An excerpt from this interview appeared in the May/June 2007 issue of State of Mind as "Like Scars on a Highway Sign: Talking Songs with Dana Monteith." Here for your reading pleasure is the full‚ unadulterated conversation with Dana.
Imagine the free falling section of a rollercoaster ride lasting ten years. Guitarist Dana Monteith would probably sum up his new album‚ Truck Stop Love Ballads‚ as the aftermath of that ride coming to a dead stop...
Dana spent what must have felt like a lifetime touring circles around the country with the Ominous Seapods‚ beating on his guitar‚ singing songs‚ performing stage antics both edgy and epic‚ and jamming to a freakish cult of fans.
When the Seapods disbanded in 2001‚ he was left to pick up the pieces and do what he does best-write songs about the experience. And Dana knows how to write them: great lyrics about love‚ loss and redemption‚ all set to the sound of passing highway signs and the wheels going 'round and 'round. He sings them with the sincerity that happens when you're right before you become drunk-a mixture of charm and sarcasm‚ with a glassy twinkle in the eye and genuine twang.
Mike McKinley: What does it feel like these days when you pick up the guitar?
Dana Monteith: I love it because I'm a better player. I can do stuff that I could never do before. I can make shit up easily and it's all right there on tap‚ so I've just got to pull the trigger and I can do what I want. Which is cool because it's like‚ let me work on this arrangement here for this tune and I can come up with something‚ play it and I can fucking hit the metronome. Actually‚ teaching guitar has been this interesting thing because I've had to analyze it from every angle. I've been looking at every single possibility that the instrument offers‚ from heavy metal to James Taylor. That's been a huge boon to my own playing‚ to be able to figure out song after song after song and lick after lick after lick‚ and it's like working out nonstop.
MM: Right. (laughter)
DM: Which is great because I'm sitting there playing guitar‚ figuring out all kinds of crazy shit for hours at a time. And sometimes real basic stuff. I think with the Seapods‚ I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground. I knew what I knew‚ but I didn't know much more than that. I knew enough to get in trouble. And I could play OK‚ but it was really just playing by the seat of my pants. Where now I can‚ in my own fantasy world‚ do a lot more.
MM: Well‚ it goes with the idea that probably five years from now you'll look back and go‚ "I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I was teaching." (laughter)
DM: Exactly. (laughter) What the fuck? I feel bad for those kids.
MM: Those kids were paying me.
DM: I was being offered lots of good money to tell them everything wrong. "The 'Crazy Train' riff didn't go like that. It went like this." (laughter)
MM: Right.
DM: It's funny‚ but I guess it's like anything that you do over and over again like that‚ especially physical things that take muscle control‚ you certainly develop physical ability. There is certain athletic side to it. Not that by any stretch of imagination am I an athletic kind of guy.
MM: You could have fooled me.
DM: I know I put that across. People look at me and they are like‚ "That guy is like fucking Lance Armstrong." (laughter) He must fucking get up at five in the morning and jog. My fingers are tough. That's about it. I've got a big fat belly and a double chin now‚ but I've got tough-ass fingers.
MM: (laughter) Your fingers are in the best shape of their life.
DM: They are‚ man. I wish my heart was in my fingers; then I would never worry about having a heart attack. I could eat as many onion rings… If my heart was in my fingers I could eat onion rings‚ you know? But‚ unfortunately‚ I'm like every other human.
MM: Yep. (laughter)
DM: Prone to… What's that word? Arterial scoliosis and obesity. One of these days I'll go on a diet. It's tough. You know; you're working on a magazine. You're sitting in front of the fucking computer for endless hours. It's just endless.
MM: Yep‚ and I go to a job all day where I sit in an office.
DM: So it's easy to…
MM: It's interesting; I quit smoking last June.
DM: Oh‚ how's that going?