CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- No, he didn't play with fire as a kid.
But Davi Della Fiamma sure plays with it now -- carefully and with keen attention to technique, he will be quick to point out.
You'd have to have mad skills, after all, in trying to set three international Guinness Book of World Records for fire performance. That's what Della Fiamma will attempt at Saturday's Smoke on the Water Chili Cook Off along Kanawha Boulevard, as this summer's edition of the two-week citywide FestivALL Charleston figuratively and literally heats up.
"We'll be going for three world records -- one for height of a fireball, one for continuous flame and one for fireballs in a minute," said Della Fiamma, whose stage name translates to something akin to "Davey of the Flame."
Della Fiamma will make the attempt at the chili fest as the band 600lbs of Sin performs its turbo-charged brand of rock starting 1:30 p.m., on the Boulevard alongside Haddad Riverfront Park.
Kids, don't try this at home.
"The highest flame by a firebreather is 26 feet, 5 inches," said Della Fiamma. "The longest continuous flame is 9.8 seconds and then there's 82 fireballs in a minute. I'll be trying to break all three of those on Saturday."
If trying to spout a nearly 27-foot-long ribbon of flame out of your mouth sounds hazardous, well, you'd be right about that, especially if you don't have your best game on.
To put it another way, there's a reason Della Fiamma no longer has a long-ish beard but a very close-cropped one. It can be summed up in two words: 'face wick.'
"I light myself on fire pretty regularly. I used to have a much longer beard and a mustache at one time, until I kept lighting those on fire and decided to get rid of the wick on my face. But you wear the right clothes and take proper precautions and limit the danger as much as you can."
Don't expect a tell-all when you query him on what it is he's sipping when he puts a small blue ceramic jug to his lips prior to spouting off like a human dragon.
"Not alcohol," Della Fiamma said. "That's about as far as I go with most people. A lot of people who want to try it, that's what they try to use -- and that's really dangerous. I also don't want to encourage people to try it who shouldn't be."
Della Fiamma only took up fire performance a little over a year ago, adding to a repertoire of skills that include being a musician, juggler and instructor in African and Middle Eastern hand drumming.
Interestingly, his long-time experience playing saxophone and other wind instruments gave him a lip up when he took on fire performance, he said. "It's a similar technique to actually playing a trumpet. So, it's something I caught on quickly."