Keith DiPiazza interview by C.R. Bennett

Posted on 3/20/2010 by C.R. Bennett

Keith DiPiazza
Monessen, PA, 2010
photo: C.R. Bennett, Copyright 2010
all rights reserved

(Monessen, PA) Keith DiPiazza is a multi-talented keyboardist, singer-songwriter, composer and arranger who has performed with top local bands and national acts for 40 years. He has compiled 2 compact discs and is working on a third in his newly equipped home studio, Dove Studios.

From the beginning of our introductory phone call, I knew Keith was excited and passionate about talking music. His bright, friendly, infectious enthusiasm led to a first impression that our conversation would certainly last longer than a few hours.

Upon entering his studio (or “Manland” as his wife Carol likes to call it), he provided me with an information packet about his new equipment, his two compact discs, “Road Kill” and “From Chaos Comes Life From Life Comes Chaos,” and his music biography. When I glanced at Keith’s biography and saw he played with The Vogues, The Enforcers, The Gregg Allman Band and members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, I knew there wouldn’t be enough time to cover all I wanted.

Despite having several specific questions I wanted to cover, our dialogue was more informal rather than a question-and-answer period. Keith often answered questions about his composing and his ideas by playing the keyboards as the discussion freely flowed from one topic to another.

Here Keith provided some great insights into his life as a professional road musician, the music business, and the development of his own music:

“Basically I was a hired gun, wherever somebody needed a keyboard player, my agent (Ted Percell) would put me in. The Ken Hill Agency kept me busy too. I would just play wherever I was sent. I made some serious money, not like playing in Pittsburgh, the lowest I ever made on the road was $2800 a week, and the highest was about $3475 a week. And that was in the ‘80’s.”

“I’m a multi-keyboard player. One band I filled in with, all I played was horns and violins. The other keyboardist did everything else.”

Keith said you had to be on top of your game because a band sent you a cassette of the live show, and the chord charts (if you were lucky) through the mail. “You hurry up and learn the shows on your own. All the stuff that was on their albums I had to duplicate, that was my job.”

“The road is really lonely because you’re traveling. You’re making big money, but you have really nowhere to spend it.”

“During that time I just felt like a pawn. I was basically somebody’s robot. I had no chance to express any creativity. I had to play what I was told to play, what was written and that was it. There was really not a chance to show people what you can do.”

Keith DiPiazza
Monessen, PA, 2010
photo: C.R. Bennett, Copyright 2010
all rights reserved

“I played on the road out of necessity, because of the money, but I didn’t really like it. I was playing music, doing what I loved to do, but not playing what I liked,” Keith said. “Playing classic rock or blues would have been more fun.”

He said he spent a lot of money on clothing, and “did the chameleon well,” but after awhile he just had enough.

“I’d go on the road again if I could have fun, (maybe) a blues tour, but the money is a factor.”

“When I came off the road, I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to be a pawn in someone else’s game, now that I’m back in the area this is going to be about me.’ I wanted a chance to do some of the things I liked to do.”

He has enjoyed getting back into the blues and demonstrated some fantastic guitar licks I couldn’t imagine Bernard Allison playing, let alone coming from a keyboard.

Keith wrote, composed, arranged and mixed all the songs on his two CDs, as well as playing all the instrumentals. So I asked him what instruments he plays:

“I started playing the organ when I was 6, and played drums and keyboards at 13.” He said the first time he touched an organ he played “The Alley Cat” with one finger on his brother Don’s Hammond B3.

He bought a guitar and tried to learn, but said he couldn’t understand how anyone could play it. It seemed much simpler to play the keys. Now he is mainly a vocalist and keyboard player, although he is also a percussionist.

“I recently sold all my keyboards and bought newer equipment. So I have no desire to play guitar, I can play them right here,” Keith said, referring to the 32-bit samplers that replicate the sounds of other instruments.

He demonstrated several examples of the techniques he uses to make the keys sound like other instruments. By manipulating a joystick and other controls, Keith can bend notes, add vibrato and other distortions to reproduce the nuances of hundreds of instruments.

“I’m a composer, so I listen to everything, because when I write overtures you have to learn the techniques of each instrument. Once you know how an instrument is played, you become that instrument.”

“Even though you’re playing guitar on the keyboard, you’re copying how the guitar player plays it. That’s what makes it sound real.”

“I know of a lot of keyboard players who have really nice gear, but they don’t know how to get the sounds out of it.” Keith said that they can play the horn sounds, for instance, but it doesn’t sound real because they don’t understand how the horns are played.

Keith DiPiazza
Monessen, PA, 2010
photo: C.R. Bennett, Copyright 2010
all rights reserved

After we listened to several parts of his orchestral pieces, Keith said he developed a keen ear by being in a musical environment all his life and taught himself composition and arrangement by listening and trying to copy orchestral movements.

“Which is strange because growing up I was basically a jazz organist,” he said.

“I like to orchestrate, and I also write some Christian music. I try to write the Christian (music) in a way that is more secular.”

“ ‘The Darkness and the Light’ makes reference to a story in the Book of John, it also talks about Christ and His message, but I don’t say ‘Jesus’.”

“The way I look at it, people write for people who already believe, praise and worship type of tunes.”

“Well, I write trying to get people interested.”

Keith’s Christian music has a heavy metal edge but each song carries some underlying message.

“Everything I write I have something to say. I write songs about trying to get along with people. There are songs where you just wonder about deeper things.”

“I’m a very soulful player, everything I play comes from the heart, comes from the soul, comes from emotion.”

“I’m a mixture of many fathers,” Keith said. “Jazz has always been part of us,” as was soul. And his music reflects an interest in exploring varied genres as classical, heavy metal, orchestral, Latin and the blues.

Organist Gregg Rolie from Santana was his first influence, “he’s the guy that played the ‘Evil Ways’ solo,” which was Keith’s first nightclub solo at age 12 on a Hammond B3.

Other influences include the keyboard players for the J. Geils Band, Steppenwolf and Jimmy Greenspoon for Three Dog Night.

“I’m not a normal keyboard player, I have to be out, like the Allman Brothers, Skynyrd, I’m not the piano player who stands behind the other guys. I put myself right out in front. Because I’m a performer too.”

Keith said he is looking for “a good blues band that needs a rockin’ keyboard player.”

“I really get into playing live, I’m really physical on organ.”

“A lot of people think of me as a honky-tonk piano player. Technically, I’m really not a piano player, I sound like one, but I’m a band player not a concert pianist.”

Keith is currently finishing his third CD. His future plans include a concept CD based on the Book of Matthew, a future goal is to score a movie.

More information about Keith DiPiazza, his studio and his CDs are available at

Keith DiPiazza
Monessen, PA, 2010
photo: C.R. Bennett, Copyright 2010
all rights reserved

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