I had the pleasure of sitting back for a chat with Carl Dixon, lead singer of Coney Hatch and more recently The Guess Who on Saturday April 15, 2000.  I tried to cover many areas that I thought other fans would be interested in. I was told that Carl was extremely pleasant to be around and overall a very courteous person. After our chat, I would concur with that thought and would like to personally Thank Carl for giving me a great interview as well as putting on a great show with The Guess Who. This is how it went.....
Dave: What is your musical background?? When did you start playing and what do you play??

Carl: I started tinkering with the piano when I was 3 years old, so my parents signed me up for lessons when I was 4. I did that for about 5 or 6 years, but then dropped that because I couldn't see how playing classical piano related to all of the rock 'n roll I was hearing on the radio. I wish I would have kept it up, but I can still play somewhat, but I played better when I was 9 then I do now. (Chuckles)

Dave: Do you find that there is a natural conversion from playing piano to playing guitar??

Carl: If you start with piano, you can make sense of any instrument. It just trains your mind to think in those linear scale up and down and you relate to that kind of thinking. I did guitar next for about 6 months, but I didn't like the teacher so I dropped out and picked up drums and did that all through high school and then started singing and playing guitar again when I was about 14 or 15. I started doing gigs when I was 16 fronting a band with older guys, they were all in their early 20's I guess, but none of them could sing so they needed somebody to sing the material and I just kept it going ever since. I learned a lot of percussion instruments when I was in high school when playing drums as well. Since then I have picked up mandolin and harmonica and more keyboard stuff. Just about anything I had a bash at.

Dave: What bands did you play in prior to Coney Hatch??

Carl: The band I was in immediately prior to that was a group called Firefly. I moved to Montreal for a couple of years to join that. Montreal was not a great place to have a band because it's in the French part of Canada, so there's a split between the French and the English markets. It was hard to make a living, really. We had to travel alot to the East coast to get jobs. Before that, I was in a couple of bands that I had started up with high school buddies and it started from there.

Dave: So Coney Hatch was your first big gig??

Carl: Yeah.

Dave: How did you hook up with the guys in Coney Hatch??

Carl: The band started prior to me joining. They had already been going with a different guy playing guitar and singing. They were working regularly as a bar band doing cover stuff. They did a lot of AC/DC stuff at that time. The guy who was there before me liked AC/DC. It wasn't really a serious thing but they were starting to try to write songs. Steve and Andy were already writing stuff. They had lots of songs. The only one that made it onto record ever was 'Monkey Bars' before I joined. I joined through an ad in the classifieds. So did Steve Shelski when he joined.

Dave: After you joined the band, what were the early days like??

Carl: Well it's funny because we were playing some pretty dodgey bar gigs in Ontario and Quebec. The first week I joined I moved down to Toronto to stay at Steve's house 'cause his parents were out of town in Vegas. The whole band rehearsed in his basement. I think we did more laughing than actual rehearsing. We were laughing our heads off every day. We arrived for the first gig very unprepared, but we got through it and everything tightened up. We'd play weekends. I guess I had been in the band for about 3 months, but I had already brought songs in that I had written, and I had co-wrote some things with Steve almost as soon as I had joined. In 3 months, Kim Mitchell was interested in producing us for some demos, so it happened really quickly actually that once I joined, we were seriously doing demos trying to get signed within 3 months. We had a deal signed 8 months after I joined.

Dave: What bands did you tour with when in Coney Hatch??

Carl: Our first major tour was with Judas Priest. We did about 26-27 shows with them across Canada and in the Western United States on the 'Screaming for Vengeance' tour. It was an amazing experience. That was our first time getting exposed to top touring acts at that level. I realized suddenly the responsibility of coming out and doing a great show every single night, no excuses no matter what. You just have to deliver if you are going to work on that level. So that was a really good experience for us to learn that and see that. There were so many bands, even in that first year there were a whole bunch because we were doing a lot of special appearances trying to promote that first album. We played with Eddie Money, Edgar Winter, Cheap Trick, and Ted Nugent. I remember doing a big show with them in Toronto at the Exhibition Stadium.  Axe was a group from the midwest. We did a few double-bills with them in a few towns. I liked their material. We did a major tour with Iron Maiden in '83 opening on their 'Piece of Mind' tour. We did about 40 gigs with them. Once again across Canada and the Eastern States over to about the midwest, Nebraska. Let's see, Krokus, Accept. There were a lot of good experiences out of that. I can't really remember them all, but those are the highlights. Oh yeah, Fastway was also in there on the Iron Maiden tour for some dates.

Dave: So who was you favorite band to tour with??

Carl: I think the Judas Priest experience was very startling and formative for us, but the Iron Maiden guys were the nicest, they treated us the best and they became our pals. It was a really nice thing. They liked us and they liked the music so they kept us on the tour for a long time. It was much more like touring with friends than with Judas Priest. They were here and we were at the bottom. Rob Halford would come around and talk sometimes, but we never really saw them beyond that. We would just stand at the side of the stage with our mouths hanging open.

Dave: Do you have any good road stories??

Carl: On our last show on the Iron Maiden tour we were in St. Louis. One of the guys in our band had the idea of cream pies, you know, aluminum pie tins filled with whipped cream. I forget who it was, but one of the guys also suggested concealing cat food underneath the whipped cream. I thought 'I don't know if this is gonna go over too well guys. I wouldn't be happy if the opening act put cat food on me on stage.' Our road manager was thinking kinda the same thing, so he went and told the Iron Maiden guys what was going to happen while we were on stage. They snuck into our dressing room, got the pies, and ran out and did it to us while we were in the middle of our opening set. It was pretty chaotic. I have the set on tape, somebody made a board tape on cassette actually, so I have it and we were playing 'No sleep tonight' and you could just hear the guitars ringing and the drums are falling apart while they are chasing us around the stage trying to pie us. Two of them got on each side of Dave Ketchum, the drummer, and pow with a pie on either side of his head. Nicko McBrain was chasing me around the stage like crazy trying to get me. I was dodging him and thought 'I better be a sport here, because I am the opening act,' so I just stood there, 'Okay, get me.'  He was kind and just put it on top of my head, not on my face.

Dave: I'm curious why the band called it quits. What caused this to happen??

Carl: Well, we were all very young. I got signed to that deal when I was 21 or something. There was a certain amount of conflict built right into the structure of the band. Two guys wanting to be the lead singer, two different songwriting directions and there was quite a bit of competition that I didn't really enjoy being subjected to. We put a lot of work and time and money into the 'Friction' album. We were thinking the whole time 'If this doesn't sell, our gooses are cooked.'  We probably put too much pressure on ourselves, but sometimes you just don't know that. I wish our management would have been a little more active and involved in making us feel secure about that. Our management was also our record company. They could've said 'No, you're not gonna get dropped if this doesn't sell a million.'  When it didn't perform to expectation, it came out in the states on Polygram/Mercury at the same time as some other priority releases like John Cougar Mellencamp and others, they kinda said "Too bad, Coney Hatch falls off of the list.'  They had all of these other acts that had a million dollar budget and they got us cheaply. They have to sell the million dollar ones to make their money back. When that failed to go big, I think the conflict and pressure in the band got more obvious and the fragmenting became harder to take. For me, I just foresaw even worse pressure if we stuck together and tried to make a next album.

Dave: Do you stay in touch with any of the guys??

Carl: We just did a Coney Hatch sort of reunion show for a benefit about a month ago. Andy didn't want to play with us. He was on the same show though with his own new band. We are also looking at doing some Coney Shows this summer without Andy. We'll have me and Steve and Barry Connorsand a bass player friend of mine.

Dave: Are they gonna be Canadian shows??

Carl: Yeah, it won't be a big tour kinda thing, but I think a few weekends in the summer doing some festivals that are making us offers. We might do 4 or 5 shows this summer.

Dave: What can you tell me about 'Outa Hand'?? Everybody seems to want it.

Carl: I know. I've seen advert's in Goldmine asking about that. I want it very badly to happen. The problem now is Anthem Records, our Canadian label has all of the masters and they own the rights. There is a lady there who has been my friend since we first signed with Coney Hatch, who is agreeable. I did all of the work on putting those CD releases together, 'Outa Hand' and the first and third album. She keeps putting me off with the 'Outa Hand' album saying that there isn't enough demand for it so they can't be bothered.

Dave: They're wrong. Everybody always asks 'Where is Outa Hand'?? You do have 'The Best of Three' which contains 5 tracks from the 'Outa Hand' album, but doesn't account for the whole album.

Carl: I do have 2 unreleased songs from those 'Outa Hand' sessions that I could put in if we could get it released.

Dave: So is it Scott's site* that is doing the petition on that??  I signed it a few years ago and think it was on his site. I hit a search engine and found his site and do remember signing it.

Carl: It's Scott's.

Dave: I think it would be good to have a link to the petition so you could hit it from other sites as well.

Carl: Yeah. There are some tricks about international territories and who holds the rights in different countries that I'm trying to explore right now so I can work it from that advantage. I hope to have something before this year is out.
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