Dewey Defeats Truman (from left, James Reader, Mark MacBride and Scott Frazier) will reunite after a 15-year hiatus, Thursday, December 6 at the Casbah.
For a decade bassist/singer James Reader and drummer Scott Frazier were in two different “Casbah bands” that went on to get national buzz: Red Dye No. 5 and, later, Dewey Defeats Truman.
The 1995 Red Dye single “Head Phuck” sparked national interest in the three-man, one-woman band. “We did a private showcase for [Atlantic Records vice president] Jason Flom who flew in from New York to see us play at a private showcase at Dream Street in OB. IRS and Giant Records were looking at us. That’s when other San Diego bands we used to play with like Inch and No Knife were really going off.”
Red Dye No. 5 signed with New York-based Flip Records. Reader says the band/label relationship was hampered following an ugly confrontation between Reader and a member of another band on the Flip label, Limp Bizkit.
“I had a falling out with [Bizkit frontman] Fred Durst. He is a scumbag…. We were railroaded by the label into attending a show where they were opening for Korn.” Without going into detail, Reader says there was a tour bus confrontation. “The chemistry between us and the label was never the same after that. Durst is a two-faced snake.”
Red Dye recorded an album with producer Tim O’Heir. “The day we delivered the record our manager quit,” says Reader. “The label president said ‘I just spent $40,000 on a record, what am I supposed to do now? I told him we didn’t need a manager right then. He tried to set us up with someone we didn’t know. We got into a raging argument. I told him he could shove the record up his ass. I knew the record wouldn’t come out after that.”
Red Dye No. 5 broke up in 2000. But two years ago, Reader says he was contacted by a former Flip label staffer who found the original recording and gave it to the band, who in turn gave it to Silver Girl, the small local label that had released the first single two decades earlier. Silver Girl released The Fort Apache Sessions album on red vinyl, which then led to speculation that Red Dye No. 5 might reunite. Reader says it didn’t happen for the same reason the band broke up 18 years ago: disharmony among bandmates.
When Red Dye fell apart, “Scott and I knew Mark from a band called Luper,” says Reader. “We formed DDT [Dewey Defeats Truman].” He says that band toured the country — they played South by Southwest in Austin and the CMJ showcase in New York City — and recorded without any of the drama and inner turmoil that plagued Red Dye. But somewhere along the way, “We were soured on the whole major label thing. We had so many dinners with label execs and lawyers. It turned into a nightmare. For Dewey, we just had independent labels release our stuff.”
But Dewey Defeats Truman got worn down by constant touring and dealing with vans that broke down in the middle of Nebraska. “We were physically exhausted,” says Reader. “We were deflated as a band. We told ourselves we’d just take three months to regroup. Then it became five months. We kept paying for our rehearsal space for a year but never used it. At that point we unceremoniously broke up. But we always remained friends.”
- Thursday, December 6, 2018, 8 p.m.
- Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
After 15 years on hiatus, Reader, Frazier, and singer/guitarist Mark MacBride are reanimating Dewey Defeats Truman. “Now we are playing music without the pressure to get to the next level. We realize how fun it is to play music again.”
The three are reuniting at the Casbah at the request of the 91X Loudspeaker show which is holding a year-long series of shows featuring local bands that were part of its 30-year history. In preparation for the reunion show, Frazier has been flying down from Sacramento where he works as an industrial project manager to practice with his longtime Dewey bandmates. MacBride works for Sony as a video game sound designer, and Reader is a locksmith.
Dewey Defeats Truman and Irradio (playing their first show in ten years) reunite Thursday, December 6 at the Casbah. Demasiado and Miss New Buddha also perform. The first one hundred people through the door get a free blue-vinyl Dewey Defeats Truman 7-inch single courtesy of Silver Girl Records.
Can you go back? “Who knows how our songs will translate. We’re about to find out. I was a scenester back in the day. If I wasn’t playing there I would be at the Casbah two or three times a week. Who knows what’s next? Maybe we’ll climb back in the van again. It feels like a new beginning.”