It is my pleasure to bring to everyone my interview with Danny Danzi. You want to talk about a guy that gets it? A guy that understands and realizes how important his music is to his fans, and a guy that puts so much hard work into every note that leaves his voice and fingers. That gentleman is Danny Danzi. On behalf of the staff here at G101, I want to thank Dan for taking time out to do an interview with me. If you haven't checked out Danny's cd, "DanziLand" I HIGHLY recommend that you do so, RIGHT NOW! Chicago maybe Sinatra's kinda town, but DanziLand is where I'll be for many years to come.
1. What's on the horizon for you in the new year ?
As of now, the band and I have been trying to rehearse and hit the road for a few possibilities in Europe, Japan, and the East Coast. We've had a few road blocks along the way, but we seem to be getting back on track for the most part. We wanna go out and play first and foremost before we work on any new material. Nothing worse than uninspired studio burnout, so we have to release the energy and tear it up live. After some solid live performances, we'll take a look at what we're gonna do about a new album.
2. The new album, Danziland, has been gotten good reviews. Could you take us through some personal song highlights on the album?
They're all my children, so each one has a purpose and a reason. I'll attempt to take ya track by track and see how I do.
Welcome- This is the entrance to the new Danny Danzi with a full band. It leaves my past behind and brings you into the world I live in known as "DanziLand".....a recording studio themepark. Like a Chuck E. Cheese for adults or a Dave and Busters virtual arcade, this studio/facility/where I live is a dream come true for anyone in the music field.
DanziLand- Pretty much opens the album with a look no hands attitude and describes what the band and I are all about.
Eternity- I released a demo of this one a few years back. It's still available on my website in the downloads section. The new and improved version sports better quality, production, orchestration and a more "for the times" presentation.
Just A Matter of Time- You can hear the first rough version of this playing in the background in my download section. Greeting from Danny I think it's called. As I speak, the tune you hear in the back, actually in time would become Just A Matter Of Time. The tune is about how I hear things in my head. Voices, arrangements, melodies, solo's, back up vocals, you name it, I hear them. The toughest thing is getting these voices out of my head and putting them in a language that others can understand, and relate to. So the tune is basically about how things come to me, and how it's just a matter of time before I get them out of my head and create something special.
Let it Go- Ah we had to write one of those chick type tunes. But the twist on this one is, the chick can't make up her mind and keeps coming back. Instead of forcefully pushing her away, she's just asked to smile and walk away.
Only The Strong Will Survive- This is a story about the band and all the trials and tribulations we've had to go through. Members quitting, getting fired, giving commitments and not keeping them...stuff like that. It also sends a positive message to stay strong when things look bad because there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel if you work hard, stay focused and hang tough.
Wild & Dangerous- I was looking for a different kind of vibe musically in this one. Something not as predictive with lyrics that basically speak about life and how dangerous it can be. I love the solo in this one!
Time Passes By- Written by my partner Andy Slostad, this is kinda like a power ballad. He wrote it about a trip he had to NYC and all the things he saw that day. When he presented the tune to me, I loved it just the way it was. I Danzi-ized it a little bit, but for the most part, all I did was change his original melody and wrote the guitar solo. One of the most melodic solo's I've ever done. Short, sweet, to the point, and it cries.
Destiny- Well, I'm embarrassed to share in full what this one means to me. I'm saving the punchline for when I play live, as people have no clue. Let's just say writing this song saved my life and no one knows the extent of how much. I was at the lowest time of my life and decided to write about it. As I was writing about it, my keyboard player sent me lyrics that he had for this. I liked his better, it pulled me out of my depression and his words were totally opposite to mine....so I went with his. The meaning of the tune is to believe we all have a destiny. It is up to us to find out what our destiny is.
Fool- Written about a boss of mine in the past, this is one of the coolest tunes on the album I think. And my first attempt at a jazz/fusion type of solo. We'll probably never hear any of that type of playing from me again. LOL!!
All Or Nothing- Andy started this a while back. We originally called it the BonJovi/Toto tune since it kinda has that vibe. We decided to bash chicks because we were all in bad relationships at the time, so we bashed them in song....in a nice way of course. LOL!! Definitely the scariest guitar solo I've ever played.
What About Us- This is the Euro/US bonus track. It basically asks about the U.S. in general. Whenever there is a problem in a country, we are the first (with some of our awesome allies right with us!) to get there to help. We can name countless situations in the US where no one other than a few countries that love us, have offered help. The U.S. is constantly bashed for what it gets involved with, and though I do not agree with some of the stuff we get ourselves into, I don't think it's fair for others to hate our entire country because of it. This is where the song comes into play. The US citizens to not have a choice in what goes on other than when we vote. When we elect someone in office, they sing a different song when they are running to be elected. Don't blame us for how they change once they are in power....that's how politics work, and it's how they always have worked.
We don't have control over what our government does. We shouldn't have to pay for the mistakes they make, and let's face it, foreigners blame the entire US for the actions of our government and higher powers. We all don't love war, we all don't want to medal in other peoples affairs, and none of us wants to die because some terrorist has a bug up his ass and can care less that we personally did not tell our president to kill his family. The American people should not have to pay innocently for any of this. You have a problem with our president, go take it up with him. We just pay our taxes here, try to survive, hope to make a few dollars to enjoy life, and pray for another happy, healthy day alive. The song is all about that, and secretly speaks of the world trade center tragedy but isn't exploited. Listen close, the words are very powerful.
What Can I Say- This is the Japanese bonus track. Andy and I were out of lyrics at this time. We felt we said all we could say on one album without some time away. So it struck us one night.....hell, we'll just write about running out of words! It became one of the coolest lyrical tunes on the album, and took the longest to record and get the right way.
3. How has your style of guitar playing changed/developed down the years?
Well, I'm not much of an innovator, I never practice anymore, and I just try to maintain what I have. So it's safe to say I can now use the instrument as a valuable weapon instead of a shred tool. All I did for years was learn techniques and play like a maniac. It got old because everyone was doing it, and they did it better than I did. So my new goal was to find myself and ask myself...."Danny, why do you play dude?" The answer I came up with, was to be a songwriter and play in a good band so I could create with them. So I've basically changed in my maturity level as an artist and guitar player. I play for what fits best with the song, not my personal preference. I don't shred for the sake of "wow this lick is just sooo cool there".....my solo's are the icing on the cake and always tell a story. If you take away my solos, my crunchy guitars and all my production tricks.....you will still be left with a song that has a hook you can sing along to and could be played on an acoustic guitar.
4. Is there a particular piece of gear that you treasure more than anything?
Probably my Digitech Pre-amps. I can play with one of those and just a guitar, and no one would notice a difference. The best pre-amp ever made in my opinion....and I have several and have tried just about every one. I also have about 100 amps in my collection....and that's where they stay...in my collection. Proof that pre-amp has really made an impression on me.
5. Speaking of gear, what guitars and amps are you using mainly these days?
Pretty much the same as usual. I've not changed in many years because I'm very happy with my tone and guitars. My main guitars are a Carvin DC-400 custom, an Ibanez USA custom, and a B.C. Rich Bich. The pre-amps I use are usually run through 2-250 or 2-300 watt Rocktron Velocity power amps. I also have 2-Mesa 90/90 power amps also, but I notice no difference in using them over the Rocktron's. The Velocity amps are more stable and reliable, so they go where I go.
6. When you set out to record a new album do you have a particular musical style in mind or do you just record your best songs, regardless of what styles they are?
I just do what I do. It is what it is. The only rule I have is it HAS to have a good hook. I don't pay attention to the style or anything like that. I just let it out as it comes to me.
7. What's your favorite song on Danziland, and why?
That's really a tough question that I can't quite answer. They are all my children and I love them equally. For different reasons yes, but it's hard to pick one. Certain songs, I just love to listen to. I don't even like to play them because I can't enjoy them as much. Others, I love the performance value. And on a few others, the guitar just kicks my butt and I love to play them because of the solo or the rhythm guitar.
8. What do you do in your spare time outside of music?
I'm a video game junkie, pc guru, race my car, work out, golf, flag football, softball, basketball, long walks, dirtbike racing, and I'm recently heavily into photography.
9. Judging by how many instruments you play, I can just tell that your musical background is very diverse. Who are some musical artists that you like to listen too to keep your own ideas fresh?
I actually don't listen to any music anymore. It does nothing for me. When I'm in my Vette, the sound of that Z06 engine is all I need. I think I've used the stereo 5 times total. LOL! At home, I focus on my own music and recording tricks. Every once in a while I'll compare my recordings to what may be the "in thing" of today. Just to see how I fair production vs. production. But I really don't listen to anything to be inspired. God was good to me and gave me enough inspiration to last a lifetime. I have about 30 albums worth of material I could work on. Parts of songs, solos, vocal backings, instrumental backings, drum tracks, piano/string scores...the list goes on and on.
10. Do you ever think back to those days when you were playing the Van Halen tribute band circuit? And do you have any fond memories of playing Eddie's music?
I think about it a lot. So much so, I just joined another tribute band for the hell of it. This band does all the old 80's hair metal bands, so I'm pretty stoked about it. We'll play like one show a month, but it will be fun I can tell ya that! So I'll be playing some old VH again in that band. As far as memories, yeah, quite a few. The one that most sticks out at me was in a place in Wildwood NJ. Packed house, chicks throwing bra's and panties at us, super dirty dancing under each others skirts, it was like a "girls gone wild" party I tell ya. Well, when it came to my version of Eruption, the crowd knew it was coming. The entire place started chanting "Eddie Eddie Eddie". What a total high! I mean cmon, that's one heck of a compliment, ya know? I fed off of them and ripped their heads off. From Eruption, into parts of Spanish Fly, Meanstreets and then Cathedral. By the time I got done, they thought I was Eddie! LOL!
I had that stuff down at one time man. The looks, the stage moves, the authentic sound...not much of the solos were spot on, I did them my own way, but in an Eddie "more upto date" type style. At the end of the night, I always took a walk. I went to the beach at like 5 am and walked for a bit. As I walked, I heard those chants in my head. You know, the "Eddie Eddie" chants. This time, they didn't make me feel so good. When would they ever chant "Danny Danny Danny"? When would I escape this whole thing? I was becoming a clone, and the dude they all talked about as "the closest thing to Eddie Van Halen you will ever see". Though in my mind I knew there are thousands of guys that will do it better than I would. But the point was, I needed to get out of it and find my identity. It was Danny time...time to leave the cover thing and do MY thing. I quit the band the next night and was gone in 2 weeks. I then pursued my dream the right way, and signed a record deal.
11. Speaking of Eddie, what is it that makes his music so special on your opinion?
His innovation, attitude, effects usage, sound, the list goes on and on. He came at a time when disco was king, and became King Edward. I rest my case.
12. Back to Danziland, I noticed that you have a very fierce style of playing on that album. Your tone is very reminiscent of George Lynch. Not only will it jump out at you and kick you in the face, but it'll take
your wallet while it's at it! What's the secret behind your sound?
Hahaha thanks, that's a way to put it that I've never heard. Really not much of a secret other than the tone and execution comes from my fingers. The sound is that Digitech pre amp plugged straight into the board without a mic. I mic'd 8 cabs in the studio and tried different cabs, mic techniques, mics, you name it, we tried it. We recorded each test run we made. At the end of the day, 4 of the mic/speaker configurations sounded nearly identical to the Digitech 2101 right into the board via XLR out. We figured why fight it for the sake of using a mic? Not only that, but the settings would be exact each time. Mic placement changes on a daily basis. You never get it perfect everytime, and the sound changes too. With the pre-amp, I could start recording something one night, get burned out and stop, then come back in 2 days and pick up where I left off with the same identical sound. So we stuck with it for the entire album.
13. How do you approach your songwriting?
I don't approach it at all. That leads to stress and filler tunes. Songwriting approaches me. This way, the inspiration flows. It's not like trying to get blood from a stone. I can't sit down right now and say "ok, I'm gonna write a song now". It doesn't work like that for me. I can say "I'm gonna sit down and mess with a few ideas, or maybe try to finish a tune I started" but I can't force it or it will never come out of me.
14. You and I have chatted here and there about illegal file sharing, and what that has done to the music industry. Can you just take some time out now and share your feelings on the subject?
(Taken from a previous interview because this says it all in full)
OK … Well let me put it to you this way. What people have to understand is, they have to put themselves on the artists end. I understand that CD prices are very high and they have to understand that there are stores that are not selling them that high. They have to do the research, that’s the main thing. Supposedly people are stealing because they can’t see paying that much for a little piece of plastic. What they also have to understand is that little piece of plastic will outlast a vinyl album. People wonder what happened with albums with the great art work that were like a book and told a story … they were wonderful but those vinyl albums, if you played them sixty times they degrade.
You can play a CD forever, let’s face it! So that price that they’re paying to me is well worth it. I think anything over twenty bucks is ludicrous, I think the stores should be shot. The bad part about stealing is that it destroys a little artist like me for the simple fact that we have quotas per country, there is licensing that goes on and when you fault they lower your quotas – that country won’t license to you any more. When that country doesn’t license to you your sales start to drop off, when your sales start to drop off your record label tells you that you’re outta here, because they can’t move your product anymore. Most artists think that the file sharing programs like Napster and Bear Share and all those places are helping them get exposure I ask them this, have you ever received a fan mail saying “Dear so and so, I recently heard your material on whatever file sharing site and I think you’re killer, I’ll buy your CD.” I guarantee no one has ever received an email saying that.
It’s destroying the industry, the industry caters to the young kids. The young kinds don’t have jobs; they’re in school. They’re sitting there at computers saying “Ah ha ha” we can steal all this stuff and it’s perfectly legal – it’s not legal. All the stuff about Metallica suing there fans and all that; they have that right, it’s stated in my copy right form it is a $2500 fine for reproduction of my material. You can’t do anything with out my consent – that is my right, I made that song. No one has the right to do that, even burning CDs of all your artists and you give it to your friend you’ve broken the law. You don’t own that CD you bought a license to it, that’s the thing; people have to understand it’s not the artist, it’s not the record labels, we’re not jacking these prices up – we’re just trying to survive. It kills little guys, it kills everyone – I mean look at the music industry right now, that’s happening because of file sharing, I don’t care what anybody tells me.
I just wish that every one that used those things – if they found something they liked that they would go and buy the CD. I think it’s great if it’s controlled, like I said in a recent interview – if you go and buy a gun; you know what guns were made for shooting, killing –whatever…you kill someone with it you’re going to pay a penalty, it’s the same with these file sharing programs, if you’re doing something illegal you should be fined, regardless of who you are.
When you use it properly, and buy a Cd based on liking a few songs, you keep the industry going, -that’s the way it should work. I don’t even have a problem if there was control, Audio Galaxy had the right idea before they got sued or what ever happened to them. They allowed an artist to put a copy right claim in saying I do not want these songs listed in your search engine- that’s wonderful, all I want is control – I’m all for the file sharing. As a matter of fact I would do a file sharing only EP, to give all those people songs that they wouldn’t be able to buy on my album, just to hook them to say now you buy this guys album and he’ll have a whole bunch of different songs on there. I would do that in a heart beat all I ask for is control and I think it could be a wonderful thing.
15. When did you first know that music was what you wanted to do in life?
The first time I saw Van Halen. Man it was insane! I never seen anything like it and in an instant, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
16. How bout a message to your fans, and what they can expect from Danny Danzi in 2005?
I love you all, I miss you all, and can't wait to tour in your neck of the woods with the new material. The live show is intense, and we have a few great surprises in store for you. We hope to play as often as we can and will hopefully get another album in the works at some point in time. I thank you all for your friendship, support and it's because of all of you I've been blessed with this chance to share my music with the world! Thanks again everyone, much love to you and God Bless!
17. Two-fold question for ya. Patriots or Eagles, and Sam or Dave?
Eagles baby! But it's gonna be a good game....probably over by the time you post this interview, but hopefully the birds pull it off! Definitely Dave live, but Sammy for the songs. They had more hits with him and the songwriting went from attitude to musical integrity. I love the old stuff for sure, but the newer VH shows maturity and a much more well orchestrated painted picture. I like them both equally, but for different reasons.