Local instrumental-rock freaks have enjoyed recent Commodore shows by two of the genre's best-known touring guitarists, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai; they should also know that a player of equal talent and similar style has been living (not so) quietly among them for more than a decade. Dave Martone is the type of mind-boggling picker whose technical proficiency makes die-hard air guitarists give up in disgust, and, when he's not on the road conducting master classes or endorsing guitars, footpedals, and amps, he lives in Vancouver with his fiancée, singer-songwriter Nenah Barkley. Fans of intense, fast-as-hell fretwork can get a rare look at the 34-year-old when he plays a free DVD-release party at the Media Club on Monday (May 30), starting at 6 p.m.
Originally from the tiny town of Beamsville, Ontario, Martone earned a degree in audio engineering at London, Ontario's Fanshawe College and spent time in a Detroit thrash-metal band before enrolling (on scholarship) at the ultra-challenging Berklee College of Music in Boston. "It was so excruciatingly, painfully academic that I only went for two years and I had to take a year off," recalls Martone on the phone from his East Side abode. "It was taxing work?, and I just got overloaded, so I got in my van and drove as far away from Boston as I possibly could, and ended up in Vancouver."
Martone would eventually head back to Beantown and complete his BA (with a minor in music education) at Berklee, but his fondness for Vancouver convinced him to take up permanent residence in Lotusland. He currently teaches guitar here, both at home and at Tom Lee Music, and travels across the States conducting clinics for the National Guitar Workshop, as well as for manufacturers such as Digitech processing, Tonebone pedals, Vox amplification, and Parker guitars. He swears by the latter instru?ments, although they took a while to win him over.
"I was always a Stratocaster guy before that," he relates, "and when I first tried the Parker I just hated it. They're very, very light-they're like three pounds-and I actually thought I would break it, 'cause I move around quite a bit. But I played it for about one month, didn't touch any other guitars, and when I went back and played my Strat it felt like a railway tie with telephone wires on it!"
Martone's beloved Parker is used to fine effect on his last two CDs-1999's Zone and 2002's A Demon's Dream-and he took it with him on the road as a "sub-guitarist" for American rockers 3 Doors Down. Turns out one of the members was going through a family crisis at the time, but the band didn't want to cancel the tour. "I was like insurance," notes Martone. "I didn't actually have to play, which was bad and good at the same time, because of the situation. But I would do some sound checks with the guys, and it was like, 'Just be prepared, be ready to go,' and that's it."
His time with the major-label act yielded some connections with heavy hitters in the music biz, and he also scored a nifty gift from 3 Doors Down drummer Daniel Adair, who has since been stolen away by Nickelback. "At the end of the tour Daniel gave me his iPod, because the Nickelback guys bought him the bigger new 40-gig, but the cool thing is that we have the same musical taste. It was like 1,400 songs of all this crazy, bizarre music that I love but could never find; there it was, boom, handed right to me."
As well as the new Martone DVD-which features a concert shot last November at Surrey's Central City Brew Pub-Martone has another 11-track CD almost finished, which he says veers away somewhat from the Yngwie Malmsteen madness of his earlier work. "How fast can people play anymore?" he ponders. "I think it's humanly impossible to go any faster. So I'm getting a little bit more into textures, and I want to integrate lots of different styles inside of the music, you know, like techno to country, flamenco to metal, and mix it all together."
Although his music has been winning him praise among guitar aficionados, Martone doesn't expect to become the next Grammy-winning guitar god. He's happy to be filling the various roles that allow him to add new equipment to his expanding home studio. "There's all these little things that somehow keep my boat afloat," he says, "and I don't mind it because you meet all kinds of different people doin' different jobs-whether it's from hosting a clinic or performing or doing master classes, whatever.
"But ultimately playing and touring is the big love," he adds. "And I know that the music isn't going to be humongous commercially, I know it's a small market. But it's something that I'm gonna do for the rest of my time, anyway. I just love that freedom of being able to create and not be stifled."