Music — Dave DiCenso

Dave DiCenso

By Michelle Saturley

Drummer seeks new beat


DiCenso: Music is more background than focus here

Dave DiCenso has been making ends meet as a professional musician for a number of years. How does he do it? Does he toil tirelessly with a cover band, scrambling for gigs at bars, weddings, bar mitzvahs and Christmas parties?

“That’s one way to do it,” DiCenso said. “Most serious musicians are willing to do whatever it takes to break into the music industry. But everyone’s version of ‘whatever it takes’ varies.”

Though DiCenso first broke into the business as a drummer in a band (The Cro-Mags, a punk-rock outfit from New York), the versatile Berklee assistant professor thinks of himself as a gun for hire these days. He’s currently hitting the skins for the Tempting Fate Review, a Cambridge-based jam band.

“I got into Tempting Fate because a few of the band members teach with me at Berklee,” DiCenso said. “They knew I was a good drummer, but more importantly they knew I would come in, learn the songs, and get the job done. I think when you get to a certain level, that’s what gets you jobs. They want someone who is easy to get along with and isn’t looking to make everything all about them.”

DiCenso was also attracted to the project because of its humanitarian mission: 100 percent of ticket sales from all Tempting Fate Review’s gigs will go to specific charities. The group played a gig at the Axis on Boston, donating the proceeds from the event for the AIDS Action Committee of Boston.

“I liked that charity aspect of the band a lot,” DiCenso said. “Especially from a local level. These are all people from area, and the money raised goes to local charities.”

Another appealing aspect of playing with the band was the opportunity to showcase some of his own material. The group plays all-original songs, and almost every band member brings to the table proven songwriting ability.

DiCenso plays guitar and sings in addition to drumming. “That’s how I write my own music,” he said. “”If I had to describe the style of songs I write, I would say Americana meets country with a little bit of pop thrown in.”

The drummer has a wide range of influences, which he thinks is the reason he’s played so many different styles of music.

“When I first started getting serious about the drums, I was a metalhead,” he said, citing such influences as Motley Crue, Queensryche, Metallica and Slayer. “But as I got older, I started opening up my mind to different kinds of music. I started getting into artists like Chick Corea, John Scofield, Miles Davis, and so on.”

His versatility behind the drums also makes him appealing as a studio musician. DiCenso has played with pop legends Duran Duran, the former Kansas/Dixie Dregs front man Steve Morse and Japanese jazz artist Hiromi. He’s laid tracks for ex-Extreme front man Gary Cherone, Dream Theater front man John Petrucci, and local singer-songwriter Carolyn Goulde.

When DiCenso isn’t playing gigs or working on his original songs, he can be found teaching percussion at Berklee. The part-time job, he says, has helped his career as a musician in unexpected ways.

“Many of the teachers at Berklee are also working musicians,” he said. “And they are very good at what they do. It’s inspiring to be in that atmosphere, where everyone around you is at that level; they’re taking what they do very seriously. It makes you want to be a better player.”

DiCenso and his wife have been living in Manchester for a little over a year. The drummer hopes to see the all-original music trend explode in the Queen City, and his wish is that a venue opens in Manchester that is all about listening to music, similar to The Middle East in Cambridge, or even Tupelo Hall in Londonderry.

“Most of the places here in Manchester, music is more of the background noise in a bar where people are hanging out with their friends, drinking and partying,” he said. “That’s cool and all, but what would be great is if there were a place where people who really like to listen to live music could go and have the opportunity to hear original artists — all different styles, from folk to heavy rock. There are a few places in the city that are experimenting with that ideal. I think Manchester could support a place like that.”

      Michelle Saturley

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