Ever get that feeling that you’re just blowing with the wind, not in charge of your own destiny? Being reactive instead of proactive? Well, I know the feeling. But ya gotta remember that even when you allow yourself to be carried like that - it’s still a choice and you’re in control of it. Yes, you should absolutely make your own plans and follow through on them - but being able to seize an unforeseen opportunity when it comes your way takes presence of mind…and it could put you on a path to something good in your future.
I always think of that poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost where a guy comes to a fork in the road and cannot travel both paths so he must choose. The last line is “and that has made all the difference” - and I can dig it because that choice was the one he was supposed to make to fulfill his destiny.
So don’t despair my luvlies…just look at your current situation and trace back the steps from where you are now to see how you got there. I bet you’ll find that there were some things you chose and some things that chose you. But in my mind, it’s all been written, predetermined, it’s destiny, fate or whatever you want to call it. That’s what I have come to believe…I gotta make some kind of order out of this chaos we live in.
I gladly joined forces with Michael, Sami Yaffa, Ginger & Karl Rockfist about 2 months ago after getting a call from Sami that they needed a guitar player. Even before I played a note with them I had a feeling that this band might be some much needed new blood for me, a musical transfusion that could get something new flowing…at a welcome time. As I expected, the shows have been amazing and inspiring and I’ve felt myself being pulled up in the energy of the new people around me. Good chemistry.
As you know, since 2004 I’ve been playing guitar with the New York Dolls and in 2006, started a new band of my own – Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth. Now here’s the thing; when it comes to my own band I pretty much do everything and in the Dolls, David Jo and Sylvain are at the controls. But it wasn’t until I hooked up with Michael, Ginger, Karl & Sami as a team that I realized how I’ve been itching for a more creative, give-and-take band situation. And lemme tell ya – I have great expectations for this new Michael Monroe band. Nearly everyone is an artist, a bandleader, a song writer, a musician, a lead singer…and a crazy son of a bitch. Karl, our drummer is the one guy I didn’t know much about before the band but already I’ve seen that he’s a sweetheart and we’ve got a lot in common. And that’s a necessary ingredient for a band, commonality. Though we’re all unique individuals born in different parts of the world at different times, where we “overlap” is where the good times are. On the bus we crack each other up with our life stories, groove to The Stooges, Cheap Trick, Dead Boys, MC5, Black Oak Arkansas, and laugh a lot at Arnold Schwartzenegger, Cheech & Chong, Better Off Dead and Jim Dandy’s lyrics. It’s great to be playing music with people who heads are in the same place on and off the stage. I can’t wait to get back on that bus with these lunatics!
In case you're not hip to him, one of the greatest voices in rock and roll was the soulful Steve Marriott of The Small Faces and later, Humble Pie. He was certainly one of my earliest influences (I got the "Itchykoo Park 45 when I was just a kid). All the more reason why the story I'm about to share is so sad...
Gary Lyons who produced the "Go For The Throat" album produced my band Company Of Wolves' 2nd album. We were huge Marriott fans so Gary said he'd ring him - he knew he was in LA and heading back to England soon - and he'd get him to stop over in NYC to lay down some tracks w/ us. But when he called the hotel in LA they informed Gary that he'd just left for the airport an hour earlier.
That night when Steve Mariott got home to England he went to a party and had no tobacco & papers to roll his own as usual so someone gave him a package of Marlboros. Steve liked to smoke in bed but roll-ups always burn out if you're not puffing, commercial cigs like Marlboros don't. That night he went home, lit up & fell asleep...died in the fire. They found him in the closet -he thought it was the door to get out. We were devastated.
If we had the idea to call on Marriot one day - or even one hour - earlier we could have not only had him play on our record - we could have saved his life.
Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth 'Self Titled' (Gig Only CD)
Written by Dom Daley
Tuesday, 21 July 2009 21:24
Oh how sooooo many people miss out on some superb releases. This “only available at Dolls gigs” CD is a feast of ten dirty, horn-honkin’, hand-clapping, whoo-whooing rock n roll.
Conte has slipped into the massive shoes of Mr J Thunders and over time has grown to make that position his own. The guy has style, ability and, on this evidence, he can pen some grade A tunes.
So open the windows, crank up the volume on the stereo, pour yourself a large drop of red and indulge yourself in this good time rock n rollin, down n dirty jam fest.
The album kicks off with 'The End Is Here', with a shuffling raw drum beat before being joined by Mr Conte’s down and dirty riff which sets the pace for one hell of a set. The sound is simple guitars, bass and drums with the odd horn and harmonica (provided by his day job boss Mr Johansen). The band sound like they're having a ball and it sounds like one take fare which, for someone like me, is bliss. This is what rock and roll should be, a bunch of guys having a ball. 'Gypsy Cab' swaggers in and has every single ingredient for a great song. The honking horns, delta guitar riff, whoo-whoos, hand claps and some laid back lyrics. Buckle up kids, we’re going on a road trip - we’re not sure where but it’ll be fun and the company is as cool as it gets.
All killer and no filler - the stand out tracks for me would be the aforementioned 'Gypsy Cab' and the up tempo riffage of 'The Good Are Odd'. The album has the stamp of the Dolls' rough and ready recording all over it and fans of the Dolls won’t be disappointed. It also has some of the more carefree elements of greats such as the Stones, Faces and early Aerosmith all wrapped together. Possibly the most Dolls-sounding track would be the superbly titled 'Strumpet Hearted Monkey Girl' which could easily have fitted on either of the Dolls' last albums.
Listen for the song My Little Mamasita, in the premiere of the new Lindsay Lohan movie Labor Pains, on ABC Family tonight at 7pm. Mamasita was co-written by myself and my friends Dana Parish and Andy Hollander.
Check your local listings to confirm time as it varies slightly.
Here's a link: http://community.abcfamily.go.com/watch/389309
I hope you're all having a great summer! Mine has been quite the whirlwind...
On May 5 my baby boy Zia was born, the same day New York Dolls released our new album, "Cause I Sez So" (produced by Todd Rundgren).
I got to spend a few days with the baby then dashed off to London for a week to play with the Dolls on the show, "Later With Jools Holland".
When I got back to NYC I spent a few more days with Zia then took off for 6 weeks on the Dolls tour of North America. Afterwards, while the band had a 2 week break in NYC I snuck off to Japan to sing & play my guitar to a crowd of 17,000 at Saitama Super Arena (where U2 just played) for a sold out show by Yoko Kanno & The Seatbelts.
After nearly 28 hours in the air (Tokyo-NYC-London-Amsterdam) I finally got to spend a whole week with my wife & son in Holland. But alas, I'm now back with the Dolls on our European tour and will return to NYC on August 20.
I'll be glad when the summer ends and things slow down a bit. But come late August I will be ready to rock, stateside...
The show @ Saitama Super Arena was absolutely incredible...3 hours long! It was a real mix of J-pop, symphonic, musician's music (jazz-rock, funk, etc) and beautiful ballads. I sang The Garden Of Everything duet w/ Maya Sakamoto - @ rehearsals I was having a rough time memorizing the crazy words (even more trippy than Hendrix or Lennon) but in the end I nailed it. When I did "Could You Bite The Hand" the crowd went nuts clapping in time throughout the song, just my acoustic guitar and 17,000 people! It was the biggest crowd I've ever "fronted" before - what a rush man. When I got to Call Me, Call Me they were like putty in my hands. Later in the show I came back and did a killer version of Rain as a duet w/ Mai Yamane...then sang on "Gonna Knock A Little Harder" w/ her. It was really good to see everyone again....I only wish we could do this more often.
The 1st rehearsal was a trip, lots of staging, etc. The first time I appear onstage I perform 3 songs in a row starting with a duet w/ Maya Sakamoto. We start out on opposite ends of a long stage and move toward each other by the end. As I reach the other side of the stage with my wireless microphone, an acoustic guitar and mic stand rise up from out of the floor, I strap on the guitar and do "Could You Bite The Hand?" - When I'm done I set the guitar back down, it disappears into the floor with the mic stand and I finish with "Call Me, Call Me" backed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. Pretty Awesome. Later in the show I come back for a duet with Mai Yamane and back her up on a few tunes. It's gonna be an amazing show!
Happy July 4th! I am just now waking up in Tokyo. On the plane there were many people wearing surgical masks and constantly washing with Purell. It was a 12 hour flight so I slept a bit, worked on learning the words for Yoko's concert that I'm singing on here and watched some movies/tv. Typical boring flight. When I got in to Narita airport my contact, Cherry met me and took me to where I"m staying - Hotel Sunroute Plaza in Shinjuku section of Tokyo. After I cleaned up we went out for something to eat and although I had my heart set on sushi she took me to a place called Momma's - a homestyle Japanese place that serves little dishes of different stuff, like their version of tapas. Anyway, I did have some octopus sashimi...but also uni flavored tofu, raw scallop and a strange salad with lettuce, red pepper raw tuna & octopus, raisins, cashews & cheese. When I got back to the hotel and passed out right after. I just awoke to white skies and bizzare shaped buildings outside my window. Now I'm off to have an equally adventurous breakfast...
I had the amazing opportunity to work with Danny on a new film by Academy Award winning director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Sense and Sensibility) called “Taking Woodstock”, about Max Yasgur - the man who hosted the famous concert on his farm.
I was enlisted to play Hendrix-style guitar at the intro of the film. (For all you gearheads: I used my '62 Strat - tuned down to D - through a "67 Marshall Plexi w/ a Vox wah-wah, a Jen "Tone Bender" fuzz & a Dunlap Rotovibe pedal.)
Working with Danny was incredible. I was prepared for him to be tough (I'm sure working on an Ang Lee film is as serious as a heart attack) but he was all smiles and totally complimentary toward what I played; sexy Jimi-ish riffs, feedback & psychedelic blues. He let me do my thing but nudged me in certain directions from time to time. Ang Lee was also a sweetheart and seemed to be very happy with what we'd recorded.
My guitar will be the very 1st thing you hear @ start of film, before opening credits. Pretty freakin' cool.
Steve Conte has recently composed 3 songs for a new Spike Lee Joint - a 40 Acres And A Mule production called, "The Perfect Age Of Rock & Roll". The fictitious band in the film called The Lost Soulz made a great record back in the Guns 'N' Roses era and who better to write those songs but Steve Conte! Also recording on the tracks; brother John Conte, NY Dolls drummer Brian Delaney and blues legends; Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, Sugar Blue, Willie Big Eyes Smith and Bob Kroeger. Stay tuned for release info - coming soon!
I mentioned in my first piece on here about Al Murcia (brother of original New York Dolls drummer Billy Murcia) - how his family moved into the town where I was going to high school and he used to tell me I looked like Johnny Thunders and would bring all those records over to my house. Sadly, Al passed away a few months back but last week his brother Hoffman Murcia said-
"On his deathbed, Al talked about the New York Dolls and said - 'I hold Steve Conte in my heart'."
That just made my day. I thank YOU Al, you're a beautiful cat.
I was recently interviewed by a Spanish rock magazine called "This Is Rock" and they asked me about this...so I told them...
"Electric Ladyland...that was my favorite Hendrix album growing up. I had heard the hits from the 1st & 2nd albums on the radio but when I was 12 my mother's boyfriend moved in with us and brought a few albums that would change my life...among them were Led Zeppelin II and Electric Ladyland. It was Hendrix's transition album...going toward a jam/improvisational type of music rather than the 3 minute psychedelic pop of the mid 60s.
I'd listen with headphones and freak out over the "panning" of instruments from one side to the other. My fave track was - and still is - "1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)" because of the lyrics, the story, the melancholic melody, the sound of that studio and the way the band plays, weaving in & out of the free jam sections. It's absolutely brilliant. To me no one else has ever come close to this achievement in sound - even 40 years after it's release!!
If you wanna hear the influence that "1983..." had on me listen to the 1990 debut CD by my band COMPANY OF WOLVES (Mercury) and you'll hear me quote the riff in my song "I Don't Wanna Be Loved" (I was also channeling Jimi in the wah-wah solo on "Hell's Kitchen".)
For me, other stand out moments on Ladyland are "Rainy Day Dream Away" and "Still Raining Still Dreaming" ...the bit where he makes the guitar "talk" with the wah-wah. I was obsessed with that.
I can hear Jimi influences on my other records too...on "SPITSHINE" the 1st CD from my band CROWN JEWELS - check out the end solo in "Trail Of Tears" and the middle solo in "Revolution In The Air".
It may be trite to say but I really felt like he was sent here on a mission - to change the way the world hears, sees & plays music. Up until then nobody dressed, performed or played like Jimi did...and nobody has equaled it since. Just try to name one artist who even comes close - I dare ya!!
In the 90s i used to go see Spedding play w/ RG all the time in NYC and after awhile i started hanging out & jamming w/ Chris. when he left town to move to LA he recommended me to replace him in the RG band, which was amazing. i was a Spedding fanatic...i owned every solo record & loved chris' playing - it was like rockabilly-punk-jazz, what i aspired to - so i was totally flattered that he thought of me to fill his shoes.
i went to a rehearsal & played for 2 hours w/ RG, rob stoner & bobby chouinard. robert loved it...he said, "great, we got a european tour coming up next month - let's go!" I thought about it for a bit and then decided that with my 1st Crown Jewels record coming out i should stay around NY.
well, not long after that bobby died, robert started doing gigs w/ pickup bands (and i didn't sell a million copies of my album) so i now i do regret not having that experience with them. Ah well...C'est la vie!
i almost lost my miniature pinscher ziggy a few months back...
sometimes when we leave my apt to go for a walk I'll just let him out the door with his collar on but not the leash..i always thought what if he ran to the elevator and got in w/ the leash trailing behind him?
so i was taking him out one day w/ collar & leash on and for some reason i dropped the leash and he ran for the elevator while i was fumbling for my keys to lock the door i heard the "ding" of the elevator bell...i yelled "ziggy - no!! come here!!" but he wasn't coming. i ran for the elevator and just as i got there the door was closing with his leash partly still outside the door. i hit the button frantically but then my worst night mare - it started going up...his leash was sucked up under the crack of the elevator door. then my heart sank i heard him yelp a big "owww". oh shit, i thought, that's it, I've killed my beautiful dog, his little neck just snapped, maybe worse.
i saw the elevator light stop 2 floors up so I bolted up the stairs but by the time I got there it was there and gone. I kept picturing my dog lying on the floor of the elevator in god knows what kind of condition, going up, up, up all the way to the penthouse. Every floor I saw go by my heart sank further. i dropped to my knees and prayed "please god, let him be allright, let him be alive" my mind told me it would be a miracle if a little dog survived something like this but i prayed and prayed and tried to tell myself there was a chance. as the elevator came down floor by floor i wondered what people were getting in and what they were seeing...was my dog a lifeless piece of meat by now?
it stopped on almost every floor, not knowing was agonizing. finally the door opened before me and the elevator was full of people but i saw no ziggy on the floor. then at the back i saw a patch of his fur, a woman was holding him in her arms- and he was totally alive and seemed fine. she said she was wondering what he was doing in the elevator by himself and picked him up because she knew he was mine. my god, i checked his neck, felt the bones, squeezed to see if he had any pain but nothing. then i put that leash on him and took him for a walk vowing to never let him out the door on the leash again.
as much as i really wanted to go to sleep on the flight so i wouldn't be jet lagged - i stayed up the whole time watching 2 great music film documentaries.
the 1st was, "where the road bends...tales of a gypsy caravan"- the filming of a tour of Romani music that took place a few years back in the USA, augmented by scenes filmed abroad in the musician's native countries. there were different groups of players/singers, from spain, romania, india, coming from different cultures yet they shared the language and asthetic of gypsy music. it's all about the feeling and the spirt ("duende" as the spanish call it) and is not formally learned. you see their hard lives back home so it's very human as opposed to just a tour film. it would take me an hour to write a whole essay on what happens in the film and how it impacted me but trust this "gadzo" - go see the film and prepared to be inspired. especially by the singer "esme" and the violin player nikolai. the film was championed by johnny depp who makes a short appearance in it and talks about how the culture needs to be better understood and how this music needs to be more widely recognized. it certainly is getting it's due as more & more gypsy bands seem to be popping up these days...
the 2nd film - i had no idea how great it would be. get ready - it was the rolling stones "shine a light", the documentary by martin scorcese...a concert film done at the beacon theater in ny w/ lots of behind the scenes footage and old 60s footage spliced in. the set list list was incredible...lovin cup, as tears go by, she was hot, shattered, loads of surprises. no satisfaction or honky tonk women here. i have always been of the mind that keith is the heart & soul of the stones, which he is of course, but in this film mick jagger is unreal onstage. it's not as if we all haven't known his abilities as one of the best front men in rock history but the way he gives constantly onstage and so graciously had me roaring in my seat. he let jack white sit in with them which was not so amazing but then buddy guy plays with them and man, it had me in tears. anyway, enough of my yackin' -- just go see it.
I feel lucky that i got to spend some time with the legend in the studio when we were making the New York Dolls record "One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This" back in 2006. On that session Bo played his guitar through a synthesizer that made steel drum and "Seinfeld slap-bass" sounds, told long jokes, and kept offering to buy my 50's airline resonator guitar, which i would not sell (but i did get him to autograph my '59 danelectro guitar!)
Bo kept telling me he had a song for the Dolls to cover - it was called "I'm A Bad Seed". When I went to see him play @ BB King's the next day he announced from the stage "this next song that is gonna be covered by a rock & roll band...and one of them is out there in the audience tonight...." and he performed "Bad Seed", not remembering my name or the name New York Dolls...but he was sure it would happen. Still could...I remember the tune!
i loved him and his music...so many great songs...that signature beat with those maracas shaking...it was kinda like a new orleans "second line" beat but he had his own unique slant on it. some of my favorite songs?
"hey bo diddley" with that tribal groove...it's only one chord but you could listen to it for hours...it just made you wanna dance!!
"pills", of course...the dolls took a song about being sick in the hospital and gave it a different meaning (wink, wink) which was perfect for who they were at that time. syl tells a great story about the original dolls going to see bo play @ a club in long island called "my father's place" and they were all standing right in front of him at the edge of the stage yelling "Pills...do Pills!!!" and bo had them thrown out because he thought they were trying to sell drugs...
so many other songs i love that have been covered and made popular by rock & rollers over the years...."roadrunner"..."can't judge a book by it's cover"..."ride on josephine"..."before you accuse me"..."crackin' up"...."and most of all - "i'm a man", a song so good and unique that the great muddy waters "borrowed" it and retitled it "mannish boy"!
(and i have to mention the intro of "diddley daddy" - a riff so cool that the stones stole it for "19th nervous breakdown"!)
he was a funny man too....if you go to the dolls myspace page you can find the clip of him telling a dirty joke at the dolls recording session...
most of all, Bo was a natural, visceral musician...totally inspiring to me and countless others...i'm glad i got to have an experience or two with him while he was on this earth.
to read Bo's story & obituary the new york times copy & paste this long-ass url into your browser ...
it's always better to let other people "blow your horn" so i'm gonna share this review that i just recieved in an email about my new band's show @ otto's shrunken head in nyc. it's flattering and so bold that i'm blushing, a little:
"I thought...your new band is way too cool for Otto's and much cooler than Dolls..I'm serious. All the songs are so groovy and sooo rock n' roll, man!! I loved them!! and again you are great singer too...I was so glad that I was there!!"
everyone's entitled to their opinion so Dolls fans, don't shoot me. anyway, you come see the next show and make up your own mind.
It saddens me so much to hear the news about Vinnie's passing...I knew he was sick but had no idea how soon it would take him. I can't imagine how much he meant to all of you but to me, Vin was "THE definition" of a great guy; honest, loyal, hilarious and full of heart. Living in NYC for over 20 years now I've come to appreciate the Matawan people I knew growing up...they just had a certain "realness" about them, something you don't often find in the big city. Vin was one of those, a great Matawan guy - a great guy for anywhere on this earth.
His spirit was so big and he was so passionate about music and drumming, especially John Bonham. I'll never forget the times that we played music together or just hanging out with Pete LePore and Richie Klien, Vin was always hilarious, I can hear his laugh in my mind right now. My first memory of him is from Lloyd Road School when he was running for one of the offices (class president, secratary, i can't remember which) and they had misspelled his name on the ballot...of course Vin made the most of it and at the end of his speech says, "So vote for me - Vinnie Martin...or Martini...whatever you wanna call me, just vote for me!"
Well folks, if it's hard to pick words to begin this type of letter it's even harder to find closing words. I just wish all of Vinnie's friends and family a certain peace in knowing that he is now in a place without pain and that he served a beautiful purpose on this earth, even though we all would have liked it better if he had stayed around longer. As for me, I will miss another childhood friend gone too soon...but I do look forward to seeing him again someday...and when I do, if there are any drums and guitars around, I hope they have heavenly earplugs 'cause it's gonna be LOUD!
Guitar Player E-News | June 14, 2007 Newsletter Exclusive! The Lost New York Dolls Interview By Michael Molenda
The glam cretins and bowery rebels that formed the petulant gang that was the New York Dolls in 1971 are mostly gone now. Original drummer Billy Murcia: drug and alcohol overdose in 1972. Murcia's replacement Jerry Nolan: dead from a stroke in 1992. Original guitarist and patron saint of dissipated rock stars Johnny Thunders: heroin overdose in 1991. Original bassist Arthur Kane: dead of leukemia in 2004 at 55.
But the essence of the tragic band's raw energy, Chuck-Berry-on-speed musical style, and shabby cool has stretched well beyond its active years (1971-1977) to influence countless rockers. In 2004, Morrissey honored the New York Dolls' lasting influence on rock and roll by inviting the surviving members to perform at England's Meltdown Festival. That concert triggered a reunion of sorts, with original singer David Johansen and nearly original guitarist Sylvain Sylvain partnering with guitarist Steve Conte, former Hanoi Rocks bassist Sammi Yaffa, drummer Brian Delaney, and keyboardist Brian Koonin to release last year's One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. The following interview was done in 2006, but due to some almost Dolls-esque manner of out-of-control circumstance and tragic fate, it never ran in the pages of Guitar Player. Here then, exclusively for GP newsletter readers, is an excerpt from that discussion with Sylvain Sylvain and new Dolls co-guitarist Steve Conte.
How did you approach the recording sessions for One Day?
Conte: Jack Douglas produced the album, and his idea was to record the band live in the studio, and then record all the overdubs in our rehearsal space, the Schoolhouse. The Shed, where we recorded the main parts, is like a giant room where we had the drum kit and all of our bodies. But there were little isolation booths with sliding glass doors where we would keep our rigs. I used my '62 pre-Top Boost Vox AC30 and my '67 plexi Marshall 100-watt. For guitars, I used my '59 Les Paul Junior, my '70 Les Paul Custom, my '77 ES-335, and a'59 Danelectro - just like the one Jimmy Page used with Zeppelin. Of course, we had to make sure we used the same equipment for the basics and overdub sessions to ensure the sounds were consistent, so I kept very detailed notes of what I and Sylvain used. Sylvain probably doesn't know what he used, but I know what he used on every song!
Sylvain: I know that I used a 50-watt Demeter half-stack, a Rickenbacker 425, a Gibson Les Paul with P-90s, a Gretsch White Falcon, and a '81 Greco Les Paul clone - I can't afford a bunch of high-priced guitars, you know what I mean? That Demeter sounds terrific - especially in the studio. You can make it sound dirty, you can make it sound clean, and you can get that Fender-style sound. They make beautiful amps.
The guitars sound pretty raw for the most part, so I assume effects were not really in your arsenals?
Conte: No. Not much. For some songs, I used a Tube Screamer to give the sound a little push, and an old Ampeg scrambler - which is a reissue of a crazy '60s octave/fuzz pedal. Pretty much the only thing I consistently had in line was a Boss tuner. That's it. For strings, I use a GHS .010 set.
Sylvain: It's all straight-forward for me. I like using guitar from the wire right to the amplifier, and that's it. I'd rather not use an effect. I like the amplifier to work for you. It's between the amp and the pickups and the guitar, you know? As for strings, if they give them to me for free, I'll use them. My high E string is usually an .011.
What kind of parts did you overdub?
Conte: I would maybe add another solo or punch in a chord at the end, but other than that, but most of the songs are completely live with no overdubs - one take all the way through. Even the solos were done right on the rhythm tracks. I'll go into a solo, and you can hear my rhythm parts go away while Syl is playing. Sometimes, it might sound a little sloppy, but we love stuff like that because we're the Dolls.
Steve, I read a couple of reviews of the 2004 Meltdown festival that said, "Steve Conte is too good." The Dolls certainly have a sordid history and a reputation for musical sloppiness, so how did it challenge you as an accomplished player to figure out how to walk the line between technique and feel?
Conte: Luckily, my first introduction to music was Chuck Berry and Keith Richards, so it's right there in the ballpark with where Thunders started. But Thunders started and ended there. I'm sure he had other influences, but that little era seemed to be what Thunders' thing was. I started there, and then I listened to a lot of other stuff like Jeff Beck and Hendrix. But I can always go back to where I came from. Obviously, I can't do it with the complete ignorance I had when I was 16 years old, but it's a frame of mind I can get into. It's more about just having fun and having a party onstage - or in the studio - and bringing across a good feeling and not caring so much about the technical side of things. It's really liberating to not have to think about being a "professional" musician. One of the things I learned from playing with the Dolls is that there is no such thing as a wrong chord or a wrong note. You take something, and you make something out of it. When we played the Meltdown festival, it was my first gig with the Dolls, and I didn't really know what to expect. I was kind of bummed coming off stage, because we had had a whole bunch of train wrecks in the set. David asked me, "Stevie, did you have fun?" I said, "Yeah, it was fun, but what happened to the rehearsal we had yesterday? Everything just went out the window. We were supposed to do this, and somebody decided to cue something else, and it was chaos." And David said, "That's what they expect! We're a garage band. We're the Dolls!" And then everybody that came up to me at the after-show party - Chrissie Hynde, Bob Geldof, the guys from the Sex Pistols - was shaking my hand and saying what an amazing show it was. Finally I got it. I was like, "Ah-it's definitely not about being perfect."
Of course, the specter of Johnny Thunders looms large over the band.
Conte: I'm sure people will accuse me of copying Thunders, but I didn't listen to Johnny Thunders - nor had I even heard a Thunders solo until I joined this band. Not to belittle what he did - because what he did was perfect for this band - but it doesn't take long to figure out what he was about. It's a couple of riffs. But, for me, if I take Chuck Berry and Keith Richards, and turn the volume up - that's my version of being in the Dolls' guitar chair.
How do you bounce off of Sylvain?
Conte: He is a total natural feel guy. I don't think he really knows that much about theory. Every once and a while, he'll play an Fmaj7 or something, and say, "Ohhhh, jazz!" But he knows the basics of rock and roll, and he channels all of his passion and energy into that. He also does this thing where I'll be playing something with a straight feel to it, and he will naturally swing it. So it almost works like Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, where he's jamming the downbeats while I'm doing something on the upbeat. Nothing is ever worked out, but it's just beautiful chaos that you can't plan for. I can't explain it - that's just the way it worked out. On the record, you can always tell who's who, because he's in the left speaker and I'm in the right speaker. He's usually playing more of a gnarly, straight-ahead pentatonic blues scale with pick squeals, and my parts will have a little more sheen. But that's part of my role-to give him his space.
Sylvain: I don't do that swing thing consciously - that's just my natural way of playing. What would we need two guitar players for if we were both playing the same thing?
Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of life.
Let the Power Work through You
The times that life works best are when we get out of the way and let the power work through us. The writer says of an inspired short story, "I didn't write this story; it seemed to write itself." After a record breaking performance an athlete recalls, "I just had an 'on' day. My shots kept falling in."
Each of us has had moments when we felt as if we were riding the crest of a wave or were being pushed from behind by a gentle wind. The more you can surrender to the universal energy and go with its flow, the easier life becomes.
Compare this experience to that of trying to control and manipulate life through the limited ego. Everything becomes a strain and an effort, a constant struggle. We tire easily. By the time we cross the finish line, we wonder if the race was worth running.
A better way is stated by the paradox, "You give it all up to have it all." Whatever your current situation, step back and let the power work through you. You'll be amazed at the miracles that occur. When your will and the Higher will are aligned, all things become possible.
(i don't condone everything the guy says but it's a well written piece on arthur ~SC)
What if your dream doesn't come true?
I wanted to be a baseball player. My parents humored me, took me to Yankee Stadium, but as the years passed, I got the subtle message that this wasn't a reasonable occupation. I thought it was because my parents were judging the players, long before they made twenty mil a year, but really they wanted to protect me, wanted me to earn an educational insurance policy, so after I was gone I wouldn't be working a menial job, wouldn't be destitute in the alley.
But not everybody's got parents like mine, watching out for them. Many mothers and fathers are so overwhelmed by life that they allow their children to dream, and try to achieve that dream.
I don't know what made Arthur "Killer" Kane want to become a musician. But I bet it was the Beatles. When they appeared on "Ed Sullivan" we not only started growing our hair, we began taking guitar lessons. We needed to get closer. We wanted to live the lives of these young lads from Liverpool.
You wake up one day and realize you're just not talented enough. You don't stop playing, you read "Rolling Stone", and eventually "Billboard", but there are others still forming bands, still trying to make it. That was Arthur. And he got a good shot, in the New York Dolls. They got a recording deal, and a ton of press, but when the band didn't live up to commercial expectations, it imploded from within.
You don't give up overnight. Just ask Krist Novoselic. You think you're an integral part of your previous band's success. But failures, lack of traction, they eventually convince you to give up. Years after your peers have passed you by on the economic gravy train. You shot for the brass ring... If you missed?
Arthur Kane missed. He moved to L.A. He worked as a movie extra. He hocked his guitars. He became despondent when his wife left him and he jumped out the window.
Too many of our citizens jump out the window. Because nobody cares. As kids we're corralled by the school administration, the police, we're under surveillance. Hit our twenties and we're on our own, there's no hand-holding. If you can't make it? So be it.
Recovering from his suicide attempt, a canopy having broken his fall from the third floor, Arthur Kane answered an ad for the Book of Mormon in "TV Guide". Expecting a Bible to show up, instead missionaries knocked on his door. After reading on his own, he had a religious experience, and converted. Eventually he won a gig at the Mormon Temple, you know, the giant edifice on the green grounds just west of Century City.
Three times a week Arthur would take the bus from Hollywood to the Temple, where he worked in the archives, where reading obituaries he learned his own father had died. Making him an orphan, his mother having died before he was twenty. All Arthur had was God, and the church.
Thank god he had that.
"New York Doll", the 2005 Arthur Kane biography, is an incredible ad for Mormonism, Mitt Romney should sponsor screenings. You see the clergy and the believers in the film cared about Arthur Kane. Does anybody care about you?
If you're lucky, yes.
But so many music fans feel otherwise. It's the music, and its makers, that gets them through. That's why today's focus on image and sponsorship by corporations has eroded sales. The essence has been eviscerated. Rock and roll was the most popular church in America. People prayed in their bedrooms, went to services in arenas, sometimes even stadiums, because it was this music that got them through.
But when the music goes, where do you turn?
To the window in Arthur's case. Thank god, he was rescued by Mormonism.
Not that Arthur forgets where he came from, who he was. His life is one of nostalgia, telling tales of the way things used to be. Angry with David Johansen because David made it, and Arthur did not.
But through the intervention of Morrisey, the Dolls are reunited, at a festival in London in 2004. Johansen greets Arthur with open arms. The gig is triumphant. And then Arthur "Killer" Kane dies.
Oh, he doesn't O.D. He's not hit by a car. After returning to L.A., Arthur doesn't feel well, he goes to UCLA Hospital, he dies mere hours later, twenty two days after returning from the U.K.
I went to see the Dolls at the Whisky, on the Sunset Strip, in the summer of '73.
I'd driven my sister cross-country to graduate school. I'd never been to the Mercer Arts Center, but I'd read about the scene in the press. Before the days of the Internet, when the only way you could experience a performance was to go to the venue.
I drove that LeMans through downtown to get to the Whisky, not knowing you just jump on Sunset and drive east. I was using a map, I was a tourist.
The venue wasn't full.
And the songs were not that easy to pick out.
But the energy, the energy was unmistakable. The band was trying to impress us, and it did.
I bought the debut when I got home to Connecticut, and the second album when it was released.
But I preferred David Johansen's initial Blue Sky effort. With "Frenchette".
Then David, not wanting to sink into the workaday world, became Buster Poindexter and I stopped caring. Everybody's got to make a living, but that doesn't mean I've got to pay attention.
And my memories are frozen in time. Not only of seeing David do his Animals medley at the Roxy, but of listening to the Dolls' "Lonely Planet Boy" late at night in my college dorm room, as a senior, dying to get out but not sure where I wanted to go.
Some people want to go to the reunion.
I don't even want to see the Stones. It's just too sad. I'd rather live on my memories.
And it turns out I'm not alone. Bob Geldof's kids won't go to see the Dolls. Even though they weren't even alive when the band was together the first time. But those records...they don't want to see old, decrepit men, playing those records.
And the three remaining members are worse for wear. Sylvain may not have lost his happy-go-lucky personality, but he's constantly seen in headgear... And Johansen comes to the first rehearsal straight from the stylist, in his old Levi jacket and pouffed hair. This is not only Arthur's chance at redemption, but David's too.
And Arthur, the man known as the "Killer"?
He's the kind of guy you probably wouldn't know if he lived in the same apartment building. He's got none of the danger rock stars are supposed to possess. He's got a halting voice. He's a nice guy. And what do they say about nice guys? They finish last.
Arthur "Killer" Kane is no longer with us, like three other Dolls and too many of our other players. Some were killed by drugs. Sometimes testing the limits, but oftentimes trying to numb the pain. Others were felled by broken hearts. But leukemia took Arthur. If he'd had health insurance, if the disease had been caught earlier, would he still be with us today?
I'm no doctor. But despite how the old song goes, we all need one. Help. Not only medical.
But it's not easy to help people who are incorrigible, who won't listen to reason, who've got to do it their way.
And that's what rock stars are... Incorrigible. They've got their inner tuning fork, they've got to follow it. They're willing to give up education, safety, all the elements that those who own and RUN the business now possess, in order to follow their dream.
Sometimes their dream is a leg up from poverty. But usually it's love. The musicians want love.
But most times there's not enough love in the world to make them feel good.
But their efforts make us feel good.
One of the great things about technology is the loosening of distribution. Used to be you had to see the movie in the theatre. Then you could go to the store and rent the video. But I doubt Blockbuster has "New York Doll".
What am I doing with what I've got? Instead of despairing over my lack of abilities in certain areas, am I doing the best with the talents I've been given?
All of us have unique gifts and abilities. Some of us work well with our hands; others are gifted at working with abstract ideas. Whatever our abilities, we would do well to concentrate on bringing those we can do to fruition rather than focus on our limitations.
Greek philosopher Epictetus put it this way: "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." German poet and dramatist Goethe said, "The man who is born with a talent which he is meant to use finds his greatest happiness in using it."
Today, let me not concentrate on my handicaps as much as on my abilities. I know I have been given all I need to make my life a success.
Rebellion against your handicaps gets you nowhere. Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world - making the most of one's best. --Harry Emerson Fosdick
perhaps some of you are songwriters but are into a routine of working a day job, goofing off too much or spending all day on the computer. to shake things up a bit try this idea:
write one song a day (first thing in the morning if possible) - but give yourself limits.
1. write down the 12 keys on seperate little pieces of paper and keep them in an envelope.
2. every morning blindly pick out one piece, you'll write your song in that key.
3. give yourself a time limit, like 15 or 20 minutes.
it's very freeing because there's not a world of possibilities...it's gotta be in that key and you've only got that amount of time to complete it (it's especially fun if it's a challenging guitar key like Ab.)
you don't have to write an amazing song everyday, it's just an excercise...but i'll bet once a week a really good one will come out. if you get stuck for where to go for a chorus or bridge, pick out another piece of paper and go to that chord.
lyrically just write whatever is on your mind at that moment (i gotta eat something, my kid is cranky, it's cold outside, or whatever)
my song this morning was written in 20 mins (i picked out the key of D and i got stuck on the bridge so i picked another paper out - Ab!) but then i spent another 40 on the lyric cuz i was inspired to keep going and finish it even though it's a little preachy and not perfect. if i listen to it later and decide it's really good i'll fix the lyric.
got 15 minutes now? get off the computer and try it! ;-)
****Steve Conte is the Italian Mick Ronson - Rob Wildman (a Canadian)
****Steve's guitar solos are fucking foolish [we're told this means "anything BUT foolish"], and his tone is flawless...AND then being able to meet him and witness his hair up close and personal made the evening even more of a goddamn event! - Justin (Semi Precious Weapons)
.....really enjoyed the gig last night. Here's my review.......
Great arrangements......loved the stops and starts, really fun to listen to...and to watch.
You guys are very dynamic and charismatic......you look like you are into the music, but more evident is that you guys look like you are into each other.....you look like you're having fun.
Steve is a good singer and a great guitarist and a really good pop-rock writer....but he's also a great stage performer..... master of facial expressions....he really sells the songs. God he wails on guitar!
You and your drummer (Phil) are also great at the facial expression thing...You all really make it fun to watch.....a lotta energy up there man. Drummer hits hard, but nice and crisp, really like him a lot. And You fucking rock on bass dude. I can't say enough about how your and Steve's playing really make a 2nd guitarist unnecessary.
Most importantly it sounded great, very tight and powerful. You started out the set really strong!!! And you all know how to play your instruments. Incredibly well........
You played your own songs awesome and the "Rip Off" cover tune really well, just not as well as your own stuff.....but the Bolan song suits you (it's a great tune) and you should keep it as part of your set. After a gig or two with it, it'll rock like the rest of your set. (Steve actually started to look like Bolan to me halfway through the song; and I loved his little Bowie riff in the middle and the end (it was Bowie, right?...I think so, after 5 beers, I could be wrong; but I think I'm right!).
A partying buddy from my adolescent years recently sent me this email...it was such a jolt to my memory especially since i'm now dragging my jazz singer mom out of retirement (she's giving a concert in nyc soon, check "live shows" page) i have to share it:
"hey steve....saw your mom is playing in the city as well...I remember waiting outside your house in my car once to pick you up and your mom would not let you leave til you finished practicing... you had to do your finger exercises or something like that...in closing...my point is...I know how much of an influence she has been musically on you...later bro! - ken"
for those of you who keep wondering about the new york dolls record...we are still writing and in preproduction with producer Jack Douglas. Don't worry, you will be alerted either by an email or you can keep checking in here at The Contes site or at:
1) What are you doing musically at the moment (current projects etc)?
i'm really excited about making the 3rd new york dolls album. it's been over 30 years since the 2nd album "too much too soon" came out in 1973 and they were broken up by 1975. i'm writing with david johnasen and sylvain sylvain... and of course will be playing guitar on it (i am filling the lead guitar role left open by the late johnny thunders.)
i am also putting together my 1st solo project, which will be a real live band, not a collection of studio or hired musicians. i've got some great songs and a really cool bass player named lee k. (it's gonna be my 1st band without my bass playing brother john who i've played with since we were kids)
2) What were your main personal achievement(s) in 2005?
i got married!! we had an amazing wedding party @ the cutting room in nyc with musical performances by the new york dolls, willie nile, marnie rice on accordian singing french songs, members of madjuana playing gypsy reggae, kyf brewer on bagpipes, my dutch-moroccan sister in law bellydancing, my brother and i with crown jewels and my mom singing jazz standards.
3) Any disappointments?
the death of my friend chris whitley.
4) What were your own favourite albums, films and/or books of 2005 and why?
my fave film of 2005 is "new york doll" about the life of our beloved bass player arthur "killer" kane who passed away after our 1st reunion show. it's not a typical "behind the music" rockumentary (although it has plenty of interviews w/ johansen, chrissie hynde, iggy pop, mick jones, bob geldof...and me!) it chronicles the life of a down & out musician who had it all, lost it all, found god in the book of mormon and got his groove back again just in time to leave this world in peace.
my fave cd of 2005 is the GORGEOUS soundtrack to "motorcycle diaries" with music by gustavo santaolalla.
my fave book of 2005 was "what's going on" by ben edmonds. it was actually published in 2001 but i just discovered it this year. it's about the making of marvin gaye's classic album and how he fought against the pressure from motown records and others to see it through with his own unique vision.
5) What are you planning musically in 2006? (For non-musos Which releases/gigs are you looking forward to next year?)
of course i'm looking forward to the recording and release of the new york dolls album (on roadrunner records) and the tour that will follow.
i also plan on recording my new band - which doesn't have a name yet - and dropping our debut cd by the end of the year.
my brother john and i are talking with a big label about doing a rock & roll children's record...that'll be big fun.
6) In an ideal world which band(s) would you like to see back and touring next year?
since this is fantasy: the clash, the (original) pretenders, small faces, xtc, faces, the kinks, the police, the (original) who, led zeppelin, jeff beck group w/ rod stewart, humble pie w/ steve marriot, jeff buckley, prince & the revolution.
This was a fun song to do...the best thing about it was that it was totally sponataneous in the studio. Yoko came to New York to spend two days in the studio with me. The first day we recorded "Stray" and i was sick as a dog...I had practically no voice at all. Always a glutton for punishment, I took a swipe at the vocal on "Could You Bite The Hand" also. The version Yoko had me sing to was recorded with The Seatbelts playing...drums, bass, guitars, percussion, etc. but she wasn't crazy about the track (I couldn't figure out why- I thought it was brilliant.)
My voice was in need of a night's rest and since I had to come back the next day to resing "Stray" she asked me if would I bring my acoustic guitar and add a new part to "Bite The Hand". I was flattered because up till then Yoko had only known me as a singer...and not as the bitchin' guitar player that I am ;-)
I must admit, I was a bit uneasy about replacing the cool playing on The Seatbelts version...but once I started playing in the studio she told the engineer to stop and said, "Steve, record this by yourself...without the band". I was shocked- I said, "Really? You're not going to use this great track"? She said that maybe down the road she'd use it but this was the version she wanted for the album.
It was great to see Yoko totally giddy over what I was playing- I just went for it. It's rough, hyper and jagged...but has a lot of spirit.
If you want to help spread the word about my recordings and tours and you'd be willing to pass out postcards or email your friends from time to time, write me at: THNDERDOG@AOL.COM and mention you'd like to join my street team.
The Conte mob of "Chatterboxes" is growing but it could always use another voice to add to the buzz!
Hey there reader, I’m steve conte. I play guitar. I sing. I write songs. Like many, I began writing songs before I had any formal training in tonal music. I was a drummer noodling around on my brother’s guitar, just playing by ear. I started taking lessons with his guitar teacher when I was 11, reading out of those boring method books. I didn’t like reading much. in fact, I would ask the teacher to play the piece once then I’d memorize it and play it back to her, pretending I was reading. To keep from being frustrated I would to experiment with other parts of the guitar that I wasn’t playing in the books – like the upper frets on the lower strings. I quickly picked out the roots of I-IV-V chord progressions and made up my own songs. I used a little nylon string, picking with my fingernail and hammering out one note at a time on the low e string. Writing tunes didn’t require that I had much knowledge of the instrument. As far as developing actual guitar playing skills, it all started for me with chuck berry. One day when I was about 13 I somehow worked out the opening lick to Johnny b. goode and it was all over. I figured out every permutation of that riff and never went back to reading in those guitar books again.
What an experience. As Johansen would say (while in French Canadian Quebec City) - FANTASTIQUE!!
The jet lag was a bit hard on the body, flying to Scandinavia for just one gig but we eventually got adjusted and proceeded to eat lots of reindeer meat, Norwegian salmon and drink many bottles of Hansa, the local brew.
The Dolls performed 2 songs for a live radio broadcast, one of which was Mississippi John Hurt's "Richland Woman", a song we had never played live before. In the true garage-y spirit of the Dolls we learned it onstage seconds before going live on-air. At midnight we did a full show that was met by an enthusiasctic crowd of Norwegians (David Johansen was right at home in his country of origin, telling jokes with local color...)
In the hotel bar after the show, our drummer Brian "Fancy Delancey" Delaney & I were treated to a little piano/vocal jam with one of my favorite white blues singers, Delbert Mc Clinton and the dark & fabulous Ms. Betty Lavette. The soul was oozing.
After awhile Delbert said "Allright, who wants to sing?" and a bunch of people pushed me up onto the floor next to him. I told him my name was Steve Conte and then called "She Caught The Katy" by Taj Mahal. Delbert joined me for a duet but boy wasn't he surprised when I sang the shit out of it. I turned around after the song was over and he had split the scene! Maybe he was just tired...
On the previous night the Dolls stood in the wings to take in the set by legendary Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin (David Jo was the featured singer with him.) It was a great show, the 75 year old Hubert played with such youthful energy. At one point his amp blew up and the local crew couldn't figure out how to get the spare amp working. It was sad to see Hubert who was the main attraction standing there looking perplexed at the amp with no sound coming out while the band played on and crew guys ran off to get a spare. We couldn't bear to watch this for another minute so our own Sylvain ran onstage and somehow hooked him back up again!
That night in the hotel bar we got all drunky and freaky, jamming w/ Sylvain on piano, Sami hitting beer bottles with his rings and me singing harmonica licks along with a couple of blues players from Guitar Shorty's Band. Syl did an impromtu reading of Gil Scott Heron's "Whitey's On The Moon" along with a 20 minute medley of "Satisfaction" & "Feelin' Allright". As the night went on I sang some old soul chestnuts, "Me And Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul and The Contours hit, "First I Look At The Purse" - falling down on the floor at the finish in true Stevie Doll fashion.
I can't wait to go back to Norway...even though it's almost as expensive to eat & drink there as it is in Japan.
the late arthur kane was convinced that my playing guitar with The New York Dolls was "destiny" because of a story i told him...
for those who don't know - before the dolls had even recorded an album, their first drummer billy murcia tragically died in a bathtub at a london party (ultimately, the band had their success with drummer jerry nolan). some years later after the dolls had broken up, murcia's family left NYC and moved into the suburb of matawan, nj where i was going to school. suddenly, there was this strange new, crazy character in town. his name was al murcia.
members of billy's family, tony and edgar, were kinda clean cut and on the soccer team but brother alphonse (i called him "al") was hard to miss. he had long, greasy, dark curly hair and would walk up & down the highway in his elephant bellbottoms and platform shoes talking and laughing to himself. most people thought he was certified crazy but i was intrigued so i'd go out of my way to say "hi" to him.
one day he stopped me in the street and said "hey man, you look like johnny thunders", to which i replied - "who?" (at the time i wasn't aware of the new york dolls or his brother billy or thunders...or any of it.) so he brought all these records to my house, dolls, heartbreakers, criminals (and of course bowie's "aladdin sane" on which he sings of "billy doll") we'd listen to the records and get high on whatever we could get our hands on - cough syrup, pills, pot - anything. i still have the sylvain '45 rpm double sided radio single, "every boy, every girl" that alphonse gave me. a nice memory of my dear departed friend (al died a few years ago but i am in still touch with his brother hoffman).
it was kind of cosmic - as if the universe was making sure that i heard this music back then 'cause in about 25 years i'd need to know it.
a couple of weeks ago when he played the supper club in nyc i had a few words with paul westerberg, one of my favorite songwriters (right up there with lennon). his band the replacements was a big part of my musical shaping back in the 80s. his music is raw, punky, catchy and smart. lyrically he's clever, emotional and always intelligent. (if you don't know him, check out the classic replacements albums: "pleased to meet me", "let it be" and "tim")
the 1st time paul & i almost met was when my band company of wolves was playing the infamous "cat club" back in 1989. i saw him walk in with georgia satellites guitarist rick richards as we were setting up but during the show i looked out to their table and it was empty. about a week later i caught up with paul and replacements bassist tommy stinson at another infamous 80's hang, "the china club". i told him i saw him at our show before we started and asked how much of it he saw. he said "we split man...i saw your hair and got scared". true, we did have some rather ominous locks during that era.
when we met again recently i didn't remind him of that incident, i just told hm that i was now the guitar player in the new york dolls (prince NPG drummer michael bland who is now playing drums w/ paul told me they've been watching our dvd on the tour bus). when i invited him to the dolls show the next night he said in typical westerberg fashion, "well who's gonna die tomorrow?" naturally, i'm aware of the fact that there are 4 dead dolls but i try not to think about it. leave it to PW to remind me about the occupational hazards ahead of me in my position. wise-ass.
if you can see him on his latest tour--do it. the supper club show was phenomenal!!
For those of you who don't know what Ohayocon is, it's an Anime conference. And what is Anime anyway you may ask? It's Japanese animation; adult cartoons, TV series, movies, etc. But Ohayocon is even more than that; it's a salute to Japanese culture, music (J-Rock, J-Pop, etc), dance, art, fashion, costumes, food, toys and computer games. Ohayocon was attended by some 6000 people this year ranging from 5 years old on up to middle age (the majority being 15 - 25.)
I was the musical Guest Of Honor and brought along my band with brother John, drummer Rich Pagano and keyboardist Andy Burton. As you may know, since 1998 I have worked on the soundtracks of many popular Anime series & films with Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost In The Shell, Wolf's Rain, Brain Powerd) so I had been hearing about these conferences and the fans for quite some time. But still, nothing that I had heard prepared me for it. I knew that it would be like unlike anything I'd ever experienced...but this truly was an alternate reality.
On day #1 as I walked through the hotel lobby I heard kids whispering under their breath, "that's Steve Conte...", which was kind of a trip considering only my voice has ever been associated with these cartoons. The entire Hyatt had been taken over by groups of kids all dressed in costumes; Samurais engaging in swordfights, anime characters acting out scenes and kitty cat girls being led on leashes. At first I found myself wondering how these people could devote so much of their lives to this? But as the weekend went on I understood. I guess the concept is similar to other conferences for lovers of sci-fi, Star Trek, Beatles, Kiss, or whatever. It's a place for like minded people to get together and celebrate what turns them on. By the last day I was sorry to leave this "other world".
Day #2 was our show, the electric concert...and it was amazing. Close to 2000 people filled this hotel ballroom with two 30-foot video screens on either side of the stage. During the show we were filmed and mixed/edited live video with effects onto the screens (some high-tech J-style shit!) The first 10 rows were filled with really cute kids who sat politely until I invited them to stand...and then they rushed the stage and remained there for the entire 90 minutes, smiling, singing along and not taking their eyes off of us (if only all audiences could be so focused and engaged...) It really made us perform to the maximum, giving back all the energy they were giving us. They sang along, screamed, applauded wildly and between songs heckled me, with love. Out of our 20-song set we only played 5 songs from the anime soundtracks but the kids responded to our 15 original songs with equal vigor. The real proof of how much they responded was in how light our merchandise box was when we carried it out of there. It's beautiful that these kids are going home with our music to share with their friends - all 4 of our CDs; Crown Jewels, Contes...even casettes and T-shirts.
We were accosted in the hallway on the way back to our rooms and forced to take photos, give autographs and smiles (tough job - but we got through it...) We even learned some of the finer points of conference behavior such as the "glomp", which is basically a running/jumping hug. That evening we were taken out to dinner by the organizing crew who treated us very well and afterward brought us to a party in one of the suites where we hung with the voice actors, artists and filmmakers who create some of these anime series. They were all super cool peeps and we made some good friends...got down pretty good with the cocktails as well.
The acoustic concert, Q & A panel and autograph session were on day #3 and let me tell you, it was a joy to share with this group of people. They asked such smart questions and ate up our answers. We all had lots of laughs...if this ain't reality then I don't want reality no mo'! There were kids lined up out into the hallways to buy our CDs and get them signed... smiling faces that appreciated the creativity that goes into making music. It reminded me of how the audiences in Europe were. I guess when you live and play in NYC for so long it's easy to forget that there are people out there in the world who aren't so jaded and judgemental. There was one whole family who drive out from Chicago to see us because they knew the Conte bro's work from our band Company of Wolves back in the '90s.
I hated to leave there but I have a feeling we'll be doing lots more of this type of thing...in fact; we've already been invited back next year. If you were at Ohayocon 5 and enjoyed what we did please, tell your friends, help spread the word and let's get The Contes to play all of the Anime "Cons" in the USA and beyond!!
on friday, november 6th i played the stone pony in asbury park, nj for the "light of day" concert, a parkinson's disease fund raiser. i was there to play with nyc singer/songwriter jennifer glass and also with willie nile, who i have toured with on & off over the past 5 years. recently willie has become pretty tight with springsteen, getting personal invites to join bruce onstage for encores. after playing a inspired set with jennifer i was chillin' in the artist area when i finally met my musical jersey shore birthday twin - the boss.
i looked up and there he was, just a regular dude in jeans and a brown leather jacket. bruce walked into the room and straight over to our table where i was sitting with jennifer and her husband john ingrassia (general manager at sony records.) jen introduced me to bruce - "this is steve conte, an amazing guitar player"...we smiled, looked each other in the eye, said hello and shook hands. i didn't say anything dumb like, "i'm a big fan" or "we have the same birthday - libra/virgo cusp"... but i did tell him i play with willie nile and that i had just played steven van zant's underground garage fest w/ the dolls. he smiled and nodded - especially when i mentioned the dolls...which took me by surprise.
we sat around the table for a good 1/2 hour...people hovering around bruce's head like little gnats. someone lined up tequila shots and we drank two rounds of patron anejo together. when i stood up - feeling NO pain- it was time to play with willie nile. we rocked the house (one of the local papers said it was a highlight) and after our set bruce came up to me and shook my hand again saying, "ya sounded great up there".
the last performers of the evening were joe grushecky & his band...and of course the crowd was buzzing with anticipation. when joe introduced "the man who needs no introduction..." new jersey's favorite son jumped up onstage to do an hour long set including his own "Atlantic City", "Light of Day", "Murder Incorporated" and "From Small Things, Big Things Someday Come", a song that he wrote for dave edmunds.
during the finale i got a chance to share the stage with springsteen, willie, and joe gruschecky. i joined the band for rockin' versions of "great balls of fire", "whole lotta shakin'" and "shout". bruce was in the back just strumming his tele...i sang and danced at the other side of the stage. the crowd went nuts.
afterward we were all back in the dressing room - bruce changing his shirt and me saying goodbye to willie - and again the boss shook my hand, telling me that he dug my playing as he bid me a goodnight.
i have a feeling we'll meet up again and that bruce will remember me. we made a little connection - maybe an new jersey-italian-guitar player-singer-songwriter-libra-virgo vibe was in the air...unspoken, but felt. a few good artists were born on september 23rd - coltrane, springsteen, ray charles...and yours truly. there's something about us...we put our faith in our music and talent, we're fighters and we don't give up easily...and we manage to do it all with soul and integrity. wait, i'm getting a song idea here -
we all bleed together...so let's hit the road jack...with giant steps...'cause baby, we were born to run.
i just got back from the meltdown festival in london where i played two amazing shows as lead guitarist with the new york dolls. wednesday's show was tight but the sold out friday show was loose, charmingly sloppy and totally rockin' ("filthy" as one fan put it).
both nights the audiences went ape-shit and honored the band with standing ovations. after the first song david johansen would shout out- "that's steve conte on guitar!" (later in the show he put his arms around me and said to the crowd, "not many people could replace the late johnny thunders - but this is steve conte and he's doing a fantastic job!"...then kissed me on the top of my head as the crowd cheered.)
besides the actual music (and on & offstage comraderie between myself, david, sylvain and arthur kane) the highlight for me was the after-party where pretenders' chrissie hynde, one of my all time heroes came up to me and shook my hand saying "you were fucking great - and those are hard shoes to fill". she didn't even seem to care that i had on leather pants and suede boots (she's a militant animal rights activist...)
a few minutes later on my way into our dressing room a geezer standing in the doorway stuck out his hand and said, "you don't know me but i'm mick jones...and i thought you were great". it was kinda surreal to have the singer of the clash introduce himself like that and then proceed to gab about les paul juniors with me for a half hour.
morissey, who is responsible for getting the dolls back together told me how much he appreciated it while bob geldof (remember Live Aid?), sex pistols bassist glen matlock and shane mcgowan of the pogues came over to say how much they dug my playing too (well, shane just sort of slurred and mumbled.)
check out the legendary photographer bob gruen's pictorial of the event:
i've just returned home from that wonderful city where i played a really fun night at a club called Maelo Melo. it's a real country-roots place with a music back room where all these dutch guys wear cowboy hats and try to sing like johnny cash ;-)
i joined my friend inge reitejns to sing a duet of the country classic "cryin' time" and then stayed up onstage to do a set of my own; mercedes benz, diner song, carmelita, long haired country boy, i want to be loved and one other which i forget now (i got some good stuff in a coffeeshop earlier in the evening!)
next time i visit amsterdam i've been invited to play a whole gig at maelo melo. i'll keep y'all posted...doeg!
leslie gold, aka "the radiochick" from Q104.3 in nyc has put together a pilot for a talk show that's somewhere between howard stern and conan/letterman shows with a live rock band. the emphasis is on edgey comedy, rock & roll & sexy girls.
the "house band" leader is the legendary carmine appice (vanilla fudge/rod stewart/jeff beck/ozzy. the rest of the band is myself (contes/crown jewels), t.m stevens (pretenders/james brown) and val ghent (ashford & simpson).
it was a blast...the guests were steve schirappa (bobby baccala on the sopranos) simon kirke of bad company/free, 13 year old guitarist matt curran and some actor dude from "that 70s show". stay tuned to see if this one gets picked up by a network!
i left NYC for the south pacific on december 18th and didn't return until january 3rd. my holiday started with my scuba diving buddy david leonard and i (together aka "the rowdy rock divers") boarding a dive boat in tahiti and swimming with hundreds of sharks for a week.
it was awesome diving in tahiti and her sister islands nearby. 17 other divers and myself stayed on a live aboard boat that was kind of luxurious... a french chef that made 3 fattening meals a day, etc.
after the dive trip we ended up in bora bora which is a bit overrated but still kinda lovely. for new year's eve we hopped on over to huahine, an island that is really kind of wild and undeveloped...loved that. it was an amazing trip to a part of the world i would have had no reason to ever see if it weren't for my love of the fishes...
unfortunately, i never know anything about this kind of stuff. yoko calls me into the studio to sing and i usually don't hear about the project again until a year or so later. hopefully, they send me a copy when it's done.
at the moment of the big "blackout 2003" as the media quickly named it, i was actually playing electric guitar and singing into the p.a. system in my studio when suddenly, everything turned off. i thought, "that's really odd..." and figured maybe it was just my room. then i went out into the hall and all the lights were out so i thought it was just our building. then i went downstairs and heard on the bootleg cd guy's battery operated boom-box that it was all of nyc and beyond.
shit! what a scene...the mass exodus uptown and east from the studio, walking 70 blocks (in big heeled boots no less!) in swarms of people with all the traffic, packed busses, etc. of course when i finally got home and by a lighted match walked up the stairs, i realized i had no food in the fridge and no money to buy any with after spening my last $15 on a non-electric telephone and batteries for the flashlight and radio. of course the bank machines were all out so any deli or restaurant that was still open couldn't take a credit card and wouldn't take a personal check. it was a nightmare. also, my water was off so i had no shower, toilet or drinking water. i finally got a neighbor to loan me $20 to go to the deli and what did i buy? the essentials - beer, chips and salsa!
the second day, i heard that there was some power for the bank machines on the west side of manhattan so i tried to take my bike out but it had 2 flat tires and all the bike shops with air pumps were closed and gas station's air pumps run on electricity for some strange reason. i finally found a man sitting on a stoop who had an old bike pump inside and his daughter gave me a jug of water. see, new yorkers really do help each other out in times of need. by the time i got home from the search for cash the power and the water was back on. adventure over.
i loved paris...i could definitely live there for awhile. besides playing a succesful solo show there i hung out with my nyc friend nancy magaril and her boyfriend who made sure i saw most of the hot spots; eifel tower, notre dame, moulin rouge and spent the last day at the louvre (i got some nice digital photos of the mona lisa!)
i played my first paris solo show @ the lizard lounge and brought in the largest number of people which was surprising because i couldn't access my email address book i wasn't able to contact any of the people in france, except one. but this is the funny part - on my way to soundcheck, across the street from the gig i ran into the son of willy's promoter here in france whom i had just met a week earlier in the south of the country. unbelievable! he came to the show and brought 4 people and also someone that i met in munich sent a couple of friends to see me. i sold a bunch of cds and the audience was very responsive. i want to go back and play again soon with the band, duo or solo if i must.
the willy deville travelling circus moves on to switzerland next but actually, i'm just looking forward to getting back home to get to work on the contes cd release party (don hill's - september 18) and hoping to get a show in before that @ the saint in asbury park, nj for our jersey contingent...ciao! au reviour!
PS: It's been a hectic shcedule and tough to get online so when I get more time I'll write a detailed entry on how the shows have been going. I'll tell you this though: it's one hell of a rollercoaster ride...
Hey y'all! We just arrived in rainy Austria after spending 4 lovely days in the Italian part of Switerland. The show there in Lugano went well for a first show of the tour, we're still ironing out some technical problems (Willy hates when they blow that fake stage smoke out on him so that had to be sorted out...)
We played right before Solomon Burke at the festival and at the last minute Willy pulled out a Solomon song as an encore. We all thought "uh- oh!" but Solomon loved it and invited Willy up to sing with him onstage with him during his set (Dave Keyes and I went up too, along with Sweetie and Lisa - aka "The Girls").
We have one more day off here and then we play a show after which we are off to Vienna, I think...check the link to Willy's site on the front page! More later...SC
Keep your eyes and ears out for the new Corvette commercial. It's a parade scene with a couple of dudes doing 3 MPH in their bitchin' 'Vette while the baton twirlers, Shriners and pot-belly pigs on leashes pass them by. The song that's blaring out of the radio is a version of an old classic- "Corvette Baby", arranged and performed by The Contes.
Yes, it's true. I've just done a duet with Maaya Sakamoto (Maaya = Big Star In Japan!) I sang the song in February when Yoko Kanno was in New York. Maaya had already sung her part so i didn't get to see her...I did sing with her when I was in Japan for the 2001 Cowboy Bebop concert though. She's such a sweetie!
It was released on the 26th of March. The name of the duet is "The Garden Of Everything" (it's the 2nd track on her new 3 song EP called "Tune The Rainbow".) For a sound sample and more info you can try Maaya's official website:
" Two of my favourite artists joined together for the first time...It's amazing! Why didn't you do this sooner? Now all we need is for you to duet with Mai Yamane and Akino Arai then the Yoko Kanno vocalist collection will be complete! Well...maybe...I really love both of your work as well as Yoko Kanno' so this is probably one of my dreams come true."
Fabulous production by Andrew "Bojangles" Hollander (yeah, the same guy who produced Bleed Together with us). Besides Jess's wonderful singing/writing/playing you can find brother John and myself very much alive and livin' inside these tracks. Nice moods and textures supporting the girl and her guitar...You must get it!
My sister Jennifer had invited me for dinner and to watch the Grammys at her place in NJ on Sunday night. During the show I watched a (former) struggling NYC singer/songwriter named Jesse Harris, whom I know, get up to accept 3 Grammy awards, one for writing the song of the year for newcomer Nora Jones. I had an epiphany: "One just never knows when it is going to happen for them...you can never give up." Now, I have never considered doing anything other than music but I was inspired because although Jesse is not writing for his own band at the moment- he is forging his own successful path in music.
Afterward, Jen was driving me to the train station on highway 34 (with her two little Yorkshire Terriers, Buddy and Liro) when we skidded on a patch of black ice, lost control of her Jeep, rolled over four times and crashed. Miraculously, we we're basically OK except for a few cuts and scrapes (now, two days later, the body aches are becoming apparent). Thank God for seatbelts. It was amazing that no other cars hit us...or that we didn't hit anyone. Sorry if this sounds overly dramatic, but at that moment I thought we could be experiencing our final seconds of our lives.
During those ten seconds we were rolling over much went through my mind...though I couldn't actually get any words out of my mouth accept to wail, "Oh my God!" I had no idea which direction we were rolling in and what was ahead of us. It was a feeling of ultimate helplessness: there wasn't a damn thing I could do about the outcome of this. No steering or braking would help; the car would just stop when it hit something. It was all in the hands of God. I remember thinking, "how will this end"? Would it be by hitting a tree or a pole? Another car or a tractor-trailer? Would we explode on impact or get crushed like a tin can? It was like a carnival ride from hell...all we could do was wait. Finally, we came to a stop when we hit a snow bank and landed upright on all four tires. It was surreal.
The first thing I did was look to see if my sister was conscious. Her driver's side window had been smashed out. She was cut and the interior was covered in blood, glass and snow. Once we realized that neither one of us was badly hurt we noticed the silence...where were the dogs? I had put Buddy in the back seat before we left her place but Liro had been sitting on her lap. Not caring about ourselves anymore, we frantically called for the dogs but there was no answer. Eventually we found Buddy in the back seat (alive!) covered under mounds of snow and other junk, but no Liro. After searching the car thoroughly the only thing we could figure was he must've been thrown from the window as it shattered and we either crushed him, he was pummeled into a snow bank or he ran scared and was hiding somewhere.
We called 911, the cops came and the tow-truck hauled away her crumpled wreck of a Cherokee. We spent the next 3 hours searching for the little dog with flashlights in the snow, calling his name to no avail. It was freezing and we had no hats, gloves or scarves. We finally gave up when we were too numb to go on. He'd certainly be frozen to death by morning if he was out there somewhere. We'd just have to accept that it was the one tragedy of this incident. I went to my Mom's and tried to sleep, feeling shaken up and depressed. All that night and the next morning as I came back to NYC I couldn't help but feel responsible for little Liro's death...I even wrote a song to him.
And then, another miracle. When I got home there was a message from my Mom on my machine telling me that Liro was alive. He had been walking the highway in the freezing cold for nearly twelve hours! He was found at the Wawa food market just up the road from the crash site. A man found him cowering and freezing, took him home, fed him and then brought him to the police station.
So, all's well that ends well.
It's amazing that all of us made it out- basically unscathed. I know that God is looking down on me. I've felt that there has been an angel on my shoulder many times in life, but not like this. I have a renewed faith- and I will never give up on anything. God gave me some more time. Like Jesse Harris, I must have something good in store for me. I guess some people are supposed to be here for a while.
So...I'm like, 7 or 8 years old, living just outside of Buffalo, NY where the big radio station, WKBW does this show called "Name It, Claim It" in which they drop the needle somewhere in the middle of a record for about 2 seconds and you have to call and tell them what song it is. If you win they send you a record of their choice. Now, the precocious kid that I am, I'm listening to the radio intensely all day actually thinking I could win this kind of contest 'cause after all...I'm a DRUMMER!
Well, they play this piece of a song, almost indistinguishable, no lyric or singing...just an instrumental bit, real creepy and drenched in reverb. But I just knew the "sound" of it. I ran to the phone and called the station (i actually was the first person to call in, which i couldn't believe!) and in my high pitched little kid voice i squealed-
"That's FIRE by THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN"!!
- and I won! They announced my name on the radio and said they'd be sending me my prize (a 45 rpm record). I only had a few singles back then and wore out both sides of everything (I knew "Everybody's Next One" as well as I knew it's A-side- "Born To Be Wild"). I admit I wasn't too psyched about the prospect of getting an Arthur Brown single...I would much rather have a Beatles or Buckinghams or Lemon Pipers record but what the hell, music was music back then (plus, my parents didn't have any rock albums at that time, only Sergio Mendes & Brazil '66, Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, etc.)
About a week later a package comes in the mail and in a mad rush I open it. It's on Epic records, the yellow label with the black logo...and what is this? It's not The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (thank God) it's-
STAND b/w I WANNA TAKE YOU HIGHER by SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE!!!
That was the beginning of my musical education right there folks. From that first snare drum roll it was all over for me. The Beatles and then Sly...melody and soul. I still have that 45 in my collection and though within that same year I put a big crack in it from edge to center hole, it's still playable and I'll never let it leave my possession!
Steve Conte recently finished arranging and producing two songs at Chung King Studios, NYC for the upcoming film, ''Paying For It'', written by Billy Lehman. On the tracks: Steve Conte- guitars/vocals, John Conte- bass, Andy Hollander- Hammond B3 organ, Rich Pagano- drums/percussion. Engineering and mixing was done by Matt Knobel, Lenny Kravitz'' main man.
the contes - bleed together (thunderdog recordings) crown jewels - bubble & squeak, bootleg rarities (thunderdog recordings) crown jewels - linoleum, spitshine (thunderdog music) new york dolls - morrissey presents: the return of the new york dolls, live from royal festival hall (attack/sanctuary) new york dolls - one day it will please us to remember even this (roadrunner) adrienne frantz - anomaly (wrong records) dr. selflove - deuce bigalow: european gigolo soundtrack, SC - better things (sony) various artists - altogether now: a beatles children's album featuring SC, the bangles, grandaddy & rachel yamagata (little monster) maceo parker - funk overload (W.A.R.) peter wolf - fool's parade (mercury records) billy squier - tell the truth (capitol records) yoko kanno - cowboy bebop, wolf's rain, brain powerd, song to fly, ghost in the shell (victor) company of wolves - company of wolves, rhythm & booze (mercury records), steryl spycase, shakers & tamborines (ryf records) various artists - bigger than the beatles: a beatles tribute (main man records) SC - working class hero steve conte - turn, turn, turn-(CNR/arcade) mr. henry - tremolux, jackhammer, 40 watt fade (mighty hudson music) jessica owen - ever-so-slightly rearranged (sway gypsy records) better days - leaving the blue (bd records) pancho's lament - leaving town alive (as you wish music) slaves of new brunswick - (westwood entertainment) paul king - joy (epic records) alex rozum - lost to the street (warner bros.) drive she said - (music for nations)
new york dolls - morrissey presents: the return of the new york dolls, live from royal festival hall new york dolls - dance like a monkey new york dolls - gotta get away from tommy company of wolves - call of the wild, the distance glen burtnick - follow you
gibson - ’59 & ’60 les paul juniors, ’70 les paul custom, ’77 ES-335, early ‘60s melody makers (6 & 12 string), 2005 white les paul supreme, 2006 non-reverse firebird w/ 3 p-90s fender - ’62 stratocaster, ’68 telecaster w/B bender, ’63 fender VI (6 string bass) other - ’59 danelectro "jimmy page", MSA pedal steel, lap steel acoustics - martin D-18, gibson J-160E, guild 12 string
boss CE-1 chorus ensemble
colorsound & vox wah-wah pedals
electro harmonix small stone phase shifter
mutron II envelope filter
voodoo lab tremelo pedal
ibanez analog delay pedal
ibanez tube screamer Pedal
boss octaver pedal
boss graphic EQ pedal
sans amp stomp box
jen tonebender pedal
ampeg "scrambler" pedal
digitech "jam man" looping pedal
B.A. in jazz guitar performance from rutgers university, NJ (studied with kenny barron, ted dunbar & paul jeffrey)
A.A. in music, brookdale college, NJ
private studies with barry finnerty, dennis sandole, chris spedding, harry leahey and mike santiago
jill jones (paisley park), glen burtnik (A&M), john waite, chuck berry, the uptown horns, robert gordon, etta James, phoebe snow, dan hartman, charlie midnight, delmar brown & bushrock, jules shear, francesca beghe (SBK), tina arena, bernard "pretty" purdie & the hudson river rats, chynna phillips (EMI), suzi quatro (polydor), blood, sweat & tears, sam moore, taylor dane, david cooper (FNAC), fiona flanagin, shy talk (CBS), the late show with david letterman, late night with conan o'brien, the henry rollins show, the jonathan ross show (UK), the chart show (UK), canal tv (FR), new year's eve 2006 little steven's underground garage, live from hard rock cafe (ESPN), the today show, solid gold, top of the pops, MTV, MTV europe, much music (canada), regis & kathy lee, westwood one radio network and sony worldwide radio network (live) and the uncle floyd show.