Interview: Steve Stevens

Randy Allar: Congratulations on Bozzio, Levin, Stevens, both the first one and the new one. Fantastic records.

Steve Stevens: Thanks, man! They're a labor of love, those records, and we enjoy doing them. They're two of the most gifted musicians, and I just shut up and play my guitar.

Randy Allar: You play a great flamenco guitar.

Steve Stevens: Thanks. Actually I started playing flamenco before playing electric guitar. It's always been a love of mine. Unfortunately, when you're doing pop records, I'd bring it out. The response I'd get is, "Save it for your own record." So I have my own flamenco record which came out a couple of months ago. It's great because Tony (Levin) and Terry (Bozzio) are really open to anything out of the ordinary.

Randy Allar: With the first record, you guys wrote everything, rehearsed it and recorded it in two weeks.

Steve Stevens: The first record was done entirely improvisational. No rehearsal. They basically dumped us in the studio, rolled tape and what we got went on the record whether we liked it or not. There's a couple of mistakes, but that's the nature of the beast. With the new record, we actually had some rehearsal time, a little bit of preparation time so we could come up with some musical ideas before getting into the studio.

Randy Allar: There are two completely different types of approaches. Both are incredible records.

Steve Stevens: We just do what we do.

Randy Allar: You started out with Billy Idol.

Steve Stevens: Right. Billy was the first high profile thing at that time.

Randy Allar: You really turned some heads with that one.

Steve Stevens: Yeah, Billy had just come over from England and I was with a struggling New York band. We took the subway to rehearsal. It just happened, it was the right time and the right chemistry. The stars were aligned for good things for us.

Randy Allar: You were also working with a band called The Atomic Playboys.

Steve Stevens: Yeah, that was a band that I put together after I left Billy in '88 or '89. I was signed to Warner Brothers and put together a group to do a record with. Just a one up deal.

Randy Allar: Any chance of that band getting back together?

Steve Stevens: Absolutely not. That group was a very expensive hobby.

Randy Allar: Bozzio, Levin, Stevens, what an amazing band. I hope you guys can take it on the road.

Steve Stevens: We're trying to. The logistical problem is that you have three guys that are pretty busy. Our bass player (Tony Levin) is really busy. He's like the A-list call guy so it's just a matter of trying to coordinate a tour. A record is no problem, but a tour is a little bit more difficult to get three guys on the same page. Possibly it will happen next year.

Randy Allar: We're hoping!

Steve Stevens: The one prerequisite that we all have is that we want to play venues that are out of the ordinary. Maybe museums, maybe parks. We don't want this to be at your local rock club because it's an improvisational band and it should be presented in the right context. So that also creates problems because it's out of the ordinary.

Randy Allar: I think the draw would be good. Individually, the three of you would draw. Put the three of you together, you could go anywhere and fans would follow.

Steve Stevens: There's a process that happens when the three of us get together in a room to create this music. I don't see that process getting on a stage in a bar. That's the real issue.

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Randy Allar: I couldn't see the band playing a smoky venue either.

Steve Stevens: "Okay, everybody put your hands together for..." Out in L.A. I've been seeing some amazing performances in the most unorthodox places; yoga centers. It's weird, but that type of environment opens you up to really listen to listening and not having to use sheer volume to get people's attention.

Randy Allar: With the yoga centers, do the people in front sit and cross their legs?

Steve Stevens: Actually, the last show I saw at the yoga center was two musicians that worked on my solo record named Greg Ellis and Azam Ali. They're in a duo named Vaz and they actually have three records out. They performed at a yoga center that I went to and it was amazing. Everyone sat. It may sound metaphysical, but it was the closest musical performance I've ever saw that brought me to tears and moved me spiritual level.

Randy Allar: How did Bozzio, Levin, and Stevens get together to form this project?

Steve Stevens: I think that originally Terry (Bozzio) was approached to do a project by Magna Carta, the record label that issues these records. Terry and his manager sat down and went through a list of guitar players. He pitched all the usual guitar heroes to Terry, and Terry Bozzio being Terry Bozzio saw my name on there and thought I was the one guy that was not in the same...a) I wasn't an instrumentalist, b) I had never done an instrumental based record. Terry and I made our careers in much the same way. He left Frank Zappa to do Missing Persons. Missing Persons' first record came out approximately the same time as the first Billy Idol record that I worked on. I remember going to the studio to do White Wedding and hearing Mental Hopscotch on the radio. I remember wondering who the hell was this drummer? For many years, there were two drummers I would have given my eyes, and something else to work with. That was Terry Bozzio and Steward Copeland. Fortunately I've had the opportunity to work with both. So there's a lot of common ground between Terry and I. He performed at the House Of Blues out here and I went and met him. We decided to go ahead and do this thing.

Randy Allar: Who did most of the writing on the second disc?

Steve Stevens: I don't think I'm stepping out of line by saying I did. Most of the compositions came initially from me. But as is the case with this group, what you hear as the end result is collaboration. I would come in with a series of chords or a structure and what happened with that is a three-way collaboration.

Randy Allar: With the first record, "Black Light Syndrome", I find it hard to believe that you guys improved a record because it is so structured and complex.

Steve Stevens: We got lucky I guess. It is structured and it's not. You look at the length of songs, some are creeping up around nine minutes, you can tell we're obviously searching around. The way we went about it was when we were in the studio we would jam. Go into the control room and listen to the jam. Then we would structure the jam.

Randy Allar: You're also working on film scores.

Steve Stevens: I've dabbled in film scores since the early '80's. I won a Grammy for "Top Gun". Every now and again I get called to do something. It is not very easy to do. My hat goes off to guys that are successful film scorers.

Randy Allar: Steve Stevens is in the process of scoring films. His solo project called "Flamenco A Go-Go" is an impressive release that features Stevens with an acoustic guitar playing in a flamenco style, but also using a pick, which is untraditional for flamenco. The performances are outstanding with many twists.

One other thing Stevens was involved in was Steve Vai's second Christmas disc called "Merry Axemas, Volume 2". Stevens's version of "Do You Hear What I Hear" is one of the most memorable this critic can remember.

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Steve Stevens is a guitarist that is relatively unknown. This means that his solo material and side projects are difficult to find. His website is also hard to find. Basically, there does not seem to be one. The black crop-top hair and black fingernails are very popular with fans of Billy Idol who remember the Idol glory days when Stevens assaulted Idol's recordings.

The amazing trio of Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin, and Steve Stevens began with "Black Light Syndrome", and the latest called "Situation Dangerous" is even more entertaining. A somewhat shy Stevens called into the studios of WCSB to talk about the new project, the Grammy winning score of "Top Gun", and the possibility of touring.