Y&T interview with Dave Meniketti: "Being rich and super famous means nothing to me, I judge my success by how happy it makes me feel doing what I do"

12/09/2012 @ 13:50
Being the leader and central figure of Y&T for over 35 years, Dave Meniketti deserves to take credit for significantly most of the respect the band has achieved among fans and musicians as well. The new decade has found the band not only with constant presence on stage but also with a new studio album, two years ago, and a new live recording this year. Especially for Greece this energy is positive because it will bring them for the first time in Athens. For these and many more subjects we had the chance of speaking with him.

After a long absence of recording with Y&T, you released "Facemelter" in 2010. After two years how would you judge this album both artistically and regarding the audience's reception?
At the end of the day, it turned out to be a great experience all around. Not only did the band enjoy the songwriting and tracking process, but the outcome was not only a solid Y&T effort, but the songs come off perfectly in our live show. The fans took to the new material better than I could have expected, so luckily it seems we did the right thing with this release.

Y&TDid you find that the writing process for the new songs of Y&T after so many years was different than when you were younger?
Not really. The apprehension was there for sure before we started to write, not knowing how easy or hard it would be to come up with good ideas this time around, but that all went by the wayside once Phil and I started writing for the CD. It just all fell in place and it was as if we never took a break from writing. It was a pleasant surprise, but I think deep in our hearts we knew we could pull it off.

This year's release, "Live At The Mystic", is advertized as the 'the ultimate Y&T live album'. What is it that makes it so special in comparison to previous live releases?
Live projects are truly hit or miss. You can have the right gear and recording sounds but the band could play flat, or the opposite. It’s hard to capture magical moments and have it come across even remotely close to the real event. But I think when we all took a break from listening to the tracks, by waiting months before we listened to them, it became apparent we had some real 'heat' coming off the recordings. That’s just not an easy thing to get, at least the way we wanted it to sound. Y&T has always been the band that sounded better in person than on recording, with better vocals and energy than some of our studio recordings, so we really wanted to find some magic on the tracks to get some of that across. This live recording certainly has some great moments captured and the band is just grooving like nothing we’ve had before. It’s more than just about the players, but if you have that, plus you add in the fact that we all love to perform, and an amazing and inspirational audience to play for, then you know you have a worthwhile recording. I believe this truly shows the benefits of years on the road together. Most of these tunes sound better than the original recordings to my mind.
Y&TWhen you started playing you had some support gigs with Journey as the main act. Were you ever tempted to 'mellow' your sound and appeal to a bigger audience?
That was never a thought in our minds at the  time. We were the young crazy kids, playing fast and jumping all over the stage with amazing energy, while Journey was the refined band of amazing players. We loved being different and having what was truly own unique style at the time. We were becoming known for that exact thing and we wouldn’t have changed a thing..

Although you started earlier then most of the bands that are actually considered as cornerstones of American hard rock, it took you a while to have your commercial break. On the other hand you seem to have maintained a higher level of respect throughout the years than a lot of them. Do you share my opinion? How do you feel about that?
I think you have something there, based on the respect we get from musicians worldwide. It still amazes me when we meet someone famous we had never met or played with before and find out they are big fans of the band and really have a great respect for our musicianship. It’s a good feeling and I can only guess we did something right, even though we never sold multi-millions of records. I’m quite honestly happy with the fact that we’ve had such a long varied career and still can play with the very best of them live. Being rich and super famous means nothing to me, I judge my success by how happy it makes me feel doing what I do, and the satisfaction of having a great fan base that just feels like one huge worldwide family.

Dave Meniketti (Y&T)Over the years Y&T have been considered an influence on so many bands that there is no need to mention them. But have you been influenced by one of them? Meaning one band that got something from you, changed it and then made an impression on you.
That’s an interesting question that I wish I had an answer for. It’s always possible that has happened.
Can you tell me which moment, one single fact or occasion, when you understood that Y&T had become successful? Was that the time when you understood that Y&T will be your main occupation for the future?
Success is a difficult thing to quantify. It means different things to me than the typical thing you hear on TV.  To me, knowing that our music is truly loved by so many and having read letters early in our career from fans describing how much it meant to them to hear our music. That is always special to absorb and to me. I’ve been touched by so many fans in my career, and that alone meant I was doing something of worth.
Dave Meniketti (Y&T)The bands of you era where very lovingly and comically shown in The Spinal Tap movie. Any Spinal Tap moment that happened to you?
Just about every funny thing that happened in that movie happened to us in a similar way. For example, we were playing with AC/DC at Hammersmith Odeon in London, which is a multi-story old wooden building with many twists and turns. Our dressing room was on the bottom floor, about 3 floors below the stage. We actually got lost trying to find the stage and had to find an old man that had worked there for decades to rescue us and frantically get us to the stage, where we ended up being about 5 minutes late. For a moment there we all thought there was a chance we would never have found it at all.

Is your solo career going to continue with more releases at some point?
Yes, that is the intention. I have about 50% of a new record written so I just need to carve out some time to finish it and get it recorded. Maybe next year.
How does it feel playing without Phil Kennemore? Did you think of stopping the band after his death?
It was a very strange feeling at first, and yes there was a feeling that crept into my mind numerous times about stopping the band, when I knew he wasn’t going to make it. But after talking to Phil, he made it clear that I had to keep the band going, which was what I’m sure I would have done anyway, but having his blessing was important to me. Phil was more than a band mate that I shared the stage with for 37 years, he was my best friend, and losing him has been very difficult. Luckily Brad Lang, that came out to play in his place when Phil was getting treated for his lung cancer, ended up being such a great guy to have join the legacy of Y&T. His energy and love for the band, along with his talents, were a life saver. The fans took to him right away, which was a very important part of the whole change.

Dave Meniketti (Y&T)In Europe we have the feeling that the audience in USA has strict age boundaries. Young people go to see young bands, older people go to see older bands. Is this the case in your shows? Do you see young people in your shows in Europe?
Not necessarily. It depends on the venue. If the venue allows minors in (under 21), you will find many young fans come to the shows. And yes, especially the last 6 years I have noticed a rise in the young audiences at our shows in Europe. It’s great to see and meet these fans after the performances and see them out in the crowd singing along with all the tunes.

In Athens, in front of an audience that has never seen you before, what kind of a setlist are you planning to perform? A fans only selection or a greatest hits set?
It will be a combination of both. Since we have never played in Greece before it would be only too perfect to play some of our biggest songs, along with new "Facemelter" songs and deep tracks. We play for two hours or more each night so that gives us a lot of space to play many types of songs. It should be great and we are all looking forward to this show.