Tom Dyer: Musician, Owner of Green Monkey Records and a True Olympian

Tom Dyer with guitar, headshot
Musician and owner of Green Monkey Records, Tom Dyer produces music and records informally in his home studio in Olympia, working with his own music and that of his friends. Photo credit: Vicki Dyer
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Tom Dyer is making music and sending new sounds over the airwaves and through his record label. A third generation Olympian, he embraces his South Sound roots in creating a new album with his band Tom Dyer and The True Olympians about Olympia history. From his days at Olympia High School (OHS), to teaching recording classes to being a leader in music arts education and running Green Monkey Records, Dyer is dynamic in the realm of music.

heritage bank LogoOlympia’s Tom Dyer

Dyer grew up in Olympia, and some of his band members were also OHS grads like him. After his high school years, he spent some time away from Olympia. While at the University of Washington, he taught studio recording, earned a degree in communication, subsequent post-graduate degrees and was active in roles that both supported and grew audio recording education. For example, as an academic director at the Art Institute of Seattle, he led a design team for five audio and video studios. He also directed and produced documentaries, worked on curriculum task forces and designed and implemented the AIS school record company.

Green Monkey Records

Pictured here in the 1971 Olympia High School yearbook, and calling themselves Chicago Group, the band members were, from left to right: Scott Mather, Greg Clarke, Paul Kent, Mark Henry, Mike Mitchell, Tom Dyer, Tom Alvord, Joe Anderson and Jim Baker.
Pictured here in the 1971 Olympia High School yearbook, and calling themselves Chicago Group, the band members were, from left to right: Scott Mather,
Greg Clarke, Paul Kent, Mark Henry, Mike Mitchell, Tom Dyer, Tom Alvord, Joe Anderson and Jim Baker. Photo credit: Bill Esteb

Dyer started his record label in the early 1980s continuing through 1991 while living in Seattle. The label name was inspired by a small, stuffed green monkey familiar to his family members, which can be seen featured as cover art on “It Crawled from the Basement.” In 2009, he started the label back up and continues to produce music. He records informally in his home studio in Olympia, working with his own music and that of his friends. He produces and releases artists’ music out over the available streaming services and does small run CDs. Another way Dyer shares music is through his weekly Freeform Northwest radio show on KAOS 89.3 FM in Olympia.

Dyer mostly plays guitar but also keyboard and bass. “I think most of the work I do lands in the broad rock, pop category, songs with singing and guitars, usually electric. That said, I have recorded a large variety of other instruments to accompany those two things,” Dyer says. “My tastes are rather non-mainstream, as a result, I tend to attract that sort of artist to record.” In regard to some of the non-mainstream, Dyer gives them a platform. “I think they are artistically valid, and they deserve to have a public life,” he says.

Recording and Producing “Olympia, A True History”

Dyer’s return to Olympia after many years away provided him with a new lens through which he saw his hometown. He started creating some songs, mostly on guitar, sang partial ideas without a definite plan and continued to discover a lot about local history. “I went to places. I did my homework. It’s inspirational for sure,” Dyer says. “You have a different sense of place instead of just a theory of what it is. You don’t just think about it. You feel about it.”

Michael Stein, Joe Cason, Gene Tveden, Lisa Ceazan and Tom Dyer. headshot
Tom Dyer and The True Olympians on the “Olympia, A True History” album. From left: Michael Stein, Joe Cason, Gene Tveden, Lisa Ceazan and Tom Dyer.
Photo credit: Brian Kasnyik

Tom Dyer and the True Olympians’ album “Olympia, A True History” spans a wide variety of social, biographical and even geological topics with a rock, pop sound. On the album, Dyer performs vocals and plays guitars. Joe Cason is on organ, piano and vocals. Lisa Ceazan is on vocals and percussion. Michael Stein is on drums and percussion. Gene Tveden, who was also in a high school band with Dyer, is on bass and vocals. Following along in the 80-page booklet provides a substantial amount of contextual and process information that reveals the complexities and deep meaning of the project.

An eclectic variety pops through, pairing history and music, making it fun for the sake of it. “This is the most musically diverse thing I’ve ever done,” Dyer explains. “I wanted people to understand the lyrics without reading them. I recorded it that way. I mixed it that way. I was very particular about getting those vocals clear.  I’m musically happy with it. It’s a story.”

Local History Told with Local Performer Sounds

Tom Dyer standing up and recording with his guitar
Tom Dyer’s return to Olympia after many years away provided him with a new lens through which he saw his hometown. With his band The True Olympians, he has created a new album about events and people in Olympia history. Photo credit: Lenda Tveden

The album includes many additional performers. The Olympia High School symphonic choir, of which Dyer was once a member, joins in. The Artesian Rumble Arkestra was recorded performing in Dyer’s driveway. Listeners will recognize some familiar sounds of local radio jingles, and two of the three discs conclude with eight-minute tracks of Olympia rain with frogs and backyard birds.

An album about history that began just prior to a pandemic, during a pandemic and into pandemic recovery is another layer of Olympia history. Realizing the band would not be able to continue recording together, Dyer set each member up with a Pro Tool computer program in their home, which allowed each person to be recorded live. When meeting together became possible, they recorded the last 10 songs the old-fashioned way.

“Olympia, A True History” has a fall 2022 release date and can be found at various local shops. Olympia Arts and Heritage Alliance is a beneficiary of proceeds. Dyer has plans for library events and perhaps classroom extensions. With a major project complete, he plans to continue making and recording music. Check out the Green Monkey Records website to see what he is producing now.

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