“Steve DeAcutis is a treasure, he’s a really talented guy. I’m with Deko Records, Steve is Sound Spa Productions; it’s an amazing place.”
So says former Survivor lead vocalist Dave Bickler as he discussed the making of his new album titled, “Darklight,” his time spent since propelling Sly Stalone to a “Rocky III” victory with “Eye Of The Tiger” and more.
A long time musician, jingle writer and eventually Grammy Award winner; Bickler came into our living rooms and car stereos in other ways after departing Survivor in 1983 and then again in 1999.
“I’ve done some other crazy stuff outside the rock ‘n’ roll business,” he said with a laugh. “Real Men of Genius” adcampaign; I did that for 10 years and that was crazy. Anheuser-Busch sent us on a tour of NFL games, Major League Baseball, basketball; we’d go out to the game and the court and do spots for the teams, it was really crazy but a lot of fun.”
As is the case with most creative people, Bickler had a wealth of material stored up in his personal vault but over time hadn’t done anything with them; lots of ideas but other projects and life tended to get in the way.
“It was a long time coming, a work in progress and I finally decided to get my ass in gear and finish this solo album. I had all of these songs and I wanted to get them recorded properly and get them sounding the way that I wanted them to sound. So I asked my friend at Sony Jeremy Holiday about drummers; because if you’re making a rock record you need a good drummer. He recommended Ryan Hoyle who is out in California and has played with Collective Soul, Paul Rodgers; when I heard his drums and that he had a specialized drum studio I knew that was the guy for me even though he’s all the way across the country. So I sent him my stuff and he said, “Yeah, let’s go for it,” so I went out there and we started working on drum tracks and he’s brilliant. He’s a brilliant player and a studio owner and he really pays attention to what he’s doing and the first time that Steve heard him he said, “Man; who is that drummer?” So then Brad Smith joined in on that because he’s also a friend and he’s the bass player and creative force behind Blind Melon; he was hanging around there and he played the bass parts on the record too. Then eventually I found Steve through somebody else because I was looking for a place to mix and finish the record and it’s a wonderful thing about the internet; you can check out people’s work and I heard Steve’s and I thought man, I want my record to sound like that! So I went to Steve’s and we worked for about a year and a half or whenever I could get in there to finish it. We recorded everything, all the instruments and all the vocals and there it is. I think it turned out really good and I’m very happy with the outcome. Going back and forth to L.A., between his schedule and my schedule and all of that, it took quite a long time. We recorded about 15 drum tracks, one a day and then I’d go back home so it took a while. It was probably about nine years from when I first started it before I finished it.”
The title is the sum of the record’s total parts; Bickler had the tunes written from years past, various projects and more recent collaborations and some of the songs are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
“Darklight,”yeah; I kind of like the contrast. Light of course is an interesting concept but the songs on the album are both dark and light. A song like, “Magic” is very poppy and then, “Fear of the Dark” is about a suicide bomber; I always wondered about the awful, terrible place that somebody can get to that would make them do something like that. So that’s kind of what that song is about; I feel that’s kind of a dark topic. Some of these songs are songs that I didn’t get to realize. I’ve been in some other projects and bands that you’ve probably never heard of and we made recordings but this is all me and there are some of these songs that are kind of old. Songs that I couldn’t quite get finished until I started working with these guys and some brand new ones that came along; I would write something specifically and then fly out to California to record them as well.”
So is there a sense of freedom from the making of this album? Dave says he kind of rediscovered himself a bit but also gives some credit to the grunge movement as well.
“I left Survivor in 1984 and now I’m just being myself and so far I’ve gotten some good reactions from what I’m doing. I’ve got some quite aggressive music on “Darklight” and the next one may be even a little bit more edgy. I think in the late 80’s rock music had gotten very pretentious until the guys from Seattle came along and Nirvana and Soundgarden showed up; that to me was like a breath of fresh air, no big hair, they had flannel shirts and really good records. That had an influence on me and I think that it sort of shows.”
When asked what was the most difficult task he faced over nearly a decade of working on the record; his response was quick and to the point.
“I just had to find the right people to work with; I just can’t take any drama so I wanted to find the right talented people. I can’t take giant egos anymore, that’s so destructive to the creative process because people like that can be very talented but their motivations are just; it can be two steps forward and one step back so I just wanted to find the right people and I did. I was very fortunate that I got both Ryan and Brad and then Steve and everybody else that participated; Steve brought in Dave Archer to play piano on “Sea Of Green” and everybody was just the nicest person, it was really just the most joyous experience.”
Bickler says that the, “One good thing about being a musician is that you have flexibility” and he is utilizing that ability as he assembles a band and moves forward with his career.
“I’m working on assembling a band, I’ve been playing a couple of songs off of the album, I did a few in a couple of live shows that I did over in the UK. There was a band that I hooked up with over there because that was just the easy way to do it and it was composed of really good touring guys but I’m trying to get this thing up and running and see if I can put together some dates in the U.S so we’ve had some rehearsals trying to get ready for that.”
“The album just came out so I’ll probably start booking stuff later this year or early next season because that’s how they do it. I’m doing some European shows, a rock vs.classic show in France and a festival in Santiago Chile with Joe Lynn Turner on May 20.”