Dave Kerzner, progressive rocker: Something Else! Interview

Dave Kerzner joined Preston Frazier for a Something Else! Sitdown covering his new live interpretation of ‘Static,’ his on-again off-again work with Sound of Contact, an upcoming appearance at Cruise to the Edge and the mystery band he’s set to collaborate with next.


PRESTON FRAZIER: Dave, I believe I first became aware of you via Kickstarter as I backed your brilliant album Static, and the newly released project Static Live (CD/DVD). Before we talk about the projects, tell us about your musical upbringing. When did you start playing? What was your first instrument? What was your first professional gig.
DAVE KERZNER: I started playing piano when I was around 7 years old. I think my first ever live performance was playing the theme from Star Wars at a talent show in 3rd grade. I won 2nd place! Haha. But, my first professional gig hmmm. I guess it depends on how you define professional but if you mean getting paid I suppose it would be when I was 13. I had a band and we used to play any gig we could get. One time it was at a natural foods restaurant. Another time it was at a drug rehab center. We did mostly covers back then. 

PRESTON FRAZIER: Who were your initial influences? Did you take formal piano lessons?
DAVE KERZNER: Some of my main musical influences when I was a kid were bands like Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Rush and other classic rock and progressive rock bands from the 70s and early 80s. Regarding piano lessons, yes I did take classical lessons at first but the teacher was too slow and boring about it. His name was Mr. Stewart. I didn’t even know his first name. Total stiff. So, we eventually fired him and I got a new cooler teacher named Brad who showed me how to improvise and how to play the rock songs I liked. I’d put on “In The Cage Medley” by Genesis and say to Brad “Can you figure this out by ear and teach me how to play this solo?” and he was great because not only did he do that but he explained to me what was going on musically. What scales were being used and chord formations. I later went to a band camp and also studied music in college. But, I would say I’m purposely half-way educated on music and the other half I intentionally left a mystery so I could do my own thing and be excited about it without knowing so much that it ruins the discovery aspect. I can go into analytical mode and use my knowledge of musical theory as a tool if I need to but mostly I just play by ear and feel. 

PRESTON FRAZIER: One thing that instantly attracted me to your music was that you played with one of my top 5 favorite musicians, Kevin Gilbert. How did you come to know Kevin? (Great version of Joytown on the extended version of Static Live)
DAVE KERZNER: A friend of mine named Mark McCrite was a major music collector and he turned me onto a lot of music including Toy Matinee which I really liked. Then, not long after that, randomly Kevin Gilbert called me because someone gave him my number. He wanted to come see my Mellotrons as I was known around LA at the time for having a large collection of vintage keyboards which I sampled for various keyboard companies like Roland and Alesis. So, he came over and I showed him my keyboards, played him some of the music I was working on and he said to me “We should get a bunch of guys together and play ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’!” and I said “Sure! I’m in.” Then he left. A few months later he asked me to join his solo band which became “Thud”. We eventually did play about an hour of “The Lamb” at Progfest ’94 billed as Giraffe which is the first time I played with Nick D’Virgilio and would not be the last. 

PRESTON FRAZIER: Your solo debut was New World, after you left Sound of Contact. How did the solo album and career come about?
DAVE KERZNER: Well, I didn’t exactly leave Sound of Contact. It was more like being pushed out of the band despite the fact that I brought in most of the material that made it onto the album. The band was poorly managed and it was a mess with people being in and out at crucial moments making the record and touring. When we canceled playing at Yestival and a Summer tour there was a lot of tension in the band and they decided to do the second music video and tour without me including doing Cruise To The Edge, despite the fact that I booked it! It was the most insulting, disrespectful and painful thing I had ever experienced in the music industry but the silver lining was that I was so mad and driven I finally had the determination to finish and release my first solo album which would be New World. 

I had a brief taste of my dream of “being in a band like Genesis” and then crashed back down to Earth with nothing. Prog rock bottom you could call it. Haha. But, seeing the way people reacted to Dimensionaut inspired me. I was curious to see how much of the success was because of the quality of the songs vs how much was because of the novelty factor of it being fronted by Phil Collins’ son. But, the only way I could find out was to put out what my next songs would be after Dimensionaut under my own name. These were perhaps songs that SOC would have done had we stayed together. Incidentally SOC didn’t finish any songs without me in that time and after New World they came back apologizing for what had happened and that’s how we got back together. I forgave them and we gave it another shot. Unfortunately, that too fell apart when Simon Collins and Kelly Nordstrom quite not long after our Cruise To The Edge reunion gig was canceled. 

I didn’t miss Cruise To The Edge though and I ended up playing an extra set of SOC songs with my solo band just to make sure cruisers were happy. But, I’m sure it’s not too hard to see why I prefer doing my own solo and project albums where I’m in charge. I don’t like the flow interrupted with band politics and other interference so it’s nice to have one captain in a band you can rely on. Now, that captain doesn’t have to be me. I just joined a new band where I’m not the captain. But, most of the time these days I just run things and it’s my responsibility to finish and release new albums either under my own name or project names. It works for me. 

PRESTON FRAZIER: Tell us about the concept of the original release of 2017 Static? Who were the players? What was the lyrically concept?
DAVE KERZNER: My second solo album was Static and it grew out of a song that didn’t make it onto my debut solo album New World. It had Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason drums from a Sonic Reality sample session I did with Alan Parsons and Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree on bass, the McBroom Sisters, also from Pink Floyd, on backing vocals plus Fernando Perdomo, my main guitarist and musical collaborator. I kept it off New World because I liked the concept and saved it for a whole other album, the concept of “Static” being that we have to navigate past a lot of noise and interference in modern day life from TV, internet, cell phone distraction and the clutter in our heads of thoughts, emotions, fear and doubt to be happy in life.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Static Live seem like more than just a replaying of the original album. Talk about some of the challenges of moving the original concept forward.
DAVE KERZNER: Playing the entire album live is something special that I’ve always liked when bands have done. But, for us, we only had the opportunity to play it live from beginning to end once or twice! That itself is a challenge. The benefit of that is that you get a raw energy and excitement because it’s new to us and the audience. The disadvantage of it is that we didn’t record a show at the end of a 3 month tour like most bands would after it’s been burned into the brain and so well rehearsed. However, there’s an undeniable magic that’s there. It differs from the album in certain areas because we gave it room to improvise which is a little daring to do but that’s one of the things that makes it worth having in addition to the studio album. The spirit, vibe and themes of the album are there but you get something new from it as well.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Fernando Perdomo was a major collaborator on the Static projects. What did Fernando contribute to the arrangements? You and Fernando coproduced the wonderful Yesterday And Today- A Tribute To Yes. Was that album done at the same time that Static Live was in post production?
DAVE KERZNER: After my solo band played Cruise To The Edge in 2015, I got together with Fernando Perdomo, Randy McStine and Derek Cintron in my studio and we jammed. In just a few days there were seeds for dozens of songs that are still being worked on and finished today! From those sessions came the musical foundation for Hypocrites and The Carnival of Modern Life, which were originally one long song. Also Quiet Storm, Dirty Soap Box, Statistic and Millennium Man came from those jam sessions and about 90% of what we played in the improvised jams is actually on the album. 

That’s why Static has such a live band feel to it. It literally was written together musically as a band and then I tweaked the arrangements and wrote the lyrics adding in new songs written on my own to flesh out the concept. I had Static, the title track, already which was leftover from New World and then I wrote The Truth Behind, Trust, State of Innocence and Right Back To The Start. Chain Reaction was a song I had leftover from the Mantra Vega project. I took a few songs back from that so that Heather Findlay could be the sole lead singer. Originally we were both going to sing lead in that band. Anyway, that’s why the rhythm section of that song is the same as Mantra Vega. As for the Yes tribute album, no we ended up doing that after Static. 

PRESTON FRAZIER: You bought in a heavy weight to contribute to the mix of Live? Talk about the contribution of Tom Lord-Alge.
DAVE KERZNER: Well, no actually I mixed it but my good friend Tom Lord-Alge is one of my mixing mentors you could say. He’s mixed songs for me like “Stranded” from New World and “Dirty Soap Box” from the Static studio album. But, for “Static Live” I just went over to his studio a few times to get his advice on certain things. I’m very lucky to have friends like Tom! I look up to him and his brother Chris. Nick Davis, Genesis’ producer and engineer who mixed Dimensionaut for SOC is also a mentor to me as well. 

PRESTON FRAZIER: You have been involved in the Cruise To The Edge is past years and are scheduled to appear on the next CTTE. Do you have any tours or projects in the works for 2019/2020 that you can share?
DAVE KERZNER: When SOC fell apart for a second time, I created a project called In Continuum as a home for the songs I had written for follow up Sound of Contact albums. Last Cruise To The Edge we performed as In Continuum with Steve Hackett of Genesis and Jon Davison of Yes joining us on stage. On the next Cruise To The Edge it’s billed as “Dave Kerzner and Friends” because by then there will be another In Continuum album and another solo album as well. We’ll play songs from both plus some surprises. I have a lot going on in the studio for the rest of 2019. But, 2020 will be an active year touring both solo and also with a new band that I’m part of that I can’t talk about yet. 

PRESTON FRAZIER: Finally, please share with us your five favorite albums.
DAVE KERZNER: Five of my favorite albums would be The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis, Close to the Edge by Yes, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Takk by Sigur Ros and Signals by Rush. Those aren’t necessarily the Top 5, because it’d be too hard for me to pick just five as the definitive top ones – but those are the ones that came to mind.