I've been a fan of Dave Meniketti and Y&T
for over 20 years. Their heavy, ass-kicking, yet
melodic style of music epitomizes what this web
site is all about. And while Y&T is no more
(as a recording band), Dave Meniketti is carrying
on — proudly carrying the heavy guitar torch
— whether he realizes it or not.
Dave is a man who's very sure of himself and what he's doing musically. He's clearly very passionate about his new music and his new band (Myron Dove - Bass, Chris Miller - Drums, Tony Stead - Keyboard). He gets quite animated when he's talking about both. Dave's new solo album, Meniketti is one of this years best Dinosaur Rock Guitar albums. Fans who buy it will undoubtedly notice that Dave sounds better than ever. You can get Dave's new CD directly for $15 from the merchandise section of his website: www.meniketti.com.
Yet, as talented and as confident as Dave is, he's also refreshingly down-to-earth, humble, and a pleasure to talk to. He patiently answered all my questions, even though the interview turned into quite a long conversation. I found Dave to be a very good-humored, friendly man. He joked and laughed easily, and I've tried to indicate that in this transcription in hopes that some of his personality comes across. Get comfortable. This is a long one, but a good one!
Interview conducted by Dinosaur David B. 8/28/02
DRG: When I saw you play live a few weeks ago, and when I listen to your new album, one of the impressions I'm struck with is: Here is a man who knows exactly what he's about. You know what you do best, and you deliver it. You've never put your fans through a grunge period or a hip-hop period . . .
Dave: (laughs) Definitely not.
DRG: You made a blues album, but it “rocked” hard. You've kept your rock edge about you for over 20 years.
Dave: Generally speaking, I've been pretty stubborn, I guess, with the way I've wanted to do things. I have been asked to go in different directions and do other things that just didn't feel good to me, and I just turn (those things) down. When it comes to my musical career, I just like to do the stuff that really turns me on — which is basically the stuff I've been doing all along. It's real simple for me. I just go with my gut. And I don't do it just for a monetary thing. I go with what feels good to me, rather than becoming a sideman for somebody else, or going in another direction to go along with the latest trend.
DRG: So you're doing it on your own terms — which is great, but I assume there are some consequences associated with doing it that way.
Dave: Absolutely. I know that in the past I've been asked to step out and play with other bands and do some other things where I probably could have made some decent money. I guess I've just taken this turn because my career to me — especially at this time is about what's credible to me — what feels really right. If it was just a money thing, I'd just go do another kind of gig somewhere else and forget about the music thing. Because that just ruins it for me — if I gotta do music that isn't right for me or follow a path where it feels like just a sideline. So there definitely are consequences. One of them is that I'm playing what I enjoy playing right now, and that doesn't necessarily translated to what fifteen year-olds are gonna buy. I can't do anything about that. And I'm not going to! I'm just gonna play what I like because that's the whole thing about music or art of any sort — you like certain people for what they bring to the table. Now if everyone brought the same style of art to the table, you'd be screwed. That's not what its all about. It's about enjoying how each individual brings their own flavor to it. And again, this is what my thing is, and I'm not gonna change it for any reason other than (when) I don't enjoy doing it (anymore).
DRG: Do you ever feel any internal creative need to try something slightly different? You know how like a guy like Jeff Beck constantly changes the stylistic backdrop, yet he never loses the essence of himself or his style.
Dave: Yeah, exactly. Well to some degree I did that with the blues thing. (Dave's 1998's CD, On the Blue Side) And you know, I love all kinds of music. I'm not a stick in the mud when it comes to that. I like jazz, classical and R&B and all that. And while I like to listen to all of that, I've never considered doing it as a performer. Although I have written some fusion stuff that I really dig, actually, but I've never released it or thought of doing so at this point. But I might very well go down another path and try some different things just for the musical journey and adventure of mixing things up a bit. But certainly not to just follow the "flavor of the day." It's more about getting into some different things and avenues that really turn me on, that I haven't put any effort toward before. I've written and played some stuff in the last couple of years alone, that is decidedly different from what I've just released. And at the same time, I think they're great. But it's meant for another type of project altogether.
DRG: You have a really loyal fanbase, and your market isn't the fifteen year-old kids, so I think that if what you do isn't totally out-of-character, it would probably be received pretty well.
Dave: Oh yeah. I agree. And I think that (fusion idea) is just sitting there waiting for me to approach it and see if I can finalize a whole record's worth of material. It would be interesting for just me doing something different, number one, and also I think a decent number of the fans would probably appreciate it. It wouldn't be such and incredible swing from the style they're used to hearing me play. From my standpoint, my stuff is very emotional and passion-based stuff — and with that, and given the way I approach the music, I think there's a lot of different things I could do to still get that feeling across. And yet it doesn't have to be a totally 80s or 90s rock and roll kind of style. But it can still have the vibe that were talking about.
DRG: And by the way, I'm the last person in the world who would want you to change from a kick-ass rock style!
Dave: (laughs) Right! Well I'm not planning on it! But I do plan on looking at some different possibilities like maybe doing a one-off record. I do enjoy some of the Jeff Beck stuff that he does, and I see where I very well could have done a lot of similar types of things. Like I said, I've written and recorded some fusion songs by myself in my own studio. I listened back to them (later) with fresh ears and thought: man! this is pretty cool stuff! (laughs) And I think it would be valid for a lot of people.
DRG: Your talking about instrumental music, right?
Dave: Generally instrumental, yeah.
DRG: Well that would be sort of a departure too. You've done the odd instrumental before, but where you've always sang and fronted the band, you have a luxury that a lot your player contemporaries don't have because they don't sing. Many of them are off doing instrumental albums now.
Dave: I never really thought about that, but yeah, you're right. That's sort of a limiting factor. They have to bring somebody else in to the picture (if they want to do traditional rock). I kind of have the full package from that standpoint (laughs). But yeah, (the fusion stuff) is definitely something I would approach at some point. And right now might be a good time to do it while I have a couple of months off before I start playing and so on. But I don't know. There's so many things I've been thinking about, including writing songs for the next record.
DRG: You're based in the San Francisco bay area, and you don't really tour much out side of it anymore, do you?
Dave: Well, no. Typically we haven't, and when I say "we" I mean anytime that Y&T has gotten together to play some shows, we've always just done local stuff. My band — different story. Actually yes, that's true (about where we've played) up until now. But that's not my focus from this point, for this record. With this record, I'm pushing quite heavily to get out of the bay area and do some serious touring.
DRG: Your still at a point in your life where you want to do that?
Dave: I absolutely am. I mean there were a couple of years there where — no question about it — I was tired of it. And when Y&T stopped playing in 91, it was a welcome break to some degree. You know, I had been out there for seventeen years, constantly touring. I wanted a break. And I got my break! (laughs) And I've had ten years to basically sit around and not tour much. But the thing is the excitement factor of what's driving you to want to go out a do that. And for me it's this new record and this band I've been playing with. And it's very exciting when I go out and play live with these guys. I feel like I'm wasting away if I'm not able to go out there and play for a lot of people, and give them the experience this band can give them. So, I'm very much into touring right now. And all I've been doing is talking to management on the phone about getting some dates happening — let's get the agencies together and put me on a package. I don't care whether it's clubs or whatever. I just gotta go out and hammer it again.
DRG: Is that also something you can do on your own terms? The good thing about recording these days is that people can make their own CDs without a lot of outside involvement or fuss. But touring could be a real drag under the wrong circumstances.
Dave: Exactly. And it very well could happen that way. You just hope that the actual shows themselves make up for that. And now it's probably not going to be like the old days — touring with two tour busses, a full crew and all that. Now it might be in a van, hauling your gear behind you. (laughs) But it really doesn't matter to me because it's not a prestige thing that I'm concerned with. My biggest concern is just having the dates and the places to play in. So that all the people who've been wanting to come and see me play (can do so). And I've been wanting to bring the music to them, so that's the most important focus to me.
DRG: Well it's clear there's a lot of people around who still want to see you. I was in the front row of the San Jose show, and that was the first time the material from the new album was performed live, right?
Dave: Yes, it was.
DRG: And as well as the new material went over — and it went over very well — when you pulled out the old Y&T classics, the crowd went bonkers! That must make you feel pretty good.
Dave: Oh yeah. I'm proud of where I've come from and proud of the fact that we still have fans. There were a lot of bands that started in the 80s that opened up for Y&T and years later headlined over us because they made it very quickly. But they also went down very quickly. And the one great thing about the heritage of Y&T is that we always had a great fanbase. And they just stuck (with us) though the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and now into the year 2000. It's pretty amazing, actually.
DRG: Well the albums still stand up on their own merits.
Dave: I agree. There was a certain thing that was happening with the four of us when we were playing. I don't know. People say that you can tell when a band has integrity or not. I suppose that's one thing I can point to and maybe say why it still stands up. I don't know. Maybe that, maybe it's the songs, the attitude — I don't know what it is, but whatever it is, I'm grateful that there are still these people out there that support us all the time. And in the bay area, it's been great — nonstop.
DRG: I think it's the quality of the music and the songs. That's what stands up. Trends and image can come and go. We've all seen that. But a good song is a good song and continues to be a good song.
Dave: Right, I agree.
DRG: Since were on the subject, what exactly is the current state of Y&T?
Dave: Y&T is a band that at this point, isn't going to be doing anything other than playing occasional shows. The fans love it, and we love it, so it's fun to do on an occasional basis. We hadn't played for almost four years until we played a bunch of dates back in November. We're gonna do the same thing again this November and par of December. So at this point, we'll have done it two years in a row — for something like three to six weeks worth of dates. Now the dates coming up this year, we're gonna get outside the bay area and do a Southern California swing, and possibly a swing of five dates or so on the East coast. This is yet to be determined, but that would be December.
DRG: Well that would be great to see. I know there's an East coast contingent on your web forum trying to get you to play back East.
Dave: Oh, yeah, and I know that everybody would really appreciate it. We just have to see if it's a sound business plan from the standpoint of how the dates come in. But Y&T doesn't have any plans to get together and write a new record or anything like that. It's just more or less a nostalgia thing for all of us and the fans to get together and have fun.
DRG: Are the other members of Y&T doing any thing else these days?
Dave: Musically, me and Steff Burns — the other guitarist — are the guys that do stuff. Steff is a chameleon (laughs) — he's a guy who can play with anybody. And he's out there playing with Huey Lewis' band right now. And he also jumps over to Italy and plays with Vosco Rossi who's a rock star in Italy. So he does a lot. He's played with Alice Cooper and a whole number of people. He's always out there doing something. Phil (Kennemore) and Leonard (Haze) have different gigs that aren't involved with music. Although I have heard that on occasion, Leonard plays with sort of a cover band, though I don't know how involved he is in that.
DRG: What kinds of music are you listening to these days?
Dave: Not much. (laughs) I actually listen more to jazz stuff more than anything else. I think that's what gets my ear probably 80% of the time.
DRG: What kind of jazz are we talking about here?
Dave: All different styles of jazz, from sort of the more contemporary stuff to some of the more old-fashioned "out-there" stuff. I like some of the newer stuff like Larry Carlton, Rippingtons, stuff like that. It swings from that to more traditional guys like Stanley Turrentine. And the typical guys everyone says when the mention jazz: guys like Coltrane, Miles, things like that.
DRG: So not specifically guitarists.
Dave: No, it's not a guitarist thing. It's just a musical thing for me. I dig the free expression of the jazz stuff that was going on. Especially in the 70s and the 50s. There was a lot of soulfulness and character in that stuff that is missing in a lot of pop music. I'm a fan of melody and a fan of expression and there's a lot going on in all different styles of music, but specifically, I like the jazz stuff. And R&B stuff too. Not the new R&B, though (laughs).
DRG: I can sometimes hear the R&B influence in your music. Would you say that any of the jazz you listen to comes out in your music?
Dave: You know what? I've seen it more in the solo project I've been doing because the guys I've been playing with have a background in many styles of music. And when we start jamming on certain songs, every once in a while the slightest tinge of something (jazz-like) comes out. But I really don't think I bring much of that to the table. I'm just more of a fan and a listener than a participant.
DRG: OK. Let's talk a little bit about recording. You produced the new CD yourself. You recorded it in your own home studio, and the liner notes say: "using 16 track analog."
Dave: That's what we started with. Then we dumped the whole thing to digital audio on computer using this program called Nuendo.
DRG: Was that part of your normal process, or did you do that to get some more free tracks?
Dave: No, I'm an old-fashioned geek (laughs) When it comes to the recording gear, I like to get in there and tweak, and have fun. That's part of the vibe of having your own home studio nowadays. You can get in there and go crazy, lust after all the new gear that's out there, the vintage gear you wish you could get. I always wanted to get a two inch 16 track machine in my studio — or 24 track — it didn't really matter, but I was specifically thinking 16 track because the head gap is wider and you just get a fatter, bigger, wider sound traditionally on two inch tape and 16 track. I just love the way drums come back on that. When you put a mic in front of your drums and you slam it on two inch 16 track or two inch 24, there's a different character to the sound no matter what you're doing. And I just like that. And I like the way it works for voice and guitar too. But as it turned out we just ended up putting the basic tracks on the 16 and dumping them all over to the digital audio workstation. Then I did everything else from there.
DRG: So if you had 16 tracks, how many went just for drums?
Dave: We put ten mics on the drums. A couple of room mics, a couple of overheads and room mics and just blended a few of them together.
So realistically, ten (tracks) for the drums, one for the bass, two rhythm guitar tracks, stereo keyboards, a vocal and a couple of background vocal tracks depending on the song. And that's about it. Not very fancy.
DRG: Uh, that adds up to more than 16!
Dave: Some tracks were right at around 15 and some other were as much as maybe 24 depending on how many background vocal tracks I split things up in to, or if I did a clean guitar thing and then a dirty thing — whatever. It just all depended. On one song in particular, we had a B3 organ, and then a stereo synth doing a string thing, so then there's five tracks right there, because we always put 3 mics on the B3 — one on the bass, stereo up top. We could do it all on 16 and probably get by, but we'd end up having to bounce around a couple of times.
DRG: How did you guys lay the tracks down? Did you do scratch guitar parts?
Dave: Yeah. My experience with doing tracks in the studio is that you try to get it as close as possible as to when you were rehearsing the stuff, or when you're playing it live. So that everyone feels the energy going into the track. Otherwise you get a basic track that's laying there nice and strict and happening, but it just doesn't have the feel to it. I do everything we can do to get that across from the very beginning. We put the drums down there in the room by themselves. The bass went in direct. I went in through a POD and dialed up a decent tone with that and the key's went in either miced or direct depending on what was being used, and then we put up a vocal mic, and I just sat there and sang it played it just like it was live. And we just put all the tracks down together. And in fact, until I did the overdubs, I was so used to hearing the basic tracks with the scratch guitar, scratch vocals and everything else — you know, I could have released it like that. It was all pretty darn good performances! There wasn't much bad — not many bad notes, and certainly not many out-of-tune singing performances or anything. In fact some of the singing performances were right on-the-money. But that was good — knowing that it was inspiring to go back and listen to the stuff we were using as scratch tracks. That's what lends to a good song in the long run. You can only get better. And if you don't — if you don't beat your scratch track, hey, leave the scratch track. No matter how you recorded it. And sure I used a (Shure) Beta 57 to record my scratch vocal, and yeah, maybe it wasn't the best mic in the world, but it sounded pretty darn good! In fact my voice sounds really good with a 57, so it's not something I would have worried about.
DRG: So were you guys all rehearsed and ready to go when you began?
Dave: Yes and no. We had spent the time to rehears about 75% of the material, and when I say we spent time to rehearse, I mean we went through it like three times (laughs). It was really difficult to get the guys together in the same room because everyone is so damn busy doing different things. But you know, I like that, because in the past, sometimes I've been too rehearsed. And we'd pre-produce the crap out of it, and take the life right out of the track. And I kind of wanted to leave it loose. And so the plan was: Here, here's a CD of all of us recording with one mic up in the room so we can hear how the band sounded. Learn the basic tune. Let's get together, rehearse it one time, and then roll tape. Here we go! And that's what we did. So some of the stuff is amazingly unrehearsed. In fact, there's probably three songs on there that the first time we ever played the song down, we just took that first take and left it.
Dave: Yeah, and I just told the guys: you've heard this idea before. You've heard me play it in the studio when we were rehearsing it one time. Remember this? Here's the verse, here's the bridge. I wanna do it this many times, I wanna do a solo section until it feels like it's right, and then we'll go to the chorus out, or whatever, and just jam it out. I just gave them a basic structure. They know the basic idea — let's go. And let's just see. I always roll tape, 'cause you never know if the rehearsal might be the one. And it did turn out that way for a couple of songs.
DRG: Well that's happy when that happens!
Dave: (laughs) Exactly. Well, you know what, these guys are so good, that you almost don't need to rehearse too much with them. I find if you think too much about it, you can lose some of that passionate vibe.
DRG: But you must not have even known exactly what they were gonna be playing?
Dave: No, I didn't. I just trusted that they were gonna play something good! And if they didn't, we just said: hey, that was really good except, man, that was a lame riff right there. Let's do it again but just don't do that. (laughs) But there wasn't a lot of that going on. It's very cool. I've really gotten into this whole thing again of getting back to the basic principles of jamming. It's something everyone did when they first started out.
DRG: Jamming is a like a lost art.
Dave: It is totally a lost art. And I've been guilty as sin of being one of those lost guys for a while. And it was just by virtue of playing in a band — here's the songs on the radio, here's the songs on the record, this is what everyone expects when we play live — were gonna play it just like that. That gets to be less inspirational after a while. We always get up for playing no matter what, because the crowd is into it.
DRG: But there's just something about finding a groove and taking it for a ride.
Dave: Oh, exactly! That's the cool thing about the solo band. Every night that we've played, since getting together — every night is a different performance, because we don't know how long we're gonna go on every song. If for example the intro is really kicking ass for some reason, we'll just keep doing the intro a couple more times around until we feel like we got out of it what we want. Then we'll go on to the next part. And the guys are so good a following each other that there's very few trainwrecks.
DRG: Aside from the basics of your mixers, monitors, recorders and mics, what are the indispensable things in your studio? What things do you really like to use?
Dave: I guess it's the two preamplifiers I've got. They really help out a lot in getting the sound I want out of my voice and my guitar — whether it's going through analog or digital. Really, it's a straight-ahead setup. I just plug straight into the guitar and just shove a 57 beta in front of the 4x12 cabinets. Run it through a tube mic preamplifier , and there you go. That's it. (i.e. the signal goes from the mic to the preamp, then into the recorder)
DRG: What does the preamp give you that you don't get if you don't have it there.
Dave: There's a texture to certain preamplifiers. You just have to find out which one sounds best with the amplifier you're using, the room you're using. It's a chain of events where you make experiments based on, you know — I've got six or seven preamplifiers in my studio — let me just try them all — with the same microphone and the same amplifier. And now let's switch something. Let's try a different preamp or a different microphone — whatever. And I kind of went around the block for a couple of months and usually came back to the same setup I've been using for years, which is: stick a 57 in front of a 12 inch speaker, turn it on, and here we go (laughs).
DRG: So what kind of preamp is that that you're talking about.
Dave: The mic preamplifier that I like the best is a thing called a "DW Fearn" (http://www.dwfearn.com/) — and the guy just happens to make his stuff in Boston — how 'bout that! (Editor's note: Dave knows I'm in the Boston area). He's a Massachusetts guy named Doug Fearn, and he's a guy with a long white beard, and he just makes this incredibly good tube preamplification that just sounds so natural whether you're going to digital or analog. It makes the sound of the voice just where I expect it to be. And if you put the microphone in front of he guitar amp, it just does the right thing.
DRG: So for getting your guitar sound, you've been using that approach for years and you just stick with it?
Dave: Absolutely. I mean, I buy new gear and I try it out and see if improves it along the way. Even if it's something as basic as the mic cable I use — does that actually make the sound warmer, better, brighter, whatever. But it's just pretty basic from the standpoint of how I approach my guitar sound. Obviously, the first place to get it is to stand in front of it. Get the sound at the source first. Then it's a lot easier when you stick a mic in front of it. Then, chances are, you don't have to mess with it much. It's just a a matter of placing the mic right — whether you point it straight at the middle of the cone, or you slightly move it off of the cone a little bit to make it a little warmer sounding. And that's kind of where I am — what's been happening. And also what kind of speakers that you use — I have (Celestion) Vintage 30s and then I have these old Greenback 25s. I've found that the Vintage 30s get about 80% of the sound I want to get most of the time. So I kind of end up using those.
DRG: And you don't mess with any room mics or ambient mics for the guitar sound?
Dave: Well, I've done that before, and in most instances, I find that I just like the (close mic) sound. So I don't do it that often. Every once in a while I do. Every once in a while I'll multiple mic a cabinet and put two different kinds of mics on the same cabinet and blend the sound together. Or I'll use a close mic and a room mic and blend the sound together — or put them on separate tracks, so I can have that option later. I've done that on occasion. But in general, I just keep it simple and use one mic.
DRG: Do you typically record both left and right side rhythm tracks?
Dave: Not always. What I do is take an assessment of the song after I put my main guitar track down and say: OK, is this the kind of thing where the rhythm track has the kind of personality more than just playing the chords? And if it does, then it's gonna ruin it if I put a second track on there. You know — (if) it's gonna take away the personality of the playing on that track — just to get this fatter kind of thing — well, I'll just make it sound fatter in the mix. But there are some patterns and song where you just want to add more foundation to the song or a part, so maybe I'll double track a rhythm on those sections. I don't generally just wholesale go out and double track rhythms on everything. I find that to be very sterile-sounding after a while.
DRG: So when you do just one track like you're saying, where do you usually pan it?
Dave: Depending on which side I'm gonna be at, I generally pan it — the 10 - 2 kind of thing. 10 o'clock panning and then maybe do a delay on the other side — at 2 o'clock, or maybe even as far as 4 o'clock — or something like that. Just to give it a little more of that sweep on the sound and a stereophonic sound. You know — like a fast delay — where it's not too obvious — maybe like 15 or 18 milliseconds — something like that. And then every once in a while, we'll do another thing where I'll do like a 250 millisecond delay or something. It just depends on what song you're playing — whether or not you can get away with long delays.
DRG: Do you generally derive that from the tempo?
Dave: Yeah, you do it off the tempo, but for me — it's like I say — take it one song at a time and say: what does this song feel like? What does the guitar want to say on it? Does it feel like one of those songs where you want to put all this extra stuff on it — or leave it alone?
DRG: So you're recording the guitar dry and adding the effects afterward?
Dave: Exactly. Yeah, that's just good sense for me, because if I commit to a sound in advance, once I put the rest of the stuff over it — the vocals — I may not like that sound anymore. So I'd rather just have everything dry.
DRG: Do you typically put the effect on an adjacent fader and ride it?
Dave: Uh, yeah. Just send it from the console to whatever effect, and it's coming up on separate faders on the board.
DRG: You mentioned the POD already, and you said you used it for scratch tracks. Did you use it for anything else?
Dave: That's it. (just the scratch tracks) Yeah, I personally like the POD — it's a great tool for songwriting. And for doing exactly what we were talking about — putting the basic tracks down. Having something that gives you enough inspiration by the sound of it.
DRG: And it's not bleeding into your live drum tracks!
Dave: No. And I don't end up using them for the final tracks because I've never found a POD sound that sounds as good as the crappiest sound I've got with a mic in front of a real amp and a real speaker cabinet! (laughs) There's just something too organic about that that I would never want to pass up.
DRG: Me too! But I know a lot of guys are using them out of necessity because the live and record in places where they can't blast an amp. But in doing it that way, I think you lose whatever individuality a real rig can bring to the table. Guys spend all this time finding a guitar and amp that give them a great tone, and then they don't record with it — and in fairness — sometimes they can't. But the flip side is that everyone can end up sounding like the same POD user.
Dave: Funny how that happens! (laughs) That's absolutely true. They've pre-dialed in your sounds for you.
DRG: It's like the Microsoft approach to guitar sound: why would you possibly want to use anything else?
Dave: (laughs) Yeah exactly. We don't wanna do that, do we? But I think some guys just (use the POD) because they get frustrated. They just look at the whole process of recording and just go: hey, (the POD) sounds good. We used it on our demos and it sounded great! Let's just use it for recording. But it's like: noooooo! Take the time. Get it good. Cause there's just no comparison. I mean, even on my new album. I got used to the basic (POD) tracks from hearing them so many times before we put the real guitar on it. I was almost convincing myself: Hey, well you know what? This isn't that bad.
DRG: Till you turned on the amp . . . .
Dave: Yeah, I put my regular guitar on it and listened back and forth and it was like: (says emphatically) OH, MAN!
DRG: Oh yeah, that's right, that's why I do it this way!
Dave: Exactly. (laughs) Now I know why I'm doing what I'm doing!
DRG: Let's talk a little bit about the songwriting. When you're writing your songs, where does the initial spark of an idea come from? Is it a guitar riff, a drum groove — does it just come to you as you're walking down the street and you don't even have an instrument in your hands?
Dave: Guess what? It's everyone of those. (laughs) I have written some great songs from just being in the oddest positions! Literally. Whether I'm up hiking in the mountains and something just pops into my head — and I have to try and remember it and keep it in my mind until I get back to the car and stick it on my little hand-held recorder. Or it comes from a riff that comes into my head, and then I grab a guitar and it echos from there. Or it's from jamming — by myself or with a band. What I try to do — when I know it's time to get serious about songwriting, I hook up my POD or I hook up my rig in my studio, and have it miced up coming through my board into my recorder, and I have a little mic setup (for vocals) and a little reverb on it, and it's ready to go — it's on all the time 24/7, I just walk in there when I wanna start doing something. And I just jam. I let my hands go wherever they're gonna go, and maybe 50% of the songs I come up with, I come up with that way. Just jamming with myself.
DRG: Do you have a drum machine going at that time, or something like that?
Dave: Not always. If it's a beat-specific thing, I'll hear this really cool beat in my head, then maybe I'll try and transform that onto some program like Acid Pro. Or I'll just grab some cool 4/4 drum loop and get the right tempo for it or whatever. Maybe it's not 100% where I want it to be — maybe it's 80% — but I'll just leave it so that I can have something right now that I can jam to. I really don't have much patience when it comes to writing. If I've got this idea that's in my head right now, I don't wanna dick around with gear and stuff for five hours before I get to the point where I can start putting the ideas together. I gotta get to it right now while it's real fresh. So I'll just simulate the beat in my head and play a riff, or quickly pull up something in Acid and find the right tempo, and start playing along to it.
DRG: At what point do you start thinking about lyrics?
Dave: Sometimes right away, but a lot of times, it's sort of a last-ditch thing. Usually what ends up happening with me — whether I'm jamming with the band and we're just coming up with stuff right on-the-fly, or just with me doing it myself, I'm always singing along. Because a riff is a riff, but if you don't have a melody, a riff is just a riff. And melodies come to me just like riffs do. And I just start singing along, and maybe I'll start hearing this melody that I'm starting to sing and think: wow, you know what — I'm thinking of going to this next note — and that would mean I'd have to go to this chord, and so on and so forth. One follows the other. Generally speaking, whenever I do any of that stuff, when I finally get to a point where I've got something that sounds like a chorus, I start singing gibberish words over the top of it, but 75% - 80% I end up singing the chorus — with the right words. Right off the bat. And with no forethought! (laughs) Know what I mean? It' just comes out that way!
DRG: Magic happens here.
Dave: Yeah! Magic happens, and all of the sudden I'm singing this chorus and I'll say afterwards: huh, that's cool. Or: what the hell is that gonna be about?! (laughs) What is that supposed to mean? And then maybe I will change it. Or I'll just figure out what it's gonna be about.
DRG: So you just trust it and go with it?
Dave: Yeah. That's what I do. I love coming up with the songs while the band is jamming. That's a really cool way of doing it. And we did that on maybe three or four songs on the record — where we were just tuning up and just rehearsing for a gig coming up, and the drummer will start a beat or I'll start playing a riff, and bass player gets his rig ready to go and starts joining in. And stuff happens out of nowhere.
DRG: Which songs on the new album came together like that?
Dave: Well, I'll tell you which ones. Hard as I Try . . . was one of those songs where we were just messing around, and me and the bass player and drummer were just screwing around for a second, and I started singing almost a I-IV-V kind of pattern, that the bass was laying down. And then I started playing some chords, and I started singing, and the way (bassist) Myron (Dove) — Myron is so intuitive — he hears this vocal melody that I'm starting to sing, and he can guess what my next vocal melody is gonna be, and he follows it with a chord that he thinks might be hip. Or vice versa, and I'll do that and he'll follow me, or whatever.
DRG: But Hard as I Try didn't end up a straight I-IV-V progression.
Dave: No, it wasn't at all.
DRG: And that's why it's interesting.
Dave: Well yeah. I think the first time through it was sort of starting out I-IV-V, and then as soon as I started singing, we all started playing a non- I-IV-V riff. A different pattern altogether. But if I played you back the jam of the first time that we played that, you would recognize it. And luckily, I had gone in ahead of time and made sure there was a mic recording the performance. And some six months later — I hadn't even seen the guys, and they come back together — and I say: hey man, check this out. Remember that time we were jamming? Well, I just wrote two songs from it! (laughs). And one of the other ones was I Remember. I didn't even have my guitar on yet, and Myron started playing (Dave hums the riff). And I'm like: Oh, that's cool. And I was hoping he wouldn't stop before I could get my guitar going. And I finally got my guitar going and started following him, and then I played this line (Dave hums the vocal melody) — the one in the beginning of the song and the drums came in. And I just expanded on it a couple of months later and came up with a verse, the lead section and all the other stuff. That and one other one in particular, that came out that way, and that was Lay Me Down. That was totally a jam, and it started by the bass came in with this part, and then I came up with a chord pattern over the top. Then the keys started doing the same line, and it was like: Wow, that is cool! We have to put that down real quick. Let's play it through one more time and I'll start recording. So yeah, there were a few tunes that happened like that. Now one of the ballad songs — the acoustic one (Tell Me Why I should Wait) — I wrote that while I was in the can! (laughs) That was the very last thing I wrote for the record. And it wasn't even gonna be on the record because it wasn't a song. We were just finishing up the bass overdubs on the last tune, and I wasn't even thinking about anything. We took a break for dinner, and I was engineering the bass overdub part and Myron took off for dinner. I went in the house, went in the can and all of the sudden, this idea came to me and I said: holy shit! I better go in there right now, open up a track and put this down, and I wrote the song in literally seven or eight minutes. Not all lyrically — but I had the chorus, the chorus vocal line and the lyrics for it, and all the chords and melodies for the verse and chorus. The whole thing was done. Myron came back from dinner and I said: dude, while you were away, I wrote this song, check it out! (laughs)
DRG: That's fascinating. Did you know immediately that it was going to be an acoustic?
Dave: No, I didn't. I was playing it on electric, just nice and clean with a little chorus on it, just to get it down. And that was one of those songs — we'd never played it yet. I just played the idea for the guys and they heard the melody and they knew what it was all about. And that was a first take — the first time we'd ever played the song. It was so cool because the only thing we did before recording it was to say: hey, what if I just play the verse and chorus one time though by myself before the band comes in. Let's try it that way and just see if works the first time we did it. And man, it was so dynamic in that room, when just the three of us were playing that. Then I added the acoustic guitar — just sitting in front of the console with a mic up singing it an playing it, and the band came right in on that beat the second time around, it was just magical.
DRG: I find it amazing that all of this stuff is happening so smoothly when you haven't really spent a ton of time playing with these guys. Usually that's a kind of musical rapport that builds up over time.
Dave: Yeah, I know. Isn't that weird? I think it's just the nature — certainly with Myron — he's such a professional player — he just intuitively knows where I'm going, and vice versa. We just follow each other so well. And he's just so good at what he does, that he just doesn't make many mistakes. He just makes the right kind of maneuvers. And the same with the drummer (Chris Miller). He's just right there, and the thing I love about Chris — aside from the fact he can get a groove and hold it — is that he plays for the song.
DRG: I was very impressed with him, live, by the way. He looks very young — how old is he?
Dave: He's maybe in his mid 30s — maybe 38 or something.
DRG: He was extremely solid, but not boring.
Dave: He's a real good straight-ahead player. And it takes a whole team to make something happen like that. Cause if everyone is blowing chops all the time, it's hard to imagine a song having a real character to it. Unless that's the way your band is and everyone blows chops all the time. And there are bands that are like that, and they're great for that, but this (band) has that real solid base to it. And he brings that off.
DRG: How do you go about putting your guitar solos together these days?
Dave: Same as I've always done. Pretty much wing it. (laughs). I think there might have been once song when we were jamming it and I came up with a cool idea, and said: I gotta remember that for the record. Most of the time, I get to the solo and I play whatever. And then work on it.
DRG: So you would play something, then expand on the ideas that you liked?
Dave: Sure. Sometimes I'll go over a solo thirty or forty times because I have no clue what I want to play. And it doesn't hit me till maybe the fifteenth or sixteenth time around — that all of the sudden I came up with a cool idea, and thing: ahhhh, that's cool. Now I'm gonna take it from here.
DRG: So you're spontaneously composing your solos.
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. My whole life is spontaneity! (laughs)
DRG: I remember reading something about Jimmy Page going in to do his solos, and his approach was to play three spontaneous solos, and just pick the best one of the three. Other guys go in with a completely prepared solo.
Dave: I never do that. Well, almost never — 99% of the time — but I have done it on occasion. But it's pretty rare.
DRG: But I do hear things is your solos — melodic lines and themes — that don't sound like they're off-the-cuff. They sound worked out. And I guess — like you're saying — you hone them while your in there.
Dave: Right. Well a lot of that stuff, it's because it's the style I like to play. And so when it's like a bluesy song or a melodic tune, or something like that, or just a melodic setup for the solo — I just automatically go for a melodic style of guitar playing. It's just kind of a normal thing that I do. So then it ends up sounding like I preconceived the idea, because I end up doing it like I would do if I were singing it. I heard the melody in my head and follow it through on the guitar, and play it with as much intensity and passion as I can muster and hope that it gets across right.
DRG: Well it always seems like you mean everything you sing and play.
Dave: You should be in the studio when I record! I'm a nutcase (laughs). I am literally sweating the first second I start playing, I get so into it.
DRG: Well it comes across. A track like I Can't Take It from the new album is just very intense. You didn't play that one live so the first time I heard it was on the album, and I just went: Whoa! I mean, it's a killer tune, but you were singing your ass off, you were playing your ass off — it was all right there.
Dave: I think I'm gonna die young, man. (laughs) I'm straining all the time! I'm just so into what I'm doing. That's why when we first started talking, the whole thing about why I do what I do versus maybe something else or following the trends — If I'm not feeling (passion and intensity), it's kind of stupid for me to be doing it. Cause that's what I love doing, so I gotta follow that all the way.
DRG: You also don't seem to be someone who's afraid to do ballads.
Dave: Oh, God no.
DRG: You've got a few on the album, and they're all different. But I know some people go: oh no, power ballads, and they roll their eyes.
Dave: Yeah, I know. I understand that. But you know what? You just can't put everything into a lump sum. Well, power ballad. He's a rock guy, its got to be a power ballad. I don't know. Maybe it is a power ballad if you just want to put a label on it. But I just don't think in terms like that. I just think in terms of intensity, and something that really just turns me on. I love melody. I love passion. And those two things together mean I end up loving doing slow, melodic stuff. Because it's right up my alley. If you ask me what I like doing most, that's probably it. Where I can just feel the hair standing up on my arms when I'm getting into that kinds of song. And that's the whole thing I was hoping would come out in my musical career when I first started. That there would be these moments where you just lose yourself, either in live performance, the studio, or when you listen back to what you've done and you feel so good about it.
DRG: I think it particularly suits you well because of the way you sing, too. It's not just about the guitar on things some of those tracks, because you can put the same kind of intensity and passion in your vocals. It makes it a double threat.
Dave: Yeah, that's cause I'm Italian, man. (laughs) I just approach everything the same way. I so one-dimensional (more laughs). I don't know what else to say . . .
DRG: I think that's fine though, it's a focus. Like I said, you know exactly what it is you're about.
DRG: When you were a young man learning how to play guitar, do you remember what kinds of things you worked on? What kind of things came easy versus what didn't?
Dave: I think I went about my guitar playing with my eyes wide open. With nothing conceived. I wasn't one of the guys who sat down and learned a lick off a record. I played what I thought was the basic idea of what I thought was on the record. I just blindly came up with stuff that was more or less my interpretation of what I was into, listening to other guitar players — rather than learning it literally. I know I got a couple of things different like when you do the violin things — I got that from Duane Allman and Dickey Betts from the Allman Brothers. I remember seeing them and hearing them do that on things like In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. Loving that kind of stuff, and finally figuring out how they did it by watching them on stage and thinking: ahhh that's how they do it. Out side of that, it was more of a fan kind of thing. I was just so into the music and the artists, and then I'd pick up my guitar and just want to express something — because I was so turned on by the music I was listening to. And rather than just copying, I just sort of played. Even though I was playing quite poorly at first. I think it was just the whole idea of being into it. When you're young, when you first pick up a guitar — even if you're playing crap, man it was the best crap you ever played! (laughs) The fun of it for me was jamming with other people. Because it stretched you into trying other things. And you know, when your jamming the same thing over and over for ten minute jams, you wanna find something new to play. But I'm really just a self-taught kind of guy. I'm not one of those guy who will sit down and go over a part over and over and over again. I just kind of wing it. I really had no plan — when I started playing. I just kind of winged everything I ever did. I'm not a schooled guy. I didn't slow down the records till I got all the notes. I picked up styles from different people during the course of my early years. I loved the vibrato styles that some guys had like Leslie West.
DRG: Was something like vibrato something you would have consciously worked on?
Dave: (tries to remember) I think I probably would have consciously made sure that I was getting a real good vibrato at times. I can't honestly remember if I did, but I think that in the back of my head somewhere, I can remember thinking when I was doing my vibratos for something, if I really wanted to express something hard and heavy, on a vibrato, I made sure I really pumped it up! And then when I would, I would probably recon back to somebody that I knew who had really good vibrato. But I think that there's something about vibrato that — maybe similar to a singer's vibrato — where you're kind of stuck with what you've got. It's hard to manufacture a vibrato unless you try real hard to slow it down or speed it up. It's just a natural speed at where I go. But I've always loved those guys that had expression with the way they were able to really dig into the note. I remember we played this gig in the 70s with this guy . . . what was his name — the name of the band was Backstreet Crawler — and he was the guitarist in Free — Paul Kossoff!
DRG: Oh yeah, he had that really intense vibrato — he was shaking the whole neck!
Dave: He was the intense vibrato king! Yeah. Oh my god. I remember seeing that and me and Leonord Haze would be sitting out there watching him, and every time he'd hit that vibrato, he and I would just look at each other with big grins on our faces. He was the king of that. And Leslie West. He had great vibrato.
DRG: Yeah, I know a lot of guys have claimed to be influenced and inspired by West's vibrato.
Dave: And here I am a West coast guy, and I know Leslie's and East coast guy, and I never hear anyone talking about Leslie West. Whenever I read interviews with guitar players, so few guys talk about Leslie West.
DRG: He's just one of those guys that no one talks about much anymore. I saw him play in a club in the 80s and he was using one of those composite Steinberger guitars with the TransTrem, and he had the fattest, brownest, sound you ever heard. His tone just punches you right in the chest.
Dave: Yep. It's funny how that is. And I used to have guys tell me: Dave, I bought the same vintage Les Paul and the same vintage Marshall you're using, and I'm using the same cabinet, but it doesn't sound like you! And I said well, you know what man? That's what each individual brings to the table. They're own hands. Hands have something to do with it. And I don't mean that from an ego standpoint — just from a strict fact standpoint. I can pick up a guitar and it sounds more like me, and the next guy picks up my guitar and it sounds more like him. Tonality and everything. The way you hit the string — it's all part of your style. And it's what makes your style to a large degree. You're approach to how you play.
DRG: Well that's another good segue right into gear. Your 68 Les Paul — which I've been watching you play for many many years — I finally got to see it up close and in the daylight at the recent show, and it struck me: did that guitar begin its life as a Gold Top?
Dave: Yes it did. Yeah, I bought the guitar in 1972. And of course, it wasn't very old by that point. But the original guy who bought the guitar was a "tweaker." And he took it and had it refinished. And routed out the holes from the old dog-ear pickups. I don't think the guy told me at the time I bought it that it used to be a Gold Top. I found that out later when I took the pickup covers off, and then one of the guys who was working on it said, hey, this used to be a Gold Top. And I said: Really? (laughs) I didn't know that! Cool guitar, though. You know, I started looking for that vintage when I started looking for extra Les Pauls way back when. And man, guitars are so finicky.
DRG: Especially Les Pauls!
Dave: Yeah! It didn't matter if it was 60s, 50s, or 90s, you just gotta go through a shitload of them before you can find one that's halfway decent.
DRG: And no generality seems to apply. You can't say: all of them from the 70s suck — cause they don't — but a lot of them do. And you can't say: all of them from the 50s are wonderful — cause they're not.
Dave: Absolutely. In fact, I've picked up some of these incredibly expensive 50s Les Pauls and played them in the stores . . .
DRG: Sometimes they're real dogs!
Dave: Oh they're just fucking awful, man. Some of them, you know? And you just go: OK, I know it's worth a lot of money, but I'm not a guitar collector, so I wouldn't be interested in it if I don't think I'm gonna play it. I don't wanna spend all that money and have it sit in my room! I suppose if I were a collector I would, but if I'm not gonna play it live, I don't want it. And I was never was one of those guys who was a guitar whore. When I was on the road, I saw a lot of those guys. Every guitar company would come to every show, and they'd come with five or six different guitars and say: oh, would you try this? Would you use this? And I'd see these guys and they wouldn't even give a shit about it — they'd just take them. They'd probably get home and sell them and make some money. (laughs) And I was like: I don't even wanna waste my time. If I'm not gonna play it, I don't want it. I actually had a Gibson endorsement at one point in the 80s. And I had a hell of a time getting a good guitar from those guys. It was really disappointing.
DRG: I understand that that's a fairly common experience with them.
Dave: Last year, the local Guitar Center asked me if I would come down for a clinic from Gibson, and Gibson was making a big thing about the old Les Pauls. And they said who would better than to have me come in and talk about Les Pauls? So I went down there with nothing planned. Just showed up, and figured I'd just talk about it. And the Gibson rep was there, and I just kind of shined him on, man. Not in a mean way or anything, but just instead of being like: oh man, can I get a Gibson from you? I was more like, you know, I had an endorsement with you guys in the 80s, and the company acted like they couldn't have cared less about getting the artist anything worthwhile. It was like: what do we get, seconds or something? And I wasn't trying to be mean to the rep, because he was a new guy, and I know he had nothing to do with it personally. But at the same time, I let him know that I'd loved to be some way involved in getting another Gibson, but not under those same circumstances.
DRG: They do seem content to market their guitars primarily to the inexperienced player who buys based on pure name recognition, and a pretty finish.
Dave: Yeah. And I took him to task for it. I said look, I come into a store like this and look at the standard Les Paul, and it's $3500. What the hell is that all about?
DRG: And the fretwork is garbage . . .
Dave: Exactly! (emphatically)
DRG: And the piece of wood can be a dog, and I don't think they're using Brazilian rosewood anymore on the standard models.
Dave: Yeah, sometimes it feels like the neck is balsa wood! And there's a lot of people making good guitars who are not charging an arm and a leg.
DRG: So how does a new guitar become part of your collection? What slips through the radar and makes you say: yeah, I'll buy this one?
Dave: If it just feels like butter in my hands. That kind of a thing — like every guitar player. That thing where you just have to have it. Or if you just feel like you're falling stagnant with the guitars you have and you're really wanting some new blood. In my career in Y&T, I just never felt like I wanted anything else. I felt so good with the few guitars that I used, I didn't care for anything — I was never looking. I very rarely went in guitar stores, and if I did, I would pick up a guitar for fun while I was waiting for somebody else who was getting something at the store. But recently, I've been sort of re-energized by all these things that I've been doing that I started looking for a few new guitars. I'm kind of satisfied with what I've got, but I would like to find another Les Paul. I really would.
DRG: Yet you play Strats a lot now too. And as a big Y&T fan from way back, I still find it weird seeing you with a Strat.
Dave: Yeah, I know some people do.
DRG: I don't dislike it, by the way. And I saw you playing your blue Strat at the show, and that thing gets great tone. What can you tell me about that guitar?
Dave: I was in a guitar store near my house, and I saw that particular colored strat on the wall, and I thought it was beautiful. And I said: I've never seen that color before, and the guy who worked there said: no, it's a special Bonnie Raitt model, and they don't make many of them. It was signed on the pick guard and was like $1300. And I said, wow — OK, never mind (laughs). But I didn't pick it up or anything. It was just hanging on the wall. So I called my guy at the Fender Custom Shop and left a message that said: Do you have any of those bodies from the Bonnie Raitt model laying around? I just love the look of that blue — and if you do — give me a call back. And he did, and he said he found one. And I said: would you mind putting on the kind of neck that you know that I like, and this kind of electronics, and so on, and he said: yeah man, I'll do that. So I just blindly allowed this guy to make the choices based on what he knows I like, and he put together this great guitar for me. And I've been really happy with it.
DRG: So what do you like in a Strat?
Dave: Not too thin of a neck, not too chunky. Sort of middle of the road. Same with frets. I kind of like the middle of the road on all accounts. It's just a nice round neck that feels good in most every position. It doesn't thin out dramatically at one point or thicken up in another. It's just kind of the same all over. Electronics wise, I had just accidently come across an Eric Clapton model Strat — about a month before seeing the (Bonnie Raitt). And I didn't even know about the Eric Clapton model.
DRG: I saw you playing one of those too in the San Jose show. (A black Clapton Strat with a maple neck.)
Yeah. I saw that his name was on the headstock, but I just figured, you know, it's another one of a billion Strats with people's names on it. And it's probably not much different from the one sitting next to it. And I started playing though the usual combo amps in the store, and it was like: Holy shit! What's going on here? And I picked up a Les Paul from the rack, and it didn't have as much output as this Strat. So I'm thinking: What? Wait a minute. So I say: What's up with this guitar? And the store guy says: Well it's got this gain thing on the back volume nob.
DRG: So there's like a preamp in there?
Dave: Yeah, it's a preamp or something, and it was on, and I didn't even know it. But it was on full blast, so it was no wonder there was so much sustain! So I turned it all the way off to hear the guitar had anything on it's own, and it totally did. Because the middle nob is like a midrange boost. And at first I liked the midrange boost, but then I ended up turning it to half way — which sort of nullifies it. So I have those electronics in (the blue Strat), but I end up not using them most of the time. And I rarely turn on the preamp gain. Only if I really want that extra little effort somewhere. And I have the Gold Lace Sensors which I kind of like now. So what I have in the blue one is exactly like what I've got in the black one. But the difference between them is quite dramatic because the black one has the maple fingerboard — it's a brighter sound.
DRG: I don't think I've ever heard Lace Sensors sound as brown as what you were getting.
Dave: Yeah, I've heard people tell me that too. I'm a not real aficionado on this stuff. I just don't know that much about this stuff. I'm just an old-fashioned player. I just like what I play, and if I pick something up that sounds good, I just go with it. I don't even know why. Know what I mean? And somebody else will come up to me later and say: these Lace Sensors — even Fender is gonna stop making them because nobody likes them and they sound shitty. And I go: Really? I dig the sound I'm getting out of them. (laughs) Not to say I couldn't get a good sound with something else, but I just like the sound.
DRG: Well you were getting a fatter, heavier type of tone than you typically think of as a Fender sound. And that's what I had never really heard out of the Lace Sensors.
Dave: Yeah, well I think that's also messing with the amplifier. And that's why I went with that Boogie Rectifier. It's got a rounder sound for Strats. I could never play my Strats through my old Marshalls. The blue one will do a decent job actually — it's pretty mellow, but Jesus, man, the other one will tear your head off (in an unpleasant way).
DRG: Was that the main reason you switched to Mesas?
Dave: That is the main and only reason. Because I wanted to have a nice fat, chunky, sound with sustain, and be able to get a clean sound using Strats too. And I figured the Mesa was a good compromise for that.
DRG: Is that a Single Rectifier?
Dave: It's a Dual Rectifier Tremoverb. It's an older one. I bought another one after that — the newest version of the Dual Rectifier, and I didn't like it. And I'm thinking of getting rid of it. It's thinner sound. The older one has a fatter, rounder, warmer sound — both live and in the studio — I was just real obvious (that the older one sounded better).
DRG: Does it have EL34s?
Dave: Uh, 6L6s. EL34s are cool, but the 6L6s I like in the Rectifiers. They get a little bit more brighter, punchy kind of sound.
DRG: You're using both the Les Paul and the Strat pretty frequently in your live set. Does switching between the scale lengths cause you any trouble?
Dave: Nah. I play slightly differently on each guitar. Probably every player does. You kind of have to play differently when you pick up a Strat. It sort of makes you play differently somehow — the way the neck feels. I don't really think about it that much. I just pick up the guitar that I think is the right guitar for the song. Or it's the right guitar for the song — but I just busted a string and I have to pick up something else. (laughs)
DRG: And you're not using any trem on your Strats — which isn't too surprising for a guy who grew up playing a Paul.
Dave: No. I only use it in rare occasions, and then I use my Kramer Baretta.
DRG: When do you pick that guitar up?
Dave: Well I haven't been lately — for live — cause I've just been digging the other stuff I'm using. But in the studio, it kicks butt. Tonality-wise. It's got this brighter, midrangier, gritty thing happening that none of my other guitars have.
DRG: You used it a lot on On the Blue Side, right?
DRG: I'll tell you though, on that album, when you pulled out the old Paul and put it through the old Marshalls on the tracks like Take it Like a Man, I was like: YEAH, that's the old Dave Meniketti sound I know and love.
Dave: Exactly. It's hard to discount that sound. You can mess around with everything that's new out there, but if you just put a Marshall and Les Paul together, and it's like: ah, yeah. And why not? And I did end up using the Marshall occasionally with the Les Paul.
DRG: All I saw on your stage effects was a chorus pedal and a delay pedal.
Dave: Yeah. And it's the first time I've been using any effects. I never did it with Y&T. I just started doing it because I thought it'd be cool to have the sound on the stage that you like to hear. Cause usually my sound guy would put it on at the board and (because it went through the PA) I'd never hear it. So now I'll use it on occasion, but I don't like to get too crazy with foot pedals and start mucking up my sound.
DRG: And you're not running a stereo rig.
Dave: No. I'm so bad about stuff like that. Just give me a guitar amp, turn it on. As long as I get a good sound out of it, I don't care. (laughs) Most PA rigs are in mono anyway. Very few are in stereo. They're running everything straight up in the mix — rarely panning anything. If you do, half the crowd sometimes doesn't hear all the stuff. So at that point, you're only doing it for yourself on stage. And that would be cool — and maybe I'll get into that eventually. But even when I was running two tops and two bottoms with Y&T, it was just so that we could get the sound on both sides of the stage as a monitor rig for the guys on the other side of the stage. And I like that too. I like to hear the other guys on the stage. I don't want to feel like I'm all by myself over there.
DRG: Here's a few questions from our forum: The Monsters of Rock festival in 84 had one of the best rock guitar lineups to ever grace the same stage. On the bill were Y&T, Accept, Gary Moore, Van Halen, Ozzy with Jake E Lee, and AC/DC. What are your memories of that show.
Dave: That was a particularly frustrating show for me, actually. And the only reason was they had this thing in the UK at the time where people would be throwing beer bottles filled with piss at the stage — or with beer in them. And it wasn't a matter of we don't like you — it was just a tradition. They threw them at everybody.
DRG: What a lovely tradition.
Dave: Yeah, really nice tradition. And we came over on that record (In Rock We Trust) and people were giving us hell in the press. They had loved us before, but they didn't like this record. So we were bombarded for the first few days with all negative press — why the hell did you do this? This isn't as good as that. And so were like OK, that sucks. (laughs) And so we get on stage and we're playing for the fans, and the fans were great — and I get hit three times — either in the head or in the guitar with the bottles — and piss splashing all over my fucking guitar. And I guess all of us just felt like we were getting slapped in the face. And it wasn't even just that gig, it was just that time. So we didn't have a great time.
DRG: And the other acts had the same experience?
Dave: Oh yeah, they all did. But we had just done a really great headlining UK tour the year before and we had been the darlings. We were established, and we had our shit together. So this was just kind of disappointing for us. But from the standpoint of that show itself — Jesus, it was a great show for everybody. We played our asses off, we did well and the crowd dug it. But I can tell you, I've played with every one of those bands on the road, and most of those other gigs were so much better. Because those "all in one day" things are less than magical sometimes — but sometimes they are. The bill was so good, you just couldn't discount that thing. It was just a killer bill. The grandfather of the UK, Ozzy, was right there doing his thing, and AC/DC of course — there's not a person in UK or Europe who doesn't think those guys are the best — and I agree.
DRG: Why won't A&M release the old Y&T CDs domestically?
Dave: You know what, man? We need to go down there with a gun! (laughs) We need to get some East coast boys down there and say: Hey! You know what, man? I didn't even have them! I had to get them the last time I went to Japan! I started complaining to the record company guy. I said: I don't even have this, this, and this on CD, and sure enough, he got the clue and the next day he came back with them all. And I had to pay him for it! But we've been trying. I don't know how hard we've been trying — I keep mentioning it to management. Management says they're mentioning it to the label on and off. It's no longer A&M, it's Universal. And Universal recently came out with another Best Of, and we figured we could hit them up for a package. You know, like a triple package of Earthshaker, Meanstreak, Black Tiger. It's tough to get those guys to do anything. If I was wealthy, sitting on a ton of money, I'd buy back the rights back from those fuckers and re release them myself. But I just don't know what to do. We're just caught in the middle, I guess.
DRG: What album of yours would you recommend for a first-time listener?
Dave: That I would take on a one-to-one basis. Look at the person and say: what are you into? If you want the kicking ass, down home rock and roll thing that Y&T was all about, I'd say Black Tiger or Earthshaker. If you wanted some of that, and something a bit more sophisticated too, I'd say maybe Ten which was right in the middle of the peak of our playing and singing abilities. And there some of the things on there I really like a lot. But it's hard to say. Every one of them has a little something that I dig.
DRG: You've turned down some big gigs in the past — like Ozzy. What other artists would you like to play with — not giving up your own projects, but just out of interest.
Dave: Um. God. Who would that be? I can't think — my mind's gone blank (laughs). I guess the original Allman Brothers. That might be fun. Get out there and jam on Elizabeth Reed, Whipping Post and that kind of stuff. I don't know, man. I'm honestly not sure. I'll probably think of something a half an hour from now! (laughs)
DRG: Well that's all I had for you. I want to thank you for your time. This has been a real pleasure for me. And thank you for being so candid.
Dave: No problem. I'll tell you all the crap! (laughs)
We at Dinosaur Rock Guitar would like to thank Dave Meniketti for
taking the time to answer our questions.
Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved. Pictures courtesy of Stereo Steve S. and the Dave Meniketti Forum.