Underneath his rough exterior, blues rock
vocalist and guitarist Dave Osti is intelligent, well-spoken and a really
nice guy. Easy to smile, you quickly discover he also has a great sense of
humor, yet his eyes are those of a man who's lived a life more full than
Osti is better known as Dirty Dave in
hometown of Sierra Madre, California. In 2005, he wrote and played for the
all-star project Gentlemen's Blues Club, which featured sidemen from Don
Henley, Guns 'n' Roses, Crosby, Stills & Nash and more. He has also
performed in many local bands, including Mercy & the Merkettes, and played
various instruments as needed, such as drums and bass. Osti has recently
decided to stop his many projects to better concentrate on his own
original music. He is signed to Grooveyard Records, a small label which
keeps him in that awkward balance of making it locally and making it big,
but he's rightly proud of his album, "Voodoo Guitar," which was released
"I started out as a folk artist and I still do folk," Osti begins. "I'm
trying to do things and everybody says you can't, you have to choose a genre. I
started out at the Ice House (in Pasadena, California), playing between
comedians. I auditioned for 'The Gong Show,' I think I was 15, and then I took a bus and went
to the Ice House and asked if I could play and they let me play
between comedians when I was kid. They'd give me $1 a seat, so they'd
give me $50. I started writing songs. I wanted to be a drummer, but I
picked up the guitar and within a year I had 100 originals."
I ask Osti about his writing process.
"It's like catching something in a
butterfly net," responds Osti. "I don't do any
process, it just appears and I grab it. Usually I get both (lyrics
and music) at the same time, a little piece of it, usually when I'm
driving. It's like a catching game, I know if I let it go it won't be
in pure form any more so I try to stop whatever I'm doing to get it.
"Sometimes I get the whole thing in one
pass. Yeah, it's like catching stuff in a net and the net is a tape recorder, so I've got a
really good memory for music and I can't remember anything else," Osti
laughs. "I have to figure out what the lyrics mean later. I wrote stuff
when I was a kid and I had no life experience and I don't know where it
came from, but it was way beyond my years. The first song I wrote was
called 'Two Timing Man' and I was 13, about a guy who's two-timing
and couldn't see his children and all this stuff and I was just a
"I select the ones I can put my own spin on and usually aren't so poppy.
That's what works for me," says Osti of his cover tunes.
We chat a bit more and Osti explains how
now he is focused on his original music and career, "I think people
know when you're confident and if you're confident enough to do it
yourself, it's an insurance policy."
I ask Osti to tell me about how he came to
"I was 13 - it all happened in one year - I
wanted to be a snare drummer for Dana Junior High (in Arcadia), they put me right in the
marching band. I marched in the marching band and I picked up the
guitar the end of that year and I was immediately writing songs, I
picked up really quick. I played a bar that year," Osti shares. "I played
the Bird's Nest in Monrovia, which was a short-lived bar, my sister took me in
there and they let me play for a beer. I hid the beer behind my leg.
"I played a school, my very first concert
was Mayflower Grade School. I just went in there and said can I play? Then my sister took me to
the bar and I sat around and wrote songs and did concerts in my front
yard. Then I played the Ice House, which gave me the taste to do
"I went to continuation school. After
seventh grade I was already playing out and they put me in continuation school." Osti goes on, "I
never went to school, I was terrible, I didn't go for three years and I don't know
how they kept me on the books. I showed up to continuation and if you
were five minutes late you couldn't go, so you'd just show up late,
but they'd keep you enrolled. I went back and talked my way into 11th
grade after being out of school since seventh and I lasted two weeks.
"I worked and had a yard clean up business. I was working all the
time. I didn't really start playing covers till the late '80s and
Today Osti is a full-time musician, but
when he has free time he enjoys taking his boat out on the ocean and
fishing for halibut.
Osti's current band is rounded out by
bassist Dave Batti and drummer Moyes Lucas.
"I call it Dave Osti and the Dynamites,"
Osti says, "and the reason I call it Dynamites is the character of the rhythm section is a really
explosive sound that we've stumbled on. It's the best band I've ever
been in because it's not a band.
"The whole thing happened by accident.
We've never sat down and had a picture, I've never even hung out with them and we've been playing
all year long," explains Osti, adding that the group doesn't practice,
they just meet at the gigs and play.
"Because I have a folk background the
problem I always had is the guys I would be in the band with were one-dimensional, heavy metal
drummer, this, that and they couldn't do everything. I always wanted
to jam with Batti because he understood the folk world and if I
wanted to do a folk song, he wouldn't be blasting out, he
understands," Osti says.
He met Moyes while playing bass and Moyes
liked Osti's guitar work.
"This is the best band I've ever been in.
We don't rehearse and it's so freeform and the guys are so good you'd never know. We did the
whole album in two days," adds Osti.
Osti was signed to Grooveyard Records in
July 2009 and released "Voodoo Guitar" Jan. 1, 2010.
"I took last year and started controlling
everything I do with my content and my usage. I was like a utility belt guy, I wasn't doing
what I wanted to do and as soon as I did, I got signed," Osti shares with
He still maintains the side duo, the Mellow
Dz, which focuses on acoustic versions of '70s covers.
Dirty Dave Osti and the Dynamites perform
regularly on the first Friday of every month at Cafe 322 in Sierra Madre.
He is also currently working on his next album, which should be released
"We're probably the only group around town
or anywhere that's brave enough to make up songs on the fly on stage," Osti brags. "To quote
Jackson Browne, he wrote an article recently, he said
rehearsal is for cowards. I couldn't believe that I saw that and I
understand what he said. Rehearsal is for cowards, in other words, we
don't want to be safe, you have to be confident enough to get out of
your safety zone. Rehearsing is a safe bet that you don't do anything
wrong in front of people.
"When we play we're actually just feeding
off of whatever's happening with the people. I would say the songs that I make up right on the
site, those song belong to you guys because you the crowd created
them, not us.
"We don't know anything about each other
yet," Osti continues. "We haven't hung out
yet, we haven't had dinner together and we've played probably 20
shows and each one has been a spiritual experience for us. We're just
so amazed that we don't want to mess it up."
"If it's not rehearsed, that's the magic of
going to see a live performance for me, if it's not all thought out and planned out. We
don't know what we're going to do until we get up there. I never use
a set list ever. I don't even like floor monitors, they're just a
distraction... I want to know what it sounds like out there."
Before parting ways with a big hug, Osti
asks me if he can share his thoughts on music piracy and I oblige.
"I'm completely against digital piracy and
I guarantee when they fix the problem, the promoters of free music will be the first ones in
line with their hand out ready to get money." Osti explains, "The first
day my album came out, there were 27,000 downloads of the whole album. I started
multiplying it, all the sites, and I came up with a tentative figure
of 200,000 illegal downloads so far. I'm supposed to get paid $1
each. Now I've lost count. The problem is 99 percent of all music
downloads are illegal, so I'm lucky to get any money."