Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans , where we meet some of the people behind the local music scene -- those who aren't necessarily members of local bands, but more the people who make the scene move.
Dale Brock got his start in the music business in Wichita Falls, where lived with his family and attended high school. After witnessing what some other guys were doing, and thinking that seemed like a cool job, he volunteered to work alongside some concert promoters he knew from campus. Seems simple enough.
But there's more to Brock's humble-albeit-ambitious beginnings. At 17, he also witnessed The Clash in concert. The Ramones, too. Next thing you know, Brock had made the switch from playing trumpet in marching band to playing bass and singing vocals in a weekend rock outfit.
Fast-forward a little, and Brock was running a club in Wichita Falls called Rumors. They booked an awful lot of local talent from Dallas at the time -- bands like Ten Hands, 4 Reasons Unknown and even an early version of Pantera.
Before long, and unsurprisingly, he had outgrown Wichita Falls and was hard at work in Deep Ellum, pulling spells at artist management groups, running sound at a few venues and, later, booking talent. At one point, Brock was juggling gigs as the soundman at Trees (in the very early days) and as the talent buyer at The Basement.
Essentially, he put his nose to the grindstone and never really let up.
It's so much fun to listen to Brock tell his story -- mostly because the young rock fan is still so very much alive inside of him. You can really see the genuine enthusiasm for the music in his expression. It's an excitement that's infectious.
These days, he's with Kirtland Records and Sonar Management (Toadies, Sarah Jaffe, Smile Smile), and, considering how much of a sweat as we saw him break at the latest Dia De Los Toadies, we can honestly also say that we never saw the smile fade from his face.
Anyway, Brock really does a great job of describing, passionately, what he loves most about his work after the jump. Check it out.
I'm betting that from around the time you worked for The Basement, right up to you coming on board with Sonar, things were moving at quite a brisk pace around you. Exciting time?
After The Basement closed, I was hired by some local managers and labels to start a booking agency called Alliance Artists. We had a great roster: Billy Goat, Funland, Lone Star Trio, and Bobgoblin to name a few. Then RainMaker Artists (one of the owners of the agency) hired me to be director of touring at their management company. Rainmaker had a roster of major label bands and I immediately went from a regional focus to overseeing national and international touring. I was also on point for national radio and the major labels. It was an amazing experience. After a few years, I was promoted to a full partner and during my time there we had over a dozen major label releases.
Wow! So, you're really hustling at this point. Then, along came John Kirtland knocking at your door?
Well, I knew John since he was in Deep Blue Something, who was a Rainmaker client. I loved what his company was doing and his vision. He had a really great team assembled. He wanted to start a management company, so along with Tami Thomsen, we started Sonar Management. Our first client was The Burden Brothers. I've been fortunate to work with a roster of talented and amazing artists at Sonar.
Travel seems to be such a major, and sometimes very challenging, factor of repping a label, much less a label and management company. Was balancing all that responsibility while traveling a tough thing?
Oh, I've had my share of van breakdowns, being stranded at airports and missing flights, but how about I flip this to amazing moments on stage?
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Good call! Go right ahead. You must have had some real moments sidestage, yes?
Standing behind the stage while Soak plays to 100,000 people at 11 a.m. at Rockfest, for one! Standing side stage with Toadies at Lollapalooza and ACL. So many other amazing shows, big and small, where the connection between artist and audience is so electric it makes the hair on your arms stand up. It's an amazing feeling. That moment that makes me so proud of the artists I work for. When I'm experiencing that, that's when I say to myself "This is why I do what I do."
I'm betting I'm not the only one who had a moment like that at Dia De Los Toadies this year. Speaking of: Dia seemed to really hit a new high in 2011.
What can I say? We throw a hell of a party! Dia is truly a labor of love for me. I'm fortunate to work with good friends on the event, and the Toadies are good people. It's a celebration of Texas musicians. It just seems to be getting better and bigger every year. I'm already looking forward to Year Five.
So what set you off, Dale? Was it a show you saw as a kid, or.....?
I always loved music. I would listen to my older brother and sister's records, but, when I was 14, a friend's dad drove a truckload of us to Dallas for the Texxas Jam and just dropped us off for the day. I was amazed at the production, the people and the spectacle of it all. I knew then I wanted to be involved in that world somehow. Aerosmith, back then, sounded like crap. So, I assumed bands didn't sound live like they did on their records. Then Van Halen came to Wichita Falls on their first tour, and I quickly realized that wasn't the case.
Any messages to local talent out there that would love to get noticed by a label like Kirtland?
Write and play what you feel, not what you think you should sound like. Be original, work hard and write, write, write. And you have to have a strong vocalist and a strong drummer. No getting around that. Play a lot of shows and connect with your audience. Don't get too focused on getting signed or getting a manager. Play music because you love doing it, not as as a means to an end. If you're making good things happen, someone will take notice.