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Industry’s Got Talent: Dave Silkin, DSG Distributors, on Opening for The Four Tops, The Temptations, Mariah Carey

Dave Silkin of DSG Distributors, learned from Paul McCartney, Verdine White and Chris Squire to develop a style that allowed him to tour in an R&B band that opened for The Four Tops, the Temptations, Taylor Dayne and Mariah Carey.

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Dave Silkin’s talent as a bass player is well known in the consumer electronics industry. Having played in several “all-star” industry bands, the DSG Distributors president is a walking jukebox that is able to play just about any song.

Talking to Commercial Integrator, Silkin points out that even though many know him as a businessman that serves the residential market, his business equally splits the residential and commercial industry — 50/50.

Silkin who is a music-first guy having serving as a professional bass player in an R&B band that opened for the likes of The Four Tops, the Temptations, Taylor Dayne [before she adopted that stage name] and Mariah Carey.  After leaving the band he entered the electronics industry by installing PA systems before eventually becoming a manufacturer’s rep and distributor.

Today Silkin not only acts as president of DSG Distributors, but he is also opening a new showroom for Digital Sales Group Metro, his rep firm, which he and Joe Smith are partners.

Don’t miss NSCA’s Education Foundation presenting The Drunk Unkles on June 14 during InfoComm 2017 at BB Kings. Register here. 

Under the gun for the grand opening of Digital Sales Group Metro’s showroom grand opening, and upcoming InfoComm 2017, Silkin took a few minutes out  to talk about growing up listening to Paul McCartney, Chris Squire and Verdine White, as well as his discovery of newer bass players like Flea.

You’ve been playing bass a long time, when did you first pick it up?

I first started the summer between the fifth and sixth grades. I started with a piano in the house and teaching myself some songs. Having piano and some drum background helped me play bass.

I did the gig five nights a week, six sets a night. Nothing gets you ready than doing 30 to 40 hours of weeks of being on stage. Every set is 45 to 60 minutes. You are really cranking.

Years ago I met this guy and he and I were taking guitar lessons. He knew I played drums. I went over his house and brought my drums. We started to play “House of the Rising Sun.” we played it once or twice and the second guitar player was having problems, so I said this is how I play it. By the end of the day he was playing drums and I was playing guitar.

We realized later we didn’t need two guitar players, we needed a bass player, and we decided I would be a better bass player, but I have to talk to my mom and dad first so I could get a bass.

I went home and listened to every Beatles record I could find. Back then you couldn’t Google bass players, so you had to ask people who were the best bass players, and a lot of people had pointed out Paul McCartney.

Casual music fans may not understand the value of the bass player in the role of a band, can you explain why bass players are a fundamental part of a band’s sound?

I am biased from my perspective, but in my opinion the bass players are the glue that holds the instruments together. They set the pace—the feel—they are the backbone of the band. People say the drummer, but you put the drummer on their own and they don’t lock in like the bass player. A good rhythm section moves mountains, it sets the tone, the mood of the song.

Bass players give the guitar players, drummers, singers and keyboard players creative freedom, the ability to go off and play freely.

Growing up who were the bass players you looked up to? Were they people like John Entwistle, John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee, Chris Squire?

 I loved Van Halen and Michael Anthony, but I was playing for a while at that point. I would say Chris Squire … he was  amazing. Also, to sing one rhythm and play another, that’s why Geddy Lee [of Rush] was an influence too. To sing in one rhythm and play in another, it is amazing.

I would love to play with Steely Dan and Toto. Those are guys I admire. If I had to pick it apart, for drums it would be Jeff Porcaro or Simon Phillips. They are versatile; they can play anything.

Entwistle, was amazing. Believe it or not I wasn’t a huge Zeppelin fan early on, but later I found them to be much better. I found guys like Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke.  I also discovered Verdine White of Earth Wind and Fire, and I listened to them a lot. I learned a lot from Verdine White.

The difference between Jaco, Stanley and Verdine and the rock guys are the rests and stops between notes. They know when to play and when to stop. I heard Eddie [Van Halen] playing with his son [Wolfgang Van Halen] and his son was playing lead bass, and it was much different than Michael Anthony. You have to know when not to play.

I try to keep my ears open for rests and stops, and if a guitar player steps out I know to step back. Guys like Jaco and Victor Wooten brilliantly pick their spots.

 Do you listen to modern players like Flea, Les Claypool and Billy Sheehan?

I do. Not as often as I should. These guys are inventing stuff and learning stuff and sending it out there. Flea is incredible. I saw him live and didn’t listen much and didn’t know what to expect. I left with a different outlook on the Chili Peppers after seeing them. He is awesome.

Is a perk of your role with DSG Distributors that when you are with your residential dealer clients you get the opportunity to demo home theater systems that feature your favorite bass players?

It always makes me happy to share music, but that is not my priority.  If I can make their home theater sound better or have them hear something they’ve never heard before in something they know that is great.

But, if it comes up I will play something from Tal Wilkenfeld [former Jeff Beck bass player] or some Victor Wooten. That is fun for me. I try to give the person getting the demo the opportunity to hear something they’ve heard times again something they’ve never heard before on a dARTS [active speaker brand from MSE Audio] system or Acurus system.

I remember the first time I heard K.D. Lang singing “Hallelujah” on the dARTS system it was a religious experience, and a great one at that.

 What are some of your favorite, go-to records as a bass player?

 I can make this easy. There are some. My go-to songs are my favorite songs:

  • “Birdland” from Weather Report
  • “Lopsy U” from Stanley Clarke
  • “Give it Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • “Money” by Pink Floyd
  • “Come Together” …  you have to learn McCartney’s bass lines
  • And “Let’s Groove” by Earth Wind and Fire (It’s not complicated, but it fits perfectly. I can play the first notes of “Let’s Groove” and people will know it in seconds.)

As a Metro New York resident did living in the New York City area foster your ambitions as a bass player? Was the thriving music scene a source of inspiration for you and did it help you become a better musician?

The fact that I could hop on a train and see a guy I just listened to in a small venue for $15 to $20 was helpful. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the city playing. Long Island was a thriving location for music on its own.

Dave Silkin Young

Silkin says he started to get series about performing music in the fifth or sixth grade.

That band I was talking about back in the fifth and sixth grade that I was in was playing discos, ice skating shows, and by the time I was in college I was in a jazz band.

Later, while in school, I wrote a piece where I was slapping and popping, playing funk and got an offer to join a band. After asking my parents, they introduced me to the rest of the band, and we went on tour with The Four Tops, the Temptations, and other people like Taylor Dayne, and later Mariah, but as she got bigger we never heard from her.

It was a lot of fun. I honed my skills on R&B, it was simple, funky, in the pocket, Finley Martin was the drummer and the band was called Premonition. We did lots of club dates.

I did the gig five nights a week, six sets a night. Nothing gets you ready than doing 30 to 40 hours of weeks of being on stage. Every set is 45 to 60 minutes. You are really cranking.

How often do you get to play these days, are you in a band?  

 I don’t get to play out often enough. What I do now takes up a lot of time, being a Dad takes time. Usually what happens is I will be in a bar or something and get up and play with the band. Every third Friday I do an acoustic guitar jam with the cigar club I am a member of.

What gear do you have in your current bass rig?

It depends, my biggest rig includes a Hartke  LH1000 head, two Hartke Hydrive 1 x 15 cabinets, and two Hydrive 4×10 cabinets. That gives me a lot of versatility. I can play big spaces or break it down. For jamming I play a Hartke Kickback 12. It’s a little combo and you can tilt at an angle to throw sound out to hear it better. It is great.

I use an octave pedal and a chorus/phase pedal. I am a traditional four-string guy without a lot of gadgets and gizmos. I feel I can do a lot with technique, a lot of the tone of my playing comes from moving my hands on the bass, it makes a significant different. I use a lot of passive basses, not active. I am kind of purist.

Is there a must-have piece of gear you would like to have that you don’t already own?

There is one bass that once I pay off my kids’ colleges, it’s a fedora bass, it’s the bass that Victor Wooten plays. One of these days I will hopefully have one.

 If there was one drummer, guitar player, keyboard player, vocalist you could play with or band, who would it be?

This is a hard question. I thought about this question. If it were a band, I would love to play with Steely Dan and Toto. Those are guys I admire. If I had to pick it apart, for drums it would be Jeff Porcaro or Simon Phillips. They are versatile; they can play anything.

Keyboards there are two guys I would like to play with and they are so different. With a Hammond B3 organ it would be Billy Preston, and I would also like to play with Rick Wakeman from Yes. He’s amazing.

My favorite vocalist is Luther Vandross. There’s something about him … he could sing the phone book and make people cry. I’d love to play with Tony Bennett too. He’s the coolest guy on the planet.

Most of the guitar players would be great. Steve Lukather, however would be my all-around player, and every time I see Steve Howe [of Yes] I am amazed. Of course there is Eddie Van Halen. Joe DeMaio, and Todd Cogan. Joe and Todd They are local Long Island guitar players. Joe can make any guitar sing. Todd is all out there, he’s a guitar wiz, he owns a studio and he does all kinds of stuff to make his guitar sound like anything.

Commercial Integrator is profiling musicians who work in the AV industry. If you would like to participate in CI’s “Industry’s Got Talent” series please submit your information to Bob Archer at