Friday, April 29, 2011

David Daskal - Singer For Los Angeles Band Xyzyx

In this interview, David Daskal discusses his band's live performances, including an anecdote about the first show, and how it almost didn't happen.

David Daskal was on Average Joe: Hawaii and Fear Factor. He now fronts the Los Angeles rock band Xyzyx. In a recent interview with Suite101, David discussed the band's performances.

How would you describe the Xyzyx music to somebody who hasn't heard the band?

DAVID: We're like a Weezer meets Foo Fighters with the stage presence of Spinal Tap. In a nutshell.

You were on the television show Average Joe. A lot of actors have bands, but for you has music taken a priority now over acting?

DAVID: It has. Acting to me was never a serious thing. I only took it seriously on the forefront because I realized that I'd come out here and created a brand for my name. I used to introduce myself as Daaaavid Daskal. And that in itself was funny, walking into auditions and things. And I have a very character look. So I came out as a joke just to do extra work. And everything that has happened as a result of that has snowballed. I didn't come out here to win an Oscar. I didn't come out to win my parents' love or anybody else's love. I don't have that lack in my life. And a lot of people are usually driven by that. Like they have to prove something to somebody.

But I know that I want to entertain people, period. So it doesn't have to be in the acting environment. Xyzyx is definitely my priority. And in a way I'm acting when I'm on stage. I'm pouring my emotions out, but in a different fashion.

There definitely seems to be a sense of humor in the band. There are the rock god poses, and the neon green translucent guitar and an ode to a 1980s sitcom actor. So just how serious are you?

DAVID: We don't take ourselves too seriously on stage, because we want people to have a fun time. We're serious, but we're not. We understand the business aspect that you have to create something unique if you want to do anything with music in the industry. But we want to have so much fun with it that it gives off the impression that these guys are just lunatics.

So how much of it is by design? For example, the rock poses. Do you guys talk about doing that ahead of time, or is that something that's just come out during performances?

DAVID: The Baumgaertners are improv geniuses, and they're in an improv troupe together called Some Assembly Required. And I love improv too; I just don't do it. But a lot of it has stemmed from feelings that we get when we're practicing. So some of the stuff that you see is choreographed by at first accident, by the way we feel. Like we have a point that we do in "Kirk Cameron" now, like the three of us up on the front line. Or we all drop to our knees at a certain point in "Melissa" or "Too Much Country In This World." Because that's the way we felt when we did it. So it's instant amazing choreography, and if we love it, and if people scream about it from the audience, then it sticks. So yeah, it's by design by accident.

What's your favorite song to perform in concert?

DAVID: At first it was "Kirk Cameron." Now it's "Expendable."

"Expendable" to me is everything I always wanted to write with the heaviest kind of rock song. And I have a very poppy voice too. It was the first song I had written where I had really found my voice. Because with the earlier songs, I still wasn't confident about where I was singing. And I'll never claim to be the best singer in the world, and I don't care, because I know that I give a show. And that is more outstanding. But as time has gone by, people will pay attention to the voice, and they want it to sound good. So that was the first song I wrote in my correct register. And I can sing high, and I can sing falsetto, and I've been denying myself that.

I can walk around to every band member and there's like a piece of every band member that's a part of that song. It was something that we created together as a unit - the first song that we had done that. And then I get to scream at the end of the song.

"Kirk Cameron" is really fun because it gets people to dance. And we have our girls up front and they go to town. And they're just totally owning the space. It makes everybody happy. It's a tongue in cheek song. We're not making fun of Kirk Cameron. We're just saying, I remember you, man.

So it has an '80s feel to it, and a whole verse dedicated to the "Growing Pains." And paying homage to every character on the show, even Leonardo DiCaprio. We have a line about him getting his start there. So it's just a fun song.

Xyxyz recently played at The Whiskey. How did that show come about, and how did it go?
DAVID: A booker contacted us who works for the venue a couple days a week, and the last few months he had said, "Hey, do you guys want to play The Whiskey?" It was a non-presale, non-pay-to-play scenario. And I'm like, "Absolutely." We know that we have to make a statement with the venue if we want to get good slots later. If we want to play a weekend at 10 or 11 p.m. we have to prove to The Whiskey that we do have a fanbase and a draw. And it's like, how do you do that when you start from scratch or you only have x amount of people come to a show? We're spacing our shows out now. We're making better decisions about venues that we play that it's not an issue for us.

Because when you come see Xyzyx, it's an event now. We don't play every week. We don't play every other day. We play twice a month, and that is it. So we promoted the heck out of it. And we had an amazing turn-out. And it was an awesome show.

Our sound guy was amazing. We sounded the best we have sounded almost ever. We were able to focus more because we could hear ourselves. A lot of cheaper venues out here - venues that don't take care of the sound unless you have your own sound guy - you can't hear the vocalist hardly ever because the guitars are too loud. And that's something I've had to live with - it's my peeve. I sing my ass off. I sing my heart out.

But like you get into an environment like the Whiskey or the Viper Room, where they care about the bands and they take thirty minutes to set up and do a sound check for you if you open like we did, and you're going to sound awesome. So that's how Whiskey came about. And we're very fortunate.

(Xyzyx had a chance to open for Kiss. There was a contest, in which bands had to get votes to play in a certain city. Kiss then chose one band out of the top five for each city. Xyzyx came in second in number of votes. Kiss chose the band that came in fourth.)

Kiss has their own reputation, that they're legendary, that they're showmen. And if anybody knows my band, they know that we give a show. So everybody was instantly excited that we had the possibility to open for them.

I always said that I wanted to open up for Def Leppard. Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to open for Def Leppard. It's in Entertainment Weekly, when I got interviewed for Average Joe. "What's your goal now?" "I would love to get a band and open up for Def Leppard." It's in there, etched in an issue. And you know what? Def Leppard's my favorite band. And I love Kiss to death. I'm not complaining if we open for Kiss and not Def Leppard. I'm a firm believer that if you work hard and you work smart and you believe in what you're doing that people are going to believe it too, especially if your product's good, and we have a good product.

And we're going to open for Steel Panther in mid-October. And that show came about by timing and patience. John had made a statement - Johnny X - a couple months ago. He said, "It would be my dream to open up for Steel Panther." And I said, "Really? That's it?" So I was like, I can book that. Because I've been booking the band's shows since day one. It's just something that's very natural to me. I booked the show purposely around his birthday. So like it's Johnny X's birthday show. And we're right up before Steel Panther.

I have a funny story about the first show. We actually almost didn't get to play our very first show because the previous bands at the Cobalt Cafe didn't bring a crowd. And we were like the seventh of eight bands. And they're about to pull the plug on us, and the manager said, "This is not a rehearsal space for bands to come play."

I said, "We have forty people coming from all over L.A. to see the show." I wasn't going to tell the manager it was our very first show, because then that would probably give him more reason to pull the plug on us. But I'm like, "We seriously have people coming to Canoga Park, of all places - not the easiest place to get to - from everywhere to see us play tonight. You can't just yank us. Especially if you let the other bands play."

And he said, "Well, it's costing us money when people aren't showing up." And I said, "How many people do you need to show up for us for us to play?" And he said, "Ten. It's a hundred bucks." And I'm like, "We'll definitely have them." And he's like, "If they don't show up, then you would have to pay me a hundred bucks." I'm like, "I guarantee you if they don't show up, I will pay you a hundred dollars out of my pocket" and we shook on it. We had about twenty some odd people show up to the show, and I didn't get any kind of apology from that guy. Just like a "Hmm, okay."

But that was our first show. So I mean, from the start, it has been a battle behind the scenes for Xyzyx.

What do you hope to accomplish with the band?
DAVID: I really think that Xyzyx can make it. It doesn't necessarily have to be mainsteam, but I think Xyzyx can rock the world, and do it successfully. I just want to give fun to people. And also create the environment with the band that nobody feels trapped in the band.

It's my baby and my direction, but with everybody's input. The second Xyzyx is not fun for us is the day we stop. Because we were built on the premise of fun. And with my capabilities and my belief that the band can make it, I'm going to strive to build us to that point. So as long as I see the worth in Xyzyx, in giving it to people, just giving fun to people, which I know we can do. I'm going to try that as long as I can. But I can't see myself not doing Xyzyx. So I would be very, very sad if I couldn't get up there with those boys, that I love give, and give that to people. So I'm not looking for that in the future. I'm dealing with the now.

(In the first section of this interview, David Daskal discusses the band's inception and songwriting. Xyzyx is performing September 16th at the Terrace in Pasadena, and October 1st at The Viper Room.)

(Note: I originally posted this on August 30, 2010.)

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