M5: David, you were born in Chicago and later on moved to New York and St. Louis. Can you tell us anything about those early years, like how come you started to play the piano at age 7 (a musical family?), growing up with rock music such as Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk... What other music influenced you in those early years? And is there a distinction in your Chicago years/period, (then followed by New York and St. Louis) as far as musical influences are concerned, or the path you followed becoming a professional musician? Was that your goal or ambition or did it 'just' happen to you?
DG: My family is from Chicago but we left when I was very young. My family was always very musical.
My dad played violin and my oldest sister played classical piano. All of us took piano lessons.
When I joined the school orchestra, I played drums as there was no piano chair.
Later on I became very interested in the drumset and rock music.
M5: Then at some point you relocated to Los Angeles, in a very significant era of the music industry and music history as we know it. What made you move out to the West Coast?
DG: When I got out of high school in 1974, I was very interested to move to New York to pursue jazz with the heavyweights. However, the real jazz I was interested in was moving towards the West Coast and was mixing with rock and funk in bands such as the Crusaders, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, and the LA Express (who backed up Joni Mitchell at that time as well). It just seemed at the time I was ready to leave home to pursue my career in music, everyone that I was digging was moving west. It was a very fortunate time to be moving and pick up on the momentum of this new era of music that was going to follow.
M5: You're a very busy bee and a driving force behind numerous projects and bands. Karizma is celebrating its 30th anniversary, the music of Los Lobotomys is appreciated in wide circles... You instigate(d) major recording projects and the annual tributes for both Jeff Porcaro and Carlos Vega... You also clearly have no problem at all with taking your time in working on or finishing projects, or even use material from years gone by. Is this also why you created Creatchy Productions, to work within the standard of your own conception of how music should be treated as in opposed to how the major corporate music industry tycons handle it as business? And can you tell us more about Creatchy Productions and its releases or projects? And will Los Lobotomys ever play in their initial line-up again, besides Lenny Castro and without Jeff Porcaro of course, but with the others such as Steve Lukather, Nathan East and Brandon Fields?
DG: You've got it! The corporate music world places its focus on profit and their goal is to make
as much money as possible by selling musical products to the masses. The more mass the better.
It seems that my path has been to focus on the quality and creativity of the music and this has
been my guiding light for the last 30+ years. I founded the group "Karizma" back in 1975 precisely
because there were no great musical opportunities happening in the L.A. scene, especially for younger
people. It seemed like the natural thing to do.
Creatchy Productions was founded in 1983 when we produced the first "Karizma" CD for Japan. Basically
over the years we've done two things: record and produce our own music as well as arrange and produce
musical projects for outside clients that valued our services and talent roster.
Two of my favorite projects have been the "Tribute to Jeff (Porcaro)" and "Giving Back" which is my most
recent CD. Jeff was one of the greatest musicians and guys out here in L.A. and we all really miss him
M5: Studio work or live performance, which do you prefer? If you have no preference, can you share some of your memories in either discipline which are typical for that sort of work and pin down the essence of working in a studio or play on stage?
DG: I like both equally and both are necessary. If you just record music all the time and don't play live, you fall into one kind of a zone where you are not used to playing for people or interacting with the audience. Plus you can always overdub or punch in your parts, etc. However if you just play live all the time and you are not listening back critically like we do in the studio, you can fall into certain habits and ruts and not be aware of them.
One of my favorite studio anecdotes is when I was working at Jay Graydon's studio overdubbing piano for a South American artist, Ana Gabrielle. They kept having me punch in at the chorus of the song. There was something weird happening there and I was always off beat with the band. I started wondering "what's the matter with me?" Then after we finished it and got it right and I was in the control room talking with the producer, he told me that the songs were cut at different tempos at different parts of the song. So the verse was cut at one tempo and the tempo changed subtly for the chorus. Isn't that weird? That's the kind of stuff people are doing with computers when they have a little too much time on their hands.
One of my favorite live anecdotes is when I was in Wintehur, Switzerland, at a festival with Los Lobotomys.
Peter Gabriel was headlining that night and I am a huge fan so I hung around to see his show. One of the sound men was
an old buddy of mine from previous tours in the UK and he invited me to sit at the side of the stage and have a cigar with
him during the show. It was outdoors and cigars seemed like a good idea. After about the fourth or fifth song, Peter called
his road manager out to the front of the stage and whispered in his ear. The next thing that happened was the road manager
came straight to us and said "Peter asked if you would mind putting out your cigars?" The smell was wafting towards his part
of the stage.
M5: Your work ranges from music for movies, television, commercials, live bands with friends/colleagues, recordings etc etc. Which would be an ultimate challenge for you, like is there anything you feel you haven't explored yet?
DG: Writing for orchestra.
M5: Some questions about Steely Dan, since you also work with a lot of musicians who appear on the various Steely Dan albums and worked with DF and WB on the Jeff Porcaro tribute. You moved to L.A. In the mid seventies, so you must have been around when their 'surf was up' at the time. What's the first you learned about Steely Dan and which are your favorite tunes?
DG: When I first came to L.A. in 1974, the talk of the town was that Jeff Porcaro (19 years old at the time) was working with
Steely Dan. I had liked their song "Do It Again" very much but didn't really know much about the group then. This was the time
they were recording "Katy Lied". I was very lucky to know some of the people playing with them like Jeff and Victor Feldman, etc.
The first time I heard "Josie" I was on an airplane going to Europe in 1977 and David Foster, who was on the same flight, played
us a rough tape and said "Dig Keltner's Fill!"
M5: If you have time to listen to music yourself, what music do you listen to, can you recommend us something?
DG: I recently discovered Zero 7, a dance band out of England which is great stuff. I don't have as much time to listen to stuff when I am not working. Sometimes I've got to give my ears a break. I listen to a lot of meditation music and various ethnic music such as Oriental, Native American, Indian, etc. As far as contemporary artists are concerned I really like Seal and nothing beats classic Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. I also never get tired of Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, and Genesis. I love reggae and salsa and African music especially. Angelique Kidjo is one of my favorite African artists along with King Sonny Ade and Salif Keita. Level 42 and Weather Report, two great bands, are big influences on me.
M5: You tour across the world with different bands and line ups, either as a sideman or (literally) key player. Does being in Japan, Europe or New Zealand for example also contribute in ways of inspiring you in your writing? Do you have favorite places, towns our countries? Did being abroad also introduce you to 'new cuisines' and cultures and is there a foreign dish you particularly like?
DG: I have been so fortunate to see the world and so many wonderful places. There is no favorite place for me yet. I have gotten ideas for songs in Japan, Hawaii, and the deserts of California. One of my favorite places is Desert Hot Springs which has natural hot mineral baths and special ancient Native American magic. One of my favorite foods that I have learned to enjoy in the Netherlands is Indonesian "rice table". This is a specialty of the Dutch who formally colonized Indonesia. It consists of many different curries and dishes that are eaten with rice. It is very delicious!
M5: Ha, yes well, my parents were born in Indonesia so I know all about the food, I can send you some spice mixes if you like... One last question, David, and it's great you were willing to participate and make time in your busy schedule for us, so thanks again! Back home in Los Angeles you're a regular in The Baked Potato and La Vee Lee. You play with so many different musicians. It must be a wonderful experience to be so all-round and to know as many people as you do. If you were to teach kids who aspire a future in music, what would you tell them they should do?
DG: I would tell them to listen to all the great music and learn about music. Music is a vast world that connects all peoples of all ethnicities. It is a universal language and carries a message of emotion, peace, and friendship. That would be my message. Listen to music and learn as much as you can about music by listening. It can take you places and there is still an inexhaustible supply of great music out there to explore.