Dave Meniketti, 1985

Dave Meniketti still laughs about an incident that happened years ago, when Y&T—then called Yesterday & Today—was just starting to break into big-time heavy metal.

“We were playing at the Santa Monica Civic,” he says, “and one of our fans came backstage and said, ‘You guys were so hot, you melted my face off!’ We just fell on the floor laughing about that one. That expression stayed with us for a long time, and we named our publishing company Face-Melting Music. And that’s precisely what it is, face melting—our live show in two words!”

Indeed, Y&T is hardly the band to be accused of sonic subtlety. But, unlike most post-Van Halen metal guitarists, Meniketti foregoes the use of tremolo bar or fingertaps, preferring instead to concentrate on the straight-ahead, blues-based style that first brought him attention.

“I just play for feel,” he insists. “I’ve stayed away from whammy-bar stuff and fingertaps because that wasn’t my style to begin with. I believe that when somebody else does something, then it’s their trip—let them do it. If my own playing isn’t as recognizable as Eddie Van Halen’s, it’s still my style, and that’s what it has to be. Playing more from an attitude of feel rather than technique will never be old. The solos that stay with you the longest are the ones played from the heart. I wouldn’t mind having a little bit of an over-stretched note, or a squeal here and there, if it means I really get the feeling across.

“I like to get in the studio and play whatever comes off the top of my head. Instead of working out solos, I come in completely clean, and, right off the bat, I just go for it and see what comes out. I lay down two or three tracks,

listen back, and find things I didn’t even realize I’d done. Then I practice those parts, and re-record them. A solo should move and excite you as much as the singing does. Even if it’s just running up and down the neck at a

million miles an hour, it has to say something. It has to have feel and emotion. If a solo gives me a little bit of a chill when I hear it back, I know that I’ve got it.”

After more than a decade with the same band, Meniketti has some advice for young musicians forming a group.

“You have to be mature enough to deal with a band the same way you’d deal with a wife or girlfriend,” he warns. “It’s definitely give and take. We’ve stuck together for so many years simply because we’ve learned to deal with each other’s personality traits. Maybe one of us can’t stand what another guy does, but that doesn’t matter. We just think, ‘Well, that’s him.’ It’s most important to stick together as a unit. Don’t keep changing members, because that throws things off. Make as many demo tapes as you possibly can of all your new material as you write it. And always keep playing gigs. Even if you have to play other people’s tunes, that teaches you the rights and wrongs of songwriting. If songs are on the charts, chances are that they’re arranged the right way. Also, three live gigs can make your band tighter than five straight weeks of rehearsal. Playing live is the thing.”

Excerpted from Jas Obrecht and Mike Varney’s interview in the September ’85 issue of Guitar Player.