By Jeb Wright
Photos by Ahron Foster
Jon Haber had a band in 1988 called Looker. He was a young, mid-twenty-something rocker ready to hit the big time. The band released an album, but it failed to make the band’s rock and roll dreams come true. Jon stayed in music, however, and became a successful music businessman, leaving the performing to his customers.
Fast forward to 2014: Jon did the unthinkable… well, maybe not unthinkable… unreasonable? He turned back time, found his rockin’ soul, and released an album with the band moniker DEC3 (Pronounced Deck Three). The music is classic rock oriented; some may call it modern classic rock. However you might want to classify it, the tunes are well written, arranged and executed. The musicianship is solid and the overall sound is a throwback to a time when music mattered.
DECIII will be released Tuesday, September 30th via Raddist, Haber’s own record label.
Read on to learn how Jon took that leap of faith and recorded this album…and look for live dates to come in the near future, along with more music!
Jeb: You, sir, are a determined man! You’ve carried a dream around for four decades and finally made it come true.
Jon: I was in bands throughout my teens and mid-twenties and released an album with my band Looker in 1988. Though I stopped playing in a band at that time to pursue other musical endeavors outside of the performance world, I never stopped songwriting. This was a dormant dream as it took me starting to work on this album for it to come to my consciousness.
Jeb: Did you ever really think this would happen? Over the years, how many times did you put this back on the shelf?
Jon: As I mentioned, I have been writing songs all these years, and I always thought to myself that one day I am going to do a real record. It was in the beginning of 2013 when I thought "Now is the time." This was my first effort at doing this for real since the album I did with my old band.
Jeb: You took the path of musical businessman instead of performer. Is this project to make up for a regret of some sort or just to prove to you what could have been?
Jon: No, I have no regrets whatsoever. I just felt that I have something real to bring to the table with my songs. As with anything in life, talk is cheap. Actually digging in and doing something like this takes a lot of work. I am happy with where I am now, and I believe this album will appeal to a lot of people out there.
Jeb: Before we get into the guts of this, tell me what you wanted to achieve with this project, in a nutshell.
Jon: Number one, I was to prove to myself that I could do this at this level, as far as songwriting, production, etc. I thought if I could get my songs out and heard, people would really dig ‘em.
Jeb: Also, tell me about the band name and the people who guested… but don’t forget to toot your horn that you wrote the songs, produced the album and played most of the instruments.
Jon: The band spawned out of my idea for the project. Basically, I had all these songs and I work with a great singer, Chris Saulpaugh. We have been recording stuff for many years. He is just an amazing singer and also an equally amazing guitar player, songwriter etc. This project doesn't exist without him. I figured that in addition to writing and producing the album, I could play all the instruments as well- except drums. I brought in Mike Kalajian to play drums who, besides being a great drummer, is also a great guitar player, studio owner, engineer, mixer- kind of a boy-wonder type of fella. As the album progressed, I brought in Shane Keister (one of my favorite keyboard players out there) to do some additional keyboard work as well. The name DEC3 spawned from the fact that the core band- Chris, Mike and I were born in different decades and together we had a diverse set of influences.
Jeb: Were family and friends supportive or did they think, “Jon, finally, went over the deep end” ?
Jon: Well, they probably all think I am off the deep end regardless, but that’s another story. It was actually my wife, Naomi's, idea. Though I had always been writing, I wasn't recording much over the last decade or so. She said,“you know you really should get back to doing that.” I know that she didn't think I would do THIS... But here we are! As far as others, when I would tell people I am doing an album, they would politely say "cool' or something like that. Many people I deal with in business don't even know I can play. So the initial impression I believe they think is,"Oh boy how bad will this be?" I love seeing their face after they hear the music.
Jeb: Tell us about your day gig so everyone fully understands the entire story.
Jon: I own Alto Music, which is a musical instrument/pro audio dealer in NY. We have 3 full-line stores and a small pro audio showroom in Manhattan. I also own a distribution company, Rad Distribution, which distributes pro-audio products in The US and Canada, and I own a manufacturing company which makes studio microphones and speakers.
Jeb: Wow… so you ARE busy… As far as the compositions on your release, how old are these songs? Are they from way back or are they new or a mix of both?
Jon: When I started this project, my goal was to take the songs I had written over the years and make proper album versions of them- adding real drums, re-tracking parts where needed, pro mixing etc. As I started doing this, I had, which was without question, my most productive period of writing, ever. That was the best thing about this project- I was banging out really strong songs. The whole scope of what I started changed as new songs were being written. The final album is 8 new ones and 4 older ones that were redone in some way or another
Jeb: Will you play these live and get a ‘real band’ and hit the road, or is this going to be enough for you at this stage of the game?
Jon: I am thrilled with the record and the response has been great. I have since put together a "real band" and we have been rehearsing. I added Todd Mihan (guitar) and Mike Hamel (bass) to the line-up. I was psyched that they were into doing this. They are both tremendous musicians and great singers as well which will enable us to pull off the vocal harmonies that are slathered all over this record!
Jeb: Now, these songs have flavors of many types of music. From pop, to hard rock to newer rock to some jazzy and soul stuff and beyond. I found myself going, “this is kind of Mr. Mister, but now this is kind of Steely Dan but wait, that’s more Boston and Foreigner like…” How do you describe your sound?
Jon: My sound is rock and roll. You used to be able to listen to a rock record, take the Beatles Revolver. You have songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” “She Said She Said,” “Good Day Sunshine,” and “Yellow Submarine” that are four styles that could not be any more different all on the same record. Listen to a Queen album- same thing. There are tons of others. I believe there is something there for everyone on this DEC3 album, yet all the songs have a common thread as far as writing goes and vocal stylings.
Jeb: Tell me some of the albums that changed your life and how they influenced your songwriting.
Jon: Well - The Beatles Revolver for one, for reasons I just mentioned. The diversity of styles, writing, performance- It’s just great. Other albums that have been big influences on me in no particular order are Queen’s A Night at the Opera, Elton’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Shawn Mullins’ Soul's Core, Butch Walker’s Letters , Radiohead’s The Bends. There are so many others, but these pop into mind. Basically, if a song can be played on an acoustic with a singer and its great- it’s great. I love production and doing cool things in the studio, but the song has to have a foundation like this or it won't do it for me
Jeb: “Red Line” is an interesting song, as you get all political here. You even have President Obama making a cameo! Are you a writer who likes having an edge and reporting the world around them more than a touchy-feely artist?
Jon: I have plenty of songs based on the usual topics, but I am not afraid to be more adventurous lyric-wise. This is certainly one of them. The song is being sung from the perspective of a Syrian citizen who is mired in the hellish situation over there.
Jeb: Since you traded a career on stage for your business, what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment in the world of music?
Jon: My greatest accomplishment in the world of music is probably the thousands of kids who have entered Alto Music and became musicians- some of them very successful. We are in a small way helping the world become a better place
Jeb: Tell me what’s next? Is there another album in you?
Jon: It’s coming. One song is pretty much done and I have started tracking another. Now that we have a real band I want to bring songs written by the other fellas in as well. That will help take the pressure off of me! I look forward to doing it.
Jeb: You have a passion for music. I am scared for the art of music. What can people do in order to ‘keep the music alive,’ so to speak?
Jon: If you have kids, encourage them to play an instrument. If you have a say in your local community, speak out in support of music education.
Jeb: Last one, is it true you were in an American Express commercial?
Jon: This is True!- see for yourself!
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