10 Things We Learned from Steve Stevens
Just prior to the release of Billy Idol’s Kings & Queens of the Underground, his longtime guitarist fielded your questions on PG’s Facebook page, sharing pre-show rituals, his must-have effect, and what he’s got cooking in 2015.
Photo by Wayne Posner.
Steve Stevens is no stranger to Premier Guitar: He’s joined us for a Rig Rundown and we recently interviewed him about Billy Idol’s new album where he answered plenty of artistic and gear-related questions. Then, just prior to the release of Idol's latest effort, Stevens gave fans their turn to ask questions when he took over our Facebook account for about 90 minutes. Thanks to all of your inquiries, we uncovered a few nuggets of Stevens’ personal and professional life that were previously kept under wraps. Here are the highlights.
1. After touring with Van Halen, Stevens was shocked when a truck full of EVH-approved gear showed up at his house.
Stevens: When I was on tour in the early ’90s as support to Van Halen—I was with Vince Neil promoting his solo album Exposed—I got to try Ed's gear a few times during soundchecks, nothing really too extensive. Word must’ve gotten back to Ed because two days after I got home from the tour, a truck showed up with three stacks of Peavey 5150 amps and two of his personal Music Man EVH guitars.
2. The times were a-changin’ and grunge was to blame.
By the end of our Exposed tour supporting Van Halen, the musical climate had changed so much with grunge and the Seattle rock scene that Vince was unable to get fans to fill even smaller venues like bars and clubs. After hearing that news I decided to take a break as a sideman and reevaluate what I wanted to do musically. I eventually came out with Flamenco a Go-Go—an album I’m very proud of.
3. Even after releasing Kings & Queens of the Underground and touring with Billy Idol this year, Stevens is looking to stay active in 2015.
Next year I plan on releasing my next solo album—a follow-up to 2008’s Memory Crash—but it will be more of a band thing than a true solo effort. Unfortunately I really can't say more about that right now. Plus, I’d like to release my memoir in 2015 or as soon as possible.
4. Stevens leans on his wife for his onstage fashion.
Actually, my wife has always been on the lookout for things and helps me a great deal with the stuff I wear on and offstage. It’s a team effort!
5. A local New Jersey folk musician inspired Stevens to first pick up the guitar and the first song he could play all the way through was a James Taylor cut.
In the neighborhood that I grew up in, there was a folk singer named Phil Ochs—he was my hero and his sister was my first teacher. The first real song I could play from start to finish was James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.” For beginners today, I’d suggest learning easier songs with big riffs—like any AC/DC—because you can learn it in chunks. For an Idol song, I’d suggest trying “White Wedding.” My favorite solo I think I’ve ever done is “Man for All Seasons” because you can hear my love and admiration for Steve Howe.
6. Stevens enjoys performing now more than ever… and he’s a man of hygiene.
The raw energy of first performing some of those songs was new and fresh, but there is more of an emotional feeling onstage for the band now because our music is something [fans] grew up with and have formed bonds with. I think it means so much to our fans that they can see the same two guys—that started this thing over 30 years ago—still up there as friends and partners performing together. And before I hit the stage, I have to put on some cologne and brush my teeth.
7. The King of Pop rocked out in comfort.
For the song “Dirty Diana,” I used a Jackson Soloist—a guitar that I still own—into my old rack setup and then through my late ’60s Marshall plexi head. The biggest thing I remember from my time working with Michael Jackson on that song is that he wore penny loafers the entire time... that was a bit funny, but totally cool.
8. Road life isn’t always about glitz and glamour.
Back in the ’80s we were spit on a lot while performing. I remember one time I was hit in the head with a knife during a gig in Seattle... how’s that for ya?! Currently, my favorite part of touring is obviously playing for fans and getting to see some amazing cities across the world. Honestly, even after all the trips and flights, I still hate flying.
9. Stevens truly digs the new crop of guitar heroes, and he wouldn’t mind getting down with his contemporaries on an All-Star tour.
Right now, for guitarists, I think Guthrie Govan is the man. Hands down. For current bands, I really like and enjoy music from Mastodon, the Black Keys, and Muse.
I’ve never been approached by [Terry] Bozzio and Tony Levin nor have I been offered a slot on G3 or Yngwie’s Guitar Gods, but I’d love to do any of those three tours if the opportunity ever arose.
10. Flamenco guitar and delays are two of Stevens’ favorite things.
My desert island guitar would be my Ramirez Flamenco guitar and my go-to live effect would be any decent stompbox or rackmount delay.
To check out Stevens' full chat with our Facebook audience, visit here.