- Dino DiNicolo hosting Jam Night at the Rusty Gull, Thursday, Aug. 25.
DINO DiNicolo is a one-man show, and he likes it that way.
The North Vancouver bassist has been a mainstay of several bands over the last two decades, in particular Breathe Underwater and Supertonic (or, even further back, Mr. And Mrs. Smith), but recently has been finding solace in solitude, and getting to know himself in the process.
"It took me realizing I have to give everything I had, and realizing why I'm doing this," he says, having just returned from a fiveweek tour in support of his third solo CD, I've Seen the Devil.
It helps that DiNicolo has a few other talents hidden up his sleeve aside from his bass playing. He combines the Tuvan throat singing tradition from Mongolia with mouth percussion, stomp box and his bass to form catchy, jazz-infused songs, and it's easy to see that he doesn't hold anything back.
"People didn't let the other bands I had into their heart as readily, and then I started doing these jam nights by myself when I hung out with friends having a drink, and I'd do this, and people would say 'Hey, have you got that recorded?" he says. His solo work feels more authentic, he adds.
"It seems people let it into their hearts more if I do this."
Which also brings DiNicolo around to why he does what he does.
"Two reasons," he begins. "One, some people go to therapists, I play music."
But the other reason is, as a lifelong music fan himself, DiNicolo wants to be able to give people that sensation where they can't
help but feel good when they hear a song, and find themselves humming the tune for the rest of the day.
"I get a kick out of it. Every one of these tunes does it to me. It never used to do it with the band, but this it does do it to me," he said.
DiNicolo's writing in I've Seen the Devil explores his own spiritual side, but not in the traditional language of religion. Instead, he talks simply of people's choices to be either a positive force or negative force in the world, in particular through talking about the dark side of life, personified in the devil.
"Talking about the devil is a lot easier than talking about the other side, which nobody wants to use the words to describe: God, Allah, Buddha, whatever word you want to use," he said, eschewing any sort of label and adding he's not trying to be preachy. "Having seen the devil, I've seen that we all get to choose those choices."
But what really sets DiNicolo apart is the gravelly throat singing he uses in his songs, borrowed from a long tradition practiced by ethnic Tuvans in parts of Mongolia and Russia. Oddly enough, he learned the style trying to imitate Froggy from The Little Rascals as a child. Only later in life, after watching films that featured Tuvan singing, did he realize it had another purpose.
In it, he sings a low, gravelly voice deep in his throat that sounds almost other-worldly.
"As soon as I do something that has that, as soon as I go into that, everyone who's talking will suddenly go '...what?' They want to know, what the hell was that?" he said. "We all do it. Say you ever exaggeratively got someone's attention, and you went 'ahem!' You're actually doing it. We all can, it's in there."
But being unusual has its advantages, as one fan in Toronto dryly expressed it.
"I got off stage and he looks at me straight in the face and says 'Dude, of all the bass-playing, solo-singing, mouthdrumming Tuvan guys I've ever seen, you're the best,'" says DiNicolo. "I understood the sarcasm he was getting at."