LOS ANGELES, March 13, 2014 — Dave Nassie is a guitar player, plain and simple. He has played in bands with varying styles such as Infectious Grooves, No Use For A Name, Bleeding Through, and Throwdown. He also like to impart his guitar wisdom via lessons on Skype to those looking to learn from a master. Recently, Dave Nassie took some time to speak with Wells On Music about his time with No Use For A Name and Bleeding Through.
Kevin Wells: What made you want to start playing guitar?
Dave Nassie: You know, it was a weird thing, to be honest. It’s one of my first memories. My mom used to play and sing to my brother and I when we were babies, but I remember it from really early, dude, like two or something. I just remember my mom would sit us down and sing. My mom could finger pick and sing like an angel. She would play Joan Baez and s**t like that, but I really liked it. Then I remember my grandmother had a guitar because my grandfather played. I remember strumming it and playing it one day when I was really young and coming out of the room, my grandmother said something to me. I think she said she thought it was the radio or something, you know, probably trying to be encouraging or something [laughs]. I was really little and I just remember thinking that it was something I can do. Those were just my early memories.
Then my grandfather always kind of played around and I played with him. I had a neighbor growing up that was really cool and he would play and his buddies would play across the street. I was probably like seven, eight, nine. And his family played folk music and they listened to really good music at the time. So, I got a foundation of a wide range on things and stuff that was solid song writing, from Neil Young and Bob Dylan to The Clash to Van Halen and stuff like that. I heard [Van Halen’s] Eruption when I was five. I remember wanting to do that really early.
[My neighbor] gave me a guitar and once my parents knew I was kind of into it, I started taking lessons right away. I think I started lessons around eight or nine and then I started teaching around 14 or something like that.
KW: At 14?
DN: Yeah, I was a weird kid, dude. I remember playing stuff at a young age that, to me, was maybe above the pay grade, but I didn’t really look at it that way. I’ve always just thought that people were better than me, to be honest, I just never really looked at it any different. It’s not a competitive thing to me, so I always think it’s cool when someone knows more than you. I just try to practice all the time. And I played like 12 hours a day my whole life.
I was total OCD, dude. I used to f**kin’ wash my hands too many times before bed and s**t. Then I started playing guitar and everything was cool [laughs]. My brother used to make fun of me. It took me like 45 minutes to go to bed. My brother was like, “Dude, you’re a moron. What’s your problem?” When I started playing guitar, all that went away and I think my parents were stoked.
KW: That’s hilarious!
DN: [laughs] I don’t think I was profoundly gifted. I think I had OCD and I have OCD and I like to do it, so it works out for me.
KW: You mentioned The Clash, what other bands got you into punk music?
DN: I got into punk by default really. When I joined Infectious [Grooves], I was in a blues band at the time. My buddy and I were also playing in a rock band, but I was mostly doing blues stuff. Punk stuff, I guess early Clash stuff would be more the legit stuff. I remember my neighbor playing me G.B.H. and I was a kid with a G.B.H. t-shirt, but I didn’t know what it was. Honestly, and I tell Fat Mike this all the time, Heavy Petting Zoo is the first NoFX album I ever heard.
DN: And I liked it and thought it was great and Mike Muir hated that I liked it. We would be on tour and he would be like, “What are you listening to?” I’d be like, “This is great,” and he said, “Are you kidding?” [laughs] He couldn’t stand it. Still to this day, I don’t think Mike would mind that I said he doesn’t like NoFX because he probably still doesn’t. That’s another funny story, by the way, of me giving Fat Mike Mike Muir’s phone number. It was amazing. Mike Muir was so pissed that I did that [laughs].
KW: How did your time with No Use For A Name begin?
DN: I was on tour with Infectious [Grooves] and Suicidal [Tendencies]. Joe Sib, who’s a great dude and in 22 Jacks, does all sorts of other amazing things with Side One Dummy. I played bass on a 22 Jacks record because C.J. Ramone couldn’t do it and Joe was just helping me out because he knew I needed the work at the time. He wanted me to play in 22 Jacks, but I wasn’t going to do that.
One day he called me when Chris [Shiflett] went to join the Foo Fighters. I had heard the Foo Fighters needed a guitar player and I knew Gus, their tour manager, a little bit. By the time I got a hold of Gus, Chris had already auditioned. Joe called me the next day and said, “Look, I got a gig for you if you wanna do it.” Ironically, a week before [this], a buddy of mine goes, “Have you ever heard of this band No Use For A Name?” And he played me the music.
So, I called my friend who had been on tour with them and I learned 30 songs, 40 songs in one day. I just hassled the s**t out of Tony [Sly] and Rory [Koff]. And that’s kind of how I got into the band. It was more that I called Tony and was like, “Hey, dude, I’m gonna be your guitar player.” Really, that’s what I said. He was like, “Who the hell are you?” He was kind of bummed because him and Chris were tight and Chris left at an inopportune time, but it was important for Chris and everybody supported Chris, so it was no big deal. I just tried to learn as many songs as possible so they couldn’t say no. I needed a gig really bad I wanted it.
I learned a lot from that whole experience, literally calling Tony every hour going, “Dude, I learned ten more songs.” He was like, “I don’t even know who the f**k you are.” Rory finally called me and he was like, “We’re gonna try out another guy.” I’m like, “Well, that’s cool, but I’m gonna drive up there, dude. It doesn’t matter.” They called me that night and said, “The other guy didn’t work out. We got a plane ticket for you in the morning.” I went up and I walked in and said, “We’re gonna know if this works in five minutes. Let’s f**kin’ do this.” We played Justified [Black Eye] first and then we ran down like 15 songs and they were like, “Uhhhh, okay.” I needed it so bad in my life that I had to make it happen.
KW: You pretty much forced your way into the band.
DN: Well, no, I just didn’t take no for an answer because I read this thing about Einstein’s assistant. He went up to Einstein and said, “I’m gonna be your assistant.” Einstein kept saying, “No,” and the dude was just so persistent he ended up becoming Einstein’s assistant. So, I was like f**k it, maybe it’ll work for me and it did. It was cool. And I think Tony, at the time, just needed somebody who was just gonna do their best and not f**k up and get in the way. They had just put our More Betterness and I think it was more like I had to earn my stripes. I was okay with it. I didn’t step on anybody’s toes. I played it exactly how Chris had played it out of respect for the whole situation and just kind of rode that horse for a while. Eventually, you know, there was definitely a conversation about me, making sure I don’t do any of my heavy metal crap in the songs [laughs], but that’s just the way that went.
KW: Once you earned your stripes did you ever write anything?
DN: Tony wrote everything. Him and Matt [Riddle] worked out a lot of stuff. Tony did write everything. When we got the material, it was pretty much done, it was almost a finished record with programmed drums and stuff like that. With that being said, we would go through each person’s part and he would always make sure we contributed to each part. At that point, it would maybe change a little bit and we would add our thing to it.
Even though he wrote everything, he knew he had to make us comfortable with the fact that he did. He really was good at making sure we got our two cents in. For solos, he would be like, “Hey dude, this melody’s in my head. So, will you get that in the solo somewhere?” He would sing a melody and then he would say, “Play the melody here, turn loose here, maybe come back to it here and then do whatever you want.” There was flexibility with it.
KW: Do you have favorite songs you liked to play live?
DN: Umm, yeah, probably, I guess. I gotta go back and think about it. Obviously, the songs that are fast and got people way stoked. International You Day, people always really reacted well to. Justified [Black Eye] people always reacted well to. You know, there’s the classic kind of songs, but I always really thought playing tunes like Angela when we were on that tour cycle for Hard Rock Bottom were cool. The times that we did different stuff like Check for a Pulse off Keep Them Confused, which is like, you know, a song we never played. We did Dream Police by Cheap Trick once. I think of the times when we actually had balls enough to play things we didn’t practice because we always worked on practicing so much.
KW: Why did your time end with NUFAN?
DN: I wanted to do something different and do something in more kind of a metal vein and I think, honestly, I just wanted to try my hand at writing stuff. Tony understood it. It wasn’t like super awesome when I first left, but I didn’t ever quit No Use For A Name. That’s the thing.
How the conversation went was [laughs], I go, “Dude you’re gonna have to kick me out of the band because I will never quit.” He’s like, “Well, dude, if they’re going to Japan and we’re going to Europe, where are you going?” I said, “I’m going to Japan.” And he goes, “Okay, well, your priorities have changed.” I said, “Unfortunately, they have.” He said, “I can’t do that.” I said, “I know you can’t do that.” And he said, “Alright, dude. Good luck.” I mean, what do you expect? It wasn’t like a d**kish thing. He said, “Well, we still have more touring to do. Will you finish out?” I said, “Of course.” So, I went on tour and finished out the rest of everything and it was cool. They were totally understanding.
I was learning Bleeding Through songs f**kin’ backstage because I had a day off when I came home and then I went on tour with Bleeding Through for two years. So, I was learning Bleeding Through songs backstage with No Use For A Name and they just knew I needed something different. I think it was good for the band for them to have a new injection when Chris [Rest] came in. Tony texted me right after the Bleeding Through record came out. He said, “Hey, dude, I know you always really wanted to write a record. That record came out really nice. You did a great job.” So, there was never any bad blood. If anything, I think we became closer after I left because I wasn’t all emotionally involved. I still talk to Rory all the time.
KW: Speaking of Bleeding Through, are they officially done for good now?
DN: No because it’s a horse that will never die. [Brandan Schieppati] says it’s gonna die, but then he gets all bummed out when other people do stuff and then we try to book a tour and then we have to wait because no one can do it. This farewell thing has gone on for two years. So, you know, I don’t know, dude. I enjoy being in Bleeding Through. I like being in Throwdown a lot better, to be honest. It’s not because I dislike anybody in Bleeding Through. It’s just that I like working and Bleeding Through doesn’t work [laughs] and that’s just kind of the truth.
Bleeding Through, for me, is amazing. Those guys gave me a great opportunity to be able to expose myself to a different audience from a guitar lessons front. Most of the students I have come from that side of playing. I’ve always been so grateful to be in that band and I love it so much. I think I love it so much and that’s why I’m pissed we don’t do anything. And I’ve always been vocal that I am pissed we don’t do anything because I think we’re a good band that should be working. When not everyone wants to do it, you can’t. What are you gonna do?
I’m fortunate to be in the situation I’m in. I hope that this stuff doesn’t die out. [Brandan Schieppati] is focusing on all his gym stuff, you know? That’s kind of his thing. With Bleeding Through, we all decided we need to have individual businesses and go that route. So, he got into the gym stuff and that’s been really great for him. He doesn’t want to do anything. I have no idea why, but he just doesn’t want to do anything.
KW: Is there a 2014 Throwdown tour in the works?
DN: Yeah, I think so. Our record just came out and it did really well and we’re gonna have some shows. That will be cool. I’ve heard some scattered stuff about what we’re gonna do, but not a whole heck of a lot at this time.
KW: What else are you working on right now?
DN: I’ve just been working on a solo record and I do a lot of clinics. Most of the touring I do now are just clinics with Charvel [Guitars]. I have two DVDs coming out this year that are like five to six discs of different material. I had two big DVDs come out last year. I’m doing all of that stuff and doing the teaching content and really focusing on all the Skype lessons I’ve been doing. That’s really where I’ve been putting my attention because I like teaching so much. It enables me to be a little more choosey when things come up. I think being able to teach is a blessing, really. And it makes me better. That’s kind of the main thing I’ve been focusing on.
KW: What can people expect to hear on the solo record?
DN: It’s a little bit of a mix of everything. I mean, it’s got a lot of the rock stuff, it has some of the faster shredding stuff, but heavily based in blues. It’s pretty all over the place. I probably might sing on some of it. You should have heard Fat Mike when I told him he should put out my solo record. That was amazing. He just started laughing. He was like, “What?” [laughs] I was like, “You should put out my solo record.” He’s all, “That’s very interesting, Dave. What does it sound like?” I said, “It doesn’t matter, man. Trust me. It’s gonna be amazing.” [laughs]. He was like, “Hmm.” It was great. I did it just to put him on the spot.
KW: I want to talk a little about amps. I have a Peavey 5150. What is it that you like so much about the EVH 5150? What makes the Fender version better than the Peavey 5150 or 6505?
DN: Well, the EVH 5150, the one they have now, in my honest opinion, dude, is the best amp that’s ever been made. Eddie Van Halen really has an understanding of tone that’s just outside of the context of Van Halen. It’s basically like taking an old JMP Marshall and putting it on steroids, but it has total versatility to where it’s not oversaturated from a pre gain stage. You get a lot of natural clean distorted sounds. At a low volume with my 100-watt, I get the same tone that I do when I turn it up. It’s crazy because it captures that distorted broken up sound you would hear essentially from something being overdone and just about ready to cook.
From what I understand, when they tested it, Eddie Van Halen let it feed back for like month straight at full ten. If it could do that two or three times, then he knew it was close. He was really gnarly about it. For me, the versatility of the clean, like when I use a little 50-watt in a 2×12 cab, I can do all my country stuff and it has a really nice throwing kind of tone to it. They’re just really versatile amps. The [Peavey] 6505 from 2000, I used to have one and that’s a great f**kin’ amp. It’s just really saturated to me and I didn’t have as much control over the other things.
I like amps that I can play a lot of styles with so I don’t have to own more than one amp or really even have to bring a pedal. With my EVH, I just use a noise suppressor when Bleeding Through is playing and I don’t ever use anything else. I’ll put a delay in the effects loop for solos, but I don’t ever use anything else. I think I’m just older school that way. I don’t like to have a lot of stuff in between.
KW: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you or anything you are working on?
DN: When it comes to the stuff I’m doing now, I’m just really happy to be teaching. I wouldn’t have anything that I have if it wasn’t for Bleeding Through. For real, that band gave me so much. When I say that, I am talking about some of the other avenues, like endorsements. Everything has built off itself. No Use For A Name gave me my life, Bleeding Through gave me a bit of a second half, you know? That was really nice at the time I chose to do this for myself that Tony recognized that was what I needed to do and he was totally supportive of it the whole time. He knew my head was going towards being more of a technical type of a player and wanting to teach and do all that stuff and Bleeding Through was my quickest avenue to connect to that genre of people that could help me do that.
No Use For A Name wasn’t known for a technical style music. It was his great songs. So, for me to go that avenue, it’s a weird thing because I knew I was leaving something that could be so dangerous to bail. I wouldn’t have my son if it weren’t for No Use For A Name. I met my ex-wife on tour with the band. [When I say] it gave me my life, it gave me my life, top to bottom. Now I just focus on trying to reinvent myself, you know? That’s pretty much it. That’s why I like doing the Skype thing a lot and all those things.
Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities and also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music, and food. Kevin plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball