A Conversation with Cadillac Band Frontman/Overkill Bassist D.D. Verni

Overkill have been the leaders in East Coast thrash for over 40 years. Founding member D.D. Verni is now branching out with an entirely new project called D.D. Verni & the Cadillac Band. It’s D.D. Verni as you’ve never heard him before and recently he took some time to talk about it.

Please press the PLAY icon for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with D.D. Verni –

On why he wanted to do a big band record – Well, it’s a kind of music that I always love, even when I was a kid, so I didn’t really think about doing it. My first daughter was born 26 years ago, almost 27 and I wanted to write a song for her and for my wife when she was being born. I wasn’t sure what kind of song it should be, but I wanted to do something, and so it wound up being a Big Band song for whatever reason, it kind of morphed over that way, and that’s actually one of the songs that’s on the record, “Manhattan Baby”. So that was probably the first one I did, and I kind of put that aside. Then as you’re doing Overkill records, as I do any records, I’m always putting riffs aside, putting things in different categories, and through tears, I gotten involved with my side band, Bronx Casket Company, and then I worked on a musical for a bunch of time, so I was trying different genres outside of Overkill and trying different music. Then my wife’s birthday came up and I wrote another song, and it happened to be a Big Band song, so that got put in a pile. Then my youngest daughter said, “Well, where’s my song?” So it was another song and that went into the Big Band pile. I started looking at stuff and between the seeds of stuff that I had put aside, some of the songs that I had already done. I looked and I said, ” I have maybe eight or nine songs here that I could round up and maybe I could pull in a few standards, and I could kind of do this if I wanted to”. Then Covid hit and I had more and more time. So it was like it, “I guess it’s time”. So I just started pulling things together a little by little, probably over the course of maybe two years it took to do the record to get it all done, but nothing where there was a definitive moment, it was just kind of building through the years little bits and pieces, until I realized I had a record. :54

On when the tracks were written – I had a few songs that were done, maybe three, but all the rest were done specifically for this. It would be like I had little bits and pieces, a little verse or the chorus or something that I had put aside, but then when I sat down and said, “I’m gonna do this”. I guess it was probably maybe six, seven songs that were written specifically in the last little bit to be part of the record. 3:21

On creating the charts for this music – The producer part, the songwriting part of it that I’ve been doing for so many years and so many different levels that that part of it is something I’m actually good at. I did bring in people for all kinds of things, ’cause I don’t read it music at all, I never took any lessons, I don’t read charts. The whole horn world, that is a unique universe unto itself that I had to get up to speed on and learn about. Really what happened, if you strip away all the background vocals and the horn parts and everything else and you just get down to it, a lot of the songs are four-chord rock & roll songs. So you could strip them down to be an old Fats Domino song or at its core, and so that’s more where the song came from. When I had demoed up the song, I kinda did that. I knew I wanted the girls, the background, vocal, I know I want there to be a big girl background vocal kind of feeling to it. I wanted the Andrews Sisters doing doo-wop if that makes any sense. So I had a lot of that in place, but for the horn parts, John (Hatten) who played bass on it, he also plays in (Brian) Setzer’s band, still plays in Setzer’s band for many, many years. He did all the horn arrangements on it. I sent him the demo with scratch horn parts on it, with everything from me playing the keyboard horns to humming horn parts. He had to kinda go through him say, “Alright, I see what you’re talking about”, and kind of put them into real language. Then we got together in the studio and he knew a horn section, so they came in and he wanted a plain bass on it and kinda coaching the horns through the horn parts, and it was just kind of building little bits and pieces, people I would pull in. He knew a piano player out in LA. I sent him the tracks and we went back and forth, sending files back and forth to say, “No, it should be a little bit more honky-tonk, no that should be a little bit more traditional”, that kind of idea. But when you get kind of good players and let them do their thing, if they connect with the songs, you get a lot of cool stuff to pick from to pull what you want. 4:15

On how he recorded the record during the pandemic – I had put down a scratch vocal on a scratch guitar, and I flew out to LA and we did all the drums, all the horns, and all the bass together. so that worked out well, especially the bass and the drums being in the same room together at the same time. Then the horns were the same thing, they were playing to live drum tracks, even though we weren’t all playing together. It would have been great to say, “You know what, lets you get everybody together for two weeks and we’ll just jam and we’ll rehearse and we’ll change stuff and we’ll change tempos”. When you’re working coast-to-coast, that’s difficult to do. Even when you’re local people just have lives now and more and more things, it’s just harder to kinda get that vibe together. There’s no replacement for getting in a room together, so as much of that as you could possibly get in, we did, but I think everybody has gotten pretty good at being able to work remotely. I can remember when we first started doing it, even with Overkill, I listen back, whatever, 15 years when we were maybe just doing demos and saying, “We’ll just work remotely, and then we’ll just get together in the studio”, and you can hear that on the records, there’s no substitute for getting together for at least some. What did we do between the demo stage and getting in the room stage, it’s usually tempo changes and that kind of thing. So you get better at doing that remotely. I have been pretty comfortable about working in my own place and then bringing it to other people and having a short amount of time to kinda pull it together. When you have really good players, John is a great bass player. Tony (Pia) was a great drummer. They were reading off charts, especially Tony, the drummer. I flew out to LA and there were supposed to be a different drummer and horn section, and when I landed, the drummer called and said, “I got the dates screwed up, I have another gig, I’m not gonna be there”, and now I’m in LA and I called John and said, “What are we gonna do?” He said, “Give me an hour”. He made a couple of calls and he said, “I got this guy, Tony”, who also played in Setzer’s band, “and he’s available and he’s gonna come in”. So this is on a Friday, he shows up Saturday morning, never heard the songs, no demos, nothing, but he had the charts in front of him, and it’s a chart player as well as others, in the Doobie Brothers and does a lot of organic stuff too. I told my wife, I said, “I guess I’ll know pretty quickly if this is going to fly”. Those two guys were in there, I think they’d probably played 30 seconds and I was like, “Oh, this is gonna be fine”. They’re really good at what they do with that kind of thing. Not only were we able to kind of fly through the charts, but we were also able to try things and do changes because they’re just good at it. 7:18

On whether the band will play live – We are definitely planning on doing more and more and more. It’s just fun. I have guys that I know in the business through the years, that said, “God, it’s so much work. Why?” And I’m like, “It’s just fun”. It doesn’t feel like work to me. The people I’ve been working with have been great, it’s fun to kinda flex different songwriting muscles, and then even now to do a show, we’re about two months out in front of it right now and this is a whole ‘another world. I got 13 people in a band now, and all the charts are being redone and changing the keys and doing rehearsals with people, and I’m playing a guitar and singing. I learned the other day that just playing the guitar and singing, and singing on key, and you have to actually remember the lyrics too. I gotta give singers more credit than I have, I should tell Blitz (Ellsworth), “Damn man, it’s a lot of stuff”. I can remember playing years ago with the band and the singer had a teleprompter in front of them, and I thought to myself, “Oh come on, that’s ridiculous”, but then now I’m like, “It’s not the worst idea to see that scrolling by a little bit”, there’s a lot of shit going on. I’m hoping that it can be something that kinda just continues that when we have time off from Overkill, we’ll put together a weekend of swing shows, or if there’s some support thing that makes sense, or I think it could be a fun thing for festivals too, summertime things that could be fun, some of the Europe festival, there’s a lot of blues festival to jazz festivals, I think it could fit on that would be fun. My plan is to be doing it for the next while. I talked to my manager the other day, and the record is supposed to be out in a couple of weeks now, and he says, “You already have ideas for the next one, don’t you?” I said, “Of course I do”. You’re an artist, you’re a recording person, these songs. I did two years ago, of course, there’s more, more thoughts, more ideas, how can you do it bigger, how can you do better? All of that. 10:40

On the freedom to do projects outside of Overkill – It’s just a lot of fun. Learning is interesting, working with new people is something that I’ve really enjoyed. You get locked into your world of Overkill, we got five guys in the band and maybe a producer or mix guy that we kinda work with, and that’s what you go to war with, that’s your guys. But when you go outside and you’re dealing with background vocalists, even with Bronx Casket, a lot more keyboards, there’s a lot of orchestrations on those records, so I am working with arrangers and orchestra people and stuff I never do with Overkill. Piano parts, horn parts, even when we did the Cadillac record, when I stood in the studio and heard that horn section, that’s the first time in my entire career, I’ve actually heard a live horn. Stood in a room and I heard someone play that instrument rather than a distorted guitar out of a Marshall. It makes you really appreciate the Overkill stuff too because you do this stuff for a while and you kinda get out and try things and have fun with that, and then, we’re working on a new Overkill record right now too, and I kinda put on those tracks and there is just nothing like just crushing metal song turned up to 50 and your windows are shaking in the car, and you say to yourself, “There is just nothing in the world that is like that”, and then you’re inspired to do that. So it’s fun, it’s fun to do the different things, and each time you come back to the different things, you’re inspired to do something and to jump back into it again instead of, “Oh, this again”, for me anyway. It’s really cool. 13:35

On lasting 40+ years with Blitz in Overkill – Well, part of it is just the kind of being creative part. I’m not a person who writes when the record is ready to be written. I’m writing 12 months a year, I always have a tape recorder in my pocket, I’m always scratching out ideas, always kind of compiling things. So that’s part of it. The other part, frankly, is just making a living. I’ve said it a bunch of times, and other bands all laugh sometimes, but a number of years ago, certain bands were saying, “Well, it’s not like the old days where you could take two or three years off and the checks would just come in, it’s like the checks aren’t coming in anymore”, and I would just shake my head and said, “That was never Overkill”. If you didn’t do a record and get back on the road, you weren’t getting paid, you weren’t making a living, so it was like, you have to make the record now there’s no “Oh, I could use a little bit more time”. Everybody could, that’s not how it goes. Then we took some pride in that too. We would almost look at the Motorhead template and say, “That’s what a metal band does”. There’s no five years off, there’s no “first record in seven years”, it’s another record back on the road, another record back on the road, keep trying to make it bigger. Keep trying to make it better. This is what we do. It’s not a part-time gig. What we do full-time. But those two things, I think, kind of just the creative part of things, and then having to get back up and then just liking it, I mean, right now, I’ve seen somebody the other day, I said, “This is the longest I’ve gone without doing a show since I’m probably 15”. And you miss it. I miss doing shows a lot. I haven’t seen Blitz in person since we got off the road, any of the guys really, I haven’t seen any of the guys. We kinda live a little bit scattered, so you talk on the phone here and there, but that’s part of the fun of being on the road, besides doing shows and playing music is fun. We have a tight group of guys, and we have a lot of laughs, it’s just like a bunch of idiots, 15-year-old guys acting like jackasses having fun, so I miss that part of things too, but hopefully that’s coming up soon. 15:56

On the new Overkill record – We’re recording it right now, a good portion of it’s done. It keeps getting moved, frankly, depending on the Covid situation, when we can tour. At first, we thought, “What difference does it make if we tour or not, just put a record out”, and then we thought, “We really wanna put out the music and then bring it to the people”. That’s the fun, not just putting it out and just saying, “There you go”, it’s then being able to tour it and bring it and put it out there. So right now we have a tour set for March here in the States, and then in April and May in Europe next year. The plan is to maybe have a record with that with both those tours, so we have to kinda see that goes with the touring part and with the record part, if the record’s done, maybe that makes sense to do, or if they pull the tours from us again, maybe we delay a little bit more, maybe we don’t at that point and we say, “Okay, let’s just move on”. It’s not 100% sure, but for the most part, it’s done, we’re just kind of recording, putting finishing touches on it, it’s gotta be mixed and all that, but we’re working on a cover right now with our artists then, so it’s moving along. 18:40

On upcoming shows with Overkill and the Cadillac Band – Well, we do have one Overkill show, which is nice in November. This was when we were out on the road, whatever it was, two years ago when Covid first hit, we were on the road, and we got in every single show on the tour, except for the last show, which was a big show in New Jersey. We always finished up our tours at a hometown show, and that’s the day where they shut everything down. So we rescheduled that show a couple of times, and finally, it’s rescheduled. We wound up doing the count on it, and it even says on our poster for the show, it’s 609 days later, we rescheduled the show in November right now, it looks like it’s gonna be a big sold-out show, and people are excited to come out. It’s a one-off, so it’s not a tour, but we’re really excited to just fly the guys back in, fly the crew guys back in and at least get a taste of that again. Maybe we’ll do a new song or two, I mean, who knows, it depends on how that turned out, but there is an Overkill show. I have two shows, have a Cadillac show and an Overkill show and within a two-week span, it’s like, “Oh my God, it’s great”. 20:11

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *