Gary James' Interview With Paul David
Paul David, also known as Bandaloni, is a one man band. He sings, plays guitar, harmonica, a kick-drum, a high hat, a snare drum, a trombone and even engages in 'live' harmonies...all performed at the same time. He performs classic songs spanning all musical genres with an emphasis on Rock And Roll and Country. Bandaloni had been performing at Fairs, sports and corporate shows throughout Canada and the United States for the last twelve years. He even made a special guest appearance on a 'live' broadcast of America's Got Talent in 2006.
When we caught up with Bandaloni, he was performing at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York.
Q - I just read there were 115,000 people on the Fairgrounds, Saturday (August 28th, 2010). How can you move around the Fairgrounds with that kind of crowd in attendance?
A - They have me sort of down in one location, down around I guess sort of the horse barn area, sort of away from the Chevy Court. There's enough strolling entertainers down around the Chevy Court to sort of keep folks entertained. They have me down there at the other end to draw people down there because I'm the only strolling entertainer down there. So, I kind of stick with a smaller area of the fairgrounds. However, having said that, I wanted to take in some of the Styx show the other night, but man, it was so crowded around there I just hoofed it back to the hotel. It was a day that was just too hot and I didn't want to be bothered with the crowds, but man, it was jammed down there.
Q - Your bio doesn't give much factual information about you. How did you come up with this "Bandaloni" idea?
A - The long and short of it is obviously the tradition of the one man band is quite an old one. It goes back hundreds of years. However, I met a guy out in Calgary, where I was living about twelve years ago. He was doing a one man band act. It was kind of one of those epiphany moments where I sort of had a vision of how I could do a one man band and perhaps do it a little better. It's also sort of a combination of all of my skills and a couple of my passions, the first being visual art. I'm a sculptor by training. So, I used to build large scale dinosaurs for museums and worked a lot with metal work. So I can construct all the equipment I use and maintain it. So, I'm fairly good with my hands. But of course, the other passion is music, which falls right into place with the whole visual art aspect of the one man band. The other skill I acquired, which is very helpful in this business, is when I graduated from high school many years ago, I went to work doing sales at a high end audio shop for my art school teacher's husband. So, I learned the skill of salesmanship in a sense. You do have to sell this act as well and attend various conventions, fair conventions and corporate conventions to sort of hang your shingle out and acquire work to keep yourself busy.
Q - How did you know this act of yours would go over?
A - Was it gonna fly? (laughs)
Q - Yeah.
A - Well, honestly Gary, when I first started doing this, I told myself, number one; it's a fairly interesting and rare sort of musical concept or endeavor. I saw a lot of potential in terms of how to push the act and really develop it into something different and modernize it, yet still maintain a certain tradition with it. That's kind of been my thrust all along. I certainly haven't lost sight of that, of that motive which is just to push it as far as I can take it. So, over the past twelve years, I've been building better equipment and acquiring new technologies. For instance, just in the past couple of years there's been a harmonizer that a company has put out. It's the first harmonizer that you can actually run your guitar signal through and have it provide real time, real harmonies so that I can keep my act pure without using any backing tracks. So there's advances like that that happen that I sort of grasp on to.
Q - So, you're booking the act yourself? You're not using an agent?
A - I would say 98% of the act I'm booking myself. I keep an office in my house. As I said, I sort of attend conventions and do a lot of hand shaking. As they say, this is show business. It's four parts show and eight parts business, so you gotta have your business cap on periodically. I'm aware of that.
Q - If you had an agent, would that expand your horizons? Would you do more fairs? Go overseas?
A - Well, I think it's a matter of finding the proper agent. Certainly I've been approached by many agents and I think a lot of the agents want an exclusive on you as well and I'm certainly not prepared to do that unless there's a guarantee of a certain amount of income a year. I've seen other acts that have taken the agent route and the agent may book them for a year or two, but then all of a sudden they're old hat and they sort of move on to the next act. I must admit I'm somewhat leery of some agents. I'm not going to paint them all with the same brush, but no one can better sell my act than me because I understand the act the best. It's a very difficult act to sell verbally because as soon as you mention one man band, I think in people's minds they envision someone standing in front of a liquor store busking, until they see it. And once they see it, their jaws drop and they go "Oh, this is great. This is what you mean." My experience has been, once a fair or corporation hires me, they tend to want to get me back again. There's some fairs that I've been doing the last eight, nine years out of the twelve that I've been doing the one man band. So, a lot of my clientele are repeat clientele now.
Q - So, you've been doing this act of yours since 1998?
A - That's right.
Q - Before 1998, were you involved in a band? Were you doing any theatrical work?
A - Oh, a little bit of both. I performed in several bands over the years. However, prior to sort of packing that in and moving on to the one man band, I was doing a solo sort of singer / songwriter thing. However I did build a band around that as well and put out a recording and sort of moved around in the Folk circuit out in Western Canada for the most part. So, I basically was a sculptor during the day and sort of a musician at night.
Q - Are you the only one that you know of that is doing this type of act?
A - Oh, there's lots of other one man bands out there. Now, when I say lots, that's I guess relative. Certainly not as many as the bands that are trying to make it out there. I know of approximately ten or twelve in Canada. I do get that question a lot. When you say doing it to the extent I'm doing it, no, I think I've taken it to a different level in terms of the equipment that I use and the P.A. system that I've created to go along with my act and it's very unique in itself in that it's battery operated, full on P.A. that looks like a 1939 radio that's been scaled up five feet. That's all remote control. I can drive that around any fairgrounds or any corporate event and do shows. However, having said that, there's a fellow out in Victoria, Canada that is compiling the history of one man bands. His name is Dave Harris. He's a one man band and a Blues musician himself. So, that's kind of the one man band thing in a nutshell. Because there's no book or video available for this, everyone's kind of doing their own thing. Everyone invents their own equipment and has their own vision and take on it. There's sit-down one man bands. There's a guy out there named McRory who puts drum triggers in his shoes and plays two keyboards strapped on his body. That's his idea of a one man band. So, there's lots of different takes on the medium I guess.
Q - As you stroll the fairgrounds, what kind of comments are you getting? What do people want to know about you?
A - If I've ever been on America's Got Talent. (laughs) Or, why don't you go on America's Got Talent, which is what I was on in the first season. I think people are just genuinely curious in regards to how long I've been doing it, how I got into it. I think initially when people see me setting up, I think they sort of assume here comes some cheesy one man band guy, but I pull out all these classic songs and sort of bonk them over the head with good renditions of them.
Q - One thing, when you call a rehearsal you don't have to worry about anybody not showing up.
A - That's it, man. (laughs)
Q - Are you say a better guitarist than a harmonica player or a better harmonica player than you are a percussionist?
A - That's a good question, man. When I think of my guitar heroes and harmonica heroes and bands I certainly don't rate myself in with the all time greats by any stretch of the imagination. I don't consider myself a great guitar player or harmonica player or percussionist, however I think the combination of those three skills I have acquired actually make a pretty decent one man band. So, I think I'm a good one man band is what I think I am, but if you're to break it down to parts, once again it's all relative in terms of what greatness is. I certainly get the best compliments however from musicians. And those are the compliments that mean the most to me, the skilled players that come up and really admire what I'm doing and see the effort I'm putting in.
Q - Where would you like to eventually take your act?
A - Well, there's lots of avenues. The older I get, the more I realize there is no end to the journey. It's a continuous journey. There's always something interesting to set my sights on. I've got a couple things in the works. I can see my act fitting really well into something like The Letterman Show. I've got a couple of ideas I want to pitch Dave and The Letterman Show with which I think the act would work really well on. Let's face it, I fully realize my act is a novelty act, but I've kind of pushed it into more of an art form as well. However, there's also something else that's gelling in my brain and in my sketch books regarding a different type of a one man band that I would like to sort of explore and that would be something that I can sort of show of more of an artist side and perform some of the material that I would do outside of sort of a family fair type venue. Something I could take into a club and do more of a cutting edge type of show where I could strap on a real electric guitar and turn it up to eleven. But I also have some interesting ideas in regards to building a different type of contraption for that type of an act as well. So, I could see myself as doing that type of thing. For me, that wouldn't be more for the money, but more for a creative outlet, an artistic expression than the type of act I'm doing now, which is certainly paying the bills and it has a certain amount of artistic satisfaction, but there's certainly more that could be done.
Q - I'm wondering if after a session you wouldn't go in to a club with someone else and perform as a duo.
A - That's kind of what I miss from an artist's standpoint. However, I should also mention that in the off season I'm just not sitting around. There's still a lot to be done in terms of getting ready for the next season, repairing equipment, building new equipment, acquiring equipment, rehearsing new material as well as just keeping in shape. I spend three or four months in the winter time just working out, six days a week, just to sort of keep my frame slim and keep the bones and muscles tight so that I can get back out there and do it again. I'm not getting any younger and it's not getting any easier, so that's an aspect that a lot of folks are not aware of that I really have to attend to.