Interview With Dennis Kapoyos
The Misfit Toys are back after a lengthy hiatus. Friends, fans and band mates agree that without the distinctive playing style and writing by Dennis Kapoyos the band could not in good conscious use the name “The Misfit Toys”.
This is more than simply flattery and both new and old fans agree that Dennis' sound is unlike any other guitarist. His beginning with the band began with simply answering an ad for a guitar player when he was only 16. More than impressed, the band was blown away by Dennis' audition. His very fluid playing and ability to adjust his pedals to sound identical to whomever he chose left the bassist and drummer with their mouths open that Spring day in 1985. The vocalist and keyboard player agreed that Dennis had an almost unique ability and talent.
When playing covers Dennis had the ability to combine multiple guitars and keyboards into a sing guitar part for himself, fooling the ears of listeners that they were hearing all of the instrumentation of the original recording. The band came to rely upon him to make every song, both original and cover his own. When the band began to introduce original songs Dennis appeared to know exactly what to play and how to play it. Even when soloing he never simply played self indulgent filler with an intention of drawing attention to himself. Dennis kept a low profile on stage and at practice, confident in his abilities. He found that The Misfit Toys was unlike other bands and more like a business. From the very start The Misfit Toys aimed for professionalism. They insisted the drummer have proper cases for his drums and that each member dress differently for stage than when they entered the club. The band over all was into the music they played as well as the whole music scene and fashion. Together they worked hard to make the band the best it could be with an eye on the future.
It appears the future is now.
1. You appeared to fit right in with the music the Misfit Toys wanted to play when you joined them. Tell us about your musical background.
At that point in my life, I believe I was 16 when I joined, I was really into the post-punk and new wave music that was thriving but still very out of the mainstream and that’s what the band was interested in so it worked out really well. Before that, my musical journey started with the Beatles. My sister and I used to play Beatles songs together for my parents and sometimes their friends when they were over. She played the piano, and I had my acoustic guitar. Once I was hooked on playing the guitar more than casually, I listened to what most pre-teens and middle schoolers were into – some early metal, some pop. As I started following certain guitar players, I really admired the progressive rock players – Alex Lifeson, Steve Howe, Adrian Belew. In the truest sense of the word progressive, it lead me down a path of always seeking out artists that were non-conventional and maybe ahead of their time. In my high school and college years, I started getting into really dark industrial and electronic music because it challenged the listener.
2. When you joined the band you played a Gibson ES 335 and a B.C. Rich guitar. Those are not beginner or amateur level instruments. Tell us about your gear then and now. Yeah, that ES 335 – one of the biggest regrets in my life selling that. The 335 / B.C. Rich combo was because I wanted something classic and something modern – something that could give a very distinct sound and something that could give me different types of sounds. In a way, that approach has stayed with me all throughout my musical journey. Like now, I have an ES 175 and Telecaster that I love playing for their vintage tones and recently bought a Tom Morello Strat that I could have all sorts of fun with. I also have a lot of digital gear and software for recording mostly, but also like to play around with synth sounds and samples.
3. Your onstage appearances seem to showcase your fashion sense. Where did you get your inspiration for your hair and clothes ? I mean growing up in the 80s how could you not have a sense of fashion. If you’ve seen old pictures, of course, Robert Smith and Siouxsie inspired my clothing choices and music. I’ve toned back some as I’ve gotten older, but it’s still fun to dress up when going out for a night on the town.
4. After leaving the band in 1989 you wrote, played in and produced other bands. Tell us about about those experiences. I met a guy named Victor Imbres in Washington, DC, and we hit it off musically and personally. We ended up working together for years – first in an industrial band called A Priori and then got into early Techno and underground dance music. I had taken a course in Audio Engineering at Omega studios in Bethesda and I just fell in love with music production. There was a period when I became very infatuated with drum programming and trying to really program a drum part like a real drummer would play. The guys I collaborated with then totally stole some of my tricks and a couple became great success stories – Deep Dish and BT (Biran Transeau). Victor Imbres also had some success in dance music in the mid 90’s and we’re still good friend.
5. There are videos of you singing with your band “The Aqu-nets” Did you sing with other bands? In the industrial band that I mentioned above, I guess you could call what I did singing. Hah. The Aqua-nets was a really interesting experience for me. It’s a cover band, but I totally became a better guitarist and singer playing in that band. I wish I could have sung as well as I do now when I was younger. We could have had much better backing vocals in the Misfit Toys.
6. The Misfit Toys was run like a business without episodes of partying or jamming. Did you experience the same level of seriousness in other bands? Mostly, yes, especially the original bands. And sometimes I was the primary source of the seriousness. I had to kick out a close friend out of a band because he couldn’t keep up and never seemed to learn the material. Unfortunately, our friendship ended because of that. The cover bands were more loose and sometime drunk-infested, but we were and still are close friends and that was what was most important.
7. Songs by The Misfit Toys are often distinguishable by your guitar work on a level with the former vocalist and in making a statement with the new lineup. Several other guitarist came and went after your departure and it was a lot of work for them to try to learn what appeared to come natural for you. Your band mates recognized your talent and believed you were destined to be either e rock star or a session musician in high demand. While you were with the band did you have personal objectives for your life? I very much wanted to make music for a living in some way and worked very hard over many years to make that happen. I ended up becoming a father before I was ready and the person I was involved with was not very supportive of my pursuits to be a full-time musician, so that derailed me more than anything.
8. Had you achieved a level of fame where you might sit in with another band, whom would youhave loved to play with? I would have loved to play with Jeff Buckley. If I could travel in time, it would be Jimi Hendrix.
9. How many instruments do you play? Guitar, drums, bass, voice, keys, and programming. Very similar to Mike, who I’m so grateful plays other instruments besides the drums. I have found that working with drummers who play other instruments always seems to be more efficient. With that said, of my favorite drummers I have ever played with two only played the drums, so go figure.
10. What were some of the songs you worked on prior to joining the Misfit Toys ? I tried to learn everything I listened to, from King Crimson to Ozzy Osbourne to Billy Idol and The Clash.
11. Where was your first 'out of town' gig? Tell us about it. It was with the Misfit Toys. I kinda want to say it was either the Electric Banana in Pittsburgh or the Underground Railroad in West Virgina somewhere. Both of those gigs were great – good crowds and great performances. I still have bad dreams of the drive home from Pittsburgh in the blizzard and the makeshift heater. I felt like we paid our dues on that trip.
12. Do you have a favorite venue to perform at with a band? I don’t really have a favorite venue, but I have a long list of ones I would never want to play in again. In general, I really enjoy playing outdoors around dusk.
13. Performing can be very exciting, do you have something you do to calm down after a good show? I’m very non-social after a show. I think because I get a lot of anxiety at the thought of talking to someone right after a performance. I usually just focus on getting my gear off stage as soon as possible. I think that helps me get past the anxiety.
14. You wrote many excellent and imaginative guitar parts for Misfit Toys songs. Tell us your process for writing to other people's songs. I think I primarily look for space. I don’t like to do anything that interferes with vocals, so depending on the song, there could be some space to play a complementary lead line. I was never a riffy or power chord type guitar player so I like to find chords or lead lines that add additional character to a song. With that said, I do like playing funky licks, but none of the original projects I’ve done have every really required that.
15. Your family saw you rise from a child playing a tennis racket guitar to playing on stage to hundreds of fans. Was there a time when your parents took your musical talent seriously? Yes, there was resistance for sure during my school years. My dad dreamed of me becoming a professional tennis player and my mom wanted me to be an engineer or lawyer. But I remember a conversation with my mom when I was about 19 or 20 and she saw how serious I was about music and how I kept it going for so long, she said she really supported by dream. That meant a lot to me back then and gave me confidence I was doing what I should be doing.
16. Do you view your years with the Misfit Toys with pride for all you accomplished or looking back was it just a stepping stone to the rest of your career in music? I admittedly, probably, didn’t appreciate our potential - was still a young kid trying to explore everything. As we’re revisiting these songs and discovering some I never remembered, I think we could have achieved some significant success, but I also can look back on several moments in my life where had I made different decision, my life would have been completely different – both good and bad ways.
17. The success of the Misfit Toys 12 inch single of “The Ordinary” was due in a large part to you. Your guitar work sets it far apart from other music in the mainstream and alternative radio markets. Is there a story behind that song? Were there any guitarist you can point to and say they were an influence for you ? The rhythm of that lead line to me is what makes it unique as opposed to the melody. I think when we were working on it, I wanted to feel more movement in the song and that’s what I came up with. I’ve heard people say it sounds like the Edge and while I was a big U2 fan, that wasn’t really what was influencing me at that time.
18. Do you have a preference of performing live or working in a studio? I love doing both. There was a time when I thought I loved the studio more, but nothing beats the feeling of playing in a band and getting tight on a song and playing it effortlessly live like it’s second nature.
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