Cameron Joel Hawk is the guitarist for the Lawrence power-pop four-piece the Dead Girls, the “old school punk rock” group Stiff Middle Fingers, and Many Moods of Dad. He also drums for Hidden Pictures. And up until this year, was regularly tackling music on his Record Geek Heaven blog. But despite being so thoroughly tied to local music, he hasn’t always felt close to the community. In a 2008 interview Dead Girls drummer Eric Melin said, “We’re not really a part of the scene anymore,” to which Hawk followed-up, “We don’t mean that in an elitist sort of way. There are a bunch of bands around town that we love to play with, but we just don’t do a lot of networking.” While an off-the-cuff remark from 2008 doesn’t hold weight, that sort of outsider thread and feeling of being the odd-band-out is one that remains consistent to this day.
Last year you tweeted “No matter how much you love something, it’s always just work for someone else.” While the blog has fallen by the wayside — which I imagine has given a bit of distance between you and thinking about music 24/7 — how do you avoid letting music become “just work”?
Cameron Joel Hawk: It’s been really tough! Honestly, a lot of the reason Record Geek Heaven has fallen to the wayside is because, like you said, it gets tiring thinking about music 24/7. It’s also just a matter of having some free time to unwind, which keeps me from getting too stressed out. I am currently in four bands and work a 40 hr/wk job in Olathe. Between all of that, and making time for a life with my girlfriend (and not driving her crazy with band practice at the house all the time), it can be difficult to keep things moving. That tweet actually had more to do with the planning of last year’s Lawrence Field Day Fest. I felt like I was investing all of my time and energy (and a lot of my own money) into something that people thought was cool, but people always have their own things that they are interested in. There’s not a lot to do about it — with something like that, where you know you can’t pay anyone, you just have to hope people will be excited about it and willing to help because of that. But that’s not always how it works out.
I think I can avoid the feeling of it becoming “just work” because I allow myself a lot of freedom with everything. I love music and I love being in bands, but I am not going to let that be the sole thing that defines me. I have a lot of interests and goals in my life, and being creative in music is just one of those things (albeit, probably the number one thing). Plus, the people I play music with are (for the most part) very old friends who I can be 100% myself with, and we can all just lay everything out on the table as far as what we think about what we are creating, etc. It’s become a no holds barred kind of experience.
That tweet sort of relates to something else here: last summer you went on a bit of a rant on your blog about feeling under-appreciated in Lawrence. “It’s kind of a letdown when you are in a scene that talks the talk (‘Our scene should be a musical community that we can all be a part of’, etc. etc.) but very rarely walks the walk, or at least for The Dead Girls. […] Plus, what the fuck do I expect? I live in Kansas. It’s not like I’m trying to do this shit in New York or LA, places where I actually could have some kind of opportunity to further a musical career.” Some nine months later, how have you processed these thoughts and do you still feel the same way?
Cameron Joel Hawk: First of all, my desire to live elsewhere comes more from the fact that I was born and raised in KS and have lived in this state my entire life. I have always loved to travel and see different parts of the world and experience different cultures, so it just makes sense overall that I would eventually want to live somewhere else. It has more to do with that than our music scene, which I am completely in love with. I was even in love with it back then. I think you can really only say candid stuff like that about something you really care about and understand, and I never meant any harm against any band or anything. That’s why I didn’t mention any band names, you know? I mean, not every band is going to make music I like (they left that to the Bee Gees, hahaha). But, that doesn’t mean I can’t respect those people for their hard work and be happy for their successes. I mean, it’s kind of a letdown when bands I really like, like Cowboy Indian Bear or Quiet Corral — bands that have members which I am pretty solidly acquainted with — never ask the Dead Girls to play a show. Being in a band, I know that shows are more fun when you can get on a bill with bands you like, and bands that draw well, etc. The Dead Girls have never drawn very well, so maybe that is more the reason we haven’t been asked. But it’s impossible not to think in your brain somewhere “Hey, if they liked our music, they probably would have asked us to play a show by now.” This could be me just over-thinking things, because I tend to do that.
I am starting to get to the point where I feel like I should try to live elsewhere, though. I REALLY would like music to help pay the bills someday, and I am open to the many possible equations that could lead to that. I just want to go somewhere where there are more opportunities of that nature. It is a part of me I have worked diligently my entire life to strengthen and refine, so I ain’t just gonna drop it to work at some dumb corporation for the rest of my life.
Question in the form of an answer: “Many Moods of Dad.”
Cameron Joel Hawk: What is the Best New Band in Lawrence, Alex?
Seriously though, this is a new band I’m really excited about. It is made up of me and two other dudes that used to play with me in the band Podstar back in the day — drummer JP Redmon, and singer/songwriter/guitarist Aaron “Barry” Swenson. I’ve been playing music with these guys in some form for almost 17 years, which is crazy to think about. But it’s also awesome, because I feel like the first MMOD album, The Consequence of Trying, is a really unique statement by all of us. I mean, of course I am going to say this because it’s my band, but it sounds like not a lot of other stuff going on right now, and it’s pretty exciting. We’re opening for Black on Black for their CD release at Replay for Final Friday, next week, April 26th (also with Muscle Worship).
Speaking to Lawrence.com you said that Stiff Middle Fingers are heavily influenced by the Descendents and Black Flag. The former are playing Kanrocksas while a version of the latter are playing Lawrence in June (also: Greg Ginn just played KCMO with Good For You). Which band excites you the most right now?
Cameron Joel Hawk: Descendents are one of my all-time top five favorite bands, period. I think what fascinates me the most about them is the fact that they have had a different band lineup on almost all of their albums, but the music remains in the same vein. In order for a band to do that, they need to be extremely focused and REALLY know what they are trying to accomplish as a band. Sure, Bill Stevenson and Milo Aukerman have been there the whole time, but they don’t always write the songs — they have allowed songs from almost every other band member that has been in the band. There is just a really strong core in that group and they survive because of an ethos and their strong personalities, rather than the fact that they can write a few catchy tunes.
With that said, I am more excited about that Black Flag show than anything else this summer. I have seen the Descendents before, and hope to see them at Kanrocksas, but never Black Flag. I realize it’s a little weird with the dual lineups that are touring, but that’s almost more of a testament to how important that band is to people. Enough people want to see them that they can totally get away with doing that, and it’s fantastic. I hope to see both at some point!
Rapid fire finale: Favorite Rooftop Vigilantes song; favorite SXSW moment; favorite Grizzly Bear song played at the Uptown?
[This article first appeared at Mills Record Company.]