December , 1982
By Vernon L. Gowdy, III
Just Sort of Happened
Missing Persons is a band that just sort of happened. The husband and wife team of vocalist Dale Bozzio and drummer Terry, teamed up with guitarist Wayne Cuccurullo in 1980 after the three met while working on Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage album. Later bassist Patrick O’Hearn and keyboard player Chuck Wild would round out the group.
In 1980, thanks to a cash infusion by Cuccurullo’s father, the band, now called Missing Persons, released a 4-song EP entitled Missing Persons, recorded ironically at Zappa's brand-new Utility Muffin Research Kitchen studios. The band toured the country on the strength of the massive hit single “Words”. The group also appeared in the movie Lunch Wagon. There EP would go on to sell thousands, drawing the attention of major labels throughout Los Angeles.
The two years of hard work led up the band signing with Capitol Records. In October 1982, the band finally released their new album, Spring Sessions M (an anagram of Missing Persons). The album has been an immediate smash, with radio stations already playing songs like “Walking in L.A.”, “Mental Hopscotch” and another megahit, “Destination Unknown.” The band has also benefitted from increased exposure on MTV.
Drummer Terry Bozzio recently took some time off to catch Jam Magazine up on the world wide of activities that have surrounded the group the past few months.
JAM: How much was luck or fate a factor for Missing Persons?
Terry Bozzio - I think you make your own fate. We worked hard on this project. The fact we believed strongly in it was evident by the fact we financed our own EP in 1980, and then did our own advertising and promotion. This in turn got 22 radio stations nationwide playing the “Words” from the EP. Because of that hard work, Capitol Records couldn't ignore our success. I mean we sold over 10,000 copies of the EP in Los Angeles alone! One of our songs on that four-song sampler made it to number one at radio stations in LA, Boston and New York. The reason we did this project on our own was because of the initial reaction our songs received from record companies. Originally we had a demo tape produced by super producer Ken Scott. It was panned by virtually every record company. We were so determined to prove them all wrong that we self-financed the recording of the EP and started working it ourselves. The tremendous sales the EP generated proved our potential success nationwide.
JAM: So what did Capitol do?
They signed us and rereleased the EP with the addition of the song "Words" on it to have something different. Currently, over a quarter of a million copies of the recording have been sold. It’s the biggest selling EP in music history for a debut act. .
JAM: Let's go back to the beginning. Tell me about the initial concept behind Missing Persons.
I was in Frank Zappa's band between1975-1978. Before then I was with the group UK. Patrick O'Hearn was playing with Zappa between 1977 and 1978. Warren Cucurullo, a die-hard Zappa fan and damn good guitarist, finally auditioned for Frank and played with the group between 1979 to early 1980. We all had studied music formally at college, ranging from classical to new music to rock. Dale, however, was originally a drama student attending Emerson College on a scholarship. One day she decided it was bullshit so she became a Playboy bunny. Well, that didn't work out so she packed up and drove across country to Los Angeles to become a model.
How did she meet Zappa?
She originally met Frank over dinner back in 1974. Zappa had used her voice as a character for his Joe's Garage album. This time around he asked Dale to meet his band. When she arrived, everyone's head turned! Dale's the kind of person you have to take a second glance at. The two of us began dating, lived together for two years and then decided to get married. What's interesting about my wife is she's had no formal training at all with singing. But she's naturally gifted. She's far from reaching her potential.
JAM: Does the band mind the fact that Dale really stands out in front of the band where image is concerned?
No! Not at all! I’d be more surprised if she didn’t. We realize from the beginning the magnetic appeal Dale offered. Let’s face it, she’s gorgeous and we feel this just helps with the bands overall stage presence and image. There's absolutely no jealousy with Dale receiving most of the attention. I’d be concerned if she wasn’t in all honesty.
JAM: Word on the street is the Missing Persons’ stage show is a performance you don't want to miss.
Yeah, Dale designs new outfits after every other show. She particularly likes using plastic, metal and tubular rubber materials for her outfits. She even has worn flashing LED costumes. We also drape the entire stage with plastic material over the equipment. And we have a backdrop with neon tubing and lighting. In addition we have added aluminum tower-like structures ranging between 18-24 feet high on either side of the stage.
JAM: You finally released a full-length album. Did you ever worry about the label concerns about commercial appeal verse artistic control?
I think that's all bullshit! If you want to be successful and stay in the public eye, you have to give the people something they will like. Sure, you want to create your own thing, but you can't ignore the public and be a success. We proved our artistic integrity and value when we released the EP on our own. It showed we knew exactly what we were doing as a band.
JAM: The production on the album is flawless. It’s jumping up on the Billboard charts as we speak. Does Frank Zappa resent the fact that nearly everyone left his band to become basically Missing Persons? It’s quite apropos if you think about it.
I don't know if Frank cares one way or another. He’s so into his own music, most musicians in Los Angeles are honored if he asks them to write music with him, or be in his band. Frank supported us from the beginning and gave the band his encouragement. Plus we recorded the album at his studio, so it’s not like he didn’t make any money off our decision to form a band.
JAM: Any videos in the works?
We currently have on MTV a video for “Words” that is incredible. It really has helped bring attention to our live show. Our stage set is somewhat reminiscent of what you see on the video. It has really gotten people excited to come out and see us. We also just did another video for the song "Destination Unknown.” It’s great too.
JAM: You have proven it doesn’t take a lot of money to create a successful record, just great songs and a belief in what you are doing. For example, Fleetwood Mac spent the unheard of sum on one million dollars to record their new album, Tusk. On their new album, they spent the massive sum of $250,000 for the video “Gypsy.” Missing Person’s success has turned that type of thinking of ‘spend more to get more’ on its head.
Most people don’t know this, but it only took us five days to record our EP. The video for “Words” didn’t even cost a tenth of what Fleetwood Mac spent on “Gypsy.” What we accomplished just goes to show that musicians aren’t the best business people once they get a little success their way. When you have to go into the studio and spend ungodly amounts of time and money, I mean, you should already have your music worked out before you ever go in to record. We all work out are parts before we even considered going in to the studio. When we recorded our album, we all laid down our tracks separately. No one wasted any time. Listen, we wanted to be note perfect with our songs, don’t get me wrong. Ken Scott was a terrific producer and didn’t waste any time getting all our parts down. And one thing you have to remember. Capitol loaned us the money to record our album. We have to pay them back before we see any money ourselves. So yeah, we were very conscious of what our studio album cost.
JAM: One last question Terry: What do you want to accomplish in five years?
Right now, I feel technologically is being held back because of the lack of money to fund it. There is so much we want to do musically with keyboard synthesizers, stage effects, you name it, that we're unable to do it because of budget constraints. We’d like to give away a million dollars to fund our ideas, but we aren’t on that level of philanthropy yet. Hopefully one day we will.