Toronto-based musician Tavo Diez de Bonilla might play bass in six different indie acts, including Octoberman and The Two-Minute Miracles, but when you find out he also appears in the Justin Bieber documentary Never Say Never, you can’t help but ask yourself “WTF?” followed immediately by “Is this what complete and utter confusion feels like, or is it devastatingly shameful jealousy?” We caught up with the talented music man to find out about life on the road, his favourite music of the moment, and how exactly he ended up in the Bieber flick anyway…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I am a Toronto-based musician and home recording enthusiast. I play bass with Toronto-area bands Octoberman, Pink Moth and The Two-Minute Miracles, Montreal singer/songwriters Andrew Sisk and JF Robitaille, and with the lovely Jenn Grant. I am currently on the road with Jenn opening for Ron Sexsmith around Ontario.
When did you get your first instrument and how did you learn to play it?
When I was in Grade 9 in Stratford, Ontario, I started drum lessons with Michael Wood who was the percussionist for the Stratford Festival Theatre. He conveniently lived down the street. After beating on pillows and a practice pad for a few months, my mother bought me a Tama Swingstar drum kit. I’d put on headphones and bash away to Nirvana and Primus albums. You can actually see the kit (and an 18-year-old me) in the Justin Bieber documentary in a scene where I’m attempting to give a 5-year-old Bieber a drum lesson.
What were some of the albums that defined your youth and made you want to be a musician?
Nirvana’s Nevermind and In Utero were the first two albums I bought with my own money and were what I first learned to play drums to. Those albums made me want to play in a band. Albums that really stood out to me in my formative years were The Beatles’ Revolver, Sonic Youth’s Goo, Jeff Buckley’s Grace, Mike Watt’s Ball-Hog or Tugboat?, and The Super Friendz’s Mock-Up, Scale Down. I was really into Sloan – especially Twice Removed, One Chord To Another and Navy Blues. I loved that they all swapped instruments and took turns singing lead.
What are currently some of the most played songs on your iPod?
“Whatever Gets You Alone” by Divine Fits, “The Rest Is Yet To Come” by Jim Guthrie, and “Jack of Diamonds” by The Abramson Singers.
What modern bands do you think are doing the most innovative, interesting stuff and why?
The Skeletones Four are a pretty amazing live band that make some really cool recordings. I love the interplay between the two guitars and the bass. Their music is a strange amalgam of different styles. It’s like indie-prog-rock or demented blues-rock but still catchy and at times also sweet. Sandro Perri is doing some pretty fantastic work fusing folk and electronic music. Jim Guthrie’s Takes Time is sheer brilliance.
When on the road, what are three things you can’t live without?
– My iPhone has become an indispensable tool on the road. Five years ago I used to tour without a cellphone. Now I don’t even bother bringing a laptop anymore. I use the phone for email, maps, credit card transactions at the merch table, bookkeeping, music and podcasts in the van, going over songs, etc. I will occasionally even use it to make calls.
– I always travel with my reusable coffee cup. It reduces on garbage in the van, which accumulates quickly.
– A third item? My wallet? That thing sure comes in handy. I could probably live without these things but I’d rather not have to.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give up-and-coming musicians before they go on tour?
Be a team player and be considerate of the people you’re traveling with. Don’t overpack and clutter the van. Take your share of driving shifts. Be punctual and don’t keep others waiting. Help with the load-in and load-out. Offer to be the designated driver from time to time. An efficient, courteous and happy unit will make for a great tour.
Finish this sentence: I love Toronto because…
…it’s such a culturally diverse city. I love having access to all different kinds of world cuisine. I also love the abundance of live music and comedy in the city. I’m quite happy living in Toronto.
What’s your favourite restaurant and why?
I love Sakura Sushi. I take a lot of friends there and my girlfriend and I order delivery from there almost every week. Everything is so fresh and delicious and very reasonably priced. They have an All-You-Can-Eat menu as well which I have never tried. I can barely finish the meals on their regular menu because the portions are so generous. That’ll sound crazy to anyone who knows me. I have a hollow leg.
Let’s get social for a moment. How can people stay up-to-date with your busy life?