Clocked In: How Hardcore Legend Dan O’Mahony Pays the Bills

Dan O’Mahony (Credit:
Forrest Locke)

[Editor’s Note: Welcome to a new monthly column from veteran punk Brad Logan of Leftover Crack, Rats in the Wall and the Adolescents about surviving day to day between tours as a working musician. To read his past columns, click here]

Dan O’ Mahony wears many hats. As a singer, songwriter, author, journalist, world traveler and activist he has the kind of resume plenty of musicians would die for.  As a vocalist for venerated OC hardcore bands–No for An Answer, Carry Nation, 411 and his current band Shiner’s Club–his lyrics rejecting homophobia, domestic abuse, war and self-destruction set a precedent. Though I figured he was living off foundation grants, record label money, or residuals I honestly never thought to ask him what he does for a living when he’s not on the road. We had a chance to speak recently and I asked him some questions about his life.

Brad Logan: Okay, who are you, and why do you do what you do?

Dan O’Mahony: I’m not sure exactly how to answer the question as to why, but my name is Dan O’Mahony. I’ve been singing in hardcore punk rock bands from California for 36 years. I know that, when I’m not doing it, I’m unhappy about not doing it, and when I am doing it, I’m slightly more-sane than when I’m not. I think, most musicians, they’ll say they do it to get their demons out, or they do it because of some political agenda, but I think, just at the end of the day, an artist is an artist, if you’ve got music in you, you’re probably not gonna function at full capacity unless you get the music out of you.

Does music pay your bills? If not, what does?

Being in a band costs me more than it makes me, just by virtue of recording. We borderline give our merch away because we get a kick out of it. There’s no return on it. Even when I was moving the most units I ever did, which was never a particularly considerable sum, I very rarely ever played with guarantees, so this has never really been a bill-payer for me. I make more money right now than I’ve ever made, and I’m still well south of six figures. [Working in bars] is something that I’ve been doing now, for 20 years. I have some passion for [my job] but is not any kind of driving force in my life. I manage restaurants. Specifically, I manage bars. Now, I work for a nationally recognized imprint, that’s the largest chain of its kind, in the world, but for that reason, I mean, I go in, every day, realizing that nothing about me is reflected in anything on the walls there, or in anything going on at my job. And it’s all well and good to be a restaurateur, or a chicken slinger, or a beer merchant on a four or five million dollar a year level, which is what my store does, but there’s no me there.

Could you ever see yourself not playing music?

People talk about whether or not you age out on this music. Everybody expects blues guys to get old, and jazz guys. I saw Ella Fitzgerald play live at the Hollywood Bowl a couple years before she passed away. I’m sorry, but that was cooler than seeing Ella Fitzgerald in 1958. I think there is a certain beauty, a certain magic, to the aging punk rocker though. I mean, to me, they’re lions–males, females, or anyone regardless. If I think there’s two things that punk rock, and just underground music in general, would be well served by, it would be letting go of any notion that is mandated that it be a youth culture, because some aspects of it are really only best understood by the first-generation members of it. The other thing is that only the past is valid. Some of the baddest-ass music comes out by the most traveled musicians, and some of the other baddest-ass music comes out to babes in the woods, who just started doing this. These notions that [underground music] is only for the young or only valid if it’s old are mutually horse shit.

Dan’s new band Shiners Club have just released their debut full length CD/LP “Can’t Have Nice Things” on Indecision records. Check it out!!

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