Anyone can see there’s nothing besides drumming for 4 Non Blondes that thirty year old Dawn Richardson could be better suited for. To ask her to quit drumming would be like asking a big jungle cat to quit hunting. But when lead singer Linda Perry broke up their band two months ago, Dawn was lost…for about a minute.
Linda’s decision caused an unexpected tumble for the band, but Dawn landed on her feet, and quickly moved on to another group, Angel Corpus Christi, which will be the first release on the new Herb Alpert label.
In Cheshire Cat repose, Dawn watches me while I try to address the uncomfortable question she knows I came to ask: “What went wrong with 4 Non Blondes?” First she clears up any rumors that the band settled on a sour note by announcing they plan to shoot a video in a few weeks. But she still makes it clear that 4 Non Blondes broke up because of irreconcilable differences.
“Linda has never played in any other bands before,” Dawn explains. “And now she wants to do things that she never got to do. Since 4 Non Blondes wasn’t enough for Linda Perry, Dawn has accepted it. “It’s not like I wasn’t crushed. It’s not like I didn’t cry. But (in any event) I’d still be playing music — even if I had never been in 4 Non Blondes.”
Perhaps this is true, but because of the stellar success of the single “What’s Up?” in 1993, Dawn was forced to open her eyes to the music industry and the less savory side of success. After receiving “star” treatment in the last year and a half, Dawn has decided to start managing her own career, including studio projects such as her own group Trinket, on her lo-fi label, Slot Records.
“A lot of musicians are getting into the business part, which is something I’m trying to do, so that someone else doesn’t always have control of you,” she says. “I’m so glad to see labels like Bad Religion’s Epitaph working hard, and putting out their own records.”
Dawn does most of Trinket’s production in a home studio. “An engineer on the Trinket project used a remote ADAT set-up and recorded live drums in a church here in San Francisco. Right now, the ADAT is my Îfavorite toy.” Other “toys” Dawn utilizes include a Mac computer, with Opcode’s Vision for sequencing, two Alesis ADAT eight-tracks and a sixteen-channel Mackie board. She also has a few sound modules including Vintage Keys, ProCussion and Proteus II, an Ensonic Sampler and a few effects units as well.
Her favorite album is Phillip Glass’ Pole on a Scott. “I like patterns, and find this album meditative..” she says. But when I put it on for someone else it gives them a headache. I also love Nine Inch Nails, and minimalist composers like Steve Reich.” She pulls from the compositional patterns of these favorites when working with Tom Waits and PJ Harvey’s guitarist, Joe Gore. So far, they have recorded about 12 songs. “I’m really excited about the Trinket thing. Next I want to do a percussion ensemble.”
Dawn looks for encouraging trends in the music business to kindle her own tireless motivation and finds a ray of sunshine in each female musician. “There’s still that thing of ‘she plays like a girl,’ but it’s becoming less of an issue that they are female musicians,” she says. “People will still say ‘I just wanted to tell you you’re really good, and I don’t want to offend you, but I’ve never seen a woman play drums like you.’ I’ve heard that over and over again,” she laughs. No newcomer to the drums, Dawn began playing at the tender age of twelve, and led her drum section at Arcadia High in the Los Angeles Rose Bowl Parade.
The stigma of “plays like a girl” changes oh-so-slowly, but there’s some movement in the right direction, she says. “I was in a D.W. (Drum Workshop) ad in Drum Magazine and there were about thirty drummers participating. Only three of us were female,” she says, referring to herself, Patty Schemel from Hole and L7′s Donita Sparks. “But it makes you feel that you will be recognized as a real drummer.”
Two months after the Non Blondes break up, Dawn is stalking success with barely a scratch from the fall. With her resilience, Dawn will be able to do whatever she wants. “I could probably do this for a long time, but you can’t be in a rock band forever,” says Dawn doubtfully. “My mom was admiring how much money the Rolling Stones make on tour. It’s hard to imagine me at their age touring. How many old women do you see out there besides blues singers? You never see aging rock women out there.” Never may be too strong a word for Dawn to use. If the Stones can do it, certainly Dawn can too.
This interview from ROCKRGRL Magazine was written by Jennie Rose and appeared in issue #2 (March/April 1995).