Dino was one of the first home tape traders that I really connected with. When I heard his “Trouble At The Admiration Society” tape in 1985, I knew that I was dealing with someone who was special. His music had heart, humor, complexity and was personally revealing. Dino and I became fast friends fairly early on and even collaborated on a CD together in 2007 called, “Playdate”. We have seen each other go through good times and bad and somehow music was always there pushing us forward, or maybe we are just pushed to do music.
The cover for Dino’s 1988 tape, “ I Have A Purpose” which was the first tape he released on my Lonely Whistle label.
A picture of me and Dino about 1990 from Autoreverse magazine. Note that Dino is recording as he always did with his stereo walkman.
Several of the early Dino tapes were split tapes with one release per side. He would then put both covers inside the plastic shell. His tape “Composite” above.
“Snoutburger” was released in about 1986 or so and featured some classic songs like “Viewmaster” and the extended Snoutburger Suite.
Dino has a fascination and a love for railroads so , of course, they feature prominently at times on his tapes. Above, the cover for the 1986, “Vegas Train” tape which also had a copy of his ticket tucked inside.
Above, a cover to one of his many “Wave At The Train” audio documentaries. Dino would incessantly record everything when he would travel and then tirelessly edit the hundreds of hours into segues and pieces on his releases. Once , when visiting me and my first wife in San Jose, he continued to record with his machine even after we left the room and only Linda was there. She was not happy but it made for a good story later.
“Gower St” was not only the name of one of his tapes but also the name of the actual street where he lived with his parents in Los Angeles.
Above, you can see the cat on the front lawn of their house as displayed on his tape , “DiMuro House”.
Dino’s first CD, The Simple Chance Of Life, came out in 1995. He has released many others subsequently.
You’ve been making and recording music for a long, long time. What keeps it interesting to you?
Good question, and there are a lot of answers.
First off, I have so many songs that I’ve written but never recorded, and sometimes I literally PINE to hear them tricked out with vocals and overdubs and all the rest. The same with cover tunes. Second, I learn new things with each CD or each song, so I am always anxious to put that knowledge to work, to see if I really HAVE improved.
But I guess the final answer would be that it has never NOT been interesting for me to record and edit and produce music. I have taken breaks from recording for various reasons, but anything longer than a month becomes very painful.
When did you first become fascinated with Zappa and Beefheart? What spoke to you about their music?
Both Zappa and Beefheart are obviously huge influences, but they didn’t turn me into what I am, so much as I discovered them as Wise Elders in a place I was already headed.
My cousin Doug gets the credit for pointing me in their direction. I was about 10 and making my early 3” reel to reel tapes, specifically an epic called THE FOUR PART EXPLOSION. It was a bunch of random sounds captured by a cheap microphone with a lot of primitive punch-ins and erasures, almost none of which could be classified as music; for example, PART FOUR was going to be one long explosion sound, made by blowing into the mic. Doug heard this stuff and declared: “If you like noise, you’ll LOVE The Mothers of Invention!” And of course, he was right! The Mothers led to Captain Beefheart and many other artists. I also have to credit Doug with getting me into Hendrix, Zeppelin, Sabbath, pot, and cheating the IRS, though I could have done without that last one!
I think what initially drew me to Frank Zappa was his use of non-musical elements like phone calls, sound effects, and conversational fragments, as well as his amazing ability to edit all this material into entertaining records. That aspect probably spoke to me more than his music or guitar playing, which I grew to appreciate later; I just loved the audacity of the records he was putting out.
Though my music sounds more like Frank, Beefheart was a much deeper connection. Something about those clanging, irregular guitar figures and those tumbling drum fills resonated deep within my soul. The instrumental PEON from LICK MY DECALS literally makes me cry, and I’m never sure whether DECALS or TROUT MASK REPLICA is my favorite album of all time. I am always trying to wear my Beefheart influence on my sleeve, whereas the Frank stuff just seems to come out naturally.
Remind me again of the story where the guy in Megadeath replaced you as guitarist in a band.
That would be Chris Poland. For a while I wrongly remembered him as Dave Mustaine, which was a better story!
He actually didn’t replace me. The first live band I was in was called PAESANO and I was kicked out after a year or so. They certainly deserved a better lead player and somebody more in tune with the blues, which I have only just begun to fully appreciate in my 50’s, thanks to Sharon! But the final straw for them was my missing rehearsals so I could make out with my girlfriend, who was not-so-secretly jealous of the group. That’s a theme that would come back to haunt me! They had two other guitarists before they got Chris Poland, and he was a total fucking monster even 35 years ago.
Chris went on to join Megadeth, but now he and the original bassist Robertino Pagliari have a band called OHM, and I’ve seen them live a couple times. They play stuff I can’t begin to understand at speeds I didn’t think were possible. And there are no hard feelings with me and the original group, though of course I still remember everything as if it were yesterday!
Much of your material is autobiographical. Aren’t you afraid of exposing yourself too much?
I think I’m safe simply because 9 out of 10 people don’t listen that closely, and even if they did, my life is not as interesting to them as their own lives.
If I ever did anything truly embarrassing or shameful I would not put it in the songs. For example, I wrote PHONE SEX WITH HOME TAPERS but I never did that, specifically. I heard it was being done, and thought it was a funny way to show how insular the home taping network had become. But if I’d had that kind of relationship with another taper, I‘d probably be more discrete.
Now, what I HAVE done that isn’t cool is use other peoples’ voices without their knowledge. I feel a little guilty about Barbara in I GUESS I KINDA GOT SPOOKED and some of the other taped snippets, because these are real people with real feelings and I don’t really have the right or moral standing to make fun of them. But Suzanne never had a problem with her rant in I HAVE A PURPOSE because she felt justified in everything she threw at me, so that was a gimmee.
Even with my qualms, if the tape I’m considering is too good NOT to use, I will always use it now and explain later.
Do you think people can actually know you from your music?
You can get close; it depends on the effort you want to put in. A reviewer for DIMURO HOUSE once said that you get to know this quirky guy, and you really like him. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
But of course, that’s only one facet of me, the one that fits on the CDs. Since I’ve met a lot of home tapers, I’m always surprised (though I shouldn’t be) at how much more there is to them, than the sum of their songs. I see Dan Susnara every year, and he’s usually put out some huge double CD that I’d been playing, but when I sit down and talk to him, I discover I’ve only deduced a tiny portion of what he was getting at.
And you might remember, Don, that I thought you were black when I got NEW MONTEREY ROAD SOUNDS. So I guess there’s a limit as to how much of the real person you can pick up from the albums. What you get is authentic but it’s only a fraction.
One of my favorite things you did was “Laid Off Again” where you recorded the vocal while actually driving in your car. How the hell did you match up the music afterwards? This was before Pro Tools.
I was kind of amazed that came together as easily as it did. It seems I can hold pitch better without playing an instrument or doing vocal overdubs; in fact, I often leave off the main vocal playback when I am doing harmonies because I tend to go sharp or flat. So on this tape, the tuning did not vary; it was just a matter of getting the rhythm down. I guess since it’s me singing and making up the song, it wasn’t such a leap to intuit where I was going. I think most tapers could pull off this trick, and many have. I also did it for Carvel on OLD MAN RIVER – he was so close that I actually used a songbook for the chords, and they matched perfectly!
In the 80s and early 90s you would have to cut tape, bounce from one tape deck to another endlessly and yet you achieved really good sound. I would imagine that Pro Tools and modern methods have freed you in some respects. True? Or is there something missing without the physical aspect of tape?
I hate to say this, but I really don’t miss tape. I thought I might, but I don’t. And I’m someone who would have a fetish about the feel of a new box of Maxell quarter-inch tape, opening it up, smelling the oxide, taking it out of the plastic, etc. The physical act of tape editing was never fun for me; it was a pain in the ass, and I was never happy with the splices. In re-releasing some of my early tapes like COMPOSITE, I’ve taken great delight in digitally cleaning up a lot of these clumsy tape edits.
The exact same thing happened in film sound effects editing 20 years ago: they got rid of mag film and movieolas and brought in computers. The last film I did the old fashioned way was HAPPY GILMORE, or maybe MOUSEHUNT. And none of us miss the old way.
I still like cassettes for recording demos, but that’s it. If I had to make an album on my Teac right now, I might shoot myself.
You do some great impressions. The one of Dan Fioretti kills me. Have you ever thought about recording some “fake” songs by “other” people?
I started a project called NOT THE MAIL MUSIC NETWORK but only got about 4 songs finished, and they all wound up somewhere: CLOSET was Ken Clinger, WHISKEY AND BEER was Fish Karma, and SAME OLD SONG was you. Of course, I try to do you any time I cover a Campau tune!
If you mean “famous” artists, I did try to do The Four Seasons a couple times, and just proved I wasn’t Frankie Vallee. I did a shitty Lennon on VERMONT, and a fake Devo on SEX IN VEGAS. I sneak in a lot of quick imitations that people might not catch, such as in HOWARD’S DELI where I did one lyric like R. Stevie Moore. But as far as whole songs, I don’t think I’ll be doing that any time soon.
Have any of the women you have mentioned in your songs ever got really mad when they found themselves in one of your songs?
Amy Bender, about whom the entire second side of A REAL PRETTY ROSE was written, called me while I was recording MY BABY SLEPT IN SOLVANG BUT SHE DIDN’T SLEEP WITH ME. She could hear it in the background and said: “Are you making fun of me?” I thought, Baby, you have NO IDEA! But she got more angry when I published a personals ad about her.
Usually the women were flattered, and YOU CAN’T FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR GIRLFRIEND’S FRIEND actually did get me laid with the girl on whom it was based. If it’s an angry song, they are usually long gone and never hear about it. As I previously mentioned, there are a couple women I am always fearful will find out after all these years, but I would do my best to explain!
On “Gower Street” you composed an entire audio piece about the LA riots after Rodney King. This was on a tape that had rock, faux hip hop and an assortment of other sounds. Did you intend to do such a “Variety Show” from the start?
Yes, very much so. Though I no longer buy the central premise, I was a big fan of Oliver Stone’s JFK and its use of many different kinds of film stock, from super-clear 35mm to super 8, and I am always trying to do the same thing with my albums: meld all sorts of different styles and sound qualities and make it work together. I started out meaning to make a double album, but instead I released GOWER and VERMONT streets separately; if you put them together, it’s even more of a smorgasbord.
The riots piece you mention, HOOLIGAN’S HOLIDAY, is actually on VERMONT, but there are riot cell phone calls throughout GOWER. It was a scary time and I had to bring that reality into my music.
On some of your Cds you have enlisted guest musicians, even some lead guitarists. Why did you do that when you are so hot yourself?
I’m okay on lead, but I’m rarely happy with what I play, and I had friends like Chris Assells and Allan Rankin and BB Russell who liked my music and wanted to join in. It took a lot of the pressure off me and gave the albums more variety. Plus, we used to jam at least twice a year, and having them do guest spots was a natural outgrowth of that.
There was a time when playing on a CD was a very big deal! We were all incredibly pumped when SIMPLE CHANCE arrived from the factory, with all of us soloing away on that shiny disc.
That said, I feel like I’ve done the Guest Musician thing to death, and I won’t be having other guitarists for a long, long time. It’s back to Paul McCartney-Stevie Wonder-Todd Rundgren solo artist land for me.
When someone guests on your material do you give them explicit instructions or do you want to be surprised?
Actually, both. On STAR STRIP, Chris can point out exactly where I told him to play something specific. But in general, I ask for a feeling, and see what they come up with. They will play what they want, anyway.
On THE GRID I kept telling Chris the song was in E Major, even though you COULD do an E minor solo over it. I absolutely did not want a minor sound to this song. But he freaked out in the studio from being watched by the engineer, and retreated to his safe place, which was E minor. If you play that song, you can hear me doing everything I can to bury his solo in the mix when he goes into the minor scales.
The complete opposite of that would be when Chris did the solo on LADY OF THE HOUSE. I recorded that at work: Chris came in during a playback and picked up my guitar, wanked out a solo, put the guitar down, and walked out. He didn’t even know I had hit record. To this day he’s surprised to see his name on that CD!
On “Train Going Nowhere” you purposefully call it a “rock album”. On another album you talk of having “no keyboards”. Is this done to make it easier for people’s expectations or what?
That was the same album. It was designed to be a stylistic departure for me, just a stripped-down rock album with no frills. I knew me and Julie were having a baby and I’d have less time to record, but I’d also wanted to do a basic rock album. SIMPLE CHANCE started that way but got corrupted.
Regarding “No Keyboards,” I purposely tried to do any keyboard ideas on the bass instead. But honestly, it was sort of a joke, both because Queen used to say NO SYNTHESIZERS, and because the concluding jam had TWO keyboards! It’s amazing how most people don’t call me out on that!
Recently you went back to the sandwich shop mentioned on “The Daughters Of Howards Deli” and found it to have changed and not in a good way. Do your songs help you remember your life in some way?
Absolutely. It’s kind of sick, because I will often mention things to Sharon and refer to them in my “song language.” But I read an article by Stephen King, I believe, where he says that once he uses a real person from his life as a model for his character, he FORGETS the real person and thinks of them as his character from then on! If he runs into the real person, he’s totally freaked out when they don’t act exactly like his character! I think the same thing happens to me, with songs.
I tried to be a bit obscure in the HOWARD’S DELI song, but long after I’d recorded it, I went into the Holland Butcher Ship, and the ugly sister gave me the Look Of Death, as if she knew I’d written a song about her! I never figured that out.
Plus, when I moved to Winnetka in the San Fernando Valley, it turned out there really WAS a Howard’s Deli in Woodland Hills! Twilight Zone stuff!
On “Simple Chance Of Life” you have a song “Old Man Trying To Start A Rock Band”. Is there a point where you would say, “Nah, I’m too old to rock”?
I wrote that after a jam at Allan Rankin’s house, when I was carrying my Carvin amp to the car and hurt my back. That was pretty much the moment where I suspected I was too old to play in a live, touring band! I saw my friend Marc Bonilla play a show recently, and he’s not that much younger than me, but his stamina blew my mind. I’d have to really train to play like that, like when the old Kiss guys got trainers for six months before their reunion tour.
But at home, I will always rock, which is the meaning of FUZZY GRANDPA. This guitar is your lifeline – don’t you EVER give it up!
“Sleeping Highway” was made at a very difficult time for you with the loss of your wife, Julie. When you hear these songs is it just too painful? Or is it cathartic?
The more painful songs only came out on the Outtakes Universe CD – SLEEPING BEAUTY and TERRI SCIAVO. I wrote those songs while Julie was still on life support and I didn’t know what do to.
If ever a song came right from my gut with all the pain I was feeling, TERRI SCIAVO is it. When I hear that song, it’s like the BRAINSTORM movie where you can play a video tape and experience someone else’s emotions – it all comes flooding back. And I really like the song!
So that’s why I didn’t release the Juile concept album SLEEPING BEAUTY: it just would have been too painful for me, or anybody else. A lot of people even think SLEEPING HIGHWAY is too sad, which is funny because most of it was written before Julie’s accident; Julie even knew those songs! She heard MY OTHER MARRIAGE (an early version) and HIGHWAY and WHAT R U DOING IN MY LIFE and laughed about them.
But I purposely combined the two CDs in progress so the finished product would not be so sad. In fact, I played SLEEPING HIGHWAY this morning, and I wasn’t bummed. Nothing will ever be as bad as having lived through the real thing.
You also reference the beyond on “Slept Through My Death” which came after a serious illness you had. Surprisingly, to me at least, this song is a real barn burner and very uplifting. Then again you did make it. Do feel compelled to get this stuff out as a kind of therapy?
Funnily enough, I’d designed that song for Kenyatta Sullivan to sing, and he went into the studio but just couldn’t do it, so I was stuck trying to do “him.” But as a result, I did pull something out of my guts for that song, and many people really liked it. Even Kenyatta!
The answer is YES, but what I was trying to get out was my frustration at not having more to tell people about dying. The best I can say is: at the moment Julie woke me up and told me I’d nearly died, it felt totally natural to me, like it would have been okay if I had. I wish that feeling had hung on for a while longer!
What was the story behind “Gerard Wrote Tears Of A Clown”? This is not a cover but part of the melody is a note for note reference. Do you think being a home taper makes it easier to just do what you want without worrying about legal matters or copyright issues?
The answer to the latter is obviously YES. I just bought an album by Benjamin Horrendous that is a song-by-song cover of Beefheart’s SPOTLIGHT KID, and I seriously doubt he’s paying royalties to Warner Brothers! It was a blank CDR, just like we use, with a home-printed cover. We have the freedom of being unknown, so why not use it? That said, I’m still afraid Gail is gonna track me down for recording UNCLE MEAT!
The GERARD story is just how I told it in the song: Gerard is my friend John Gibson’s brother, and way back when, he told me he and some pals wrote TEARS OF A CLOWN on the piano and sent the tape to a record company. The only difference in real life is: he admitted IMMEDIATELY that he made it up, because he wanted to be an actor and was testing his thespian skills on me… but I loved the story so much that I kept telling it to people. It’s the kind of story you could only get away with in the pre-internet era. I will say that Gerard loves that song and made it his answering machine message for a while.
In a lot of it, “The Ultimate Love Song Collection” ( and also “Train Going Nowhere”) almost sounds like a real band recording their new album. Do you look for a consistency of sound on certain projects or let the chips fall where they may?
I see my best albums as having a consistent FEEL, even if the styles are all over the place. GOWER, A REAL PRETTY ROSE, MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY would all rate highly for consistency, to me. SIMPLE CHANCE and I HAVE A PURPOSE, not so much. ULTIMATE LOVE SONGS got close, though I think I dropped the ball here and there. My upcoming double CD, DINO’S 50, takes that consistent band thing to the limit: virtually every song has the exact same instrumentation and mic placement. I really am trying to fake a Magic Band in the studio.
Would you call yourself a perfectionist?
Sometimes, but I often purposely subvert that tendency, just for balance. On one song I’ll labor over the pitch of every syllable, while on another, I might leave in a cough or a mistaken lyric. On WAITING TO LOVE YOU, the penultimate song on ULTIMATE LOVE SONGS, I left in most of the scratch bass track, and you can hear me trying to find the right notes and fucking up all over the place! It was wrong but I loved how it sounded.
Your next project, “50” is a projected double album. What do you want to say on it? Is it a “coming of your silver years” release?
It is less about any overall theme, and more about doing as many decent songs as I could, to reach the number 50. It came about while working on PLAYDATE with you: sometimes I’d play the CD of the 40 demos I’d sent you, and I kind of liked how they all worked together, even half-formed or half-baked. And I thought: I should just get 50 songs together and do them as close to the demos as possible – don’t trick them out, don’t flesh them out, just retain that magic, here’s-the-idea feeling, and see how it turns out. Of course I’m closing in on 53 so the album is a little delayed!
But I’d say my UNFINISHED CD, which was originally called SONGS FROM THE MIDDLE AGES (meaning MY middle age) dealt more with that silver years theme than anything on 50.
Do you think there is a lasting legacy of cassette culture?
As long as someone remains to write the history!
Thanks Dino, good luck with all.
Thank YOU Don, for all you do!
Listen to his tape, DiMuro House