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Rarely do we see a such true and honest portray of emotions on stage, as on a Y&T live show with lead guitarist and singer Dave Meniketti giving it all and making the crowd go wild. The sentence “this band was made to play live” finds its true meaning with the 4-some rocking hard every night. This year, after a 38-year career Y&T are finally playing in Greece or the first time ever and the fans are ready to bang their heads to the melodies of “Black Tiger”, “Forever”, “Rescue Me” and the other anthems…


 
Interview by Yiannis Dolas

Rockpages.gr: Dave, this is the first time that Y&T play in Greece, how do you feel about that?

Dave Meniketti: Well, you know any time we’ve been away from a region and we finally play there it’s exciting for the band. We are looking forward to having a great time, and I would imagine we’re going to have quite a few Greek rock fans finally getting a chance to see us. So, it’s going to be an interesting night!
 
Rockpages.gr: Can you tell us a bit more about that night? What should we expect to listen to, and watch?

Dave Meniketti: What we’ve been doing lately it’s we’ve been playing of course a lot of our more popular songs that people expect us to play, but because we’re playing a long show, we play for over than two hours, we will be playing a lot of other songs as well. We’ll be playing some songs off the new record, and just some sort of deeper cuts off of records as well…

Rockpages.gr: When you say “new record” I guess you mean “Facemelter”, right?

Dave Meniketti: Righ! New-er… Newest record! Hahaha

Rockpages.gr: I just thought that I missed something! So, having released a brand new live recorded album, “Live At The Mystic”, what are the plans for the band now?

Dave Meniketti: At this point a lot of touring, and at some point, maybe next year, we will be getting involved in writing a new studio record…

Rockpages.gr: “Facemelter” was a great album; do you think that there is going to be pressure applied on you, while you are writing the new material, so that the new album is as good, or even better than “Facemelter”?

Dave Meniketti: Only our own personal pressure. You know, the band’s members themselves making sure that we are writing good material. Of course, we won’t release anything unless we feel like we’ve got good material on it, so there is really no pressure on that regard, just our own personal pressure on ourselves to make sure we are doing the best we can, and of course, you know, when you are writing, you don’t put pressure on yourself, you just let things happen, and then take it from there and work the whole project. Writing is something that cannot be pre-planned. You never know what you will come up with at any given time. It’s just all about inspiration and the moment.

Rockpages.gr: Do you think that having a long period of not writing any new material can affect you and maybe make it easier for you? Is it easier to come up with new material when you haven’t’ got a new record out for a long time, like on “Facemelter” for example?

Dave Meniketti: No, I don’t think so, I think it just depends on the mood you are in at the time and what inspires you. It’s really impossible to say… at some point before recording “Facemelter” we were concerned because we haven’t written for so long, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to come up with anything even exciting. But, we proved ourselves wrong on that regard, worrying about it at least. So, you know, I think it’s becoming one of those things where you just go with it and see how it goes on that given point. We could start writing in January and come up with great stuff, or nothing at all, and then maybe start writing again in June and come up with fantastic stuff… so, it’s all about timing, what inspires us at that moment.  More so than how long it’s been since our previous release…

Rockpages.gr: “Live At The Mystic” is only available through your website. Do you think that’s the way to go for bands nowadays in order to fight effectively against illegal downloading and file sharing?

Dave Meniketti: Well, there’s not one perfect way about it. Originally, the idea behind this record was to have it just as a release from the band, and just from the band to the fans kind of thing, to be available through our website and at the shows. But, whether or not this is considered the better way for us I don’t know. It was just a decision we made at the time, but it’s certainly something that a lot of artists have been doing nowadays. It’s not a bad way to go. It just depends on what you want out of your record. We thought that this was more like a personal small release on our end.

Rockpages.gr: Actually, this is the first release with the new line up of the band. How do you feel about that?

Dave Meniketti: Actually, this was another reason why we wanted to put this out. We wanted to do this in order to have a good representation of what the band sounds now. Even though we had a live DVD in 2006, that was when our new drummer just joined the band and we were all very ill when we did that DVD, so we didn’t feel that it was the best representation for the band, we thought it was a good show. This is perfect because we’ve got a new bass player since 2010, that is replacing Phil (Kennemore), since Phil passed away and we wanted to just really show how good the band is right now at this point.

Rockpages.gr: From my point of view, I think that Y&T were always in the middle of things. You first appeared within the punk explosion, then you did good in the ‘80s although you were different than the sleaze bands that were quite fashionable that time. Then, you split somewhere in the ‘90s to reunite a bit later. What do you think is it that makes the band so fashion-free and always keep it there?

Dave Meniketti:  I just think it’s probably about the relationship we have with our fans. We always pride ourselves on our live shows, and most fans told us over the years that we were a great live band, and I think that this carries through over the years, plus I think it’s the material as well. We made not write the fashionable songs at the moment, but we write good songs that seem to stand up with the time changes. These I think are the two reasons. The passion that we put on our live shows that the fans love to see and the musicianship, and the material. Some people talk about what keeps a band popular over the years, and again I think it’s the relationship with the fans and the material.

Rockpages.gr: You also made a lot of music videos in the ‘80s, where music videos were very popular at that time with MTV, but they still are with YouTube, Vevo and all those websites. What do you remember from making videos like “Keep On Running”, “Meanstreak”, “Summertime Girls” what are your memories from making those?

Dave Meniketti: I’ve never been a big fan of videos! Live videos yes, but produced videos were the band has to sort of “act” in a scene almost like an actor… I don’t know! I always thought that was kind of lame! Hahaha! And for me maybe our particular videos that we did, they were good fun in general, I would rather have videos of the band playing live with other scenes put all together maybe, but us playing parts and walking around in the video, I was never a fan of that. But, the “Summertime Girls” video was fun, because we were out on the beach, having a good time. It was all about fun times at that point. For “Don’t Stop Running” it was fun because we rented a hall and invited fans to come in and watch us play live, so at least for a part of that video that was fun. Overall, I think they are a hassle! Hahaha! It’s usually two straight days of sleepless nights, and sitting around with your make up on and waiting for camera people to make the next scene happen… you know I don’t know! I’d rather be playing live and taping that!

Rockpages.gr: It’s very interesting what you say, because in the videos you look like you are enjoying yourself!

Dave Meniketti: You see I am such a good actor! Hahaha

Rockpages.gr: I also read that there is a whole story behind the robot you used for the music video of “Don’t Stop Running”…

Dave Meniketti: Yes, actually Phil’s brother, Jeff,  at that time -he had two brothers , Jeff and Paul,  that were working in the film industry, Jeff in particular- he had access to a robot from a movie that had just been shot. And so, he thought well we didn’t have our robot made yet, so he thought “we can use this as our robot for now”, and so he took it, borrowed it I should say, from the Hollywood studio and his other brother Paul got inside the robot, and so it was a Kennemore family affair!

Rockpages.gr: How do you feel about the band going on without Phil, who has always been there, and with from what I’ve heard you’ve been very close?

Dave Meniketti: Phil and I were best friends… and of course we spent 37 years in the band together. So, it was difficult, it was more than difficult, it was really hard to lose my best friend, and to lose a band member that has always been in the band with me, so I had tough times going through that, but you know I’ve reckoned with it and luckily we got a good young bass player that has a lot of energy and a lot of excitement about being in the band, and that came across in the live performances, and the fans really welcomed him. They understood that we needed somebody in order to keep going, and Brad (Lang) suited that bill very nicely, so you know it’s a tough thing to do but, in the end of the day the band continued to survive and be as good as we’ve ever been. Although I know it’s difficult for fans when bands have only one original member. At least in that band that one original band member happens to be the lead singer, the lead guitar player, and the main song writer, so with me in the band you are getting pretty much an original band’s worth of band members, so it’s not as bad as some people may think.

Rockpages.gr: Talking about energy and excitement, there is huge amounts of energy and excitement in your playing. When you play guitar your face, your whole body comes into playing. Where did you get that guitar style? What were your influences in playing?

Dave Meniketti: Well, my influences as a guitar player are all over the place. I started out being a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix as many guitar players have. And, I was into Duane Allman, Dickie Betts from the Allman Brothers, all sorts of different players all over the years. When I first started out it was those types of players, it was Jeff Beck, it was ahhh.. Oh God, let me think… Leslie West. All different types of players and I was also into jazz early on when I started playing guitar. Well, all those weren’t necessarily influences on my playing. I enjoy so many different types of music. I think it was more just about the love of music, and that just shows when I am playing live, ‘cause I really love what I am doing, and I am getting inspired by the emotional moment playing my songs, and I believe when I am singing, and when I am  playing lead guitar especially it’s an expression for me. Lead guitar is just like lead vocals, you’re expressing your feelings that time, more than just playing a part, so I think I have the passion and the love of music in sort of some kind of body language that comes through, always has been that way. I never lost my passion for music.

Rockpages.gr: What do you think that makes a guitar hero? Because lately everybody is saying that you cannot have a new Jimi Hendrix, you cannot have a new Slash, if you like. What is it that makes a guitar hero?

Dave Meniketti: I don’t know. If I were to answer that as a fan I would say somebody that brings something new and exciting, or maybe not even new, just something exciting and interesting to the mix of guitar playing. But, you know I don’t really know how to answer that. I don’t really know what a guitar hero is anymore. To me, when I look at certain bands that I like it’s feeling the emotion of their performance and that to me is the type of thing that I would consider to be a guitar hero, or any kind of hero. It’s the type of performance that is so emotional and so real that it moves you when you hear it. And those are usually the types of songs, or the types of performances that will last for decades. Because it’s one  thing to watch a guitar player play perfect scales, and fast riffs, and so on and so forth, technically it’s amazing, and it might be interesting a couple years later if you sit down and listen to it. But, if it doesn’t move you then I feel that it’s less important to me than something else that is played from the heart and the soul and comes of that way.

Rockpages.gr: Back in the ‘80s, and even the ‘90s several bands were forced to sound more commercial in order to appeal more mainstream media. But, nowadays when record companies are on the verge of extinction, bands should be encourages to keep their trademarks and signature style intact in order to maintain, and even expand their fan base. What do you think about that?

Dave Meniketti: Sure, and of course that’s up to any individual band, what direction they want to go at a certain point in their career. It depends on how long they’ve been in one style, whether or not they changed back after decades. This could be confusing, could be a bad thing. Because if you end up being popular after you changed your style, then maybe you should stay that way… hahaha! I don’t know, it’s an individual band members’ decision. But, for somebody like us, we were pushed towards a direction which we maybe made some changes in a few songs. It wasn’t a big of a deal because that only happened for only one or two records when we had a few songs that were pushed to a certain direction from our record company. And that didn’t make us worry a lot and we went back to where we were originally just writing our own material by ourselves and going forward. So, it was a very small portion of our career that was not a problem for us.

Rockpages.gr: Can you give us some highlights from Y&T’s career so far?

Dave Meniketti: Well, I would say the biggest highlight is what’s facing us right now, which is the fact that we have been playing for 38 years and we still can play and still can draw a crowd to us. It’s very exciting for me that I have a career so many years after I started. That to me is the biggest accomplishment that anybody could hope for. There are so many bands that sold more records than we did and had only a career that only lasted from three to five years, so I am very proud of our 38 year career at this point. That is our biggest accomplishment I think!

Rockpages.gr: What do you think that you would do for a living if you haven’t become a professional musician?

Dave Meniketti: Ahh, that’s a question I’ve never been able to answer! Hahaha! When we had some time off in the ‘90s I built my own recording studio, I did some producing and some engineering and I also recorded some TV commercials as a singer, I did a lot kinds of things music related. To be honest with you none of them really satisfied me like playing a live show. So, I don’t know that I could ever be 100% happy doing anything than being a musician that tours.

Rockpages.gr: You’ve also released two different solo albums, different to each other. The one it was a blues album, and the other one was more hard rock. What do you have to say about those albums? How important is blues for you to release a blues album?

Dave Meniketti: Well, you know it’s quite important because it’s always been a love of mine and I always enjoyed blues and when I was first learning to play the guitar blues was one of the biggest hypes of music that I was playing at the time. I was listening to all sorts of records of guys playing strict blues to blues rock kind of thing. So, it was fun for me to branch out from playing hard rock and do a blues oriented record. I still love that, I love that record and I would really enjoy doing another record like that. In fact, I have written some songs already for a new solo record that would be very blues oriented as well. And then, the “Meniketti” record was my blues solo project growing up and sort of going back to my rock roots I suppose. Still, there are some blues influences, but not as much as on “On The Blue Side” record. It has great material because I didn’t have another outlet to release music at that time. Y&T weren’t playing that much at the time, so my solo record was my only way of writing anything of any sort. Whether it was rock, or blues or anything. I am really proud of both those records.

Rockpages.gr: I know that you guys are touring a lot; you are travelling from one place to another. This sometimes could be very hard. I’d like you to tell me what’s the one thing you always take with you when you are touring?

Dave Meniketti: Haaa… let me see… I would say… Hahaha… My sanity! Really, there is no other thing that I need out there other than really just my state of mind, that’s what gets me through… and my sense of humor! Those are the most important things. Sense of humor, number one, and my commitment to the shows really. There are a lot of other guys that tour and it’s just a party every night, which is fun, but they go too far and the fans pay for it the next day when they play a show and they are not at their best. I always give my best and I always try to do my best. I plan for that… my vocals being the most important thing because I can play guitar forever, with one hour of sleep, but I cannot sing forever with one hour of sleep. So, I make sure that I get my sleep and that I do my best on every show. Those are the most important things for me: keep your sense of humor, and keep your priorities straight!

Rockpages.gr: What would you say that it’s the worse habit that you’ve picked up after all those years of touring?

Dave Meniketti: My worst habit that I picked up on touring… that’s hard to say! Maybe eating fast! That would be one of the worse habits that I’ve picked up from touring. I didn’t used to be that way, I used to take my time and eat slowly, but when you get on a tour bus and you order a pizza, then if you don’t eat fast you’re not getting any!

Rockpages.gr: Closing this interview I would like you to send a message to the Greek fans for the upcoming show…

Dave Meniketti: Hello, all of you Y&T Greek rock’n’roll fans this is Dave Meniketti from Y&T. We look so forward to finally playing in your country and it’s going to be a great show, so don’t miss it! I hope to see you there! Cheers…   

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