BY DAN GARCIA
By now you have probably seen, or at least heard about, Netflix’s new series Making A Murderer, which follows the trial and conviction of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was wrongfully convicted of rape and sent away to prison for 18 years before he was exonerated by DNA evidence, only to find himself as Manitowoc County’s primary suspect of the murder of Teresa Halbach, less than two years after his release and all while Avery had an on-going multi-million dollar lawsuit against the County. The documentary focuses on themes of corruption, lack of justice, exploitation, inequality and while it is more than entertaining, the sad truth is that it centers around potentially three people losing their lives and liberty, two of which are a direct result of the very real problems in our criminal justice system.
Regardless of the guilt or innocence of Steven Avery, Making a Murder brings to light some especially troubling practices by law enforcement, which should cause us all to doubt certain aspects of our nation’s justice system. As anyone who has seen the documentary will tell you, one of these questionable practices is best demonstrated by the treatment of Brendan Dassey, a soft spoken and (then) 16-year-old boy with a 73 IQ who many believe was coerced into a bogus confession by the police. Throughout the investigation Brendan was often questioned without the presence of an attorney or parent/guardian, the legal representation he was provided was often unethical and incompetent, and if what he confessed was somehow true, the State still had no physical evidence against Dassey and convicted two people for the murder of Halbach under two completely different theories, different locations, different causes of death, etc… The filmed interrogations of this poor boy, who doesn’t know the different between a foot and a yard, are some of the scariest minutes of television you’ll watch, that even the most terrifying horror film can’t compare to.
That brings us to our latest interview at The Early Registration. While we are primarily a music publication, we can’t ignore what’s going on in the world around us, even if it’s totally outside the world of music. One thing that’s so great about music is that it relates to everything, whether it’s through an artist lyrics or backstory, or whether the music world intersects with another form of entertainment in an interesting way. So when we learned that Brad Dassey, Brendan Dassey’s half-brother, was a Christian rapper and DJ/producer, who from time-to-time talks about his family and his “Dassey” name in his music, we were more than interested in reaching out. We had our writer Evan Vogel chat with Dassey to talk about Making a Murderer, his music, and where it all intersects.
Give us a little background on yourself?
I grew up in Manitowoc. I was actually born in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. I lived there for 2 years as a baby, then my parents decided to move to Manitowoc. I lived in Manitowoc about 19 years of my life. Currently living in the Oshkosh, Wisconsin area as a computer repair technician and aspiring photographer, music composer, Christian rapper.
What were your early influences as far as music go?
As far as music goes, I believe music is a universal language that can speak happy or sad. Honestly, feelings can be portrayed with music and it’s a great gift from God. Some of my early influences really range from U2, Coldplay, TobyMac, Eminem, 2 Pac, just any song, group that portrays a good beat, good influence and message. Another big influence is my grandmother, Marlene. She taught me about chords.
What inspired you to start creating your own?
What really inspired me to create music was just experimentation, along with my grandmother. One day I just fell into it. Back then, I’ve always had beats and melodies in my head and felt I had to act them out on desks, tables, etc.
What sort of topics do you look to cover being a Christian rap artist?
First and foremost, Christian means, Christ like. So the messages in my music should and will portray any encouraging thing that Christ would follow as far as messages in the Bible go. If I can convey Christ like messages with a good, positive beat, then I think people will engage in the music.
Is your passion for music what led you to being a radio DJ for some time?
What led me to become a radio DJ is my passion to be funny and engaging with people. My voice is also a dead giveaway. I believe my voice is great for radio as people have told me many times.
What are some of your experiences creating and spreading word of your music?
The thing to realize when it comes to anything is, we need time to breathe, refresh and refocus. Sometimes I make music for awhile, then take breaks in between to reflect on what I’ve just done. So as far as making music goes, it’s not really every second of every day.
On “Making a Murderer”
Have you seen all of “Making A Murderer”?
I have seen it. I saw it the first night it came out. I waited up till 2 AM till it launched, caught about half of the first episode and went to bed. Woke up the next day and binge watched the entire thing.
Since its release has your music gained any popularity?
It wasn’t until I really started speaking out that people have been adding me left and right on Facebook, messaging me millions of things and they stumbled upon my music. I’ve seen my website traffic sky rocket somewhat, but it’s only less than 300 hits per day thus far. Either way, one person at a time is all that matters. If someone believes the music to be good and really enjoy it, they’ll tell others.
I also heard you released a song titled, ‘Labeled’, about how you get judged because of your relation to Steven Avery. In what ways have you noticed your life change because of this connection?
‘Labeled’ was actually a YouTube video that I posted years ago explaining how I was being judged for having the Dassey name and whatnot. I felt it was more of a backlash video to explain to people that I’m really not a bad guy. A song soon then came out called, ‘So You Wanna Judge Me.’ I put my feelings and anger into that song and out came something positive and also helps other people stand firm as well.
On Losing His Job Because of His Last Name
You lost a position you held at a radio station over this whole case, correct? What was behind that and can you tell me more about how it all unfolded?
Yes I did. I was going by the name of, DJ Dassey back then. It was an old high school name and I just used it as an on air name for radio as well. Back then, when the news director found out I was related to Brendan as a half brother, things got weird at the station. The news director was unplugging network cables and trying to sabotage the station and point the finger at me to get fired. A sales representative friend of mine who worked for that station at the time, caught him in the act and reported it. He lost his job, but then soon thereafter, I lost mine as well. The station felt since I was using Dassey as a name on air, it would harm their reputation because of the case. I tried to sue the station for damages, but lawyers told me it wasn’t one of the original classes of discrimination, so I didn’t get far other than collecting a small amount of unemployment benefits.
Has all this “new evidence” brought up in the Netflix documentary had a more positive or negative impact on your life?
I’ve honestly not been following along very well. I’m not exactly sure what the new evidence is at this point. My mind has been spinning in so many directions lately and I just really want to find time to rest and re-coop from everything. So I haven’t been following along to know what that is. I’ve even been contacted by Dr. Phil as well as radio stations for interviews. I declined with Dr. Phil at this time.
Did you/do you believe your brother (Brendan Dassey) is innocent?
Yes, I believe so. Brendan is a shy, quiet kid who wouldn’t harm a fly. There’s no way he did this.
On the Police Coercing a Confession
The documentary seems to point in the direction that Brendan was in fact coerced into confessing to the police.
Brendan clearly wasn’t aware of what was going on. I believe if anything, it was a complete cop out for the police investigators to do what he did. He was misrepresented and was not given a fair crack at defending himself. He honestly should have never said anything unless his mother or lawyer were present, but he was clearly tricked into saying things that I believe to be untrue. There’s no way his story completely adds up to the things he says they did. From reading statements exactly from him, you can tell something is a bit, “off” with his mentality. The police got to his head and I believe he made things up because he thought he was going to go back to school that day. Which clearly didn’t happen.
How the Case Affects His Music/Career
What role did the whole course of this trial and imprisonment have in your music, if any?
The case came out, was big news, then was open and shut real fast in their faces with continued denied appeals over the years. Nothing really big has happened up until now.
Have you thought about how this documentary and a potential new trial for your half-brother and his uncle would affect your career?
I thought about it, but I see mostly the entire world is on our side now, so I’m not afraid to come out of the shadows any longer. I’m not afraid. I believe Brendan if anything, should either be freed, or gain a new trial. The only thing they got on him was a bum confession. No REAL DNA evidence of anything.
Anything else you want to say about your music or the case that I didn’t ask about?
Yes. If people want to reach out to me, please make sure you see the documentary first. If you are going to be rude and cocky to me, I am a real honest human being and will answer the best I can, but I deserve respect just as well as the next person. People who have not seen the documentary are still holding strong to their guilt and believe they both did it and deserve to rot in hell. I can’t speak for Steven, but if you knew my half brother, you would change your answer in a heartbeat. He’s a kind and gentle person. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. I believe it’s not fair to judge someone you really don’t know.
A big thanks to Brad Dassey for taking the time to talk to us. Definitely give his music a listen. We certainly wish him and his family the best.