I love the reviewing game, every so often you come across a gem, one that Billboard somehow has missed (go figure!). Dan Pinto hit my radar with his new album Anomalies. Actually the truth is, I read a review, and I was hooked, I had to listen to it myself. Using my industry clout (groveling) I managed to get a copy. I was impressed, Dan Pinto is a great musician, keyboards always attract me, and a subtle hint of Prog Rock always gets my attention. A little bit of ‘flexing my muscles’, (more groveling) with the record label Eclectic Sound got me an interview with Dan.
Hi there, and thanks for agreeing to talk with us at BNN. Maybe you can tell us a little about Dan Pinto?
Well, let’s see, I grew up always wanting to play the drums. I think that its probably true to say that keyboards were the farthest thing from my intention in the beginning. And when I started, I was not performing as a keyboard player at all. That transition happened by accident really. My older brother was a keyboard player in bands in the 1960s. He had one of these Acetone Farfisa sounding electronic keyboards, like what you would have heard from early Doors with Manzarek. For an amp, he used a VOX with 2 twelve inch speakers. Some time after he left the music scene, that keyboard and amp were just lying around. I picked up on them out of boredom for something different to do. Around the time I started that, ELP were very big. They sparked my wanting to continue on both instruments as well as tuned percussion. But before that, I remember listening to “Switched On Bach” by Wendy(Walter)Carlos for the first time. And once I heard what a Moog could do on record and then saw one being used on stage, I was like, yep! That’s me. Â So I think around the age of 16, after mowing about 200 lawns, I went out and bought a MiniMoog. This freaked everybody I knew out, because while I was saving for my first keyboard, every other kid my age was dreaming of getting their driver’s license. Owning a car was the last thing on my mind. As long as I could pedal to a local music store, I was fine with a bicycle for the time being. I can remember always needing to hitch a lift from other members in the bands I played in back then in order to get to a practice or a gig. And since most of the players I played with were much older than me, that was no problem. Keyboard players in my area were tuff to find and if you owned something like a Moog, that definitely helped ease the inconvenience.
I had been playing live for some time locally in bands but after a while, my keyboard skills began pulling me into a direction of writing. And I could never really achieve the sound I wanted with a band. Of course if I had known then what I know now, the bands I played in may have been much more successful. But it always seemed that doing it on my own was more relaxing which created a good environment for developing my ability to write. My writing and recording skills grew almost parallel to one another since it seemed that one fueled the other. Because of my ability to play multiple instruments, all I really needed to record a band sound was a multi track recorder. I didn’t have a ton of money so until I was able to buy my first multitrack, I used an 8 track cartridge recorder and a two track reel to reel to double track myself to get the sound I wanted. It wasn’t professional sounding, more like demo quality, but it was a start. This phase that I was going through is what really got me into recording my sound which is a whole different aspect of what I do.
I enjoyed films and the way they were put together at an early age, it always intrigued me. I tried making a film a couple of times as a kid with my dad’s 8mm camera. I mean I was just a kid, I wasn’t making much sense but it was in me, if you know what I mean. I think as a kid, the first movie I ever saw in a theater was The Poseidon Adventure. That stuck with me. And so naturally Irwin Allen, the film’s producer, became one of my very first heroes. But I never put together the idea of writing music for film or video until after I developed my skills as a writer. That came much later. So once I developed musically, I retraced my steps and discovered John Williams who wrote the soundtrack for the Poseidon Adventure. Of course today, John Williams is known for the most famous soundtracks in movie history. But I started listening to keyboardists that went on to do soundtracks. Maurice Jarre for example was a fusion keyboard player turned film soundtrack writer. His style tends to be much more in the way of New Age or soundscapes than rock or purely orchestral. Tangerine Dream was like that as well. Keith Emerson did soundtracks too but he was well versed in classical and rock, so that was an interesting combination. This was the style were I came from. But I enjoy blending that with an orchestral sound and adding in a jazz-rock fusion style with that. Even incorporating traditional Jazz elements at times.
My ‘not so secret sources’ (Google), reveal that you are no virgin to the music scene. You have quite the resume. Can you give us a quick breakdown?
I currently have 5 audio CDs available through Eclectic Sound including “Blue Of The Flame,” “Jazz On The Rocks,” “Ivory Towers,” “Visions,” and my new release, “Anomalies.” I forget exactly how many shows my music was placed on for on the TV shows, “lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous” & “Runaway With The Rich & Famous,” it was quite a few. Ive played on other artist’s releases here and there before I got involved with film & video. There was this live CD at the Ritz in New York that was released by Doug Wain and another CD release by guitarist Jimmy Mac with Dave LaRue on Bass that I played drums on. Ive done much in the way of independent films and industrial video which included work for AT&T and CNN. I wrote and recorded the “Die For A Life” movie soundtrack which I guess you could say was my baby since I also produced and directed that one. The movie itself is only in a promotional state, but the audio soundtrack was an official release on Eclectic Sound. I’ll probably have a new CD release in another year and a half. Im gathering ideas for that now.
The music industry is a tough one, just being a great performer does not ensure success. Many great artists spend their entire career gigging within a 50 mile radius of home. You managed to break down the wall, how did you do it?
It’s important to find what aspects of the music industry give you true enjoyment and excel at and work on that. Because when you’re happy doing it, you create your best work. For me, it’s writing and recording my sound. If doing live gigs pays the bills and your good at it and your audience responds well to it, then thats the way to go. But it’s not for everyone. Some musicians have no choice and unfortunately some great players are forced into doing things they really don’t want to do. I promised myself a long, long time ago that I was going to do what made me happy, otherwise, I’ll just get a 9 to 5. But to help you in being successful, I believe that you need to create a nitch for yourself and put a twist on it that makes it your own. That wall that you were mentioning before is one that’s never really broken in my opinion. There is always something to overcome, I really don’t feel that you ever think that you quite there. Even when you really are. And I think that’s a good thing because if you did, then there wouldn’t be much left to live for. With every project I do, when I look back, I want to feel like I did something better than before. Ive been happy with that idea and have been lucky so far because I do feel comfortable in that way. But I think that it is important to have a good manager if you can be lucky enough to find one that really cares about what you do. Especially early in your career. But even beyond that, you need to pay attention to your own career and learn from what you do right or wrong or learn from how a manager might help you in getting those positive results. But it shouldn’t go without saying that with the Internet being as powerful as it is today, it is a vital tool in that goal. In many ways, it makes the manager’s job easier to do. You can find an endless chain of resources to help you in achieving success on the Internet. And for a person like myself, it’s even more important because I don’t perform live the way I used to. So naturally, the Internet is the way I connect with my audience.
I noticed with some interest that two of your musical influences are Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. I too love their music, and was fortunate enough to interview both of them. They are however two very different stylists. Wakeman is very mathematical and controlled, Emerson has spontaneity (and a penchant for destroying Hammond Organs), while they do share roots in the 70′s Prog Rock world, and they were both early proponents of the venerable Moog synth, but have little else in common. How do they fit into Dan Pinto’s world?
As a beginner learning the keyboard, those two musicians were a stepping stone for me in as far as inspiration to be the best I could. Probably for many keyboard players. And that is simply because they were the best at what they did at that time. Early in a musician’s career, it’s important to have inspiration to move forward and for me, they were it. Wakeman is a master at precision, he really is. I admire him for that because it really takes concentration and years of practicing to get that way. But I would have to say that Keith Emerson was without question the biggest influence on my style of playing back then. And I stress back then, because Ive listened to so many different players and bands that have all had an affect on me and my style of playing over the years since then. And I feel that it was an era for me. Kind of like a segment of learning early on in my career that helped me with the development of my left hand, my introduction into classical music and the inspiration to improvise. But what was really nice was having had the opportunity to meet and talk with Keith on several occasions, I was able to put a kind of story book ending to that chapter by thanking him formally. He was quite touched by that and it felt great to be able to express my thanks for what I learned from him over the years.
Some artists are stage performers, and some prefer the world of the studio. Your music is often complex, and sweeping, this is difficult to do on stage, do you perform live?
Of course I have performed a great deal in the past with many bands and also as a solo artist. But even though I really do enjoy playing live, I haven’t gigged on a regular basis for quite some time. It’s really hard work! And the older you get, it doesn’t get any easier. To play the music I would want to do live would involve gathering really well established players. I could make phone calls and get that, but there is so much more involved that without the proper following, promotion and financial backing for such, it probably wouldn’t hold together for very long. But even still, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. I would love to do that and maybe down the road, who knows, the door is always open. But as a solo artist, my music leans towards film and that means writing and studio recording. With my latest release, Anomalies, I wanted to experiment a bit by taking the film sound styles and blend them with Jazz-Rock Fusion. I knew that it would be dynamic and different, I just wasn’t sure how well it would come off.
I really enjoyed Anomalies, it is a wonderful album. I have to say that as an aging Hippie Prog Rocker, Funk Shui (track one) had me hooked. What synth did you use on it?
Im glad that you enjoyed it. I certainly enjoyed making it! With the exception of some drums and various percussions, all the sounds I created for the Anomalies music were done with layered tracks using a Kurzweil. Keyboard technology has come very far and for live performance there are various types of keyboards that can do different things for you to ease the complexity on stage. But in the studio, you have options that you don’t have live. And from the time I first stated out, I went through maybe 25 different keyboards all being a step up from the one that came before in sound quality and options. That’s because technology was still getting vastly better with each new instrument that came out. For a piano, I settled on using a Roland RD-1000 primarily for feel and as a trigger to work the rest. I would probably go with something completely different if I were doing live gigs though, because the RD weighs a ton! I sometimes use an old Korg DSS-1 and Korg DSM-1 for digital sampling and on occasion, I polish off the old Minimoog. But when I moved to using Kurzweil keyboards quite a few years back, that was like I entered into a new universe. I visit music stores on a fairly regular basis to see the latest gear but I always wind up coming back to it. Kurzweils are just so technologically advanced that you really never run out of options. I really don’t believe that the manufacturer of the unit knows what it’s capable of. And in my opinion, the only thing that tops one of them, is having two of them, which I do!
Do you have a favorite track on Anomalies?
mmm, that’s a tuff one. Each piece hits a different soft spot for me. I had a blast recording “Labyrinth.” It’s one of the few pieces that I revised from several years back. I used to play that one live and it was always popular with the audience but the new recorded version of that has a much deeper dimension that I feel really made it much better. But then, “Bermuda Triangle” with the natural elements of Jazz really moves me. And “Flight Of The Phoenix” is quite obviously one that is very close to me for what the lyrics say. I don’t think I can say that I have a favorite, really. That’s probably a good thing.
I noticed that you have a web site, and you offer samples of your music. In my eyes this is the way of the future. How important is the Internet to you?
Highly important! It should be for everyone. It is becoming a cliche to say that it’s brought the World together. I have worked with people from other countries that have helped me with some of the music projects that Ive worked on and I don’t even know what they look like! LOL How else could I have been able to do that short of visiting these people in person? It wouldn’t be practical any other way. If you own a business of any kind in any field, you are losing out if you don’t have a presence on the Internet. And it’s so easy to get one. A little research and your on your way.
What is next for Dan Pinto?
Well, for a while I’ll be promoting “Anomalies.” I feel that there are many people out there that would love to hear this. But down the road, Ive got all sorts of ideas. I want to reedit my film, “Die For A Life” and start bring it to festivals. We’ll be adding a video page to the website in the near future to showcase some of the stuff Ive done in film & video and I would like to release a solo piano CD too.
I’ll bet I have missed one important question, so I am going to turn it over to you, what did I miss, and what would answer be?
You mean I get to interview myself now? Hahaha. OK. Let’s see, Ive never done this before. How about my favorite color? No, no, no, that’s not important. Well, I could tell you that I was an artist before I was a musician. I designed and painted the cover for my CD, “Ivory Towers” actually. Ive sold some of the oil paintings Ive done in the past. I was into doing famous masters for a while. In high school, you were not able to do an oil painting in your first year, not alone a master, but the teacher saw some of my work and let me do a painting of my choice. So she was expecting me to do a flower vase or a bowl of fruit or something. I chose “The Last Supper.” Lolol. I remember doing this recreation of the Mona Lisa that someone wanted to buy from me for two grand. But I couldn’t let it go, I was too attached. It’s hanging up in the studio. I remember someone asking me if I stole it from the seven and a half million dollar room that it hangs in at the Louvre in Paris, France. Lolol.
Thanks Dan, I really appreciate you taking time to talk with us here at BNN, and we wish you the very best in your future endevours.