By Martin Popoff
Heavens be praised, Dave Meniketti and his current lineup of Y&T recently tripped through a tundra-like Toronto, playing their first gig here since... wait for it... 1985!
Tracks from the latest album, 2010’s Facemelter were sent charging out from the stage in front of an adoring packed house at The Rockpile, with Dave, in-betwixt, promising the throngs that given the response, he plans to bring Y&T back real soon.
Wishing to keep it current, given so many chats with Dave in the past about the past (see my “making of” eBooks, covering Black Tiger and Earthshaker, at Zunior.com
; Struck Down chapter in my Ye Olde Metal: 1978!), I asked Meniketti (a genetically modified splice between EVH and The Red Rocker!) to frame Facemelter for us, in terms of the making and baking...
“Sure, well, this is one of those records where we knew we had to get back and get creative again. We kept sort of pushing ourselves against that for a little while and just going with playing material from all of our previous records. And you know, it was just going to be obvious after a certain point of time, okay, we’re stable, this band unit is exactly what we’re going to be doing, and we need to put something new on the table. So it was kind of about a year in the making before we actually got the gears rolling, right? Because we’ve been working so long and hard, playing about 60 to 70 shows a year, and so a lot of times that ends up consuming your whole year, the way it spaced out.”
“So we finally just said, okay, we’ve got to make a commitment, let’s do it. And so at the end of 2009, right after we played our last show of the year, which was sometime around December 1st, we just said okay, let’s consciously make an effort to take four months off, January through April, and let’s get it done. And that’s exactly what we did. We literally started writing from December through to March, and even, literally, at the last minute, writing some new stuff about three weeks before the thing was mixed.”
“So you know, we finished it all up,” continues Dave, accompanied on tour not only by guitarist John Nymann, bassist Brad Lang and vague Haze-alike drummer Mike Vanderhule, but also his wife and capable manager Jill. “The vibe was very, very good. The cool thing about it was we were so long from our last production record, that we, of course, were a little freaked-out going into it, thinking, are we still going to be able to write well together as a band? Well, it was a stupid and even dumb thing to think, because just like any other thing, when you know what you’re doing, and you’ve done it for so many years, it just comes right back to you.”
“And so we were writing, and after the first two weeks, we already had great material going, and it gave us the inspiration to write the rest of the record really quickly. And of course, and unfortunately for us, it was Phil’s (Kennemore, deceased from cancer) last record that he was going to write with us, and it was a bad time for us, but it was really good material. It was mostly written by myself and Phil, which is how most of our material has been done for the last 30 years. It was a good, straight-ahead thing, and of course the band that we have, with Mike and John, at that time, the four of us, Mike, John, Phil and myself, we had knocked out at least four years in a row, or three years in a row, of nonstop touring, so we were nice and tight. We knew what we wanted to do, and we just got in there and started jamming and all these great ideas started coming out, and it was so natural. It was a really good experience.”
As evidenced at the show, Y&T’s got an under-rated guitar treasure in its frontman, but also a second weapon in Nymann.
“Same heading, but coming from slightly different directions,” muses Meniketti, asked to contrast his skills with the new six-stringer. “His style is quite different from mine, but an amazing player, which is really cool. I mean, this is all good stuff, but everybody’s got something different to bring to the table. If we were all the same-headed about everything, I think we would be having a more one-dimensional sound. As most people know when they pick up a Y&T record, you’re going to get... you can get some heavy songs, you’re going to get melody always, and sometimes you’re gonna get some nice, beautiful ballads and things like that, and it all works. And that comes from a collaboration standpoint, and just the fact that all of us have a severely strong background in R&B, and things that are very musical. No matter who’s writing anything by themselves or together, there’s any number of possibilities that can come out of each individual person’s writing, so it’s good.”
Poked to compare Facemelter to a record from the illustrious catalogue, Dave figures, “If I were to try and do that, I would say it’s probably closer to Black Tiger only from the standpoint that it’s very straight-ahead, basic, rock ‘n’ roll, just like that record was. But it sort of stands on its own because of the years we put into it, the things that we brought to the table over the years and our songwriting. It sort of has its own unique flavour, and of course we’ve got new players on it. We’ve got John and Mike playing on it, as opposed to Leonard and Joey.”
Come 2014, Y&T will be celebrating its 40th anniversary, meaning... “The general idea, of course, is we’re going to do a lot of touring. We’re going to try to hit more festivals next year, but besides that, obvious point, we’re trying to put together some sort of video of the 40th, you know, a 40th anniversary video. Somebody, numerous people, who knows how we’re going to put it all together, following us on the road, taking video of us backstage, on stage, in the hotels, in the tour bus, interviewing previous band members, trying to get a full retrospective kind of thing. Shooting some live shots from the 40th year of touring--just that basic kind of approach is what we’re thinking, initially.”
Likely squeezed in will be a new record, but as Dave explains, the creative process for Y&T is one that goes on hold once the guys hit the road and “open fire,” so to speak.
“Well, the plan is not cemented. We talked it over and said, here’s what we’re going to do. But we all have the basic feeling that in the moments that we have when we’re not playing this year, we’re going to get together and write. And we’re just going to keep doing that when we have spare time between touring, with the hopes that next year we can have something finished and out, a brand-new studio record. I hate to predict things like that because predictions, when it comes to art, and especially the way that we work, it’s... you know, I work off of an emotional level and off of a ‘sitting down and getting into it’ level. I mean, I don’t write when I’m on the road or anything like that. I’m way too focused on the tour part, and so things have to sort of be scheduled for it to work right for me. So you know, we’ll see what happens, but that’s sort of the general plan, something by next year. I sort of put it aside when I’m on the road, because I know how much work I have, to do interviews and meet-and-greets and sound checks, and gigs, and trying to stay focused and getting enough sleep for my voice every night. I’m pretty much booked solid (laughs), when I’m on the road.”