Maine Music News had the pleasure of sitting down for an in-depth interview with Scott Dalhover, lead guitarist with 80’s hard rock band Dangerous Toys.
MMN –In your own words, how would you define Dangerous Toys? Who you were and who you are as a band, and what you accomplished.
SD- Who we were? We were just a bunch of guys that got together who were all really into music and still are to this day. We were fans, too. We were there digging on MTV and watching the Motley Crue, who we loved, and the Van Halen, and Ozzy, and all that stuff. We are muso’s and wanted to play and got out and started playing. We were just a bunch of kids in our early 20’s just really into playing music. We were not making any money man. We were playing the clubs. We were not making a dime. It was awesome. We would go out and make a tiny bit of money – just enough to keep gear going and to play – and that was what we were doing when someone saw us. Celine Armbeck. She saw us and thought we were worth something. She believed in us. So it went from being four kids – I say kids, we were in our early 20’s – me, Mark, Jason and Mike, that was the original band. She saw us, had belief in us, and we went from being a bunch of young guys, every night passing out tickets and doing all that stuff, into a real national act. That is quite a difference.
I remember when we sat down with Tim Hiney and he was talking about hiring us a crew, and we were all we don’t need a damn crew. We had no idea what was going on. We had no idea how you load into a stadium. I was like, “Shit, dude, I’ll pull out our stuff and load it up.” Well, we had no idea. So that is who we were.
Then we transformed into actual touring and recording pros where you go in and know what the deal is. You know what load in times are, you know what is expected of you as an opening act or a headlining act – whether it is in a stadium or a shed or back in a club. We would do that, too. We would be playing with Alice Cooper and Judas Priest in a huge stadium one day and then they would have two rest days and well, shoot man, we would find a gig or two on the way over to the next date. We would jump out and find a large club and book that in advance, too.
I saw a lot of guys whose egos overcame them. By egos, I mean, dude, you are first on the opening slot of three, and you have legends in front of you. I would see these guys backstage bitching about this, that, and the other. I wonder, Jesus Christ, man, aren’t you even happy to be on this tour? If things are so terrible why don’t you go back and play the Whiskey again? That is no rub on the Whiskey, I love the Whiskey. That was our first Hollywood gig, but I am saying there is a difference.
There is a difference when you have a thousand people and then when you have 30,000 people in front of you. There is a different expectation. The one expectation that we always had was that we wanted to go out and cut heads. I don’t care if there were four people there or 40,000 people there, we were going to hammer it. I think we still carry that to this day. We would see these guys bitching even though they had their bus or someone wanted a pick or someone wanted their autograph. These prima-donnas would be crying about it, bitching, and moaning. I always thought they should be glad that someone actually gave a shit about them. I saw this with several bands. However, most bands really do care. I would say 60-75% of them really care. I don’t get into their personal lives, but from what I saw out there, that is what I think. I won’t mention the guy’s name, but here was a guy that I really dug his guitar playing, and I walked up to him at a show we were having at Red Rocks and tried to have a conversation with him, and he was this total prick. I walked up to him and said “Hey, man, long time fan, I really dig your stuff.” He responds, “Cool,” and turned around and walked away. I was like wow, what a prick. Even before that happened, we always tried to be real open and have room for the fans. Sometimes you are in a rush and have places you need to be, but we would apologize profusely. Being there for those that are buying your albums and giving you a career is not that difficult.
MMN – Talking about this, it sounds like you folks were not desperate to get a deal.
SD – We were just as surprised as anybody else that someone wanted to sign us. That was the dream. We were playing because we wanted to play and that is what we were good at. We knew we were never going to be bazillionaires. It was just what we liked to do. Whether you race cars or motorcycles or whatever it is, want to own a craft store, want to own a 7-11 or want to play music. Whatever it is, people have something that drives them. Maybe you want to be a photographer. Or you want to be a writer. You do it because you are driven to do it not because you want to make a bunch of money. Now, if you can make some money, and keep it going along – fantastic.
MMN – What did it take to record an album back then? And can you also talk about the writing process as well? Some of the lyrics were quite fun.
SD – One of the things you are dealing with is the fact that we were all a bunch of smart alecks, that is why. Everybody in the band is a smart ass. Paul came from Dirty Looks, but he has been with us for 20 years. This was before his time, but me, Mark, Mike, Jason we are all a smart ass in one way or another. To us writing the “oh baby, baby, love you lyric” is just not going to happen. The closest you are going to get is “Feels Like a Hammer.” That is as close as we could come to it and as close as we wanted to come to it.
MMN – Or “Sportin’ a Woody!”
SD – Exactly, dude! That was us! “Gotta find me a bim to live with tonight” was real, dude! There was a time when Mike and I were going Jesus Christ, its 3:00 a.m. – we need to find a chick to go home and crash on the couch with. I don’t know how you are eating breakfast in the morning, my friend, we have 27 cents and that’s it. That was just the way it was, and it worked out for us, but we were actually living that kind of stuff. That is how you get those kinds of lyrics.
The writing process started out, and is still to this day, I would sit and this riff would come to me. I remember sitting in Dallas before we were signed and the riff for “Outlaw” came to me, and I pretty much wrote the music portion of the song right there. Then I got with Mike and Mark, and we started tossing it around, shaping it, molding it like putty. Then we would bring it to Jason, and he would start writing lyrics for it. Then we would tweak here and there and that’s pretty much how all of our songs are done. In the later years, on the Artist album, Jason wrote a few songs and he would bring the music in, which was different for us. He brought in a couple and same thing, for instance “Transmission,” he brings it in and shows the chords and the progressions whereas when I would bring in a song to him, he would tweak it and make it better, I felt like we could do the same thing. He brought it in, and I played the same basic chords, and I would change them up to make them bigger and make the accent where it would help the vocal or the melody better. Same thing with Mark, he would say he likes the riff but would suggest changing this or that, and he would make it happen. Mike is the same way.
We would jam in the middle of Mark’s living room. For the longest time, how we recorded everything, we would send demos back to the label after using the old Panasonic cassette recorder that was sitting in the middle of the room. That way you could hear the drums, bass, guitar and Jason’s vocals. And that is how we were sending stuff out.
MMN – Can you talk about what life was like out on tour? While it looks like fun from our side, it has to be monotonous and very isolated.
SD – That was back before the cell phone era and the Internet. I remember we used to call back home to friends and family from the hotel phones or you would get a phone card and call back from whatever club you were playing. You are traveling on a bus, living your dream, getting paid to play, going from place to place. When you first go out, you are anonymous because nobody knows you. I remember we were out with Junkyard, and we were all hanging out, and nobody knows you from Adam. After you play, they might want an autograph. That progresses to the point where you get some notoriety and you step off the bus and have 100 people waiting for you. I remember going to Cincinnati, and we were late for our plane, bus etc. We ended up being 2 hours late for this record signing. We get there, and you could not see the end of the line. There must have been a thousand people there. We stayed there until everybody got their stuff signed, everybody got their handshake, and everybody got their photos. One of the things I am the most proud of our band is that we care about that stuff.
Then you have this up swell when you gain this massive notoriety. We were opening for the Scorpions in El Paso, and we were down by the soundboard. We were huge Scorpion fans hanging out at the soundboard trying to catch the show. Well we started getting mobbed by people and that started pissing off the Scorpions crew. We ended up having to leave the arena as it was causing an issue. That is like I said – that’s how you learn your place as an opener. That is why you see most openers hanging out on the side of the stage instead of getting out in the crowd so they don’t take anything away from the headliner.
MMN – Here we are 27 years later. What does it mean to you to still be playing with the same guys? What does it mean to be able to go out and play a few dates a year as Dangerous Toys and still have fans screaming for more?
SD – It is awesome, man. Back when we were in our twenties, especially Jason and I, we are so much alike we would butt heads. You hear about other bands fighting – about one guy screwing another guy’s girlfriend or using his drugs, but our stuff was more like Jason and I arguing for an hour about a chord change in a song. We are arguing about 2 bars of music for an hour and getting pissed. To see where we come from now – we go into rehearsal where everyone is having a good time and having fun. It is still the same guys, we are still the same people, and we still crack up at the same things. We have all the inside jokes and make a little fun of each other. It’s just awesome.
MMN – You worked with producers and managers that had the formula to make everything work.
SD – I’m going to break that down. There is no formula to make it work. If you are talking about the management side, then yes, but there is no formula for success. You never know what you are going to get when you throw your hat in the ring. People may love you, they may hate, but you will have people on both sides. What kills me, and I love this, we will go to an outdoor all ages show, and you will see an 8 year old, a 15 year old, and 20 year olds out there because of their parents. My daughter and sons are the same way. You come up to my daughter and mention Randy Rhodes, and she will whip out the guitar and play the intro to “Diary of a Madman.” That is the cool thing. When you have the all ages outdoor thing, it’s so cool. It’s even better when they come up and they know the lyrics and know certain things about the band. The fans are still with you that loved you back then.
MMN – The last tour you had was with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, and Motorhead. That tour finished up early after 10 weeks. From being on the inside, what happened?
SD – That was interesting. We were playing really large venues, but no matter if you are Alice Cooper and Judas Priest – you have got to time the tour right. For all those shows that we were playing, we were keeping track of the numbers and the shows were going really well. The shows we played – the numbers and the people were there. Perhaps the scope was a little too far reaching. Maybe it should have really just been the dates that it was.
It was not like it was a failure. When you have Red Rocks packed, and you have those other huge domes packed, it was far from failure. But to sustain that over that amount of time, you have to keep the promotional engines running. And that was during the onset of the whole grunge thing so musical tastes were changing a bit. Now how many of those grunge bands still around? I see more of the old school metal and rock bands out there. I see very few of the grunge acts out there.
MMN – Fast forward to now. If that tour was put together and marketed, I would imagine the results would be incredibly different.
SD – You would have an insane tour! Are you kidding me? Judas Priest, Motorhead, Dangerous Toys, Love Hate, Metal Church? Fuck, I would go to that! I would be there all the time. Are you kidding me?
MMN – As you look at what happened in the early 90’s – everyone cut their hair off and stopped wearing spandex. Now that music is coming back. I really like what Eddie Trunk had to say on the last episode of this season’s That Metal Show in regards to the label “hair bands.” I agree with him. It was not about what you guys had on the top of your head – you were all musicians.
SD – Yah, man, take our band, we wore some tight-fitting clothes, but we were Dangerous Toys. We didn’t wear spandex. I never wore eye makeup unless they put it on me in a photo shoot then I was like “knock it the fuck off.” We wore tight clothes and played funny songs and it was still metal and hard rock. We never had the poofed up giant hair and guy-liner and nobody in my band was wearing animal print clothes.
MMN – Can you speak to the resurgence of that era’s music? Everywhere I look you see the 80’s hard rock coming back – just look at what is on the Monsters of Rock Cruise.
SD – Take a look at Jacob Bunton, look at Lynam. They are a direct descendent of all of that. Doing it better, doing it justice, and knocking it the hell out. My favorite album that came out this year was Adler’s album “Back from the Dead.” That album killed me. It is reminiscent of all of that stuff but modernized. It is just awesome. Jacob is a very sharp guy, when the writing process began those cats had a strong vision on what they wanted to do.
MMN – Can you talk a little bit about Ghost Machines?
SD – I have endorsed guitars from a lot of different companies, be it Ibanez, Washburn, you name it. In the mean time, I was always repairing, fixing, and building other guitars on my own. My buddy, Kris Smith, and I were sitting around, and he had this really cool Dean V, one of the first proto-types that somebody put a wonder bar on, and he had bought it. I said “Man, that is freaking horrible with the one Washburn trem on it.” I said, “Let me take that.” I brought it back, fixed it up, and put it back together. Kris said “You know, man, we should just do our own guitar company.” We were both bored and looking for something to do. He and I figured what the hell, we could build them just as good as anybody else and probably better.
We don’t have a lot of pressure. We don’t have a hundred people that we employ. There are basically three of us. We do them one at a time and we do them right. So far everybody who gets one, or plays one, loves them. Jacob Bunton just got his about a week ago and I just talked with him and he is loving it. That makes me happy. It’s great when you get a great player, singer, songwriter, great metal guy -Jacob is a great guitar player – and he loves it. That’s what makes Kris and I happy.