Toad The Wet Sprocket's Dean Dinning on Aug. 20 show at The Paramount, Debbie Gibson, and new music
Formed in 1986 in Santa Barbara, Toad The Wet Sprocket would go on to sell millions of albums, starting with its 1991 album fear. Featuring the hits “Walk On The Ocean” and “All I Want,” fear wasn't the band's only platinum-seller, as 1994's Dulcinea sold more than a million copies on the strength of hits “Fall Down” and “Something's Always Wrong.” The group went on hiatus in July 1998, casually regrouping for one-off recordings and brief runs of shows until fully-reuniting in December 2010. 2013 brought the fan-funded New Constellation, which was the first full-length album from Toad The Wet Sprocket in 16 years, while last year saw the release of the Architect Of The Ruin EP.
2016 has plenty of action scheduled for Toad The Wet Sprocket – which includes lead vocalist Glen Phillips, lead guitarist Todd Nichols, bassist Dean Dinning, and drummer Randy Guss – which comes to the area on August 20. Gigging alongside Rusted Root, the quartet returns to Huntington's The Paramount for a night full of hits. Dean spoke to No Place Like Long Island about the past, present and future of Toad The Wet Sprocket, also talking about what's ahead for him as a songwriter and as a member of the side-project Lapdog.
What do you remember about the first gig you ever played on Long Island?
DD: I don’t remember where we played, but I remember putting Debbie Gibson on the guestlist. I don’t know her, I was just hoping she might come to the show. I’m an optimist when it comes to things like that.
Have you ever been to Long Island beyond touring?
DD: I haven’t, but it’s beautiful. I love coming there on tour. We played in Huntington last year and found everything I could hope for – cute downtown, great breakfast spot, local coffee joint, and a toy store. What more do you want?
Your upcoming show in Huntington is part of a tour with Rusted Root. Had you known any of the Rusted Root guys prior to booking this tour?
DD: We have known Rusted Root for about 20 years, actually. They were our opening act for an entire tour we did around 1995-96. We became friends, and they are on our guestlist every time we play in Pittsburgh.
Toad The Wet Sprocket was arguably the first famous band from Santa Barbara, years before Dishwalla and Nerf Herder had major label deals. Who was the first band from the local scene that inspired you to pursue a career as a musician?
DD: There was a band called The Tan who had gotten a record deal a few years before us. One of the members, Brad Nack, saw us opening for a touring band -- I think it was Guadalcanal Diary -- at a club called Oscar's in downtown Santa Barbara. He started us down the path toward getting a record deal.
Is it true that Paul Shaffer played keyboards with the band live in the 1990s?
DD: Paul was gracious enough to play keyboards with us every time we played on either of David Letterman’s shows; even when they changed the policy and bands didn’t have to use the “World’s Most Dangerous Band” anymore. The first time we did the show, I was chosen to talk to Paul in advance of our arrival, to work out who would play what parts. When we played “All I Want” on the show, I ended up playing acoustic guitar, which was fun and a bit stressful. But hearing Will Lee say he loved my bass part was heaven, he added some runs that I copied and have incorporated in to the song ever since.
In 2010, Toad The Wet Sprocket became a full-time project again. Is touring easier for you these days given all the technological advancements and knowing what to expect? Or is it more tiring?
DD: Touring is much easier than it used to be, mostly due to the iPhone! Now I can walk around any city in the world without worrying about getting lost. We also have a monitor system that we use every night that allows us to each control our mixes from iPhones or iPads. And if we get homesick, a half-hour of FaceTime can fix us up really quickly. We can also keep track of our other projects and even collaborate on songwriting over the internet while we’re away. It’s a nice change.
The band released its first new album in 2013, 16 years after since Coil. Where did the idea come from you to do a fan-funded campaign through Kickstarter?
DD: We were in a good position to do a crowd-funding campaign, and Kickstarter was starting to get a lot of attention after the Amanda Palmer campaign had been so successful. We were in touch with a large portion of our fans through our e-mail list and Facebook, and we had a feeling that our fans would really show up for us. We had no idea we would hit our goal on the first day!
Are there plans for another album from the band? Would you consider doing another crowd-funded campaign, if so?
DD: I think that we should continue recording. We recorded a fantastic version of a Roger Miller tune for a tribute album that will be coming out this fall. I can’t say if it will be an album or an EP, but if the songs are there, and they are right for Toad, we will probably record them. I think we could do crowd-funding again -- it’s become something we have been associated with, since the success of the New Constellation campaign. Add in the fact that we are in touch with even more fans now than we were three years ago, and it would probably go quite well.
Your band had major hits, had music in major movies, and has done a lot of big festivals, but is there anything that you're still hoping accomplish?
DD: We have done it all, haven’t we? Everything from being the soundtrack to Dawson’s seduction of Jen on Dawson’s Creek to getting name dropped on Bob’s Burgers and Robot Chicken. Our music tends to be used in a lot of flashbacks, like on Homeland. We were in the movies Jobs and The Best Of Me recently. I will say that I’d like it if someone used one of our newer songs in a movie trailer or commercial. That would bring our new music into the current pop culture. It would also be great to have another artist cover one of our songs.
When not busy with Toad The Wet Sprocket, how do you like to spend your free time?
DD: The past couple of years I have been getting into artist development. I have a partner who is an entertainment lawyer and he pitches our artists to labels after I co-write with them and record a few of their best songs. I have also been doing more writing and producing -- I work with songwriters in L.A. and Santa Barbara, and have been co-writing about two new songs per week. I love generating new material. I also have a band coming over from England that I will be producing with Mikal Blue very soon.
Is there more to come from Lapdog?
DD: Todd and I were just talking about this the other day. We wrote a lot of songs around the time Toad recorded the Architect Of The Ruin EP. Architect Of The Ruin was originally going to be a Lapdog song, but if any song has a chance to become a Toad song, we are both happy about it. Our plan for Lapdog is to record more songs at the end of this year to release next year.
Finally, Dean, any last words for the kids?
DD: Go see bands and musicians you like live. All anyone talks about is how streaming is killing the music industry. The best way fans can help the situation is to buy tickets and let their friends know about the show. Buy the band’s merchandise at the show. Streaming is great if it allows for the discovery of great music we can all get excited about and support with our dollars.