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Dave Kerzner - Interview 2016

Dave Kerzner has been surrounding the Genesis family for quite a while now. He is one of the key members in Sound Of Contact, he has worked with Steve Hackett and was also a witness to several Genesis rehearsals. He also helped out with some technical stuff and is in regular contact with Nick Davis. Besides that, Dave Kerzner also writes music and has his own projects. A few month ago, he has released his latest album, "New World". Anneke and Tony Reinsperger met Dave Kerzner on 31/03/2016 in Rüsselsheim for an interview.

it: Your album New World was very well received in the press. How is the tour going so far?

Dave Kerzner: We toured a bit last year. At the end of the year we played Yes’ Cruise To The Edge together with Marillion and others. This year I have a different line-up. It’s combining guys I play with in the US, Durga McBroom (Pink Floyd) sang on the album, with the rhythm section of a band that I produced called Mantra Vega. It’s a project in England with Heather Findlay as the lead singer. Alex Cromarty and Stuart Fletcher are the drummer and the bass player for that band and Heather’s band. They live in the UK. For the European tour I thought it would be nice to mix some of my American band, Fernando Perdomo is the main guitarist and bassist on the album, Durga and me with Alex and Stu. It’s been fantastic. We played four dates in England. We’re now doing Rüsselsheim which is a great place. I played here with Sound Of Contact (SoC) three years ago. Another place I played with SoC which I look forward to returning to is the Prog Dreams festival in Boerderij in Holland. This is the finale of our European tour. Then we play Rosfest, a big Progressive Rock festival in the US, in May. After that I go back to working on the next SoC album and my next solo album.

it: So there is quite something in the pipeline. The Mantra Vega album is finished?

Dave: It’s out. The album is called The Illusion’s Reckoning. Mantra Vega is basically a studio band that combines the writing of Heather Findlay and me. I write most of the music, she writes the lyrics and is the lead singer. It’s a female-fronted band similar to her former band Mostly Autumn. Musically, I write a lot on guitar and keyboards, so there’s a little bit of the SoC style on there. Matt Dorsey co-wrote one of the songs with me (In A Dream). There’s some of my folksier side where I harmonize with her like Fleetwood Mac, or Classic Rock that we like, Led Zeppelin. Because I live in the US, the main guitar player is Dave Kilminster (Steven Wilson, Roger Waters). We’re all busy. The rest is Heather’s solo band. They’re based in York. They’re performing it as the Heather Findlay band so it has a live presence. The album features Arjen Lucassen (Star One, Ayreon) Troy Donockley (Nightwish) and others. But that’s finished.

it: So you won’t tour with Mantra Vega?

Dave: Maybe as a guest appearance. Touring is not only the show, it’s all the preparation. In every project I have, people at least live in different states of the US. SoC is basically three different countries. Matt and I live in two opposite ends of the US. He lives in LA and I live in Miami, Florida. Simon (Collins) lives in the UK and Kelly (Nordstrom) lives in Canada. To get together is costly, with SoC we managed somehow. But for every other project I either do a Kickstarter campaign to do it independently, which is a good approach but I tend to work on my projects in my own studio. Mantra Vega was either done in my studio or in York. It took a lot a work and we’re proud of it.

it: What else are you working on?

Dave: I produce tribute albums that I put on the backburner to do the original music first. It’s a labour of love. There’s a Genesis tribute based on The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway as a film score, more cinematic, it has real orchestra, Francis Dunnery (It Bites) is on it, Steve Rothery (Marillion), Nick D’Virgilio (Genesis, Spock’s Beard, Big Big Train), Nad Sylvan (Steve Hackett), myself, Lee Pomeroy (It Bites, Steve Hackett), people who love Genesis. I work on other tributes, a Pink Floyd one, a Rush one, and I produce the album of Durga and Lorelei McBroom (Australian Pink Floyd Show) where they sing lead. We co-wrote some of the songs and did some Pink Floyd songs reimagined with female vocals.

Interviewit: When can Genesis fans expect The Lamb to be released?

Dave: I should be able to finish it this summer. We’re pretty far along with it. I had some tracks sent in from Martin Levac (The Musical Box). A few extra special things are surprises. Let’s say, it’s kind of new music. It’s authentic in that these are unreleased pieces from Genesis that we’ve worked up and it fits in with The Lamb. It’s expanded in a way like a fantasy: “What if The Lamb was even longer?” But it’s not only that. I know a lot of fans would have loved to have seen a movie. If anyone wants to do it, they could use my soundtrack. I would take it on myself but it’s a bit much. I think cinematically anyway with my music. There is an art to that is not fully explored which is the idea of making music that is meant to be a film soundtrack without the film. Progressive Rock albums are almost already that way but not necessarily doing symphonic segues as in a movie where you really had John Williams (Star Wars) there to work with you.

it: So rather than a Genesis Revisited you really did something with it creatively?

Dave: Steve Hackett told me the early version of my Lamb gave him ideas for Genesis Revisited. The version of  The Chamber of 32 Doors that I did with Nad Sylvan and orchestra got him the gig. I was going to go with Francis (Dunnery) anyway. My original idea was to have different singers. I had Billy Sherwood (Yes) do Lilywhite Lilith, I had Francis, I had Nad. But then I thought it’s a concept album. In a Genesis Revisited-way different singers are great because it’s a compilation. But The Lamb is a cohesive piece and there would be a little too much variety. Francis ended up being the singer on all the tracks. I have versions of songs with different singers as bonus tracks. Randy McStine (Lo-Fi Resistance) sang Back in N.Y.C. This and embellishing it with orchestra gave Steve ideas. The reason why I started this, I’m very adamant about. A friend of mine, Mark Hornsby and Nick D’Virgilio had done Rewiring Genesis but without the keyboards.

They were experimenting with orchestra and bluegrass instruments. It turned out Tony Banks loves that version, Nick Davis told me that. I loved it too. I thought: “What if you did have the keyboards and even be more cinematic?” I talked to Mark, the producer: “Would you let me license some of these tracks and I produce and embellish it in a different way?” Some of the orchestral stuff and a whole piece with the London Philharmonic Orchestra were not even used. Let me do something different with it, put Arps and Mellotrons back in. Like on the Moody Blues record Days Of Future Passed (Nights Of White Satin, Tuesday Afternoon) you hear full orchestra and the Mellotrons and the mix of the real Rock instruments. On some symphonic rock albums you lose the edge and it sounds like Muzak. To me it’s all about a balance when you’re doing Genesis music. There are certain sounds that are very Tony Banks or very Mike Rutherford where you need distorted Fuzz bass and you can’t just do it with a tuba. If I was the director of The Lamb I would have it sound like the band playing with the orchestra playing with THE BAND. It has a Genesis flavour to it but embellished.

it: You mentioned Steve Hackett. Recently, we had to mourn the passing of Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer - ELP). There is said to be unreleased music featuring the three of you.

Dave: I am working on a tribute to Rush. The reason is I have a music software company Sonic Reality, selling software products for musicians. We did a sample library called Neil Peart Drums and I built a tribute to Rush around Neil Peart Drums.

it: Do you just go to people and record them?

Dave: Yes, I have this company for 20 years, it’s a respected brand. We did different drummers: Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) recorded by Alan Parsons, Billy Cobham, Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, UK), Mick ’Woody’ Woodmansey (David Bowie). I was at Ocean Way studios in LA where Rush were mixing Snakes & Arrows. As a joke I said to the A&R guy of the record label: “If Neil Peart wants to do a sample library, just let me know”. I got a call from the label guy: “Do you still want to do it? Be in LA tomorrow.” OK! Anybody could buy Neil Peart Drums and do a Rush cover but I thought I’m a musician and it could be fun so I’ll do it myself. We did YYZ with me on keyboards, Billy Sherwood on bass, Steve Hackett on guitar and Keith Emerson duelling on keys with me and we did another funny thing that is basically like Rush meets ELP.

We did something else that is original music but Keith isn’t on that but Steve is with Neil Peart Drums. Keith also played on the Pink Floyd tribute that has Nick Mason Drums recorded by Alan Parsons while we sampled his Moog. There’s also a huge interview with Keith that has still to come out.

it: Can we expect all of them in 2016?

Dave: I don’t know but I should finish them. It depends on the timing. I have plans with SoC but Simon is working on a solo album and if he runs late then I shift towards my tribute projects so I’m always busy.

it: How did you become friends with Steve Hackett?

Dave: He’s a nice accessible person in general. There were little incidents building up to it. One incident was him playing on Simon’s record (U-Catastrophe) while we were working on Keep It Dark (Genesis cover).

Of course Simon had met him years ago. Steve agreed to play on Fast Forward The Future. I would have loved to play with him but not just to play with him. There were enough keyboards on it [YouTube].

I have to thank Simon for that. I helped with Genesis Revisited. I asked Steve if he would play on my Lamb. He said: “I can’t do that, I can’t tell you why yet.” He was working on Genesis Revisited. After it was announced I came to him: “Let me know if you need help recording Simon, myself, or Francis. I coordinated Francis Dunnery to sing on Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, Simon on Supper’s Ready and I played keyboards on Supper’s Ready which is the dream. He gave me production credit and he played on my album. He considered it he owed me one but I said: “Me playing on your album is still a favour to me.”

it: Will Steve be featured on your next solo album or the next SoC?

Dave: SoC is more about the four guys. When we temporarily split up and then there were two. Before the album even came out, Kelly left the band. He’s a big part of Dimensionaut. Then I left and Simon and Matt almost split up and to Simon’s credit he came back to everybody and said there shouldn’t be a SoC album unless it’s the four of us who did the first one. We came to the conclusion that we’re not the only band, there’s another starts with a G and ends with an Enesis, that decided to do solo albums in addition to having a band. Everything you write comes out and you capitalise more on what you can do together on the band album.

it: How far into the SoC production are you?

Dave: We’ve started on it, we have quite a few songs recorded. They sound fantastic. We got together to try it on for size and it was just instant with the magic. Especially Simon and I, since it is a very keyboard-heavy band with drums, like Genesis is. We both grew up on Genesis in different ways and you speak a certain language. Although the new music is a little more guitar a little more of Matt and Kelly involved. I like their sound. Simon and I wrote most of the music for the first album. Certain songs have more of the sound of the other guys. Cosmic Distance Ladder is a good example of Matt’s writing [YouTube].

The second part of Möbius Slip was music that Kelly brought in. They have a cool sound that we can do more of. The plan is to write every song together although it takes a little longer that way. In the end you will get more of a real Rock band album. On the first album, Not Coming Down would be very Dave, very Squids. Pale Blue Dot would be very Simon. On the next Simon Collins record you probably hear something more on the line of that and on my album you’ll hear other sounds. It’s a cool blend but the next album will be more band-oriented but it takes longer. If one person takes the reigns like on The Lamb where Peter Gabriel wrote all the lyrics - the rest didn’t like it. There’s an advantage to that but they broke up in the end. Some bands can’t do it but I can. With Mantra Vega, Heather wrote most of the lyrics and I love writing lyrics but it was very efficient. The idea of SoC reforming is based on democratic and equal involvement.

it: When did you first meet Simon?

Dave: I was invited by Geoff Callingham to talk about sounds for the Genesis reunion tour. He is a tech. I’ve never met Simon before. We immediately hit it off. We were talking about music so much so that Genesis themselves when they took a break were listening into our conversation. Simon orchestrated this picture of all of us, this right there was my Genesis dream. Me in the middle of Genesis. He said: “I always wanted to do a Genesis cover, maybe you’re the right guy to do it with.” That’s when we did Keep It Dark and from there we started working together. I produced it with him, played keyboards and I even do the drums. I used samples and I played on a keyboard with my fingers.

it: Were they real Phil Collins drums?

Dave: We did sample drums at Genesis studios with Hugh Padgham and Nick Davis. And the sound of this room they have there! It’s a stone room that echoes in a certain way and you put these single-headed drums in there and it’s like [imitates In The Air Tonight drum roll], this barking tom sound. They told me that I was the last outside person to record at the studio. They opened it up for a little while but they stopped it. It’s not set up for accommodating everybody. It’s cool that I could record it not only for my own music but do samples that people can buy.

it: And when you see and hear Simon play you can squint your eyes and see Phil…

Dave: It’s in his blood. He just got a natural ease. Simon doesn’t even need to practice. He’ll go behind the kit and he’ll just do something. He’s got part of his dad’s influence in his style and his own creativity, these innovative beats, that’s unique to him. I worked with a lot of different drummers and Simon has his own sound, and I worked with a lot of different drummers who are influenced by Phil, like Nick D’Virgilio. I like drummers that were influenced by Phil. It says something about their feel, groove, swing and dynamics. It gives it personality. A lot of drummers are more mathematical, it’s impressive but not about the feel. Jon Bonham is also more about the feel. I could talk about drummers forever.

it: What are your influences among contemporary artists?

Dave Kerzner liveDave: Sigur Rós from Iceland, I like Radiohead, early Coldplay, I like Muse. I don’t listen to a lot of modern music. I’m more of a 70s early 80s music lover but new music does have to still be made and part of the main philosophy that I have and I share with Simon and other people - we’re making music that we would want to hear. If I was buying a record what would I want to buy? I wanted to have a story maybe, a whole album experience, some cool instrumental bits. What if you had alternative rock and modern cinematic music and gave it 70s vintage analogue keyboard solos. But not so much as pure Prog where you played it to someone who never heard Prog before and just went over their head. I liked Genesis because they were accessible to a lot of people and they lured you in. My first record was Duke and I was lured in because I liked Turn It On Again. Then I discovered Cul-De-Sac and Duke’s Travels and went WHOA. Then I went backwards and bought all the other albums. That’s a great way to get more people into Prog Rock instead of hitting them over the head with odd time signatures. I’d rather put some of that fancy stuff in context with songs you can remember.

it: How did you get invited to the Genesis rehearsals?

Dave: It goes way back. When Genesis did Calling All Stations everybody had been talking about who is going to replace Phil Collins online. I posted on a news group that it should be Nick D’Virgilio. He’d be perfect. I posted it accidentally like 10 times, oops. It got noticed by Nick Davis who was doing the auditions and it got him the audition.

it: To replace him as drummer or singer/drummer?

Dave: I have an interesting story about that. At the time I suggested him as the drummer and he auditioned as a drummer. Later on when Nick did Rewiring Genesis Tony Banks told Nick Davis, he told me and I told Nick that had Tony known that he could sing like that he might have gotten the complete gig. This might be a little bit bittersweet but he had a glass-half-full-attitude and said I was just happy to play with Genesis at all. He played on half the album with Nir Z and I became friends with Nick Davis. Though Nick Davis, every year I would go to them and say: “Mike, Tony & Phil, do they use software?” He went: “They’re not there yet, they’re oldschool”. Finally around 2002/03 he went “Could we?” I put together something for each of them to try and they loved it. They started using my products with IK Multimedia. Tony uses my symphonic products to mock up symphonic work for his classical albums. Mike uses my stuff for Mike + The Mechanics. Phil uses my stuff in his studio. This got me closer to Genesis. And 2006 when they were preparing for the tour they were considering changing Tony’s rig to use a computer in his rack and the sounds would have been samples of sounds recreated of old Arps and Mellotrons. We almost did it but he wasn’t sure if he could rely on a computer on stage and I understand that, I don’t like using computers on stage too. He went with his setup from Calling All Stations which is a little different.

it: On some signature stuff during the 2007 tour like Los Endos you could think: “it could have been…”

Dave: I had a conversation with Tony about that and he said he didn’t like the sound of the Mellotron choir. Why not? It sounds like an organ and he had to run it through all these effects to make it sound good. I said I know and it DID sound good. He said: “I’m not as attached to those old sounds as much as you are. I didn’t get him into using the Mellotron choir sound, he’s particular and very opinionated. He knows what he likes. There was the possibility of using other vintage sounds I set up but it was in the computer and he didn’t want to use the computer. He has those other sounds in his setup.

it: Do you remember anything funny happening during the rehearsals that is not on the documentary?

Dave: The cameras weren’t rolling the day when I was there. I did see a moment when they tried to figure out the harmonies for Carpet Crawlers. It was like Spinal Tap. “What are you going to sing?” “I don’t know. I’ll sing whatever.” Then Phil said: “I’ll sing whatever too.” I was sitting on the couch waiting for them. I was just a fly on the wall (or on the windshield). Then Simon said: “Do you want to watch my dad from behind the kit?” “Can we?” It was so powerful, listening to Phil play standing behind him. Then I started to get bold. Let’s watch Tony! I was asking him: “Is that how you do it?” And he’d go: “Get outta here kid!” I drove to a Genesis concert with Simon and Phil in his van. I owe my Genesis fantasies to Simon. He invited me along. It didn’t occur to me because Simon is a genuine friend and he said: “We’re going to a Genesis concert.” “Ok, let’s go!” “Get in the van.” “With your dad? Whoa.” Phil asked me what did I think of the show and of course I said it was great. I had no connection to the band growing up. I remember going to the Mama tour and thinking: “How could I meet them? I know nobody.” There was no internet, so no way. Now the world is so small.

it: From your point of view, are there chances of Genesis reforming in any way?

Dave: Pretty slim, it’s always possible but not that likely. First we have to see Phil do something. I saw him perform recently and thought he sounded great. I helped him with the studio. He’s actually going to do something in the studio. I’m friends with the technical Genesis people, Steve “Put” Jones and Geoff Callingham. I’m a resource to them if they need anything technical for Phil in Miami. They were going to rehearse in my studio but they didn’t only because they needed a grand piano for Brad (Cole) to play. My studio wasn’t big enough so they changed it in the last minute. I did help them with some sounds. I gave them some Motown sounds. I’d love to see him make music again. Whether it’s with the G-Men, a full-scale tour is probably out of the question, maybe a one-off. The full five men, probably not.

it: Final question: Your Wikipedia page says “Dave Kerzner – Rapper, producer, actor”!?!?

Dave: Somebody is having a joke there. [rapping] YO WHAT’S UP? I LIKE PROG, LIKE A FROG. MY NAME IS SQUIDS…. I don’t rap very well. You’re not allowed to go and touch your own Wikipedia page. You can complain. I did that once. They were like: “You can’t be here! You’re the artist!” I act a little bit, I do impressions. I don’t actively do. I used to act when I was younger, in competitions.

Interview, transcript, photos: Anneke and Tony Reinsperger

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