In December 2012, Dagwood Reed was singing, playing keyboards, and writing songs for his sci-fi-inspired local band, Se7en of Nin9. His romantic partner of nearly 20 years had passed away a year earlier from Addison's disease, but the self-proclaimed most positive person he knows stayed in high spirits. He loved creating music and relished his friendship with his bandmates, two of whom he has known for a combined 35 years. The band played Long Wong's and Hard Rock Café and was putting the finishing touches on its debut album, Objects Near Earth.
A month later, the 240-pound 47-year-old was 60 pounds thinner. Every time he ate, he experienced extreme stomach pains.
A month later, a doctor diagnosed him with aggressive stage four biliary cancer, which originates in the gallbladder and has caused Reed's stomach, liver, lungs, vocal cords, and other organs to be attacked.
Reed has been losing his voice since April, and Se7en of Nin9 hasn't played a show since a January CD release show at the Sail Inn. Reed is undergoing chemotherapy treatments, which leave him weak. But one thing hasn't changed: Dagwood Reed is still one of the most optimistic people he knows.
The sixth-generation Arizonan grew up loving Blondie and was so influenced by female-fronted bands like No Doubt and Garbage that he recruited Saguaro High School pal Cindy Grsevinsky to front his band. "Everyone who meets Dagwood falls in love with him," she says. "He's quick with a joke and a compliment, and he's always ready to talk music. I knew the minute I met him that he was woven from a much different cloth than most."
Reed has never been musically trained, but he taught himself piano and wrote the band's nine-song debut album by learning song structures from the music he loved. The result is an upbeat collection of danceable tracks with songs about everything from vampires to X-ray eyes.
The catchy lyrics and sounds are upbeat enough to make you feel like a superhero yourself, which is a feeling Reed hopes to channel as he works to recover from the cancer.
The chemo has left Reed unable to perform, but he's hoping more people can discover the album the group took three years to make. Plus, with hefty medical bills and not much state financial support, this is one form of income that goes directly to his recovery.
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"What I'm wanting out of the release is not huge fame and fortune," Reed says, "but just to get the music out there, and hopefully it makes people happy. I know it's probably not uncommon these days to do an entire album by yourself, but that's what I did and I'd like to see a little return on it to get me through this hard time."
The band describes its live shows as dance-heavy parties, an apt description for an album that would be the perfect background for a get-together or something to listen to if you're trying to boost your mood. It reflects the upbeat energy Reed radiates. Despite all he's gone through, he has the hugest smile in the room.
Reed isn't just a musical talent. He's also a graphic artist who designed all the artwork for the band. He's on medical leave from his customer service position at GoDaddy and is embracing holistic methods, such as taking apricot seed powder, drinking smoothies, and eating non-processed foods.
One of his tumors has gone down, thanks to the chemo, and none of them has grown. Reed's passion for beating this disease is just as strong as his passion for spreading his music, which he hopes makes people just as happy as he is.
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Se7en of Nin9's album, Objects Near Earth, is available on their website.