** This interview appears in Chaotic Riff’s March 2013 issue. Rebroadcast with permission. **
Leithal-X: Your style of playing in very much like Steve Vai or even hints of Yngwie Malmsteen. Can you tell our readers a little about how you learned your craft? Were you self-taught or did you take structured lessons?
PD: Wow – thanks for the compliment. I started out taking lessons at a local music store and then moved on to studying privately. After attending a few of Berklee’s summer programs while I was in high school, I had more than enough material to keep me busy for years until I got the call to play in the orchestra pit for “Hairspray” which had me back in the classroom, so to speak.
Leithal-X: On your newest album, “Show Me The Way To Go Home” or simply (SMTWTGH), I noticed your songs are all instrumentals. Any reason why there are no vocals? Don’t get me wrong, I love instrumental based songs as there is not too much of that around these days.
PD: In short, I can’t sing so I use the guitar as my voice. I find trying to speak to someone without saying anything to be extremely challenging while also being rewarding when you’re able to make that connection.
Leithal-X: Are there other members in the band or do you play all the instruments?
PD: When I started playing instrumental music, I felt like I was on an island by myself but tas I put myself out there, I realized I underestimated the genre. I still program the drums and play simple bass lines when writing but am fortunate to have the support of some amazing musicians to work with when recording and gigging. Rich Houghton (drums) and Josh Oliver (bass) provide the human element on SMTWTGH helping bring it to life in the studio and at the shows.
PD: U2 and Van Halen are obviously 2 of my favorites. I grew up during the 80’s hair metal scene (Guns N’ Roses, Metallica) so anything guitar-driven had my attention. I go through phases where all I listen to is Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne) or Led Zeppelin or Queen. I can’t not talk about the influences that define my style and do my best to pick apart Eric Johnson‘s chord melodies, Joe Satriani‘s leads, U2’s use of effects, Pink Floyd’s atmospheres and Peter Gabriel’s songwriting.
Leithal-X: Many of your songs are very melodic in nature taking the listener to different places during the songs like track 5 “Saudade”. How do you decide what to write and record?
PD: I write whatever sounds good to me. If I have an idea, I’ll work through it and see if I can build around it. Sometimes it needs to sit for a bit but it’ll eventually find its way. When writing instrumental music, you need a lot of ideas and those ideas need to be real catchy. Some songs are a product of a spin-off of your favorite songs and others are situational. I wrote “Sauade” when my grandfather passed away. It was a defining moment in my life where I never felt loss like that but at the same time was grateful for having him in my life. When played it, I couldn’t get across what it was I feeling until my wife suggested the title.
Leithal-X: For those who may not know, you hail in the Boston area. Can you tell our readers what the music scene is like there?
PD: Boston has a really amazing scene. There’s tons support from the local media, cool venues and is filled with amazing musicians. The fact we had a venue willing to host a monthly “Guitar Night” showcase says something. But it’s also a catch-22 where you need to really need to work your tail off to make things happen as there’s a lot people trying to make a name for themselves and if you don’t jump on an opportunity right away, someone else will.
Leithal-X: You have had the opportunity to play at Shea Stadium and as part of the orchestra for the show Hairspray. What were those experiences like if you had to sum them up in a few sentences?
PD: They were both awesome, not for the faint of heart and once-in-a-lifetime experiences – but couldn’t have been more different. The Shea gig was a one-shot, 1 minute and 20 second solo performance in front of over 50,000 with ESPN cameras surrounding you in 108 degree weather (I also arranged the Star Spangled Banner to be in line with my guitar style so it was almost like playing an original). “Hairspray” was 8 shows per week of 3 hour long performances where I was 1 of 16 instruments sight-reading music under the direction of a music director.
Leithal-X: The songs on your new album have something to offer any listener as there are roots from culture as well as blues. Is there any particular song you like to play more than another?
PD: Not really – they’re all all fun to play. When doing media appearances, they have time restraints and diverse audiences where “Hello World” or “The Dirty South” translate really well hopefully reaching most listeners. Being diverse is great because it gives me the opportunity to be able to play to the situation and not feel like a total outcast – which is easy to do when you’re the only instrumentalist in a singer/ songwriter showcase!
Leithal-X: There is a nice mix of acoustical songs along with electric based progressions. Is there a difference when playing the solos using an acoustic guitar rather than its predecessor the electric guitar other than the thickness of the strings or overall sound?
PD: To me, it’s almost as if they’re different instruments. Like you said, the strings and sound do play a huge part but their overall playability are miles apart from each other. Most of my songs are written on an acoustic so there’s no effects, no crazy shredding or string bending. Everything is as natural and organic as possible. It’s when it’s moved to an electric do things start to take on a life of its own.
Leithal-X: If you had to sum up the emotions in your music, what three words would you choose and why?
PD: Nice – great question. I feel my music is honest, translatable and hopefully enjoyable. I picked these three because I know firsthand and worked really hard at putting something out there I believe in. Each song has a message or story, whatever story it tells is for you to make your own and will hopefully be played over and over again.
Leithal-X: Thanks for taking the time for this interview and is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
PD: I’m grateful for their interest and time in reading this interview. I hope they see the value in what Chaotic Riffs Magazine brings to the table by promoting independent music and helping spread the word of undiscovered artists. Thank you for this opportunity.
Leithal-X: Also, where can individuals interested in checking you out further go do learn more?