Newman: Modern times, classic sounds.
Steve Newman talks about his latest Newman album and the Butterfly Tattoo material and gives some advice to new bands and AOR fans out there!
.our first ever interview thanks for taking the time! What are you up to right now?
I am currently in the studio going through the Butterfly Tattoo material. I'm not sure who this is going to be released through, obviously Escape will have first choice on this. I'll let you know what happens.
Congrats on the new album - sounding as good, if not better, than ever.
Thank you Andrew.
There's been a 3 year delay between albums this time around, but you haven't been sitting around the whole time.
You recorded a set of songs under the title Butterfly Tattoo. What happened to those songs and why weren't they released?
Yes, that's right, I was involved in doing something a little different with regards to Butterfly Tattoo. I got together two other musicians, a bass player, and a drummer and we spent around 2 months in the studio writing songs with the intention that this was to become the next Newman album. We started to actively write together and could see almost immediately that this was going to be nothing like any other Newman album! After the songs were more or less completed I presented them to Khalil, and we both came to the conclusion that this was too different to be released under the Newman name. I am currently in the studio re-recording some of the parts from the sessions and hopefully this will be released in the very near future.
How far could the style really be from what you are best known for?
Everything I do will have an element of me in it, there was a lot more involvement from the other guys and this is really what took it in a different direction. It is very different from Newman, so I've been told by the few people that have heard some of the songs.
So you decided to start over with a new set of songs - a set that sets a new high standard for you! What did you have in mind after deciding to start over?
Well, I finished the Butterfly Tattoo material and then went through a re-location to another part of the South Coast of England. I spent around 6 months or so setting up my new studio, so when it came to sitting down and writing for the new album I had a few ideas buzzing around in my head.
Are you happy with the results?
Yes, I am, I was glad that I could spend the time in my own studio recording the guitar, keys, and vocal parts. I always felt that, particularly with the vocals, I needed more time to concentrate on getting them right. The previous albums have been pretty tough schedule wise. 3 days to sing 12 songs with backing vocals too, is a tall order!! So I think the vocal has benefited most.
Tracks like Last Known Survivors and Save Me Tonight are prime examples of British AOR. Who are your musical influences - now and as you grew up?
I started listening to my brother's record collection when I was growing up, bands like Led Zeppelin, and Free. Later I really got into the American bands such as Dokken, Ratt, and obviously Bon Jovi. I first saw Strangeways when they supported Europe in England, they became a very big influence, as did other bands such as Night Ranger and FM. I think that my approach to song writing changed when I heard Jeff Paris, and personally I don't think that anyone has come close to him as a songwriter.
My influences now are quite varied. I have been listening to the Foo Fighters, Good Charlotte, and Hundred Reasons recently. Although I still think that there are a lot of good melodic rock bands such as Urban Tale, Pride and Grand Illusion.
The sound of the new album is a little tougher - the guitar plays a more prominent and direct role in the music. Was that a conscious decision by yourself?
Not really, I think that in each album, the guitar seems to have been gradually becoming louder !! hahaha.
I always try to look at the guitar parts fairly carefully, and if it is required then it gets recorded. I would agree that over the course of the past 4 albums things have got heavier!!
You also use a new band line-up on this record, while playing many of the instruments yourself. I think this was a great idea and the benefits can be heard on the record. What was behind that decision?
I felt that after "One Step Closer" and "Dance In The Fire" I wanted to have a little more control over the Drums and Bass. On the previous two albums these had been recorded over in Canada and I particularly wanted to keep this in the UK this time around. To have Pete Jupp play drums on the album was a great thrill as FM was one of the bands I used to be really into. Both Pete, and Mike Brooks (Bass) put down some great rhythm tracks for the new album.
It was also produced by you with Pete Coleman. How did he influence the sound of the record and did you enjoy the more hands on experience?
It was great to meet up with Pete, and I think he done a great job engineering the material. I always love being in and around studios, in the passed few years I've tended to get quite involved in the technological side of the recording process, so it's always nice to see how someone like Pete works.
You've recorded 3 albums now for Escape Music - but I wasn't even aware you had a forth - a debut album for Point Music. Can you still get that anywhere, I need a copy?!!
hahaha, I think they're probably giving them away somewhere!! No, seriously, I think the album is still available from Point Music in Germany.
Are you happy with the musical development the Newman albums have made? Anything you would like to change or do differently?
Yes, when ever you have finished recording an album there are always things you wish you could have done better, but that is the learning curve. I think that every artist improves with each album. Sure, there are many things that, looking back, I wished I'd done differently, but then again these albums are really snapshots of a particular time in my life, the process I went through to record them, and the emotions I was feeling at the time.
With what happened to Butterfly Tattoo in mind - what next for Steve Newman? What will you do for the next studio album, presumably next year some time?
Well, as I've said, the Butterfly Tattoo material should be released sometime soon hopefully when it is all completed.
I travelled out to Sweden about a month ago to work with Anders Rydholm of Grand Illusion, that was a very productive visit, and hopefully the songs we wrote together should be appearing on an album at some stage.
I will start working the next Newman album towards the end of this year hopefully. I promise it won't be as long coming as the last one!!! hahaa
Any chance we might see Newman playing a few gigs this or next year?
Yes, I would really like to do some shows in 2004, we'll have to see.
Do you see any one band or artist really doing a great job out there promoting themselves, making great music that inspires you?
At the moment I think it is very difficult without the funding of a major company. I think that websites like yours, and the internet is the way to go with regards to promotion on a wide scale. This is certainly true in the UK at the moment as there is no real avenue, certainly for melodic rock bands, to tour or become successful in that way.
Can you tell us a little about the artwork for the new CD? What is it about? LOL...I personally think it's very cool, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Ok, I was looking at imagery for the new album, I already had the title in mind. I saw this image and thought that it fitted the lyrics in the title track really well. It's really someone stopping and saying "hey, everything is moving too fast, it's time to stop, and take a look around, and give something back" I think that as the world moves faster it is becoming less emotional, we see it in our music particularly, manufactured bands, similar to fast food really!!
Where does the subject matter for your songs come from?
Many different places, I tend to write what I feel at the time. If I am moved by a certain event, or story, then I usually write about it.
How do you go about writing songs in general? What's your modus operandi?
It really depends, it can start form a vocal melody idea, or maybe a guitar riff. I don't really have any set way of writing, although I use Cakewalk software to construct the song as an aid to developing the idea.
What would you really like to see happen to the melodic rock scene in the UK and in general worldwide?
It would be great to see it all came back to the scale that it was in the eighties. I think it will, but it will be packaged differently, probably in the form of a boy band!! haha.
There are already bands coming through, here in the UK, that have a certain AOR quality about them, only time will tell.
Even within the AOR fraternity I would like to see people start accepting some of the newer bands, I think the artists that were around in the eighties, playing this kind of music sometimes get treated a little too God like. I'm not saying any more!! haha
Anything you can recommend to new artists coming through and looking for a break?
I think if you are a melodic rock band, especially in the UK, then you could approach someone like Now and Then or Escape Music. The web is always a good place to start promoting the band as well. It's very difficult to tour and become known through that these days, and finding places to play is a nightmare. I would always say that with any band, make sure you all want the same thing, and get the best possible musicians. Just write what you feel, and try not to be like anyone else, people will always compare you to someone anyway, and you'll probably find that their influence has come out in your music.
Thanks for your time Steve, anything you would like to add?
Thanks Andrew, and thanks to all your readers and fans that have bought the previous albums. Good luck with the continuing success of melodicrock.com!
Thanks Steve, appreciate your time.