The Satellites Four (from far left to right) Danny Frankel, Doug Wieselman, Casey Dolan, Marvin Etzioni
Do you remember watching Sex and the City? That one episode where Aidan is trying to knock down that wall so that he and Carrie can have a bigger flat? Do you remember watching until the end, when Aidan has to sleep in the empty apartment and Carrie goes to sleep next to him? Do you remember that hauntingly beautiful melody that completely fitted the mood of that scene? Do you remember waiting until the end credits and then finding that the song wasn’t listed? Do you remember searching it up on the Internet and being totally confused that it was nowhere to be found? Do you remember creating reasons in your head as to why this song seemed to have been stolen from this world? Well, things aren’t always what they seem. And this is a prime example.
I was so confused when I couldn’t find this song anywhere. I had so many questions. Who was this band? How did the song end up on Sex and the City? Where was this song?!
Well, I have done my best for two years now, trying to find this band and some answers to this mystery. It pays off to be persistent. Casey Dolan (dead center in the picture, with the amazing velvet shirt) contacted me about six months ago, telling me who he was and where that song was. And there was really a simple answer to it.
I’ve had the absolute honor to work with Casey Dolan over email on this interesting Q and A, revealing the truth behind the mystery. I’ve learned so much about this unknown band and their story and I’m so proud to have been a part of this. I’m glad I can finally present to you Casey’s answers to your questions. The album is coming out as soon as possible, but we have to be patient. However, when it does come out it’s important to remember that in order to appreciate the album and the music in it’s entirety, it’s necessary to know the people and the story behind it. How it all started and how it all got together. And the best way to start is at the beginning.
So, how did you guys meet?
Doug Wieselman and I went to college together – the University of California Santa Cruz. Doug’s a multi-instrumentalist and one of his instruments is the guitar. Guitarists tend to gravitate towards each other, albeit suspiciously. :) I have a tape of Doug and I playing together in a dorm room in either December, 1972 or January, 1973 (!…yes, a very long time ago). Doug and I formed a pop band called Red Sneakers in Los Angeles in 1978 and we did a gig with a band called the Model in June, 1979. Marvin Etzioni was the guitarist/songwriter/singer of that band. Marvin became a close friend of both of us. I met Danny Frankel through a mutual friend in 1983. Danny had been the drummer of the Urban Verbs, a Washington DC band who had a major label deal and recorded with some VERY big producers – Brian Eno, Steve Lillywhite and Mike Thorne. He and his wife had moved to Los Angeles. We all liked each other and Doug and Danny went on to work together in a band backing the juggling theatrical troupe, the Flying Karamazov Brothers.
When did you decide to form a band and why?
It really all comes down to Marvin, one of the great cheerleaders. I had been in New York City over the summer of 1983 because Sire Records (home of Talking Heads, the Ramones, the Pretenders, Madonna, the Smiths…etc.) was courting me as a singer/songwriter – “the West Coast Elvis Costello” (honestly, that’s how I was described by the president of Sire Records!). The whole deal fell through, after months and months of recordings and writing, in a very sordid manner which I won’t go into here. I came back to Los Angeles that September wanting to quit the business and it was Marvin who suggested that the four of us get together in a recording studio and jam. He wanted to pick up my spirits. I was feeling very low. Doug and I had a little psychedelic surf instrumental called “Earthless” and I had some other tunes in my pocket. As we recorded all of these in a very loose manner, it became apparent that it was a real band and that we were engaged in recording an album’s worth of material. But I have to be fair about this: the first album, “Earthless,” was more of a vanity project for the other three members of the band than it was for me. They had many other things going on. It was serious for me, my main focus, and, as such, that album in many respects is a “Casey album.” I wrote most of the material and produced it.
Would you consider your band popular/famous at the time? Did people know about you? Have you done interviews as a band in the past?
Hah! NO! We were not popular or famous. I wish I could even say that we were INfamous! “Earthless” has probably sold about 5-10,000 vinyl and cassette copies since its release in 1987, although tracks have made their way to film and TV (or have they? Hmmmm…I don’t recall any royalties). People DO know about the other three individual members, though. They have each had and continue to have exciting careers and work with an astonishing array of artists. You can look Doug, Marvin and Danny up online. Prepare to be amazed.
Me? Not so much. Outside of a very small circle of pop and rock people in L.A., people don’t really know me and I’m not being humble. It’s the truth.
The band did one interview for a local magazine after “Earthless” and, recently, a radio interview for a show out of Tennessee or Kentucky (I’m sadly forgetting).
Where does the name of your band come from?
I came up with it. There’s no particular reference. I just wanted something that sounded a little like an early 1960s Ventures-type instrumental band, but as time has gone on (and as “goodbyeXotica” certainly demonstrates) we wanted to distance ourselves from that tradition.
How long has goodbyeXotica been in development? When did you start working on the album?
The sessions dovetailed into the “Earthless” sessions. Probably the earliest tracks date from 1986 and last into 1992. We were working at a studio in a suburb of Los Angeles – Thousand Oaks – in a neighborhood that was as uninspiring as you could imagine, a tract home development from the 1960s. But our engineer, David Vaught (sadly deceased), was something of a wizard. Every session was magical.
What stopped you from releasing it back then?
People were too busy (much like the situation right now). Marvin was producing a lot of artists as well as recording his own solo albums. Danny and Doug were both touring, recording, composing. I became the lead guitarist with a rock band – 3 Day Wheely – that actually DID have a kind of high profile for several years in the mid-1990s here in Los Angeles. But there was no time to address “goodbyeXotica.” It was put on a back burner.
What’s the story behind the album’s title?
I had written a song called “Goodbye” when doing my demos for Sire back in 1983. Marvin liked the music, but not so much the lyrics (it was kind of a suicide note). He suggested we do the song instrumentally but retitle it “goodbyeXotica” to emphasize its exotic nature. Originally, it was two words – “Goodbye Exotica” – but they became linked, then began with a lower case “g” and then, finally, my wife suggested the big “X” to fit a graphic design idea.
Was Wayward Pup always supposed to be a track on goodbyeXotica?
No! The album was finished and somewhat different in 1992. We have a lot of outtakes, potential bonus tracks, and tracks originally intended for the record but which, over time, have been knocked out. I was recording demos in 1993 for a solo album project which, of course, never got finished. I had an old song, intended for Sire in 1983 but never recorded, called “Sandman” (NOT to be confused with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” which came later!). I laid down a rough version with keyboards and two voices – me and Claudia Russell, a singer with a particularly poignant soprano. Then I said to my engineer, David Vaught, let’s flip the tape for kicks. Take out the voices, I just want to hear the backwards keyboard. I had a strong intuition that it would be lovely because of the chord sequence. All three of us – David, Claudia and I – were astonished. Our jaws dropped. I added a very subtle keyboard line forwards to the backwards “bed” and “Wayward Pup” was born. I played it for Marvin, who then insisted that it be on the Satellites album. Opening…or closing…it almost didn’t matter. Doug flipped out, too. And I thought, well, it’s all me (in many respects). I might as well put my best foot forward.
Where does the name of the song come from (Wayward Pup)?
Funny enough, there’s an old animated film from the 1930s called “Wayward Pup,” but I had no idea of it when I named the tune. I’ve enjoyed a very close relationship with dogs my entire life (I love all canines…dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes) and the music reminded me of a stumbling, awkward puppy. Innocent but insecure. I think, even at my age, that I’m still a little like that.
How did you come in contact with the creators of Sex and the City?
The Satellites 4 had an agent passing our music, both the released “Earthless” and unreleased “goodbyeXotica,” to various film and television supervisors. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know the name of the supervisor associated with “Sex and the City,” but they said yes to “Pup” and to Doug’s “Dream Geography.”
Usually, film and television people get it all wrong when they work with music. I know this well. My father was a film composer and I’m currently working in film and television post-production. The world of music, of composers, is completely alien to these people. They honestly don’t usually get it. But I have to give HUGE credit to whoever worked on “Sex and the City.” “Pup” sounded perfect in that scene. The right amount (about 30 seconds), edited right before it gets a little ominous. I couldn’t have asked for better usage.
Has any other songs from the album been shown to the world (in a similar way that Wayward Pup was)?
“Dream Geography” was used on “Sex and the City,” but I don’t know the episode. I know there was a Hungarian film on AIDS, of all things, that was going to use some tracks, but I’m not sure that’s happening. I also thought there might have been other usages, but, as I wrote earlier, I haven’t seen royalties, so I guess not.
There’s been some extremely limited radio play from advance CDs, but not here in L.A., weirdly enough. I think we honestly need someone to do the work we can’t and get it out to the right people.
Why do you suppose they didn’t list you in the credits of the episode (Change of a Dress)?
I HAVE NO IDEA!! Excellent question. We SHOULD have been listed.
Even though there was seemingly no info about you guys anywhere, they still listed you in the credits of the episode on IMDb.com (The name of your band and album is a bit off, but pretty close). Any idea how/why? Do you know where people might have found that information?
Probably from the Sex and the City people.
Any idea why there is so little information about The Satellites Four on the Internet?
Because there is only one official release, 1987’s “Earthless,” and that was on a label that doesn’t even exist anymore. We don’t have a website. Everyone has simply had too busy a life to devote any time to this. Of all members in the band, I should (I come off pretty well on the album), but I’m hardly even doing music anymore. I’ve found it extremely difficult to make a living by music. When my band 3 Day Wheely collapsed in 1997, that was pretty much it. I was in a band 1999-2007 – Steve Barton and the Oblivion Click (Steve was in an excellent San Francisco pop band, Translator, in the 1980s and on CBS/Sony, too) — but that band found it difficult to find an audience, too.
Simply, the band was a project rather than a band taking it out there, touring, doing the promotion, etc. Also, an instrumental band is a very hard sell for a lot people unless it’s jazz, which is what Doug mainly does.
What was your reaction when you found out people had been searching for your song?
Delighted. Jubilant. Hysterical. I’ve seen postings from Spain, Russia, England, France, Japan and…Norway! :) I almost can’t believe it. There have been some dumb things written as well. Someone had said that I’ve lost millions of dollars in revenue by not getting the song out there. That’s rubbish. Yes, we would have made some money if SATC had put out a compilation album with “Pup” as a track. Obviously, there was a problem of communication there. But no one wanted to put it out by itself and separate from the album. I came quickly around to that point of view early on. Yes, I could have offered it as a download (we may still have to do that with the entire album if I can’t find a proper home), but I didn’t want to for artistic reasons. But I am a terrible businessman; I’ll admit it.
How would you describe your experience with this whole thing (learning about your hidden fan base, that people have been searching for the song and the band, developing the album, etc.)?
It’s wonderful, truly, and I do hope it gets out there very soon. The album is quite varied. It does NOT all sound like “Wayward Pup.” Not at all. There are some loud, electric moments as well as dreamy subdued ones. It does not sound dated, despite its age. It was put together by friends in a very casual, non-stressful Californian environment. Mistakes were kept. I’m proud of it and I really do want people to hear it.
I want the whole package to be special: the artwork, the liner notes as well as the music.
And last, but not least: How in the world did you stumble upon my website?
Easy. I looked the band and album up and, as you said, there’s not a lot on the Internet.
But there was you!
I already have, but I want to thank Casey Dolan one more time for participating and being so awesome through this. I truly appreciate your time put into this and the insight you have given us. And I want to thank you so much for this experience. You have successfully made me the ultimate hipster.
So many people are excited to learn about your existence and the release of your album. Good luck with everything!