Dave Pino is the kind of guy who would think it's clever to have a myspace address that, spelled backwards, reads "Satan Is Lord." He owns a Segway and worships Camaros, and he is the bitchingest guitar hero ever to come out of Waltham, Massachusetts. So it was probably inevitable that we'd run into him at the bar just before Bang Camaro's set during the release party for Guitar Hero 2 a couple weeks ago. The founding songwriter of Waltham (the band), Pino threw away a batch of songs that a local producer picked out of the trash and transformed into Damone's first album. With both Waltham and Damone he managed to get within spitting distance of fame, look the bitch square in the eye, and tell lady luck to go fuck herself. He is the only certifiable musical genius we know; he is also completely nuts. It's useless to separate one quality from the other: he once suggested turning Waltham (the band) into a high-school musical, which everyone thought was insane -- including his bandmates -- until, not long ago, Disney put out something called High School Musical that became more or less the biggest breakout of the year. (We'll spare you our dissertation on how Pino essentially invented, by complete accident, the musical template for most of today's commercial tween rock from Avril to Hannah Montana -- this while publicly pledging allegiance to groups like Amen and Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society -- but trust us, this is demonstrably the case.)
Pino quit Damone just as they were launching their RCA debut, deciding after much thought that he didn't really want to tour -- and that he'd rather work for his dad's construction company. Over the past couple years, you could find him playing with a couple local teenage hardcore and hellbilly bands in seedy bars in the burbs or, on a good night, somewhere near the commuter rail station. Which is why we were somewhat surprised to hear, when we ran into him at the GH party, that he has signed on as the guitarist in former Killswitch Engage singer Jesse Leach's band, SEEMLESS, whose current tour -- alongside Swede-thrash giants In Flames -- arrives tonight at the Palladium.
(The Pino/Damone split has never really healed -- the rest of the band still doesn't speak to him, although they've done remarkably well without him. We bumped into Damone drummer/songwriter Dustin Hengst last weekend at the old Damn Personals practice space, where former Crash and Burn singer Bill Brown was debuting a new, as-yet-unnamed band fronted by Dropkick Murphys' female foil Stephanie Dougherty. Damone had just come off a year-long tour in support of their criminally underpromoted Out Here All Night, during which they were on the road with the likes of Andrew W.K., the Pink Spiders, and the All-American Rejects. Their cover of Billy Squire's "Everybody Wants You" -- originally recorded under a fake name for quick cash while they were trying to get out of their RCA deal -- will become the theme song of the CW network in January, which might provoke the suits at Island to sink some more cash into promotion.)
Pino now looks better than we've seen him in a half-dozen years -- for one thing, he's shed the mountain-man beard that was once one of the more ridiculous bones of contention between an artist and a label (at one point, RCA allegedly threatened to drop Damone if he didn't shave it; Dave left the band, the beard stayed). He's playing guitar in a touring band, performing for audiences that can appreciate the monstrous talent they're looking at. He sounds happy. He is part of a New England thrash supergroup that may yet someday make an album. As for his songwriting -- which is, even more than his guitar-god flash, the thing that astounds us most about the man -- "I'm saving all my songs for a puppet band with Robby Roadsteamer," he myspaced us recently. In other words: Pino's still batshit crazy, but you'd be even crazier to bet against him.
DOWNLOAD: Dave Pino talks about drugs (mp3)