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Dion Lunadon Breaks the Chain on 'Systems Edge'

With a new album out today on In The Red and a European tour beginning this week, the ever-busy, primitive garage punk stalwart Dion Lunadon opens up about his creative process in his Brooklyn home studio and how the creative solitary project has been a voyage of self-discovery.

Photo by Alexander Barton

Dion Lunadon's punk rock credentials are pretty impeccable. From his scrappy North Shore beginnings in Auckland, New Zealand as part of countless kiwi garage punk bands like Nothing at All! and The D4 to coming overseas to play with A Place to Bury Strangers, Flowers of Evil, and Kate Clover, Lunadon has primarily carved out a decades-worth of playing in rock 'n' roll bands. However as the pandemic struck in 2020, Lunadon decided to focus primarily on his own music.

His third solo album, Systems Edge, out now on the ever-prolific In The Red Records (King Congo Powers, Osees, The CIA), is a glimpse into a raw, palpable energy that blur the line between the music and the person. Between the high-octane opener "Secrets" to the scorching visceral urgency of "Shockwave," the ten tracks that make up Systems Edge tap into the purely deranged and off the chain rock 'n' roll that's in the same vein of the Stooges, Eddie and the Hot Rods, the Scientists, and Rowland S. Howard.

With a 16-day European tour kicking off this week in Ravenna, Italy, we caught up with Lunadon to dig into the making of the new record and recording by himself in his Brooklyn home studio has opened up to a voyage of self-discovery.

What was the area like where you grew up in New Zealand and how did you get into playing music? I grew up in the suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand. Lots of kids, bush (forest), riding bikes/skateboarding. As I grew into my teens and I discovered punk rock, the suburbs were not as friendly as they once were. Lots of getting chased down the street and getting punched in the face. Some guy once chased me to my front door and tried to smash it in to get to me. This was at my parents house. At 3 in the morning, I'd snuck out to meet some girls in an alley away. So needless to say I got busted.

You certainly have some stories up your sleeves after playing in decades worth of NZ bands including The D4, Nothing at All!, The Snitches, Marty Sauce and The Source, The Rainy Days, and True Lovers. You also played bass and sang with legendary punks the Scavengers at various reunion shows. What are some of your favorite memories from playing back home and can you share some insight on what the scene was like in the 1990s and 2000s? The early 1990s were great. I started playing shows in maybe '91? I never even thought leading up that that I'd play proper shows or record music. Then my band Nothing At All! crossed paths with two guys: John Baker and Bob Frisbee. Both freaks that ran a DIY thing called Frisbee out of an abandoned car park with no doors. Bob would record the bands in the studio and John would organize the shows. There were a group of older bands such as Gestalt, S.M.A.K, and Supercar, we were by far the youngest band being only 15, that we looked up to and were absolutely crazy RNR bands. Watching them changed my life. I remember John went and saw a band he was not particularly fond of and threw eggs at them. He got a lot of flack so organized a show for his band The Psycho Daizes to play in the town square where there were 2000 rotten eggs given to the audience to throw at them. And they did. Luckily the band were wearing "egg protection suits." Nothing At All! ended up getting banned from all the halls because we had a full scale riot break out at one of our shows. After moving over to NYC, how exactly did you get involved with sludgy noisemakers A Place to Bury Strangers? I heard they needed a bass player, so I applied through now former drummer Jason Weilmeister. I was supposed to be on a trial run on my first tour with them. Second show in, I cut my face open with my bass and was bleeding everywhere. After that show they said "you're in."

Photo by Alexander Barton

Looking back, what was it like going off on your own and releasing your debut solo LP in 2017? Releasing it and recording it was really great. Especially recording. Hands down my favorite time recording and writing music. I felt like I'd come full circle making that record except now I had more skills in songwriting and recording. Especially when it came to the music I wanted to make. It was something I really needed to do at the time and the timing was right for me.

As a solo artist, what made a song more appropriate for you than lending it to a band you were playing in? When I made that first record my intention was to never release any of it. The songs during that time were simply for my own enjoyment. But when I realized I had a group of songs that made an album I liked, I decided to put it together as an album and release it. The music really would not have fit in any other place as it was too "me." This whole project is based around what I like with no compromises which is why I also do the art, the posters, the mixing, the video ideas, and so on. That's the whole concept of this project. "Dion" [laughs].

What have you enjoyed the most exploring the conventions of a solo record? What's your creative process like? I enjoy the self discovery and pushing through if I'm stuck on an idea. I sit around and write down ideas on all sorts of stuff. Then I try make them happen. Songwise, I try not to think too much and just let it come out. The quicker the better. Less time to think and suck the life out of it. When you just let the subconscious take over more exciting things happen in a moment.

Photo by Alexander Barton

Now lets talk about your new album Systems Edge. What's the story behind it and when did you start putting it all together? I started around mid 2020? Some songs were written around the same time as the first and second albums, but most during the pandemic. Drums on the record were played by Blaze Bateh (Bambara) and Nick Ferrante (The Black Hollies).

From this new album, do you have any songs in particular that you're most proud of?

I really like "I Walk Away," which is why it was released as a single. "Room With No View" is an example of just letting it flow and trying to record and write simultaneously in one take. I like it when that pans out which doesn't happen often.

I remember reading that you wrote around 100 songs between 2017 and 2019 which was the time you finished your previous album Beyond Everything. Are any of these new songs old ones that you dug up from a previous time in your life? If so, why was was it the right time to finally finish and release it? Yes some of them were. "I Don't Mind" and "Straight Down the Middle" for example were written around the time of the first album. I think very carefully about what goes on an album. Every song needs to serve a purpose so that it ebbs and flows from start to end. Sometimes you have three songs that kind of do the same thing when you only need one of those for an album so maybe it'll make it onto something down the line. I never put songs on a record just to make up the numbers. It's all got to count.

Photo by Alexander Barton

You've described 2017's solo debut as relentless and last year's Beyond Everything as more dynamic. How do you describe Systems Edge? Maybe even more dynamic? It came together a lot easier and quicker than Beyond Everything. I didn't feel like I needed to labor over it as much either.

What's it like being part of garage punk royalty on In The Red and also having a legend such as Henry Rollins become a huge fan of your music? In the early-mid nineties, I discovered labels like In The Red, Crypt, and Estrus. Definitely been a goal of mine to be on something like In The Red. Henry has been so helpful and is a really great guy. Black Flag was so influential to me in those teen years so to have all this come together is something I'm very thankful for.

You have a European tour beginning in Ravenna, Italy later this week. What are you most excited about returning to Europe and how different is it playing rock 'n' roll music there compared to the United States? Also, who did you enlist for your touring band? I love touring both continents. Europe is cool because of the history and you get looked after well and the crowds are appreciative. But there's also something very special about touring a country that is the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. Maybe because I wasn't born here it holds a special place in my heart because of the musical history. This tour I've got Craig Bonich switching from bass to guitar as he does. I've got Takumi McItyre on bass. He lives in Berlin. Dam Fanti the Sardinian Overlord on drums. Unfortunately my other drummer Nick Ferrante has a broken wrist so he needs to sit this one out.

Lastly, have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to readers? I'd say the band Motorbike from Cincinnati are well worth the listen.


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