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By Lauren Wise
You do not want to be Dick Dale's guitar.
The Undisputed King of Surf Guitar does not merely play his instrument, he punishes it. Forget about the word "nuance." He breaks heavy-gauge strings like they were bands of saliva, wrenching a nonstop, high-speed onslaught of reverbed, staccato licks that shred his picks into flakes of hot plastic. You get the feeling that there is not an unplayed note in his head.
Your ears do not want to be on the receiving end of Dick Dale's voice.
The Undisputed King of Surf Guitar does not merely talk to you, he pontificates. Forget about the word "conversation." He speed-rants, merging incongruous topics with his own versions of semi-Eastern philosophies and what can only be described as ultramacho sensitivity. You get the feeling that there is not an undeclared thought in his head.
Here are some basic facts about Dick Dale, who usually refers to himself as Dick Dale.
Dick Dale was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, 57 years ago, and moved to Southern California in 1954. He had played guitar for years, but it wasn't until California that he became a surfing fanatic. He blended the primal drumbeats of one hero, Gene Krupa, with the melodic sense of another hero, Hank Williams, and threw in the awesome, Man Confronts Nature vibe he experienced when hangin' ten on a 15-footer. Splash in a little reverb, and that's how Dick Dale invented surf music.
But that's only part of the story. Dick Dale hated the road and, until recently, never toured outside Southern California. Dick Dale and his Del-Tones had hits with "Let's Go Trippin'" and "Miserlou" (the instrumental you heard in the first scene of the movie Pulp Fiction), but became frustrated, and bailed on the music business by the mid-Sixties. Dick Dale went into real estate, and kept some 40 lions, tigers and mountain cats as pets at his California ranch. Dick Dale became a martial arts master, flew experimental aircraft, married a woman 30 years his junior and is now on his second, utterly ass-kicking comeback album since '93.
But wait. Enough rudimentary information for you mortals. Now let the being that is Dick Dale fill you with his own words. (Warning--punctuation or lack of it is intended to evoke the stream-of-sermon, Dick Dale style of communication.)
"You know I'm writing a two-page column for what used to be Cream magazine but is now Music Confidential, it's called 'Pissed On and Pissed Off' by Dick Dale," says Dick Dale from his Twentynine Palms, California, ranch. "It's all about what Dick Dale's about, it's the attitude of the bullshit that's happening in this country with our children because of course my child Jimmy's onstage with me--he's just 3 but he's been on the road since he was ten weeks old--that's what started this whole thing, this total destruction of the crap that's going on, that's why he's in home schooling etc., etc. Why throw him to the wolves just to show he shouldn't be taking drugs and bullshit and peer pressure? But it's just the whole rat race about life in itself. Why everybody's doing what they're doing to each other physically and to their own bodies and to the frustration of the government that's destroying us. That's what's happening. There's no punishment to fit the crime, and it's just bullshit."
A little context here: What you are reading was spoken by Dick Dale after he initially said he needed to reschedule the interview, as he was too busy at the moment and needed to get off the phone. Dick Dale continues.
"Everything I write, the songs I wrote, that's why I'm going to go with another record label. I went with them for only a year, and they wanted longer but I said no, one year and two records because you got to watch who believes in what you're doing, whether they can support you or not. And here both my CDs have gone in the Top 10 nationwide in the CMJ [College Music Journal] charts and all the Tower Records, but yet when I wanted my thoughts to be printed, why I wrote every one of these songs, it wasn't. So I had to fax out my own list of my thoughts to the colleges and they got 'em and that's why I became so spiritual and angry and whatever you want to call it with the people. And now Dick Dale, well, they call him everything from the Environmental Guru to what I just came back from Alaska on the saving the whale concerts, etc., etc., so there's a lot to say. And when I get through performing I just sit on the edge of the stage and sign and meet the Tribe as it gets bigger and bigger. So my bitch is all the way from the American Indian, you know, trying to teach whitey how to plant corn and there's always a Custer in the group that wants to slaughter off 500,000 buffalo you know. And that has gone all the way through this whole life. This whole history, the government has never been out of it for Chrissakes. You know, and they're pissing and moaning about how much they're in the hole. Well why don't they try to take back some of the money they've been trying to keep their little businesses going in some of these places where these countries that don't do anything for us, satellite countries? And they haven't taken one dime back and they don't intend to. Oh it just goes on, the drugs, the crap, everything and I see it now, I've never toured in my life since I went onstage in '55, and I went with Tribal Thunder because of the colleges, Dick Dale has become a product of grassroots once again. And we don't have no $30,000 PR firm. It's amazing what has happened. In Texas alone I'd get skinheads underneath the same roof, I'd get tattooers, I'd get body piercers, I'd get college professors bringing their 7-year-old kids saying 'I used to see this guy when I was 14,' and they're all saying 'run for president' and all this bullshit which I would never do. You got to get rid of this whole damn government that you got now and start all over from scratch. Including the CIA. Music is an attitude. And no matter what you do if you're a writer, you have an attitude. Whether you're a painter or a photographer or a ditch digger--it's your attitude in what you do, you draw what you project. You lay down with a pig you get up smelling like one. So my music is just nothing but the neutralizing factor, you know, music takes no sides, it's always been that since Biblical times so I can walk down the center of everything and they all come to it if they like it so I play to the people not the musicians and that's what it's all about."
Beyond that, aw, never mind.