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PHOTO: Chris Shields

Heavy Is the Throne

Percussionist, businessman, and record-label head Dan Dinsmore is not the butt of your typical drummer joke

By David King

 

In 1980, Dan Dinsmore’s father passed away. In 1980, Dinsmore became a drummer. “I was just a little tyke. I should say I was 3,” he says, to lighten the mood. “But when my father died, I needed an outlet. . . . And my future brother-in-law played drums. I was mesmerized by it. I took out all my aggression on the drums. I needed an outlet, and that’s where I went to. It really helped me, and I practiced probably six to eight hours a day. It was almost like getting outside your body. It kind of fueled everything I wanted to do, period.”

At age 15, Dinsmore founded East Wall with bassist Chris Wyse. The band, although successful for an Albany hard-rock group, broke up in the early ’90s. Wyse went on to join the Cult, and in 1995 Dinsmore began what has turned out to be a 12-year stint in local industrial act the Clay People. Since then, Dinsmore has played in multiple projects and has gained the reputation of always being down to play.

Also during the ’90s, he formed his media company, Overit. Needless to say, Dinsmore is a busy man.

Dinsmore doesn’t sleep much. As a father of two, a drummer for four bands, the president of a media-design company and record label (also under the Overit umbrella), Dinsmore is generally forced to find sleep in the wee hours of most weekday mornings, only to then be at work at 8 AM the next day.

“He’s creatively fueled by his hatred of all immigrants,” jokes the Clay People and College for Criminals bassist Eric Schwanke, referencing a Will Farrell skit. “I told him I might say that,” explains Schwanke. “He was like, ‘OK, cool!’ ” Dinsmore is affable, down-to-earth, self-effacing, but always on the move, and always tossing out ideas.

Schwanke continues, “He’s reliable, and I’ve dealt with drummers in the past. . . . You know how drummers are . . . kind of uneven. He’s steady, easy to work with, doesn’t have huge mood swings, and doesn’t take drugs—all that stuff you run into with any band. So he doesn’t have any of that, he is level-headed, has his own business and is doing really well.”

As the head of a successful media-design company that has worked with such names as Steve Case, the Chicago Bulls and RPI, you might think that Dinsmore wouldn’t really have to do much more to make himself an official success. But Dinsmore simply loves to drum. So, as a drummer for the Clay People, Idols Never Die, Dead Rabbits and College for Criminals, Dinsmore could probably feel satisfied with his involvement in the local music scene. Except that he can’t help but try to bring what he feels is deserved attention to the Albany scene through Overit Records. “The label is for passion,” says Dinsmore. “I’m not in this to make money. If I make money, that’s great, but it is an outlet for what we think is good music and for good bands.”

“The great thing about Overit is it is not going to dissolve. [The record label is] not my main source of income. I’m not sinking my entire world into Overit Records, so it’s going to be here. I believe longevity is key—consistency and longevity. So if we keep making good music, keep putting out good records, it will be fine. And as long as we can break even we are happy.”

Dinsmore’s efforts have increasingly been rewarded with airplay success for bands like Idols Never Die, who broke into modern-rock radio in 2005, and for Dead Rabbits, who topped metal-radio-play charts last year. “Dead Rabbits entered the metal charts in the top five in the country and stayed for 10 weeks in the top 50 for metal radio, and it was cool to see on the charts. There was Century Media and then Overit Records. People don’t know anything about that, but when it comes to the industry and they see Overit Records, they start asking, ‘Who is that?’”

The next release Dinsmore plans to focus on is the new album from the Clay People, a release that has been spoken of in hushed tones now since 2005. But according to Dinsmore, a bit of serendipity may ensure that the next Clay People album achieves a whole other level of success for both the band and the record label.

Dinsmore says the buzz around Overit has paid off in a major way, as Warner Bros. Records will begin distributing Overit Records’ releases this year. “It’s a huge jump, so if the Clay People record came out three months ago, we wouldn’t have had that. We will be a partner with Warner Bros.” Along with that collaboration, Dinsmore is looking to sign a larger national name to Overit, and although he has been in talks with specific acts, at this point he is not ready to name them.

Dinsmore also insists that he wants to promote local bands as heavily as possible, and says that no matter the genre, Overit is simply looking for bands who can write good songs.

Dinsmore plans to keep up his frenetic pace for as long as he can. Eventually, he says, if one band begins to take off and garner more success, he may have to put other projects on the back burner, but he says no matter what, he will stay involved, in some way, in all of his projects.

So with all his years of experience as a band member, promoter and industry type, what is it that Dinsmore would suggest you look for while putting together a band?

“A bass player is huge for me,” says Dinsmore. “It is not just a background instrument. There are a lot of guys I was so lucky to play with. I’ve worked with some of the best players, period. Brendan Slater—the guy is a monster bass player. It’s not just how technically efficient they are. Brendan Slater had his own style. Shwanke: technically the guy is a genius. Jeff Smith is a very innovative type of dude and Chris Wyse is probably the best bass player I’ve played with. So how hard is it to find a good bass player? It hasn’t been real hard, to be honest with you. But I’ve been really lucky.”

Lead singers seem to be a more sensitive subject for Dinsmore. “Honestly, um, the more . . .” Dinsmore takes a long, thoughtful pause. “I don’t want to use the word fucked-up, but, it seems to me the greater the singer they are, whether it be that their voice is great or they are great performers . . . the more they are screwed up, the better the singer they are,” he laughs. “Go out on Lark Street. Walk around, look for the most screwed-up individual you can find, ask him to sing in your band and he will probably be great. They don’t carry gear, they don’t usually drive very much, they need rides, and pretty much the more screwed-up they are, the better they are. But I’ve felt pretty lucky with the singers that I’ve got to deal with. They are all very unique, but who isn’t?” Dinsmore pauses for a moment, perhaps feeling a little silly. “But you’ve got your different shades, and they are all pretty much true. There are guitar-player stories ’bout that; they say bass players are slackers, drummers are stupid, and you know, I’m obviously breaking that tradition,” he chuckles.

dking@metroland.net


ROUGH MIX

REPORTS OF DEMISE GREATLY EXAGGERATED Last week, we were under the impression that Schenectady jazz club the Van Dyck had closed up shop, but we have since learned that this is not the case. Schenectady’s Metroplex Development Authority has moved to foreclose on a loan of $200,000 the club owes it; meanwhile, owner Peter Olsen has been looking at his options for the future of the Van Dyck, which recently was listed in an annual “Top 100 Jazz Clubs in the World” feature in Downbeat.

“My mission right now,” said Olsen, “pure and simple, is to pay off Metroplex.”

Olsen said that he has been dealing with banks and mortgage brokers, and he’s also been talking to private investors who are interested in helping out.

“We’re trying to do a destination establishment,” Olsen said. “You know, Proctor’s does it, but Proctor’s doesn’t have to pay taxes. Proctor’s is not-for-profit.”

Olsen thinks he’ll be able to get the loan paid in time to stop Metroplex from foreclosing. In the meantime, the shows will go on, including the weekly open mic led by folk fave Paddy Kilrain on Thursday nights, and the Northeast Blues Society blues jam on Sundays. For more show listings for the Van Dyck, refer to our club listings (page 38).

—Kathryn Lurie

Got Rough Mix items? Contact Kathryn Lurie at klurie@metroland.net or 463-2500 ext. 143.



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