The Rock Against MS Interviews: August Zadra of The Dennis DeYoung Band
The 6th Annual Rock Against MS Benefit Concert and Awards Show took place at the historic Los Angeles Theater on March 31st, featuring live headlining performances from Jack Russell’s Great White and Juliette Lewis. Highwire Daze Online spent some time on the Orange Carpet conducting interviews prior to the main event. One of the performers at Rock Against MS was August Zadra of The Dennis DeYoung Band, ready to take the stage and rock out the venue in an epic way! In this interview with August Zadra, we discuss his support for Rock Against MS, how he become part of The Dennis DeYoung Band, his favorite Styx song to perform live, and more! Read on…
How did you become involved with Rock Against MS?
I was doing a show locally at one of the Jam Nights at Lucy’s 51, and I had played something with my friend David Victor who had sang for Boston. I think we did a Boston song and Nancy (Sayle – founder of Rock Against MS) saw us that night. And we played and sang really well together. Then Steve Lukather (Toto) needed someone to sing Hold The Line for one of Nancy’s shows, and he didn’t want a metal guy. So Nancy said “I know this guy David. He’s a great singer. And I have a guy August who sings with him really well.” So that’s how that happened. I showed up with my guitar and Nancy was like “well, its Steve’s…” and I’m like “I know that, but I’m a guitar player.” So I walked into the rehearsal room and he said , “Hey, I’m Steve” and I’m like “Of course!” And he said “What you got there?” So I took him my guitar – we were endorsed by the same company, so I knew that was my in. I started to unzip the case and he said, “Music Man! Yeah!” And then I was in. And he was completely gracious and it was a total thrill to play with him. And Nancy’s been very gracious – every time I’m in town, she has me be part of this. Tonight I’m very excited that she gave me two songs that are outside of my wheelhouse – so to speak. And I’m having a blast doing them, so it’s going to be fun.
I was reading online that it was Dennis DeYoung’s son who discovered you. Tell me about that…
He’s kind of famously an insomniac. A couple of years after the Arnel/Journey thing – and this is kind of becoming a common story – where classic rock bands are using YouTube and tribute bands as a farm club. He was up late one night doing Filipino tribute bands – and then he got to Styx tribute bands. (My Styx tribute) band has been done for six years at this point, and I finally had to means to digitize some of the old footage. They were a great band – so I threw it up on YouTube. Two days later I got a call from Danny Wilde of The Rembrandts about doing something together. Two months later I also get a call from Dennis’ manager. The story is that Matt, his son, saw the video – he watched two of them – it was like 12:30 at night. He called his dad and Dennis is like, “There better be blood. No one calls me this time of day!” And he said “You gotta get on your computer and watch this guy!” Basically Dennis is very wary about technology being manipulated. So I talked to his manager for about 45 minutes and I said, “So what’s the next step?” “Well, I’ll talk to Dennis, and if he’s interested, he’ll call you.”
The next morning, my daughter is “There’s Dennis somebody on the phone…” And it was like “August, this is Dennis DeYoung.” And I’m like “No fucking way!” So he said, “Look, I saw the videos, I hear what you do. If you’re still that guy, and you come and sound that way with me, and we have a thing together – then it’s your gig.” So it wasn’t even really an audition. It was just “Come on out!” And this is my 9th year. It’s been the most amazing experience I’ve ever had! He’s a genius. He’s super intelligent – super funny – and he treats us all really well. There’s a lot of artists of that caliber who draw the line onstage – you stay back there. He says “Get up here! Get the spotlight!” It’s just been a fantastic experience. The fans have been very accepting. There was some issue at first – “Well, you’re going to be singing the Tommy Shaw songs and maybe somebody’s not going to be happy about that.” But there’s been no issues – it’s been wonderful! Everyone’s been great!
And what is your favorite Styx song to play live and why?
We’re doing the 40th Anniversary of The Grand Illusion Tour this year and there’s a song on there that’s always been special to me. It’s called Man In The Wilderness. So getting to do that now live has been a real thrill.
And are you involved with any other projects?
Doing some writing with some guys. And locally I do an acoustic show two or three times a month with a buddy of mine named Adrian Galysh. Other than that – just looking…
(Interview by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)