Hello, MD readers! I’m neither philosopher nor do I listen to Dr. Phil. I’m just Dan Dinsmore, a drummer from Albany, NY.
I was thinking recently about what fuels people to continue playing or what motivates them in the first place. That’s when I got all philosophical for a moment–but for only a moment. It was then I decided to do what I do best and just play, instead of over-thinking it. That’s when it came to me: It was my emotional connection to playing that created a lifetime of practice, making music, dedication, and touring. I thought, a song, in the sum of its parts, is basically a presentation of ideas represented symbolically and sonically with confidence, resolution, balance, and continuity. It uses form, emotion, sound, and absence of sound, movement and language. Clearly it is not limited to these characteristics, but on the whole, songs use them as their vehicle for delivery via the vision of the artists. It just seems that when a musician finds the strongest emotional connection to playing music, it is audibly heard and felt by the audience. More importantly, it is what stokes the fire within to continue, improve, and never stop making music.
I developed the interest in drumming around the age of twelve. It was a way for me to cope with some issues I was having with my father passing, and it delivered me an outlet to let myself go and live in the moment. It was, and still is, very therapeutic.
My mother bought me my first drumset and I was off and running. Previous to that I would pull all my family’s furniture around and wail away on the cushions. The couch was my toms, the Lazy Boy made a nice floor tom, and I rocked the kitchen chair as the snare. Then I got the real drumset…I will never forget using my Yankees trash can flipped upside down for my throne. It worked quite well, and to this day I still love the Yanks and I still love the drums.
My brother-in-law was an amazing drummer, and he fueled my fire. I would practice at least four or five hours a day, and I felt as though I found my calling. And so be it, I followed my dreams. I started gigging with various bands in local clubs at the age of fourteen. Two years later I met bass player Chris Wyse. We were amazed by each other and started to rehearse every day. I will never forget those years where we both pushed each other so hard. We really flourished. I look at video of us when we were like fifteen- or sixteen-year-old punk kids, and I’m still in awe of what we were doing.
I continued to train myself and also had wonderful teachers who helped me expand my skills into many different styles and playing with various techniques. I continued to gig and play throughout high school into my early twenties with my band East Wall. This was my first taste of touring, and we did a good amount of it. After that project I played in a few regional acts and was looking for a new gig when a buddy who was playing in the Clay People approached me. So I went and auditioned and it was slamming. I think the reason the Clay People worked for me is the fact that I was not a logical choice. I was a heavy-hitting groove player and the Clay People was an industrial act. That combination really created a unique sound. We signed with Mercury Records, and we entered the studio with producer Neil Kernon. He was fantastic and really inspired me to push myself to another level. He has a great work ethic and had worked with such monster acts as David Bowie, Elton John, Phil Collins, and Queensryche.
At this point I knew I could play with the big boys. After finishing that record I did a good amount of touring with the band and had some good success with movie soundtracks and a number-one single on the metal charts with “Awake.” I felt at that point I really started to find myself behind the kit. I started to push emotion into the kit. I wanted to actually evoke emotion and feelings from drums. I don’t just mean anger and slamming; I actually wanted to evoke a rollercoaster ride for people to feel when I played. I put my heart and soul into my playing.
After a number of tours, the Clays took a break and I started to work on various other projects. During that time I recorded with Mike Clink (G ’N R, Aerosmith) and tried to find the right project, which turned out to be Owl. Chris Wyse, who plays bass in the Cult, asked if I would like to work on a record with him, and so there it was: Owl was born. Together with guitarist Jason Mezilis, we are a tight three-piece. With Owl, I’ve found a great outlet for my brand of drumming–I get to be technical while still being able to groove. We do whatever we want, and there is no limit on what we are able to do.
We recently released our self-titled debut album on Overit Records, and we’ll soon be touring in support of it. We recorded the album at Matt Sorum’s studio in L.A. and have gotten great responses to it thus far. The band gives me the opportunity to be able to play many different time signatures and use massive dynamics.
So like I said, I’m no philosopher. But, in feeding a young emotional void with music, I ended up eventually finding myself, and the wicked joys of playing massive music with other great musicians. Those experiences have lasted a lifetime and have provided me with the skills and know-how to know myself and be one with the music. Fortunately I get to do so in my own home studio, where I do my own drum tracking, but more importantly I get to do it with the best of the best in the industry.
For more on Dan Dinsmore go to www.owltheband.net. Photo by Overit Media.