Joe Dolan was born in June 1971 in Framingham, MA to a mother in the medical profession and a father who created the visual display face for companies including Macy’s (NY) and Hart Schaffner Marx. Joe’s father performed occasional drumming in New York City for jazz and R&B artists on the scene.
After the separation of his parents, Joe was raised in Millville, MA – a small farm-style border town between MA and RI. His mother was an avid classical music fanatic and impressed music theory on Joe at a young age – on weekends, his father introduced him to every musical style the radio offered and pushed him to listen to everything he could as influence. This included a lot of jazz and pop friendly music.
At age 14, Joe moved to Milford, MA to live with his father and to get the freedom to explore the bass guitar (and Twisted Sister), which his mother didn’t think would be beneficial. Joe attended Hopedale High School, infamous for being Joe Perry’s high school. Joe’s principal would often tell him, “It’s like I told Joe Perry, school first, music later.” It was a nice quote, but it didn’t resonate with Joe’s passion.
At age 16, Joe opted the musical route over school, dropped out and began performing in clubs with punk and metal bands at an early age including Boston’s Rathskellers, The Middle East, The Paradise and Narcissus; Worcester’s Sir Morgan’s Cove and Ralph’s Diner; Connecticut’s Toad’s Place and venues in New Hampshire and even the disgusting stage at CBGB’s where, as Joe often states, “I had to cut my teeth somewhere, why not in the Bowery where most of the residents didn’t have teeth.”
In the mid 1980’s, glam metal and MTV were popular and unlike the hipster and traditional scene in Boston, Joe drove to compete with the magazine covers for shock value, grew his hair long, dressed in bright and tattered garb and adopted the glam/metal style that was coming from Los Angeles, while still maintaining an underground image performing on the smaller punk and extreme metal scene. This included performing with a host of glam and hard rock artists over the next decade until the scene changed.
Joe performed and recorded with bands including Airborn, Outta Bounds, the Pretties, Lethal Fury, The Willies, Rukkus and Company of Strangers. After a short reprieve to build a record label, Joe returned to writing, recording and performing in the early 2000’s before moving to Los Angeles where he records and performs today.
In early 2002 Joe founded the record label Retrospect Records from the basement of his house in Webster, MA. During a time when American Hard Rock was virtually removed from the FM Radio Market, Joe’s love of the style drove his desire to make it available on the new Internet that was burgeoning. During a discussion with former Rock Candy/Bittersweet guitarist and songwriter Stephen Shaw, Joe jokingly mentioned starting a retrospective effort to release Shaw’s demos from the band Bittersweet. With $200, Joe burned 100 CDr’s of snippets from the 20 Bittersweet tracks and sent them to any online independent supporter of the genre he could find with a teaser that a new label would form releasing old rock artists from the 80’s. Pre-sale was available now. In 5 weeks Joe received more than $8000 in pre-orders and decided he had better learn how to build a website, make CD’s and build a record label. In two months, Retrospect Records began shipping recordings from artists including Bittersweet, UK’s Sacred Heart, former Boston artists including Flesh, Superzero and NY/Boston band the Blackjacks – a band Joe cherished in his teens.
Joe co-produced (really just paid for) a CD from OK Panic as the first new and original artists to be on the label. The group disbanded after just 6 shows as guitarist Mark Cherone opted to perform with his brother Gary (Extreme) in other projects.
The release of the BlackJacks American Independents CD spawned a reuniting of the band in Somerville, MA with all the old haunts coming out from the former Boston scene to witness the revival and put Retrospect Records on the map.
In late 2005, before the release of Swedish artists Cowboy Prostitutes debut CD, the ripped versions of promo CDs began circulating on Napster and mIRC and the theft and illegal distribution of the music showed it’s effect on hard copy CD sales. The new world of online music trading had begun and ultimately hit the indie label market with force. Joe decided that simply returning to performing was a better fit for his life and sold the label to Sam McCaslin, a former regional touring artist Joe knew. It has, since January 2006, operated without Joe’s influence or inclusion.
On a non-music related note, in 2007, the entrepreneur in Joe founded a series of text and notebook product websites, in 2008 uniting them under the umbrella of Fusello Publishing. This includes the Kawaii Notebook, a celebrated item that swept the Japanese/Kawaii Art marketplace. Joe’s independent print publishing company has produced more than 3000 globally distributed titles at a time when design and note-taking has gone digital. Somehow, it just works.
In the mid-2010’s, Joe and former bandmate Dave Simmons launched an online radio station using code designed by Simmons to offer hard rock artists and fans a chance to meet together online with no profit intent, simply for a place where fans of hard rock can discover music from the genre. The station includes never before released demo works, converted analog audio and even new releases by 80’s era celebrated artists while the FM radio market fails to shine a light on their efforts. Spotify has virtually crushed the indie radio market, much the way Napster took it’s toll on indie labels, but the station still exists and offers an outlet for hard rock music fans.