Dave Antonini

Dave Antonini

Originally Published December 2022

By Vincent Oz

Jimmy Jazz is a place where a lot of local artists go to hang out. It's always been one of those spots. Likely due to the amount of music that pumps through the place. Turns out, it's also a great place to do an interview.
So that is where local musician Dave Antonini and I met yep to have a little chat about music, how Dave got into and keeps getting into it.

Vincent: I am Vincent Oz and I'm here with Dave Antonini. Am I saying it right?

Dave: You are right.

V: Alright.

D: It's very Italian.

V: It is. Do I have to do the hand motion when I say it?

D: Please don't.

Vincent and Dave both laugh.

D: I'm adopted English-Italian, but by birth I am fully Metis. I'm a first generation Metis.

V: Oh cool, I didn't know that.
    Do you find that affecting the music or anything like that?

D: It's weird, I like the concept of nature versus nurture a lot. Because apparently when my birth mother was pregnant she would sing to me all the time and no one in my adopted family is really into music at all. They don't play any instruments or whatever, but I have a picture of me on my soundcloud at two years old being like (he smiles real big) on my keyboard.
    My first memory of even any kind of rhythm or music at all was, we had an 88 Privia. and the windshield wipers would go "RRR RRR RRR" "RRR RRR RRR" and I was hypnotized by that when I was like five.

V: So that was a core music memory right there.

D: Yeah, that's where everything kicked off from what I can remember.
    I didn't really take any music lessons until I was 8 and what inspired me to do that was; breaking into my brother's room. He had Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled album, Tragically Hip 'Up to Here', Counting Crows, Our Lady Peace’s 'Clumsy'. Those are my honoured taken CD's.
    And then Final Fantasy III, the japanese saga just assaulted me with the best hip tune music I've ever heard in my life. I like 'I wanna learn how to play piano'. That game carried my love of music until I started and it still does.

V: So you play in a local band, yes?

D: Yes. I am currently playing in the Mark Honestly band and actually in Ory with Brian Shurk, also another local musician. I guess I play formally in two bands now. I didn't know one was going to happen for a while. But I started jamming with Mark, Simon and Liam and just like, yeah.
I guess for band stuff, my first band was Dance All Free for All back in 2005 I think we started. We won our battle of the bands that year. Got to Hillside and inbetween battle of the bands and Hillside, Mayor Cam Guthrie offered to manage us for free.

V: Damn, alright. The Mayor himself. What did that feel like?

D: That was sweet. He heard us play and was like "We need to give those guys some direction". We sold out of our 500 copies of our CD's at our first Hillside and got invited to Pop Montreal where we got asked by Stomp records if they could sign us. We said yeah, fuck yeah. They said "Okay, you'll live in Montreal" and we were like "We're 16, we can't do that. We could call our parents, but that's not a thing." That was really fun.
Then the band started disintegrating, everyone got jobs and all that. We still keep in contact. I think that ended in '08.
And the only other band I was in was called Afose and the Rude Youth. I found those guys at Fanshaw College when I went in 2012. And it was a really fun avenue for me to explore because it was live hip-hop. We had a real drummer, a real bassist, a real guitar. And after our drummer started using a click track, it was just locked in. There is nothing more fun than playing hip-hop on real instruments. I was a fan of hip-hop for sure, but I didn't love it as much as I love it now I’m playing it.
And all music should be fun, I think. Like, if I'm at a metal show and I'm not smiling, somethings wrong.

V: How do you find yourself going about writing lyrics, cause I find that impossible.

D: It's really, really f-ing hard. So my main issue with that is, I hated singing when I was younger. To a horrible degree. I apparently had a really good voice when I was little, and then I was like "I'm a boy I shouldn't sing". Between the ages of 8-13 I never sang at a recital until my very final recital with my teacher Deddy Tilson, love her she's a God send, but I never really sang, because I thought it was too personal. Like I wouldn't even play the piano with my parents around, but I did play. Half because I wanted to and half because Debbie lived three houses down from me in Rockwood. If I didn’t play she would say "Hey I really didn't hear you practicing this week."
    So I started playing the piano and imitating the vocal lines with my right hand, because I didn't want to sing them. My melodies were always lyrical, just without words, so now when I'm writing for piano I have to try really hard to make my words fit the melody in my head, because it's all syllable counts right?  When I'm writing a song I either start off with the lyrics and make it fit the song structure, which is easier, or I have a tantalizing melody that I need to figure out and solve. Then after banging my head against the wall and the table and everything I'll get a tidbit of an idea and I can extrapolate that. But if I have to change a certain lyric, the melody also has to be changed to fit the lyric. It's a real struggle, I haven't released music in a long time, but I do have a four song EP coming out soon. I have all four songs down, I have most of the lyrics, but then there’s that brick wall of "it's not good enough. It doesn't suit this perfectly, there is a better way to say it.” When there's a better way to say it, I have to reorganize the song around that better way of saying it. It's a constant 2 steps forward one step back.

V: One of the best quotes I've ever heard about music is something like "The reason music is so universally loved is it's the only art form you can't actually touch. You can never actually touch the music, you can never actually see the music, it's just out there."
Would you say that's something you agree with?

D: Absolutely. Music is a cool thing. I always called it my first language. Yeah, it's super visceral, especially instrumental music. It's a way of communicating that you don't need words to communicate. It's like peoples’ love of soccer or football, you know? What is it, "Music and poetry are things you don't just get, they just get you." That quote, that's what it's always meant to me. It's a way to communicate without words. You can play a single note, and end up communicating an idea. Depending on how you play that note, on what instrument, what timbre you're saying something different.

V: So is that the reason why people get nervous about singing? Your voice is your instrument, something you're always carrying with you, so it would be your most personal, yeah?

D: Exactly. Even playing the piano in front of my parents was almost impossible. It felt like me and the instrument, I didn't want an outsider listening or peering in, it felt very invasive to me. And my own voice! That's the most honest you can ever be. It's yours and I think 80% that coupled with the fact that when I went to elementary school, you know like with all my surgeries, I had to somehow  fit into this friend group.
And I just thought, yeah it isn't really cool if boys sing. Even though I listened to a lot of bands with boy singers in them. But I would sing. I remember going to CYO Basketball here in Guelph and singing (Dave starts singing the intro to 'Superman's Dead' by Our Lady Peace). And I never understood the lyric "Doesn't anybody ever know? That the world's a subway." My favourite restaurant at the time was Subway, where I would only get a circular bun with double cheese on it, but I just thought that was a weird lyric. And I was like, yeah, I get that. The world's just a giant Subway. It's amazing, I took it literally. But I would sing that to myself while playing basketball, so it was still there, but it was never something I wanted to prominently display. Then at a certain age I was like, oh it's actually kind of cool. That's when that flip started happening. It was just around puberty so I started to hate my voice, but then I just kept grinding though. Now I just sing to myself all the time and try to figure out harmonies, because I never really did that.

V: Would you say that playing in a hip-hop band helped as well? Because you know one of the bravest things about hip-hop is there is nothing to hide behind, it's just you and your voice. Would you say watching someone else do that helped break that shell?

D: 100%! Seeing any lead person, whether it be a guitarist or a singer or something, that really shone. I absorbed that information when I was playing and performing. I was like, oh that's awesome. I had keyboard solos and I felt the pressure. Like I did exams from when I was 8 to like 17 every single year. And there is nothing more stressful than going in at 9:32, to the minute when your exam is going to happen, walking into a church with a lone judicator [...] and they take your books away and stand behind you. So that was nerve racking and being in a band took the heat off of that because I had so many other members that were also in it with me. It was like being in a choir, you blended in. But when it comes to going solo or that frontman thing you are the focus of attention.

V: So would you say "Stay weird with it"?

D: Oh absolutely. Stay weird. Just touch your instrument. If you can practice half an hour a day, don't make it a stupid ritual, make it a habit. You're going to get really really good if you just play your instrument and you're genuinely curious towards music at all.

V: So do a noodle a day?

D: Yes.

Almost immediately after this interview Dave gave me a quick drum lesson. Taught me how to do a double in about 5 minutes flat. Name an instrument and I'm sure the man could teach you how to play.
Dave is a very talented musician and I highly recommend going to see him play in either of his bands. We'll let you know when that next EP drops!

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