Born on November 14, 1964, in Canberra, Australia Addresses: Record company--Half A Cow, Sydney, Australia.
Australian musician Nic Dalton--a singer-songwriter, record-label owner and manager, producer, remixer, and bookshop owner--has contributed to so many projects and aspects of the pop business that even he, too, sometimes feels a little confused when asked about his list of credits. For starters, Dalton, who had already worked on some 60 releases by the age of 33, began his career with seven-inch singles by the Plunderers and continued to hone his craft as a member of Godstar, Hippy Dribble, Captain Denim, Sneeze, Love Positions, and the Hummingbirds. However, Dalton is best known as the bassist for the Lemonheads, a Boston-based band influenced by British New Wave. Yet ironically, he opts not to list the group on his extensive resume. "The way I see it, I've really been in three bands," Dalton informed Magnet magazine writer Phil Sheridan. "The Plunderers, which was my first band, then Godstar and now Sneeze. To me, the Lemonheads were Evan's vision. It was the best-paying job I ever had, but it wasn't my band."
Dalton's journey to the Lemonheads and beyond began in Canberra, Australia, the nation's political hotbed and capital. Born on November 14, 1964, Dalton was an energetic child who in school was known as the class clown. Heavily influenced by punk music, as well as the Beatles and the Velvet Underground, during his adolescent years, Dalton realized by the age of 12 that he definitely wanted to become a musician and started playing guitar. It all came together for him in 1976, the year he purchased his first record, Blast From Your Past by Ringo Starr. "I'm a bit of a record nerd, so I remember exactly when I bought it," Dalton noted in an interview with Maryanne Window on his website. "The first band I was in was with Charlie Owen actually when we were like 11 or 12, I think, in Canberra. We used to muck around and do covers and stuff. But the first proper band was a band called Girls With Money." With this four-piece, post-punk garage rock group, Dalton penned his first song, a protest number entitled "Joh Bjelk Blues," at the age of 13.
Dalton played guitar for Girls With Money, and at the same time, drummed for a band called Get Set Go. Then, he played briefly with a big band version of the Gadflys with longtime friend, the late Stevie Plunder. Dalton's main focus during the 1980s was as bass guitarist with the Plunderers, a band he formed with Plunder while they were still based in Canberra. He would continue to play with Plunder for the next ten years in one project or another. In 1985, the Plunderers relocated to Sidney, Australia, hoping to attract a wider audience. Here, they released their first seven-inch single, "Into the Ice b/w Strange Affection." The move also saw the establishment of two other groups, Hippy Dribble and Captain Denim, comprised of the same members of the Plunderers. Always keeping things interesting, the group played under a different name each week.
In 1989, Dalton formed a record label and book store in Sydney called Half A Cow (HAC), a name inspired by a picture he had since his school days. The shop sells eclectic prose and poetry books, as well as CDs and comic books, while the label grew to house a respectable, well-rounded roster. Some of the bands on HAC include Smudge, Swirl, Crow, the Daisygrinders, Captain Denim, Hippy Dribble, Godstar, Fuzzy, Sneeze, and the original HAC group the Love Positions, featuring Dalton and Robyn St. Clare. Although HAC supports a diverse list of artists, it has sometimes been labeled with the "indie rock" tag, an inaccurate description according to Dalton. "There's this conception that Half A Cow all sounds like fuzzy pop, and I'm in every band and Tom (Morgan of Smudge, Sneeze and Godstar notoriety) writes all the songs for the bands, but it doesn't really worry me," he informed Window. "One of the first records I put out was by Pressed Meat and the Smallgoods, which was sort of a cabaret record with members of The Jackson Code and The Cruel Sea, and that definitely wasn't indie pop."
Subsequently, in 1990, as both HAC and the Plunderers were winding up, Dalton accepted an invitation to fill in on bass for the Hummingbirds (St. Clare, the regular bassist, took a leave because of a pregnancy). While touring with the Hummingbirds in support of the Lemonheads, Dalton developed a friendship with the latter band's leader, Evan Dando, who was inspired by the pop scene in Sydney. Around the same time, Dalton also formed Sneeze with Morgan, and soon thereafter Godstar, with Morgan Alison Galloway, and John E., although the lineup would change numerous times throughout the group's history. That year, he also agreed to become a member of the Lemonheads, and somehow found the time to play with Dando's band for the next two and a half years. During this period, he recorded the breakthrough Lemonheads album Come On Feel the Lemonheads (the title track written by Morgan) and the Godstar album Sleeper. By most accounts, the entire feel of the Lemonheads release came courtesy of Dalton and his friends at HAC.
Despite the popular success of Come On Feel the Lemonheads, Dalton, tired of touring, returned to Sydney to concentrate of his label and store. "I don't think it was a mistake," Dalton said to Sheridan about his stint as a Lemonhead. "Not at all. If it wasn't for the Lemonheads, I wouldn't have traveled around the world and met a lot of the people I met. I was able to make two Godstar records because of the Lemonheads. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have gone to Boston and recorded Sleeper at Fort Apache. And I wouldn't have gotten signed to a major label and been able to make Coastal the way I did. Evan did a lot of good things for Australian music. He really did."
But upon returning to Australia, Dalton learned that things had changed. He not only realized the fact that his gang of friends had moved on to other projects, but also felt strange about being really well known. And, according to Dalton, it took some time for he and Morgan to become close enough to begin writing songs again. Adding to this period of adjustment was that when he returned home, he learned that his relationship with his girlfriend, Godstar's drummer, was over. He dealt with this heartbreak on 1995's Coastal, an album he made with money supplied by Mercury Records when he left the Lemonheads. Considered his deepest and most complex recording, the album unfortunately was never issued in the United States. As Sheridan noted, "Coastal is one of the truly great albums no one ever heard."
Another reason for the album falling through the cracks, Dalton revealed, included his own lack of desire to promote it by touring. "I was fried," he explained. "Plus, I just don't like touring, and I don't like playing the game. That got me dropped by Mercury. It's disappointing to me that the record was never released in the States. I hope somebody will see fit to release it sometime." Coastal also marked the end of Godstar. The other members formed another group, Smudge, and Dalton again focused on HAC. He also felt that his new music deserved another name. "I liked the name Godstar when no one know who I was, it was a cocky band name. It came from that Psychic TV song. But after the Lemonheads, I started to hate the name. It was like, 'This guy's all up himself, calling himself Godstar.'" Around the same time, Dalton suffered another heartbreak after learning that the body of bandmate Plunder was found at the bottom of Wentworth Falls. He had been taking the train from his home in Newton and presumably committed suicide. "I kind of went off the deep end a bit, trashing myself, after Stevie died," Dalton recalled. "I haven't written a lot since then, but at the same time, I'm not ready to write about it."
But somehow, Dalton again soon found himself making music full-time, but decided to close the HAC bookstore in 1998 to free up time and money. He now runs Half A Cow, the record label, from his home in Cowra. Australia. In the late 1990s, in addition to continuing to record with Sneeze, he formed several other groups, including Love and Death (a psychedelic collaboration with John Encarnacao), the Kombi Nation (an outlet for Dalton's serious-minded music), and The Ultimate Vanilla (a band that plays 1970s-era funk and soul hits). The year 1999 saw the emergence of yet another group, 51 Monday, with the release of an EP titled Rorscharch Test. Continuing to perform regularly around Sydney and record with Sneeze, Dalton planned to complete a new, 50-track album with that band to be released in February 2001.
by Laura Hightower
Nic Dalton's Career
Formed Half A Cow, a record label and bookshop, 1989; played bass for the Lemonheads, early 1990s; formed and served in several bands, among them Godstar, the Plunderers, Sneeze, Kombi Nation, Love and Death, Captain Denim, Love Positions, 51 Monday, and others.
- Selected discography
- Hot August Knights (cassette), Pray Tell, 1985.
- Let's Go Surfing (cassette), no label, 1985.
- Half A Cow (cassette), no label, 1985.
- The Brightest Star , Half A Cow, 1992.
- Chemcraze , Half A Cow, 1993.
- Lie Down Forever , Taang!, 1993.
- Sleeper , Taang!, 1993.
- Pushpin/Seeing Stars , Half A Cow, 1995.
- Coastal , Half A Cow, 1995.
- Love and Death , Half A Cow, 1995.
- Table for One , Half A Cow, 1995.
- Hippy Dribble
- Wild Strawberri (EP), Trip, 1990.
- Cheerleader , Half A Cow, 1993.
- Silver Apples/Captain Denim: Fade , Half A Cow, 1995.
- Godstar Reminder
- "Has She Got Your Time Now?," Blind, 1996.
- Take the Money & Run (EP), Elefant, 1997.
- Sneeze , Half A Cow, 1996.
- The Four Seasons , Half A Cow, 1998.
- With Others
- (Love Positions)Billiepeebup , Half A Cow, 1990; reissued, 1997.
- (Captain Denim) Fade (EP), Vest, 1992.
- (Chewee) Heard It Through the Bovine (compilation), Half A Cow, 1996.
- (Kombi Nation) "There's Nobody Coming Over," Blind, 1997.
- (Love and Death) Can-Opened Mind , Camera Obscura, 1998.
- (51 Monday) Rorscharch Test (EP), 1999.
- Billboard, August 21, 1999; July 22, 2000.
- Boston Globe, November 26, 1993; March 24, 1996.
- Magnet, July/August 1999.
- Nick Dalton, http://www.nicdalton.tripod.com (December 13, 2000).