Dragon recently celebrated forty years of music… and that is not just any music but, as they cliché says, ‘music that became the soundtrack of our lives.’ Well, honestly, there is no other way to say it so succinctly. Their songs really did become the soundtrack of our lives. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing the first time they heard ‘Are You Old Enough’ or has a story to tell about ‘April Sun in Cuba’ or ‘Rain’… everyone including the band’s founding member Todd Hunter… and he shared that story in this recent interview when we caught up to talk about the band’s Trilogy Tour.
“The Trilogy Tour covers the three ages of the band,” explains Todd. “It encapsulates Dragon’s history. When you think about it, in the seventies there were all those songs like ‘April Sun ‘and Are You Old Enough’ and then it became a bit more new wavy with ‘Rain’ and everything and the nineties is completely rooted in the time now. It’s just a good way to pull everything together. In the younger years, we were really working out how to make pop songs; songs that actually meant something to somebody. We’d had a long time in the wilderness where we we didn’t care who thought what and then suddenly we just went after the idea of… not so much to get popular but to actually have a crowd turn up and have a great time. Paul was a brilliant songwriter and there was also a thing about those early years where the music was sort of bright and shiny but the band was quite a dark collection of weirdos.” He laughs at the thought. “So that was the first era and then we broke up. And the middle years, when Tommy Emmanuel was with us, it was quite a different band altogether. We still had the early songs to play. Plus songs like ‘Rain‘ and ‘Speak no Evil’. So there were distinct ‘characters’ to the three eras. Probably what we do in the middle period would be more true to what the songs were then. Also, we pick up obscure things from each era and talk about them. It really keeps it interesting to change your format all the time.”
Todd has noticed changes in not only the band over the years but also in their audience. “Our audience keeps getting younger,” he notes with a laugh. “It’s great to get a different crowd. We get such a wide range of audiences. On Australia Day we played at North Ryde to a crowd of about 15,000 or 20,000 people of all ages. You looked out and there were sixteen year old kids who were singing and jumping up and down. The songs are still on radio. It’s very hard to avoid them, you know, whether you’re at work or at a shop or in the car. They’re still getting played on radio.”
This tour includes a number of regional centres that don’t normally get a look-in on concert tours. “There’s a lot of regional areas,” he points out, “Because both Mark and I come from small towns in New Zealand and we said ‘We should go to these places because bands don’t go there and there’s not enough entertainment happening.’ So we’re doing it! I just hope people turn up!” he laughs. “It’s a social experiment to see if it will work; to see if people actually want to go out. But I’m sure it will be good fun. Every time we do go to a regional place, we have a wonderful time. There is a lot of travelling. I love going to new places or towns I haven’t been to for a long time. You get to walk around and just see it for what it is. So it’s a great balance. During the week, I’m in the country, out of town and it’s incredibly quiet. Then at weekends, you meet up at the airport and go somewhere completely different so it’s strange but it’s the best of both worlds.”
And these days, it is possible to still record while touring which means that a band can be more productive while on the road. “Well, you can record anywhere now,” says Todd. “Every time I’m flying, I look at Pete and he’s over there working on his mixing and stuff. You can just do it anywhere now. It’s great. I love it. It means you don’t have to put your life on hold for two months while you make an album. We are always recording and stuff.” So does that mean there will be a new album out soon? “Yes,” he confirms. “There’ll be a new album of new songs after we finish the tour. That album will be out in probably July, I’d say.”
In the meantime, the ‘Trilogy’ CD will be available on this tour. The ‘Trilogy‘ CD is a three CD set of a live show in the seventies, one in the eighties and one from the present line-up. Todd points out that it will only be available at their shows.
There is certainly more than enough material to fill three CDs but, while Dragon is a band that certainly boasts an impressive back catalogue of music, there is still more to come. I ask who does most of the writing these days? “Pete writes a lot,” Todd tells me. “We had a band camp recently where everybody came down here to the property south of Sydney where I live and we just wrote for four days and we got a whole bunch of new songs together. Pete Drummond’s family was here as well and I was walking out of the house to go over to the studio and one of his kids says ‘Goodbye Random Stranger’. And I just went over to the studio and wrote a song called ‘Random Stranger‘. Just happened on the spot,” he laughs.
I ask if there is a particular song that Todd looks forward to performing ‘live’. “I think the song I feel best about playing is ‘Rain’,” he replies. “It plays itself. The crowd sings and if Mark could not sing one word in that song, the crowd would sing the whole thing. The quiet bits are incredibly quiet and the loud bits are incredibly loud. For me, that song encapsulates it all because it sort of revived the band in the eighties. I was very thankful to it for that. I guess the best time I ever heard that song, I was walking along this beach in Northern Cairns. It was the middle of the night and there was this huge bonfire on the beach. And there were about fifty people sitting around the bonfire singing ‘Rain’ at the top of their voices. I just walked past in the dark. It was great. I love it,” he laughs. “It’s funny when you’re driving home after a gig and you stop at the traffic lights and you pass by a pub and the band is playing ‘Rain‘, and quite often better than we play it. When you finish a show, you do the signing and then as you are going home, there’s people walking through the streets of this little town singing ‘Don’t you go out in the ‘Rain‘. It’s a good feeling.”
What does Todd think when he looks back over the last forty or so years? What is it he remembers? “For me, Dragon is more like a way of life than a band,” he explains. “And I don’t think back on it and think ‘What a great time’. The past is the past and it’s forgotten. I look forward. I’m so busy planning what’s going on so I don’t think about the past at all.” But he is by no means unappreciative of the past and acknowledges how blessed he has been and still is. “I’m very thankful for it. It’s been a great life and there is still lots of great new stuff happening all the time.”
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © 2014 Sharyn Hamey. All Rights Reserved
For more information about Dragon’s Trilogy Tour and full tour details, please click here.