AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVE KILMINSTER
By David Iozzia
When davesontour.com first chatted with guitarist Dave Kilminster, it was during the winter of 2005. Now its Fall 2006 and a whole lot has changed in Daves musical journey. He toured the United States in September as a guitarist and vocalist in the band of ex-Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters after touring Europe earlier this summer. I tracked down Dave between tours to get some udpated information to add to the interview we did previously.
Dave I: Best of luck on tour with Roger Waters, and thanks for letting me update the interview we did last year. I really enjoyed the performance at the P.N.C. Bank Art Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, earlier this month. I cant offer any onstage advice, but dont wait around backstage too long after the shows. With eleven bandmates, youd better hustle to the food tent before they run out of food.
DAVE K: That's OK, I'm on a diet!!!
Dave I: Your musical journeys are far from over. I dont know if youll look back one day and say that the Roger Waters band was the BEST band youve ever played in. I am pretty confident that youll be able to look back and say its the BIGGEST band youve ever played in. Introduce your bandmates.
DAVE K: Yes, it's definitely the biggest! They're ALL such nice people too and thats a rare thing.
Roger Waters on bass guitar and vocals. Hes a visionary, he sees the whole picture in his head: the music, orchestration, arrangements, lights, and images. Nothing happens on stage by chance; it's all down to Rogers incredible imagination and boundless energy. He's also a very funny guy!
Dave K on guitar and vocals. A musical genius, and very cute!!!! Ha ha ha, Im kidding! I'm basically Dave Gilmours 'stunt double' on this tour!
Snowy White on guitar. Snowy is a wonderful blues player, and what a tone! He's also one of the nicest people I've ever met.
Andy Fairweather-Low on guitar. Another great blues player, but he also does that 'Chet Atkins' thing brilliantly! He's got some great stuff down on the guitar. I wish he'd play more!
Jon Carin and Harry Waters on keyboards. Jon is a musical train spotter, he knows everything about every part on every Pink Floyd record ever! Give him a chance and he'll perform everyone's part! He's great! Harry is also a great player. He'd never played Hammond before the last tour and mastered it pretty much instantly. He's also a mean chess player, who's turning out to be a rather splendid jazz pianist!
Graham Broad on drums. A brilliant drummer, with great tone and feel. It's really difficult for most drummers to play with a click track, but Graham is totally on it, all the time! It's quite amazing. He's also a wonderful personality to be around.
Ian Ritchie on saxophone. He's totally great! He plays the ass off his solos every night. Another closet jazzer too, and a lovely chap to hang out with!
and Katie Kissoon, PP Arnold, and Carol Kenyon on backing vocals. I've worked with female backing singers before, and they can be a real nightmare. But you can see why these girls get so much work. They're all individually amazing, but they're also lovely people to be with.
Sorry if that all sounds like some sad Oscar speech, but it's true! I don't think Roger would employ any of them if they weren't really lovely people.
Dave I: This tour is being billed as Roger Waters The Dark Side of the Moon.
DAVE K: Yep, because in the second set we play the whole of 'Dark Side...' in the same order as on the record, with the same sound effects! It must be pretty incredible, I really can't wait to see it one day!
Dave I: Is the balance of the setlist a surprise? If not, please give the music fans of North America a brief preview of the other songs Roger and his band will be performing.
DAVE K: I don't think there're many surprises in there, apart from a new tune called Leaving Beirut, about Rogers experiences hitchhiking in Lebanon. It'll be interesting to see how that one goes down for a number of reasons.
Dave I: When you played in the Keith Emerson Band, re-arranging Emerson, Lake and Palmers classic material and adding lead guitar to a formula that traditionally featured only keyboards, bass guitar, and drums must have been very challenging. Whats been the biggest musical challenge for you with the Pink Floyd material being played on the Roger Waters tour?
DAVE K: That's a good question. It's a different kind of pressure. I'm playing (and singing) this stuff pretty much note for note, and if you do make a mistake, then it's kinda obvious to everybody, because the fans know the songs SOOO well. They know how it's supposed to sound! It's a bit of a no-win situation to be honest. If you play it exactly the same as Dave Gilmour, people say "It's not as good as Gilmour." If you put your own slant on it, people say "It doesn't sound like Gilmour." What can you do? It doesn't worry me though, I'm actually very, very happy at the moment! I'm having loads of fun.
Dave I: Im sure there were many highlights from the summer tour of Europe with Roger Waters. Talk about two of your favorite memories. You pick one city and Ill pick the other. My choice is playing in Red Square in Moscow, Russia.
DAVE K: Red Square was great, but mainly for the setting. It was pretty incredible looking up and seeing St. Basils and the Kremlin whilst you're playing. But it felt a little strange, because there were a lot of people sitting quietly at the front in the really expensive seats. But over to the right, and outside the wire fence people were going totally bananas! They really, really loved it, but I guess they couldn't afford to get in. So you had this complete contrast, almost like there were two separate gigs going on! But Russia is definitely a country of contrast.
It was great to play Hyde Park, because I had a load of family and friends there. But I think the highlight of the tour for me was playing in Israel, which was just totally incredible, absolutely mind-blowing. Apart from the fact that it was our biggest gig (somewhere near 60,000?) there was just such an incredible feeling there. I tried to write about it in my tour diary (on my website) but the words really couldn't justify the experience.
Dave I: The Roger Waters North American tour will take you to a lot of cities and venues that youve never performed in. I know youve played in New York City before, at the B.B. Kings Blues Club, with the Keith Emerson Band. Share your thoughts on your upcoming shows at a bigger and more historic venue, Madison Square Garden.
DAVE K: Well, we're playing Madison Square Garden next week, and I STILL don't think it's sunk in yet! I remember seeing The Song Remains The Same at the cinema, with Led Zeppelin doing their thing at the Garden, and it just seemed like an impossible dream to play there. It still does really. But I guess a lot of what's happened to me in the past few years would have seemed impossible when I was younger.
Dave I: Whats the latest news on the pending release of your new album Scarlet?
DAVE K: Well I'm trying to finish it, but these tours with Roger just keep getting in the way! Actually it's almost complete; all the drums, bass, guitars, and most of the keyboards are done. I've just got to finish arranging and scoring the strings (I've got a real string quartet coming in!!!), do all the vocals, and mix... all of which will probably take about two/three weeks when I get back. It'll be finished by the end of November anyway.
Dave I: How would you describe its musical direction?
DAVE K: Musical direction? Umm... I listen to such a variety of music, that there's a whole bunch of different influences in there. I'm actually intrigued as to how it'll turn out myself!
Dave I: Are you planning any solo shows to support it?
DAVE K: A guitarist friend of mine called Bumblefoot (who is TOTALLY amazing by the way) wrote this great song, and one of the lyrics goes We make plans, and God laughs. I love that line. Looking at this year so far, it's COMPLETELY different from the one I'd planned out in January, but it has been incredible. I'd love to go out and play some solo shows supporting Scarlet. I'd also love to go out on tour with Guthrie Govan and Jamie Humphries doing our version of a 'G3' thing. There's also talk of maybe some more shows with Roger next year. I think the only way to cope in this business is to be as flexible as possible, be open to any new things that may come along, and just say 'yes' to everything!
Dave I: Prior to touring with Roger Waters, you were the lead guitarist and vocalist in the Keith Emerson Band. Have you ended your musical relationship with Keith Emerson or will you be working with him and his band again after the Roger Waters tour?
DAVE K: I'd LOVE to play with Keith again! We wrote enough new tunes for a double album; it'd be amazing to get that recorded, and maybe even tour with that album too. It would be so cool to tour with those guys again.
Dave I: What songwriting process did you and Keith use for the new material?
DAVE K: Well, Keith and I live in different countries, so it did make the process a little more difficult! Basically, I'd send him CDs of ideas, and he'd write back saying "That's rubbish!"
Dave I: The Keith Emerson Band toured the United States in 2004 with you playing lead guitar and singing lead vocals. The band opened shows in U.S. arenas supporting The Scorpions on their Unbreakable tour. It was your first time touring the United States. I hope my beloved country left a good impression?
DAVE K: You have an AMAZING country. Within a week I just felt completely at home! My girlfriend flew over for the last couple of shows, and we stayed an extra few days after the tour finished We were driving around L.A. in an open top car, down the Sunset Strip, and I just thought I could so easily live here!!
Dave I: Everybody knows Keith. Tell me more about your mates from the Keith Emerson Band, bassist Phil Williams and drummer Pete Riley?
DAVE K: Pete Riley is the best drummer I've ever played with. He's so musical, he really plays the songs! He can play pretty much any style, has great feel and timing, and is the easiest person in the world to get along with. Pete's played with Republica, Ritchie Kotzen, and with me in Ken Hensleys band (Sorry Pete).
Phil Williams is the best bassist I've ever played with, again he's very musical, but with a funk edge that makes everything groove. He's also got a great voice, and I want to use that in the future for harmonies and stuff. He's also probably the funniest person I've toured with, which always helps on the road. Phil's played with Tony Hadley, Go West, Limahl and Rick Wakeman!
Dave I: What feedback did you receive from longtime E.L.P. fans?
DAVE K: Well everyone that I spoke to was very, very positive, especially about my voice, which I was surprised at!! But I guess if they thought I was rubbish then they probably wouldn't come up and talk to me, would they?
Dave I: What was your favorite E.L.P. song to play guitar on? To sing?
DAVE K: Tarkus is so much fun to play! I've always loved that tune. Singing wise, they're all fun so far! I'd really love to sing Karn Evil 9 someday.
Dave I: The Keith Emerson Band performed classic E.L.P. progressive music in front of hard rock and metal music fans. In a lot of cities never toured by E.L.P. How was Keiths music received by the Texas audiences? By Scorpions fans?
DAVE K: Well, to be honest with you, when I first heard we were touring with the Scorpions I had similar reservations. But I guess the thing we have in common with The Scorpions is that we're a rock band! We put on a show! There's flashing lights, people running around screaming (well, OK me!), distorted guitar chords, the only real difference is that it's a little more difficult to tap your foot to in places, that's all! And playing Texas was very cool... although some of those shows were when UFO joined the bill, which meant we were on at 6 p.m.
Dave I: What is the biggest difference between playing U.S. and European concerts? What is most similar?
DAVE K: That's impossible to answer really. Audiences vary so much, even within areas of the same country, and certainly all of Europe is totally different! For example, in Finland, you probably won't get on stage before 12:30 a.m. By which time, of course, the whole audience is off their face!
Dave I: A lot of bands have told me how well The Scorpions treated them as opening acts. What were they like to tour with?
DAVE K: They were such a great bunch of guys. Very friendly and down to earth. Their crew was great also! One of their guys, Malte, helped fix my computer, and another one lent me one of The Scorpions expensive wireless systems when my cheap one wasn't working properly! This isn't like the Oscars, by the way, where you have to say how much you like all the people you've worked with! Those guys were GREAT!
Dave I: Lets talk a bit more about your solo material. In 2004, you released a newly mixed, remastered version of Playing With Fire. Tell us about that album and what other musicians played on it?
DAVE K: It was 1996, and I'd just returned from a holiday, where I'd taken my classical guitar and written a whole bunch of stuff on it while I was away. I didn't really know what to do with the tunes, but I played them to one of my students, Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith, and he really loved it, so I started writing harmony parts and we played the tunes together. It was really magical. I thought, this is just too good to waste, so I paid for us to go into the studio for two days and record it. It was just the two of us, playing classical guitars together, living in the studio. Anyway, apparently Craig David heard the album and really loved it too. He was talking about it with his manager one day, who looked at the cover and said 'Oh, I know Fraser,' so Fras got the gig. From there, Fraser made TONS of money playing with Craig David, and I'm still having to teach!!! Oh well.
Dave I: You also played in a band called Qango, with bassist John Wetton, keyboardist John Young, and drummer Carl Palmer. How did that come to pass?
DAVE K: It was supposed to be an Asia reunion, but without Steve Howe, as no one liked him!! So John, Carl and Geoff Downes asked if I'd do it. I was of course very honored by the invitation, and agreed immediately!! But somewhere down the line Geoff pulled out (for reasons unknown) and so it was left with John, Carl and I wondering what to do. John Wetton loves J.Y.s (John Young) songwriting, so he was asked to join and Qango were born! It was more 'Asia' than Asia really, as we had half the original members, plus JY, who'd played with a later lineup, but Geoff owned the name!!!
Dave I: Why were there no U.S. tour dates and will we hear from Qango again?
DAVE K: I'd love to tell you the REAL story of why there were no American dates! Maybe it'll come out one day, but there definitely won't be any more Qango stuff though. Not with me involved anyway.
Dave I: Keith Emerson tells a story about meeting you the night he surprised Carl at a Qango gig. The night he took the stage unannounced for the encore and destroyed John Youngs keyboard? An old expression is that there are two sides to every story, with the truth somewhere in between. John Young tells me that Keith never apologized and never paid the bill for the repair. You where there, what happened then and whats happened since?
DAVE K: Hmmm, I don't know if I like being the middle of this! Both Keith and JY are lovely people, in fact JY lives next door to me! But I'm sure Keith would be mortified if he knew that John never got any money for the keyboard repairs. Can I get back on the fence now?
Dave I: In your career, youve had the opportunity to work with a bunch of Hall of Fame caliber musicians: Keith Emerson, Carl Palmer, John Wetton, Ken Hensley, Roger Waters, and so many others. As youve sat with them on a tourbus, airplane, or even backstage, you must have heard some crazy rock and roll stories. Will you share a funny one with us?
DAVE K: There are loads of stories, most of which are not repeatable! But one of my favorites (and probably the cleanest) was told to me by John Wetton, about his old band mate Bryan Ferry when John was playing in Roxy Music. They were on tour and staying at this swanky hotel for the day. Most of the band were out by the pool, but Bryan was inside, messing about on a piano in the hotel lobby. All of a sudden Bryan came out all excited, his arms and hands locked into a strange, contorted shape... he walks slowly over to John, carefully holds his hands out and asks "John, what's this chord?"
Dave I: I recently asked a musician about all of the great musicians hes played with and their influence on him as hes evolved on his instrument. He replied, Ive learned something from somebody on every instrument. All musicians have something great that they do. I try to steal from each and every one of them and throw it into my style. Can you self-relate to that statement?
DAVE K: That sounds like me! In fact, that sounds like an old interview I did! It's definitely true though.
Dave I: At this point of the interview, would you like to trade places and ask me a question?
DAVE K: What got you into music? Do you play any instruments?
Dave I: Ive always been a music fan, as well as a huge E.L.P. fan. I was hooked the first time I heard Endless Enigma. I play a bit of electric guitar, very poorly I must admit. My ten-year-old daughter Diana plays acoustic guitar and is starting to write poems and songs. Her six-year-old brother, Wild Mick, is our band leader. He plays electric guitar and drums. He calls his band The Rockets.
Dave I: Which band should put all their issues behind them, reform, record an album, and do one last tour? What band should hang it up and just go away?
DAVE K: I was always a huge Van Halen fan, and if I thought they could capture some of their former glory then they'd get my vote! But I think, as with most things, there's a time and a place. There's loads of old bands out there still slogging it, some because they still love it, most of them for the money, but I wouldn't really want to tell anyone to stop. Maybe because I could be doing exactly the same in a few years. "Dave K? Is he STILL touring? I thought he was dead!"
Dave I: What is the one album that defines rock and roll? What band defines how rock and roll should be played?
DAVE K: Another difficult one!! Probably Black In Black by AC/DC, although I much prefer their previous singer, Bon Scott. But I think AC/DC is probably the ultimate rock and roll band. No egos, just rhythm, groove and attitude.
Dave I: What new musical artist has impressed you the most?
DAVE K: I don't mean to sound negative, but I haven't heard anything new that's moved me for years! Probably not since Jeff Buckley, who was totally incredible.
Dave I: What are your future plans?
DAVE K: I really don't plan much... I'm always gonna be writing and recording my own stuff, and hopefully I'll be successful at that. I just love being part of a great band though. I'm not really interested in being a Ritchie Blackmore-type character!!!
Dave I: Are there any other thoughts youd like to share with music fans?
DAVE K: Yes... buy my album!!!
Dave I: Thanks so much for the interview, Dave K. Feel free to comment on, or promote anything I failed to cover.
DAVE K: I think you've pretty much covered everything at the moment!
Full Name: Dave Kilminster
Birthday: 25th January
Birthplace: Eastville, in Bristol
Former bands: Duchess, Wild!, John Wetton Band, Qango, Ken Hensley band, The Nice, The Keith Emerson Band
Hobbies: Music. not time for much else!! I have been going to the gym and playing squash recently though...
Favorite beverage: In the morning? Coffee.
Favorite food: Thai/Italian/Indian/Japanese/Vegetarian/French.... err... most food I guess!! Not too keen on Chinese, but that's because I can taste the chemicals!
Favorite Band: Queen. The first five albums are pretty incredible...
Favorite song: Too difficult.... Everybody here wants you by Jeff Buckley comes to mind first, so I'll go with that...
Favorite film: Oh God, too many!!! Shine was great, partly for the wonderful music... I thought The Fifth Element was cool... Dark City was interesting.
Football team: I don't follow football...
Favorite city: Prague... or maybe Venice...
Favorite venue: Sun Palza, Tokyo