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Interview with Dave Meniketti - Y&T
Dave Meniketti speaks about Yesterday & Today!
Lead Vocals, Guitars

Dave Meniketti

Interviewed by Dave Felix
Date: December 2007

With the release of their new DVD titled “LIVE: ONE HOT NIGHT,” veteran rockers Y & T are once again thrusting themselves into the spotlight! Still fronted by founding member and guitar virtuoso Dave Meniketti, the band is still very much alive and kicking! I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dave about all the band’s triumphs, twists and turns over the years… here’s what he had to say…

Dave Felix: Hey Dave, how are you? Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! I’ve been a long time fan and have been trying to set something up with you for quite some time.

Dave Meniketti: Thanks… I really appreciate that.

Dave Felix: So lets start by talking about the release of your new DVD “LIVE: ONE HOT NIGHT.” How did you come up with the idea for the release and put the whole thing together?

Dave Meniketti: We had been looking for the right type of venue and the right production company to do a DVD for Y&T for a couple of years. We hadn’t been really going after it like crazy… just when were thinking about dates coming up we’d start thinking, “Yeah, this would be a great place to do it!” or whatever but we just never seemed to get it together somehow and fortunately for us, someone actually came to us! A production company came to us shortly after we had just played a festival in Germany and we had another festival coming up a few days later in Holland. So they showed us some of the things they had taped of us a couple of days before and were like, “We really want to do this! We want to do a DVD, we’re big fans of the band and we’ll make it the best package we possibly can because we understand, as fans ourselves, what people are going to want.” So we thought it was just a great deal and they waited for us until we came back to Europe a couple of months later doing our headlining swing, we picked the right venue and… they did it! It turned out to be a great deal for all.

Dave Felix: How did you decide on the venue?

Dave Meniketti: We only had so many dates we were doing in the German area where these guys were based out of so, basically, out of the shows we had coming up, we just checked with the promoter and checked with the production company and asked them what they thought would be the best venue of the ones we had coming up. It actually became obvious after a while because everyone was kinda pointing towards this one in particular and saying, “A lot of bands have done DVD’s from this particular venue. It’s a great place to play and it’ll look really good!” And it was close enough for the German people to come out to Holland and do so… it just made sense.

Dave Felix: The DVD has a really diverse set list spanning almost the entire 30 year + history of the band. How did you decide on what songs to play?

Dave Meniketti: Set lists are always a pain in the ass! (laughs) They really are! I hate doing them but I end up doing them most of the time and it just gets to the point where we’ve got this whole thing that we do. We’ll be like, “Ok, we’re headlining so we’re gonna do two plus hours.” We have to do certain “classic” songs… they have to be in the set so; we get those out of the way right away. Then we try and figure how many more songs can we play around that. I actually keep set lists of every single show we’ve played so I’ll go back and take a look at what we played last time we were in Germany or Holland or wherever and try and switch it up and do some other stuff. That’s basically how we put our set lists together and knowing we were actually going to be doing the DVD, we did a similar kind of thing there too where we looked at all of our live records we had released. We’d think, “What are the songs that have always made those?” and then be like, “Well wouldn’t it be nice to get a bunch of songs together that we’ve never released live before.” So it was a combination of songs we thought would make a great live show and then a bunch of songs we had never recorded live before.

Dave Felix: Obviously, because of the production company, you decided to shoot over in Europe. Do you find that audiences in Europe seem to be “into it” a little bit more than audiences here in the States nowadays?

Dave Meniketti: Oh no… the crowds everywhere are always good to us no matter where we go. Y&T fans… I don’t know what it is but they are just so impassioned by coming to see us that they really want to let us know how much they appreciate us. We always get a good reaction no matter how many people show up. So I can’t really say that the European audiences are necessarily better than anywhere else, but they definitely do SHOW UP! (laughs) They show up in mass and we always have either sold out shows or packed houses whenever we play over there. The audiences there are passionate, there’s not question about it. In fact, we just got done playing a month in the UK and a couple of the most outrageous dates we played were one at Newcastle and the others were in Spain in Madrid and Bilbao… amazing audiences! The kind of audiences that were so loud you almost couldn’t hear yourself on stage! (laughs) And they were not only singing the chorus’, but they would also sing the guitar lines! So we’d be playing the guitar line for the intro to “Forever” or something and the entire crowd would be singing that and it was just an awesome feeling! So yeah, there are some crowds that do step it up just a “little” bit more than others and, in general, the Spanish crowds do tend to be that way and a lot of the UK crowds as well but they’re all really great in their own way.

Dave Felix: Do you have a personal favorite… whether it be a city or a venue that you like to play?

Dave Meniketti: I’d have to hearken back to what I just said but then also Madrid. There’s just something about those audiences in Madrid, “Wooo! Are they a passionate bunch!” (laughs) So that’s certainly one of my favorites but I love playing everywhere, though. We just finally hit Scandinavia as a headlining act for the first time in our entire career back in October and we were just taken back by the reaction we were getting up there. We knew that people were into us but because we hadn’t played there, you never know what’s going to happen. You’re always like, “Are people going to care enough to show up?” or wondering about what’s going to happen. The only place that we had played in that area had been at the Sweden Rock Festivals… we played those twice but now doing our own thing as a headlining act, you’re always taking your chances. But it was very successful playing in three different countries up there… Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Every year that we go out we’re always happy with the reactions we’re getting from different areas. The UK fans make us feel like we’re in the “Bay” area or something… they’re like our second home. I could just keep going and mention everyone here! (laughs) But in response to your initial question, I would have to say the UK, Spain and Belgium have just been really strong for us over the years.

Dave Felix: You and the band have always had the reputation for always giving your fans exactly what they want but are there any songs that you just get sick of playing all the time?

Dave Meniketti: Well… lets put it this way, when I am in the rehearsal studio with the guys, EVERY song we’re sick of playing! (laughs) Everyone’s like, “Do we have to go over that one again? Don’t we know it well enough?” (laughs) But when it comes to playing a live show, you get the energy of the crowd and you get the vibe from people if you get a chance to speak with them before you go on stage about what they really want to hear. Then you’re like giving them “candy,” ya know? It’s almost like you’re Santa Claus delivering them presents or something. (laughs) So yeah, sometimes we’re like, “Ok, we’ve played this one 8,000 times before but for these people, this is what they want to hear and it’s going to be a special night for them.” That really transcends us ever being bored with the stuff. When we go on stage and get the feeling back from the crowd, that just wipes all those thoughts out.

Dave Felix: You grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, what was it like growing up there?

Dave Meniketti: Ya know… I love this place! And I am just so grateful that we always stayed here and never migrated down south to Southern California like a lot of other artists did. We really ended up having our own personality up here and we weren’t really influenced by the massive L.A. machine that was happening back then in the late 70’s and on through the 80’s when every record company was just wholesale buying up anyone they saw in the clubs that was, pretty much, copping the same licks as everyone else that was making it. For us, we just stayed to ourselves up in the north and it’s got such a great atmosphere where there isn’t just that one style of music insanity… it’s EVERY style of music! You’re up here playing with the likes of SANTANA and THE GRATEFUL DEAD but you’re also playing with pop bands and jazz bands and other metal bands. In our own way it was pretty cool too because we’re kind of like the “grandfathers” of heavy rock in the bay area! (laughs) There really weren’t a whole lot of other bands doing what we were doing out of this area and so few came after us even. We were able to carve our own notch up here and it was just great that we were just able to hang up here and be our own selves.

Dave Felix: What do you find is the biggest difference in the “Bay” area music scene since when you first started playing the area back in the day?

Dave Meniketti: Just like a lot of places nowadays, it’s becoming harder and harder to support live music. I see it happening all the time and not just here but in general. The bay area has followed suit as far as that whole thing goes. Times have changed, man! Getting people out to live shows nowadays is just a little more difficult than when we first started out. People were dying to get out and see live music back then. Now there’s just so much that’s vying for people’s attention. You can sit at home and watch so many different programs, rent movies or videos, play video games or just watch your favorite bands on DVD! Live shows are just a much harder sell nowadays so that’s definitely changed a lot over the years. Other than that, the scene itself is still pretty much the same. It’s still got the diversity of music styles that it always had but there’s just not as many places to see them.

Dave Felix: How old were you when you attended your first concert and who was it?

Dave Meniketti: The first real concert I ever went to was when I was about 16 and it was Jimmy Hendrix and the opening act was CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY doing their very first tour! (laughs) It was absolutely amazing as you can imagine. It was at the Oakland Coliseum that always had that gigantic, huge feeling to it and then here’s the legend of all legends as far as I was concerned. Hendrix was always my favorite guitar player and there he was, in the flesh! And I was watching him and his live show and MAN WAS IT LOUD! (laughs) It was so cool…

Dave Felix: What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?

Dave Meniketti: (laughs) I remember! And it’s kinda funny because it’s not a rock album but when I was a kid, I was really into this song called “The Lonely Bull” by HERB ALBERT AND THE TIJUANA BRASS! So I bought this album called “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” and it’s just so funny that the company we ended up signing with initially, A&M Records, was actually Herb Albert’s record company! That was kind of a weird coincidence…

Dave Felix: When you were growing up, who was most supportive of you pursuing a career in music?

Dave Meniketti: Me! (laughs) Me and that’s it! (laughs) My parents hated the decision. Maybe my girlfriend at the time thought it was cool but it was always a struggle with everyone around me always pushing me and pulling me in all different directions. But I loved playing so much that I was my own best friend when it came to needing someone to push me along. That’s all I needed was myself! (laughs) I didn’t need anybody else’s help or anybody else’s encouragement. I had the passion in me so strong and so deep that it didn’t matter what anybody else said.

Dave Felix: While you were having some success in the Bay area and California club circuits, one of your first big breaks came in the early 70’s when you hooked up with manager Herbie Herbert who is most famous for giving JOURNEY their start. How did that all come about and what was it like working with him?

Dave Meniketti: Well, it all came about like this; every band that’s just getting started always seem to attract these crazy guys who come around and are like, “Hey man… I can do something for you! I can be your manager!” They never really have any chops whatsoever but they’ll always tell ya that they can do something. Well, this guy gave us enough incentive to go and do our first demo tape and he was going, “I’m gonna shop it for ya and I’ll get you a record deal!” and all of us were sitting there like, “Yeah… right.” (laughs) I mean even WE knew, and we were young and stupid, that this guy didn’t have it together. But what he DID know was that there was this management team in San Francisco of Bill Graham and Herbie Herbert and he did a real sales job on them. He went up there and was like, “Oh man, these guys play with the guitars behind their backs and light them on fire!” and all that kinda crap and they were just laughing so much, having been around the business long enough, that they knew this guy was a real “rookie” kind of dude. But at the same time after listening to the tape, they were still a little intrigued and actually came out and saw us play at a local club. That was it! As soon as they saw us play, they were like, “Ok, these guys really have something going on here!” But it was so cool. When they first signed us on, they had just developed JOURNEY, gotten them a record deal and whatnot. So we were hanging with them a lot and we ended up playing somewhere in the area of 30 or 40 shows with JOURNEY the first couple of years and it was a nice vibe. Herbie got us places and shows we never would have gotten on our own.

Dave Felix: Over the years, Y&T has not only become one of the most influential bands in the bay area, but in the music world as a whole. The band has always maintained a solid fan base and had some hugely successful tours with the likes of AC/DC, Ozzy and AEROSMITH just to name a few. Now to steal a quote from your website, “Before there was MÖTLEY CRÜE, RATT and METALLICA, there was Y&T!” But the band never seemed to achieve some of the same commercial success as some of the ones I just mentioned. Were you ever disappointed in that and why do you think that is?

Dave Meniketti: Oh Hell yeah! We were always a little disappointed. We would sit back and look at what we were doing and the style of music we were playing, the songs we were writing and the kind of musicianship that we had and we were constantly frustrated. We spent a decade and a half doing nothing but reflecting on ourselves… double… triple guessing ourselves and wondering what we were doing wrong and right or what we should be doing different. That kind of thing never makes you feel 100% happy but at the same time, our career kept moving forward but just a lot slower than we may have wanted it to. The bonus to all of that, though, was the fact that all of these bands that were passing us up, whenever we’d have to play with them or they’d come to see us or meet us, they’d be all but on their knees to us going, “Oh my God! You are the guys! You were our heroes!” And it’s kinda nice to know that and it still goes on, amazingly enough, even till today! We’ll meet some band, somewhere that maybe only started five or ten years ago and they’ll come up to us and be like, “Man… Y&T!” (laughs) It’s very cool! It’s always nice to have that respect from your piers but we were always frustrated with the other part of things… the record business things, especially in the U.S. and we struggled with it for years. But when you look back now at your entire career as a whole, you’re able to put it into perspective a bit more. Yeah, we went up and up and up at a very slow pace but we kept going! Then when everybody else started to fail and the music industry itself changed and the style started to change back in the early 90’s, we just “slightly” went down. In other words, we seemed to be able to stay on that plateau a bit longer when other bands would just become huge and then fall off the map very quickly. So I’m not going to say that our entire career was in frustration, but when we were in the “hunt,” so to speak, back in lets say 1976 through 1986 especially, there were some great moments but a lot more frustrating moments for what we felt we could have been doing.

Dave Felix: Did you ever dream that you and the band would become as influential as you have and what’s it like for you to be named in so many circles and facets of music?

Dave Meniketti: I’m proud of everything that we’ve done. Going back to what we were saying earlier, yeah there were frustrations through out the years but we didn’t feel frustrated like every minute of the day, we went on about our business. The passion about why we were doing it in the first place is the fact that we just love playing music. We love being musicians! That was the whole reason and the ONLY reason we ever started in the first place. It wasn’t about fame; it was about being able to actually do something with our music. I guess, of course, to some degree that means fame because you have to have enough people to come out to see you and keep you alive so that you can keep doing what you’re doing but it was always just this really passionate thing with us that has never gone away. We still hit the stage with the same energy that we’ve always had. Yeah, we’re a little bit older and maybe we don’t move around as fast as we use to on stage but we still have it! For all of those reasons and for what you are saying about the fact that we have been included or mentioned in so many people’s lives… whether they are fans, other musicians, the press or whatever, yeah… it’s nice to get those accolades and compliments but I just have to hearken back to the fact that it’s all about that energy that we’ve always felt from the very beginning. That’s still with us and that’s the most important thing to me. It’s very easy to become complaisant when you’re doing something like this and for as long as we have. Even people who just have regular jobs that they have been at for a long time start to get bored and you see it all the time in this industry as well. I see other bands out there that are still headlining major venues and I try to see the energy and the passion in their eyes but I can tell that there are certain guys that are simply “phoning in” their performance. There is no question that we never do that. Even if it’s one of those bad moments when we only get like 100 people to come out and see a show or something… it doesn’t matter! We’re going to give them the best show they ever saw and that’s really what we’re all about. That’s the pride of our band right there… our dedication to what we’re doing.

Dave Felix: Despite the release of your two “Unearthed” volumes and the re-release of some of your back catalog, the band hasn’t put out a new studio recording in almost a decade now. Why is that?

Dave Meniketti: That’s just simply because we were having these up and down moments from the 90’s and on out where we were not sure what we were going to do. When we got back together in 2001 and then finally hit Europe in 2003, that’s when we knew we were going to stick together again and were going to go forward. At that point, it became a matter of getting ourselves back up and into the game again which meant getting the dates and procuring shows and playing as many shows as we possibly could to get ourselves and our name back out there again so people know we’re still playing. That was the most important thing for us. Now we’re to the point where everybody’s starting to go, “Yeah, you’ve re-established yourselves but when are we going to get something new?” So we did a few things… we came out with two new records of unreleased material and we’ve re-released our back catalog of what we felt were some of our most important records back from when we were on A&M and those were important things too. But now it’s settled down and is all falling on us. Are we going to get together and show them what we’ve got nowadays or what? So, yeah… I guess the long answer to the short question is, we need time. We need a good long block of time where we can get into it and come up with something new and we’re going to have that coming up as a matter of fact because right after we play New Years Eve, we’re going to take January and February off and we’re going to try and use that bit of time to get back into the rehearsal studio and see what we can come up with. If it starts to click, I don’t see any reason why we may not be able to have something new out by the end of the year or early 2009. We’ll see what happens! But it’s really all about starting the writing process again. I don’t have any doubt that we can come up with some good stuff fairly quickly. I still have lots of stuff I want to say and I am sure that the other guys do too so it should be a good collaboration.

Dave Felix: That’s great! I know I as well as all your fans will be looking forward to hearing it! So that’s about it, is there anything else that you’d like to add or say?

Dave Meniketti: We want to always invite people to come to our website. It’s not just about the band and where we’ll be playing next but we also have an active forum where fans are on there 24 hours a day from all over the world and they’re constantly talking about Y&T, about music in general and plus I go in there as often as I can to answer people’s questions directly, talk about new subjects and stuff. It’s a really great interactive forum for people to learn about Y&T as well as other aspects of music. You can get to our website at and that’s what I’d like to get people into doing. Go in there and if nothing else, you don’t even have to join the forum, read what people are saying, or go to our tour page or our photos page and check out the photos and such. We just want to keep them active and in the loop about their lives as well as ours. It’s all about communication nowadays and the fact that bands can keep in contact and communicate with their fans easier because of the internet and the impact that it has made on us all.

Dave Felix: Thanks again, Dave, for speaking with us and we hope to see you in our area again very, very soon.

Dave Meniketti: Where’s your area?

Dave Felix: We’re based out of Jersey.

Dave Meniketti: Oh absolutely! Don’t you worry… we’ll be there in 2008! Thanks man!


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