The Hard Life and High Times of Independent Musicians

The band Dead Moon is a rock and roll institution and legend around their native Pacific Northwest. Formed in 1987 by husband and wife team Fred (guitarist) Cole and Toody (bassist) Cole, their do-it-yourself approach to making music and managing their affairs has influenced musicians around the world. This September, Fred collapsed on stage during their set at Seattle’s annual Bumbershoot festival and was taken to the hospital. He’s 67 years old. In February, 2014, Callie Danger spoke with bassist Toody in She Shreds magazine about making music for a living, keeping control of their art, and keeping motivated.

She Shreds: And what are the advantages of running everything independently?

Toody Cole: It’s that you’ve got free range to do what you want with it. That’s always been a big thing. That’s why we got into having our own business. Fred used to have to work for temp labor, putting his hair up in a hat just to get hired. You guys forget how difficult it used to be, just to be weird! You have the freedom as a musician to not have to go, “Gee, would it be okay if I take off next Friday?” Because you’d just get fired. At some point, we said, “We should just create our own thing.” We’re both control freaks, so just to have the control is number one. It’s also a cost-saving thing as well, to have your own label. To just be able to go direct to the source for the mastering and the pressing. To not have to go through somebody else who would charge you for the time and labor to do it for you. We’ve always been hands-on.

She Shreds: How long do you think it took to conjure up the commanding stage presence that you have today?

Toody Cole: There used to be a big thing on the West Coast called Garage Shock that Dave Crider from Estrus Records used to have every year in Bellingham, Washington. People used to come from all over the United States, all over the world. When we went up there, it might have been one of the first times Dead Moon played. There were a bunch of these other bands—naturally, all guy bands—sitting around. We were one of the headliners. And, of course, they hadn’t heard of us. At that point, nobody really had. When I walked by, one of these guys goes, “Oh, we’re so gonna blow these guys. They’ve got a girl in the band!” I don’t get mad that easily, but man, I was so fucking pissed. “Yeah, we’ll see, dudes. We’ll see who blows who off the stage, asshole.” It wound up being one of the best gigs we ever did! [laughs] It’s a great motivator, when people underestimate you.

Read the interview