One of the most over looked bands has always been Y&T. Led by Dave Meniketti, the Bay area group has released some of the best melodic hard rock around, yet they never quite achieved their deserving superstar status. Still, they have carved out an impressive 33 year career. Always a killer live act, the band consistently gives memorable shows. They recently released a live DVD to help underscore that fact. The disc, Y&T Live - One Hot Night is an absolutely wicked concert that shows all their excellent songs like "Mean Streak" and "I Believe in You". Without fancy light shows or pyro, these guys strip back a live presentation to its basics, quality music. I spoke with Dave Meniketti recently and got the low-down on what went behind the release of the DVD.
antiMUSIC: Congrats on the DVD it's just excellent and just one of the best live ones I've ever got to see. I've never had the pleasure of seeing you live so this really shows what I've been missing. Did you record many shows for the DVD or did you just lay it all on the line for just this one in the Netherlands?
Dave Meniketti: Well, we tried a couple of other times before you know, maybe over the last two years. We gave it a go and we ended up not liking the production value because maybe it was just the wrong hall or maybe the way they lit it or something like that. This was an all-in-one time affair you know for this particular DVD. We didn't do this over two days or anything like that. It was just one show and you know, for better or worse, there it was (laughs).
antiMUSIC: Was there a real particular reason why you chose the Netherlands or this area?
Dave Meniketti: Ah, really it was just because a person…we were flying to summer festivals in Europe last year and a guy that had actually done the audio for one of those festivals came up to us at another festival a few days later and said, "Look check this out. This is what I just recorded of you guys at the last festival in Germany. And you know, we did a really good job and we just so happen to be real big fans of the band and we'll do the right thing for what we think the fans will want to see and hear" and so on and so forth. So, you know, they just seemed to be the right company. And so we knew we couldn't do it right then because we were just about done with that particular part of the tour for the summer. But we knew that we were coming back in the fall to do another headline European tour so we just picked a proper date that they were going to be close by to, so they could make it to, so they could drive to. They also thought this was a good venue that they could for a DVD.
antiMUSIC: Does recording a DVD cause many problems? I would assume it doesn't always go as seamlessly as you see on the final product. One of the out-takes shows you restarting a song. Did it go pretty smooth or did you have a couple of snags?
Dave Meniketti: Nah. The biggest snag for us was just physically it was a tough thing because it was an amazingly hot night and so we turned into sweat balls trying to get through it and literally I was slipping on my own sweat, there was a puddle beneath me. (laughs) That and the fact that I was sick with a cold were the two only things that made it kind of a little bit harder than the norm. but other than that, nah, it really went pretty easily. It was just another Y&T set as far as we were concerned. Another good show. The crowd was obviously into it. And you know that helped to sort of get us pass all those other things that were bothering us at the moment.
antiMUSIC: Was this a special set list because of the DVD or is this a typical Y&T set list?
Dave Meniketti: That's pretty much a standard Y&T set list for the last couple of years. Or at least the last year. We try to keep it fresh for every time that we come out to tour again in areas that we been before. We try to make sure that we're going to do at least 3, 4 or 5, maybe 6 or 7, you know, different songs than we did the time before. You know we play a good two and a quarter hours every night so it allows us to change enough songs and still be able to play all the classics that the people want to hear.
antiMUSIC: I think the thing that really stands out about the DVD besides the music obviously is that you undoubtedly leave everything on the stage. There was no effort spared. Just seeing you on the couch absolutely spent really shows that you put everything into your performance. When you're on tour, do you have any kind of workout regime or follow a special nutritional system to be able to keep up such a workout?
Dave Meniketti: (laughs). Well, you know, I generally work out all the time before a tour. I'm jogging and going up hills and all that kind of stuff so that I try to keep in shape that way. Although that last tour was not exactly the best looking for me...(laughs) but it's just my own self, my own schedule for me, is that I want to make sure that I get enough rest between shows so that I can sing at my best every night. Because it's two and a quarter hours of singing material that is very high and very intense. You know it takes a lot out of you. That's the main thing for me, is that I get enough sleep between shows. Outside of that, just what I eat really is the other thing. I don't eat anything spicy or anything like that because, you know, I don't want it to affect my singing. Anything that affects your stomach, affects your singing so I try to keep it bland and simple.
antiMUSIC: A couple of songs that I liked in the past but didn't have a special attachment to in the past, really jumped to life in a live setting. "Winds of Change" "Rescue Me" and "I Believe in You" were absolutely stunning. I talked to Ian Anderson this week and he said that he still loves playing Aqualung and Locomotive Breath just because they're very good songs. Do the songs change very much for you over the years in terms of your affection for them and are there times where you think if I have to play "Mean Streak" again I'm going to shoot myself?
Dave Meniketti: (laughs) Well, you know, I certainly can concede that they're have been moments when "Mean Streak" comes, and you just go, "Man, I'm going to get through it. I'm going to get through it." Really it's the crowd that brings you back into it every time. And that's the bottom line; if you're playing for a good time and you're getting a reaction, you know, then it's just naturally going to put you back in that space where you going to love every moment you're playing again. But generally, we do like playing almost everything that we play. There are certain songs that are more favorites I would say, such as "I Believe in You", is a favourite every night because we make something of that every night. We make it different every night. We put our heart and soul into it. You know, there are just certain songs that are standouts to us. But in general we still like playing all of those songs because the crowd is into it, so it gives us the reason to want to get into it ourselves.
antiMUSIC: It's no secret that your guitar-playing is phenomenal. Do you spend a lot of time working out your leads or do you just hit the record button and let it flow spontaneously?
Dave Meniketti: Yeah, I'm one of these kind of guys who doesn't know what the hell he's doing when it comes to…nah, I mean, I know what I'm doing, but I don't work anything out. I just don't. There's only I think, maybe there was a solo, that I worked out one time and the only way that I worked it out was because I heard the demo of it so many times. I like the solo so well I decided to copy it when I did the record. But other than that, no, I just let it flow. Because the way that I look at solos, is that I want them to be an expression just like a lead vocal is…to where it means something. You know, it's more than just blowing, you know. (laughs) You know, there are times when I realized that that's appropriate, you just want to blow and that's all there is to it. But you know, in general I like to just get into it. And the only way that I feel I like I can do it the best is to come up with something different and new every single time that the record light is hit. And so I don't work anything out. I just literally go in there and take a couple of blows at it, and you know, hopefully I got something good after a couple of times through, you know.
antiMUSIC: John and Mike seem to have slid into the band seamlessly. What do each of them bring to the table?
Dave Meniketti: Well John is a great guitar player and singer and he's been a guy that's been around the band since probably day one, because he was a friend of our old drummer Leonard and he went to school with him and he kinda hung around. And they had a band, him and some other guys had a band that were you know, sort of doing similar type of music and they were inspired by Y&T and we played a lot of shows together. So, you know, he'd been around us for many years. And then he ended up doing background vocals on a couple of our records, and touring with us, and helping us out so he was a natural to just slide right into the band. He knew the material as if he had been in the band himself, and you know he was one of us, you know, from our area, from our hometown, and grew up on the same kinds of music that we grew up on so he was perfect for that.
Now Mike, Mike came in completely out of left field because we didn't know this guy, really. I mean I had met once before but I didn't know much about him or anything like that. I knew he was a local guy but we tried about something like 15 or 16 guys out. There were like three that stood out really well. but Mike just had it. He had the right attitude. He had great chops and we knew that he could learn the material quickly because he had to, cause we were going to go right out there to do these European festivals. The first date was playing for about 35 thousand people (laughs) so you know, you got to know your stuff, you know. So he just slid in just nicely. And then, it took us a while to get used to him because he plays differently than Leonard ever did. Actually EVERYBODY plays differently than Leonard ever did (laughs), you know. Nobody plays quite like Leonard does. So it took us a while for us to adjust to him, and him to us but it was pretty stable as it all turned out.
antiMUSIC: Phil has been with you for a long time. What is it about your working relationship that has kept you two together?
Dave Meniketti: Yeah, that's true. Well you know the good thing about Phil and I is we're of like mind when it comes to many, many things. And that means everything from music to loves and hates, to politics to everything all the way down the line. So we just get along. Plus he and I have known each other longer than any other relationship that I've had in my life except for my parents and my sister and the same with him. So you know, we just know each other inside and out. And when it comes to hitting the road, we know each other's little things, you know, everyone's got something. If you're going to hang out with him long enough and go out on the road with him, you know, some week or another they're going to do something that's going to bug you. (laughs) but we know to keep away from each other, to absolve each other of any of our little things that might normally tick off everybody else. And plus we ended up being the sort of Lennon and McCartney of the band, you know, him doing a lot of the lyrics, and contributing with melodies and stuff, and things like that. So between the two of us, we've written the majority of Y&T's material since probably 1979 on.
antiMUSIC: What is next for you? Are you working on a Y&T record or a Meniketti record?
Dave Meniketti: I'm going to say both only because I haven't gotten around to either of them. (laughs) Whichever comes up first, you know. I mean, we've been talking about coming up with a new y and t record and for about 2 years we talked about and, said nah. And now, the last year, we've been saying yeah, we got to do it. So now we got to get in there and just get a couple of months in a row where we're not touring so that we won't be distracted, put it that way. So I think that'll come January, February.
antiMUSIC: So right now you're touring behind the DVD..
Dave Meniketti: Yeah, we're just touring period. And you know, the DVD is the newest thing that's out. We'll be leaving on Oct 4 and doing the Midwest and east coast---parts of the Midwest and the east coast, not the entire thing, but certainly, a couple of weeks doing that. Then we fly over to Scandinavia for four shows. And we do 9 shows in the UK, and then Germany and then three shows in Spain, and then we're home for three more shows in the bay area at the end of the year. So that's quite a bit of work coming up.
antiMUSIC: Yeah, you forgot to include Canada in there Dave…
Dave Meniketti: Well you know what we don't WANT to forget Canada. But it's been a tough nut to crack to get back into that region. And believe me, we are on top of trying to crack that area again, at least to get one or two shows if nothing else.
Dave Meniketti: The closest we're coming this year is Detroit. Laughs. and that's about it. But you know, we desperately want to get out that way. We just never have done much of Canada. We played a couple of tours where we, you know, went up there, I think we hit it up there with Motley Crue, xxx? and you know, a few other things maybe. But very rarely. So it's something I'd love to get back up to
antiMUSIC: You have to go where the crowds want you most.
Dave Meniketti: Well exactly. You know, I would hope that we would be able to at least get a couple of people at a club, you know, somewhere in Canada.
antiMUSIC: Absolutely. That's all the questions I have for you Dave. Is there anything else about the DVD that I didn't ask that you would like to mention?
Dave Meniketti: Just that I think that this production company did a really good job. Being fans themselves they did a good job of making sure that there is a lot of stuff included for the fans. It's more than just a two hour plus show. It's a separate DVD with us doing sound check stuff, doing other songs, like you'd mentioned us back stage after we finished a set, there's us interacting with the fans after the show. And the fans at the show talking, you know, being interviewed, a few of them. And also a couple songs from the Bang Your Head Festival which was a festival we played earlier that year and also a separate CD which includes most of, you know, as much as we could fit on the minutes of the actual DVD shoot. So we did a lot for the fans. We hope that when they get the package that it'll satisfy them.
antiMUSIC: Well it certainly did on this end, and like I said, it really whet the appetite. I can't wait to see you guys live now. I wish you all the best with the DVD. And look forward to seeing you guys up north here sometime.
Dave Meniketti: Well I certainly hope to get up there soon. And I don't say that just because I'm talking to you. We really do want to get to play again in Canada. It's just that it's been so long, I hope people still remember who we are. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: Well, they certainly do. Thanks a lot for taking the time today.
Dave Meniketti: All right. Thank you. Cheers. Bye bye.
Morley and antiMUSIC thank Dave for taking the time to do this interview.