Monday, November 24, 2008

12 Questions with Daniel Iorio

I've been listening to Hike, the twelve song effort from The Daniel Iorio Group (D.I.G.) for a while now. As a matter of fact, it's been in heavy rotation on my iPod. I realized my knowledge about the group was rather limited. To be honest, I didn't know much beyond knowing that I liked the record a great deal. I became curious about the group and wanted to know more about the record and the men who put together such a good record. Well, when I get curious, I start asking questions. I contacted singer/songwriter/producer Daniel Iorio who kindly agreed to quench my curiosity. I sent over a "quirky" photo request, which landed me a Simpsonized version of Mr. Iorio, along with the batch of questions and this is what I learned!

QuirkyNYChick (QNYC): Tell me a bit about the band. How did you come together and what were you doing prior to d.i.g.?

Daniel Iorio (DI): Ooofff. Big question right off the top, eh? lol!

There have been a few incarnations of d.i.g. I was in a Montréal band called Ecclestone for about 7 years. The group parted ways in 2002. We enjoyed some modest success, and were fortunate enough to open up for some legendary acts such as YES, Nazareth & April Wine during our time together. Dan Legault, who co-produced/engineered “Hike” and plays a few instruments on the album was Ecclestone’s drummer. Our last cd together was released in 2001 and called “Datamantra”.

I became a solo artist by default when the band split up, although still collaborated with Dan Legault and Ecclestone guitarist Rob Phillips from time to time. I was writing like crazy and couldn’t stop. Tunes kept accumulating.

No longer having a band to arrange songs with forced me to start experimenting with loops and samples on my computer, something that I would have normally considered somewhat blasphemous as I’d always been a very organic songwriter up to that point. As a result, I produced a lot of haphazardly recorded lo-fi home demos and uploaded them online as a lark. Remarkably, they helped create a buzz on the net, which lead to my signing an independent recording and publishing deal in 2003. Marco Desgagné (bassist) joined me around that time, and was part of the sessions that took place in Toronto under that deal. D.I.G sort of started taking shape at that point. Between 2003 and 2006, different variations of D.I.G played several shows in Montreal and Toronto. Unfortunately, like too many indie deals, things didn’t pan out despite the three grueling years of sacrifice, tons of commuting and non-stop hard work. I was pretty much ready to call it a day and took a break from music. I redirected my energy to martial arts and meditation.

Last year, Dan Legault invited me to a new project studio he’d just set-up in his basement. He thought we could bang off a few tunes just for fun. Dan & I always had an amazing working relationship going as far back as the Ecclestone days, and we’re great friends so obviously I jumped at the offer. We pulled Marco into the mix of course, and before we knew it had 20 rough cuts in the can. We called on the services of Andy Dacoulis, one of Montréal’s top session guitarists and long time buddy to lay down the lead/main electric guitar tracks. This happened over the course of the last year and leads us to the current line-up as it appears on the record. That’s about as succinct as I can get!

(QNYC): I know Hike was self-produced. Was it a total DIY effort?

(DI): Yes. I even recorded some stuff here at home on a computer mic, and emailed the tracks to Dan Legault. Many of the loops and samples were done here. Andy recorded & emailed his guitar tracks between a rigorous touring schedule with Corneille (a big star here in Québec, Haiti, Africa and Europe). The bed tracks (bass, drums, acoustic guitar) were all done live off the floor by Marco, Dan & myself, in the round, at Dan’s studio in two separate sessions. We also had award-winning bluesman Dale Boyle email us his banjo and mandolin parts for “One of a Kind”, and Denis Ioutsis did the same with his Rhodes track for “Ain’t Got You”. It was a very chill, part-time process that we all enjoyed thoroughly. No rehearsals were held for the sessions! It was about as casual a recording session as you could get.

(QNYC): What's been the hardest part about producing your own work?

(DI): Knowing when to let go of a song & call it a wrap – getting closure on a song. Knowing when it’s finished…

(QNYC): The song Helicopters, am I correct in the fact that it was inspired by an actual event?

(DI): Yes. It’s based on a very tragic event that took place right behind my house on the afternoon of October 31st 2007.

A three-year old girl was hit and killed by a speeding, out of control car while helping her caregiver put up Halloween decorations outside. The car had skipped over the curb and onto the front lawn of a private, home-based daycare center while racing down a residential street, striking and killing the little girl on impact. I was reading the paper in my kitchen when I heard the crash. The walls shook. I had no idea what I was hearing at the time. What followed was the voice of a woman screaming “Mon bébé, mon bébé!” *, then minutes later, the sound of sirens & voices of panicked men frantically at work. My windows were closed, and yet, I could still hear everything.

Eventually, provincial police helicopters were hovering just feet above my roof and backyard. That’s when I realized something really terrible had happened. I waited two hours before taking my dog for a walk to see what was up. Neighbours were scattered all over the street talking to one another, and the block just behind my house was sectioned off with red police tape. There were fire trucks and police cars everywhere. That’s when I found out what had transpired. News vans peppered the neighbourhood for the two days that followed.

(QNYC): Do you tend to write more from personal experience or observation?

(DI): Both, and sometimes, neither.

(QNYC): Do song ideas come easy? What usually comes first, the music or the lyrics?

(DI): Sometimes they do. I often write in spurts. I usually start with music but often have a melody in mind and build around that. I’ll sing or hum the melody and hash out the appropriate chord progression on my acoustic. I’ve also built songs around a sample or loop. That’s always cool because it will often lead me in a direction I might have never considered otherwise.

(QNYC): Black and Blue is reminiscent of The Beatles, George Harrison in particular, were they a big influence on you? Who are some of your other musical influences?

(DI): I’m glad you caught that! I told the guys that I was looking for an obvious & purposeful “nod” in this song. Andy’s guitar sound tells all. He totally nailed the vibe I was looking for – very Harrisonesque! It was definitely deliberate. I am heavily influenced by the Fab Four, particularly John. I must say though, I have been influenced by a lot of different artists. Working in record stores for years really opened my mind to a broad spectrum of music. I’m a huge fan of Blues, World Beat, Trip Hop, Classic Soul/R&B, Alternative, Old School Funk, Classic & Southern Rock, Gospel, Brit Pop, Motown, Folk, Jazz, Reggae and Celtic, all of which have had a hand in shaping me as a songwriter, musician & producer.

(QNYC): What's your favorite song from Hike and why?

(DI): I think it might be “Wandering in the Ether” because I’m getting a lot of sh*t off of my chest! ;-)

(QNYC): Are there any tour plans?

(DI): Nope. Unless someone out there is willing to foot the bill and get the album distributed/on the radio, we have no intention of cramming into a van and living on Ramen! I do acoustic gigs here and there, sometimes with Marco & Dan, sometimes with Andy. We’re all seasoned veterans and have done more than our fair share of free “exposure” gigs. Everyone has to eat so this band is a studio project until the right circumstance presents itself. If the right opportunity came down the pike, we would surely embrace it. Budget is everything.

(QNYC): Assuming music is your dream job, if it weren't, what would your dream job be?

(DI): Oh I don’t know. I like house painting actually – it’s a really Zen job. I enjoy outdoor work. Maybe a dharma teacher, or an instructor in mindfulness & meditation?

(QNYC): What's been playing on your music player of choice recently?

(DI): Spoon’s second to last effort, “Gimme Fiction” has been in my car stereo for months. What a great album! “Aretha Sings the Blues” by Aretha Franklin is also a staple here at home. Some of her finest work imho…ideal with a glass of Italian red wine! Chris Smither’s “Live as I’ll Ever Be” is one I can’t get enough of. I really like a lot of the new bands sprouting out of the U.K as well. BBC 6music is great for that, so I often have it streaming on my PC.

(QNYC): Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans?

(DI): We have fans? ;-)

I guess I’d like to say thank you to anyone who’s been listening, and if you’d like to help feed a couple of good guys, please buy our album “Hike”! We’re starvin’ over here! ;-)

My thanks once again to Mr. Iorio for taking the time to answer my questions.

* “My baby, my baby” in French.