Dramarama - Photo by Ronnie Baker
Celebrity Interviews

LIVING PROOF: Dramarama’s John Easdale On Life, Perseverance and The Making of ‘Color TV’

At long last, Dramarama has returned with their seventh full-length album, and first album in 15 years, “Color TV.” The high-intensity record preserves and strengthens the spirit that established them as a history-making force in 1982. The iconic New Jersey alternative rock quintet features John Easdale [singer, songwriter], Mark Englert [lead, rhythm guitar] Peter Wood [lead, rhythm guitar], Mike Davis [bass] and Tony Snow [drums]. As the story goes, the West Coast initially embraced the group’s single “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You)” as the de facto national anthem of the nascent alternative nation. It made history as one of the most-requested songs of all-time on KROQ 106.7 FM in Los Angeles. It could also be heard loud and clear everywhere from “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” to HBO’s “Entourage.” As a testament to their enduring impact, rock heavyweights Buckcherry recorded a rough and rousing cover for the Todd Phillips-helmed hit “Road Trip,” while Grey Daze—late Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s first band—cut their own version.

On the heels of success, the band delivered a decade of fan favorite albums: “Box Office Bomb” [1987], “Stuck in Wonderamaland” [1989], “Vinyl” [1991], “Hi-Fi Sci-Fi” [1993] and, after a lengthy hiatus, “Everybody Dies” (2005). As their legacy solidified, critical acclaim followed. “Chicago Sun Times” christened them “one of America’s best rock bands,” and “Los Angeles Times” proclaimed John “one of the finest singer/songwriters of these times.” Rooted in distorted grit, punk energy, and American songbook eloquence, Dramarama has always been classic and cutting-edge.

In 2020, the iconic rock quintet returns with their seventh and first full-length album in 15 years, “Color TV” available now via Pasadena Records. The album features 12 songs, which John Easdale composed over a 20 period, that preserve and strengthen the spirit that established them as a force to be reckoned with in a time period when rock ‘n’ roll was king. Rooted in distorted grit, punk energy, and American songbook eloquence, “Color TV” is Dramarama at their most vibrant and vital. Most importantly, it serves as a reminder you can’t keep a good band down.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Dramarama frontman John Easdale to discuss his personal and artistic evolution, the lessons learned along the way and breathing life into one of the band’s most powerfully haunting records to date.

Music played a huge role in your life. When did it first get a grip on you?

My first memories of music are from being at church when I was really little. I remember everybody singing together and it was a really powerful thing! Once school started, in kindergarten, music became more and more prevalent in my life. Right around the same time, “The Monkees” TV show came on and made a big impression on my little 5-year-old brain! The Beatles came after that for me because I was a little too young to appreciate the Beatles on “Ed Sullivan.” That was followed by all the other great British bands from the late ‘60s into the early ‘70s. Then it was David Bowie, Mott The Hoople, T-Rex and all of the other glam rock bands, before glam rock became bands like Poison and stuff. Punk rock came next and it made a big impression. By that time, I was just about ready to start writing my own songs. All that stuff mixed together with the New Wave and Post-Punk stuff made an impression as well. By 1980 or so, I was writing my own songs.

Was there a moment when you found yourself drawn to songwriting?

Honestly, I don’t remember the moment I was drawn to it. Like most kids at that time, I was in a couple of bands growing up where we played other people’s music. I must have been about 15 or 16 years old when I realized that you had to write your own songs to get out of the garage, so to speak. When we started the band, for the first few years, I don’t think we planned on doing anything other than having fun and doing our own music. We didn’t expect to go anywhere or do anything professional. I think we were just doing it for our own entertainment. Where we grew up in New York City there wasn’t a lot of modern rock on the radio and MTV wasn’t playing it either.

What went into finding your voice as a songwriter?

Gosh, that’s hard to say. I think it had a lot to do with my own personal experience coupled with everything I had ever listened to going through the blender of my brain. I think all of that comes out in your songwriting. I’ve always tried not to insult people’s intelligence and write the kinds of songs that I wished I could hear on the radio or on the records I would buy.


Your lyrics have always been personal and emotional. Was it difficult to put yourself out there in that capacity early on?

I don’t think I ever thought of it as difficult. I was never bashful about it. I think there is a little bit of egotism about anyone who gets up on a stage and says, “Listen to me! Listen to my poems that I’ve put to music!” I think there has to be a little bit of fearlessness that allows you to get up there and do that.

How has rock ‘n’ roll changed over the course of your lifetime?

Rock ‘n’ roll has had a big impact on me, and it was a main motivating factor in my life for a number of years. It still is for me but, unfortunately, I don’t see it being as important to the rest of the world as it still is to me. A lot of other things have come along, whether it’s hip hop, video games or whatever else. When I was growing up, they didn’t even have VHS, Betamax or cable television! I remember all those things when they started. At first, you only had a few channels on your television, you could go to the library and take out a few books or go to the record store and buy records. That was pretty much all you could do. I think, at that time, music took up a lot more of everyone’s attention span, whether it was pop, rock, jazz or whatever. Now, there are so many other options on the table. Although music is still important to a lot of people, I don’t think it’s as important in terms of collecting and curating your own little collection.

Dramarama was more of a studio band early on. You didn’t have a ton of experience with live shows. When did you come into your own in that respect?

We really were a studio band, you hit the nail on head with that. We were way more of a studio act and we started playing shows after we were in the studio and started making records. I don’t think I’m telling any secrets when I say that we weren’t the best band in the world. I don’t think we were very good. It took a few years for us to get to a point where we were even decent. It was only after a number of years that we started to get good, so to speak. Now, I think we try harder to be good. I don’t think we realized just how inadequate we were at first. We were the best we could be, but we just weren’t used to being on stage. We had to spend a lot of time honing our craft, as they say. It took us a while to get to the point where we are now. We’ve been there for a number of years, but it definitely was something we had to work on through the years.

You came up with Dramarama in a different music industry than we have today. What lessons did you learn early on that still resonate today?

To be honest, we were kind of spoiled after our first few years of doing it ourselves, playing in the basement, playing in the garage and playing some night clubs. After we put out our first album, it started getting played on the radio in Los Angeles. We moved out here, first of all, on a vacation to play a couple of shows. We were so overwhelmed with the response, reaction and the fact that we were on the radio, that we moved out here permanently. We were really lucky. We were already like a real band and it went from being a hobby to a career pretty quickly. Because of our initial success, I don’t think we were ready. We didn’t pay our dues, so to speak. It was only after we had a song on the radio and were already playing shows and doing it for a living that we started encountering resistance. First, I think we were spoiled. However, as time went by, we learned that we weren’t the most important band in the world and that everything wasn’t going to come to us as easily as it did for our first album. It took us a little while to learn that lesson, I would say. As the years have gone by, I have come to realize just how lucky we were to get that kind of reaction. Any band is lucky to get a song on the radio or have a career. To be doing it now, nearly 40 years later, is nothing short of a small miracle.

“Anything Anything (I’ll Give You)” was one of the band’s biggest hits and still resonates with music fans today. What does the song mean to you?

It’s by far our most popular song and it’s the one that got us out of the garage and out of New Jersey. It’s one of those songs where I really connected with the audience and people say, “Oh, that’s me. That’s my life! Those are my feelings!” We are really lucky that people have connected with the song the way that they have. When it comes to songwriting, it’s all about sharing. While everything is intensely personal to me, I’m also trying to share things I hope other people will be able to relate to, feel and respond to personally.

I remember the first time I was introduced to the song. It was through “Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.”

That’s the way a lot of people got to know the song. Even though it had been out for a couple of years, it became part of the soundtrack. Not only was the song part of the soundtrack but it became part of the story. As you know, there’s a guy in the film who’s training to it who gets killed. When his spirit enters his sister’s body, you hear the song again and you know that it’s him returning to her, so it was part of the narrative. We knew it was going to be in the film and we were even given the opportunity to see the film at the studio before it came out. It was a big deal for us. Like I said, earlier, when we started the band we never expected to get out of the garage. The music we were playing wasn’t what was being played on the radio at the time in the New York metropolitan area. There was way more classic rock, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, which was not what we were playing. We were just playing music for ourselves. A lot of people were also introduced to it by another movie, “Road Trip,” where Buckcherry did a cover of it. No matter how people get to know it, we are really lucky! It’s been really fascinating. To be doing it now, 40 years later, is even more amazing!

40 years together is an impressive milestone. What’s the secret to the band’s longevity?

I think it has a lot to do with perseverance. You just keep doing it and never stop. You don’t give it up or take off. Even in the last number of years when we weren’t putting records out, we were still performing, playing shows and working on making another record. Like you said, the music business has gone from what it was, a very big industry, to a bit of a smaller industry. Like I said, I think that is from the many different distractions that are available from the internet to cable TV to streaming and beyond. You can listen to a lot more different music from the beginning of the 20th century, all the way up to today. When I was growing up, you actually had to find the records to hear those songs. You had to actively find those little pieces of plastic with a hole in the middle to play and listen to those songs! Now, you can get all of those songs with the click of the mouse or a push of your screen.

I think a lot of it has to do with the personalities involved more than virtuosity, although everybody is really good at what they do. Three of us have grown up together, literally. We’ve known each other since we were children. The two new guys who are with us have been with us for a quarter of a century. We’ve grown really close as human beings, so much so that there is a sort of ESP between us that allows us to get along musically, as well as personally.


“Color TV” marks Dramarama’s first new studio record in 15 years. It’s an album you built over time. Did you have a vision for what it would become?

No. Actually, we recorded a lot more music than we ended up including on the album. It was just a question of selecting songs that fit into the narrative and take you on the journey, if you will. It’s kind of autobiographical and takes you from my youth to my current situation, which is a lot better than it once was because I’m not taking drugs anymore and I’m a lot more appreciative of my family and place in the world.

Tell us about the process of bringing this album to life.

We were able to sneak into this really great studio in Los Angeles called The Village. When I say, sneak in, I mean we were able to get in on weekends, holidays and late nights. Those were the times when the facility was not otherwise used by customers paying full price. It took a little bit longer, so I think that adds to the consistency and cohesiveness of the sound of the album. It took longer than we expected and it’s for all those reasons, but I think we are really happy with the end result. We are really proud of this record.

As I said, this album has been a decade-and-a-half in the making. How has your life changed during that time?

I think my life changed more in the 10 years prior to us starting this album. I went from being a practicing drug addict to a recovering drug addict, so that changed a lot of my thoughts and feelings. I also think that, back in the day when the band first started, we weren’t as concerned with the audience. We were more concerned with ourselves and we were very selfish. Now, when we get on stage, we do think a lot about the fact that people actually spent money on buying a ticket. We are a little bit more conscientious. I think that’s why we have such a good relationship with the people who listen to our music. It’s easy to be nice to people, be friendly and treat everybody like a friend. There are a lot of guys in bands, even when we were in high school, who acted like they were the be-all, end-all. I think at first, I was a lot more full of myself and I don’t think I’m quite as arrogant or egotistical at the beginning. I guess, as I grow older and not so much wiser, I have a much better understanding of my place in the world. I feel very fortunate to have been able to do this and continue doing this. I’m very lucky.

Were there surprises in regard to the songs you wrote for “Color TV?”

Some of the songs I wrote when I was just coming to grips with my substance abuse. I actually wrote them before our last album, but they were a little bit too personal at the time and I wasn’t really comfortable with sharing them. It took me a little while to be able to share those with people. Most of the songs, when I write them, I kind of know what to expect. One song on the album, “You You You,” turned out a lot different because when we recorded it, we did it with the whole band. There were drums, electric guitars and it was just a straight rock song. When we were mixing it, we stripped away most of the band and it came out a lot different and a lot better than I expected. I was kind of surprised with the end result on that one!

How do you approach songwriting?

Normally, when I write songs, I’m just strumming a guitar. Sometimes I come up with ideas without having an instrument in my hands but most of the time it’s while I’m playing guitar. I might come up with a chord progression of some sort and then I think about what kind of words would fit that particular chord progression. Sometimes it’s just immediate while I’m strumming. It’s like, “OK, I’ll come up with the chorus.” Then I have to come up with the verses to fit that. It’s never really the same. It changes from song to song. Some come quickly and some come not so quickly! [laughs] When I write a song, it’s usually something that’s intensely personal. It’s something I feel or have felt. When I’m writing a song, I’m trying to express something that other people can relate to and hopefully feel that it’s personal to them too. You hope to strike a chord.

Dramarama is no stranger to creating amazing cover songs. What spoke to you about the two songs covered on this record?

We’ve always included cover songs on most of our albums. Both of these songs kind of fit into the theme of this record in a lot of ways in regard to substance abuse and the ideas of love and affection. They are both written by tremendous songwriters, Bob Dylan and Elliot Smith. I just wanted to share some songs that maybe aren’t their most well-known compositions but still amazing songs. They are songs I wish I had written myself.

While it’s new to fans, you lived with this album for some time. What was the biggest challenge in bringing it to life?

The biggest challenge is getting past the idea of actually making a record in this day and age. After all these years, the idea of sharing and releasing new music is kind of daunting. The world isn’t eagerly awaiting a new record from Dramarama necessarily. I mean, there are people who love our band and would love to hear new music from us but it’s not like there is a huge demand for new music from our band. So, like I said, that is kind of daunting. It’s also harder to put yourself out there now. I used to be fearless and now I’m a little more self-conscious and aware of the vast number of bands and songs that are out there. I do realize how lucky we are but, at the same time, you wonder what is going to happen when you do it. You set yourself up, so it’s kind of hard to put yourself out there. You might fail. People might say, “Meh, it’s not very good” or something. So, I think I’m definitely a little more self-conscious than I used to be.

Dramarama's John Easdale - Photo by Conni Freestone
Dramarama’s John Easdale in the wild. – Photo by Conni Freestone

With that said, hopefully this isn’t the last we hear from you or Dramrama. What does the future hold?

No, no! We were planning on going out and playing some concerts this summer, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to be possible. So, we are hoping to get back into night clubs and theaters. Wherever we are allowed to go play, we will go play! It remains to be seen what concerts will be like in the future, but we will be ready to go out there and play more shows. Maybe if we are lucky, we will get to make another record but, at the same time, if we don’t, this is a good one to go out on!

What’s the best way for fans to support the band and keep it moving forward?

Listening to the music is a great way. If you like it, telling other people about it is a great way to spread the word. I know a lot of people stream music now and it’s available on all of the platforms. You can download it, which I guess is getting old-fashioned! There will be a CD available and I’m going to try to make it available through independent record stores so that they can do some business. Right now, they aren’t even allowed to be open, at least by my house.

What music are you listening to these days?

I listen to mostly old music, specifically old country music. I keep going backwards! {laughs] Instead of listening to contemporary music, I went back to the ‘60s and the ‘50s. Now, I’m in the ‘40s and ‘30s, I would say. I listen to a lot of old country and rhythm and blues. I just like listening to these old records; they speak to me.

What’s the best lesson we can take away from your journey as an artist?

I think it goes back to perseverance. That is important in every aspect. You just have to keep doing it and not take no for an answer. There are a lot of people from the beginning who said, “Who’s going to listen to your music? Who’s going to care about what you do?” It’s true. No one is going to listen unless you bang on doors, kick, fight and keep going! Never be discouraged by situations that you come across. Making the effort to do it is the most important part. You can’t stay knocked down. You have to keep getting up!

You are living proof and an inspiration.

Thank you, Mr. Jason.

Thank you for chatting today, John. As a fan of the band, I’m thankful for the hard work you put in and look forward to seeing what the future holds for you.

Thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate you spreading the word and taking the time!

Visit the Dramarama’s official website at www.dramarama.us. Connect with the band on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “Color TV”  is available now via Pasadena Records. Give it a listen at any of these locations – Click here!

Check out John’s amazing song by song breakdown of ‘Color TV’ below:

To me, one of the most satisfying things about being a songwriter is that songs/lyrics have so many interpretations. What’s in my head and heart as I write and sing them is most likely not what is in yours while you listen. So please, take the following with a grain of salt, listen with no pre-conceived notions. To be completely honest, often as I listen to works of mine years after they were recorded, I hear a subtext, a thread that was undoubtably relevant at that particular point in my life though at the time I was unaware. Well, consciously unaware, at least.

With that, here are my thoughts as of this date in 2020. With some exceptions, I make no promises that I will feel the same in the future. In fact, I wouldn’t bet on it. — johnE

“Beneath The Zenith”

Let’s call this the “Other-ly Titled Title Track.” When I was a kid, television was a glowing magic box in my living room. Chances were that if I wasn’t outside playing with Mark Englert, I was in front of that magic box. Strange as it may sound, sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons was an event. It only happened in my (and my friends’) living rooms; you had to be present, stop whatever else you were doing to indulge, and I kind of miss that.

“Up To Here”

A former altar boy’s lament. A statement on the state of the world, or at least how it is in my head. Not at all meant to be an anti nor pro religion song in any sense; but a comment on how consumerism has become, for many, the omnipotent. Despite what you happen to believe or don’t, practicing or not, what seems to unite us is our logos. By the way, thanks for buying the record(s).

“The Cassette”

This one’s hard for me…what may seem a random collection of words is actually a stream of conscience tribute to a friend who I miss dearly and daily.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend, The Jesus of Cool, Uncle Mookie Eggbert: Gregory William Dwinnell, Oh My!!

“Swamp Song”/ “It’s Only Money”

As I mentioned in the opening, sometimes there is a subtext, a meaning I am not consciously aware of at the time. I wrote these both years/tears ago while sidelining as a drug addict. My perspective at the time was very much: “I don’t have a drug problem, but YOU seem to have a problem with my drugs.” Very much quasi-justification for my actions, an absolution of responsibility. I now clearly hear my own struggle with substance abuse and the guilt of not feeling worthy of the truly good and treasured things and people in my life.

“Abandoned Love” Not a super well-known Bob Dylan song. So poetic, so illustrative. The lyrics blow me away every time I hear them–“My patron saint is fighting with a Ghost.” I know that struggle; you just can’t write something better than this.

“What’s Your Sign”

This one I thought was a comical poem, a fun rocker more than anything I had determined to be personal. “Floogle” and “bugle”? How serious could I have been? But now I’m not quite so sure, give me a few years and it will hit me.


Written around the same time as “Swamp Song” and “It’s Only Money.”
A warning to the You who dares to love me. Thankfully, she paid no attention.

“Hold Me Tight”

I don’t often write love songs, but this is undeniably a love song. Post addiction, grateful, feeling like I do have something to contribute. A bit of together we can get through anything; me and You, my partner in crime.

“The Only One/Stupid Brilliant”

True love, and what really matters. First and foremost, this is an ode to my family.
The unconceivable good fortune I’ve had devoting much of my life to songwriting pales in comparison to the reality that is my personal life. It’s the people who share my life that really matter. My family, including my band brothers–with or without the music, they are my soul.

“You, You, You”

Centering on love and the human connection. It’s kismet, of all the people in all the places so to speak, you find the one person who stands by you, regardless.
More intentionally autobiographical than is typical for me; filled with references both obscure and heartfelt.

“Half Right”

An Elliott Smith song he did with his band Heatmiser. Haunting, painful and so close to being hopeless. To me it exemplifies the idea that once you’ve become a slave to substance abuse, it affects everything in life. Though it’s been many years since I’ve used, I continue to view things through that telescope. It’s changed my perspective on life.