||DAVE MENIKETTI FROM Y AND T ON THE BAND'S 40th ANNIVERSARY
Roger Berzerk Fauske
MetalTalk's Roger Fauske recently interviewed Y&T lead singer Dave Meniketti and here it is in full...
RF: You are of course over in San Francisco.
DM: Yes, well the Bay area which encompasses quite a large area and it's a beautiful sunny day, well it looks like that out of my window.
RF: I should say Happy Birthday not to you but to the band because this is your 40th year.
DM: Yes it's quite a landmark isn't it.
RF: This might be a stupid question but going back 40 years could you envision this?
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DM: No not at all, you know the way we all thought about things was literally the next day or a couple of months in advance, that's the only forethought we had. There was never a thought of five years from now we would be doing this and 10 years it would have been almost impossible to think of for guys in their early twenties. I don't think anybody really thinks what they'll be doing 40 years later.
RF: If you had known at the time you would have called the band Yesterday Today and Tomorrow!
DM: I wouldn't have called it Yesterday and Today in the first place.
RF: That's what happens if you let the drummer name it.
DM: Damn drummers!
RF: On a more sombre note, I don't know if it makes it more pertinent but obviously a couple of years ago the world lost a great musician and you lost a very good friend in Phil Kenemore. Does it make it hit home harder as this is a big year in the life of Y&T?
DM: You know I've got my own feelings about Phil obviously and how I've dealt with his loss and it's a drag to me to know we hit our 40th anniversary without him being there, but to be honest with you only right now I did think of that because I take every day as it comes. That's kind of a drag when I think about it as Phil would have been over the moon. He would have been like let's do this and that. I can just hear his enthusiasm but things happen in life sometimes and you just have to move on from it and hope you're doing the right thing as you move forward. 40 years is a hell of a long time.
RF: Except for the grunge years you've been pretty much at the forefront since I first saw you in 1982.
DM: In our mind, yes. In the reality of where we stood in the music business who knows but it's always been a labour of love so whether or not you are on the top as far as the business is concerned it doesn't matter to us. We were about playing and doing what we were doing so from the beginning we were a success to ourselves, whether it was for five people or whatever you were playing for it didn't matter.
RF: You went a bit further than being legends in your own minds, trust me.
DM: We were certainly not legends in our own minds, not the way we were thinking. It was all about rock and roll and having fun and enjoying the time we had together whoever was in the band. It was always a good thing or we wouldn't have done it.
RF: I say that to people now, there seems to be too many people playing that don't seem to have fun.
DM: Yes there are so many different reasons to do anything in life I am a very simplistic man in that regard. It's just as simple as am I enjoying myself and am I doing what I want to do. Hopefully I'm answering yes or I should be doing something else and to be honest with you every time I ask those questions I know what the answer is - I only want to keep playing and keep playing these shows and creating music. If I'm not a musician as my main goal I found I'm a bit lost and I'm not sure exactly what else I would be doing.
RF: We don't want to go in the Spinal Tap direction about working in shoe shops.
DM: You're right.
RF: The reason we're talking is that you do a fairly extensive UK tour every autumn and this year it's even more extensive than normal.
DM: Is it?
RF: Yes it is - you always play a lot of places but it seems more on this one because of course it is the 40th anniversary so why not.
DM: That's my thought from the beginning. This is our 40th so we got to make sure we are doing everything we can do and we've got a lot of interesting things in the pipeline for this particular tour.
RF: Going back in time, you came from the bay area and around that time that was so much stuff happening not just rock but untold genres of music coming out of the bay area.
DM: The bay area has been very good to us and has been prolific. There are so many areas of the bay area – we're talking about a couple of hundred miles north to south and going east as well so there are different attitudes, different spaces and of course that's going to make for different styles of music. Coming out of the hippy era in the sixties and then the seventies and that whole scene with the grateful dead and all that stuff that was happening around the music business, San Francisco was probably one of the main areas where all the vibe was coming from so all that stuff helped.
RF: I seem to remember you mentioning once in another interview we did that the other good thing was you weren't stuck in the Hollywood and LA scene with the record companies breathing down your neck all the time.
DM: Exactly. We played in the Los Angeles area a lot then and we would see these other bands and all kinds of people from other bands were hanging at other people's rehearsals, it was like one big giant community all trying to get recognition from the record companies. In some ways it wasn't a good thing for coming up with your own style because everybody was so influenced by everybody else. I just felt I am glad that I'm not in LA and I'm not caught up in the entire craziness of the moment there.
We are living our own lifestyles unaware of what's going on there on a daily basis so our heads are in a different space we were in our own world so whatever we created came from a different space which was where we were at that time and it was not even close to the thousands of musicians struggling for recognition.
RF: Maybe the irony is that if they'd have done what they were going to do and been original they wouldn't have had to go through all that.
DM: Yes that could be true - some were taking advantage of the fact that they could kind of do almost cut and paste things from bands they were around.
For myself philosophically where I come from is that I always looked as music as a form of art, sport or whatever and you were creating something that is truly different and if you allow yourself to be your own person the chances are you will have something that's uniquely yours.
RF: Talking of the music side I think everybody knows what a damn good guitarist you are but with the singing as well which actually came first?
DM: It was all about guitar when I first started. I only became a singer because we needed somebody to sing some songs, so we all took a go and after the course of about a year we realised my voice was seemingly the better choice for most of the material we were coming up with. It was a strange thing for me when I look back as I was becoming a singer of the band and I was never really focusing myself as singer, you know in my brain – I was just a guitar player that happened to sing and after five albums and many tours the realisation came a little bit later than you would think it would have and literally after the 'Meanstreak' record the whole thing came down to me that maybe we should get ourselves a singer and I thought OK you know what, I'll tell you what, let me have another go at it, get serious about it and if it doesn't work out you guys can have your way and we will go that way.
Literally the difference between 'Meanstreak' and that point on is that I changed my vibe as to what I was. I was trying to be my best at both and I think my voice was growing up as well as I went along. I'm not sure how it all came together but I did become a much better singer and then there was no going back - everybody realized yes you've come up to the task.
RF: I always thought you had a very interesting timbre to your voice but don't take my opinion for it. There is a quote from a certain Ronnie James Dio where he said "Meniketti is one of the most underrated singers on the face of the earth" and it doesn't come from a better recommendation than him.
DM: It was obviously a very sweet thing for him to say and I'm very proud that somebody such as himself would even say something like that. I knew he enjoyed my voice because when I introduced our newest drummer Mike at a Heaven And Hell gig and I hadn't seen Ronnie in some years. Ronnie had grabbed me as he saw me walking past backstage, put his arm round me and in front of the guys and just said something that was amazingly complementary. To have the seal of approval of one of my favourite singers of all time and the fact he felt he wanted to do that himself was amazing.
RF: Normally when people grab me they don't say such a nice things!
DM: That would probably go true for most of my life too. It was a sweet thing and years later he said some things on radio shows and I just thought this is so nice this comes without asking anybody to do that. It's gratifying to hear other people from my work, my peers, over the years come up to me and say similar things. It's gratifying and I very much am proud of what I've done with my voice and I do my very best to keep it in the best shape I can.
RF: You haven't done badly put it that way. The other thing I should mention, I mean you've done so many albums but there hasn't been a studio album for a fair time, the last one was 2010's 'Facemelter'.
DM: Believe me everybody is talking about it on a weekly basis - when are we going to do the next one. The thing is I've always been that kind of writer where I have to set some time aside and know this is when I'm going to go for it so I can put everything else out of my mind and not have a million different things I have to do. That's my sort of way of doing things and it's always been the way with the band and seeing as I am the last original member I have to go down to my experiences so realistically next year we going to spend the time whenever that is and get serious about writing for the next record. It hasn't happened yet.
I've had some ideas at home and have put some things down but nothing serious has transpired from any of that yet, much to the chagrin of some fans who would like us to put a record out every year but this is not the eighties anymore. With our touring schedule that makes it very difficult as well.
RF: For the ones that do want you to do an album every year, they would have to sacrifice seeing you a few times each year.
DM: Yes indeed and what we love about our latest endeavour in the last decade has been the amount of shows and the amount of places we're physically going to. This is what we've always wanted to do all along and in the nineties when everybody got punished for being a musician outside of the nineties that's what we wanted to do, but unfortunately were not able to, but now we want to get to even more places than we do - we've never been to Australia strangely - and we'd love to play for as many people as we can everywhere.
We love the fact there are so many people that tell us how come you've never made it here, we want to see you. It's frustrating and it's difficult. This is what we struggle with every day - I know because my wife is the manager and I see her dealing with it, always trying to expand the bands reach. It gets there eventually.
This is a difficult situation and this is what we are up against every day every year but we play as much as we possibly can as that's what we love and of course that means we don't have a lot of time left over to write and writing for a couple of months in a row has been almost impossible. We really have to carve that time out and know we're not going to be making any income for four months so that really give us some great impetus for writing sad songs as we can't pay our bills!
RF: So some places will have to wait until your 60th anniversary.
DM: We're going to get there?
RF: Yes. With the 40th anniversary is there consistent communication with the former band members?
DM: I've recently talked to Leonard (Haze) numerous times in the last few months and I talk to him and Joey at least on a yearly basis. There's always a friendly discourse and whilst I'm sure they harbour some resentment for being fired, for the most part all of that is old news and we are all friends. I am sure what you're getting to is are we going to do something on this tour?
RF: The man has psychic ability!
DM: How about that! To be honest with you we haven't discussed a specific thing yet nor has anybody said hey man how about I come and jam. We do have a New Year's Eve show that is local but we haven't planned a single thing yet. We have done things like that in the past - for our 30th anniversary everybody that ever played with the band came out to play at the mystic theatre so we have done it before. Joey has come and jammed on occasional shows in the bay area so never say never.
RF: I think there's amazing venues in England where you could do it!
DM: It would be lovely but the preparation would be quite a different story!
RF: And of course your UK is tour starts on the at 31st of October and the and takes in a load of places and you finish up in a good friend of yours, Reuben Archer's home town on November 15th at the Robin 2.
DM: How about that, he's a lovely fellow.
RF: So everybody's got no excuse not to see you. I think I mentioned after last year's tour that you seem in better fettle now than you did years ago.
DM: It's a strange thing and I'm happy it's happening and I have to give it to these guys. There's a certain vibe in the band when we go onstage and every year we come back and play for the same fans and they keep telling us we were better than they remember last year. It's very encouraging and we love what we do. Even when we are tired as hell we still somehow when we hit the stage feel the vibe from the fans and we're right back to what we do.
I'm a lucky guy and I've surrounded myself with people who continue to make doing this an important part of their lives and they care as much as I do when we hit the stage and I hope it comes across.
RF: Their hearts are as much into it as yours and that's something you can't fool an audience with.
DM: Exactly, you're absolutely right. There is no preconceived worked up plan every night, it is what it is and that's the good thing about it.
RF: One last thing, I have to check 'Forever' is still in your set list?
DM: It always will be... Forever. That sort of encompasses a lot of what the band is about it's a highly melodic yet very energetic song so I think that encompasses a lot of what Y and T has been about since its inception. We've always been a high energy passionate band but at the same time very melodic as well and Phil and Leonard and Joey right from the beginning felt that that was something that can happen simultaneously. You don't have to scream your guts out and be pissed off. Sorry, be mad all the time.
RF: It's OK you can swear on this one.
DM: For you to have aggressive and happening rock and roll - you can do it with melody and passion which we do and I am proud of that.
RF: As far as the swearing goes pissed off is fine, just don't use the C word, which is Coldplay.
DM: Ha ha I didn't see that coming.
RF: It's a very bad word we don't like to use that one.
RF: Dave, no doubt I will see you at least one or two of your shows and it's been more than an absolute pleasure as normal.
DM: Cheers I always enjoy talking to you.