Published Feb 01, 2000Dale Morningstar may be known as the sound scientist in charge of Toronto's Gas Station studios and as the ringleader of Dinner is Ruined, but it was a life-changing incident in California that set him on his rock'n'roll path.
"Hockey was my life," he recalls from his Toronto Island home. "I played Triple A for Niagara Falls for about seven years. We went to California for a hockey tournament when I was 17, and I got busted at Disneyland for smoking pot. Then I got kicked off the team. The next fall I would have been up for Junior B tryouts, but they didn't want anything to do with a stoner goalie.
"I remember thinking, 'Well, I'm not going to be a pro hockey player. That's it; the dream's over. I'm going to make rock'n'roll my life.' It was so clear. Time for new dreams."
Morningstar has found those dreams in the kaleidoscopic art-punk soundscapes of the Dinner Is Ruined Band, who've just released their sixth album A Maggot in Their Heads (featuring the song "Bobby Orr"). It's a surprisingly structured album that features great songs - something you wouldn't expect from a freeform band whose last album was a collection of found sounds.
Morningstar - who'll try to convince you he's always been a "verse/chorus kind of guy" at heart - says that his return to traditional song structure has coincided with a newfound appreciation for country living. The relative isolation of Toronto Island has allowed him to "tell stories with just guitar and voice."
Much of the Maggot material ("Buffalo Jump," "Montana Doesn't Need Me," "Old Horse Whore") was inspired by a solo drive Morningstar embarked on through the northern U.S. "As soon as you enter Montana," he says, "there's this sign: No Speed Limit - Prudent and Reasonable."
Could that be the Dinner is Ruined Band's new motto? Their live show, which recently took a year hiatus, is still wildly unpredictable, even when working with structured songs. "There's a core group of people who have experienced it before and know that they're in for a little circus," explains Morningstar. "Others have no idea, and they either get into it totally or they're just baffled. People will always ask me, 'Was that all planned? That was planned, wasn't it?' And I'll be like, 'Mmmm-hmmm, yep.' Or they'll say, 'That was all improv, wasn't it?' 'Mmmm-hmmm, yep.'"