07436884479

ROCKFI​END PUBLICATIONS SCOTLAND

Keeping Rock Alive


INTERVIEWS

Morten Garberg - NiteRain

Philip Linstrand - Find Me & Cruzh

Dave, Richie & Ryan - Maverick

Hamie & Gordon of Heavy Pettin'

KILLCODE

Toby Jepson - Wayward Sons

Danny Vaughn & Dan Reed

Chris Holmes

Janet Gardner & Justin James

DORIAN SORRIAUX

BLACK KING COBRA

The Outlaw Orchestra

Federal Charm

Tom Morrissey of  KILLCODE 

Toby Jepson - Wayward Sons 

STEVE CONTE

❤ ​

Click this text to start editing. This block is a basic combination of a title and a paragraph. Use it to welcome visitors to your website, or explain a product or service without using an image. Try keeping the paragraph short and breaking off the text-only areas of your page to keep your website interesting to visitors.

STEVE CONTE

Interview

Guitarist/writer with the Michael Monroe Band, ex-New York Dolls and Company of Wolves, session musician to the stars and solo artist, Steve Conte has had a fascinating musical career. Graeme McAlister spoke with Steve during the Michael Monroe Band’s recent headlining tour of Finland, discussed the bands and musicians he has played with, his musical influences, song writing, guitars, and his connections with Scotland and Monty Python.


Q: Steve, thanks for taking some time out from your tour to speak to Rockfiend Publications.

 How is the tour going?


“Great. We’ve done four or five theatre gigs where we’ve been doing a special show with an acoustic bit in the middle and we’ve added some new songs and some that we haven’t played before with Michael. We play Finland a lot, so you have to mix it up. You can’t keep playing the same set over and over again in your own country. We try to do that anyway, but this was a special venture where we went into these more sort of almost classical venues like opera houses, like the House of Culture here. Rock bands have played there before. I think Jimi Hendrix played there and Zeppelin, but it’s not as common for bands to play there as in the big clubs. It’s been great and in between that we did a few smaller acoustic gigs – just me and Michael and Rich Jones. Really great crowds. More personal and more intimate”.


Q: And then it’s off to the UK to support the MC50 tour. Were you a fan of MC5 and ‘Kick Out The Jams’?


“Yeah, absolutely. I know it’s weird, but my favourite MC5 track is ‘Shakin’ Street’, more of an acoustic track. I loved MC5 – ‘Ramblin’ Rose’ and ‘Kick Out the Jams’ of course. They only had two or three records, but I have them all and I’m really looking forward to it. They’re legends. I met Wayne Kramer just briefly a long time ago at South by Southwest, a festival in Texas. It’s going to be great”.


Q: Returning to the Michael Monroe band, you’ve been with them since 2010 and for three studio albums. What have been some of the highlights along the way?


“Well, it’s been interesting. This will be our second album with the current line-up with Rich Jones, on guitar, at Stage Right which seems to have been the ever changing position until now. The first line-up was Ginger on ‘Sensory Overdrive’, then we had Dregen on ‘Horns & Halos’, ‘Blackout States’ was Rich and we have a new album in the can, also with Rich. It’s always been me, Sami, and Karl, but with each different incarnation the music gets slightly different. Although I do a lot of the writing, Rich has really contributed as well. Ginger used to bring in whole songs, Dregen and Sami would bring in riffs and I’d write the lyrics, and Michael will occasionally also contribute a whole song. ‘Horns & Halos’ was definitely one of the highlights for me, because Ginger was so heavily involved in writing the first album, and rightly so, as he started the band with Michael. I joined later and much of the album had already been written and when Ginger left the band, it was like “Oh boy, who’s going to write the songs?” and everybody looked to me. So I stepped in, did my thing and wrote ‘Ballad of the Lower East Side’, brought in other whole songs, co-wrote some of Sami and Dregen’s riffs and made them into songs. That was a really creative period for me and it was a gas getting Michael Monroe to sing my lyrics. But I had a great time recording every album and on every tour. We have a blast. It’s a really fun band”.


Q: So, when you approach your song writing do you find yourself writing specifically for Michael or do find yourself playing around with a riff or melody and then deciding if it would work better for the band or one of your other musical outlets?


“When I write for Michael I usually set out to write for him. One of the challenges was to get inside his head and see “what does Michael want to sing about?”. What I figured out was I made it as if I was a screenwriter making a profile of Michael Monroe. “What does he like?, What does he not like?, What has he sung about in the past?, What has he never sung about?” That was a really good challenge for me. I’m always writing something and have hundreds of ideas. Now that I have an iPhone I sing ideas into my voice memos. It used to be that I had piles of cassettes, but the cassettes have been replaced with MP3s. Generally things that I write for myself tend to be more bluesy and/or power pop. And for Michael, it’s like I need to write something with attitude, that’s punky. I generally don’t set out to write those kind of things for myself. I do like that stuff and on this new album that we’ve got coming out in the spring Michael covers a song from my first album, ‘Steve Conte and the Crazy Truth’, which came out in 2009. I have a song on there called ‘Junk Planet’ and I thought this song is really perfect for Michael, for his attitude and voice – really aggressive and punky. It’s about the state of the world and government and is really timely. Even although it was written nearly ten years ago it could have been written yesterday. That’s a case where I wrote a song for me, Michael ended up doing it and we do a great version of it. This new record is up-tempo, but varied and a nice mix of stuff”.


Q: You mentioned the changes at the other side of the stage. Have you had to change your style and how you play to accommodate these changes?


“No, not really. I did have to change my style when I joined this band, as I’d never played so many down strokes in my life. Even when I was in the Dolls, the Dolls were punky and garage or proto-punk, but it wasn’t Ramones tempo where everything is da-da-da-da-da-da-da-dah. This was a workout. I had to get my right hand working, so that was the biggest change in style. I always loved The Ramones and think of this band as a combination of The Ramones, Cheap Trick and The Stooges.


Q: And for the musicians amongst our readers, have you always been a Gibson man?


“The first electric guitar I ever got was a Gibson and I fell in love with them back then when I was a kid. I have probably 15 or so Gibsons – Melody Makers, Les Pauls, Les Paul Juniors, Route 35, Firebird and acoustics. I do own other guitars. Hagstrom has been hooking me up with some, they make some really nice stuff. So right now I’m representing Gibson and Hagstrom, but I also have Fenders - vintage guitars, a ’62 Strat and a ’67 Tele. But, basically Gibsons are workhorses, they’re chunky and fat. If you’re playing R’n’B or something more sensitive, you want a single coil pick-up on a Strat or a Tele, but for rock’n’roll you can’t beat a humbucker or a P90 pick-up”.


Q: Before you joined Michael’s band, you were in the reformed New York Dolls. How did you get that gig and what did it feel like taking the place of Johnny Thunders who, to many fans, was an iconic figure?


“It wasn’t very daunting for me, because I hadn’t grown up being a Thunders fan. I was a Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, classic rock guy – real player’s players – Ritchie Blackmore, Hendrix, Townsend and Keith Richards. I’d wanted to be a great guitar player since I was a kid. When I was 15 I would lock myself away in my room and practice my ass off. I’d heard the Dolls when I was kid. They were really sloppy and garagey. Now I know that’s the charm, but at the time I was like this isn’t for me. I was more listening to ‘Blow by Blow’ by Jeff Beckand figuring out how he was playing his riffs. When David Johansen called me, I had a friend who had played with him in an acoustic band playing old blues songs. He had also called and said, “Steve, David Johansen is putting the New York Dolls back together and I’d like to recommend you”. I said, “That’s perfect. I got all the right guitars. I’m an Italian from New York with a big nose and big hair”. He’d actually asked a couple of guys that he had played with “who should I call?” and they’d all said “call the Conte, don’t call anyone else”. So he called me up, we met, had lunch and at the end of the meeting he gave me an envelope full of charts and CDs and said, “Do you want to do this gig in London with me?”. I said sure and we did the Royal Albert Hall gig with Albert Kane. But, basically that’s how I got the gig. You hang around New York long enough, get a good reputation and have enough people know who you are and what you play like, good things can happen”.


Q: You recorded two studio albums with the Dolls and chalked up a number of co-writing credits. Did you feel you were able to influence their sound and to add something of your own to it?


“My goal was never to try and add something new. I just wanted to help them to get back to where they were. I’d give them like 20 ideas and if David liked two or three of them, that was plenty. I don’t think I co-wrote more than about three or four songs on the first album that I recorded with them and the same on the second. I was just trying to blend in. In a situation like that with such an iconic band you don’t want to stick out. I would go song by song in the set and go “what are the most important Thunders riffs in those songs?” and make sure I do those, and if I could slip in a bit of myself I would do that. Johnny maybe only had about five riffs that he played all the time, and he played the shit out of them, but as I was the kind of guy who strived to be a Beck or Hendrix, my arsenal of riffs was a bit more extensive. With the writing I just tried to bring in things I would do naturally, I didn’t try to force anything. David and I shared much of the same influences, so it was a great time musically for me”.


Q: And before that you were in Company of Wolves. Is that when you developed your association with Scotland?


“Yeah, quite by accident the video happened. We had been talking to the Video Director Ralph Ziman, who had worked with Faith No More on their video for ‘Epic’, about doing the video for ‘Call of the Wild’, which was going to be the first single. We had this idea for ‘An American Werewolf in London’ kind of tribute and I think his crew was often over there, so he was like “why don’t we just fly you guys to Scotland?” and we were like, “Yeah, we’ve never been to Scotland. Sure” and then when we found out we were going to do it at Doune Castle where ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ was filmed, we were like “Fuck, yes!”. It was a real gas to do that. It was really special, but so long ago – 1989”.


Q: When Company of Wolves split up, was this, as with so many bands in the early 90’s, a matter of timing as record companies switched their attention to grunge or were there other reasons?


“Well, kind of a combination. What happened with the Wolves’ album was that it did pretty good considering. If it had been released today it would have been considered a success, but back then if you hadn’t sold Platinum or at least Gold you were a failure, because that was what the standard was. The Bon Jovis and Def Leppards were going like ten times Platinum. We sold about 100,000 records. The problem was that we didn’t really have a President at the label in the first place and the fact that we sold that number of records without a President or anyone really pushing us was a testament to the fact that people liked the music. And then a new President came in when we were making the second record who just didn’t get it, was more of a bean counter and liked smooth R’n’B more. He was more into Vanessa Williams and Toni, Toni, Toni and that kind of thing. So, he didn’t really understand a rock band like us and we left the label. The record was done, it was in the can and we just thought that we’d go to another label. But at that time Nirvana had just hit and every record company was jumping on the Seattle bandwagon wanting grunge bands. We weren’t about to just change our style and become grunge just to get a deal, and we had a record, but nobody wanted to know about a good time rock’n’roll band from New York. We tried to get re-signed for a while and it wasn’t happening. We’d been wanting to do our own stuff, so said “Let’s remain friends, but let’s call it a day”. That must have been about ’93. We’ve done a couple of reunion shows and put out a single since then.”


Q: Around this you’ve also been a session musician to the stars and had a solo career. Who are the artists that you’ve played with who most stand out in your mind?


“I did some fun stuff with Billy Squier, probably best known for ‘The Stroke’. He had a lot of hits in America. I played on his last album for Capitol, ‘Tell the Truth’, in ’93 and then about seven or eight years later I played on the 20thanniversary tour of his big album ‘Don’t Say No’. I also did a really fun session with John Waite, of The Babies. Playing with Peter Wolf, singer with the J.Geils Band, was a thrill. Growing up as a kid, they were one of my favourite bands. My brother, who is a great bass player, was making this record with him, ‘Fool’s Parade’, in 1999 and I was like’ “You’ve got to invite me to the studio, so that I can meet Peter”. I went along one day when they were making a record. They were taking a break from recording in the lounge, someone shoved an acoustic guitar into my hand, Peter started signing and we immediately clicked. I then started playing some old obsure J. Geils songs and he was like “we need to get this guy on the record”. I’ve also done a lot of stuff as a session singer on Japanese Anime soundtracks. There’s a series called ‘Cowboy Bebop’ and that’s kind of known as the gold standard for Anime, especially for music. Usually for a series or cartoon the filming is done first and they then put some music to it. And you would write something to match the feeling. But what happened with this one was we recorded the music first. I just sang on it and this Japanese composer Yoko Kanno, who’s amazing and super talented - she does everything from rock to jazz to classical – she had all these songs arranged and written. The creators of the cartoon then listened to my voice and created the visuals, kind of working backwards. I’ve done a lot of this including ‘Ghost in the Shell’ which they’ve made a Hollywood movie out of recently, and ‘Wolf’s Rain’”.


Q: With your solo career, we last saw you touring the UK in August including a sweaty night at Bannerman’s in Edinburgh. You’ve now released three solo albums, the critically-acclaimed NYC album in 2014, before that an album of covers of punk and other classics, and before that your album with The Crazy Truth, which I struggle to describe and find myself thinking of as an unknown Tarantino soundtrack. How would you describe your solo material and the influences which shape this for readers who’ve not heard this?


“Firstly, I like that Tarantino soundtrack description. The thing I try and do most with my own stuff – I’ve written hundreds or thousands of songs and half of them are shit, but you only need ten for an album – I wade through my ideas and try and find stuff which excites me, maybe has a special melody or riff, or a special message lyrically. It’s got to have one of those three things or all three, if possible. You’re probably thinking of ‘Gypsy Cab’ from the ‘Crazy Truth’ when you mentioned Tarantino. That was a song that I wrote for The Dolls, but never pitched to them, as it was more me, it felt special to me. The same with ‘Gimme, Gimme, Rockaway’ (my latest single). That was one I wrote for Monroe, but then I thought I’d given him a bunch of other songs for the new album which he liked and I kept Rockaway for myself. I always try and have something with a bit of soul to it as well that I can get my vocal chops into. I’ve also done really soft, sensitive ballads, but when it’s a rock’n’roll song I like to be able to really dig into it. My favourite singers are Steve Marriott, Rod Stewart, Paul Rodgers and R’n’B singers like Wilson Pickett. I do so many types of music that I’m probably a marketing nightmare, because I love everything from garage to jazz. The first album was very much a New York album, to me it sounds like New York City. The second, ‘International Cover-up’ was recorded in the Netherlands and is mostly songs I’d play on tour. The NYC album sounds as though it could be from Nashville or Southern California and is very Americana. So, singer/songwriter, a couple of chords and the truth”.


Q: Most recently, you’ve released a single, ‘Gimme Gimme Rockaway’, on Little Steven’s Wicked Cool records. Did I detect some New York rock and punk royalty in there?


“Yes, and also British as well. That’s Clem Burke, from Blondie, on drums, Jesse Malin on background vocals and Andy Rourke, from The Smiths, on bass. That was a really fun record to do. We did that in Steven’s studio in Manhattan. The guys were supposed to do a session and they split after recording that song. It was supposed to be a two-sided vinyl single. I was like “Shit!”. Those guys didn’t know, I hadn’t asked them. I’d planned to record my cover of ‘Mercedes Benz’ by Janis Joplin on the B side. The studio is adjacent to Little Steven’s studio and I just called out “is there a drummer in the house?”. Turns out one of the guys working in promotion was and said’ “Yeah, I’m a drummer’. So I taught him my version of the song, we recorded drums and guitar and I over-dubbed the bass myself, did the other guitars and Jesse sang on it as well”.


Q: Looking forward, can we expect any new albums soon from Steve Conte?

“We’re talking about doing another single, but I really feel I need to put out another full-length record of my own before doing another single for Steven. It’s long overdue. When you don’t have a job, and play music, as I do, there are a lot of times when you need to play for other people, which I really enjoy, but I play in various bands, I have kids, and I have a full life. Sometimes you really need to carve out time, like a month to write and a month to record. I’m hoping that I can find time and get something out in spring of next year, 2019, and do another Pledge campaign and have people sign on for that, because the first one I did for NYC was great.


Q: And you mentioned a new album from the Michael Monroe Band?


“Yeah, we hope for a similar timetable – spring. We’ve recorded 18 songs – 12 for the album, four bonus songs and two for the next album, we hope to have it mastered by the end of the year and then find a label to put it out, because we own the record”.


Q: Finally, I believe you have a passion for The Faces and early Rod Stewart and get together with like-minded musicians and play together. How is this going and what is it that attracts you so much to that period of their work?


“My favourite period of music is probably late 60’s and early 70’s when blues and rock’n’roll collided around the time of Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, The Stones, the Small Faces and Faces. We started out doing some Small Faces material in the band as well, as I love Marriott, but we decided to become more focussed and just focus on the Faces, early Rod and the Jeff Beck Group. It just has such a great combination of folk, R’n’B, soul and blues together – kind of everything I love. We even did the ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ record from start to finish recently and that was a gas. We had a violin player and back-up singers. And it’s a great band of guys – Andy York who plays guitar with John Mellencamp, my brother John on bass, Richard Pagano on drums, who has played with Rosanne Cash, and Andy Burton on keyboards who is with Little Steven”.


Q: …… never been tempted after a couple of glasses of wine to belt out ‘Hot Legs’ or ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’


“Definitely not ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’!! Ha-ha! We’ve done ‘Hot Legs’ as the final encore, but that’s the end of where we do Rod Stewart. Generally we stick to ’68 – about ’73, up to The Smiler album. We just played Atlantic City and it was great. I’d love to get it to England, but it’s an expensive venture”.


Thank you. It’s been a pleasure

📷 Photo by Johan Vipper


Toby Jepson  of  Wayward Sons 

Filmed at Barrowlands Glasgow before going on stage, supporting Saxon

18th October 2018

Tom Morrissey of  KILLCODE 

talks to Colin while walking the streets of New York

 about the making of the new KILLCODE videos,

 what's next for KILLCODE and of course his new image. 

All band photos taken at

 Hard Rock Hell AOR 2017 for Rockfiend.

The Federal Charm lads talk to Simon after their successful performance at the first

 Hard Rock Hell C.R.O.W.S 

in Sheffield.

 Apologies for background noise, unfortunately out with our control.

The Outlaw Orchestra...Interview at HRH C.R.O.W.S 

Sheffield

8th September 2018

BLACK KING COBRA...Talk to Gus on the night of their EP launch 

“Law of Attraction”

 at King Tuts, Glasgow

3rd August 2018

DORIAN SORRIAUX... Interview with Gus Darroch 

in Liverpool before opening for 

Myles Kennedy on his ‘Year of the Tiger’ Tour.

Janet Gardner & Justin James Interview

Bannermans Bar Edinburgh

23/05/18

Chris Holmes

Interview before his show at

Bannermans, Edinburgh

Chris (Mean Man) talks to Colin about his upcoming tour..."No Limit" & more

25.04.18

Danny Vaughn & Dan Reed

Interview

filmed at Voodoo Rooms​

Edinburgh 22.02.18

Toby Jepson

Wayward Sons

Interview recorded

backstage at the O2 Academy Glasgow

:::KILLCODE:::

KILLCODE talk about their Hard Rock Hell experience 2017 and more...

Heavy Pettin'

Hamie & Gordon of Heavy Pettin'

chat to Colin before going on stage at

WinterStorm 2017, their first show in over 26 years!

MAVERICK

Dave, Richie & Ryan

talk to Colin after their appearance at

Rockingham 2017

Philip Linstrand (Find Me & Cruzh) interview

Philip talks to Colin about his Rockingham 2017

experience, playing with Cruzh & Blanc Faces.

NiteRain

Rockfiend eventually caught up with

Morten Garberg of NiteRain

Photo taken at Hair Metal Heaven 2017

click here