BLURT’s fave drummer steps out
with collection of classic pop-influenced tunes.
I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid,” says Dennis Diken. “There are
melodies and lyric ideas that I just can’t get out of my head and some of them
have been lodged there since I was five or six years old! But I grew up
thinking I was just a self-taught drummer and that was my gig.”
Diken, best known
for providing the backbeat with New
Jersey’s Smithereens since 1980, has emerged from
behind the drum kit to present the forthcoming album Late Music under
the nom du disque Dennis Diken with Bell Sound. The recording, due out
on September 29, 2009, will be issued by Cryptovision, distributed by Select-O-Hits.
Diken hastens to add, “Please don’t call it a ‘solo’ album. This music was
hatched by two musically like-minded guys.” Fellow Jerseyan Pete DiBella
collaborated with Dennis to bring 13 songs to fruition, reflecting their mutual
love of classic pop and rock genres. “DiBella is an inspired musical talent,
with a special knack for vocal arranging. I did my first home recordings with
him in the ’70s and we reconnected in the ’90s. His ability to maximize a
minimal recording setup is stunning. “Standing in That Line” was cut on a
While Late Music was created mostly in East Coast home studios, Diken
headed west to complete the project at the famed Bomb Factory in Los Angeles. “Dave Amels
(Stepford Husbands, Reigning Sound, Mary Weiss) helmed the sessions, producing
and playing a bank of keyboards. We called on friends from the Wondermints
(between gigs as Brian Wilson’s band) to add vocals and instrumentation.” Their
sun-splashed spirit is evident, especially on “Let Your Loved One Sleep.”
Other guests include multi-instrumentalist Andy Paley (co-producer of Brian
Wilson’s eponymous debut solo album). “Andy lived and breathed a good
chunk of this record. He literally dreamed parts for “No One’s
Listening” and dashed to the studio one morning after awakening with some
magical ideas.” The Honeys, Brian Wilson’s most celebrated outside production,
sing backup on “Tell All the Fools.” “It was a thrill to have Marilyn, Ginger
and Diane on board. They sound wonderful as ever.” Popmeister Jason Falkner can
be heard on bass and lead guitar on “The Bad Merry-Go-Round” and “I’ve Been
Away,” respectively. Other vocal contributors include Ben Jaffe of HoneyHoney
and Jude Christodal.
The finely-wrought sound of Late Music owes much to The Four Freshmen,
The Four Seasons, The Bee Gees and The Beach Boys. And Dennis Diken with Bell
Sound’s hat remains roguishly tipped to The Association, The Who and The Move.
Yet Late Music remains their own thing.
Diken is a founding member of the Smithereens, whose other remaining original
members include Pat DiNizio and Jim Babjak, all of whom met in central New Jersey.
The release of Late Music also marks the relaunch of Cryptovision
Records. During the mid 1980s, New York-based Cryptovision records rated in the
top 25 of independent record companies and launched the recording careers of
people like Sam Coomes (Elliot Smith, Quasi, Donner Party). Other notable
Cryptovision artists are Flying Color, Optic Nerve, Stepford Husbands, and The
Mod Fun. Virtually none of the 1980s Cryptovision records have been released on
CD. Dave Amels, former head of A&R, now company chief, states, “The
goal of the new Cryptovision Records is to both reissue selections from the
1980s catalog in digital form and to release really great new music . . .music
rooted in the deep American pop and rock ‘n’ roll traditions.”
on Late Music, Diken adds, “I’m really proud of our work on this album.
And I got to sing lead on most tracks. I guess you can say that vocals are my
second love . . . next to playing drums.”