INTERVIEW: Phil Leavitt of dada
Over the Summer of 2016, SoCalMusicToday.com spoke to the personable and colorful drummer Phil Leavitt who is one part of the raunchy, raw, edgy, bluesy and rocking duo 7Horse as well as one third of the California veteran rockers dada founded in 1992.
The other parts that make up dada are, singer-guitarist Joie Calio and singer-guitarist Michael Gurley. Four years ago, dada celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first album, Puzzle, and now the trio is embarking on ‘The dada Forever Tour’ celebrating the 25th anniversary of the band. dada has 16 national U.S. tour dates scheduled over the course of 20 days with tour stops in Los Angeles on February 16 at the Canyon Club, February 17 at The Rose in Pasadena, and in Orange County on February 18 at the The Coach House.
SoCalMusicToday.com caught up again in-person with Phil Leavitt at The 2017 NAMM Show in Anaheim to discuss the dada Forever Tour, what it was like getting the original trio back together and just playing, performing the deeper and more obscure cuts of various dada projects never played live for the hardcore fans. Also Leavitt discusses his experiences at NAMM where he connected with representatives from Paistie Cymbals and Vater Drumsticks, who he’s done business with for many years.
dada toured four years ago. Why is dada going on tour now?
The last tour was to promote the 20th anniversary of our first album, Puzzle. 2017 is the 25th anniversary of the band. Joie and I have been doing 7Horse for the last five years. We put them together on the last tour four years ago, 7Horse opened for dada. That was a lot for me personally. It was a double header every night.
We knew there was a lot of desire from the fan base to see dada tour again. Sometimes you just want to give the people what they want. It’s fun.
Can you tell me about where dada is going to play?
It started with a series of California dates. The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, CA. Then the Rose in Pasadena, CA. Then the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA. Then we decided to go up to San Francisco and do one in the Bay Area and that was going to be it. So, we booked those four shows. San Francisco sold out in a couple of days. The Coach House does really well. People started talking about flying in from around the country. Then we thought we could expand it. If we do, we can put enough dates together and get out on a bus and do it right. Every dada tour goes through Denver, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis. So, we’re taking a swing out to the Midwest. Go out to Cleveland come back out a little bit and take a Southern route from St. Louis to Dallas to Phoenix, AZ. We are doing 16 shows in 20 days. There is a big demand for us on the East Coast. Hopefully we’ll do another run out with a series of shows on the East Coast at a later date. We couldn’t put it all together because of time constraints and other projects. We are excited to do what we can and the response out there has been even greater than it was four years ago, when we did the 20th anniversary tour.
What’s it like to play after all these years?
We haven’t played together much. We got together a couple months ago, after we announced the tour. In early December, we decided to do a day just to shake the rust off because we had not played together since the last tour four years ago. It was at a rehearsal place we booked out. We set our gear up and played through some stuff. It’s like riding a bike. You just get back into it. The same relationship is still there. There is always something about the three of us together. Playing together is always a very natural thing. I’m expecting it to be good or better than it’s ever been.
Are you going to play any new dada songs?
There isn’t necessarily new dada songs. We have a pretty deep catalog. There is stuff we never touched on live. I made a commitment to the fans to dig deeper into the catalog. People are always asking for songs we haven’t played live.
We want to expand the umbrella a little bit and bring some 7Horse into it. It would be a mid-set, mini 7Horse set. Up in San Francisco, Michael is going to do a 40-minute solo set. He’s written all kinds of other kinds of music outside of dada. So we try to bring everything together under one roof. Showcase everything we did over the course of our 25-year career. Between dada, 7Horse, Joie is a solo artist and Michael has a project called Mike Gurley and The Nightcaps which is a jazz/Sinatra thing he’s done. There’s all kinds of music. But the bulk of it will be a dada show but inject other stuff. Maybe a couple of covers we’ve never approached before. So, it will be fresh.
Do you have a hope you will go on a bigger tour with dada?
I always have that hope. I’m up for anything with that. At this point in my career, I’ve been doing this a long time. I love doing 7Horse. It’s a great project for me. We have been submitted for some sizable tours. If one of those comes up, we are going to jump on it. If opportunities come up for dada and everyone is available we will do it but (Mike plays in Keifer Sutherland’s band and they want to play a lot, so scheduling is an issue). Keifer has an idea about being out on the road quite a bit. But if opportunities come up for dada in a support position as part of the package in a large setting, I’m all over it. I love the road. I love to play. The older I get the more I realize, it’s a privilege to go out and play for people that appreciate it. Get on a tour bus and do it on some level of comfort because I’ve been grinding it in the van for the last four years. With dada, we will tour with a bus and have a little bit of a crew with us. It will be a better experience and not quite as much of a grind on the road versus driving 400 miles yourself and playing that night.
You’ve been to NAMM several times. How has that experience been and changed for you?
It’s changed in that NAMM has become so big. It’s so crowded and there is so much noise. Coming back in the old days it was nothing like this. It was much smaller. I’ve been a Paistie Cymbals endorser for almost 25 years. There has been changes in the company with the artist reps. You don’t get a chance to see these guys very much and they have a huge roster of people. Occasionally you need to call up and say I would like to get some new equipment. It’s nice to get face to face with these people, especially when you are not a superstar. Just let them know you exist.
Vater Drumsticks is another company I’ve been with a long time. They were a really small operation and got a lot bigger. I need those guys to supply me with essential pieces of gear. I don’t go much for hustling for endorsements. A lot of people do that here. I don’t think you can get that done here. You can meet some people. Maybe open up some relationships you can pursue down the line but if you think you are going to walk out with a drum set, I don’t think that happens very much. Although the last time I was here, I walked away with a couple of guitars for Joie. I hooked him up with Gretsch. I’m also interested in checking out new equipment. I like running into old friends I won’t otherwise get the chance to see.
dada: Dizz Knee Land video – https://youtu.be/daa9pZDxfIY