Homecoming- Interview with Tom Dumont from No Doubt
Before the year 2000, Verizon Wireless Ampitheater was known as Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. In the 1980’s the amphitheater employed a teenaged Tom Dumont as a burger cook. While it is every budding musicians dream to make it big, Tom has fulfilled that dream. A few years later he became the guitarist for No Doubt, arguably the biggest music act to come out of Orange County. With a career spanning over twenty years, their music has evolved from their Ska roots to the a Grammy Award winning Pop powerhouse. Not only have they grown musically, but the No Doubt family has grown in size and geographically. Despite that growth, the band still has deep roots in Orange County. Now a resident of Long Beach, Tom grew up in Irvine, and has lived in Orange and Anaheim along the way. Recently I had the pleasure to sit down with guitarist Tom and ask him some questions relating to his experiences with the band and his ties with Orange County.
Jeff Donaldson: Growing up in Orange County, I know you ventured to Irvine Meadows / Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at least once as a teen/ young adult. My first concert there was Berlin and Talk Talk. Do you remember the first concert you went to go see there? Who did you go to see?
Tom Dumont: Actually my first memories of Irvine Meadows was as an employee. I grew up in Irvine, and when I turned 16 I got a job there, literally flipping hamburgers in the concession stands…I worked there every summer for at least 4 or 5 years. I just loved music and I usually got off the grill early enough to catch most of the headliners set. If there was a band playing that I really liked, I’d sneak in using my employee badge and shirt. So basically in the 80’s I saw almost everyone who played there. I loved it. And quickly moved up from burgers to beer sales to managing stands. I was ambitious :)
J: What was your favorite or most memorable concert at Irvine Meadows / Verizon Wireless Amphitheater? It could be as a performer or spectator. Why?
TD:Most memorable would be when No Doubt opened for Ziggy Marley there in 1990. I think we were the first of 5 bands that day. We were still a local band with no record deal. Although we had great shows headlining clubs in those days, playing at Irvine was a very big deal obviously and for my own reasons as well (see answer above.) I think our upcoming 4 night stand there will even top that though!
J: There was a rumor that some of the animals were still on the property after they closed Lion Country Safari and opened up the amphitheater. One of the ways to sneak into the venue was through the old rhino pits. Did you ever try and sneak into a concert there?
TD: Never did the Lion Country sneak. See question 1 above. :)
J: In high school, a local ticket agent used to pay a bunch of us teens to camp out at Ticketmaster venues to get tickets for them to sell. Nowadays, the Internet makes it easy for scalpers to purchase a lot of the tickets online. Some ticket agents and scalpers now have season tickets to a lot of the big venues, making it hard for the fans to get the good seats at decent prices. The No Doubt Tour Club was created to help combat this and allow members to get those good tickets into the fans hands at a reasonable price. Does it seem to be working? Do you think having the tickets non-transferable is only workable solution to fighting this problem?
TD: I think our Tour Club is a step in the right direction. It does reduce scalping and also helps our fans get into better seats at face value. But it is not a final solution. The scalping problem is a real dilemma. People hate it, but it’s really just free market capitalism and the economic principle of “supply and demand” which are the true “causes”. Some people will always be willing to pay more for the best seats. There’s not much anyone can do to stop that. A communist dictatorship perhaps?
J: I first met you guys around the time I was a roadie for Quinn when he played for Medicine Rattle and both bands were practicing at either the Stomp Box or Bands West. There was a pretty tight knit music scene back then. Who were some of your favorite bands to play with? Who were some of your favorite bands to go see? Favorite Venues to play?
J: Back when you were starting out, going to see other bands was part of the promotion process. Do you think that the Internet and technology have hurt the local live music scene?
TD: I don’t know. We used to it all by ourselves with a huge mailing list back in those pre-internet days. We’d make the flyers and print them and stamp them, it was a big production for us. And it really worked. I think if a band is good the internet would be a big help, and if you’re not so good, it’s no help at all.
J: With the ease of getting music recorded and out to the masses electronically, what advice would you give to up and coming bands in Orange County?
TD: A band should rehearse, write music, record it for people to hear, and play shows. If a band is good and is doing those things, the audience will find you. There’s no magic involved, in my opinion. There are no shortcuts. Word of mouth is the best way. I used to know someone who always talking about wanting to be an artist. “Oh let me see your work” I’d say, but they weren’t even making art! If you want to do something, you have to do it!
J: The first time you were on stage at Irvine Meadows / Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, was it the first time you played a large venue? Do you remember the first time you realized “you made it” or “Hey, I think I can actually make a living playing music?”
TD: I think it was the biggest venue at that point. There were several big moments early on where I felt a deep sense of accomplishment.
Getting the record deal. Going on a real tour across America. Getting on the radio. Selling out the Palladium in LA. I feel really fortunate.
J: I know the band had a favorite Mexican restaurant in Anaheim where they would always go to eat? Care to share that with the readers? Are there any others in Orange County that you frequented? Do you still visit them when you’re in town?
TD: There were 2 fav mexican places in Anaheim. Both cheap and tasty. The sit-down place was called Mexi-casa on Lincoln Blvd. That was fancy for us:) The fast food place was El Taco, I think on Euclid. Mexican food is a deep love of ours, for sure.
J: I know that during the Rock Steady tour Adrian had his own bus for his family. On this tour is the No Doubt tour going to look like a convoy? Possibly a daycare bus? How is touring different with family?
TD: Yep, we’re bringing our families on this one. I’ve very very excited to have my wife and kids along. It’s going to be a giant rock and roll summer camp caravan. I’m hoping to get a slip and slide up on the lawns of the Amphitheaters for soundchecks!
J: One of the things about success is that you don’t have to go back to the part of their career when the whole band was living out of a van, but do you miss playing small clubs? Would you play them as a band again if you could, just for the connection with the audience?
TD: I loved those days, and never thought of them as a struggle. It was always a blast and an adventure to squeeze into a van and drive around the country, playing clubs. About 3 years ago while on our break from ND, Matt Costa and I did a mini-tour up to Vancouver and back. We played every city in-between, and I did all the driving in my old Ford Expedition. I love playing clubs and “humping gear”. I like every aspect of being in a band, all of it.
J: With family life, do you still get a chance to go out and see new bands? Who are some of your favorite acts out now?
TD: I listen to new music recorded rather than live mostly, I don’t go out to shows much anymore. I prefer being home at night with my kids now. That’s why they’ll be on the road with me. As for new music, I like a singer called “White Buffalo” he has a new cd out. and I like the Decemberists and the Fleet Foxes, the whole Northwest beard-rock scene…Also I dig Vampire Weekend.
J: Comedian Greg Behrendt, who, by his own admission, is a superfan of yours, mentions the band in part of the his routine named “Adult Rock Show.” He mentions selling of tour merchandise targeting older fans. Have you altered your merchandise to target older fans, and now that the ND family has grown, kids? Have you guys ever considered marketing a No Doubt Toaster Cozy or a No Doubt Day Planner?
TD: It’s a funny idea, but really those things wouldn’t sell much. I think Sammy has done well with Cabo Wabo, and Dexter the same with his hot sauce. We’re going to stick with TShirts and stickers. Or, perhaps we should look into No Doubt private estate grown expresso beans, I could get into that :)
J: You no longer live in Orange County, but you still have ties here. Would you still consider OC your hometown/county?
TD: I grew up in OC, it’ll always be home. And Long Beach isn’t far geographically speaking. I’m still so close but also a world away.
J: Anything else you would like to say to our readers?
TD: Many thanks to those who’ve supported us for the last 20-odd years. It’s been a great ride and I’m stoked that we still genuinely enjoy making music together. See you around town.
No Doubt’s Orange County Homecoming is July 31st, August 1st, 2nd, and 4th. The first three dates have sold out, and at this rate, the fourth is destined to also. Tickets available at livenation.com