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Dakota interview 

Submitted by Juha Harjula on 2004-05-05
If you think about classic AOR,it often happens that the name of DAKOTA comes in mind and especially their brilliant album "Runaway" from 81 but this year they are back with their 6th album titled "Deep 6" and as good as ever,Dakota gives their fans and AOR lovers in general what they want, just had to know a few things about this solid band.
Hi Jerry, what?s up and how are you doing?
Jerry Hludzik : Busy promoting Deep 6 and trying to stay out of trouble! I?m just fine! We can?t wait for warmer weather... had enough of the snow!!!

You have recently released the new Dakota album Deep 6 Are you satisfied with the final result?
Jerry Hludzik : It was a hell of a ride and other than a few mixes I wish I had to do over again, I was pleased with the results.
Rick Manwiller : Absolutely, particularly since we did this one pretty much "in-house" at Closet Studios, our own facility. Everything on the record was tracked there, except that we did the drums at Sound Investments, where we usually do the entire Dakota records. We had some experimenting to do on this one that we couldnt do at someone elses facility, weve have gone broke. So we pretty much took the budget and upgraded our own studio.
Eli Hludzik : Yes, I am very happy with the way the disc turned out.
Jon Lorance : I am my own worst critic, but at the same time I try not to be negative and just enjoy the music. Its a good thing to strive to do better, but unproductive to be too critical? but yes overall, I am pleased and hope everyone who listens enjoys it!

Can you tell us about your new album and what does "Deep 6" stand for?.
Jerry Hludzik : There are a lot of connotations of the phrase Deep 6? 6 feet under, cancelled, but deep six" means pretty much "DEAD", shall I go on ?
Rick Manwiller : Weve been cataloging the Dakota CDs by incorporating the album number into the title. Little Victories had a big "V" on the cover, to signify "5". Somewhere in Deep 6.... theres also a hidden number. : ) " Thats a sarcastic jab at someone in particular, in the music biz, who wishes we were. It also shows we?re far from being superstisous about what Deep 6 means and also about adding a 13th trax????. Shows we are fearless??.. Bring it on!!

I think that the sound is more rockier than before and the guitars has got more room this time. Was that something you wanted for this new album?
Rick Manwiller : Yes, we wanted it to rock. But I don?t think it?s in the arrangements as much as the writing, because we also wanted the keyboards more dominant than on Little Victories. So, I guess we managed to get more rocked out, yet still bring out the keys as well. JL always rocks, no matter whats around him.
Jon Lorance : It wasnt a conscious decision to bring the guitars forward but Rick and Jerry did want it, a little more frantic at times. Some songs seemed to dictate that they be a little free and outrageous at times. The way we recorded them also, contributed to that too, perhaps. Sometimes the track that I thought might have been over the top at the time ended up sounding the best and was what we used. More guitars!!! haha

Bill Champlin of Chicago and co-founder Bill Kelly has helped out with the background vocals. How was it to have them in the studio and how did you get in contact with Mr. Champlin?
Jerry Hludzik : I see Champlin at least about twice a year when Chicago plays near by our area. It?s always the show dinner, and a great hang until the wee hours of the morning. Or if I?m in California we?ll fit in some time to hang out. I?m going to California for a week in May I?m sure we?ll do something interesting. Bill has always done a great job on Dakota records where he?s graced us with his vocal talent!

Kelly and I August 2002 finally after many wasted years of separation (after working together for 17 years) kissed and made up. We keep in contact now...we had talked about doing a project together but it wasn?t until a year later he found himself singing once again on a Dakota project! (re-uniting with Rick and myself 1st time in studio since 1983 runaway sessions) It was a great day of fun. Brought back many feelings... all GOOD! Perhaps on the next Dakota album he?ll play a bigger part or maybe even a Hludzik/Kelly long over-due composition!

How would you describe the sound of your album?
Jerry Hludzik : Classic Melodic AOR Rock/with big hooks that hopefully you?ll walk away from and remember. This is just the way we write this is the way they come out. They say you are what you eat and over the years I?ve always listened to vocal bands with good harmony melodic structure and chourses that I can remember longer than 3 minutes after the song has ended. I hope DEEP 6 is to the ear as I described it
This is Dakota
This is what we know!

How did you come up with the idea of doing short a cappellas of your songs from the album as the last track? Great harmony vocals BTW.
Jerry Hludzik : Thank you very much! It was something Rick 1st suggested but shorter...I swee talked him into the full length of each chorus as it is.

There are many great songs on the album but what?s your favorite track and why?
Jerry Hludzik : My favorite is Back to me? I like the overall track. I really like lyrically what it has to say, and I liked how Champ put the finishing touches on it with his great voice!
Rick Manwiller : I kind of like "Luck, Time and Mind", for 2 reasons. Firstly, I wrote the song a few years ago, as part of a demo for a new solo project I was shopping. I didn?t get great reaction to the song back then, and it bothered me a bit. Also, it?s the last song we tracked and mixed for Deep 6, so I guess I?m not quite as burnt-out on that one. We spent a long time mixing and re-mixing this one, before Jerry and I looked at each other and said, "Now it sounds good." But an all-digital project affords you a lot of experimentation. As Todd Rundgren once mused, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing."
Eli Hludzik : I like them all but Brothers, and Not so much in love seem to stick out for me. I dont really know why but they do.
Jon Lorance : I like them all and my favorites change every week, maybe because of the mood Im in. This week its "That Awful Day"-"Eye of the Storm". Last week it was "Not so much in Love" and the week before, it was "Holdin your Own". The week before that.. etc etc.

You released the album on Melody Blvd. How did you get in contact with them and are you going to release the album over here in Europe?
Jerry Hludzik : Scott Sosebee and myself have been working hand in hand on Dakota projects for a few years now so we decide this one wouldn?t be any different. So Dakota and Melody Blvd it was!
On the Europe thing- We were very close to a deal with FRONTIERS in Italy. We liked what direction the label was headed and thought Dakota would be a great fit?however in the final tweaking of the terms, we respectfully declined. We look forward to down the road having an oppourtunity to work with them on a DAKOTA project in the future.

The production is very strong on the album. Can you tell us about that?
Rick Manwiller : As I said, we recorded the drums at S.I.R., and we used 2" analog tape for the sound, then we dumped it into the Closet Studios digital system (we use Nuendo) and started overdubbing. To be honest, it wasn?t that easy - Jerry and I had outlined the songs in demo form, using sampled drums. But a lot of the keys and guitars we did for the demos were useable for the final mixes, because I always track at 48K/24bit, even for rough ideas. So, once we had the rhythm tracks pretty tight, Eli came into the picture, and he actually played his drums to the tracks - not an easy trick, as any drummer out there will attest to. But we knew he could do it, because he had done well with that approach years before, as far back as Mr. Lucky, where we had him track a live kit for an alternate European version of the title track.
Mixing was done all-digital, using no outboard gear at all - only using great plug-ins. Not that I have anything against hardware processing - some of it is the best stuff there is. But (a) my studio isn?t set up for a lot of outboard processing, and (b) I was forced to do some pre-mixing and mix experimentation on airplanes and such, and I needed to keep it as digital-domain as possible.
Jon Lorance : Jerry and Rick were the ones that slaved over a hot oven for days and weeks on end...I just chopped some vegetables and helped season the marinade.:)
Jerry Hludzik : We just write and record it like we hear it?. And then sit back and put icing where needed

You have been around the music industry for many years now. What drives you doing more great music?
Eli Hludzik : Well for me its all about making the best music you can, in whatever genre you are in, and making other people feel what you feel when you perform it...that connection is so primal and visceral and so divine all at the same time...its better than anything on the market Legal or illegal!!
Jon Lorance : The sheer enjoyment of playing and making music. Its always a great feeling and sense of accomplishment, but the best is hearing that someone else enjoys it.
Jerry Hludzik : It?s because this is what I do- this is what I know-and because I personally don?t think we?ve done our best work yet. It gives me, besides my family and friends, a great sense of purpose. Maybe what I do is not essential to all- but welcomed by many. That right now is good enough reason for me to get where I need to go?this is what drives me.

Dakota has released couple of albums to date. I would like that you gave comments of your studio albums and in what order you rank them. - Dakota (1980)- Runaway (1981)- Mr. Lucky (1996)- The Last Standing Man (1987)- Little Victories (2001)- Deep 6 (2004)
Jerry Hludzik : Deep 6/Runaway/Last Standing Man/Little Victories/Dakota/1980/Mr Lucky(last only because most were demos that never really had a chance to be recorded properly)
I?m very proud of them all????
Rick Manwiller : Thats a tough one, because I love each record for different reasons. I excuse myself from the Dakota record, because I wasnt involved in it. But its the record that turned me onto the band, the one that made them local heroes back in Pennsylvania, and the one that made me want to join the band. Great collection of pop-rock songs, second to none. Runaway was a fave because Humberto (Gatica) engineered, and just to work with him was amazing and educational. You look in the dictionary under "meticulous audio professional" and theres a picture of Hummy. Mr. Lucky (originally Lost Tracks) was the first record we really recorded totally on our own, plus it was a bunch of songs we wrote for other people and never found a home for. Its the most diverse record we ever did, or ever will do. Last Standing Man I think has some of the best songwriting we ever did, that was always my take on that. But Deep 6 may be as good, I need more time to judge the 2 for writing. Little Victories was triumphant for us, because we had gotten out of a bad business situation and moved on to do something without the normal connections you need to succeed. I also feel that record never got a real chance to do as well as it could, for a bunch of reasons. And Deep 6 I love because its new, its fresh, and its probably the best record yet, in fact Im sure it is. And if youre last record isnt your best effort, you might as well hang it up, I say. A lot of stalwort Dakota afficianados say Runaway was the best one ever, but thats just personal taste. Plus, with all due respect, in my humble biased opinion, theyre just wrong.
Jon Lorance : Its hard for me to be objective on this one...Ill rank Deep 6 #1 right now and the rest are all tied for #2. :)

Lets talk about Dakota?s mega rare AOR- classic "Runaway" album. How well did that sold and how was the response back then in the early 80s?
Jerry Hludzik : To answer the first part of your question? Yes problems with MCA? Didn?t sell what it should have but in spite of the circumstances, did quite well. It started to take off but? suddenly staled? No promotion!!
We were lost at sea so to speak it was a damn shame then and still is. An American tragedy!! They were too busy with the likes of Night Ranger, the Fixx, the Eagles -Glen Frey, just to name a few. We got lost in the shuffle. We had assembled a great team for this record Kelly, myself, Danny Seraphine, Bobby Lamm and Bill Champlin from Chicago, Steve Porcaro (Toto) and many other great playersand at the console ? the amazing Humberto Gatica. We always thought it was a perfect album for its time - from the songs, to the performances, to the studio vibe (I hate that word vibe but it fits). It was indeed a Magical moment in time!

Is the "Runaway" available on CD these days and if so were can our readers buy it from??
Jerry Hludzik : Yes it is we re-mastered and re-issued about a year ago Melody Boulovard - NEH Records - Perris Records in the states and AorHeaven in Germany and The Missing piece in Sweden carries all 8 DAKOTA titles ? just to name a few.

What happened after the "Runaway" album? You did not record anything with Dakota until 1996 when you released the "Lost Tracks" as "Mr Lucky"?
Jerry Hludzik : From about 1987-1989 Rick myself and a guitar player/singer Eric Rudy had put a band together called Secret City. We recorded a 10 song demo but had no interest from record labels. It was a very different sound than Dakota. Eric was the lead singer and had a voice very reminicent of the singer in the band Outfield. After about a year, he was replaced by Jon Lorance. who has been Dakota?s guitarist now for the last 3 records. Jon and I played an acoustic duo for a few years until my car accident of 5 years ago . Rick and I also have a jingle company that keeps us busy. We wouldn?t of even released My Lucky if we weren?t contacted by people in Europe inquiring about the Lost Traxs vinyel. This opened the flood gates for the last 3 Dakota releases? And many more to follow!
Rick Manwiller : This answer could fill a novel, but Ill keep my answer (version) short. Jerry and I got a bit disgruntled with the pop scene - Grunge-Rock had come along, and we didnt get it, nor did we want to. So, we gave Nashville a shot (they were still writing melodies down there), and we did quite well - landed a publishing deal with MCA in 1989 and wrote for country artists. After that, Jerry actually put together a country band called Pony Express, and played out for quite a while.( He has a solo country album BTW) I retreated into the studio and started writing, mostly with Jimmy Harnen. We wrote a few things that had success years later. Eli was still in college through all this, Jon was playing in club bands (and probably making the most money). As far as the time frame between records for us - you know what? I wouldnt want an artist career with 27 records, 22 of which were mediocre. Or so many records that you have to be a major student of a band to remember all the titles.

Are Dakota playing any live shows and what do you feel about that?
Jerry Hludzik : Unfortunatley not at the moment. We are all off doing other things but always close enough that if something breaks, were ready to go. Dakota was always a very good live band ...strong... powerful and sounding just like we recorded it! We?ve always takin? pride in that.

Your son Eli is playing in the band also, how is that?
Jerry Hludzik : Yes he is! Deep 6 was his 3rd Dakota project, and not just because he?s blood. He?s a great musician, way beyond his years. He?s a perfect drummer for Dakota music. He thinks both inside and outside the box - very tasty and never over-plays. When we were thinking of drummers for the recording of Last Standing Man, no one else came to mind. We just all thought that he would be a great choice. He was away at school at the time so logistics were a bit of a problem but we made it work. This father is proud-but as a musician; I would have never embarrassed Eli or the band by just allowing him to join Dakota without any experience. But that?s not the case?he?s been doing live and studio work since the age of 16. He is talented way beyond his 25 years. His style of playing which is flavored with rock funk/fusion/jazz is a great mix for us. He is the perfect fit for Dakota talent, personality, and professionalism. AND?dad also gets to look back while on stage see my son who lives and breathes music, driving the band. I take a deep breath, smile and thank God for him - this amazing gift he has blessed me with.
Jon Lorance : ELI is DA man. PERIOD!
Rick Manwiller : Hes not my son... that I know of. Hes either Jerrys son, or the Hludziks milk man in 1978 was a hell of a drummer. : ) (JGH - you can edit that if you want) Hes basically the best drummer ever to come through the Dakota ranks, ever. And the other 3 of us old farts are basically very immature anyway, so were all around the same age mentally. : )
Eli Hludzik : It?s great to play in a band where all the musicians are of a caliber that it makes it really easy to exist in the same space both sonically and personaly. These are all GREAT guys and slammin musicians. And growing up playing drums and having my dad playing bass.... I mean its how i cut my teeth in music. And the drummer bass player connection was already in the DNA so that didnt take long to establish As Far as his expectations...he wants a good product just as much as the rest of us-and being on the same page saves a lot of time and hassle.

What kind of music was your son raised on. Was he raised on radio with bands like Journey, Styx and Kansas or by any other acts?
Jerry Hludzik : Yes he was brought up on all of the music of the great AOR acts you have mentioned along with Toto Chicago and a lot of Tommy Lee and Motley Crue! Then At about the age of 16 he discovered a love for Jazz music. This along with listening to the likes of Tommy Lee as a kid, makes him a very tastey drummer.

Do you have any cool or fun tour memories to share with us from the 80s??
Jerry Hludzik : We toured with a lot of bands back then, miles and miles sometimes 3 months at a time. The fondest memories I remember were when we were QUEEN?s opening act on their Game tour 1980. Now this was big time rock and roll. Juha I could tell you stories that would curl up your toes but I?ll save them for when I come to Stockholm to tell over a couple of beers! All in all Queen?s entire organization was top notch- they treated us like part of the show not just the opening act. I remember in Detroit after doing their video of Another one bites the dust They all (including Freddy.. it was only a cymbal on a stand but) helped us and our crew carry some equipment From the back of the stage to the front so we could do a sound check. This was defintly a moment!!!

What kind of music do you listen to at home??
Jerry Hludzik : After we finish a this case, 18months of over and over@##$%^&&* I don?t listen to anything!! I?m now however listening to 2 stations in particular playing cuts from Deep6 AOR-maniacs in Italy and Munich?s Hardest Hits in Germany (BTW this week 4-6-04 Deep 6 is their album of the week!) and listening to other bands with songs I?m liking...for instance Street Talk- Made for paradise and Jaded Heart... I love their song Africa
Jon Lorance : I like all kinds of music, but dont get to listen at home as often as Id like. Lately, Im into thrash metal polka...its an up and coming genre.
Rick Manwiller : I listen to a lot of progressive stuff. Peter Gabriel, Kevin Gilbert, Yes, stuff like that. But I go through periods where I listen to nothing at all, because I want to write a lot. And by progressive I mean in general, not just rock. For example, theres a new country band called Big & Rich - theyre amazingly different. I doubt theyll get much on country radio, but its great to hear.
Eli Hludzik : I Listen to EVERYTHING......I have been playing alot of different music over the past few years.....jumping from DAKOTA to playing Funk/Fusion, to Straight ahead JAZZ, and that keeps my ears tuned in to alot of different things. For example my cd rotation recently is as follow RadioHead- OK Compute The Flaming Lips- Yoshimi Battles teh Pink Robots Ravi Shankar- A morning Raga/ An Evening Raga Tom Waits- Mule Variations Brad Mehldau- Largo OutKast- The Love Below Elvis Costello- ANY ALBUM and it goes on...........

Do you have any other projects going on at the moment?
Rick Manwiller : Right now Im working with DreamWorks Nashville artist Jimmy Wayne, a great new country-pop artist. Ive actually been tour managing and doing sound for him for the past year, but were also co-writing for his next record. You never know what songs will get cut in that town, because its very political, but its going well so far. Im also writing my next solo project - using the portable studio setup I put together for Deep 6 - literally on tour busses and airplanes. Its fun
Eli Hludzik : Yes, I am playing on CD slated to release early Summer with a band called RAYS MUSIC EXCHANGE titled "BLUE IN THE FACE". its a 4 piece funk/fusion group (drums-bass-guitar-keys/trumpet) that i have been with fro the last 2 years. and I am very proud of how the group sounds. I a have a live recording with a jazz trumpet player from Chicago named Brad Goode who is just amazing and a slamming bass player from Tokyo named Steve Whipple. Also a Jazz quartet that was just recorded in late Feb, which will be out sometime in the next year And a Pop record that goes in the studio April 5&6
Jon Lorance : Not at the moment, just playing to make a living...always enjoy doing projects though.
Jerry Hludzik : I?ve started on a few songs for my solo acoustic album and starting in May I?m going to produce a few demo traxs for a very good singer/songwriter from North Carolina by the name of Andy Bilinski.

What is your opinion of downloading music from the internet?
Rick Manwiller : Ive done it, I admit. But its usually only when I cant find something to buy. Plus, being an audio -file, I hate the garbled sound of MP3s. I will only grab an MP3 to check out the music. If I like it, I want the real audio from the CD, and I buy it. But its literally costing the record industry billions of dollars, and thats reflected in how tight record companies are with budget. Its becoming ridiculously difficult to break new artists anymore... everyone is afraid of not playing established artists, because the profit margins have dwindled. Its a bad situation, for the way the business is setup, and I dont buy the anarchists approach that we have to totally change the way music is distributed, and do away with record companies. Someone has to put some eggs into 1 basket and market things. It cant be a free-for-all, in my opinion, where artists all compete equally on the internet and the best music survives, like some people are suggesting. Someone will always stack the deck somehow, get their music into more peoples faces, and get an advantage. That just replaces the current record companies with another entity. Thats a better system? I think not.
Eli Hludzik : Well, that is a good question...I support downloading music, I think that it is a great way for artists to get their music out there into a market that just keeps growing my the minute. HOWEVER!! I am still a strong advocate of BUYING CDS!! The downloads are great but if everybody downloads all their music and stops buying CDs to support the Artists, then the Artists cant put food on their tables...And no food, no artist and ultimatly NO MUSIC!
Jon Lorance : Catch 22...a helpful tool for artists to be heard, but detrimental to the "business" of music. Itll work out.
Jerry Hludzik : ANSWER22

What do you think about all the new bands that has come out recently such as Linkin Park, Nickelback, Matchbox 20 and POD?
Rick Manwiller : Im always into new music. Hip-hop and punk were the only things I couldnt stand. And polkas. and Hawaiian nose-flute music and Lithuanian cheese-dance music. Okay, theres a lot of music I cant stand. : ) But anything that has a solid groove and has melody is great.
Eli Hludzik : In my Opinion Matchbox 20 is the only one that is worth anything from the choices you gave me.
Jerry Hludzik : I?m with Eli I think matchbox 20 is the only band consistently giving us anything close to music as we knew it? or as I knew it!
Jon Lorance : I enjoy listening to new music on my car radio. I like the songs that stick out melodically or musically. I have to admit, some of this stuff sounds too much alike to me after a while though. Isnt that what my parents told me about what I was listening to when I was younger?? Ha ha!!

Can you name 5 CDs that are in your CD-player at the moment???
Rick Manwiller : Steely Dan - "Everything Must Go" / Kevin Gilbert - "The Shaming of the True" / Peter Gabriel - "Up" / Mr. Mister - "Welcome to the Real World" / Street Talk - "Destination"

Eli Hludzik : Wayne Shorter-FootPrints LIVE Wayne Shorter- Alegria Afro Cuban All Stars- A Toda Cuba Le Gusta The Philadelphia Experiment Beck- Midnight Vultures
Jon Lorance : hmm....Dakota "Deep 6", Steely Dan "Two against Nature", Thin Lizzy "Thunder and Lightning", Led Zeppelin "box set #3", Queensryche "Empire

Are there anything you would like to add or say to our readers??
Rick Manwiller : Hi there readers! Keep reading! : ) And thanks for keeping us alive over the years
Eli Hludzik : Just keep on Supporting GOOD LIVE MUSIC and thank you for being good listeners...without the people there would be no music. I think we are in a good place. I am happy with it Jon: Yes thank you all who have listened and enjoyed our music!!!! Youre all in the band with us!
Jerry Hludzik : Just to put the entire world on notice,Dakota appreciates every kind word we receive from the fans thru phone calls e-mails, and the reviews on web- sites that keep this style of music alive and breathing . We work really hard to come up with the music we think you guys would enjoy. It looks like by the very positive feed- back were getting about DEEP 6, I guess we most definitely did our part of keeping it alive too!!