Taking Stock, in the gift of opportunity – with Dino Monoxelos
THE AMPEG GUY
Dean “Dino” Monoxelos has been a bass player since the age of 13. Some 32 years later he’s still perfecting his craft. Born from the James Jamerson and Duck Dunn school of playing, he relies on two very important fundamentals as a bass player, great feel, and great tone! Having a working knowledge in most contemporary styles of music has also helped him along in his journey as a professional bass player. From Armenian Salsa to full blown Heavy Metal, he is at home in any style, but his true love is for R&B and Funk.
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EVERY friend I have in this world, and I mean EVERY friend, whether it be acquaintances, close friends or people I consider brothers or sisters from another mother, have been because of music and the music industry!
AI – Dino! I’m so glad we finally get to do this interview, I’ve really been looking forward to it. You are a man of many talents and in this interview I look forward to you sharing with myself, and readers here at Andy’s World of Bass, a few of the tales, trials and advices that have shaped the direction of your incredibly productive music and musical instrument industry career. Let’s start with learning about Dino the musician. Please tell us how you first found yourself with a bass in your hands and about your earliest influences, and musical experiences up until you began to play professionally, and also about making the decision to advance your music education?
DM – Thanks Andy, always a pleasure to hang out and talk. And thanks for this honor. I’ve always loved seeing your posts from the road and now I get to see them from Andy’s World of Bass!
Boy o boy… my first musical experiences had to be from my days in elementary school. I remember starting out with playing the recorder in 3rd grade and then moving on to the clarinet in 4th grade. My older sister played clarinet in high school so back then, I got all the hand-me-downs, it was a natural move both from my parents point of view, (they didn’t have to buy another instrument) and I was already familiar with playing somewhat of a woodwind instrument. I gave up playing clarinet shortly after that to play sports. I remember my music teacher being heartbroken. Mostly because I think he lost yet another student to SPORTS! Anyway, that ALL changed for me when I saw Gene Simmons and Kiss on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert! I knew right then and there I wanted to be a bass player. I started taking bass lessons right after that.
I think Kiss was the “gateway” band for me… haha! After that I started getting turned on to Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, Aerosmith and SO many other rock bands. But I was also very involved in the school stage and jazz bands so that also lead me down the path of listening to more stuff like Motown, Stax, all the classic R&B stuff! Even getting into Chicago, Average White Band, James Brown, stuff like that. I was a very young and confused musician at that time. I didn’t know what path to follow but eventually I followed the rock path. I played in a couple pretty prominent bands all over New England and up and down the Mid-Atlantic States.
I did that for a bunch of years and eventually thought, there’s gotta be something more than this. The bands I was in were fun and I cut my teeth in many ways with them but I knew this was about as far as I was gonna go as a professional musician if I stayed. So I set my sights on Los Angeles, Musicians Institute/BIT to be exact. Going to school opened my eyes AND my opportunities to become the professional bass player I knew I could be and should be! I remember the first time seeing Gary Willis and Steve Bailey perform and think, these guys aren’t playing “rock and roll” but they sure are frigging cool, AND they’re playing their asses off!!! THAT opened me up to so MANY different genres and playing styles. One day I’d be playing odd meters with the fusion workshop and the next playing Motown tunes with the R&B workshop. So, I hung around LA for about 8 years. Teaching at BIT and taking EVERY audition and gig that came my way. In ’97 my wife and newborn daughter and I moved back to the Boston area and eventually settled down in New Hampshire, just north of Boston. I’ve been here ever since enjoying the peace and quiet when I’m not on the road.
AI – I know that teaching and sharing your love of music is a big part of your character and bass genetics. You and I spent the last 6 years in parallel motion trotting the globe presenting clinics for two powerhouse brands, you with Ampeg and me with Warwick. Ships passing in the night mostly, but we’ve had a few chances to hang. You’re road dawg dedication and effort is truly appreciated, I know well the level of energy it takes. Please tell us about the rewards you experience from that side of your career?
DM – Oh Man! Well to start, I’ve seen places on this planet that I’d NEVER in a million years, EVER think I’d see! India, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brazil to name just a few. That is probably one of the biggest rewards.
THE BIGGEST reward is the camaraderie and friendships I’ve developed over the years with people all over the world! In fact, there was this Facebook post about something about friends and the music business and it made me think. EVERY friend I have in this world, and I mean EVERY friend, whether it be acquaintances, close friends or people I consider brothers or sisters from another mother, have been because of music and the music industry! That to me is SO powerful and profound to even think about stuff like that!!! TO think, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation if it weren’t for our mutual love of music and our instrument. And of course the satisfaction that I set out many years ago to make my living with this piece of wood and metal in my hands and it’s taken me to all these beautiful places and made all of these awesome friends. We are so blessed to be able to make a living doing something we love doing. As I’ve heard so many times… find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life! There are days, where we wake up and wish we had hit the lottery or didn’t have to work. I have them, I’m sure you do too, everyone does. But when I really take stock of my life and the opportunities I’ve been given, man, that is THE reward in and of itself!!!!
AI – You have been working with the most legendary of all bass amp manufacturers, Ampeg now for ??? years, I know it’s quite a few. Many folks simply know the brand and you as synonymous. For the benefit of a player who is coming up and perhaps looking to learn about and understand what an endorsement is, and what it means, and is expected on both sides. How might you summarize that process and advise players? And, specifically at Ampeg, how do your artists best support you?
DM – This January will be my 14th year with Ampeg as a full-time guy. I did a couple of years as a freelance guy with them prior to that so probably talking about 16 years now total. Also this January will be my one-year anniversary taking on artist relations!
Endorsements… The thing with Ampeg is that it has such a LONG legacy. We were the first ones on the block really. So over the last 60 plus years, we’ve gained such an acceptance if you will, in the bass business as being THE defacto bass sound. There are a lot of other companies out there that do what they do and are known for THEIR sound but, when it comes down to what a bass really needs to sound like, Ampeg was the first. This also brings in a LOT of enquiries from players all over the world who all want to be a part of this great legacy.
My best advice to is to LOVE (and know) the gear first. I see so many players put WAY too much emphasis on who they’re endorsed by or what manufacturers they’re working with that they sometimes don’t care if they love the gear or not. As long as they can put that manufacturers name on their bio or resume, that’s all they worry about. Forget about all that and just make great music! Like I say at the end of all of my videos… PLAY MORE BASS!!! The support from manufacturers will come. Trust me, if you’re playing your butt off and making a scene for yourself, we’ll find you!
Basically though what we expect from all of our artist is a relationship first and foremost. I’m friends with most of the folks on our roster. These guys are my heroes, peers and colleagues because I’m a bass player first and foremost too. The respect is always mutual. The best support we could ever ask from any of our artists is to LOVE the gear and LOVE being part of the Ampeg family!! If they don’t love the gear then either we failed at giving them something to love, or we just picked the wrong piece of gear for their application. Once the love is there, that’s when the social media posts, video tags, product demos and stuff like that start coming out. From there, we will bend over backwards to make sure you feel our love as well and all of your needs as an artist are taken care of. Everything from tour support, to donating gear to whatever cause you might be supporting at the time. It’s such a symbiotic relationship that flows both ways!
AI – Maintaining a sustained career in music is not easy, not for anyone. In this day in age, I think we must have layers, and nurture the ability to creatively invent our own independent revenue streams, and branch out. Considering musical instrument brand support related jobs is sometimes a good fit for the musician looking for stability and consistent earning, etc. Do you have any insight to share regarding making the transition from being only a player to working in a marketing, promotion or artist relations type of position?
DM – DIVERSITY! I think every job or every opportunity I’ve ever had or taken advantage of has prepared me and brought me to where I am today. You know, as a musician, we’ve all had so many different types of jobs or gigs just to pay the rent. Don’t EVER think any job is below you. And don’t ever be ashamed to make a living, even if its something you think is below you. Trust me, that’s life preparing you for something down the road! That’s what opportunity is all about!
I think my time as a truck driver prepared me for my love of traveling. My time as a student and teacher gave me the skills to be able to speak to people and instruct them. My time in retail sales prepped me for that aspect of being able to visit stores and talk in a sales and marketing capacity. All of these “lessons in life” prepped me for where I am now. And, I’m sure what I’m doing now is prepping me for some other opportunity that I don’t even know about down the road. The other thing is PERSERVERENCE! This didn’t happen overnight. It’s a long road! Like the AC/DC song says… “It’s a long way, to the top, if you wanna rock n roll” Working for a company like Ampeg has really afforded me some things in life that I may otherwise have not been able to afford. And I’m not just talking financially either. Let’s face it, not everyone IS going to be a rock star. And, in a lot of cases, not everyone is going to be a full-time musician, playing gigs and touring. But, this has allowed me to still consider myself a full time musician who just happens to have an awesome gig working for a company like Ampeg. With that, it has allowed me to focus on musical things other than “where my next gig is coming from”, but yet still be in the industry.
AI – Finally, What other interests do you have these days? any fun music projects or gigging going on? What’s on the horizon for you as 2016 winds down and into 2017?
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, experience and time with us Dino – you rock!
DM – THANK YOU my brutha! Always great to talk with you and I’m always thankful for our friendship and camaraderie! You have inspired me in so many ways as well my friend. Life on the road can sometimes be very lonely as you know and I always love seeing your posts and positive energy!!!
Man… I think just more of the same. I admit that I am a creature of habit and sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes its not.
Lots of travel, clinics and hopefully some new music projects coming up. I’d love to put my own project together and see what we could come up with. But, that takes the right people and right timing to do so we might have to wait a bit on that.
I just finished up a pretty good summer festival season this year playing with some wonderful country artists. That was a lot of fun for me because I got to play with some old friends too! I still have a couple of books in me that I need to get out as well. I just haven’t really devoted the time to them yet.
Other than that, I’m going to spend some quality time with my beautiful wife and two awesome daughters when I’m home. Hopefully get out on my Harley and take in some beautiful New England foliage this autumn too!!!
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