Dave Hill knows the importance of a good guitar solo. That's why his show, The Dave Hill Explosion, features a kick ass extended guitar solo. But that's not all his show has. The previous installment featured Sandra Bernhard, mini Michael Jackson, and a Chihuahua. But, no matter what's on the show, the focus is always on Hill, a master showman.
How does it feel to be the number one Google result for Dave Hill?
It's pretty exciting. It took me a while to get to the top. Dave Hill the master magician and illusionist was beating me for a long time and so was the guitar player for Slade. I wouldn't mind if he were ahead of me, but I'm happy about it. It's easier for me and my family.
But even number one can have a really annoying upstairs neighbor. What's yours been up to lately?
Generally, he watches war movies at theater volume and it vibrates my whole apartment. He listens to shitty Jazz-fusion and things he must find in the dollar bin, even though you can find good things in the dollar bin. It just seems like he goes for the crap. And he bought bongos; so every few days I hear nothing but bongos. I take a lot of naps and that gets in the way of that, so I've started sleeping with earplugs.
Being the number one Dave Hill must come in handy when booking your shows. How is it that you get such guests as Ronnie James Dio or Sandra Bernhard?
Usually it's a six degrees of separation thing where I'll know someone who knows someone. A friend of mine is friends with Sandra Bernhard. In some cases, like Ronnie James Dio, I just tracked him down because I thought it would be awesome. I'd given up on calling him and then three days before the show his wife and manager said he'd be there. Now I'm running out of people that I know in some way and have taken to just calling people. It's getting easier because I've had a lot of good and interesting guests, so they don't think I'm crazy when I contact them. It's a pain every time. I usually don't know who the guests will be until a couple days before.
Who are some guests that you'd like to have on The Explosion?
I'd like to have Isabella Rossellini. I've been trying, but I have no connections to her whatsoever. I've tried phone calls and e-mails to her various handlers but have gotten no response. I'd like to have Dick Cavett. He said that he'd do it, but I haven't been able to make it work with his schedule. I'd like to have a big movie star like George Clooney.
You're originally from Cleveland. How does Cleveland compare to New York, Philly, or Boston as a city?
Cleveland's great. The big problem is that it's gray all time. There's not as much glamour there, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. There's no bright lights, glitz, or show business there, unless Billy Joel comes to town or something. I think if I were a doctor or a lawyer, I would totally live there. It's probably neck and neck with Philly in terms of excitement, just from my experience with being in Philadelphia.
How do the people of Cleveland, and yourself, feel about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
We're all pretty excited about it. I've been there twice. They had a really nice ZZ Top exhibit when I was there. The weird thing is all the mannequins they have. It's not like a wax museum where the figures are made to look like the people. They just have a bunch of generic rock mannequins so Axl Rose, James Brown, Iggy Pop, and Gene Simmons are all the same mannequin but dressed up in their clothes and painted to look like them. It seems a little low rent, if you ask me. You might as well go for it and get some awesome wax figures. Between that and Lebron James it's pretty much non-stop excitement. Lebron James is probably a bigger attraction at this point.
Did you have the opportunity to see an early incarnation of Nine Inch Nails while you lived in Cleveland?
I was still in school when that happened, but I knew guys who had been in the band at various times and I once saw Trent Reznor play in a band that opened up for Starship. By the time I was back there he was already an international sensation, but we still talk about him to this day.
What sort of role did comedy play in your life growing up?
None in a formal way. I was a fan of it just like anyone else would be and I thought it might be fun to be involved in, but I never actively pursued it. I was more into music and playing in bands, which I still do now. That was more of what I was into and then I started writing. I was always terrified to perform. Even in bands I'd just play guitar or bass. Eventually I started singing and I realized that it was fun to talk in between songs. Between that and writing I realized that I could be a performer/writer and not always have to carry big amps around.
When did you start writing?
I've been writing for a long time. I've been a freelance writer for seven years, with varying levels of starvation. My sister is a writer and she wrote for the paper in Cleveland. She told me I should write for the paper and I did a piece here and there and then it grew. Eventually, I came to New York for a long weekend in 2003, got an offer to write for a TV Show, and that's why I ended up staying here. I was here with just a duffle bag to stay for five days and now it's been three and a half years.
When I started writing, I did more journalistic pieces. Human interest and stuff like that. I realized that all I wanted to do was crack jokes. I didn't care about reporting, so I would write these pieces hoping that I could slip in a few good lines. I didn't have the balls to just be a comedy writer, even though I would have loved that. Growing up watching Letterman, my friends and I thought it would be so much fun to work on a show like that. This was back when he was on NBC. We felt like he was basically making the show for us. I had no concept of how anyone would go about that, so comedy writing wasn't something I worked toward. Then I started writing more magazine and newspaper pieces. I'd do a lot of first person stuff and that, especially, would allow me to crack more jokes. It's just fun acting like a retard, whether you're writing or performing. When it's as its best and most fun it's just like goofing around with your friends.
One thing led to another and I got a job writing on this show on Spike TV that got canceled pretty quickly, but it's how I ended up living here and made a lot of friends on the show. The show was always auditioning tons of people so, finally, from acting like an idiot around the office, they asked me to audition. I did, it went well, and they wanted me to be on the show, but the network said I was, "Too strange and volatile." My friend Katherine Dore, who's a producer, encouraged me to try performing. If it weren't for her, I may have never done any performing.
What are some of the pieces that you've done for Salon?
I wrote a handful of pieces for them, but I haven't written anything for a while. It's been mostly video contributions for them lately. I used to write pieces for the sex section, which they don't have anymore. I wrote what may have been the first mainstream story about plushophiles and furries - people who have sex with stuffed animals. Later that year there was a big piece in Vanity Fair.
How'd that article come about?
My friend Ed told me about it and I didn't believe him. I had never heard of it and I looked it up. I wrote a blind letter to the general inbox of Salon saying I wanted to write this piece and the sex editor happened to be the one to write back to me. It just worked out because I was really excited about plushophiles at the time. It seems like every sexual fetish is played out. S&M is so 1994, but I'm sure someone will come up with something awesome and maybe I'll write about it. There's something instantly funny about furries. I don't get the fucking stuffed animals thing. I guess once you get started anything seems like a good idea. The thing with the costumes and mascot uniforms is that you figure that that's really fun on its own and having sex is really fun, so you put them together and it equals fun. It just seems like a lot of work.
When did you begin reading excerpts from your forthcoming memoirs onstage?
That was the first thing that I did. I started that December 23rd 2004 at the Variety Underground at the Parkside Lounge.
Since you read these pieces out loud, have you noticed that the way that you write them has changed?
The way the memoirs started is that I wanted to make myself write every day, which is why it's usually about what I watched on TV or something. Now I put it on my Blog. I wasn't writing it consciously that anyone would read it, even though I was aware of people reading it. I don't try to make it so people like it; I just try to make it good. When I started doing the Huffington Post, the reaction was so strong from their readers. There were people who were really into it, but there was a lot of, "Fuck this guy," too. A lot of those pieces are still just the memoirs, just tweaked a little bit with lines that I know would make them hate me more.
What are some stylistic obstacles that you're conscious of over coming?
When I first starting out, I would think of how other writers would do it. I wasn't just writing. I was thinking about it too much, which is another reason why I started the memoirs. I wanted to be able to just sit down and write and not sit and think about it. For example, whatever I put on my Blog I don't edit at all. I write it and what ever it is it is.
Tell me about The Dave Hill Explosion's move to Comix.
The show will stay at UCB, but I'll do it every once in a while at Comix. The only thing is that I want to be lowered in on wires from the ceiling. So instead of coming in from backstage, I'll be suspended like Mary Poppins and I'll fly over the audience and the stage. I'll continue it at UCB. Part of the fun of my show is that there's unlikely guests sitting with me in this basement. Maybe the Comix version will be the Vegas version of The Dave Hill Explosion. I have a snow machine, but maybe a foam machine that fills the lower seating area with foam, like the foam parties they have in Miami. I still have to talk to them about that, but those are my big plans.
Are there any projects you can discuss?
There's a short of my site of me and David Rakoff that's based on a fictitious book tour that we did. We're writing a feature length version of that, which has been a lot of fun. Other than that, I'm just doing shows and making more videos when I can.
And what do you like to do after a performance?
I have some drinks with my friends. If I'm doing Oh Hello at Rififi, which is my favorite comedy show, I'm not as stressed out about it. With my show, it's so stressful to put together. The last show had Sandra Bernhard, mini Michael Jackson, and a Chihuahua. After a show like that, I just want to get drunk because I'm so glad it's over. You know that feeling when you finally get through something and want to just be really hard on your body by eating too much, drinking too much, or just some sort of excess. I'm so worn out after that show, that I just have two beers and it's enough to knock me out.
Visit Dave online at Davehillonline.com where you can read his forthcoming memoir, have some good times, and keep up to date on every thing Dave Hill Related. Also, visit Valleylodgemusic.com to sample Dave's band and The Black Metal Dialogues to read Dave's encounter with a longtime member of the Norwegian Black Metal community.