Interview with Blues harpist, acoustic guitarist and vocalist David Biondo of Hurricane Dave and the Storm Chasers. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off?
David Biondo: – I grew up in New Jersey and spent the first two years in South Orange and then moved to Chatham NJ in Morris County. I was 20 miles outside New York City on the Commuter Erie Lackawanna Line into Hoboken and then you could take the Path into Grand Central Station. I had friends who played guitar but my first interest in music came as a drummer in the Morris County Militia at 9 years of age which was a reenactment of revolutionary war music. My dad was into Classical Music with an affliction for Bob Dylan. Bob is who made me want to be a poet laureate. I started listening to KNEW 102.7 FM and many of the great College radio stations. At age 16 I bought my first stereo with EPI speakers which I still have. I started listening to many of the great 70’s bands including: The Doors, CSN&Y, Grateful Dead, Chick Corea, Larry Coryell, Commander Cody, NRPS, Stanley Clarke, The Beatles grabbed my heart at age 7 and they really to me turned music on its head as cutting edge. It had a certain sexiness to it no other R & R did. The NYC Jazz scene was something I would listen to late at night and couldn’t get enough of the cool NY Vibe. Miles, Charlie, Peterson, Brecker… Traffic and Eric Clapton were a good influence. I never thought about making a living from music, but I could not be without it. If I was home the stereo was on and I was recording King Biscuit Flower Hour or something else. I started learning backing players names and admired them.
OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
DB: – My sound I think involves many people and I think my vast improvement has been from my teacher Robert Bonfiglio who is my chromatic harmonica teacher from NYC. I also am good friends with Jason Ricci and we hit it off after I saw him by complete accident with Sean Starsky and Todd Edmunds when they were New Blood. We all have a blast anytime that company gets together. Robert has taken me on a journey, and we get down to music with an emphasis on notation. I don’t read but if I had to, I could. What Robert taught me, and he is amazing at memorizing entire classical songs in their entirety, rubbed off so I will learn everything by muscle memory. I can just whip it out if I think about the song in my head. Jason does the same although he is not as vocal about it as he is about improvising off it. I dig that. The scales are important, but I am not held to them if I can bend and blow bend or guttural bend… I started playing guitar as an accompaniment living at 9300 feet on the west side of Pikes Peak about 20 years ago. I use the chin hanger rack so I can sing any play whatever I feel or go by chord, melody, groove, and improvised leads. Singing has been something I have been doing when I listen to music since I was a kid and in many a shower as well. I picked up Lap Steel and Melodica and is on the CD. I want to get Heaven; I never admit Defeat the Psychedelic Gospel tune and My Boat’s got a Hole in it the Blues Reggae Rag. I am closing my eyes more and listening to where I want it to go, now more than ever. Miles man. Miles! I use an Edward amp, Fat Bottom Chuck Gurney A Static mic, Flat Cat Lone Wolf Compressor, a Clean Cat Lone Wolf Single Boost, Octave Box Lone Wolf, MXR Carbon Copy Delay, Catlin/Moorehead Collaboration Fuzz Rite. My Acoustic Guitar is a Dawina / Martin JC 16 into a Tone Bone Radial Pre- amp into a Carvin 250-watt acoustic amp.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
DB: – Timing is something that a harmonica player can play with you can be in front, behind or on it and switch it up so it isn’t boring. The long notes help. What I started doing was making the harmonica and guitar notes or chord match and then I started doing it vocally. If I can maintain that it gets good. I can make them come out the same or harmonically which with my voice I can make the acoustic resonate with the vocal. It’s so cool! I am always working on timing so I memorize it, but I don’t think you can ever stop getting better timing and listening to Derek Trucks is just incredible. I have seen him pull off notes that should not be possible in a place that is impossible. I practice scales and just get it right to move my accentuation into my own way of playing. I wouldn’t call my playing harmonica first over everything else. I think I learned enough tone in bends, over blows, guttural bend, corner switches, burst, pops, swells, warbles, pull offs, glisten ins and out…that I can just go back over these over and over to get what fits the tune. I don’t try to overplay. I like being in the tune and then making musical phrases that lead the tune. I wrote this CD that way on purpose. I don’t want to be anybody else but that doesn’t mean I don’t sound like Cotton or Junior. I just want to phrase me from them.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
DB: – I have changed considerably through the years and when I got to a plateau it drove me crazy. I played for 19 years in the closet sitting in with one band in NJ over that time. I was given a Chromatic Harmonica when I was 18 and told I should play this because I am very musical. In September of 1978 at Richard Stockton State College, I got in a garage band and we were thoroughly awful. We were playing in G court apartments outside and This British Dude walks in and he says: “I play a little guitar.” I look at this 6ft dude with a broken nose and it is, I kid you not, Pete Townsend. I say: “I Bet You Do” He proceeds to walk over to my friend Brian with his Fender Deluxe and Gibson SG and starts teaching him chords and they are both sitting on the amp. We are getting antsy because Pete T is in our presence, and we are wondering when he is going to play. Finally, Pete jumps up on top of the amp, leaps into the air with a windmill and breaks into Baba O’Reilly! We can’t talk! Jaws on the ground. He plays for 50 minutes. I literally am flabbergasted as are my friends. We asked him, “Hey Pete can you sign our records”. He says: “I’m not Pete Townsend, I play in a cover band in North Jersey called Tommy.” We are all from North Jersey. There is no Who cover band in North Jersey named Tommy. He disappears. Two years later he was on 93.3 WMMR in Philly and we called and verified it was him. He says his motorcar broke down. I was intimidated out of the gate, so I shut my piehole in the closet before joining Thunder Mtn. after moving to Colorado in 1994. I was sitting in at a benefit. I was only supposed to play one song, but they asked me to play another and in the middle of my solo Mark walked behind me and said: “ I don’t know who the #&$& you are, but you are in this band. I went on to learn 300 songs. We were the House Band at Cowboys at Colorado Springs for 5 years every weekend. We opened for many national acts. I got very familiar with Mickey Raphael’s playing but I didn’t try to sound like him. He remains one of my favorites. I did get to speak to him on the phone and it was a grand conversation. Thunder Mtn. was offered a contract with Capital Records, but the deal was so bad we gave it back. I then became Chaz DePaolo’s side man for 11 years and we put out many great records on my label Smoke Tone Records LLC. Resolution Blues received a Global Music Award was engineered by the late great Ben Elliott who was Les Paul and Keith Richards personal engineer at Showplace Studios in Dover NJ. The day we recorded was so magical if defies description. I was always learning so I never stopped. Robert Bonfiglio is my mastermind to learn more as I continue the journey.
JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
DB: – Recordings are so much fun with my engineer/ producer Jason Hickman who owns Prodigal Production Studio. We just approach everything in segments and individual tracking. I try to come up with grooves, melodies, riffs, lyrics. Jason and I were just sitting around playing guitars to formulate but most of it would come from me as I came in with songs with designated chords. Sometimes he would throw some of it out and he told me to go back to the drawing board. One time I said My Boat’s Got a Hole in it. He says that is a song. We wrote that one together loosely and revisited it many months later. Another time we were working on another song, and he said, “I got this groove and I want you to do the lyrics.” I started reaching for my computer because we write on master writer. He says No! He starts playing the track and sticks the handheld recorder in my face and says go. This is how I wrote Claire – Starbright lyrics. We changed no words and just rearranged the sentences to be more successive in order of arrangement. I channeled Tom Waits, and the rest is history. In fact, David Glasser at Airshow in Boulder who master mixed for us, when he heard it, he just went crazy and said love it. “Nighthawks at the Diner” You nailed it! The Video is on the Website and YouTube. Music is meditation for me. I wrote Universes Pass by, All I do Is Fly from an out of body experience after being overdosed on ketamine for having a dislocated Shoulder. I did visit a place light year away in the heavens and met with God as a Soul Sphere. He sent me back and told me I am not done. I need to take care of my girlfriend and her kids. I think this CD is my personal epitaph of spiritual occurrences.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2023: Hurricane Dave and the Storm Chasers – Blooze Blowdown, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
DB: – I love my CD and I like how the songs are just an extension of my own personal captures of dreams, reality, manifestation, stories, and just plain good humor. I like how each one is not like the other. I like the catchy phrases and my friends are not saying the same thing about all the same lyric lines. I like how the grooves are catchy. I also like how it is not like everyone else on the blues scene. I like Eric Gales, Tommy Castro, Joe Bonamassa, Albert Castiglia, Jason Ricci, Nick Moss. Samantha Fish. I just don’t want to sound like them. I do like many of us are Italian. I am working on the live production of this CD, and I have had a change in personnel. Yes, Autumn Smart our actress will be a part of it. I am hanging myself out there on a thin limb, but it feels good. I have a guy who we are formulating some different things. I don’t want to say who he is right now, but he has been a force with some of the Latin world. I will say think Santana meets The Doors in a Tom Waits World where anything goes. It is getting DEEP! The songs are ever evolving. You might not hear what is on the record exactly as is. Close but twisted up in a more conceptual fashion to be even more in your face! It will be a loving, spiritual and a learning experience. Improvisation will take place. Get ready!
JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?
DB: – My friends were enlisted for this cd. I have been playing with them on and off for over 25 years in gigs, jams, get togethers, parties. Dwight Thompson was the only one who I did not know but I learned about him from Biff Gore who was a top ten on The Voice. I did a one off with Biff where we both fronted the band at a festival. It was a blast! Jason recommended Dwight and his vast experience living in Trinidad gave him access to Tobago music. He can play double and electric bass with the best of them and he went Jaco on us with Rat Mobile. We let him go! Wayne Hammerstadt is an artist in his own right and has a new CD out called Patternicin which is fusion rock. Bad Derriere! He also plays classical lute style guitar. Dewey Steele is an LA session player who lives here in Colorado Springs and is a drum coach for many high schools in the area. He is a member of the band the Sofa Killers who have been voted best cover band by the Independent for 7 years in a row. Bryant Jones is called Piano Man and can make you reconsider the approach to piano like no other. Jason, after a first taste of hearing his tracking in the studio, gave a standing ovation in his chair.
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
DB: – I can remember once walking one foot into a pub in Dublin, Ireland we were scheduled to play at, and this guy comes up to me and speaks. You’re David Biondo. I have seen you play on the internet. He is pointing to his phone. I can’t wait to hear ya play man. The same thing happened with another guy in the urinal a few minutes later. Chaz and I had opened for Commander Cody a few times and we became friends. I eventually was asked to come up and play with the band one night.
I got to meet Bobby Burns of Lynyrd Skynyrd who loved my playing. I did a few gigs with him and taught him some harp. Once after playing for the Professional Bull Riders on stage at Caesars Palace Las Vegas on live TV when Chris Shivers won the top bull rider, I had the honor to run into Jewel. She had sat in with the band when her then husband Ty Murray was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. We said hello and I turned. She grabbed me and whispered in my ear that her brother played harmonica. Then she said, “You’re much better.”
JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
DB: – I think intellect to play is genius to a degree but being humble is key. The dynamic that God gave me a talent is just a beautiful thing all itself. I think that the trigger to happiness is being oneself with the spirit of knowing the holy spirit is always with you. I recently was named one of the top three harmonica players in the Members Choice Awards for the Colorado Blues Society. I was thrown in with other member choice winners as a super jam band. I was told I would play a song of my choice. I chose Jeff Beck’s: Brush with the Blues wanting to do a tribute to the man himself. I was then told that I would sing so I decided to see Willie Dixon’s song: Long as I have you would go over the top of it since Brush with the Blues is an instrumental. I went into my studio and worked it out on chromatic harmonica and vocals. I then sent charts and a demo to everybody else. We met up on the day March 26th of this year and we ripped it out of the gate with no rehearsal. Without manifesting with the Holy Spirit this would not have been possible.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
DB: – My bandmates and I have talked about the level of commitment we have to the music but more importantly to one another to be in a spiritual realm to bring peace and love to the audience. I am playing for them. One of the songs we are setting to do is called Transcendence by Santana. It talks about the love to share with you. If I can’t put that point across to the audience, then we are not doing justice to the chosen few ourselves and the audience. You don’t know what is going on in people’s lives and my job is to make them smile, dance with joy and passion. Life is to live with happiness.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
DB: – Last night I was listening to my friend Michael Reese who is an artist playing instrumental electric guitar. He doesn’t play with a band. Just himself. Sometimes he has backing tracks and sometimes not. There were these high school kids that loyally come to see Michael. He plays Satriani, Beck, Sting, Santana, Fleetwood Mac… and his originals are mostly fusion jazz rock. They were just hooting and had a real appreciation for what he does. They came up to him as they are all graduating to go to college next year. They just thanked him so sweetly. I don’t think that Jazz is Dead. I remember listening to Metheny, Tony Williams, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk when I was a kid. I have been teaching and helping my Girl Friends daughter aged 15 learn guitar and helped her out during Jazz Band for her. I loaned her my telecaster. She is getting it. She plays Violin second chair as a freshman at her High School. I helped her write a song for a competition in arrangement and lyrics, but she figured out the chords and lead. I just don’t think the thought process to listen to music is helping much because most people just hear music. We know what that sounds like. Once they learn to listen, they get it. Keeping this alive is where the interest is sparked. That inspires me to get out there and play!
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
DB: – We have spiritual make up that being at peace with a comfort that letting go is the okay thing. I think the chance to let one’s spirit flow in music is where you are a little closer to God. If you are holding back, then you can’t express what comes naturally. Relax and take your spirit with you when you dance or listen. It moves you. That is proven. Even deaf people can feel the beat. Tribes play for the ability to communicate but also to be with the creator in spirit and mind. We don’t do this enough as humans. Grab a friend or friends, family, Coworker even a stranger and let it all out.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
DB: – I think the format for radio is dying with live DJ’s who have and honest opinion about what they hear and what you might like to hear. In the days of preprogrammed AI Music scrolling, it just doesn’t have any human factor. If I could go back to the days of jock radio that would be great. I think Public Radio in the Jazz Genre is working. We need to do more of this. Promote live shows. Give away tickets and Schwagg. I don’t know what to say about the music world itself other than doing what you are doing to make it better is what keeps these genres chugging along. The festivals have the same bunch of people attending and it needs to grow in terms of celebration. My hope is that is where we are headed. The Blues can be a happy medium and my music I think brings that full circle. I just hope to connect on a level that is real in its performance and truthful in delivery. I don’t have any power but to contribute my part.
OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
DB: – I have been listening to Tedeschi Trucks, Government Mule, Sonny Boy 2, James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious, Joni Mitchell, Larry Coryell and Eleventh House, David Sancious, Santana, Bob Dylan and the Band, David Bromberg, Maria Muldaur, Jerry Garcia Band, Jorma Kaukonen’s new record, Bruce Hornsby and Jack DeJohnette, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Hurricane Dave and the Storm Chasers.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
DB: – Where I would like to go is back to the Delta and listen to some of the original Delta Blues Music, Mississippi Fed McDowell, and anyone on the Chitlin Circuit because a lot of unknown players were there. If Sam and I could sit in Sun Studios and track everyone that would be cool. Cash, Presley, Lewis, Perkins… A mighty fine time would be had. I got to see Million Dollar Quartet second row at Harrah’s in Las Vegas, and I tell you that show just was so unbelievably good with the last night those guys played as a band before Elvis went to RCA. HOO DOO HOE DOWN!
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
DB: – The message I would like to bring with my music is that Blues has substitutions of other genres that mix well when done right. You will hear many different facets in my music that I think are not well represented at this time but once were more prevalent. I am not a throw back as much as one might think by saying that because my music does cut through the chase to a new genre of the contribution from these substitutions. Blooze BlowDown is the title cut because it was the first song, I wrote lyrics about to even make me want to do a record. Blooze BlowDown Shot Me Through the Heart, Blooze BlowDown is Just the Staring part. The Tone of a God Rips Right Through. This is What Connects Me and You, Ride the Tide, Because You Can’t Hide. The Blues Got your Number! This story is about the downfall of someone losing their job, and then making music the positive outlook on the future because music entered the soul, and he wants to reach out to tell others. Look out you forgot about this music, and you know you can’t hide from it. It reaches right down to the bone. No getting away. This is tribal. Stop listening to noise! Stop listening to the fresh and come around to hear the best. We got it going on down at the crossroads and we don’t need the devil. Celebrate till the end. Let your spirit refresh. Come where peace and love and unity abound at the chicken shack. Doesn’t matter front porch or back! We got the smack! Gather round children, I got a story to tell come heaven bound we have universes to fly. Don’t let it pass you by! Delta Bluesman we all love you. This is a story that never ends. It is just the end of a chapter. I have come forth to make amends. My world is now an endless sea. You have given me the visions of all that will be. Got thanks y’all for what you do. Let’s pay tribute, Now light the fuse!
JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…
DB: – I can see the passion in your questions and really having just met you telling you so much about myself has been enlightening for me. I have been dying to get some of this out so thank you.
I have a few questions that pertain to how you started this wonderful endeavor of such a great magazine and being a part of the live music scene.
What are the things that drive you to be such a gift to artists? Where do you see this going for a mission statement? Do you think your impact is being heard and what can we do as artists to help bring it along in the growth aspect of getting the youth, like you say, to hear what we experienced during our lifetime? Since ticket prices are not making it conducive for some of these kids to attend as many shows should we be careful in pricing or run special free attendance specials. I did an interview with Barry Fey twice and his answer was that ticket master ruined it by driving up the price at a time when it was not bearable to gouge profit in the market. The number of shows people can afford to attend has dropped tremendously.
JBN: – Thank you so much for your answers! We started with a Facebook group, then 12 years ago I created the website. Yes, we are quite active and influential in Europe and the USA, we organize 15 festivals, we have more than 69,000 readers every day, we are not complaining.
JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?
DB: – I have done a total seminar in Scarborough UK for college kids where we wrote a song. We then recorded it with the kids at the board. We had them produce and engineer it after we gave them lessons on Harmonica and Guitar. They all went home with a copy, and we discussed the music industry. I have also done this at the Denver College for the Arts which is no longer in business unfortunately. I have done many free shows for victims or unfortunate circumstances with action and special instruments given away for kid’s music in hospitals for the not for profit started by John Catt called Blue Star Connection. This is for kids with Cancer, and they can go to a music room and play these instruments with instruction from a teacher while being away from family to be treated.
My expectations are to garner a little more in the way of appreciation for my music and the awareness of what it takes to make it in this barrel of monkey Sea of Blues, Jazz, Rock feel. I hope to gain some new fans that don’t know much about me or the band. We have dedicated our lives to this love. Having the ability to get this off my chest is relief beyond belief. Thanks! See you all at the show soon.
Inerview by Simon Sarg
Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/useujba/