I was with April Wine, to open the show, and people always wanted an album of that sound to take home.

"Lucky Dog" is the recovery album after my terrible car crash and Snow, well that's just a different sort of Christmas album.

08 – You are also recording a new solo Country album called “Whole 'Nother Thing”.What can you say about it before it’s finally out?

Country music the way I like it and the way it's been going the last few years are not the same things at all. I'm probably more of a traditionalist with story-telling songs. It's been slow going getting it done, but almost there.

09 – You had a very, very serious car accident years ago. Can you tell us how it happened and how you have overcome it?

Yes, it was bad. Visiting Australia in 2008 I forgot briefly that they drive on the other side of the road there, like England. I was injured terribly; many broken bones, terrible gashes that almost severed my limbs, skull trauma and facial bones fractured, eye lost. It was crazy-bad and I could easily have died before they even got me out of the wreck. Many things fell into place to enable me to survive. 
If I hadn't been fit, strong and healthy at the time I would physically have been finished. I've never smoked a cigarette, never used drugs and drank only moderately. The doctors said that was a huge factor in my survival. After coming out of my coma my attitude became one of determination, that I would return to strength and my music somehow. "No weakness, No fear" is what I told myself many times each day to keep going. There were many difficult moments along the way, but failure was not an option. I was determined not to let everybody down.

10 – After recovering from the accident, how was it getting back to making music and playing live? 

Getting back to performing, playing and singing was the greatest thing I've ever accomplished. It was my magic and also my test; a way of measuring if I was getting stronger. Mind power, we all have it if we choose.

11 – Coney Hatch was back in 2011 and released the great “Four” album in 2013. What can you say about having the band back together and the making of the album? Were there any bad feelings among the band members when you first reunited?

Getting Coney Hatch back together for our VERY long-delayed fourth album was absolutely a joy. The reunion shows we did leading to that were out of a promise Andy made to me when I was in the coma, "You've gotta get better Carl, 'cause the Hatch still has more rocking to do". All the guys had so much joy from being together again. Making the album was different than the old days, when we were all under 25. Four grown men in their 50's trying to organize their lives to fit in this project was very tricky at times. Andy and I put in a ton of work on making that album, especially Andy as the producer. We had the best partnership we've ever had through the new days of Coney Hatch.

12 – Could you mention three of the best and most memorable moments of your whole career?

Wow. Just three, let's see. I think of the night Coney was on tour opening for Iron Maiden, at the Montreal Forum and we got a standing ovation as the support act. I was very proud of that. Finally finishing my first solo album Carl Dixon ONE and having a listening party in the studio with my friends was a nice feeling. It was also good to get Hatch to England, finally, for our first show at Firefest.

13 – I was lucky to see you with Coney Hatch twice at Firefest,in England. These were some of the best shows I have ever been to. What happened when you guys played there for the second time,without guitarist Steve Shelski?

Hmm. Let's just say that Steve had come to a point where he didn't have the same commitment to Coney Hatch as the rest of us. Thanks for the compliment, we really enjoyed both times at FF.

14 – You’ve been playing gigs regularly. What can you say about them?

Yeah, I'm playing shows just about every week. It's crazy, but I now play and sing stronger, longer and better than I ever have before. Performing is just what I'm trained and made to do. I'll play things from every stage of my career and cover songs from my favourites over the years. It makes very happy to sing and play for people.

15 – You’re making a new solo album that will be out soon... any new Coney Hatch music coming?

Sorry to say there is currently no plan for new Coney Hatch music. We may be able to put something out of live shows or a bit of unreleased stuff. It's kind of hard to say right now.

16 – You released your biography “Strange Way To Live” not long ago. What can you say about this book. It’s got great reviews all over the internet...

Writing my book was a huge challenge and I really enjoyed doing it. I learned a LOT about myself and about my abilities in the process. It's a good story, if I do say so myself. Buy it folks, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder at times why anybody would choose to be a musician. Then you'll read the bits that make it clear why it's great to be a musician.

17 – What can fans expect from you for the future other than your new album?

There will always be new music coming along as long as I can find the means to deliver it. I'm also doing a new show in theatres that combines my music with my storytelling about the events of my life and the things that I've learned.

18 – How can people contact you and buy your music and biography? 

My website is always being updated and will get me any messages or questions that people want to send. The book Strange Way To Live is printed by Dundurn Publishing in Canada, but it's available through, chapters/ and other internet book sellers. My solo albums are available through my website also, but the downloads through iTunes are a bit hung up at the moment due to business hassles. They should be back up there soon. 

19 – Any final messages to your fans?

I've said for many years that without you fans guys like me would have NOTHING, so thank you, thank you thank you all for following along, supporting and caring about my artistic journey. 

20 – Thanks a million for the interview, Carl. We all love you!!!!

Ahhhh, stop Criss, yer makin' me blush. (LOL)