His life was saved by rock ‘n’ roll. With one foot in the practical and the other firmly on the creative tip, Canadian born David Bason epitomizes the sometimes paradoxical term, “music business.” Equally at home playing guitar on a demo for the New York Dolls or serving as President of indie label Hundred Handed Records, Bason is one of the few people whose artistic passion can co-exist with an understanding of the bottom line. He talks the language of artists and executives alike.
The son of an English Cambridge grad who worked in the Canadian telecommunications business and a mother who sings in the Ottawa Choral Society, the entrepreneurial teenager got his start working at one of his country’s best music venues, a frequent tour stop for world-renowned artists. All the while, he kept his own musical dreams alive playing in a series of local garage bands.
“I did everything from pick up Jonathan Richman at the Greyhound station and share a beer-and-cheese soup with him to hanging out with Desmond Dekker,” said Bason, who eschewed the prospects of law school to study the music business in Toronto. He would eventually serve as a road manager for a popular Canadian band before taking an internship in RCA Records’ New York offices, which would complete his requirement to graduate the music business school.
“I was living off conference room pizza, crashing with 13 acting students in a one bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side, walking a mile-and-a-half to work,” said Bason. “But I was happy.”
While working as an A&R coordinator, Bason recorded his own music. His producer friend simultaneously recorded David and another band from the neighborhood called The Strokes. As Bason proceeded on a one-man campaign to get them signed, blasting them from his office cubicle, a senior executive took notice and the two led a charge to sign the band.
Upon the success of that signing, Bason was suddenly very much in demand, and took a job running the music-publishing arm of Roadrunner Records. After running the publishing company for four years, he was asked to start and altertnative division of the label. His first signing was The Dresden Dolls – whose lead singer Amanda Palmer went on to become a Kickstarter cover girl with her indie success. He also penned The Cult and his beloved New York Dolls, even playing on the demos that led to the band’s celebrated 2006 comeback album, One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This. During this time he founded the Universal Music-distributed Stay Gold Records where he signed punk rock records and produced several dub reggae remixes.
After seven years at Roadrunner, 18 months running his own management company, A&R consultancy stints with both Decca Records and Century Media records (where he signed Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba and Blakq Audio, AFI’s side project) Bason was recruited to join the LA-based boutique firm The MGMT Company. While there, Bason managed Atlanta-based group The Constellations (Virgin Records), guided indie-pop band Blondfire to a bidding war deal with Warner Bros. and inked infamous N.Y. black punk band Cerebral Ballzy to Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records label.
Bason spent the next several years overseeing the day-to-day management responsibilities for multi-platinum sellers Thirty Seconds to Mars, and building a successful management stable of Grammy-winning, platinum producer/engineers, including David Kahne (Lana Del Rey, Sublime), Dennis Herring (Elvis Costello, Counting Crows), Jon Kaplan (Cage the Elephant, Gavin DeGraw) and James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins, A Perfect Circle), David Bendeth (Paramore, Bring Me The Horizon), Elvis Baskette (Slash, Incubus) Chris Shaw (Public Enemy, Bob Dlyan).
After successfully managing Stars In Stereo, he was asked by guitarist/owner Jordan McGraw to take the Presidency at Hundred Handed Records, whose roster also includes Prince protégé The Golden Hippie (Marissa Jack) and local rockers Badflower as well as Coheed and Cambria’s most recent albums.
A man of many hats, David Bason is a man who can hang with high profile artists as well as industry’s leading executives. Bason knows artists because he is one, writing and recording four solo albums featuring Airborne Toxic Event’s Anna Bulbrook, Sub Pop’s Chad Van Gaalen, Jesse Malin, James Iha, among others.
This was someone who had Amanda Palmer record a version of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To the End of Time” for his wedding, who has shared a stage (or recording studio) with the likes of Ian Astbury, Bad Brains’ HR, James Iha, Nicole Atkins, Hard Drugs, Sylvain Sylvain and other childhood heroes Doughboys’ John Kaster and Asexuals’ Sean Friesen.
He hosts a popular podcast, The Storytelling Show, in which he and guests like Side One Dummy’s Joe Sib, Matt Pinfield and the Mowgli’s relate their own music business sagas. He co-writes with an animator friend a monthly graphic novel/comic strip for legendary Heavy Metal Magazine’s online site. Finally, he recently recorded a new performance art piece with Minny Pops, the Dutch experimental art-noise-band originally signed to Factory Records.
A hybrid performer/executive, David Bason is living the dream while at the same time successfully turning art into commerce, or, as another of his heroes once put it…making cash from chaos.