Musician and filmmaker Luke Dick had an eventful 2019. From performing with his indie rock band Steve during Scissortail Park’s opening night celebration, to penning songs for country music stars and winning awards for his documentary Red Dog, there were plenty of moments the Oklahoma native remembers fondly. But ask him what's near the top of the list, and he quickly mentions how much he enjoyed screening Red Dog at festivals with the film’s star, his mom Kim Kassen. In the early ‘80s, she was a young parent who danced at the strip club for which the documentary is named.
“People hugged her [at the screenings] like she was their mom,” Dick tells KGOU’s Richard Bassett. “And they loved her. And as a son—of a mom who’s had a pretty hard life if you were to put it on paper—that was extremely gratifying to me and made me feel like the whole process was absolutely worth it.”
Until he was four or five years old, Dick grew up in and around Oklahoma City’s Red Dog Saloon. He remembers playing the arcade games and watching cartoons that were projected onto the club’s wall specifically for his enjoyment. He also recalls his mom’s boyfriends, husbands and friends. Dick describes the documentary as a retrospective on their lives and relationships.
“And hopefully a triumphant story of parenthood and hope in an unusual circumstance and an unusual setting.”
Red Dog lives up to that assessment, despite its R rating. The documentary possesses qualities of an ethnography. At times poignant and emotional, it explores a certain sect of society, casts no judgements and offers a way to understand that group of people by concentrating on the human side of their experiences.
Dick is currently raising four children of his own in Nashville, TN. where he lives and works as a country music songwriter and performer. His song credits include tunes for such stars as Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church and Dierks Bentley. Several of his songs are also featured on Miranda Lambert’s 2019 hit album Wildcard, including the single “Bluebird.”
Despite leaving Oklahoma in the early 2000s, Dick tries to come home a couple of times a year to visit family and friends and has been impressed by Oklahoma City’s constant growth and changes. He even played a role in opening one of the city’s newest landmark destinations, Scissortail Park, where his indie rock band Steve (previously known as Republican Hair) shared the bill with Kings of Leon.
Making music with Steve allows Dick to explore themes that he says wouldn’t necessarily translate well on country radio. The single “I Am Steve” ponders big questions about the nature of self and happiness, while “Fake Supreme” and “Click Bait” take on consumer culture and deceptive news headlines. When asked about the inspiration for these songs, he recounts a time when he tried to buy a newspaper at a convenient store but could only find tabloids like The Enquirer and Star.
“That feels like doom to me … that this is the way we consume news. And so that is kind of the theme, in a way of “Click Bait,” but it’s treating the material as pop bubble gum as well.”
Despite his recent success, Dick says he feels like he’s just getting started. He’s excited to finally release Red Dog to the public, which is available Tuesday (1/7) via various on Demand platforms. There’s a new Steve EP in the works and the Red Dog soundtrack is almost finished, which features, among other guest artists, Miranda Lambert and The Black Keys.
Dick discusses this and more with KGOU’s Richard Bassett at the audio links above.