Need to Know: Michael 'Chase' DiMartino


By Joseph Hassan

The singer-songwriter talks about his double life as a sign language interpreter, translating meetings by day and pop stars like Lady Gaga and Britney by night.

And you're finishing up your debut album. It's slated for August, right?
Yeah, the album is coming out August 1. And that has taken about nine months to put together. Let me tell you something. That is nine months of every single week in the studio. That is nine months of a lot of, I mean there were days when I went home and I cried in the shower because I could not think of how to express something, of how to make it sound. It's a lot of juggle -- a lot of what do I want to hear, what do I want to portray. Down to the smallest breath at the beginning of a song.

What's the range of the album?
There's dance. There is a very '90s-influenced song called 'Nasty Habit.' It's very, very mid-'90s pop. 'Fall Down,' which is out right now [on iTunes], is a dancey track. 'Hard Candy' is a dancey track. That's out right now but I'm still doing some stuff with it. I've already added a lot that makes it much more dance-worthy. But I've left it there because it's a progress and I'm not afraid to show people a progression. They can see the flaws. That's part of it. I'm not an artist who thinks that you have to see me as a perfect person. I'm not an artist who's going to sing perfectly. I'm going to perform for you and hopefully you are entertained.

You're interpreting Lady Gaga's show at Madison Square Garden this fall. How did that come about?
There is an agency that works at Madison Square Garden. And they are in charge of getting interpreters for the events there. There just so happened to be a deaf person that wanted to go see Gaga. And they contacted me directly because they saw my [version of the] 'Bad Romance' video.

That's exciting, huh?
Can you imagine? I have this dream where Gaga's like, 'Where's that interpreter ' I know he's here. Come up here and do 'Bad Romance,' and I'm like, 'OK!' I would totally do that.

Ideally, where do you see yourself in a year?
The ideal is to be up there on the charts -- that is the ultimate goal. And to be the first pop star to bring in the deaf and hard of hearing [communities]. You know, I'm not imagining that I'm always going to be signing everything I'm doing. I'm imagining huge plasma TVs, with hands going, and I'm singing, but [sign] is there. And you've got half the stadium -- deaf and hearing people all together. Let's do it. I want to start a movement.

Clearly a lot of work has gone into getting to this point ' as you've been performing. Does it feel like you're starting to birth this baby now?
I'm eight months.

You're eight months pregnant?
Yeah [laughs]. I feel like it's flint right now. I'm trying to draw sparks. I'm trying to make people see the fire that's about to happen. And I just need a wind to catch it.

Chase makes his first full-length live performance at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City on Sunday, June 20 (head here for tickets). This summer, he interprets for Lady Gaga at Madison Square Garden, Joan Rivers, and drag star Jackie Beat. He also heads to Europe to perform his original material abroad. Chase is putting the finishing touches on his debut album, Nasty Habit, which is expected out on iTunes on August 1. For more on Chase, including tickets to upcoming performances, visit his official website.

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