It’s been fascinating to watch the rise of Dean Delray on the comedy scene over the past year or so. After slogging it out for half a decade doing sets anywhere and everywhere he could, Delray is now in high demand, with his name on the sign at the legendary Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard, playing to packed arenas with Russell Peters, even hosting and singing at the Bonzo Bash and Randy Rhoads Remembered concerts at the NAMM Show this past January. And Delray’s musical history stretches far further back than his comedy: a lifelong musician and a bona fide guitar nut, Delray has done it all from releasing his own albums (check out Lone Mountain Serenade) to supporting Zakk Wylde’s Pride & Glory and Jakob Dylan’s The Wallflowers to DJing VIP afterparties for Rolling Stones fans. Delray’s passion for music and guitar informs everything he does, whether it’s stand-up at the Comedy Store and Laugh Factory, performing at Brendon Small and Steve Agee’s BAKED comedy and music nights at the Baked Potato, appearing on fellow comedian/podcaster/guitar-fan Marc Maron’s IFC show Maron [see our interview with him here], or his Let There Be Talk podcast where he’s had compellingly freewheeling and revealing chats with Duff McKagan, Richie Kotzen, Rudy Sarzo, Dave Lombardo, Don Dokken, Billy Sheehan, Gilby Clarke and Dweezil Zappa.Dean Del Ray

So let’s start with music. Where did it start for you?

I played music all my life, 25 years, probably from when I was around 16 up until around seven years ago. I started comedy five years ago. There were a couple of years where I didn’t do s**t, I worked at Harley Davidson. I played music my whole life. First a metal band that was kind of Accept, Saxon, Metallica, the British heavy metal explosion. Then I got into Aerosmith, blues, G’n’R, and then for ten solid years Tom Petty, singer-songwriter, Springsteen stuff. So all different stuff, and that’s mostly because I love all kinds of music, y’know? I love country, blues, jazz, rock, metal… of course rock and metal being my favorite. For the first fifteen years I didn’t play an instrument. I tried to play guitar but the local band needed a singer and boom, that’s what I did. I started singing and then all of a sudden 20 years went by. I always wrote melodies and lyrics but I started getting aggravated because I could hear the stuff in my head but I couldn’t tell the person what to play, so I took a year off and learned guitar. I did it the same way I do comedy: every day, eight hours a day I would just play guitar. A year later I wrote a record, recorded it, and that was my solo record, Lone Mountain Serenade.

So you’re from San Francisco, which means you would have seen Faith No More before they were huge, Metallica, Exodus…

I was at the ground zero of all of those because I played music at a club called the Stone and I also worked there booking bands. It’s the place where Metallica played, Faith No More, even later on some of the hair bands. A lot of the bands that became huge, I saw early on. I think Faith No More’s Angel Dust record is an absolute masterpiece. It’s by far one of the most original records to come out of the Bay Area. The tunes are super angry and radical. Mike Patton is a genius. Every project he does is incredible. But I truly believe that once Jim Martin was out, to me I’m out. That’s what made it for me, the juxtaposition of the different dudes. On paper that should not work. It’s like a Village People but they’re not wearing costumes, it’s each personality! And if you’ve ever played in a band for years, that should not work. Because each time a guy comes in to audition for your band and he doesn’t look like your band you’re like “Nah, he’s out.” That’s how shallow it is. But it’s real and that band, that album is a monster. And Jim Martin playing that Gibson V… I’d see him hanging at the Stone with Hetfield. They had a side band and they were lunatics!

So let’s talk comedy. How did this start? I can see a lot of parallels between the life of a comedian and a musician.

Well I played music for 25 years and once the illegal downloading really kicked in and was not going away, just the way to make a living was over. Overnight, y’know, for a guy my level. I was never huge but I was always a touring musician who put records out and would do stuff like I toured ten months with the Wallflowers, stuff like that. But after 25 years, the last six years I realised it was over. But it’s in my blood! After you’ve done something for 25 years what do you do? You don’t just go and get a job. I mean, you do, out of necessity, but it’s a different animal when you’ve been an artist all your life. So I started working at Harley and I love motorcycles, as much as I love guitars. So I started working there and it was pretty good but then 2006 the economy tanked, no-one was buying Harleys and I was just sitting there all of a sudden, another gig not making money! So while I was working at Harley this guy came down and said they were making a biker movie for Quentin Tarantino called Hell Ride and he asked if I’d help with the motorcycles, telling them what bikes they would ride and stuff. They asked me to audition and I got a part in the movie. From that role I got another role in a movie with Ice Cube called The Long Shots, a football movie. And in that movie where were a couple of comedians, Garrett Morris from Saturday Night Live, and Earthquake. We were shooting the music for two months and a lot of days we’d just sit in the bleachers just riffin’. I asked Earthquake what he did. He said he’s a stand-up comedian and I said “Man, I always wanted to do that.” He said “Yeah, that’s what everybody says, whatever,” and he kinda blew it off but over a few weeks he started giving me pointers on what to do. After the two months I got home, I started hitting open mics and I never stopped. I came home, I left Harley and I started doing comedy… which leads me to Gibson!

So what Gibsons are you into?

At that time I owned a Murphy Paul. I had owned like 40 Gibsons and slowly was selling them over the years because I was running out of money playing music. I love Gibson more than anyone. It’s my life! ’59 Les Paul TV Juniors, the double-cutaway 60s with the tortoise guards. But my main addiction was Les Pauls because of Jimmy Page and SGs because of Angus Young. And later Jeff Tweedy was playing an SG, and one of my early friends, Mike Varney who owns Shrapnel Records, really got me into SGs because he had a Pelham Blue one and my goal was to get one. I got a ’65 Pelham Blue SG that was mint. I had a massive collection of Gibsons, vintage. And as my career was coming down I sold ‘em all except for my Murphy Paul. Tom Murphy was playing guitars at Gibson but the first year he came out with what you’d call a Murphy Paul, I believe was ’95 or ’96. I’d heard about them at the NAMM Show, “There are these guitars that Tom Murphy makes and they’re aged and they’re like a real ’59!” And I always wanted a real ’59 but at that time they were $75,000… I shoulda bought one at that time! [Laughs] I’m obsessed with the ’58 and ’59. Not the ’60 cos I don’t like the neck but the ’58 and ’59 to me is a piece of art. I love paintings, I love architecture, I love great movies and records, and to me the Les Paul is just as much a piece of history. It is a rock n’ roll machine. So when I started comedy I had to sell my Murphy Les Paul. I bought that with money I saved for a year. I drove to San Diego - you couldn’t just get a Murphy Paul back then, there were like five places in America that had them - so I drove to a place called Center Music in San Diego. I didn’t want to buy one over the phone, I wanted to feel it because I wanted a fly-weight one. Eight pounds. Cos I remember Albert at Guitars R Us on Sunset, he has the lightest Les Paul, it’s like 7.5 pounds. I think it was Paul Stanley’s, it’s tangerine. Lightest ’59 ever. I was like “Man, if I can get a light ’59 I’d be f**king killer!” So I drove down there and bought it and I had this guitar for years. When I started comedy I took the Ice Cube film money and I had to sell the Murphy Paul and I put it all in the bank, and what I did for two years straight was went on stage every f**king day. Never missed it. Two, three times a day. That two years turned into three, four, five, and here we are in my sixth year. But I miss that guitar! And now I just pray that I get like a TV show or something because I wanna buy that Joe Perry one [the Joe Perry 1959 Les Paul]! The one with the worn swell knob! So you know the story: Joe Perry loses that back when he was a junkie. Then Slash buys it somehow years later and then gives it to him for his 60th birthday! That guitar is worth like a million dollars and he gave it to him, and Gibson re-made it. Now the funny thing about that guitar was I always wanted that guitar because I have that Japanese ‘burst book, Beauty of the Burst, and I love ‘em all in there. They’re all badass - unless it’s got a Bigsby, I don’t like a Bigsby on a flame top. But I remember seeing it and what I liked about it was you could tell that thing had been played to the death. The worn wood, the look of the Tobacco Burst. They were all like Sunburst but that’s Tobacco Burst and it’s yellowed… when they made ‘em I was like “I gotta get that guitar somehow.” That or the Pearly Gates, those are the two Les Pauls I want. That or the Duane Allman 1959 Cherry Sunburst because it’s got the weird opposite flame, and the color is almost purple in the Sunburst. I’m obsessed with ‘em. And I love Tom Murphy. I’ve been trying to get him on my podcast for years but I don’t know how to get a hold of him! I just think they’re incredible guitars.

I think why I like Gibsons so much is it comes down to art. Do you like Frank Lloyd Wright homes? Do you like the Case Study homes? Do you like the old Craftsmans? Do you like Spanish? They got all that here. Do you like all that here on the Sunset Strip. The old guitar stores on Sunset… this town is 100% rock n’roll. That’s why I love doing the Comedy Store, because the Comedy Store feels to me like it’s still the 80s. It still feels like I’m going into the Whisky in 1984 or the Rainbow Bar & Grill. The Rainbow, there’s no bar like it in America. There’s no bar like it. Can you believe that? You go in there and it’s a time machine of rock n’ roll. That should be the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame to me! That should be it!

So tell us about Let There Be Talk. You’ve had some great guests, and the majority of them are musicians.

Without Marc Maron there’s no podcast knowledge to me. I think he’s the best and he’s the reason I do podcasts, but he’s also the reason I knew not to just have comedians. When he started it was all comedians and I didn’t want to be like Marc’s so what do you do? So I realised I’ve made music all my life and I’ve got all these friends and I love talking music, so let’s have these guys on! But I really think that when you’re born there’s a map laid out for your whole life and you don’t know it, but I think that whole music career, I had to do that to get to the comedy career. I really believe that because everything from my music life now is awesome in my comedy, which is my old friends who did the comedy, or jamming and hosting at the Bonzo Bash, jamming with guys who as a kid I worshipped! Zakk Wylde, Steve Adler, Kenny Aronoff, Jake E Lee… so I’d just started doing the podcast and I remember the first episode, you can see your numbers and after a week there were two listeners. One was probably my mom. And the other was probably me just checking to make sure it sounded okay. A couple weeks later it was 36 listeners, then it was 90, and now it’s just thousands, y’know? I think the main point of my podcast and my life is just do what you love because you’re only here once. I tell people that and they’re like “Ah, that’s easy to say…” but no, five years ago I had nothing! I sold my Murphy Paul! I miss that guitar right now! But it’s like, Murphy Paul or do what you wanna do in life? And I really feel that if you do what you wanna do, it doesn’t matter when you die: at least you were doing what you wanted to do. Because who wants to live to be 90 and be like “Man, this f**king job…”