How on earth Vinnie Salvatore of American Dog (guitar and vocals) found the time for this interview, I have no idea. So honoured to present him as a guest on my blog, I cannot thank him enough for sparing the time!
The band is currently in the middle of their American tour, including dates with legendary Tesla. This tour follows the release of their seventh studio album ‘Neanderthal’ – available to buy on the band’s official website.
Vinnie joined American Dog last year. This is a band proud to be different. Deeply based in blues and classical rock, their music is ‘old school’: powerful, highly energetic rock’n’roll oozing good mood. Having played together for fifteen years, they write mostly their own original songs (with only a handful of cover versions throughout their career). With successful tours around Europe, Asia and Japan under their belt, they have been on the road together with legends such as Ted Nugent, Nazareth, UFO, Twisted Sister, Cinderella.
I am now handing the microphone over to Vinnie.
Can you describe your band in one sentence? Who are American Dog and how would you introduce them to someone who has never heard of them?
American Dog is a hard rock band from Columbus, Ohio with a sound often compared to Motörhead, Ted Nugent, and Alice Cooper!
Is there one thing you are particularly proud of?
This is a great question to ask but I’m at a loss to pin it down to one for a good answer. I’m definitely proud of the new American Dog album, Neanderthal – not just for me but for the whole band. I have all sorts of proud moments, both in and out of music. It changes day to day and I guess I don’t pay much attention to it unless I’m “in the moment.” Like after cooking a great meal or mowing the lawn.
Is there something you haven’t achieved yet?
I want to learn how to read music and play piano, mainly for compositional purposes. I’ve been writing and recording uncommercial music to amuse myself and my friends ever since I learned to play. Some say it reminds them of Frank Zappa, who I love, so maybe it’s no accident. Since the mid 90’s I’ve been releasing it under the name Skid Baxter, which is a studio-only-project that is primarily rock-based, along with some jazz, blues, orchestral, and experimental pieces. Most of it is instrumental. Any lyrics I write tend to come out like funny social commentary. On the majority of the songs I play all the instruments. If I had those skills I mentioned at the beginning, it would have a dramatic, positive impact on what I’m able do with Skid Baxter.
If there was one big musician you could meet over a beer, who would that be? (Assuming there are still big names you haven’t met yet, of course).
The ones who come to mind immediately are either no longer with us, are non-drinkers, or are no longer drinking! When Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain got married years ago, the wedding was in my hometown. I have a friend who knows him personally and many others who have met him. So Nicko is my first choice. But since I don’t know if he drinks anymore, I’ll go with Maiden bassist Steve Harris then. He loves beer and has always struck me as a real likeable, down-to-earth guy. I’m a lifelong Maiden fan but the last thing he needs to hear is me blather on about how much I love Iron Maiden. So I’d avoid being “the fan” and maybe try to get him talking about football and beer!
What do you like about being a musician? Have you ever had second thoughts or regrets about it?
I’m a fan of listening to music and playing music is an extension of that for me. Like the guy who loves trying new beers but also brews his own at home. Playing live is a blast, but so is writing and recording. It’s a natural high.
Biggest regret is quitting guitar lessons when I was 15 after a year because I thought I knew enough. Since then I’ve just been winging it, hence, my desire to read music and play piano. I’ve had second thoughts about my career a few times but every musician, no matter how successful, faces periods of doubt and frustration, for as many reasons as there are musicians. Some don’t like to admit it. The music business (and it is a business) has always been filled with its own unique pressures. Today, in America, the pressure has never been greater. Record stores have all but disappeared, along with record labels, tour support, radio stations, print-magazines, etc. We rely more and more on the internet to get music out there. Technology advances every day. Musicians have to adapt constantly if they expect to be heard and possibly make a living. Everyone has different things that motivate them. At the end of the day you keep on doing it because something in your soul drives you.
Your band has recently released a new album and are touring the States. Have you got any plans to tour outside the US?
Normally American Dog would be gearing up for an overseas tour right about now. But at the moment there are only a couple of things in France coming up in the fall. After that I am unsure.
You are the web designer for www.dccooper.com. Can you tell us about your friendship with DC Cooper and your work with him?
DC is one of my best friends in Pittsburgh. We met in 2012 through a mutual friend right after I moved to town. He found out that I had played in some progressive rock bands and that I wrote weird music. I started hanging out at his studio playing bass and recording with his new solo project and that went on for a year. But I had prior commitments to American Dog. Soon there just wasn’t enough time to do both and I had to step away from the music side of it. I still work on his website from time to time.
If it weren’t for rock music, what else would you have done with your life?
I could easily see myself brewing beer for a living, and almost did a while back. I come from a family of writers so I could have done that… I do write a lot but no books yet. I cook almost every day but I wouldn’t want to do it professionally. I like to know where my food comes from when possible. I’ve been reading about sustainable farming practices for about six years now just to inform myself. I have access to plenty of good land if I ever wanted to give it a try.
Once again, many thanks to Vinnie for this interview – it has been a real pleasure. You can find him here:
Official website: www.skidbaxter.com
American Dog’s official website: http://www.americandog.us/
Official Twitter: @AmericanDogBand
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/americandog.us?fref=ts