Top Left Corner #166: NTRVW x2 “The Mane Event” — microfestival & Dem’ Sticks

Top Left Corner: This is the top left corner at The Greylock Glass. And this is episode number 166 of the top left corner right here on The Greylock Glass the Berkshires mightiest independent alternative news thing. I’m your host, Jay Velázquez. And as always, I do thank you for tuning in and welcome you to the show. You know, if you appreciate the fact that seven and a half years later, we continue to do this this quirky news program, then let us know with your thanks. You know, send us an email to editor at and just tell us we’re doing a great job and why you listen. And you could even take another step and visit support, read a little spiel, and then click become a member, which will give you a few different membership options. Pick the one that matches your level of commitment to local alternative news and your budget. And if becoming a monthly sustaining member is not your bag or you just can’t do that right now, there are other ways. If you look at the sidebar, there are a couple of other options that allow you to do a one time contribution gifts of of any size, any denomination. Help us keep the lights on here at The Greylock Glass Universal Headquarters. So this show, as I mentioned, 166, that’s a few shows by now. This is as special as all of them because we get to do one of the things that we love best of all, which is put the spotlight on local music. And we do that times, too, in this episode. Don’t cover a lot of car accidents or things like that, but I can’t help but wonder when the sirens go by just what it is that’s going on.

Top Left Corner: Having started my career in journalism, in cops and courts, and I used to actually pretty much chase fire engines and police cars all over town looking for a story. You know, someone’s got to do it. So the what was I saying? All right. I was saying that I get to do one of the things I love to do best, which is shine a spotlight on local, independent music. And I get to do that times, too, in this episode because our first guest. Is Steve Dalton, who is guitarist, vocalist, producer for the band Sample the Cat. He is going to talk about Sample the Cat, the band, his latest music and the main event, which is the first of its kind, taking place Saturday, July, July, Saturday, August 13th at the Berkshire County Fairgrounds. It is a multi. Arts genre performer Mike. I guess we call that on the show a micro festival, which is exactly what it is. Performing arts of all kinds on the same stage. And it’s several hours of of just great, great entertainment and art. So let’s let’s have a listen to that. But first, let me tell you about number two segment. That’s right. Not just one. You get two segments. We speak with local musician and. Drumstick maker, artist and drumstick maker Dave Deming. Dave has been crafting these drumsticks that have made their way all over the world and have been gripped by some of the most famous hands in the percussive world. And so that’s part two. But let’s go right now to our conversation with Steve Dalton of Sample the Cat and now promoter of the event, the main event right here on The Greylock Glass.

NTRVW: Steve Dalton, of Sample the Cat, on The Mane Event

Welcome to the Top Left Corner, Steve.

Steve Dalton: Thank you very much. Well, thank you for having me.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, it’s my pleasure. I try to to to boost local music any way I can. And I see that you’re doing the same thing. And and then some I get your press release about the the events that are going on at the Berkshire Forge Fairgrounds this weekend. And I couldn’t be happier. Why don’t you, first of all, just give us. A little bit of a rundown of sample. The cat who you are. How long you’ve been together. And what kind of music you play. We’ll just start from there. Talk to us about Sample the cat.

Steve Dalton: Yeah, well, first of all, I just. I appreciate what you do to Jay. I see you out there pushing the local music scene and and really trying to grow a scene here, and we’re trying to do the same thing. So I just wanted to start off with that. Thank you. But yeah, we’re sample the cat. We I started this project probably about. Well, I started recruiting for it about three years ago. That’s when I met Brian, who’s our keyboardist. We met at Local Community College BC actually in the music program. So we got together, started writing some stuff, just kind of messing around. Just it was the goal of taking our own individual style. I come from a rock and blues type of background with a little bit of jazz. Maybe Brian is way more heavily into the jazz, so we kind of bring those two perspectives together. And that was the goal, just to make some music that kind of blended our two individual sort of musical personalities and see what happens from there. And, you know, but the goal was we wanted to make this a serious thing. You know, we were both in school for it. So, you know, we hooked up with a couple of different musicians and, you know, tried a few different people out with chemistry wise. And eventually about a year or so later, maybe a year. Yeah, probably about a year later. That’s when I met Kendra and her and I dated first.

Steve Dalton: Actually, it was initially that’s what it was. And then I found out she was just an amazing singer. And so I had to I had to bring her into the band too, you know. So that’s kind of the core three piece we do the songwriting and everything and and then we’ve got a new drummer that’s been playing with us for the past couple of shows. She’s really great. Olivia Davis We’re super happy to have her on board with us and hopefully she’ll be sticking around for a while. So, but yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s kind of our backstory a little bit. And like I was saying, we’re all about the music that we create is to be a combination of all our musical styles. Kendra grew up in church. She grew up singing gospel music and soul is her passion. So that’s kind of her the the the flavor that she brings to the mix, too. And she’s a great lyricist. So but yeah, that’s that’s pretty much what we’re about. A little bit of the back story. We’ve been performing in public for a little over a year now. Um, and just really having a lot of fun, like you said, you know, the. The. There’s a lot of opportunity out there for four, for four and for us, and you create your own opportunity. So that’s what we’re doing.

Top Left Corner: Yeah. Yeah. Like we were talking about in our in our digital greenroom there, there’s it’s a big county, right? I mean, it covers a lot of space. But for all that space, the really especially from mid county to North County, there’s just not as much opportunity to play out because the venues have kind of closed up.

Steve Dalton: A lot of the venues have unfortunately.

Top Left Corner: Over the years. I mean, we lost what Jay Allen Main Street, North Street in Pittsfield. I mean, I’m very happy to see that there’s going to be a bodega slash restaurant there. I think it’s going to be great. I heard about that. That’s going to be great. But but that was a good, you know, a good venue for a while there here in North County, Halo North Adams was just getting going when the pandemic hit.

Steve Dalton: And the big Walkmen. What happened? Yeah, the killer battery, too.

Top Left Corner: That was a great venue. And hopefully somebody will. Maybe since it’s I mean, it’s turnkey. I mean, if you’ve got the money, it’s turnkey. You could you could be up and running in a week. So that’s too bad. But I see that what you have done is you have put together essentially this is the first year of it, a sort of a micro festival.

Steve Dalton: Yeah, but more you could call it that.

Top Left Corner: But more than music and hey, you know, there’s room to grow, but more than music, you’ve got some other kinds of performance. Talk to me about why you didn’t want to make this just a music festival.

Steve Dalton: Um, well, I mean, I. I love collaboration, and we all do. And we’re all artists more than just musicians. You know, we are musicians. We are songwriters and whatever other labels you want to put on that. But we’re artists and we love the arts and appreciate the arts. And and, you know, some things don’t get as much highlighted, if you will. But the goal with this was just to kind of bring a bunch of different flavors of performing arts to one location and so that everybody can kind of enjoy a piece of this or a piece of that. And, you know, everybody can go there with something that’s going to be interesting, right?

Top Left Corner: So we start off we start off the day. It’s What time is it? 4 p.m.. This is Saturday, August 13th. If we haven’t said that before, 4 p.m. at the four H Fairgrounds in Pittsfield at Utility Drive in Pittsfield and and tell give us a rundown of the the agenda for the for the evening. What, what’s the what’s the order of operations.

Steve Dalton: Okay. So we’re going to start the night off or the afternoon off the gates open at four tickets at a time or T5, five at the gate, 230. So I’m encouraging everybody to buy tickets ahead of time. That just kind of makes our process a little easier. Starting at around 430, we’re going to be starting the show off with the BMX riders and we’ve got three or four of those guys coming out. Josh Rozier is going to be riding just there. Jesse Posey and Jake Sealy, all three like. Really top notch riders in the community. So I’m really excited to have those guys here. We’re going to build a couple of cool features for them to do, some do some jams on. We’ve got Opal Raven, who is a multitalented performer. She’s a dancer. She dances with swords and with fire and all kinds of cool, incredible stuff.

Top Left Corner: I think she was at the she was the Renaissance fair, wasn’t she? Is last past weekend, I think.

Steve Dalton: Probably.

Top Left Corner: Probably there was a fire dancer and it was probably Opal. Everybody everybody knows the group. Yeah. And then go ahead.

Steve Dalton: After that? Well, she’s going to be doing a sword routine, kind of. At the same time as the bikes are going to complement that and we’re going to have some music playing in the background while they’re doing their thing. Nice. Moving on from that. We’re going to be bringing up the music. Which starts off with Maher Flav, who’s a local hip hop artist songwriter, another incredible lyricist for music’s greats. He’s going to be playing about 45 minutes to an hour. Then we come up, sample the cat. We’re going to be doing a set and Opel’s going to come back out there in our set for a few of the songs to do a fire dance.

Top Left Corner: That sounds really cool, Steve. What? I saw that there were a couple of other things I would not have expected going on, such as a someone is going to be doing a on the spot sort of real time painting. Is that so?

Steve Dalton: That’s right. Yeah. Bobbi Diesel, who is another local legend. He’s done tags from here across the state, around the region. Some of the best street art that you see out there is Bobby Diesel’s work. He’s going to be there most of our entire set for sample. The cat is going to be he’s going to be next to the stage on his own little area, doing a live painting that’s going to kind of go along with the theme of the show. If you notice some of a lot of our marketing online, it contains a little bit of that street art vibe, and that’s because Bobby Diesel is going to be there doing a live painting as well.

Top Left Corner: Sweet.

Steve Dalton: Well, that’s kind of the the some of the afternoon we’ll have food truck, one food truck there. We’re going to have drinks and hopefully a merch tent and some other things, too. So there’s a lot going on. It’s going to be, like I said, a little bit of something for everybody.

Top Left Corner: It sounds it sounds fantastic. It sounds like a really well thought out collection of talent. And and the fact that there’s food there, there’s drinks there. And I think it’s we’re not just talking lemonade, right? There’s like beer and stuff.

Steve Dalton: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. There’s going to be beer and wine.

Top Left Corner: I mean, not that there’s nothing wrong with lemonade. I’m a big fan of lemonade, but, you know.

Steve Dalton: But there’s nothing wrong with lemonade. Maybe there’ll be some of that, too, but. Yeah.

Top Left Corner: All right.

Steve Dalton: Some drinking food.

Top Left Corner: There. So. This. This this micro festival, the main event. And that’s mainly riffing off of sample the cats sort of theme there. Hey, what you didn’t tell us about the name? Sample the cat since I’ve got you on the phone.

Steve Dalton: Yeah. I mean, it’s funny, we were kind of the band. We were all sitting together around the table thinking of a name, and we had, like, written down a whole, like, brainstormed a bunch of ideas, written them all down and made a list. And then we kind of, uh. In the middle of doing this, Bryan, our keyboardist. I have a cat and he’s a very vocal cat, so he’s always walking around meowing and stuff. And Brian was like, Hey, like out of a joke. He was like, Hey, why don’t we sample the cat, you know, and we’ll put that in a song or whatever. So I was like, a little light bulb went off in my head and I was like, Oh, that’s kind of that has a little bit of a ring to it, you know? Let’s write that down.

Top Left Corner: How to feel.

Steve Dalton: Go ahead.

Top Left Corner: Being a cat, a cat lover myself, I had a feeling that that was probably sort of the inspiration for that name. I’ve got a loud.

Steve Dalton: Mouth that’s just kind of loud mouth. Yeah, right.

Top Left Corner: I got a loud mouth at home as well. And if you want to sample him, too, by all means, because he’s he’s not shy about it. So this is this is a great this is a great, as I said, show how and by the way, I got to say, 25 bucks in advance, 30 bucks at the gate. That’s a really good price for this much entertainment. I mean, you’re talking you’re talking a few hours here. That’s a lot of entertainment of, you know, talent for for for that money. Yeah. How many people do you expect this this first time around?

Steve Dalton: I mean, it’s hard to say, but we’re hoping to get around to 50. Yeah. So hopefully, hopefully that will happen. And if it doesn’t, we’ll find out what does happen and we’ll go from there.

Top Left Corner: There you go. Well, we’re going to definitely we’re going to put a link to the tickets and the show notes to this episode. We will boost this on Facebook and probably Instagram and everywhere else you can think of, because this is just I mean, it’s really it’s just a fabulous I guess I called it entrepreneurial, artistic, entrepreneurial ism before. And that’s really what it is. And we need you to keep doing this and we need other people to kind of get inspired, too, so that we can have different, you know, you know, events that you can play at that you don’t have to set up yourself.

Steve Dalton: Yeah, well, that’s true, too. Yeah, there are some other things in the works. I’m not going to say anything about them now, but I’m talking to some friends. There are some things in the works, so I’m.

Top Left Corner: Sure you let The Greylock Glass know first.

Steve Dalton: I certainly will.

Top Left Corner: All right, Steve Dalton. Hey, I got you. I get one more one more favor here to ask. It’s always nice to be able to give people a teaser for the for the for the performance. Is there a song that would be a good representative of Sample to Cat that we can play on the show on this episode?

Steve Dalton: Yes. We’ve got a few songs out there on Spotify. You can check us out there. But I would recommend our most recent release called Lover of Mine. That’s a good that is like kind of that song as the some the picture of kind of what we are what our sound is now. Our sound goes all over the place. But sure, it’s that combination of different ideas that blend together that’s called Lover of mine.

Top Left Corner: Fantastic. All right. Well, Steve Dalton, I thank you. I wish you, I guess, break a leg Saturday and we will have you on the show as soon as you have more information for us about this secret plans that you got going on there.

Steve Dalton: You got it. All right. Take care. I appreciate it, Jason. Thank you.

Top Left Corner: Yep. Bye bye.

Steve Dalton: Bye.

Top Left Corner: That was “Lover of Mine” from Sample the Cat. Another great local group that you should be paying attention to and going to check out whenever you can, such as tomorrow if you’re listing on Friday when this came out. August 13th at the Berkshire County Fairgrounds. It’s going to be, like I said, several few hours of really great entertainment, a lot of bang for your buck. And and you get to enjoy that. Now, let us go let us turn to our second conversation that we had with Dave Deming of domestics right here on the Top Left Corner. And with me on the line now is Dave Deming, who is a Williamstown resident and the founder of Dem’ Sticks, a locally produced drum percussion tool utensil that has found its way all over the world.


Dave, thank you so much for being on the Top Left Corner.

Dave Deming: Before we even begin, Jason I just really, really wanted to thank you for putting together this show. It’s just really, really important to hear levelheaded folks conversing and thinking, and it does a lot for me mentally. It’s very, very important. So thanks for helping to keep me informed and presenting all the politicos. And it’s just it’s just a great source of information. What you do. And thank you very much.

Top Left Corner: That’s great. And I appreciate you being willing to to repeat that because like I said.

Dave Deming: Oh, yeah.

Top Left Corner: You know, there are a number of people out there who have not heard of The Greylock Glass have not heard of the show. And and it’s it’s amazing. But when people do see that testimonial, that that means something to them, it the idea that there could be informed level headed debate is maybe a surprise to some, but we’re going to fight for it. We’re going to fight to keep objective, you know thought here. Yeah in the area.

Dave Deming (left) with Marcelo Woloski of Snarky Puppy; photo via Facebook.

Dave Deming: Well I really I really like your low key sort of low key persona, if you will, because it’s it’s it kind of keeps the door open. You know, I’m sure the wheels are turning mighty fast back in there. But but your vocal persona, I think, kind of relaxes or maybe lures people into speaking. And, you know, we got to hear from these politicos, these local people who want to be leaders. And I don’t know. I think I think you’ve got some I think you’ve got what it takes to facilitate that. And that is sorely needed in this day and age. It’s a it’s a critical quality of being a human or humanity. It’s a wise position. And but you can you can you can be thinking all kinds of snarky thoughts and all the wheels can turn back there. But yeah, I mean, you’re offering a platform for people to either for themselves or hang themselves with what they say. So, you know, I don’t know. It’s the possibility is good, sincerity is really good. It feels good and it’s important.

Top Left Corner: Well, I try to I try to remember that it’s it’s not a game. I mean, we can have fun, no doubt, but it’s but it’s not a game.

Dave Deming: Jason, what do you what do you do for for real money for a living?

Top Left Corner: Well, I’m currently do writing, editing, other publishing, freelance work whenever I can find it. I have shoveled horse manure. I have washed dishes. I have I have done construction, you name it.

Dave Deming: I’ve been to all of that because that’s what I do for a living. I mean, I’m a building contractor. I remodel homes for 43 years and I’m licensed. And that’s how I make my living in Williamstown. That’s my deal. Is that the sticks?

Top Left Corner: Good.

Dave Deming: Yeah. I was going to say, yeah, the drumsticks are more of a passion. And, I mean, I. I mean, I’ve painted sort of painted myself into a lovely corner with this drumstick thing because it’s it’s an artisan pursuit. And it and artisans oftentimes, you know, guys make these beautiful drum sets. I just posted on Facebook about this because I just raised my prices and I was starting to resent making the sticks because these orders would all come in on PayPal. Got to make so little prepare a sticks that it was pulling me away from carpentry, which pays $60 an hour. And that’s before all the expenses and taxes and all of that, before taxation and all of that. So here I am and these guys all over the world telling me, wow, you know, these are the greatest sticks and all this stuff. And I just, you know, mailing out a pair of sticks costs anywhere from 375 to 5 bucks if they order two pair. So if I sell a pair of sticks for 28 bucks and I’m and five of that is immediately gone to postage and then $9 of it is going to materials. I’m not I’m wasting my time. I mean, I’m just it’s absolutely idiotic to to make these sticks because they’ll go broke.

Top Left Corner: You might as well start a local news organization.

Dave Deming: Right? Yeah. Ah, you know, a path. I mean that’s analogous to so many things, other things that people pursue out of love or you know, and craftsmanship and you go down or being an artist. My girlfriend is a sculptor and a model printmaker and her name is brand engraving and she’s a master printmaker, which is akin to being a producer and having your own recording studio, right? So artists come from all over the world to her shop Gravity Press, experimental print shop in North Adams to create prints. And she facilitates their artistry. But she’s been a she’s an award winning mono print artist all in her own right, the POLLOCK-KRASNER recipient, Joan Mitchell Awards, and has created probably the largest model print ever created by a single artist, exceptionally talented sculptor as well. So so we’ve been together for 14 years or so and so that’s been a pleasure. We go to New York City. We’ll spend half the time schmoozing with big deal musicians and the other half of the time going after other artists and art galleries. So it’s it’s really one one feeds the other. And we’re both makers of things. So it’s it’s fun. We can both talk about tool talk and practical matters of making things. My relationship with Brandon growing has really fed my creative side and I’ve been a carpenter for 43 years and a lot of that time spent right here in Williamstown and I started. After 30 years hiatus, I started drumming again and went to an open mic and I let another drummer up on my drum kit.

photo of handmade bamboo drumming brushes.
A collection of assorted Dem’ Sticks; photo courtesy

Dave Deming: And this is kind of a lemons to lemonade story. So the guy got up in my drum kit and he was really abusive and he broke these bundle rod implements that a lot of drummers play with. It’s just smashed them up and I got really mad and told them to get off of my drum set. And and so the next couple of days I thought, well, I need to go out, buy another pair of these. And and I thought, well, I’m a carpenter. Maybe I could go, maybe I could just make my own. So I went I went looking for of barbecue skewers, you know, and tried to cobble them together. And then I started experimenting with bamboo and and I and they just sounded good, you know, these little reeds of bamboo. And it kind of sounded great. And and I brought them to the open mic and played some a variety of song styles, you know, country boom, macaca sounding stuff and brushy stuff. And and it sounded pretty good. And the other drummers who would show up kind of liked them and wanted to have me make them some. And eventually I thought, wow, you know, is this me? Or do these things really sound good? So I contacted a percussion instructor at Berklee College of Music and I thought, these guys will be the pickiest guys maybe in the world. And I said, Can I send you a sample pair for you to review and tell me what you think? And the guy, Bertram Lehman there at Berkeley said, Yeah, sure, send him along, you know, and I get this email back from him and he goes, Dave, this is the sound that I’ve been looking for.

Dave Deming: You ought to contact these guys and get them some sticks. And I looked down the list on the email. And there’s Antonio Sanchez, who plays with Pat Metheny and Kata Ogawa, who plays with Snarky Puppy. And I just I couldn’t believe my eyes. So I write these guys and send them off Styx and I get the same response back and I thought, Wow, you’re really on to something here. This is weird. So the bamboo reed that I was using was only 13 inches long. Drummers need sticks at or at least 15 inches long, so, oh my God, how am I going to get sticks? So I contacted several people, eventually found a person who imports items from China, asked them for help. And through his help, I brought in a huge head to buy a minimum order from China, a huge quantity of bamboo reeds, all at 16 inches, which is perfect, and these different colors, which is really cool and, and started making them at home and putting them together. And then I started a Facebook page and then hooked that up to PayPal for ordering and it kind of took off. And then through Facebook, I started reaching out to various celebrities, looking for validation and then very, very carefully asking them if I could use their name and generously.

Dave Deming: Many of them said yes. Others said no, I’m endorsing for other big name sticks and I can’t do that, but I’ll buy them from you and use these sticks when the big spotlight isn’t on me. So just this has been the way and carefully navigating the business aspect with the esthetic love of percussion and music, you know, it’s they’re all over the place. But but so so so I learned how to negotiate with these celebrities and how to appeal to the average drummer. And they really took off. And it’s been fun. And the range of sticks that I offer is, is a lot like a restaurant menu. You know, if you’re in this mood or the song calls for this kind of a a mood or a sound, you can use these sticks with that song. Or if you want a softer, real soft, more brushy thing, you can buy the pears that have corn mixed in and they’re really soft. So they’re what I make are sort of akin to paint brushes for painters. And you’re painting. Different strokes of color. If you want really fine, articulate lines, you can you can get these bundles that are all tight together with O-rings to make a defined sound. Or if you want a broader stroke and a more gentle broader sound, then you get brooms, know, corn, hurl and all that.

Top Left Corner: So so yeah, let me let me stop you here and ask some more technical questions. You know, you said that you decided to go with bamboo. You try that out. What is it about the material itself? Is it is it the texture of it? Is it the consistency, the dent, the density of it? I mean.

Dave Deming: All of that. You got it. Exactly. They’re they’re they’re warm, they’re articulate and they’re resilient. So so there is a big, big, big company out there that many years ago, they started making a product that is akin to what I do. Only they use birch birch dowels and they group them together and they shrink wrap a cheap plastic handle on the end. And they they put a cap on the bottom with their company logo on it. And they’ve been selling those to drummers for years. And that’s what that guy at open mic broke. And so birch is a soft hardwood. And so you’re if you’re playing that around the kit, they’ll snap and the shear off. And they also sound very ticky, you know, you hear that ticky sound, you don’t necessarily hear the cymbal or the drum head itself reverberating nicely. So they’re a they’re a kind of a I don’t want to well, they’re kind of a cheapie way of making sticks. Nobody ever has to touch them. They cut down the tree in America, run it through the mills, run it through all of the Sanders, and they’re there, make it all those dowels, and then they it just the machine grips them together, puts a handle on them. They go in the plastic bag and off to the music stores. So but they make lots of money for the big drumstick manufacturer that makes them. But they’re not all that great. Maybe akin to a certain burger chain that cranks out formulaic hamburgers that aren’t really delicious, but they’re quick to make and nobody even has to touch them.

Top Left Corner: So and that Tikki Sound is a very percussive sound that you can’t you can’t get rid of. There’s no way to to not have that sound. Whereas when you say that you’re mixing in other materials, other other organic materials, I mean, and soft when you say soft and you’re talking about things like corn, describe what you mean by soft and describe what the differences as it hits the drumhead, which I assume people are using still both synthetic and natural drumhead. So are they still using skin drumheads or no? Is it most.

Dave Deming: Rare? Yeah. Skin animal skin. Drum has fell out of favor in the 1960s when when plastic drum heads came into vogue. And the main reason for that is longevity. But the temperature really affects the animals can drumheads. So it makes it really kind of maddening to keep them tuned the way you want them to. And then they just started. Remo. Remo, a drum head company, started making drum heads and mass producing them and they were really loved by drummers and they’ve been improving. Drum heads have evolved in many different companies. Make them now and you know, they have double thick layers with sort of a hydraulic fluid between two layers. And you can get all of these beautiful sonic effects, you know, the world of drum sets and drum and cymbals and mallets and hand percussion instruments and shakers and symbols and gongs, all that whole world has just there are so many artisans and companies making beautiful, beautiful instruments. You know, you can get drum sets that are akin to Steinway, you know, and independents and big companies. So drumsticks have come a long way to, you know, bass drum beaters and mallets that you would use on vibraphone and marimbas. You know, it’s a whole you can just nerd out all the way on drumsticks.

Dave Deming: There are so many varieties and lightweight jazz sticks for jazz drummers and then big giant clubs. I, I happen to know through a recording studio in Vermont, I was introduced to Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones Drum Tech. And he he lives actually in western Massachusetts and is a wonderful guy. And we got a pair of several of my sticks to Charlie Watts, and he actually uses some of my sticks on the song Little Rain, which is a blues cover on the Rolling Stones. Lonesome and Blue album. And and so the reason I’m bragging on that is also to tell the story of that Don Don Charlie’s drum tech gave me as a thank you. A pair of Charlie’s used drumsticks with with with little bump marks all on it. And I mean, these things are like baseball bats. They’re really heavy kicks. They’re not jazz sticks, which was my point. And in addition to bragging. So it’s really it’s very interesting all the different weights and how finicky drummers can get. So again, back to the analogy of a painter and which paint brushes, which paint brush they choose to make the marks they want to make.

Dave Deming: And so there’s, there is the visual texture and the texture of the paint itself on a canvas, but there’s also sonic texture. So, so you have these really expensive symbols and your drumheads are tuned just so and you have world class microphones in a studio now. And you’re going to be very, very conscious of sonic texture. You know, what does the song call for also? Drummers want to distinguish themselves from other drummers out there, just like painters do. And artists, they’re always looking for something new. How can I add a sonic texture to the song that other drummers may not be hip to and and add to the song? So enter sticks like mine that have all these unique features to them that weren’t always there in the marketplace. And so it’s a little bit of exotic, something exotic they can add to the sonic texture. And, you know, I’ve heard countless stories of drummers bringing these to a session and the other musicians or the sound engineer, they they just go, what are those? That that’s interesting. And they really fit in and they’re beautiful and surprise everybody. Tell me about the drummers, Chris.

Top Left Corner: Oh, sure, sure. And look, if you’ve got something that nobody else has seen before, something that is is handmade, that’s going to that’s going to be eye catching to the other people who also like to nerd out about such things. Talk a little bit about look, and I don’t want to get too too esoteric here, but there’s a certain element of spirituality in drumming, right? I mean, you can’t deny that they go back together a long, long way. And I’m guessing that the the mass produced very synthetic sounding. Drumsticks and various other, you know, implements utensils of the trade. They don’t necessarily vibrate or resonate the same way that something that’s handmade and built of organic materials. Do you ever think about the sort of, you know, spiritual connection from what you are doing every day?

Dave Deming: Every day. Every time I sit down to do this, I’ll put on a CD in the background and I’m literally channeling that CD into the sticks as I make them. And I know that sounds cornball, but it’s the truth. And, you know, and in terms of like those mass produced sticks that I was sort of talking about earlier, it kind of reminds me of a Van Morrison quote, and I’m not sure that it’s true, but it’s probably true. And Van Morrison said, Music is spiritual. The music business is not.

Top Left Corner: It sounds like.

Dave Deming: A pretty cynical comment, but but it’s kind of true. So I’m trying to I’m trying to go in the opposite direction and and and making these things. There’s just something about it. And I’ve always been a maker of things, being a home remodeler, you know, I’m constantly problem solving and I enjoy that and I enjoy when I can put something together and it just resonates with something very deep inside me, the making of things and, and, and also thinking of Rebecca Solnit book. I think it’s titled Getting Lost, and it’s a very interesting mental process of creativity and thinking. I think about the cliche, you know, I screwed up Homer Simpson. Well, I screwed up or made it better. And to that, I every time I make a mistake while I’m creating these, it almost it almost always turns out to be an improvement on the sixth. It’s hilarious. And I go, Well, what if I made that a thing? It’s it’s just a fun process. So that’s where I’m sure that’s where sous sous chefs, that’s where they have their fun. You know what if I added this ingredient to it and it just turns like, Oh, wow, that’s interesting. So there is all of that and also some of the some of my products like I’ve named the African fans as a nod to Africa. Some of these are not just brand new things that I’ve invented tip my hat to to Africans, you know, from thousands of years playing similar stick like fans on calabash and and all of those fantastic traditions that have come through so much of the music that we enjoy and contemporary, especially American music from the blues into jazz, into pop, you know, that has I think that has to be respected and mentioned. And I think about that a lot. And the spirituality and the continuity of vibration, the enjoyment of sonic vibration. You listen to birds and it’s something about it.

Top Left Corner: Well, some of the people some of the people who I’ve you know, you’ve said that you’ve sent your sticks out and also people have purchased your sticks. Well, your sticks have found their way into the music of many of the people. I suspect probably have similar feelings about the vibrations and the spirituality. People like Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, people like Cyndi Lauper, Steve Winwood, Fiona Apple, the Fleetwood Mac. It goes on and on. Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega. All of these people are people who, you know, certainly could get to get Styx anywhere. But they have chosen, they have discovered that they fall in love with the sound of yours. Where can people go to actually purchase your sticks?

Dave Deming: They can go to dem sticks dot com. It’s a play on my last name Deming. So it’s dem sticks, styx, And even if you know, even if you’re not a drummer, you’re not going to buy sticks. I think the video page of that is just a lot of fun because there’s there’s Cajun music on there, both Soleil with Michael Doucet and there’s Bo Conte with Jamie Hadad and the snarky puppy people on there. And there’s just a real variety of musicians on there. Carter McClain’s on there. He’s the drummer from The Lion King on Broadway. He actually plays the sticks in in the booth on a regular basis. And he he helped me develop a couple of the pair style day. So, yeah, Carter’s there and and Kato goes on there and yeah, the videos are fun and I think. You know, another neat aspect of all this is it makes me a little more interesting at parties rather than. What do you do for a living, Dave? Well, I crawled underneath people’s front porches and fixed dry rot. You know, the drumsticks thing, people like to talk about it. It’s just. It’s just fun.

Top Left Corner: Sure. But don’t forget that jury. Don’t forget that you’re a hero when you do some of the things you do. From 8 to 4.

Dave Deming: Yeah. You’re saving that need. Yeah. How’s this need? Repair and taking. Taking good care of. So I do that too. So the. And also you can go to if you’re on Instagram, you can go to at Dave Deming Denim, IMG and on the Instagram page, there are a lot of really lovely pictures and and there’s some great videos on there, too. Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin and Wood is playing the Styx on there. Carter McLean again is on there and plays a couple of fun things. And there’s neat pictures, too. There’s a picture of Fritz Lee Walk, who plays for Jackson Browne, and he’s holding up one of the sticks during a concert on Austin City Limits. By the way, if folks are if they if you’re paying for PBS on TV, you can go to Austin City Limits on PBS and type in Jackson Brown. And on the first two songs of Jackson Browne at Austin City Limits, you can watch Fritz Lee walk playing sticks. Nice on. Long way around. Yeah. Hmm. So it’s a beautiful concert, and it’s a lot of fun to watch. Watch him play.

Top Left Corner: I’m sure. I’m sure. Well, Dave, I want to say thank you so much for coming on the top left corner and for being sort of the re inauguration of the solopreneur spotlight here at The Greylock Glass, which is celebrating people who have great, you know, great vision, great dreams, great craftsmanship, all sorts of things who are sort of doing it on their own, their own way. And you definitely doing it your own way and it’s getting noticed. So thank you so much for being on the show.

Dave Deming: Thanks for having me on. It’s been a real pleasure. Thank you.

Top Left Corner: Take care.

Dave Deming: All right. You too.

Top Left Corner: Well, I have had the. The luxury of having a drum set kicking around that I got to jam on with some frequency, but never with drumsticks or or dem sticks. I guess you’d call them. That sound like they yield such a unique tone. So who knows? Maybe if I come across a good trap, set a good five piece kit, I’ll make it. I’ll make an investment in Dem sticks and I’ll get that sound that has been showcased on many an album and in many live events. Well, that is our show for the day again. Today is Friday, August 12th, 2022. And I look forward to speaking with you next week. Again, probably getting back into some of the serious legal kind of stuff, legal reporting, because it just it’s I’m not satisfied that we’re we’re done. That’s basically what it is. I’m just I am not satisfied that we’re done with the job of reporting out what is going on in the in the DA’s office and or Pittsfield Police Department. So we’ll continue our. Our study of that and kind of conversation about that. In the meantime, as always, stay safe. Be good to each other and go easy on yourself by now.

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

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