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(l-r) Stafford, DiDonna, Dinsmore, Guzzardi, and Schwanke.

photo:Joe Putrock

Rock Around the Clock

By Bill Ketzer

For the members of Idols Never Die, music is a full-time business, and their hard work is paying off


If Idols Never Die fail to make it in the music business, it certainly will not be due to lack of battle plans. Armed with a well-distributed new CD (Election Day Fire, released in August), an unprecedented victory over huge national acts on 103.9 FM The Edge’s notorious Cage Match and daytime rotation in several Northeast markets, the band is more than willing to discuss business, next steps, and empire-building.

The Overit/IND compound is a four-story, 19th-century Victorian home on Albany’s lower Hamilton Street, replete with elegant banisters, original molding and maple floors, installed courtesy of guitarist Dave Stafford. The bottom floor, however, rivals a NASA control room for square feet of technology, with enormous flat-screen panels and baby grand-sized printers and monitors like hedgerows across cluttered tables. Drummer and Overit owner Dan Dinsmore, a Britannica-approved portrait of workaholism, returns from Cheesecake Machismo with a fresh coffee and whisks us upstairs with a pace indicating that, at 7 PM, the day has only just begun.

“It’s insane, dude,” Dinsmore admits, lighting a cigarette. “I have two kids. I try to get up at 8 AM, run Overit Media [which is] the ad agency, separate from Overit Records. Meanwhile, guys here are working on record-company business. Around 6 PM we rehearse, then I hop back on the computer to tidy up the day until 3 in the morning. I’m not 20 anymore, but as you mature it’s almost like you can take on more because you realize what you want.”

And this year, having grown the band from the fertile (and recently resurrected) remains of local favorites Clay People in late 2003, Dinsmore and guitarist Mike Guzzardi realized that what they wanted was to put Idols Never Die on the map once and for all.

“Mike and I wrote some material that got passed through David Chackler, who signed Clay People to Universal, to Mike Clink,” Dinsmore explains. “[Clink] produced all the Guns & Roses albums, Aerosmith and all these different bands. He really liked our stuff, so we went out to California and Philadelphia, laid down some tracks with him and basically started creating demos for Idols Never Die.”

Chackler, a 30-year veteran of numerous big record companies and president of Luke Skyywalker, New Groove and Universal’s Slipdisc (and largely credited with breaking acts like Queen and Fleetwood Mac in the ’70s), liked the new material so much that he partnered with Overit, giving IND access to his marketing and distribution connections.

“When [Chackler] heard us he said, ‘You know, it kind of reminds me of a combination between the new metal stuff and . . . Queen,’” says Dinsmore with a laugh. “And we were like, ‘Um, OK! Whatever you say!’ He’s got a lot of experience and knows a lot of people. We’re looking into getting the band onto soundtracks and some of the newer X-Box games, so we’re utilizing his experience and wisdom, and our hunger.”

Despite the big industry support, IND remains steadfastly independent. Management, promotions and music production are all handled primarily in-house, where staff (including singer Rocco DiDonna) manages the daily work of the band.

“We do our own management with advice from other people like Chackler,” Dinsmore says. “We can’t sit around and wait. With us it’s less of a supply-side model . . . we focus on artist development.”

“If you dumb it down,” says Guzzardi, “It means [you] take your band’s CD and order just enough to push it only to major markets. If the CD takes off, [you] order more units and start pushing secondary markets. If it bombs, the risk of having 20,000 unsold CDs sitting in a warehouse has been eliminated. It’s fair for both the artist and the label. Part of the reason for doing [Overit] was to have more control over our own destiny. For the first time in our careers, if the record flops, there’s really no one to blame but ourselves.”

“And this way you don’t end up losing touch with what the real point is, which is music,” emphasizes DiDonna, who coined the band’s name from a forearm tattoo in tribute to his father, who died from leukemia. At 26, DiDonna is the youngest member of IND, bringing fresh influences to the project that help the band compete on commercial rock and metal playlists. “I have more of that At the Drive-In thing going on, and I thought these differences would hurt the creative process. But in the end it’s raw rock & roll. Raw. There’s bands that put so much crap into it, and it sounds so fake when it’s done. We go in with our songs and just lay them down.”

“I hate to think that we have to target-market our songs to certain demographics,” says Guzzardi. “When a band gets it in their heads they have to write songs to fit a certain mold, it just becomes so obvious to the people that are truly listening. I think one of our strengths when writing songs is that we realize this and try to keep it in check as much as possible. If people have an appetite for it, that’s cool, if not, I won’t lose any sleep.”

“It’s the songs that drive the band,” Dinsmore adds. “We have the radio people in place and trust me. . . . It’s huge to get daily rotation on commercial rock radio. The single [“Breathe”] is getting spun on the Edge in Buffalo full-time . . . now Michigan and West Virginia affiliate stations picked us up because they saw the Buffalo spin chart. The hardest is the first one, so now it’s important that we hustle to get spun in more markets. Funny thing is, we won a Cage Match (“which is not a ‘local band’ thing,” bassist Eric Schwanke clarifies) on the local Edge station, 103.9 FM, but we can’t get spun there.”

DiDonna says that when pitted against national bands he was sure they’d lose badly, but at least they were getting airtime every night. “It was four wins before the final and they put us up against Sevendust,” he recalls. “And we killed them! And then we beat Disturbed, who had the biggest song on the radio at the time.”

“It’s like, do they still not play Aerosmith in Boston?” Dinsmore asks rhetorically. “Godsmack became huge because their local station got behind them. Nothing against 103.9. It has to do with politics and perception. Regent owns the Edge stations, but you gotta get to the music director. It’s not like the old days when you bring in a bottle of Jim Beam and they’ll spin the record while you sit and get hammered.”

“Yeah, and that’s a shame!” DiDonna declares.

“It is a shame,” says Stafford, sinking down in his chair. “That’s the way it should be, because I’d have a whole carload of Jim Beam, driving around getting airplay.”

The band concedes the same hurdle with distribution, despite Election Day Fire’s availability in Borders, FYE, Virgin, Tower and other national outlets. “Our distributor gets it to the stores, but there’s no guarantee the store manager will do anything with it,” says Dinsmore. “We call them ourselves and ask if they’ll play the music and put up the posters, which we have to get them, as well. So doing all the local FYE stores isn’t much of a problem, but when you’re facing 800 outlets on the eastern seaboard, it’s quite an undertaking.”

The product is in the stores, the music is on the air, the word is spreading and the quintet is more keen and educated than most. So why no major touring plans?

“We’re not just going to throw ourselves into the clubs,” Dinsmore explains. “If you’re lucky you get 50 kids at most shows. But if you do one radio [-sponsored] show in front of 15,000 people . . . I’d rather do that once a month instead of doing 30 with a dozen kids”

Stafford agrees. “We’ve all done the whole ‘go-out-and-spend-your-money-and-not-do-your-homework-before-you-get-there’ thing, so we’re really trying to do the work.”

“It’s not worth the expense, especially with the gas prices as of late,” Guzzardi says. “Extensive touring to support an album isn’t necessary anymore if you have a proper game plan. Utilizing the Internet is a big part of it.”

“MySpace is amazing,” says Dinsmore. “I have people who sit here all day, and that’s all they do.” At this point, everyone in the room looks at DiDonna, who raises his hand to testify.

“Right here,” he says proudly. “I know everybody in the Northeast and beyond. Just today some guy from Greece contacted us through MySpace and wants to buy everything we have. We have more traffic going there than through our normal Web sites.”

Nonetheless, Idols Never Die consider this new reality, where information is no longer a scarce resource and music can be blasted in microseconds across oceans, to be effective only if the band can deliver. “We’re just trying to be as true to ourselves as possible, write strong material and throw it out there,” DiDonna continues. “And if it’s good, it’s gonna stick. Bottom line.”

“You gotta live the blues before you play the blues,” Schwanke declares.

Stafford nods. “I’m stockin’ up for the revolution.”

Back to work, lads.

Idols Never Die’s latest release, Election Day Fire is available in all area music stores. Music from the CD is also available at iTunes. For more information on the band, its affiliates and live dates, visit, www.over or



-no rough mix this week-

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