Gerard Dirkx on Going Solo, The Telefones and Opening for the Toadies
Gerard Dirkx was a founding member of The Telefones, Dallas first and best new wave band. Formed in 1979, Jerry Dirkx played lead guitar and sang, Chris Dirkx played drums, Steve Dirkx played bass and Will Clay played saxophone and synthesizer. The band's first single, “The Ballad of Jerry Godzilla,” was released in May 1980 on Dallas' VVV label and has become something of a landmark area recording. Six months later, the LP Vibration Change was issued. Rock-Ola!, the group's second and final full-length, was released in mid-1981. The Telefones have played several reunion shows over the years, but Gerard has kept himself busy with another band, Fat Palace. This Friday he plays his very first solo show.
Why have you waited so long to start a solo career?
The timing just felt right. I’m in a couple different bands that aren’t really playing much, and I have a ton of songs I’ve written on acoustic guitar. It just kind of hit me one day that I’ve never tried performing by myself and I’ve always wanted to.
Do you work in any Telefones or Fat Palace songs into your solo sets?
No Telefones songs, although there certainly is pressure on me to put in a Telefones song. I am getting telepathic messages from people, so I might add one. I’ll definitely play some Fat Palace songs, but mostly new stuff -- stuff that I haven’t played outside of my house.
What’s the status of Fat Palace?
We’ve been playing as a three piece. We’ve played four gigs already. We’re just getting our feet under us as a trio. It’s just a nightmare trying to put together a band that’s not real heavy, alternative rock. To do a sort of funky, soulful reggae thing, like we are trying to do, there’s just not a lot of local musicians into that.
Seeing that original vinyl copies of LPs by the Telefones are sought after collector’s items, are there any plans to reissue those on CD?
I’d love to reissue those with the help of a label! We did have Vibration Change released on CD by an Italian label. I don’t even have a copy of that. I got a fan letter from a guy in Germany who bought it. But I would love to get a local label interested in reissuing both LPs.
What are the other Dirkx brothers doing these days?
Chris is living in Austin and has been playing in a country band. Steve’s not playing any music these days, but his 12-year-old son is. I’m actually a roadie for his son’s band next week.
“The Ballad of Jerry Godzilla” was played by the all-star house band at the Dallas Observer Music Awards. Why do you think of that song has become a part of Dallas’ musical history?
From the very get go people liked that song. It was one of the weirdest songs I’ve written, and I wrote it in two minutes. We always played that song as the closer because it was hard to play it anywhere else in the set. You couldn’t follow it.
You’ve been a part of the Dallas music scene for more decades than you care to admit. Dallas has never achieved the hip status of Austin. Why do you think that is?
Dallas is just too big. Austin is a college town, a funky, bohemian town with a bigger, proportionate music scene. So many young people there providing a constant influx of people who tend to hang around and mill around. It’s just got more of a creative, left field atmosphere.
What are some of your favorite memories of the Dallas music scene, both playing in bands and concerts you have attended?
We played a great show at this played called Stars Over Texas that I don’t think is there any longer, an old school that they had converted into rehearsal space. Some weird old guy used to run it. Bobby Soxx opened for us and he brought the house down. It was out of control. I remember opening for Oingo Boingo at the Bronco Bowl. REM actually opened for us. It was their first tour and they pulled up in this ratty, brown van to play with us at the Hot Klub. We opened for the Toadies a few years ago, one of our comeback shows. We were so fired up for that show and all of a sudden, I got a massive case of stage fright. I started thinking that we were going to bomb. I had a panic attack. I stepped up to the microphone and I was completely frozen. Luckily, we made it through the first song and the audience really liked us.
After that show with the Toadies, all of you decided not to play again?
No, we would do it again. The Telefones might play again. It depends on the circumstances. I don’t think Steve has played since that show. A lot of times you get disgusted and put down your guitar and then you pick it up again two days later. -- Darryl Smyers
Gerard Dirkx performs December 13 at Opening Bell Coffee.