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Tom Dumont

No Doubt, Dreamcar

"I guess my fingers were just ready, and I learned to play guitar really quickly. It was something that drove me through my teenage years." In this episode, Ernie Ball artist Tom Dumont of No Doubt and Dreamcar discusses his influences, his history with playing guitar, and his Ernie Ball strings.

Transcript

Tom:
When I think about what guitar playing, I just immediately think of being a kid, and that moment I think when I was 12 years old when I thought to myself like, "I want to play guitar."

Tom:
My dad took me to a shop and bought me like a hundred dollars Les Paul copy and it was really a horrible guitar. I ended up tearing that guitar apart years later, and it was made of plywood, but it looked killer and he got me guitar lessons. At that age, I guess my fingers were just ready and I just learned to play guitar really quickly. It was just something that drove me through my teenage years.

Tom:
That music store in my neighborhood where I got guitar lessons as a 12 year old. I don't know if all they sold was Ernie Ball strings, but those are the strings I always bought. The packaging is etched in my memory, and I used to buy super slinkies, which are nines, and then as the years went on and I got kind of out of like weedly metal playing and wanted something a little more substantial, I'd play regular slinkies, tens, and it's kind of all I've played.

Tom:
As guitarist, you almost want the strings to be invisible in a sense. They're one aspect of all this gear of the guitars and the amps and the cables, the pedals, but you want that aspect to be rock solid. They don't break, they feel good, they play good, they sound good, they stay in tune. It's kind of a no brainer. They've just always been the string I've used.

Tom:
Around the time that I found and joined No Doubt, I realized as good as I was, I was never going to be Van Halen. I was never going to be a virtuoso. When I was young, that was the thing in rock music it Yngwie came out, and and that pyrotechnic amazing, like speed, I couldn't do that. By the time I joined No Doubt I was about 20, and musically my world opened up from classic rock and all of a sudden I was listening to U2 and The Edge, which was a completely different approach to guitar. Playing guitar for me is something like I've always loved, was always good enough at. I'm not a wizard by any means, and I've been playing in bands since I was 12. Somehow I just got lucky and I get to keep doing that.

Tom:
So in college I was a music major, and there was one good thing about that went bad thing. The good thing was I learned theory, and I really enjoyed learning theory and just the mechanics behind music. But the bad part about majoring in music and colleges that I had to be a classical guitar player, and I was starting over. I was 18 years old and taking classical lessons and having the guitar up like this and this hand, and it was really hard and I wasn't driven to be a classical guitar player. I wanted to rock. I wanted to play through amps and play rock, so I ended up dropping out as a music major just because my passion wasn't in being a classical guitar player.

Tom:
Music theory helps build a framework and a structure around how music fits together and how it's constructed, and then the really amazing thing at that time is I was in No Doubt, and Eric Stefani was the keyboard player and was the main songwriter at that point. Eric Stefani didn't know theory, but he wrote the most incredible music, which broke all those rules that I was learning in school every day, so I loved the juxtaposition of that. Like, I can learn the language and the framework and the structure, but I learned from Eric how to break all those rules and how that could help you make great music as well.

Tom:
During No Doubt, there was a ska scene in Orange County of all places. It was a great scene. No Doubt could play on a bill with eight other ska bands and a thousand people would show up, and it was really amazing to be a part of, but there were rules in the scenes. You had to dress this way, your music had to sound like this, and No Doubt we loved it. We loved ska music, but the band was fearless in its idea of we're not going to be constrained by the rules of the scene. Around the time we made Tragic Kingdom, Gwen's brother, Eric Stefani, was kind of in the process of leaving the band, and the songwriting fell on me and Tony for the first time really, and the sound of No Doubt changed during the making of that album.

Tom:
I know Tragic Kingdom was, in the press we call this a ska band and called it a ska album, but it's not really. It's pretty guitar centric. It's a rock album that has some ska and funk and reggae beats in it, but we were just fearless about trying something new. As it happened, my musical personality and Gwen's and Tony's and Adrian's all kind of formed our own sound. I'm so glad we did that, and I guess looking back, I see that that just brought No Doubt to a much bigger audience, which in the end we were cool with.

Tom:
I joined No Doubt 29 years ago, so I just feel incredibly fortunate that somehow it's turned into a thing where it's been my career. Being a musician is a strange- when it turns into a career, it's a strange life. It's an artist's life. An artist's life is like, I always think of it like a roller coaster. There's peaks and valleys, and it has definitely been a long road, but all along I think my driving principle, whether it has been making No Doubt records or playing live or making the Dream Car record has been this idea of I want to make something that I think is really cool.

Tom:
I realize that you can't please everyone in the audience and you can't make music just for the audience, so the way I think about it is I'm going to make a song that I think is cool that I like, that I'm really proud of. That's the pure intent of it. It's easy at times to question yourself. Every band has ups and downs, so you have like songs that connect with people in a huge way, and there's other songs that I love even more maybe that don't connect at all. You're always trying to figure out why do some things connect and some don't? It's just a mystery. As long as the guiding intent is to make something that I think is cool and I'm proud of, that kind of has driven me all this time.

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