Leni DiMancari Interview
LENI DIMANCARI INTERVIEW:
July 26, 2006
If you aren’t from Minnesota you might be thinking, who the hell is Leni DiMancari? He is a guitarist, he was a founding member of Hurricane Alice (which later became Hericane Alice), he has worked with members of Accept, Y&T, LeMans and Slave Raider, he has turned his back on music, and now he has returned. With the help of his wife/bandmate, Leni has rekindled his musical drive with his new band, a Heart tribute named The Bad Animals (www.thebadanimals.com), and is writing for their debut album. From the highs to the lows, Leni lays it all on the line in this exclusive interview.
SR: What are you working on musically these days?
LD: I’m currently playing in the National Heart Tribute band called The Bad Animals with my wife Sandy. We do around 30 shows a year. We have been incredibly fortunate to play with the current line up of musicians in the band. Along with the two of us are Wendy Irwin on vocals, Lewis Sego on Keys, Aaron Carlson on Bass and Johnny Strutt on drums. It has been a lot of fun touring with this group. We are currently writing material and in pre production for our first release. Our new material will include Eric Althaus on drums from Equinox and Joe Schweigert on bass from Atomic. Our current drummer and bass player will be pursuing new ventures at the end of the month.
SR: Will The Bad Animals album be a mixture of your new songs and Heart covers?
LD: We’ve kicked around the idea of throwing a Heart cover in the mix, but I think we’ll stick with our own sound for now. I wouldn’t mind doing a song like “Alone” but how much further can you go with it? It already stands as one of the biggest songs the band ever did. Heart has so many great songs in their live performances that I honestly wouldn’t want to try and do it unless it was a Tribute CD to the band itself. I remember when Leonard Haze wanted us to look at a good remake back when we were in the stages of putting together pre-production for the Rising Tyger project, but we never got past the initial idea so we went for our own sounds.
I’ve always thought a great remake takes you over the top, and changes it up enough to make it sound as if it was your original without losing the feeling of the original recording. Some of the best remakes are the ones that make you go back and listen to the original again. Randy Hansen’s version of “Higher” by Sly and the Family Stone was killer, or another great remake was Dope’s version of “You Spin Me Around”. A lot of people didn’t put two and two together until they went back and saw Dead or Alive’s video of that song. To me, that’s taking a great track and making it yours while still keeping it theirs. My favorite remake is still Jennifer Batten’s “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. She rocked on that one.
SR: Why does it seem like so many 80s rockers are now in tribute bands on the side, is it too hard to get people out to a club playing original material these days?
LD: I don’t think it’s a question of getting the people out for original music. Minnesota has a very active original music scene. Some of the bigger clubs are going with an all original format. It’s cool in a way, bands create their following, flyer parking lots, hand out tickets. Its usually 3 or 4 bands on a bill. It’s the vein of Active Rock sounding bands, with a more current sound and it draws on all levels. I like a few of today’s Active Rock bands but I can’t write in that style. I’m still a verse + bridge + chorus into solo back to chorus guy. Our original stuff has an Eighties feel with 2k technology full of solos.
The scene has changed since the heyday of 80’s and it has had an effect on those musicians in the market. A lot of my friends retired from it or moved on. Some have adapted. Cover bands in the B & C rooms are doing multi format sets. That’s odd to me and I don’t get that. I think that the reason a lot of 80’s musicians move into tribute acts is to re-connect with an audience in their genre. I’ve been told by my rocker friends that I’ve pansied up to play girl rock. I just laugh and say “Let’s see you play the opening classical guitar part on “Crazy on You”. Howard Leese, Nancy Wilson and Roger Fisher are amazing guitarist and it has been incredibly challenging to learn these styles. I still love the guitar solo in a song, and there aren’t a lot of guitar solos in today’s Active Rock songs. I tip my hat to musicians who go to tribute acts. It’s a lot of work to get it right but the payoff is nice. Plus, you get to play to your age group, and perform to an audience that appreciates those songs.
SR: Back to the Bad Animals album. Do the original songs you are working on have that Heart vibe to them?
LD: There is a definite influence in there, especially when you’re writing with two different female singers in mind. In the past I was gearing the songs towards Plant/Coverdale sounding singers. Sandy has a lot of power and Wendy sings with a softer subtle voice. Together they sound really good. I’m sure the music will get labeled, but I really don’t care. Everyone is contributing, and we’ll leave it to a producer to eventually figure it all out.
SR: I know it’s likely a bit early, but are you leaning towards a certain timeframe for the album to get released?
LD: I would like to see us have finished product by the end of the year. We’ll be in the studio late summer to finish at least half the record, then shop 3 songs from that while finishing the rest of it. If there aren’t any bites, we’ll put it out ourselves.
SR: Do you think record labels are more willing to take a chance with a new rock band these days, or is hard rock still somewhat of an outcast?
LD: Hard rock still has the danger factor. The only thing I don’t dig lately is an influx of things that sound the same, with drop D tuning and hook lines that sound like they’ve already been done. My friend Bill Leverty called it drone rock one night after a Firehouse show. Formula sells though. I’m waiting for the next big thing or new sound to evolve.
On the other hand, I think with the development of technology, more bands can get their music recorded faster, and it seems safer to put things out there that are alike than take a risk on an original sound like ours. Someone’s going to do something musically that blows some A&R rep away, then everyone will sprain an ankle jumping on that musical bandwagon. Rock with melodic vocals and ballads are now dubbed pop. I don’t think Sandy and Wendy can get angry enough to do an active rock record. On the other hand…If some nasty lyrics get put on the computer table, I’ll know I screwed something up. Although, the Evanescence singer sang pretty while jabbing a pencil through your chest lyrically…
SR: If you do have to release your album independently, it must be much easier to promote yourself, thanks to the internet, then it was in the early 80s.
LD: The internet makes it a lot easier to promote yourself these days, but at the same time a band could get lost in the shuffle. There are so many avenues on the internet, and so many bands all doing the same marketing. I think it makes it harder to get noticed when there are so many bands in the arena. In the 80’s, we did it the old fashioned way: We promoted the hell out of ourselves. We constantly lived and breathed the band. It’s all we talked about, it’s all we did outside of our day gigs. We sometimes played 6 nights a week. Today, The Bad Animals try and gig 2 to 3 times a month and give enough of a break in the summer for vacations and time off for our families and other projects. That’s a big change from 200 plus shows a year.
In the 80’s, we went out and played as much as possible and when we weren’t playing, we were out in the stomping ground talking shop. These days, there is a lot of competition for space in the club circuit in Minnesota. We have a select audience for the tribute and only so many clubs that the band plays in. Some clubs we draw well at, others have been hit and miss. It’s the nature of the game. When you’re trying to get noticed, it still boils down to the basics when you’re shopping your band and trying to impress an A&R Rep: How do they draw? How do they sell? Can we make money off these guys? We are approaching this a little different this time. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, our lives will go on. All of us have dealt with successes and failures in bands so it’s not a rookie season and none of us are betting the farm on being the next big thing.
The first Hurricane Alice record was recorded on a shoe string budget, and it took our Managers financial commitment to help bring the band over the top. You tend to be a bit more conservative when you’re writing checks out of your own pocket to pay for studio time and not bringing in a financial backer. We love writing music and performing, and sometimes that’s enough. It takes a lot to make a good record happen, and it’s unfortunate when a great record goes unnoticed.
SR: You mentioned Hurricane Alice. How did the band originally form and what are some of your fondest memories about the early days of that group?
LD: We originally formed in 1984 with Scott Werner on bass, Rusty Miller on drums and me on guitar and lead vocals, although I couldn’t hold a note. I was looking to record a full album, and Scotty had just left Sister Max, while Rusty had just left Counter Attack where he was playing with Ian Mayo. We hooked up and got completely blitzed at Ryan’s one night and came up with a plan for how we were going to be rock stars one day. Our rehearsal space was a shack in Saint Paul off Rice Street that was used for carrier pigeons. We heated it with a can of propane in the winter, and wrote almost all of our material together there. It was a complete secret that we were there, except on any given evening there were a handful of girls in and out of there. We would write and rehearse for hours. I would come up with the lick, and then we all collaborated. We wound up having a couple dozen songs and went in with 8 to record, but vocally I was the weakest link. We asked Dave Reece to come in a sing but he was busy with his band Lillian X, so Scott asked Bruce Nauman if he wanted to come and record. Bruce showed up the day before, we went through the songs that day and he went in and sang them that night.
It was pretty awesome to hear him sing those songs, but he wasn’t ready to leave his band Employers. A few months later, the three of us wound up heading to Chicago with Jeff Meyers from Head East and Frank Livingston and formed Steele. The 3 of us wanted Bruce and I hated working with Jeff and I swore I would never play the song “Never Been Any Reason” again as long as I live. So I quit Steele after a short tour, and they followed. We wound up getting the financial backing and pretty much bought the band Employers and all of their gear, but only kept Bruce.
We sat down with our agent and management and came up with a plan to basically shove Hurricane Alice down everyone’s throat. We played everywhere we could, we did radio, interviews, played with National Acts and slowly built a loyal legion of fans that we called the Alice Army. They followed us everywhere. We had two songs on the radio. About a year into it was when Atlantic first took notice of the band. We had sent out demos and kits to all the majors, getting a lot of rejection letters or the “We’re not signing at the present time” automails, but Atlantic Records called A.R.M. initially to get more material and dates on the band. It was right around the time that Alice was nominated for 4 Minnesota Music Awards, and won best new band in 1987. We had a blast touring together. We were always playing practical jokes on each other that usually involved a lot of alcohol. We were the best of friends and our own worst enemies at the same time.
SR: Atlantic didn’t actually sign the band while you were a member did they? What happened there?
LD: I had nothing to do with the band getting their record deal. Atlantic signed the band in 1989. I had already left the band in the summer of 1987. It was a hard decision, but one that had to happen. We weren’t getting along and I’ll leave it at that. Our friendships and respect for each other has renewed since then, and our differences have since been settled.
Hurricane Alice was offered a deal with a new Record/Management Company for two albums. We had Alice 2 in the can on rough mixes, and I had already written a block of ideas for a 3rd Alice record. We were doing a really cool version of ‘Radar Love’ that we inherited from the Employers and considered recording it but never got that far. At that point in the game, we weren’t getting along and I really wanted out of the band at the time. I had made some valuable friendships in Leonard Haze and Joey Alves from Y&T, and I was always looking to Haze for advice. I told him the circumstances, the deal on the table, and I really wanted to record with Leonard. At the time Leonard had just left Y&T, and my dream of working with him looked like it was going to be a reality. Leonard was an absolutely amazing musician and a great writer. He penned “Summertime Girls” and he was amazing at putting songs together.
I assembled a new band with Ben Griffith on vocals & Joe Peterson on bass and went to San Francisco with it. Haze took on the role of producer and he got us Steve Belino from Montrose on drums. Haze brought in Peter Marino to sing back up vocals and LeMans’s keyboard player Doug Grey. We thought everything was going great, but we were getting out of control with production costs. We lived on Jack in the Box.
Unfortunately, the album went way over budget, there was no promotion and the company didn’t pay Haze for the last part of production. That killed our friendship. Peter Marino and I wanted to do a project together prior to him joining Cacophony, so I wound up doing two albums that summer, but had no band to promote either one. Liquid froze the Rising Tyger CD and threatened suit against the band if we performed anything from it and Peter Marino was off to do an album with Marty Friedman and Jason Becker. Peter and I had two songs from our “In the Heat of the Night” CD on the radio, but without a band supporting it, the sales tapered off. I got offered to play with the Eternal Teenagers so I went off for about a year doing that, and started writing for a new record. We talked about me rejoining the band at one point but we never took it any further. Bruce did an album with Madam X, and Scott went on to record and tour with Jaimie from Black n Blue in Freight Train Jane.
SR: Have you ever thought of finishing up those early Hurricane Alice mixes and releasing them, or even making the debut album available on CD?
LD: I don’t know who wound up with the original Master after I left the band. I kept all of the other reels and cassette demos. A lot of those ideas went to the “In the Heat of the Night” record with Peter Marino in 1987, and bits and pieces of ideas that Scott, Rusty & I initially penned have wound up everywhere else. “Hold On to You” was originally an Alice tune we came up with in rehearsal, and wound up on Bangalore Choir’s “On Target” CD. They did a nice job with it.
SR: How did you end up getting connected with Leonard Haze and Joey Alves of Y&T?
LD: A friend of mine who worked with Motley Crue introduced us back in 1985. I had a break around Christmas time and my friend asked me if I wanted to fly out to see Y&T with Metallica and Laaz Rocket at the San Jose Civic center on New Years Eve. He introduced me to Leonard and Joey and I gave them the original Alice demos. I got to know them really well after that & Leonard said if I ever wanted production to give him a call. We kept in contact and got together as often as it was financially possible and when the time came, he was the first person I asked to record the Rising Tyger album with. Haze was great as a producer.
SR: What was it about the Rising Tyger album that made it go so far over budget?
LD: Originally we wanted to do the record at Prince’s studio Paisley Park in Chanhassen, but we were told of this amazing studio in Sausalito called Studio D. Multiplatinum albums were produced there. In my opinion, there was a lot of waste, and although it’s easy for me to say that now, I was on such a complete ego trip to shove this down Alice’s throat, that I didn’t care. We had guest musicians on the tracks. We had to rent extra gear. The band stayed in San Leandro and made the trips to Sausalito in a rented band van daily. A guitar instructor was appointed to me to teach me to slow down my playing and quit trying to set the land speed record for number of notes in a solo section. There was airfare, accommodations, daily perdium, and the final mix was taken across the country to Omega studios in D.C. to be mastered.
We couldn’t get a lockout because another label had a first up on the day run of the studio and had paid in advance for the time. So, our sleep schedule was completely backwards. We recorded 12 hours a day from 9pm to 9am for two months. It was a grueling process. At times it was hostile. I blame myself partially because I had a hell of a time with the re-writes of the music, and at the time I was acting like a spoiled brat. I really deserved the complete verbal ass kicking I got from Haze. I couldn’t wait to get off the west cost and get home and take the phone off the hook for a week and not even open a flight case. I didn’t even listen to the record until a couple weeks later. I hated it then, but 19 years later I think it’s a masterpiece. In the long run, Haze brought the absolute best out of everyone involved on that album, and he made me a better musician, and I thank him for that.
I have to acknowledge that at no point am I knocking the production on this record or the opportunity that was handed to me. Leonard Haze produced the most amazing sounding album and it was never released. To give you a short answer would be unfair, to tell it to straight up is the best way. Haze is one of the funniest guys I know. He kept us in all stitches at times with stories of recording and touring and that rounded out the process, especially the Max Norman stories at Ridge farm. I still hold him in the highest regards for the musician he is and the producer he was on that project. There are two people I thank on every recording; Kenny Rardin and Leonard Haze, because both of them made a huge impact on my life as a musician.
SR: Why didn’t the album get released? And with the Rising Tyger CD being your avenue to vent with Hurricane Alice, did it humble you when it got shelved?
LD: With the album going way over budget, they dipped into extra funds to finish it at Omega studio. They wound up stiffing our producer and part of our engineers cut. It was incredibly humbling and somewhat embarrassing to come home and have basically nothing to show for it. I really felt like I had something to prove, and wound up only racking up album debt. The best way I could move forward was to finish the tracks with Peter Marino on “In the Heat of the Night”, get that thing out, and start hyping that. In a way, it was a sort of closure. But eventually the whole project reared its head again a few years later. I wound up filing for bankruptcy to get away from it. I felt like shit.
SR: Did erasing the debt through bankruptcy give you a clean slate to work with and drive you to prove yourself once again?
LD: It gives you a feeling of relief when it’s finally over. I didn’t exactly have any confidence to play live again immediately after that, even though I had recorded a lot of different projects. Some were really good CDs, some not so good. The Rising Tyger record was finally behind me, but it took four years to get away from it. I had plenty of time to think about things after that. I remember Marino called it Rising Litigation.
I developed a different attitude after having to close those doors. Nothing is really ever free. There’s no such thing as instant Rock star: Just add a couple hundred grand & some hair extensions, and most of all you can’t ever turn your back on your friends. I felt like I let a lot of people down. Then I found some new things to go after. I got involved in producing a video show called The Hard Channel, which was dedicated to rock, and worked a regular job during the day.
SR: When you were working a day job and producing the video show did you ever think of giving up on your musical career?
LD: Yes, I thought about it a lot. I was pretty restless and didn’t want to be at home much so I tried to stay as busy as possible. I still did studio work and recorded a few more album projects that went unnoticed. I’m one of those guys who has to have his hands in on something musical or I feel empty. I started living vicariously through the video show, so eventually I abandoned that as well and just opted for musical retirement.
SR: Was it around this time that you started working on your solo albums? Give us some insight into those albums.
LD: I actually got started right out of the gate on solo stuff after leaving Alice in 1987. I recorded the Rising Tyger record and “In the Heat of the Night” with Peter Marino in the summer and late fall of 87. In 1988 I did a few weird things outside of the Eternal Teenagers “187 day tour from Hell”. I did music for a porn movie and supposedly a soundtrack to a movie called “Beyond The Black”, I never heard of or saw either movie or read about either one. I was way into sci-fi and… well porn was pretty cool at that time too. Honestly, nobody ever says “My, I really like the music behind the girl on girl scene”. I got paid on both.
In 1989 I started working on “Rock n Roll Outlaw” with Letitia Rae from Slave Raider and JP Smith on Vocals. That was the turning point where I thought I had my best shot at trying to get resigned and got the most attention. I remember Tim Bomba calling me at my apartment and setting up a show with Dirty Looks at the Mirage for a record label showcase. There was a lot of buzz with radio, print, and the project was in the process of funding to go out of the country in Japan and do some Europe dates. About two weeks prior to the show, JP’s replacement singer Alan Wilder bailed on the gig and left me hanging. So we elected to take the option and release the first compilation as “Black n Blue and Slept All Over” which had the best 6 years of stuff all wrapped into one package in 91. I just disappeared after the next project called “Love and War” with singer Tony Lee. It was a really great album musically but nobody wanted to buy into it, even with the caliber of players involved, like John Purtle on bass and Kevin Franzen on drums.
Even Slave Raider’s singer Chainsaw Cain and I got together to see if we could write a few things for an upcoming solo record he was doing, but I think he was looking for a different type of player than me. I still have those demos. Chain is the king of writing Anthem Rock and it shows on those first 3 CDs they did and his solo album.
So it was off to the real world, which really isn’t so bad. I mixed in a few things like the “Atomic” record and a couple solo projects with Brian Bart and Paul Peterson that we were going to take to Germany in 1998. A couple years later I went to radio for 3 years at WHMH Rockin 101.7 in Saint Cloud as the Evening Drive Host and then co-hosted the morning show with Gary Tyler Moore. That’s how Dave Reece found me and asked me to write with him. A lot of those ideas are now on the current Dare Force demo. Dave is incredible and intense, all wrapped into one.
SR: Slave Raider always seemed like a comical outrageous band. What were Chainsaw Caine and Letitia Rae really like in person?
LD: Chain is a marketing machine. He knows how to get things done and is very professional. He always seems to be one step ahead of the rest. He’s a great guy to work with and know. Tish and I have been really good friends since the Alice days. She is a very gifted player and talented singer, and I would work with her again in a heartbeat. I still stay in contact with Chain, but I haven’t talked to Tish in years.
SR: David Reece seems to fly under the radar these days, are you still in touch with him? Also what is he working on these days and were you once part of Dare Force?
LD: Lately Dave has been working with his original lineup in the band Dare Force. It’s kind of a funny story as to how we actually came to hooking up and writing together. Dave had just moved back to Minneapolis. I was way into his stuff from The Sircle of Silence. The CD’s were so heavy and so cool, especially ‘Dancin on the Sun’ & ‘Color Blind’ which we worked up. Their bass player Brian Lorenson had contacted me one afternoon at Rockin 101 to see if I wanted to check out their project. I had worked with Brian before and his drummer Mark Miller was solid as a rock on the kit. So we all hooked up, got together at Brian’s house, jammed out a few old standards and got to work on these new song ideas. I was digging it, working with Dave. We would hook up and write at his place in Wayzata, then bring the ideas back to rehearsal. Dave is really good at writing lyrics, and I had some cool hooks that we were building off of for the songs. Brian and Mark were a solid anchor. We talked about taking the show live and bringing out some of the songs that put Dave on the map: Accept stuff, Bangalore Choir, SOS and new songs. Dave wanted to take it to Europe and Japan and thought we could get a deal but after some tempers flaring & tense moments at rehearsals, Mark bailed.
We brought in Cain’s Alibi drummer Scott Otis, but it kinda faded out after that. At the time, we talked about using the name Dare Force, but we thought running under Dave’s name would give it an extra push over the cliff and bring a bigger payout in the clubs. But the ‘D Train’ derailed (Accept pun intended). I stayed on at the radio station and Dave went back out east. I haven’t talked to him since. It was cool to work with him. Intense, but very cool.
Then about a month ago, producer/guitarist Brian Bart and I were talking about the Dare Force reunion with Reece, Brian and Mark. Brian and Mark had played with us in the original Bad Animals project but left to do something heavier, that being the new project with Dave. They had just finished a demo and told me to check it out on myspace.com under the name Dare Force. Some of those original ideas we came up with together a few years ago wound up on that demo, and I gotta say, it’s good to see them together again and hear the new product.
SR: I’ve always heard stories, but what is David Reece really like?
LD: Dave was the power of Ronnie James Dio, the soul of David Coverdale and a mixture of gasoline, pyrotechnics and Jack Daniels. He’s unpredictable, like a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. He is incredibly talented and the whole Accept experience, good and bad, was great for him because it put him on the map.
I haven’t talked to him since he’s been back in Minnesota. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to Dave, I just really don’t know what to say to him. He kinda left on short notice and I can’t mail it in and say that all is forgiven. I sold my half stacks and put my guitars in the closet after that whole ordeal and said f*ck it. I wish him all the luck in the world and that’s where I’ll leave it.
SR: What finally led you to bringing the guitars back out of the closet?
LD: I owe that to my wife Sandy. She had initially put the spark in me when I first heard her sing 6 years ago. I told her that if I ever was going to do another CD, I wanted her to sing on it. I think she thought I was just trying to be smooth & roll up on her. We became really good friends and I would get out and see her sing as often as I could. She was the driving force behind me wanting to play out live again and record. There were a few offers with other bands, but nothing really appealed to me. I felt so burned by the last project with Dave that I wasn’t willing to commit to anything right away, let alone invest in more gear and want to go out and give it another try. I was pretty happy playing guitar for my cats.
Sandy would come over to the house & make me play for her unplugged. Then she showed up at my house one afternoon and had a new guitar rig out in her car. I plugged in and that was it, I was hooked. We planned out what we wanted to do musically and went for it with Obsession X. We had a couple of our tunes make the rounds on radio and compilations like Saint Cloud Rocks II & Central Minnesota Rock with “Black Eyed Suzy” and “Undertow”. Then after a few years of pounding the club circuit, we turned that into the Bad Animals. Ironically, the first song I ever heard Sandy sing was Barracuda, and now we open the show with it in the Bad Animals.
SR: Do any of your Obsession X tunes show up in the Bad Animals shows?
LD: Nope. It’s strictly Heart. We do get requests for them at a few shows. We get Alice requests and that’s really odd. I think I slipped into the opening riff on “Coming Home” one night and got one clap or two. It will be an interesting turn around when we start promoting the original music. We’ll slide in the X tunes in the show when we turnover the Bad Animals show. A couple might get redone for the recording. We’ll have to see, they’re a bit heavier than Heart. Kinda like taking Whitesnake, Dokken, Zeppelin and Heart and putting them in a blender. You get an X milkshake.
SR: It seems that you have been involved in lots of projects and recorded lots of material, so how do people get a hold of your albums? Do you have any plans on re-releasing stuff or even getting it out for the first time?
LD: I have no idea, I can’t even find them. But seriously, I could do a re-release. I have the DAT masters of almost everything, but it won’t have any of the Rising Tyger stuff on it. Some music from the past is lost. I have a freaky X that hates me and poured gasoline over the safety reels & promo. I don’t like her. I have a ton of material that would make a great CD. I have basic tracks that I can’t wait to hear Sandy’s vocals on, including the new BA material. We’re just waiting for life to slow down a bit so we can hit it harder after our summer break.
You can still get the first Hurricane Alice record if you look hard enough. I’ve seen CDs on ebay of the first album. I don’t remember us doing CDs though. The CDs “Marino DiMancari: In the Heat of the Night” & “Rock n Roll Outlaw” are still floating around in the bargain bin somewhere. There is a CD out there called “Reach for the Sky”. It’s a best of CD that was available on MP3.com at one time. People interested can contact me if they want stuff.
SR: It must really suck to lose some of your recordings forever, wouldn’t that be like losing a child for a musician?
LD: I never really thought of songs as children. They’re just songs. It’s hard to know that those reels are gone, but I truly believe in the karma. That’s one thing I really do like about today’s technology is that it makes it way easier to build & back up your song ideas. I wish I had the studio suite in the computer back then, instead of the Fostex 4 track and a ghetto blaster. Now I use my POD & Guitar Port on the computer for everything. We have 30 new ideas in the can thanks to today’s technology. It would have taken months to get that much material in raw form. Best of all, no more reels. Today’s technology has helped me bring music closer to my kids. My youngest boy is working on being a guitarist like Dad. I’m starting to get him interested in the players I listened to, while he cranks Disturbed on his CD player.
SR: After all the ups and downs you encountered in your musical career, would you encourage your children to pursue music as a life? And what do you think about the music your kids listen to today?
LD: I’m not encouraging them to pursue it, to me it’s their choice. I’m behind them if they make the choice, but they have to make it, I’m not going to push them. If they want to try and get it, then they can go for it. If they listen to my advice, then hopefully they’ll be more prepared for it. Perhaps they can learn from my past experiences. Right now, my goal is to get them graduated and off to college. I’m always telling them the benefits of an education. It’s the biggest crap shoot to try and become a successful musician, and every turn is full of another rock layer of problems. But if this is what they want to do, we will support them and help them get on their way.
One of the best books I’ve read is the book entitled “The Platinum Rainbow” by Bob Monaco. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take the shot. I didn’t get serious about trying to make it in the music business until college. I had an education background to fall back on if it didn’t work, so in between projects and playing out live, I had a job I could fall back on. I still work full time.
As far as their music, I remember my Mom bringing me to the Priest at the Cathedral of Saint Paul to help get rid of my Kiss records and leave my Led Zeppelin albums with him. He probably listened to them after we left. The kids went through the rap stage, and thank God they got over it quickly. Our daughters are into classic rock like Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Aerosmith, and Hendrix. The boys are all over the map; one is into Lamb of God and Children of Bodem. I went to the Unholy Alliance Tour with him recently. My other boys are into active rock; Disturbed, Seether, Slipknot, Mudvayne etc. My parents put up with me practicing then, now it’s my turn, and I’m ok with it. They put up with my half stacks in the living room. Now, if I want to clear the room, I just plug it in and they scatter like cockroaches.
SR: Looking back on your life in music, what are some of your fondest and funniest memories?
LD: One of the fondest memories is still winning the Minnesota Music Award for best new band, and the nominations that year. Everything seemed to fall into place after that. I was lucky to meet a lot of my favorite performers and some of my music influences; Gary Moore, George Lynch, Steve Lukather, Ann & Nancy Wilson, Ronnie James Dio, Peter Marino, Leonard Haze & Joey Alves… just to name a few. I got to make friends with a few of them over time and would run into them from time to time when they came to town. I think that when Scotty Werner and I were backstage with Dio was a moment neither one of us will ever forget. We just sat on the couch at the old Met Center in the dressing room and shot the sh*t with Dio, as if we were old classmates. The first time you hear yourself on the radio blows your mind. Then you scramble to turn it up and wind up changing the station by accident. I got to experience Sandy’s first radio play and that was really cool. She was ecstatic. Our kids are proud, and they finally get to see us in the theater shows.
There were a lot of sold out shows and a few where we played for the bartender and a waitress. I think outrunning a tornado in the band van coming out of northern Iowa still comes to mind. A lot of the nights we had together in Alice were a blur. It was a party that started on a Wednesday and ended sometime Monday morning. There was the infamous minnow incident, but we’ll leave that one alone. If I ever want to re-release the old Alice stuff or even hint around a reunion, I’m staying off the minnow incident. Although it’s about the sickest thing we ever did. I remember jumping off the drum riser in some Eddie Van Halen fashion, only to rip my spandex at the crotch and have my dink hanging out for another song. Girls were pointing. I thought they were into the band but they were pointing at the flopping junk. There were a lot of naked moments in the crowd and on stage. Fat Jacks in Council Bluffs Iowa comes to mind. What business did they have bringing our band into host a lingerie party? One night I got busted for going 100 MPH because I was late for a gig in Mankato MN. After the show the cops were waiting outside to haul me off because I had an outstanding warrant for an assault. I got thrown in the drunk tank in full make up and spandex, and I looked real good to the drunk guy in the holding cell who just pissed on himself.
I use to throw my guitar around my neck and one night I went Yngwie and decided to go the opposite direction, only to have it hanging from the light trussing. I caught Bruce in the head with the point of my Jackson and cut him wide open on stage. I slowed down on the guitar acrobats after a while. The endorsements were great, please come back, I feel like I’m holding a sign up right now saying “Will Play for Strings and Guitars”. The H.A.R.D. Channel getting into syndication and getting a write up in Melinda Newmans column in Billboard was a milestone, along with the Gold Records for video promotion. That first $54.00 royalty check was pretty hot. I could go on and on and write a novel here.
SR: What would you like to say to your fans out there?
LD: Thanks for being out there and sticking around all these years. You’re the best.
Thanks to Leni DiMancari