DAKOTA is one of those legendary US AOR bands that didn't get really big, but in the hearts of the AOR fans (especially in Europe and Japan) DAKOTA's 'Runaway' album from 1984 will always be the classy AOR album that will top the list of many fans of this genre. I did an interview with leader Jerry G. Hludzik some years ago, but due to the release of their new album 'Deep 6' I thought it was time to do another interview, so let's see what Jerry has to say...

Hi there, DAKOTA has a new album out, tell me about it, why did it took so long to finish?
DEEP 6 …this one took us on a very crazy journey! Rick had called me to find out if I was ready to give it a go again, which was strange to begin with…cause I’m the one who is always bending his ear phoning him up saying “come on let’s do this.” Once we started to assemble the tunes we both thought it would go smoothly…wrong. We had equipment go bad in the studio due to the summer heat and I had to drive 3 hours 1 way. It was not fun. Needless to say the summer of 2002, we sort of walked backwards. We resumed in the fall and things were going well until end of December. I was in a car accident out of commission for 8months… then back to work working on the record then along comes Jon - our guitar player, he too was in a bad accident. He had 3 more gtr traxs to finish. Are you sort of getting a feel for this comedy of errors?? Luckily Jon mended after a few months and we were once again back to work on DEEP 6. We finally finished tracking, but in the middle of mixing, Rick got a travel sound- mixing job with a new country music star Jimmy Wayne. It would have been good, if the timing was compatible but…it wasn’t. Rick was gone for weeks at a time, and production was once again on hold. In April of 2003, Eli who lives 10 hours away had also been touring extensively with his jazz funk fusion band Ray’s Music Exchange. We had to find a window to schedule him and the studio to do his drum traxs. IT WAS THE ALBUM FROM HELL!!!! It didn’t want to be finished! Total time from start to finish… 18 months----We did the DAKOTA self titled for CBS in Canada/ 1980 in 3 weeks! But all kidding aside- it was a labor of love. I learned a lot about myself on this one, especially patience. When it was time to walk away from it, I felt good - we did our best.

But the CD is now finished, and please tell us about the songs:
BROTHERS IN ARMS… JERRY: started out with a conversation I had with Scott Sosebee (co-writer) about brotherhood. We were talking about the long road Kelly and I walked years ago and it’s a shame we are not still working together in some capacity. (Maybe this was the moment the light bulb went off about contacting Kelly to sing on Deep 6). First - it gives you a visual reference to the military, but only for a second and to set up the theme. We have all had people in our lives that we have been in the trenches with –them watching your back and you watching theirs. For inexplicable reasons they may no longer be in your life but you will never forget those memories or experiences. Or they may be people who have entered your life nontraditionally, but the impact is resounding; yet they are forever part of your memories; for an example - Scott and myself. We’ve been face to face a total of about 3 days in 6 years (and many dollars in phone bills) however what we’ve done together working on Dakota has bonded us forever. Kelly has been my trench mate forever and though we haven’t seen each other much in the last 20 years, the memories are as real and alive as if they happened yesterday. “I REMEMBER THE LESSONS WE”VE BEEN TAUGHT AND ALL OF THE BATTLES WE FOUGHT TOGETHER!” Every time I look back on my career and close my eyes, I see every player that I had the pleasure to work with in Dakota over the years that made me a better musician and a better person - “And Forever they will all be………… My Brothers in Arms.”

HOLDIN’ YOUR OWN… JERRY: Some guys are just too picky - always waiting for the likes of a Halle Berry or a Charlize Theron to come along. Even if they did end up with one of them (not likely) they would still be afraid of commitment. The guy’s always wondering how and when it will be to be with someone like that - but still wanting it all their way…not going to happen. Convincing yourself by being alone, you’re ok (yeah sure). So remember you can’t always talk yourself into believing that we’re better off on our own stuff. Especially not on a Friday or Saturday night when your home all alone - and you’re just holdin’ your own hang down thang!

BACK TO ME… JERRY: Song is about commitment and being in this case afraid to commit. Too many of us these days, want a relationship with commitment but each side afraid to leave down their guard thinking what if I give and don’t get back? 1st verse saying just that. 2nd verse – “But I must believe now that this love is worth it and this is where I belong.” Once one commits, the feeling of guarantee doesn’t seem to be that important anymore. “Cause when love finds its way back to your door - Boy what are you waiting for!” I let go...I now wear a ring on my left hand ...and I’m very very happy!

NOT SO MUCH IN LOVE… RICK: Musically, my friend Jimmy Harnen would say "that's a groove you can drive a $?(#&% truck through." Lyrically, I was in a crappy mood, thinking about a bad relationship long ago that I somehow allowed to permeate my existence for no good reason. But I'm not bitter, really. No hard feelings at all about the bitch. : )

WHAT WERE YOU THINKIN’… JERRY: This song came out exactly how I first pictured it in my head - start to finish. I was thrilled! Message is that we as men are judged too much on what our $$$ worth is, not what we can do or have done with our hands or heart. Too many take the easy way out, burn bridges loose friends, respect and sell their souls and all for $$$. But I think eventually they crash and burn…alone. I believe in the here after and I will just have to have faith that if we live this one right by being honest, respectful and to be thankful of the hand we’ve been dealt and play it out - remembering cup full not empty.

THAT AWFUL DAY… JERRY: Our imagery of walking thru the smoke rubble and sadness of the unthinkable act of 911 in NYC…and I think Rick and Jon nailed it!

EYE OF THE STORM… JERRY: Just a thought about how crazy the world we live in is. Soon there will be no safe place. I think the creator of this universe, as we know it - in my case God, Jesus or what ever you may call him or her, is comin back one day and angry!

NOT JUST THE NIGHT… JERRY: This was written for my wife Annie. We were apart a lot at one point and I just wanted her to know that she wasn’t just missed sometimes - it was 24/7 and that my future was with her. “You close to me...me close to you.”

RIGHT THIS MINUTE... JERRY: I got married July of last year in Hawaii-on a beach-barefoot-now it just doesn’t get any better than that! My wife Annie, “blonde of hair green of eyes”…just listen to the song…it was once again…written for her.

SHUT UP AND DRIVE…RICK: On every Dakota record, I try to get one fairly naughty song included, just for the fun of it. This is Deep 6's offering. I wrote it after a particularly good evening with a woman. And her phone number is not available for dispersal.

THE RIDE… RICK: "C'mon now... we've been seeing each other for a long enough time... let's shit or get off the pot."

LUCK TIME MIND… RICK: The original groove was designed to be kind of an Alan Parsons Project thing. I wanted something with a fairly drawn-out intro before the song hit, to let the groove build slowly and a bit dramatically. Working in the confines of the standard pop song can really destroy the art of music, so I wanted to stretch that out a little. In a record company office, the A&R guy would never even hear that chorus - he'd hit the NEXT button about 30 seconds into the intro.

DEEP 6…JERRY: speaks for itself. We thought it would be fun as a re-cap of song hooks strung together. And we did it cause we are proud that we can “SANG!” There is singing and there is sangin’---AND WE WERE MOST DEFINITELY SANGIN’!

I saw BILL KELLY has finally made a sort of comeback, but why hasn’t he rejoined DAKOTA?
Bill (Kelly as I’ve always called him) is living near Nashville, Tennessee with his family and running a business of his own. Although he still finds time for music, most of his time is consumed by his job. He freelances as a singer/guitarist @ the Grand Ol Opry, a well know Country music venue. It was a pleasure and a day filled with a lot of old DAKOTA stories laughing and singing. When we got together to record his backup vocals on Right This Minute, What were You Thinkin’ and Holdin’ Your Own, it was actually the 1st time that Rick, Kelly and myself were in the same room with each other -let alone singing together on a Dakota project, since 1983 in California when we were recording the RUNAWAY album for MCA. I’ve shared a microphone with some great singers over the years, but the blend that Kelly and I had then and still have 30 some years later…is a once in a lifetime thing. At times imitated, but never duplicated! Perhaps you’ll again see him on the next Dakota album, playing a bigger role when there’s more planning, more time to do more than 3 vocal back-ups. Maybe even a brand new Hludzik/Kelly Composition!

Last year your first 3 albums were re-issued onto CD. Why did it take so long?
I’ve always wanted this, even if just for the sake of having the entire catalog on CD. It took us a lot of time, letters and phone calls to get the clearance to complete the task. It seems Runaway however, with screams of praise from Europe and Japan, was the catalyst. I’m glad we made a lot of people (like you Gabor) very happy!

Why didn't 'Runaway' sell millions of records, problems with MCA?
I guess I still think 'Runaway' is by far your best record.
Did everything fall into place during the recording session of this magical record?

To answer the first part of your question…Yes problems with MCA…No promotion!! We were lost at sea so to speak it was a damn shame then and still is. An American tragedy!! They were too busy with the likes of Night Ranger, the Fixx, the Eagles -Glen Frey, just to name a few. We got lost in the shuffle. We had assembled a great
team for this record Kelly, myself, Danny Seraphine, Bobby Lamm and Bill Champlin from Chicago, Steve Porcaro (Toto) and many other great players. At the console – the amazing Humberto Gatica. We always thought it was a perfect album for its time - from the songs, to the performances, to the studio vibe (I hate that word vibe but it fits). It was indeed a Magical moment in time!

We did an interview some years ago, but let's get back to the beginning once again, THE BUOYS? Did they actually ever have an official album release?
Only great records appear every now and then. Yes we did. The Buoys (Scepter Records 1971). I’m looking at the album cover as we speak! Go to my web-site
http://laststandingman.tripod.com and click on the Buoys link and it will take you back 30 years with the entire story with some interesting pictures! It was later re-released in Holland on EMI in 1979 as an album and as a long play single of Give Up Your Guns. Also in 1993 a USA label called Collectables, packaged a few songs from an unreleased 1973 Polydor album of which they just released 2 singles. There are is another albums worth of Buoys material in the archives - probably 10 or 12 other goodies from the 70’s for yet another release in due time. Tentatively called “Buoys In The Attic.” I’m a pack rat I save

Did you know Give Up Your Guns (THE BUOYS original) is still played a lot in Holland and it always appears in top 100 of all times list?
Yes I do know. Kelly and I were in Holland in 1979…a weeks worth of radio and television promo. One of the shows was called Top Pop. I still have the video footage. One of the gems that is in consideration of DVD released stuff. We stayed in Hilvershum and spent time in Amsterdam @ EMI records-and yes I was also informed by Hans Beljjard of AORDreamzones that Give Up Your Guns is on the top 100 of all times charts in your land @ 50! Thanks to Radio Veronica all those years ago. It’s pretty amazing. So…how about you find a promoter - Kelly and I will come back to Holland 25 years later and perform!

Back to DAKOTA. The new album is finished and happily again it's the AOR you have played for almost 30 years now. Don't you ever get tired of it (me not), because you never get the success you deserve?
Yes this is very frustrating but… this is what I choose to do! Having choices in your vocation is a good thing. Aside from our earlier works, when we decided to go into the studio to record Last Standing Man, I made up my mind then that I was going to take this opportunity to do whatever it takes to write another chapter in the band’s history and keep Dakota alive thru the Europe and Japan, till my last breath - so to speak. When we finally split up in 1987 (“we” being Kelly and I - after 17 years of working together), I decided to put Dakota in my memories trunk forever and retire its sound, never to resurface. Then with the sudden popularity of the band all these years later, I decided to take upon the challenge of carrying on the name of the band worlds away from home, and believe me it was scary. I knew it would take time and conviction...but I was ready. I always give thanks to my lovely wife - looking at things as full never empty. I now have 40 to 50 new children (songs) that never would have been born if not for this new journey. Yes the ultimate would be, as it would have been, if MCA had promoted Runaway properly giving us the commercial success, a few accolades and financial gains. But in life, most times it just doesn’t happen that way. I have no regrets never did - never will. This is what I do - I am a singer/songwriter/ musician. It might not be a million dollars but when I receive correspondence from a fan who not only took the time to write to us and express how much they enjoyed our work, but bought our album by reputation - knowing that we care and wouldn’t just put out shit…. Now this is SUCCESS that $$$ can’t buy!!!!

Where is your market nowadays?
We still have loyal fans worldwide. And now after the last 6 years of re-establishing that the band is back in the saddle again we are once again back in the spotlight. Thanks to the support of fans and the internet/magazine sites (as the likes of Strutterzine) as well as hard copy publications worldwide! And believe me we I appreciate it! Glad you guys like for the most part our music or we’d crash and burn!

Do you have the master tapes of SYNCH, because you were involved with this band and I think this is one of the best AOR releases ever, but it never got an official release, why not re-issue this little gem?
The Synch thing I’ve discussed with Jimmy Harnen and Rick a few times over the years, but there are too many hands in the pot to make this worth the trouble. A lot of crazy people would come out of the woodwork after a few sales thinking their cut would surely be enough to purchase a small country! (#^%$^%$!)

Your son is now in DAKOTA right?
Yes he is! Deep 6 was his 3rd Dakota project, and not just because he’s blood. He’s a great musician, way beyond his years. He’s a perfect drummer for Dakota music. He thinks both inside and outside the box - very tasty and never over-plays. When we were thinking of drummers for the recording of Last Standing Man, no one else came to mind. We just all thought that he would be a great choice. He was away at school at the time so logistics were a bit of a problem but we made it work. This father is proud-but as a musician; I would have never embarrassed Eli or the band by just allowing him to join Dakota without any experience. But that’s not the case…he’s been doing live and studio work since the age of 16. He is talented way beyond his 25 years. His style of playing which is flavored with rock funk/fusion/jazz is a great mix for us. He is the perfect fit for Dakota talent, personality, and professionalism. AND…dad also gets to look back while on stage see my son who lives and breathes music, driving the band. I take a deep breath, smile and thank God for him - this amazing gift he has blessed me with.

What more can we expect from DAKOTA in the future? More CDs, DVDs perhaps?
Expect - album after album until we get it right OR until there’s a big sign at every border “DAKOTA GO AWAY…NO ENRTY!” We are planning to release “Dakota - Best of Volume 1 and 2, and a new studio album in the 1st part of 2005. Yes we’ve also talked about a DVD, because I have a lot of concert footage, many interviews, Dakota’s last interview in 1987, and video pieces with the likes of Chicago, Fee Waybill, Steve Porcaro, Humberto Gatica and many more. As I previously mentioned, I also have The Buoys 1979 appearance on Top Pop in Amsterdam

Can we ever see DAKOTA performing live (in Europe)???
Yes I really believe so - always have. We’ve now built up a catalog of songs and enough of a following in Europe, that I think it’s definitely do-able. “Promoters of Europe did you hear that?” Anyone who likes our style of music should know we were always a better live band than a studio band (and I think we’ve made some pretty good records). And I think that we’re not too shabby of singers either. With all the material to pick from - and trust me - we’re very good live…can you imagine?

Name your five favorite records (or songs) of all times and 5 current albums you have been listening to lately?
In no particular order------Fragile…Sting, Hotel California…Eagles, Suite Judy Blue Eyes…CSN, Hey Jude...Beatles, and Carrie Ann…Hollies.
I am not listening to anything @ the moment - giving my brain a rest!

Finally, anything to add for yourself?
Just that I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to share still yet more songs with the world thru Dakota. Yesterday I got correspondence from a fan in Hiroshima, Japan telling me he just bought DEEP 6 and loves it! It’s in his player daily and asking when are we playing in Japan so he can see his now favorite group. I have to tell you that my knees still buckle. This is special truly a gift. Once again thanks to you Gabor and Strutterzine for your love and support over the years.