Back from the background

Not exactly shy, but selective and thoughtful with his remarks, Mark Dawson is not afraid of sounding stupid. Not at all. He is, however, afraid of sounding like those he despises: the blowviators, the booze hounds, the scenesters. When asked whether he likes people, he responds without hesitation, “No.”

Then he elaborates. “I am a caring person. I love the people around me, but ... I am disgusted by the human race.”

But his soft blue eyes and handsome face, partially hidden by a thick winter beard, don’t suggest cynicism. He’s friendly and fun, but there’s a sense of an inner pensiveness.

Growing up with his brother and sister in a single-parent home, he went “halfsies” with his mother to buy his first set of drums at the age of 16 — even though he was too shy to play while anyone was in the house. “I’d wait for everyone to leave before I’d play,” he admits. Though common for a teenager, Dawson’s need to express himself creatively was coupled with a rare sense of dedication to his music — a dedication that follows him still at age 24

When he’s out, he says, he wants to be “home practicing,” adding, “I almost feel guilty.”

Then there’s the songs he writes, songs like “Redd No. 05”. One of his first, it avoids the banality of common themes like pissed-off ex-lovers and heartache, offering up instead sophisticated lyrics that express an indifference to criticism.

Floating aloft, adrift and along
On the tide of a million transcending ohms
The pelagic plateaus of circumstance align
The infinite path to beyond
A gustatory aura of Elysian chill
Consumes the living conscious of all
And all is one
Where the forces of time never seem
to grow old
Or so it’s told
Red number five....

Shocking really, to experience such compelling meter from a rock guy who has worn Lemmy chops or a beard ever since he could grow hair on his face. How odd that this drummer who conjures images of a young Keith Moon has such a calm vision. Having backed up a surplus of local bands (including a space-rock band called the Vehicles, the Kicks with Eddie Baranek, Cloud Car, the Climax Divine and Eric Weir & Tiny Steps), Dawson finally admitted that he couldn’t “say everything that I wanted” from behind the drum kit. And while taking the stage name Mod Orange (an homage to his highly collectable ‘67 Ludwig drum kit), the reversal has become a cagey metaphor for the current state of his musical affairs.

Setting aside the skins for the six-string, the name of the background instrument that once confined him, has now become his front-man moniker.

Though part of the music scene in a variety of incarnations, Dawson is not kind of the guy you can expect to run into at any given show. “I have never been concerned with being cool; in fact, I often made a point not to fit in.”

Though his intention may not be to please, the effect is inevitable. With the harrowing sound of his unexpected voice and sweetness of his guitar, ironically, the one thing that Mark Dawson/Mod Orange does, for certain, is fit.


Mod Orange will perform at 7:30 p.m. as part of Tony’s California Dream (a benefit show for Tony DiNardo) at the Cadieux Cafe (4300 Cadieux, Detroit) on Sunday, Dec. 8. Call 313-882-8560 for further information.

Eve Doster is the Metro Times listings editor. E-mail [email protected]
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