Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, it seemed everyone wanted to be a rock star. For South Floridian Dave Kerzner, that dream has now become reality, but only after a long and winding road.
Kerzner grew up listening to Genesis, Rush, Yes, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. “I loved the progressive rock sound, the lyrics and the emotion in the music.” And, like many kids, he found himself emulating his music heroes. “At age 14, I pleaded with my parents for the money to buy my first synthesizer at Radio Shack. With the high cost of gear back then, they made me promise I’d stick with it (he chuckles). At this point, I can safely say I’ve made good on that promise.”
From the manual dials of the “too few keys” Radio Shack synthesizer, Kerzner quickly graduated to professional gear from Ace Music in North Miami. “Back in the day that was the center of the universe for musicians. I bought tons of equipment there, including a 4-track recorder.”
Kerzner recalls, “I was in garage bands with people much older than me playing cover tunes of all the music I loved. And, I wrote and performed some early originals, but they weren’t very good.” Because Kerzner had the bulk of the good recording equipment, he became the director of those garage bands and in turn learned how to collaborate. “Having keyboards and recording gear back then set you apart. Very few other musicians had them or knew how they worked, so it opened a lot of doors for me.”
It was a great early start for Kerzner, but it was the Radio Shack synthesizer dials that allowed for nearly infinite manual sound shaping that would pique Kerzner’s creativity and set him on a career path. “Even though I was playing real keyboards, I actually went back and bought another synth. It just had a certain charm to it. The salesman said it was exotic and I guess he was right. I was told you could spin dials and make nearly any sound you wanted and that excited me.”
After spending a few years at Syracuse University, Kerzner set his sights on Los Angeles. When he arrived in the late 1980s, LA was electric with all kinds of music creativity. Kerzner enrolled in Grove School of Music and began collecting instruments that were interesting to him. One day, a friend invited him to a studio recording session and asked if he’d program the band’s Minimoog (the world's first portable synthesizer). His results were impressive enough to create a buzz around town. Soon other bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Crowded House, The Black Crowes, Madonna and Pearl Jam were calling on his services.
“I really got fired up over sampling sound, which is digitally recording real-world sound and playing them back through keyboards.” It was Kerzner’s passion and expertise in keyboard programming and sampling that allowed him to meet both new and ‘old-school’ musicians, helping them create new sounds. Kerzner soon opened his own company, Sonic Reality, to much success.
While Sonic Reality may not be a company you’re familiar with, bands like Coldplay and Eminem, manufacturers including Yamaha, Roland, IK Multimedia and Alesis and even the legendary producer/engineer Alan Parsons certainly are. “Our sounds are in many keyboards and music software used today. They can be heard in all styles of music on the radio, and have been for decades.”
Running Sonic Realty, which is based right here in Sunrise, FL, afforded Kerzner more than just a living and connection to the music industry. It gave him a nearly limitless library of sound to use in his own music and an angle to meet, talk and collaborate with some of his music idols. ELP, Genesis and Rush got to know Kerzner through using his products and then became friends with him. “When I can collaborate with these musicians to create their unique sounds, special things happen.”
In 2005, while keeping Sonic Reality humming along, Kerzner made a concerted effort to shift back to creating his own music as well. He had been writing privately for years honing his craft until he was ready to unleash his music on the world.
“I worked a bit with Steve Hackett from Genesis and Steve Wilson from Porcupine Tree, but the journey really took off in 2009 when I started recording with Simon Collins, Phil’s son.” Kerzner and Collins created the band Sound of Contact, which released Dimensionaut in 2012 to rave reviews. Sound of Contact received the "Limelight" award for Best New Group at the second annual Progressive Music Awards held in September 2013.
Kerzner and Collins also found creative outlet in pursuing projects on their own. Kerzner worked with Heather Findlay from Mostly Autumn in creating the band Mantra Vega while simultaneously gearing up for his own solo album.
“One evening I went to see Steve Hackett play his Genesis Revisited show in Fort Lauderdale. He invited me backstage and, without me asking, he offered to play on my album!” It was a magic moment for Kerzner to have one of his music idols recognize his work and want to contribute. “I’ve had the pleasure to work with a few special musicians who have enjoyed tremendous success and now want to help others to create music that spans generations. Steve Hackett is one of those people.”
Kerzner created the music for his solo album in his North Miami studio, while surrounded by an impressive personal museum of keyboards, amps and recording equipment from yesteryear. He also surrounds himself with musicians that played that gear. “As I envisioned the album, I wrote parts for several of my musical heroes like Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Durga McBroom of Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett and others. I was fortunate to have friends like that guest on my album.”
In January of this year The Dave Kerzner Band released the deluxe edition of his epic prog rock album entitled “New World”, clocking in at well over two hours of music. Available on iTunes and at several other outlets (including http://www.davekerzner.com/pre-order-the-new-album), it shows a range of music that shows Kerzner has truly become the rock star he always dreamed of. “The music industry may not be like it was in the 70s and 80s. But, I get to do what I love and watch people react to it. The social part of the Internet has been especially rewarding, including several Kickstarter campaigns that allowed me to create elaborately packaged CDs independently without artistic compromise and let me know just how many people were behind me and my dream.”
“New World” has been described as ‘Pink Floyd…with balls’ and ‘the perfect blend of 70s progressive rock mixed with today’s best sounds’. It is an album of heart, passion and collaboration. It is also a statement of stardom for Kerzner who has been on his rock-and-roll journey for decades.
“As I put New World together, so many people came to help make the project successful,” Kerzner blushes. “ I am indebted to Durga and Lorelei McBroom (Pink Floyd), Steve Hackett, Keith Emerson (ELP), Francis Dunnery, Simon Phillips, Billy Sherwood (Yes), Fernando Perdomo and many others who have blessed their presence on my album.”
The next level for Kerzner occurs on November 14th at the 4th Annual Palmetto Bay Food & Rock Festival where he'll be performing the music of his album live for the first time just before he sets sail with the bands, Yes, Marillion and more on Cruise To The Edge. “The stars have aligned in a special way. It’s the live debut of my album and I get to play for my family and friends right here in South Florida in front of a huge audience. Anything can happen and it’s that magic moment that most excites me. It’s our passion and mission to play dramatic dynamic moody music that gives fans the same feeling I had going to classic rock concerts growing up.”
If you’d like to support this South Florida talent and see Dave Kerzner perform, you can purchase reduced price tickets at: tinyurl.com/pb2015rockfest.