The following interview took place in September 2009.
Sadly, during 2010 Phil Kennemore was diagnosed with lung cancer,
an illness which claimed his life on 7th January 2011.
In October 2009 Y&T are once again back in the UK and Europe, still hungry for rock and working 25 hours a day. DAVE MENIKETTI and PHIL KENNEMORE talked to GET READY TO ROLL! about the upcoming album and tour, and about dressing chickens in spandex (all in the name of rock, of course). We also unearthed Phil's mean streak...
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After the current run of USA dates - you'll be heading out to Europe in October/November. What are you looking forward to most about the Euro/UKtrip? (We can't guarantee to provide good weather here in our 'autumn' - sorry!)
Phil Kennemore: Gett'n to play, gett'n paid, and gett'n laid.
And how about you, Dave. What are you looking forward to?
Dave Meniketti: There hasn't been a European tour in recent history that didn't see all of us smiling at the airport before getting on the plane in anticipation of another great tour. The European people, the progressive attitudes, the appreciation of the music and musicianship shown by the fans, the often cool and sometimes funky venues, the countrysides, and the amazing architecture - it's all of what at least "I" look forward to every time I get on the plane. And regardless of when we've toured recently in the fall, it's almost always been good weather. Of course, now that I've said that...
Up on stage it always looks like you're having lots of fun, especially with the audience requests which help to build an even stronger rapport with the crowd. Are you seeing the same fans at gigs now as in the early days? And how have the audiences changed - are you seeing more teens/twenties etc?
Dave: I see some of the same fans that come every time we play anywhere close to their houses, which is great for all of us to see. But we also see more young fans emerging as each year goes by. I love the fact that so many younger folks are appreciating the guts and emotion that comes from some of us guys that have been doing it for a bit.
Phil: It's hard to recognize any fans from the early days, we've all done a bit of shape shifting, you know... I'm sometimes surprised how elderly some of our fan base is, and on the other hand it's great to see how many teens/twenties show up, a diverse crowd to say the least.
But I gotta tell ya, when I see a hot, young, twenty-something with her breast pump'n out of her Y&T Dirty Girl shirt I get a little pumped myself.
To what extent does the band's participation in the Y&T messageboard and MySpace play a part in keeping the fans involved, and strengthening the (mutual!) loyalty?
Dave: I'm unsure exactly how important it all is in the big picture, but I like to think it all makes a difference in drawing the fans in, thereby making them feel that much closer to the band. Of course the fact that any dedicated fan can actually have a possibility of talking directly with their fave musicians is really quite exciting for both parties, from my perspective. It also brings ideas to the band that we can make our appearances better, and our choices of songs every night being more tailored to the fans in each area.
Phil: Although I rarely post to the messageboard, I read every post daily - and this alone goes a long way to getting to know the fans. I love meeting fans from the Y&T forum - it's like meeting my favorite novel writer. After reading countless posts I feel like I really know them. I must admit, some of them are a little scary but most are wonderful.
Is there a downside to all this technology? For example, cellphone video footage can be on YouTube even before the end of the gig, and the band - any band, not just Y&T - has no power of 'quality control' over what goes up there. Or... a throwaway comment at a signing-session can be taken out of context and Chinese-whispered around the internet so fast that it virtually ends up as a Press Release! What's the best way to deal with stuff like that?
Phil: A "Chinese Whisper"? Where do you get off with a racist comment like that? It sounds incriminating like "Don't tell Mister Round Eye I pee pee in his won ton soup - tell him this is house special, just for him." What was the question again?
Oh yeah - all the YouTube crap etc. As hard as it is to watch, for the most part it's all good. You know like "as long as they're talk'n 'bout you" kinda thing.
It would be nice if people would self-edit a bit though.... be honest with themselves and take that crap photo and hit the delete button - or at least keep it off the internet!
Dave: For me, I am mostly amused, and rarely upset by what is posted online about Y&T. I think it's OK to have the amount of vids available to anyone no matter how crap most of the quality is. Just shows the excitement and interest of the fans. Fortunately for Y&T so far, most of the comments around these vids have been 99 percent good, so I've not been tortured by the many bloggers with no respect for others that appear in most places nowadays. And of course, (unlike Phil, as you can see!) I'm always respectful to the fans so let 'em try and find me saying something inappropriate
How is the new album coming along? What stage are you at with the writing/recording etc., and can you share any of the titles with us?
Phil: It's coming slowly but surely. We are still in the infant stage but much of it does sound promising.
Dave: Yes indeed - if you had asked a month ago I would have said "slow," but now we have really picked up in the last three weeks and it's looking good for our late Spring release timeframe. I hate to say titles yet as we may change a few before they get recorded. Keep listening!
What are your favourite Y&T songs to perform live, and why?
Phil: Forever because it has all the elements that I think Y&T deliver, in one song - it's melodic, passionate, and energetic.
Dave:There are many songs I love playing every night, but for me, I especially love playing the instrumental I'll Cry For You and the ballad I Believe In You because they allow me to really express myself and dig into the emotions of the moment.
It's a different performance every night, inspired by the fans and my state of mind. That's when art is at its best, no matter if it's a complete mess or inspired brilliance. As long as it's real in the moment and not "just another night in another town performing the same songs" kind of attitude. That mostly never flies with any of us. We actually DO live to play and have never gotten bored with it all yet. I hope that spirit is in me for a long time to come.
'Yesterday and Today'.... How important were the Beatles to you as an influence, compared to Hendrix, Led Zep etc? And where does your inspiration come from today?
Dave: The Beatles were an inspiration to all of us, as well as Hendrix to me, among countless others. I think it shows that all of our diverse inspirations in the band have made for a band that has kick ass hard rock tunes, along with very melodic, passionate ballads. It all seems to work and we're glad we have been able to have those sides to us. As far as current day inspirations, I see it at every festival, live vids I see at home on my HD music channels (not MTV or any of that crap), and mostly by the fans at every show. It's amazing just how inspiring that all is no matter the thousands of shows gone by. It all still feels fresh enough to all of us.
Is it the same for you Phil?
Phil: As much as The Beatles are part of my musical soul, much of what they did just doesn't have a place in our style. Hendrix, Zep, Deep Purple and even Whitesnake have a stronger influence. I would love to be able to be as diverse as The Beatles - "I Am The Walrus"... give me a break - let's take this bit and play this part backwards and then bring in the London Symphony Orchestra and then have them play a bunch of shit that even blows their minds, and then sing stuff like "yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog's eye." But, that's not going to happen; I'm still writing stuff like "Lick My Love Pump." And I'm good at it too!
Absolutely! And talking of which... after 30+ years in a rock band, touring with AC/DC, Ozzy, Motley Crue etc., you must have a string of Spinal Tap stories. Please share some of the craziness with Get Ready To Roll!....
Dave: I'm the worst person in the band to remember all the crazy shit we've gotten ourselves into over the years. I need a few drinks and some help prodding those memories out of me.
Nowadays, the craziness comes mostly from our friendship with other bands that tour with us. We always try to make it a big travelling party unless we're stuck with some boring fucks, but that doesn't usually happen very often, thankfully!
Every night is a new opportunity to screw up in some new creative way. And of course we don't really have to try very hard!
Practical jokes also feature quite highly in your repertoire, yes? Which ones do you remember with most errrr.... affection?
Dave: Oh let's see. I remember arriving onstage during that rare ballad moment for Mötley Crue, exposing myself to the audience of 12,000 in the '80s. I remember Phil putting his cigarette out on Nicky Sixx (or was that the other way around?). Dead fish placed in the other band's dressing room wardrobe cases, wheeling our guitar tech onstage in a guitar coffin, to pop out and distract the opening act in the middle of a song, letting loose chickens dressed in spandex onstage, the crew disassembling the opening act's drum set on the last song of their set, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah - and many more incidents of a similar nature. Of course I would have had nothing to do with any of these sordid things
Of course not! And Phil, how about you, which practical jokes do you remember best?
Dave: Phil remembers nothing! Nothing at all! (No Phil, I'm not taking that gaffer-tape off your mouth until you've learnt to show a bit more respect for our wonderful fans and for the readers of Get Ready To Roll!)
What's the wisest advice you've ever been given, who did it come from, and how has it shaped your life and career?
Phil: The only piece of advice I remember is something Cliff Williams from AC/DC told me. While we were touring with them I saw that every night after every show they would meet as many fans that wanted to meet them. After doing a show on the scale of AC/DC most bands just want to be left alone to do whatever. Also, after the show is when they would eat dinner. So knowing they were tired and hungry I asked Cliff "Why do you do it? You don't have to." He said, "Well, it's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice." It had a real impression on me. Until then I was thinking more in a "Rock Star" bullshit kinda way. I've learned a lot, right and wrong, from watching others.
Dave: I don't remember who I heard this from, or where I heard it, but it has become a huge part of my life's journey. for most everything I've wanted to do, to do it NOW. I don't believe you should wait for tomorrow to truly enjoy yourself, even if that means you have to pull out the credit card to get you there. Agreed! And if you enjoy it today, there's always a chance you can do it again tomorrow!
A question for Dave - how deeply are you into your solo project at the moment? What's happening there, and for anyone who's not heard it, what are the similarities and/or differences between Y&T material and Meniketti solo material?
Dave: I have a deep affection for my solo project but I've had no time to nurture it in the last three years as Y&T has kept me very busy. I have already written probably at least half of the next CD since writing for the new Y&T album, plus other material I already had after recording the last Meniketti CD. Inevitably there will be similarities in the styles of some songs between solo and Y&T CDs, but there are certainly things I can't do in Y&T that I can do in my solo project that makes me a very happy guitarist because this stuff makes me explore and widen my abilities even further. Fun stuff to play live for sure!
And this question is also for Dave - do you ever regret turning down the chance to play with Ozzy? And if you had gone down that road what do you think you'd be doing today?
Dave: Probably selling shoes or something No, I haven't regretted for a minute any decision to turn down other bands in favor of doing my own thing with Y&T. Much rather be a poor and satisfied musician who has tried to set his own course, than a slightly less poor (for likely only a few years) replacement for someone else's dreams.
Talk us through the guitars and basses you guys will be using on the European tour.
Dave: I always try to bring my old trusty 1968 Les Paul because the fans want to see it, and I also like to bring one of my Strats - mostly my custom shop blue Strat because it feels and sounds amazing. Phil has been using Jazz basses over the last few tours that have been rentals, and John usually brings his blue Les Paul and gold strat.
So.... when this year's touring is done, what are Y&T's hopes and plans for T&TDA (Tomorrow and The Day After)?
Dave: Finish that new CD!! Then - play live until our asses fall off!