Red Dress, Part 3

Posted: August 5, 2011 in Red Dress

Producer Conrad Uno refers to Red Dress as “Captain Beefheart meets James Brown.”  Singer Gary Minkler brought in the Beefheart avant-garde aesthetic, while guitarist John Olufs’ love of Brown provided much of the band’s soul.  It wasn’t just James Brown that rocked Olufs’ boat, however.

Back in 1974, three years before Red Dress became a going concern, Olufs went to see the Band. Although he had been playing acoustic guitar since age 12, the Band inspired him to up the ante. “I saw the Band in 1974,” Olufs remembers. “And that’s why I bought an electric guitar. I mean, I think, the next week I did.  And an amplifier.” (laughs)

The Band added yet another layer to Red Dress’ approach. Instead of one or two players dominating, all of the band members would contribute on a more or less equal basis, with each player allowing the music to ebb and flow within the moment. “I had enough knowledge to kind of recognize some things about what the Band was doing,” says Olufs, “and how all this stuff [was] going on at once. And [with] everybody playing like crazy. And not like off in little roles like a rhythm guy…like you could look anywhere and just listen to that–at any time. It was really incredible. And I think we did try to create a dense thing like that. I don’t think we were consciously trying to be like the Band…not [trying] to steal lines from the band, but [trying] to imitate how the guitar lines stick out here and there.

“I really appreciated the subtle things that Robbie Robertson did,” Olufs continues, “…how he [had a] really a super-funky playing [style]. It’s like syncopated and like really–he’s rarely like hitting big chords. He’s always hitting just a couple of notes and stuff. I play a lot that way–still.”

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