Watertown resident Dan Cantor makes music a way of life

Watertown resident Dan Cantor makes music a way of life
By Jeremy C. Fox

WATERTOWN —
Dan Cantor is a busy guy.
When he’s not drumming for the irreverent, danceable, indie-rock band Jim’s Big Ego, the Franklin Street resident is involved in any one of seemingly dozens of other projects — producing other artists’ records, composing film scores, teaching audio production  at Boston University — the list goes on.
“I would say I’m a musician who’s wearing different hats in order to make a living,” Cantor said. “And also I’m just excited about all these different projects.”
One of the projects that excites him most is his work as producer on the recent CD “Cosaan” by the Senegalese percussionist Lamine Touré and his Afro-pop band, Group Saloum.
Cantor has great admiration for Touré, who now lives just eight blocks away from him in Watertown, and hopes to see him get more of the local recognition that Cantor says he deserves.
“They’re huge deal when they go play the Afrique Festival in Montreal, but locally they’re kind of taken for granted,” Cantor said.
“But [Touré is] world renowned and seeing him is just a treat.”
Despite his many interests, Cantor remains loyal to Jim’s Big Ego, a band he joined a decade ago, after several years of friendship with front man Jim Infantino. The two first met in the mid-1990s when Infantino played harmonica on a folk album that Cantor was also drumming on.
He said he was amazed at Infantino’s stage presence when he first saw the band perform.
“He had a real gift for integrating humor into what would otherwise be boring interstitial material,” Cantor said.
Cantor began performing with the band as a substitute drummer a couple of years later, and soon became the permanent drummer.
He said the band has kept up its humor both in its lyrics and in the types of shows it performs. One popular variation on their stage show is “The Ego & The Oracle,” in which audience members spin a large wheel of fortune to select the band’s next song. After the band plays it, a comedian friend then helps them interpret that song as an answer to a question asked by the audience member.
Cantor said the band’s songs are particularly well suited to the purpose.
“Jim’s lyrics are rife with imagery and connections and untoward thoughts,” he said.
His band mate, keyboardist Josh Kantor (no relation) chimed in his agreement.
“The lyrics lend themselves really well to fortunes, and people are usually satisfied with the answers they get,” Kantor said.
A Watertown resident since 1993, Cantor is looking forward to the band’s upcoming performance at the Tremedal Coffee House at First Parish Church on Church Street in Watertown.
“I’m happy to play the hometown,” he said.
Local gigs are fine with Cantor, who says he’d also like to play at the Arsenal Center for the Arts. Cantor says he’s not looking huge international success — he’s glad just to be able to make a living playing music.
He saw firsthand the downside of fame when he helped develop interactive multimedia material for Aerosmith’s “Nine Lives.”
“I feel badly for people when they get to that level of corporate rock,” he said. “Jim’s Big Ego is the opposite of that. We have little or no dreams of stardom and fame. We’re just making music that we like.”
Kantor said that attitude was part of the band from the beginning.
“I think even the name, Jim’s Big Ego, it was sort of a self-aware way of dealing with having to be a front-man in a band,” Kantor
said.
“Yeah, when you name a band, the standard thing is, ‘Let’s be as cool as possible,’” said Cantor. “And Jim was basically saying,
‘Nuh-uh, let’s expose this for exactly what it is.’ Which I really appreciated.”

updated: 6 years ago