|Steve Conte - New York Dolls|
|Written by Dom Daley|
|Tuesday, 06 October 2009 09:00|
They were certainly big shoes to fill, the Thunders creepers. But Steve Conte, after a period of uncertainty in some corners of New York Dolls fandom, appears to have now been accepted and appreciated as a crucial member of the current line up of the seminal band.
With his 'Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth' album about to become widely released - after previously only being available at New York Dolls gigs - and the Dolls about to embark on another lively trek around the UK, what better time to catch up with the former Company Of Wolves member (God, that seems so long ago!) and find out the facts?
As you know, I was impressed with the 'Crazy Truth' album that I picked up at a Dolls gig - for me, musically, it was right on the money. Were the songs already written or did it grow in rehearsals?
About half of the songs were already written prior to the band's existence. The rest of the songs were either written specifically for the Crazy Truth or were songs that I was going to present to the Dolls but decided not to. When the CD is released in October it will have different artwork, more credits and it will be of better sound quality and a more dependable, high quality disc compared to the ones at the shows.
Oh yeah, we have another two albums worth of songs; more diverse material than this first record. It's still rock & roll but playing around with our Afro-Cuban influences.
I'm like a shark in the water, I gotta keep moving or else I'll die - ha ha! It keeps things interesting too. If I had to play the same type of music, only one music my whole life, I'd go nuts. Lucky for me, I can do a few different things well. Then, when I do a gig it's like - which hat am I gonna wear tonight?
I have thousands of songs. I may not release them that often but they fill my NYC apartment on cassette tapes, CD's and now, hard drives. If you add up the three albums by Company Of Wolves, three by Crown Jewels, one by The Contes, two by New York Dolls, two by Mr Henry and one by The Crazy Truth, I've got quite a few songs out there. I also just wrote three songs for a Spike Lee produced film, 'The Perfect Age Of Rock & Roll'. So if you haven't heard all those records you'll have some searching to do!
I read that after the first gig with the Dolls in London, things didn't go like they were rehearsed and you were a bit bummed about it - I take it that doesn't happen anymore? Sylvain and David seem like a very relaxed pair both on and off stage, what would you say working with them is their single biggest quality that has rubbed off on you? And has working with them changed how you approach writing or recording?
Music is like life, it goes in cycles. At first you create purely with instinct, then you learn some stuff and apply it, then you try to get back to ignorance again.
When I say ignorance I mean getting your mind out of the process, no thinking, just feeling. That's what I got back to more than ever with the Dolls because I've been heading that way ever since I studied jazz, theory and harmony. First thing I did after my schooling was to go back to where I came from; to the Beatles, then the blues and soul and then the garage bands. These days I try not to have such a preconceived idea of how a song should turn out when recorded. I used to plan stuff out a lot more. Since being a Doll I've been going with the flow lately and it's liberating.
Oh yeah, if I had time I'd do a 60s psychedelic covers album, a blues album, a jazz album, a 70s soul album. I've been influenced by so many things...from Sly & The Family Stone & Jimi to Coltrane & Billie Holiday to Howlin' Wolf & Leadbelly. The Janis Joplin song was David's idea but we've retired it from the set now.
Are you currently working on anything specific? Do you like to plan ahead or take it as it comes?
First I want to get this album out and tour but all the while I'm writing new stuff and we rehearse new material as well. One day I will decide to roll tape at rehearsal and the next album will be started!
Yes, in general I find audiences outside of the US more open to what they haven't been "fed". In Italy before we'd even play a note I could see look of wonder on people's faces, as if they knew we were gonna create something right in front of their eyes. In some big cities in the US audiences are jaded, like they've seen it all and they dare you to impress them. I love playing for the Germans, Italians, in Scandinavia....and Boise, Idaho!
All of that is true. Let's face it, journalists want the sensationalism. These days the band is all grown up with no drug problems or drama and has good artistic players in the band - no controversy...so most American journos tend to still ask about the "good ole' days" of drag & heroin. Europe and the rest of the world is different though, I've had feature articles in guitar magazines so they do care more about the music and the current line-up.
They all have their own little bit of hell in them. Most recently there was a gig @ South by Southwest in Austin, TX where we had a guitar tech who had never tech'ed before and I spent the whole show alternately yelling at him and then turning to the crowd and laughing about it. The guy was clueless, he gave me a 3 foot long guitar cable and tuned my guitars up a 1/2 step to F. Luckily he was a sweetheart of a guy, otherwise I would have strangled him.
And then he was gone. Uber Rock's new best friend can be seen wearing his New York Dolls hat in the UK in December so catch him if you can at one of the following shows
Cambridge, The Junction (Dec 2)
You won't be disappointed I can assure you of that. Also pick up a copy of his album with the Crazy Truth and see what all the fuss is about.
Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth.
In stores October 20 On Varese Vintage Records.