Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Since 1974 Y&T from California have blazed a trail of hard rock across the countries of the globe,and laid waste to many stages. Main stay of the band and original member Dave Meneketti chatted to me recently ahead of their UK tour which comes across the pond in November. We chatted on a variety of subjects-including the forthcoming UK tour with surprise set inclusions,and why he nearly turned his back on music.
Good morning Dave. Its a pleasure to speak to you today, as I have been a fan of the band since the eighties.
Dave”Right, that’s great.”
2014 marks forty years of the band , just wondering if there are any birthday surprises that you can reveal to your fans that you have planned for the forthcoming UK shows?
Dave”Well, you know we have been working on having a lot of different songs that we have not performed either for a long time or never performed before being in the set list. It will be a slightly different performance than the standard yearly tour performance that we have. We are hoping that the fans will indeed enjoy hearing some different songs in the set. I know a lot of bands play”album shows when a particular anniversary comes up.
Have you any plans maybe to do something of that nature?
Dave”Right,we have done that before but not always through the entire year. Maybe a particular show or two here and there on a tour. Say “OK we are going to do the entire Black Tiger record”or whatever. We have done that before,and will probably do it again. We are not going to be doing it on this tour but we will certainly be doing a lot of deep tracks and some things like that .Some tracks that a lot of people have been asking for over the years that we just havnt got around to working out. That’s more or less what we are going for at this point.”
The Y&T line-up that I grew up with contained Joey Alves and Leonard Haze. Are you still in contact with them?
Dave”Yes,actually we talk to them every once in a while or email or whatever. There is always some sort of communication going on there on a yearly basis. In fact I talked to Leonard when my wife and I were in the UK in June on vacation. We were talking back and forth on ..texting each other and so forth. There is always a certain amount of communication going on there.”
Leading on from that are there any plans to include them on these fortieth anniversary dates something similar to what you did with Stef Burns in Italy in October 2013 (he played four songs on stage with the band)?
Dave”Oh, as far as having just”guests”coming in..?No we don’t have any plans for that at the moment. There is nothing in the works as far as that is concerned. We never say never, of course and there is always possibilities that that could happen in the future. Not on a tour per Se but a one off kind of thing maybe if we just happen to be in the right town at the right time. Nothing yet(laughs).
The”Winds of change” have blown through the band over the years most notably with the premature death of Phil Kennamore. Obviously that had a major impact on you personally. Did that make you consider quitting the music business and end the band.
Dave”There was a thought of that, for a short period of time while Phil was going through hell basically, in the hospital trying to get put back together. Before he passed when we knew he was going there was a conversation with myself and him. He told me in no uncertain terms “You cant stop, you know you got to keep going”. There is too much to this band that we put into it and at that point we had just released the “Facemelter”record. He was very proud of that, as well as I was. We both were on the same page when it came to that. For a short period of time I was thinking”I wonder if I should even keep doing this or not”There is no question that in my mind the band means everything to me still. I know that we are out there without Phil and kicking butts still. The fans are loving it and so it wouldn’t make any sense to me to stop. At the same time if the fans said”Nah, that’s it we are done with you guys”that would have been another thing to consider. It has been anything bit that. We have been having a fantastic support from the fans,ever since Phil has passed away. They are loving the band the way that it is as well as I am. I don’t see any reason to not keep going forward.”
You mentioned the release of “Facemelter”which was the bands last studio release in 2010. Fans are always seeking new music. Have the band taken steps to record a follow-up to that album?
Dave”Yes, well we haven’t yet but we are going to be doing that. For us its always a matter of carving out the time. Spending a good amount of time writing and knowing that’s what we are going to be doing. That would have been happening on any given time when we have like a couple of months in a row off. Or a month off, or something like that. Too many things have been happening with our time off to where we just didn’t have the ability to do that this year. Next year we are going to definitely start concentrating on coming up with new material for a new record”
That’s probably because the band are nearly always on the road.
Dave”Well, we do, we are playing something like seventy four show this year as it worked out. It’s a lot of work and there has been a lot of things to do on our couple of weeks off here and there. It has kept us quite busy.”
Do you compose and write music while the band is on the road? Or do you prefer to write away from the road and its potential distractions?
Dave”Yeah everybody is different when it comes to that kind of thing. My self personally I am just too busy when I am on the road. If I am not trying to get as much sleep as I can to make sure my voice is rested for the next show. I am usually doing an interview or something like that. Or maybe in the middle of travelling and its not the right kind of environment to write. It’s just that type of thing. Pretty much my time is taken up one hundred per cent of the time when I am on the road. It is not really conducive for me to do it. Its not like we are in a large tour bus,going for days between shows and things like that. The schedules on the European tours are all fairly tight. There is not a lot of days off and the travel between countries or dates sometimes is within just a couple of hours of each other. Its not like when we tour in the States sometimes when we have two and three days of travel between shows sometimes. It gives us the opportunity to get in the back of the bus and maybe write. This is quite a different situation for us here.”
You indicated that the forthcoming UK dates will give the band an opportunity to play some different material. Given that you have performed songs like ”I believe in you” quite literally ”Forever” (Dave laughs)Will numbers like that actually be dropped from the set? Is it difficult to get a balance-when you are introducing different songs, and deciding which numbers to leave out?
Dave”Its maddening, its maddening. Its difficult for us to come up with the songs that we are going to keep,the songs that we are going to replace. Those types of things are always difficult. We have found through the years that there are certain toons that we really enjoy playing and the fans just really love hearing. When you are going to start adding 2,3,4 or 5 different songs to the set then you look at everything and go”OK,so what can we replace”?Then you start saying “lets take this one out” and everybody starts going”No!we cant do that”(laughs)so its always a struggle to figure out what to replace for other songs that we want to put in the set.”I believe in you”has always been such a strong song over the years and the European crowds have always loved hearing that toon. I don’t know if I would be able to take that song out of the set. If we wouldn’t upset quite a few fans or not. Its hard to say, certainly change is good but we are looking at having some different alternatives this year. We are going to play that out,and we are going to try it out in one show and see if we take a certain song out or certain songs out if its still OK with the fans. We really do first off go with our gut, secondly we will listen to the fans. If some people are just truly upset that we have taken something out that they have been always looking forward to hearing then we will heed that. Its always a give and take kind of thing.We just tried doing it on this last weekend of shows that we played for the very first time we put in four new songs, or other songs that we have not played. Like I have said it was very difficult to take four of the toons that we like playing all of the time out of the set. At the same time its also very cool because it gives us all,us and the fans some new experiences”
The forthcoming UK dates bring you back to Belfast for the third time in recent years .You are set to play the Limelight on November 12.Does the touring process just become an endless cycle?Is it not difficult to retain your passion and energy to perform those classic songs night after night and yet still make them sound fresh?
Dave”That’s the thing about different audiences, different venues. Even though we are coming back sometimes to the same venue, or the same town sometimes every year. That is actually what we look forward to,(laughs). I mean we look forward to playing new places as well obviously. There are certain venues that we play and that is just always magic every time. So why wouldn’t we want to play there again? That what always happens especially in Belfast. The Belfast fans have always been great to us and we had avoided Ireland for so many years. Not really on purpose,it was always a difficult thing for us to get over there. We found a way and once we had done it and played for the crowd,then of course it was like”Jesus, I wish we would have sorted this out earlier”Every time you play and go on stage if the crowd is into it and you feel the energy from the crowd you don’t think about”oh I am just playing this song again”Every time you play it and you feel that the crowd is getting off on it then that makes it important to you again.,and special on that particular performance. You don’t really get tired of playing songs in the sense that a normal person would think that you would get tired of playing the songs. Every night is a new experience. That’s not to say that you still don’t get tired of OK “I’m playing this song again”, but again you may think that right before you start the first note of it. As soon as you do and you feel the vibe from the crowd and that all goes away.”
I’ve attended all your previous Belfast shows,and fans really do appreciate the band returning-the shows are always great.
Dave”Yeah, it’s great and we hear it when we don’t come back believe me. Its not always our choice, sometimes it doesn’t work out with the router thing or we have a difficulty with a certain promoter at that particular time or something. We are not going to let the fans know every last little bit of business. We know that once we have basically played an area and the fans have got used to us coming there-then they want us to come back. That’s the way that we feel about it as well,and we always try to do that every year.”
Outside of Y&T your other releases have taken in other musical and genres. I specifically thinking of your 1998 release”On the Blue Side”Are there any musical genres that would surprise fans that you personally enjoy? Would you perhaps consider recording in a different style.?
Dave”Well of course that was my solo thing, to do”On the Blue side”Y&T would probably not be doing that because we would really super confuse the fans. You know I love all different styles of music-I would never bring those styles into Y&T per se. I love rhythm and blues, jazz and classical along with rock n roll. Those are just my own personal preferences of things that I like to listen to when I am by myself, and away from the music business. We all have, everybody in this band has their own styles of music that they love. There are types of bands that they listen to all the time on a daily basis. It rarely comes up where we are going to say “Hey we ought to do a song like this…”that was never done before. It’s usually more like when we come up with a new tempo or a new riff or a new something that we have never gone down that path before. Not with an obvious thought of “Let’s do something quite different”When it comes to song-writing for us over the years its always been whatever happens at the moment that you are writing. Whatever your mood is at that time-I think that is what writing ends up being. I think that’s really the judge of how we write more so than specifically trying to bring in something different that we have never quite done. Song-writing is so matter of fact and so completely different depending on on the moment. You never know I mean something like that could happen. For example, live show-wise we are now considering doing a song from one of my solo records, and putting it in the Y&T set. We have never previously had any inkling of doing that and this may happen this year. Indeed on this tour coming up. We are talking about possibly working up one of the songs. As I said never say never-that truly the way that it is. Especially for the music business, you know only too well about that. There is lots of bands that say they will never come back, this is their final tour. There is like fifteen final tours.(laughs)”
What about then the possibility of another Meniketti album? That could be a vehicle to explore other styles I also read another interview where you mentioned the possibility of some Meniketti tour dates also?
Dave”Right, absolutely. That’s pretty much where I was going with that. I know that’s what you already asked me about Y&T. I think Y+T needs to be the band that it is and the style that it is. That is where I can express myself differently with my solo projects. Both of my different solo records are a little bit different from each other, one is more rock than the other one but I love exploring the bluesier side of things. I absolutely will have something new for a new Meniketti record but I don’t know when that is going to be. I even thought and put it out to myself and the guys about the possibility of the Meneketti band opening for Y&T .That may be the only way that I could fit it in. Thats a hell of a lot of work for me (laughs) that makes it difficult for me to actually take that seriously”
Especially when the Y&T sets are regularly two hours plus…..
Your support band for the Belfast show has just been announced as upcoming N. Ireland rockers Maverick. Are you personally aware of them. Is selection of tour supports something that you have direct input to, or is it solely down to individual promoters?
Dave”We have let it be a promoter thing this particular time around. Sometimes we will find a support band through all off the UK. This time we didn’t do that. The problem is always as soon as we announce a UK tour everybody and their brother start trying to get the opening slot with us. We always look at that, we look at different bands ,and also some friends of ours who would love to come over to the UK and play. Its really just a year to year thing. We don’t know if we are actually going to choose somebody or if we say “its just too difficult”, For the money that these guys make they just cant afford to do it or whatever. Whatever the case may be. In a lot of times we just defer to the promoters and say”You go ahead and put on somebody local that you think is worthy and and will be a good match for the band”.
Time-wise Dave how are you fixed? Would you have time for a couple more questions, or do you have a tight schedule?
Dave”I’m fine, yeah”
Over the years you have been praised both for your vocals and also your guitar playing by such legends of their field like Ronnie James Dio and Joe Satrianni. How does that affect you over the years being given praise like that. How in the light of that do you stay humble and with your feet on the ground?
Dave”Yeah (sighs) it’s an interesting thing. I look at myself as a performer and really enjoy what I do but at the same time I don’t take it seriously in that way. Its kind of an interesting thing but I feel that I am kind of two different people. I am Dave Meniketti the performer. I am also always Dave Meniketti the person. I don’t mix the two at least as not in as much that I don’t take that part to heart. If somebody praises me for something that I do there is a lot of gratitude there and of course I feel humbled by it. At the same time that’s about it. I do that and then its gone. I don’t put that every day and every minute when I am walking around,talking to my friends or doing whatever I am doing. I don’t carry that with me,if you know that you are good at your job that’s good enough. That makes you feel good. I am not the type of person that believes his press lets put it that way. Its always nice to get praised and if anything I think that it gives you a little more confidence in yourself. For me confidence just means from my perspective that I don’t have anything to prove to anybody. I am not out there constantly telling everybody”you know what I did,””You know who I am”. I don’t have to say that. I don’t want to do that anyway,that’s not the way I was brought up. At the same time it is a nice thing to have that is in your personality. Is that you don’t have anything to prove to anybody.,you are just yourself. Just be yourself and not have this sort of underlying frustration or something.”
The band have been around for forty years but are there any goals, dreams and aspirations as yet unfulfilled?
Dave “Well there is a couple of things that we are looking into doing that has been something in the back of my mind .You are going to hear about it more in a couple of weeks more than likely. I am not going to let it out yet. There is a particular project that I am going to be getting involved in. I think that some people may like as well. That’s one of them, and that will be a yet to be announced kind of thing. Overall I would say yeah the other thing is that I would like to keep coming up with new live shows live DVDs or Blu rays because I think the band continually gets better every year. The latest DVD that we sanctioned and we put out was in 2006. The difference between us then when we had just got our newest drummer in the band to even a year later was quite different. So we would love to have some newer DVDs come out for the band and so we are looking into doing that. Keeping it within ourselves with our own production company. Sometimes those things can get out of hand financially You have to pick the right venue,that has a lot to do with it, and the lighting and all that kind of stuff.”
Final question Dave. Im sure that you have done many many interviews over the years. If however you could have the chance to be the interviewer, who would you pick to interview, why, and what would you ask them?
Dave”Wow that’s a great question and one that has quite frankly stumped me at the moment.(laughs)Well you know there is a lot of performers that I would have loved to have seen before they passed on. Maybe that would be some people that maybe I would have been able to have sat down with and talked to and see where they were coming from at the time.I cant be specific about that. Somebody that I really wished I would have seen was Duane Allman before he passed. I did get the opportunity to see Jimi Hendrix live twice before he went. There is no mystery there but yeah I don’t know. I would say that is a great question that I would have to ponder. I could get back to you with that one”
One to think about then Dave, and I may put it to you again when you play Belfast in November.
Dave”Ok I will put some thought to it”
Thanks for taking the time to chat to me today Dave, It’s been a pleasure.Look forward to seeing the band again when you come over.
Dave”You too, thank you. I appreciate it. Have a good day.”
Y&T – 40TH ANNIVERSARY EUROPEAN TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED
7 – Cross Roads Live Club – Rome, Italy
9 – Shoko Live Madrid – Madrid, Spain
10 – Café Antzokia – Bilbao, Spain
11 – Calella Rockfest – Calella, Spain
12 – Sala Por Confirmar – Zaragoza, Spain
16 – Hedon Podium – Zwolle, Netherlands
17 – Boerderij – Zoetermeer, Netherlands
18 – De Pul – Uden, Netherlands
19 – Biebob – Vosselaar, Belgium
20 – Hirsch – Nürnberg, Germany
23 – Colos-Saal – Aschaffenburg, Germany
24 – Blues Garage – Isernhagen, Germany
25 – Turock – Essen, Germany
26 – Downtown Bluesclub – Hamburg, Germany
29 – Le Forum – Paris (Vauréal), France
31 – The Globe – Cardiff, UK
1 – O2 Academy Islington – London, UK
2 – The Brook – Southampton, UK
4 – Manchester Academy 3 – Manchester, UK
6 – O2 ABC – Glasgow, Scotland
7 – O2 Academy – Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
8 – Rock City – Nottingham, UK
11 – The Village – Dublin, Ireland
12 – Limelight – Belfast, UK
14 – Hard Rock Hell – Pwllheli, UK
15 – Robin 2 – Bilston, UK