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Friday, 31 January 2014

Paolo Nutini - Scream (Funk my life up)

The lad from Paisley aint doing too bad.
The follow up to his chart friendly debut seen him stretch some musical muscles that ensured he would never end up as a bargain bin filler, and with this teaser for the third album it looks like it is more of the same.
He's certainly not letting the grass grow under his feet.
If he keeps this up then it's not too difficult to imagine him blossoming into a performer who can comfortably join the 'legendary artist' club.

Filthy Boy - Broadcast - 28/01/14 (Glasgow)

I sometimes suspect that I may be one of the last of a dying breed.
Someone who has an addiction that is out of step with the modern world.

I - like others of my age - am a music addict.

I still finger my way through vinyl in the record stores that are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, crouch to the floor in charity shops and rake through boxes to the sound of my knees popping, and with a nod to the ever changing technological world I also download and scour places like ebay and discogs to feed the little man inside me who screams incessantly for more music.

Unlike others of my kin I don’t just indulge in nostalgia trips from the privacy of my own home though.

I also feel the need to feed the beast with regular trips to pokey little venues and large concert halls to plug myself into the real deal that is live music.

When I do that it’s like mainlining the good shit.

It’s not without its risks though.
Often I have no way of knowing what the quality will be like.

If a week or two goes by and I haven’t seen a live band or artist performing I get a bit jittery, and it is then that I start looking at listing sites and snatching at names that I then youtube, or try and find on facebook, so that I can get a hint of what they are doing and gauge whether they will tide me over until the next forward planned gig outing.

Often I will find something that seems interesting, but it isn’t until the first chord is struck that I will know if I’ve hit the motherload or not.

It is only then that I will be able to tell if I will get the rush, or just a weak facsimile of it.   

It was during a recent bout of this withdrawal that I stumbled across Filthy Boy, a south London band who were to play in Broadcast in Glasgow.
With a few promotional videos digested I was open to braving the weather the next night to see if I could transform a dark and wet Tuesday night into something that would deliver a warm glow of satisfaction.

Prior to the headliners of the evening there were two support acts who could be time killers or pleasant surprises depending on what they were going to do.

The first band to play went under the name of Blanco, and were drafted in last minute and surprisingly managed to bring a solid enough support with them.

They are a young band going through the transitional period of leaving behind the crawling stage and beginning to take solid steps towards securing their own identity, or in other words moving away from being just another band indistinguishable from so many others and growing into their own sound.  
The material that they introduced as being new and will feature on a forthcoming ep is quite literally streets ahead of the older indie rock styled songs that were also in their set.
Each of them are looking to take the mod/beat freak sound into the present, and unlike acts like the Strypes or Jake Bugg they aren’t making an attempt to emulate a sound, but to instead use the past as an influence rather than a template.
Once the ep is out it’s going to be interesting to see what they will build from that foundation.
If the night was to have ended as they finished their set then I wouldn’t have been disappointed as they had delivered enough to feed the beast.

Next was L'éléphant.

My finger has obviously slipped off the pulse over the winter months as this band already have a bit of a buzz about them, and a well-deserved one to, and yet until this night I knew absolutely nothing about them.
I will be rectifying that though.
Rooted in a certain sound that can only come from Glasgow they appear to have been nurtured on everything from Belle and Sebastian to Sons and Daughters with all points in between being given some worthy attention to.
Think of them as a band that have dipped into the melting pot of the last twenty years and managed to meld everything that had a quality stamp on it together to create something that they could call their own.   
I wouldn’t be surprised if they begin to garner some column inches in the mainstream music press sooner rather than later.
In fact I will be more surprised if they don’t.

No matter how good Blanco and L'éléphant were it was Filthy Boy who were more my poison.

There’s an aggressive nature to them, the gang mentality of swaggering confidence that comes from knowing you are good.
Straight off the bat it’s hard not to jump to realizing how Libertines sounding they are like live, but there is one glaring difference and that is that they are better.
Much better.
Better musicians, better songwriters and a painting from a much larger palette of influences.

There’s some darker Leonard Cohen/Nick Cave brushstrokes that help shade out what they are doing and then running alongside that there is what sounds like a manc influence a la The Smiths/Courteeners that helps take everything in directions that left foots the listener, and then if that wasn’t enough there’s also a welcomed layering of Morricone sounding guitar work that adds yet another dimension to the material.
Filthy Boy are really dealing in the unexpected and just as you think that you may have settled on one thing they are off and running in another direction with the final destination always being an attractive one.
I went to the gig with the expectation that I would get a quick fix and ended up with a 12” album and couple of 7” singles that will allow me to revisit the night whenever I want.

This was my first random hit and run gig of the year and it delivered far more than I expected.

I may be the last of a dying breed, but with gigs like this tucked away I’m going to die with a smile on my face.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues

I fuckin’ love this album.

I love the bare nerve endings that are on display, the raw power of its brutal honesty, the unflinching challenge to what is perceived as the norm, the unapologetic public lancing of a lifetime of pain and confusion, and I love how it provides an alternative voice within a genre of music that can often pander to a jock mentality.

Today, right now, right this very minute, Laura Jane Grace is my heroine.

Over recent years the critical voices of the mainstream music press have managed to strip emotion from pretty much every single word that is written.
No one may dare say how much they love a song, or how it impacts on them, or how it makes them feel.
It’s seen as uncool.
It is something that has to be avoided at all costs.
Everything is judged from a distance and the emotional tactile nuances of music are ignored.

Well I have to say fuck that.

Seriously, I mean fuck that, because the honesty displayed on this album deserves an honest response.
It can’t be wrapped in a discussion about chord changes and it has to be reacted to in a similar manner to how it was written and performed, and the response should be from the gut.

After all we are all in this game together, and we all feel, and we can all empathize, and we can all love, and we can all want to be accepted as the person we are, and that is fundamentally what this album is about.

It’s about living, breathing and existing.

It is about the abrasive journey we are all on.

It is about the need to be seen as a worthwhile person who can be loved.

It is the outsider opening up and letting everyone see how damaging it is to be held at arm’s length, passionately sharing how hurtful it is to exist on the fringes because society embraces strict parameters that keep them locked out, and pushing that into the faces of people should be lauded. 

Here I am, a forty something who is creeping ever closer to cashing in on a half century chip, a heterosexual father of two, and for all the differences that there may appear to be between a transgender person and myself I feel an affinity to the message expressed and the questions asked.

I fundamentally get it as Laura Jane Grace is the bearer of truths.

There is a right and a wrong aspect to it all to.

Is it right to create a word where transgender people are fair game for hate to be spewed in the direction of?

Of course not, and what close minded arsehole can ever defend hate.

So far the punk word have embraced this release, and rightly so to.
Just as US birthed pop punk was edging every closer to being a parody of itself here we have Against Me! saving the day, even if it was unintentional on their part.

In opening herself up like this to the world I hope that the biographical content touches others and in some way opens the doors to a future that accepts transgendered people with open arms.

I'm going to say it again.

I fuckin' love this album.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Go on punk. Make my day.

Readers from around the world may well wonder what the latest update here is all about, and what relevance it has to them.
Well the answer is that the issues raised in the following post are probably a microcosm of a wider global problem (First world problems of course) that blights all underground/local music scenes and can therefore be transferable.
So what’s the skinny I guess you are asking?

Well it’s an age old problem that raises its ugly head like the mythical Hydra.
You chop off one, and given time, another two sprout forth to take its place.

The problem is of course bands/artists getting all hot and bothered about low attendances at their shows, and the lack of general support they feel they are getting.

It’s Scottish punk bands in this instance.

It could very well be the folk scene, the grime scene, or anything else though.
If there’s an appreciation of potatoes scene then I fully expect those who like theirs baked are having a ding dong with the aficionados of the boiled variety.
In fighting is rife everywhere.  

What we have had are posts appearing on social media berating those who fail to attend shows.
Comments have been made about threats being uttered if anyone attends this show or that show.
There’s been the dreaded – possibly deliberate - clash of bookings meaning shows audiences are diluted as fans decide what one of the many gigs on offer they go to.
In short, the usual, petty and infantile, crap.

In response others have reared up screaming hypocrisy, scabs have been picked at and old wounds are freshly suppurating venom, and in general every teacup has a storm in it.

I’m bored with it to be honest.

Pretty much everyone can see the benefits of unity.
How a cohesive effort by all the bands to promote a scene can be advantageous to all.

Unfortunately understanding that and putting it into practice are two entirely different things.

The lust to be the top dog gets in the way, personal slights are held onto tightly, poor communication is celebrated, and ultimately there are no winners.

Already acts playing a gig have a rather large wall to bang their heads off of.

There’s the economy and lack of pennies floating around to be considered.
Then there are individual responsibilities such as work and childcare that can get in the way.
The myriad entertainment options available to people can’t be ignored either.
One that others often don’t consider is that the cost of larger gigs attended means there’s little left in pockets to accommodate the Friday night club gig.
Here's an example. 
I’ve just shelled out £44 for two Sonics tickets, and I don’t feel guilty in the slightest that I may have to pass on a local bands gig - who will be playing three weeks later anyway.
It’s my choice to go and see The Sonics after all.
Even if it has left my piggy bank squealing about its empty belly.

So with all that to be taken on board, why does the misery have to be added to with the target audience of fans being slagged off, threatened and this negative environment being created?

Is this how anyone attracts people to a show?

In punk circles the claim that there is some sort of unity is mentioned often.
It's a stereotypical delusion that the punk scene has a death grip on.
It reeks of the smell of bullshit every time it is uttered.
There is no unity, or not enough of it to matter, and this is why local bands of any scene stay local.

If anyone in a band is serious enough to want to do anything about it then please do.

Stop all the bollocks and just practice.
Become the best act out there, and when you get to see the benefits of that, then pull someone else up with you.
Every minute spent bitching is a minute lost that could have been used to write a classic, to nail down a bit of music, or to say something positive that has a greater impact than the celebration of negativity.

Right now, right this very minute, I can assure people that there are music fans out there reading some barrage of crap and thinking that they would be better off sitting at home on a Saturday night rather than dipping their toe in the often poisonous pool that is a local music scene.

It’s a huge feckin’ turn off.

It really does seem that some people have shot themselves in the foot so often about this that they could drop a shoe size as their last toe is now gone and aint ever coming back.

And in closing I will say that there may well be some who are thinking I am talking about them.
If that is the case then they should ask themselves why.
I may well not know them at all, but that they can see themselves in the issues raised says a great deal.

Bottom line is that people only go to shows they feel comfortable attending.

Create a negative atmosphere and you reap what you sow.

Now I'm going to go and listen to some music and write some reviews that I need to catch up on.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Duncan Reid & the Big Heads - 13th Note - 18/01/14 (Glasgow)

A matinee show you say.
Oh why not. In for a penny, in for a pound, and with that itsaxxxxthings first gig of 2014 was booked.

So not long after lunch time on a Saturday - while others were adding to the rising stock shares of Primark - here we all were in the 13th Note sheltering from the reality of the outside world and looking to indulge in the fantasy of rock and roll for a few hours.

Monsterpop – the solo alter ego of Jimmy Devlin – opened the day with an unsurprisingly accomplished set of power pop originals. (Unsurprisingly accomplished as he’s been around the block a few times and has an excellent ear for a hook.) Anyone who had pulled themselves away from the upstairs bar early doors was certainly provided with an aural treat.
With just his voice and an electric guitar he’s able to run rings around some full bands.
Usually the idea of one man doing power pop raises a few eyebrows as it is a sound that lends itself to a full band, yet five minutes into a set and any preconceived concerns are very easily brushed off as the material and delivery speaks for itself.
As is the norm when an original artist is looking to draw some appreciation from a cold audience they throw in a couple of familiar songs, and both the Sex Pistols and Welsh rockers Badfinger were given the Monsterpop treatment to great effect.
With the future plans for the project including some full band shows it would be fair to say that those who are already impressed with the solo outings so far are going to have a great deal of awesome to wrap their heads around soon.

Party Asylum are a band growing up in public, and with that those who have witnessed them a few times are seeing an incrementally improvement with every gig.
There’s a bit of the Runaways in the sound, but it’s still comfortable residing in the garage, and then without missing a beat the band can step up close to the punk grunge of L7 while maintaining an eye on some bubblegum pop.
It can sound a bit schizophrenic, but pretty much all of it is working, and the bits that are maybe falling a bit short are reaching for the prize so it’s all good.
Songs seem to be getting dropped from their set while newer ones are being added at a rapid pace with this highlighting that artistically they are going through a growth spurt.
Given the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time Party Asylum could surprise a few people and break out from the local scene in the way The Amazing Snakeheads have.
Keep an eye out for their name under the ‘ones to watch’ headlines.
There aren’t that many bands who can blaze their way through twenty odd minutes of music and in doing so draw the reaction of one promoter and a record label to them, but that’s what Party Asylum did.

It’s with no hint of embarrassment that I can lay claim to publicly shouting from a few rooftops that the Media Whores released one of the best albums of the year in late 2013, and as it is still bedding in with people it’s continuing to garner one rave review after another with each positive word lending credence to my early ravings.
I’m personally very pleased to see a band that I placed some faith in consistently proving me right.
Forget mainstream success, and just simply consider artistic credibility and the band are there.
One of the reasons that the band are doing so well is very obviously down to them being able to walk the walk though.
If you deliver in the studio you have to add a dimension to the songs live that gets an audiences blood pumping and the boys are doing exactly that with every show they play
With every gig that they tuck under their belts they are killing it.
Their ability to use punk rock as a springboard to leap from into a melting pot of influences is a joy to experience.

The day was always going to belong to Duncan Reid though.
I could be wrong - it is known to happen – but I think the last time he graced Glasgow with his presence was when his band The Boys opened for the Ramones in the legendary Apollo.
Since then he’s hit every corner of the globe wielding his bass and scissor kicking his way across stages large and small.
However the sidekick role has now been firmly set aside, and with his band ‘The Big Heads’ he has set out to grab some of the spotlight for himself.
It only took thirty five years of writing, but with his debut he has the material, and the band, to make more than just a credible effort at keeping it shining on him.
What he is doing is far less than the busmans holiday that some may think. Instead it’s a clear move to lay the foundations for a career move that couldn’t be described as one that simply wants to tread water.
I will hazard a guess that during the process of writing and recording, and now playing live, the thought at the forefront of Duncans mind was/is how he could take an attitude and sound that some already think of as perfect and take it to the next stage, or ultimately that the project wasn’t worth doing at all.
If I am right then he can rest easy at night knowing that he, and his band, have achieved just that.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding though, and on a dreacht* Saturday afternoon he shook the foundations of the 13th Note and garnered fistfuls of younger fans who until that day probably didn’t have much knowledge of his past endeavors, while keeping the faith of those a bit longer in the tooth.
A more difficult balancing trick than some may think.
It is this ability to take original music out there and secure peoples attentions from cold that can’t really be stressed enough though.
Past efforts meant little and everything they played was judged in the here and now and was found not to fall short in any way.
With a blistering set that had confidence in the material from his debut they took those who were there by the hand and led them on a merry dance.
The Boys tracks were of course a welcome addition, but refreshingly there was no move to hang the rest of the set off them as if they were a nostalgic coat hook.
If there was ever a gig that deserves to reside in the ‘you should have been there’ conversations then this was it.
First gig of the year for me and the benchmark is already set ridiculously high.

* Scottish word for an overcast, dull and wet day.

Photographs by Gobo Photography. More form the show and Hi Res versions can be found here

Friday, 10 January 2014

In conversation with Steve Conte.

With Horns and Halos now bedded in, and picking up some well deserved plaudits, are you now in a position to sit back and take a fans eye view and consider that it's a damn impressive body of work?

Aw shucks, thanks man! Now I know you’re gonna ask me a bunch of questions about the writing of the Horns And Halos album but the last thing I want to do is to come off sounding self-important  because I wrote the lion’s share of it…I will just speak the honest truth on what took place and what my thoughts were during the process.

Personally, I tried to not let any of the “success” of our 2011 Sensory Overdrive album put pressure on the writing of the new album. I knew it would be a big change from the pop-metal sound of the last one and hoped that the fans would take that leap with us. It’s like a whole new band now with different players & writers so I knew it would be great in it’s own (completely different) way.

That being said, I hoped it would be considered as you said, an “impressive body of work”. I find that when I set out to write an album’s worth of songs I get in a pretty serious zone. I’m proud of how it turned out…not to mention that this band fucking ROCKS!! A really great bunch of talented, creative dudes…

Those who are aware of your song-writing from your own projects, bands, and past associations with others will be able to hear your influence across the breadth of the album. You must be proud of the part you played in bringing this release together. Do you consider it a job well done?

Absolutely…and I appreciated the opportunity to write for such a rock icon as Michael. To hear him singing my lyrics and melodies was quite a thrill.

When Ginger left the band someone had to step up to the plate and become the main songwriter. Sami, Dregen and I had been stockpiling song ideas but Michael had a couple of busy years with his Finnish TV show and in fact, he told me that he was “blank and out of ideas” for songwriting. So I took it upon myself to be the one who made the riffs & chord sequences into actual songs by giving them subject matter, lyrics, melodies & hooks.

Stylistically, I think what I brought to the Horns And Halos album was a more “power pop” sense of melody and a soul thing that comes with being an American blues/R&B based player and singer. Ya know, what went in is what comes out…my childhood record collection & listening 70’s soul music on the radio everyday is what shaped me.

On Sensory Overdrive I think that Michael welcomed Ginger’s guiding hand because of his 20 year career as a successful songwriter but at the start of the Horns And Halos writing sessions, Steve Conte The Songwriter was still sort of a “best kept secret”….so I had to win everybody over. There was talk of bringing in different writers but once I wrote “Ballad Of The Lower East Side”, zeroing in on Michael’s days in New York and making it fit him as if it were his own song - I was in.

A lot of people know me as either a guitar player or a singer but I’m equally adept as a songwriter and have been writing & recording my music as long as I’ve been playing & singing - since the age of 10. I’ve just never had the kind of success in any of my bands that earned me that huge following. I was on my way with Company Of Wolves (Mercury Records, 1990) but when we left the label in 1992 and I didn’t get re-signed with my next band, Crown Jewels I had to think of some way to make a living. So I went off to play guitar with other artists like Willy DeVille, Eric Burdon, Billy Squier and eventually New York Dolls - but I was constantly making my own records independently.

If you listen to those independent albums of mine; Crown Jewels - Spitshine (1996) & Linoleum (1998), The Contes – Bleed Together (2003) and  Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth - Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth (2009) you can hear the wide range of styles that have served me well for creating music for people like Michael and David Johansen.

What was the actual writing process like? Did it flow easily, and are the band as a whole comfortable in how you all provide ideas and then shape them? Does everyone have their voice heard, as it sounds as if it has that inclusive gang mentality of all for one and one for all to it?

We would get in the rehearsal room and jam on people’s ideas. Someone would start playing a riff or chord sequence and we’d all join in, or not - if we weren’t feeling it. Dregen & Sami brought in a lot of stuff like that; single riffs, grooves & chord progressions whereas I was the one to bring in completed songs with melodies, lyrics, chords and riffs, all in place. There were also a few songs that Michael contributed some lyric and melody ideas to.

As far as “music” goes, everybody in this band comes up with great ideas for their own parts but for lyrics, since English is my mother tongue and Michael sings in English, I was the man to write most of the words. I’m pretty adamant about leaving out clichés and “slogans” (unless there’s a damn good reason for it). In fact a lot of this lyric writing was stream of consciousness around a subject, more like painting with words. Initially, I was hoping for some more input on lyrics & subject matter but once the band saw me deep in “writer mode” they just backed off and let me go to it. In the end I was happy about that because it all turned out fine…I even surprised myself at times!

While the album is of course a group effort with everyone contributing how much percentage wise of Horns and Halos would you accept credit for?

Percentage-wise, I wrote 2/3 of the album. Musically speaking, everyone performed their butts off on this album and all of our individual personalities came through, making it a group effort. But as far as the actual “writing” goes, some contributed more than others. When it comes to songwriting I have quite the memory for details. Here’s a breakdown:

Ballad Of The Lower East Side
Music/Melody/Lyrics by SC

Saturday Night Special
Music/Melody/Lyrics by SC

Don’t Block The Sun
Music/Melody/Lyrics by SC

Child Of The Revolution
Melody & Lyrics by SC
Music by SC (verse/chorus/bridge) & Dregen (pre-chorus & intro guitar riff)

Stained Glass Heart
Melody & Lyrics by SC
Music by SC (pre-chorus & chorus) & Dregen (opening guitar riff/verse)

Eighteen Angels
Lyrics & Melody by SC
Music by SC (chorus & horn part/ arrangement), Dregen (opening guitar riff/verse) & Sami (pre-chorus)

Soul Surrender
Lyrics by SC, Melody by SC & MM
Music by Sami **MM got credit for coming up w/ the Reggae groove

Lyrics by SC,
Melody by SC (verse) & SC/MM (chorus)
Music by Sami

Half The Way
Lyrics by SC
Melody by SC (verse/pre-chorus) & SC/MM (chorus)
Music by SC (opening harp/guitar riff, verse/pre-chorus) & Sami (chorus)

Hands Are Tied
Melody & Lyrics by SC
Music by SC (Chorus & horn part/ arrangement) & Dregen (opening guitar riff /verse) **Karl & Sami got credit for the great “groove”

TNT Diet
Lyrics by SC/MM (mostly MM)
Melody by MM
Music by Dregen/Sami/MM

Horns And Halos
Lyrics by SC (verses/bridge) & MM (chorus + a couple of verse lines)
Melody by SC (verse/bridge) & MM (chorus)
Music mostly by Dregen & Sami (some of bridge by SC)
Title by Dregen

Happy Neverafter
Lyrics by SC/MM,
Melody by SC (chorus/pre-chorus) & MM (verse)
Music by SC (bridge/solo) but mainly by Sami (intro/verse/pre-chorus/chorus)

Rock And Roll Bounty
Lyrics by SC
Melody by SC (verse/pre-chorus) & SC/MM (chorus)
Music by Dregen & Sami

How long did the recording take?

About 5 weeks to record, and then a long time to mix (it was done via the internet with 5 guys in different parts of the world…)

Were you all in the studio together for the majority of it, or as with many modern albums was there points when you had to record guitar parts and vocals separately and then weave them into the over all sound of a track?

We were all in the studio recording together to get the real live feeling of the band. After we nailed each song we kept the bass & drums and over dubbed guitar parts (for better sounds), solos, vocals and any other stuff like piano, horns, percussion.

How difficult was it to time manage the recording, as apart from other members having their own projects you have been working on your own album that is being released as part of a pledge campaign haven't you?

I’ve been juggling schedules my whole life so it’s not a big deal to me. We all just blocked out the time to be there in Stockholm for over a month, so we couldn’t do anything else. By contrast, I recorded and mixed my solo project “The Steve Conte NYC Album” over the course of 2 years, stealing time whenever & wherever I could to get it done.

(FYI - until January 18th people can still order the digital download of it here:

You pulled in an impressive list of fellow musicians to assist you with this one. Members of Foo Fighters, The Wildhearts, New York Dolls, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Hanoi Rocks, Georgia Satellites, Alice Cooper, Mink DeVille, Hellacopters, The Urban Voodoo Machine, Mott The Hoople, Backyard Babies, The Wallflowers, Company Of Wolves, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Ian Hunter, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. It's like a roll call of honour spanning the decades. Can you let us in on how that has went?

At the time that I decided to make this album I was living in The Netherlands but since I have my own studio in NYC of course I wanted to record it there. That meant that I had to pick the songs and the players that would work well together doing NO PRE-PRODUCTION REHEARSALS and send out quick guitar/voice song demos to the guys. Then I booked two days to record the basic tracks.

It was good because the songs were simple and since no one knew them very well when we got into the studio it kept things raw and on the edge. We’d run through it once or twice and then start recording!

I recorded the basics with drummer Rich Pagano and whichever bass player was slated to play on that particular track. On the first day we had bassists Sami Yaffa, Dennis Dunaway and Keith Christopher come in to record one song each. On the second day my brother John came in and laid down bass on four songs.  A third tracking session was done a few months later for  the song “Anytime At All Times”. I did that one with just Rich on drums and me on acoustic guitar (later, I overdubbed the bass myself).

After getting the basics down, the next step was to record semi-final takes of all my electric & acoustic guitars, mandolin, dobro, slide, etc. and then make good rough mixes for the guest players to play & sing to.

Some of the guests “sent in” their tracks via the internet (we all use Pro Tools); Rami Jaffee sent me B3 organ & piano tracks, Ginger sent me a guitar solo, Kyf Brewer sent me a piano track and his daughter Coco’s BG vocals, Paul-Ronny Angel sent me a harmonica solo and Crystal Taliefero sent some beautiful vocal tracks. Everyone else, I recorded while in the room with them; Sylvain Sylvain, Michael Monroe, Tracie Hunter & Phoebe White, Boris Kinberg & Kenny Margolis, Dregen, and Paul-Ronny (vocals).

It was like “casting”. I’d think of a part that the song needed and cast it - who is right for this role? or - where can I use this person’s talents? Some times I got stuff that I wasn’t expecting but instead of staying married to an idea of my own, I would “go with the flow” and figure out how to make what was given to me work.

For the true guitar/recording geeks: The basics were recorded with guitar amps in my own studio’s live room while drums & bass (DI & amp) were recorded in Pagano’s studio next door. I recorded many of the basic guitar tracks on my Gibson J-160E acoustic, both direct and through my Vox AC-30. If I tracked on electric, it was either on my ’68 Tele, ’59 Les Paul Junior or ’70 Les Paul through my ’67 Marshall Plexi.

In fact how did you manage to get everyone on board for the project?

Incredibly, I just told everyone that I was doing a solo record and would love them be on it…and they all said YES without blinking an eye. Either I have some really sweet friends or I must be respected in some way…

How was it being in charge? In all projects there has to be some give and take, but when you are the guy sitting at the head of the table the final say has to be yours. Do you relish that role?

Most of the time, yes. But when it came time to sing the songs, which was more than a year after recording the music, I was losing a bit of perspective so I called in some of my producer friends to just record my vocals on 4 of the songs and to be that extra “ear”.

Would you describe yourself as a workaholic, or is it simply that creating music is something that defines you and as important as breathing? I guess what I am meaning is does it feel like work because apart from the Michael Monroe album and the NYC release you got together with the Crazy Truth guys and also recorded a covers ep? That's some solid song-writing and recording hours right there an a very short space of time.

Nah, it’s not like you think. Compared to others I really do take a long
time to do things…but that’s because I’m also trying to live a full life as well; raising my son, learning a new language (Dutch), maintaining many non-music relationships, and doing freelance music work (live gigs, sessions for film & tv soundtracks, commercials, other artist’s albums, etc.)

For example, that Covers EP took more than a year to record - and it was only 6 songs, recorded practically LIVE. But when you are stealing time between tours and real life (plus dealing with studios and other people’s availability) it narrows down the chances you get to chip away at a project. We cut the basics in one day and then I went back to the studio once a month (sometimes once every two months) to do overdubs, sing and then mix and master.

And to close this interview. What do you do to relax Steve? I mean seriously. Do you even know what down time is? ‘

Relaxing…hmm…well, I do listen to music, usually old jazz, blues or world music…and read; poetry, fiction, biographies, etc.  I like to attend arty events; Flamenco and Tango performances, theater, opera, ballet, museums, galleries, etc. Cooking is also good…I make a modified version of my Grandma’s red sauce recipe (with lots of red wine!) I used to SCUBA dive but it’s been a good 10 years since I’ve been on a trip. And then sometimes I just end up on the couch after a day’s work with a quality TV series like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos…

Thanks Mainy! And thank you folks out there for reading.
I hope this sheds some light on who I am and what I do…


Steve Conte