INTERVIEW: Russ Stedman epic


RUSS STEDMAN
MONSTER INTERVIEW
ten questions in the middle by Skot
other questions by Ian C Stewart

TRICKY QUESTION FIRST: CAN YOU TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT THIS ALBUM THAT NO ONE ELSE KNOWS?
The sound, feel, instrumentation, vocals, and pretty much everything about the song “When Will The Drugs Take Effect?” is a homage to one of my favorite albums of all time; THE FLAMING LIPS’ “The Soft Bulletin”.

WHERE/HOW/WHEN DID YOU RECORD YOUR LATEST THING, IF THAT’S WHAT WE’RE
TALKING ABOUT?

90% was recorded in the last three weeks of January 2011 while I was on short-term disability leave from work. I needed something to do besides lay in bed and cry. I consumed copious amounts of nicotine gum/lozenges during the recording process. I have now been nicotine free for 5 months. I don’t feel particularly proud or happy about that. I like tobacco. But, odds are I will never use it again. 99% sure anyway. If the earth is suddenly proclaimed to be in the path of a giant asteroid, I will chain-smoke Marlboro Reds 18 hours a day until everything explodes. As far as where, it was recorded right where I sit now. At my computer on Pro Tools 8.

IF THAT’S NOT WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT, THEN WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
We were talking with the Master regarding the nature of conceptual reality. Psychologically speaking, the human mind, or brain or whatever, is almost incapable of distinguishing between the real and the vividly imagined experience. Sound and film and music and radio. Even these manipulative experiences are received more or less directly and uninterpretive by the mind. They are cataloged and recorded and either acted upon directly, or stored in the memory, or both. Now this process, unless we pay it tremendous attention, begins to separate us from the reality of the now. Am I being clear? For we must allow the reality of the now to just happen, as it happens. Observe and act with clarity. For where there is clarity, there is no choice. And were there is choice, there is misery. But then, why should I speak, since I know nothing?

…also, Cheese Whiz.

IS THIS WORK INDICATIVE OF YOUR OTHER RELEASES?
Actually, we were talking about my latest CD “Cherry Creek”. And, not really. It has been a long time since a did a whole album of pop structured songs with serious, blunt, personal lyrics. The last time was probably 2000’s “Panic”.

RUSS STEDMAN – SOMEDAY I’LL BE MADE OF RUBBER

OVER THE YEARS I’VE NOTICED THAT YOUR WORK HAS A CERTAIN … (INSERT
PROVOCATIVE-SOUNDING WORD HERE)…. HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT THAT?

Over-abundance? I’ve recorded about 100 releases in the last 30 years. Mostly because half of that time was spent living in a very small boring town and I needed to entertain myself.

RUSS STEDMAN – BLACK AND WHITE RAG

WHERE CAN PEEPS FIND YOUR MUSIC ONLINE TO PURCHASE OR WHATEVER?
www.russstedman.com – every release 1982-present is there for FREE! I’m thinking of trying out Bandcamp. Also, you can still get the “Best of” on iTunes, Amazon, etc. until Tunecore realizes I’m not going to pay them again and they delete it. As of right now, it’s still there even thought my yearly fee is 4 months past due.

WHERE DO YOU FIND THE ENERGY TO KEEP CREATING AFTER ALL THIS TIME?
I have a lot less than I used to, but it’s more of a habitual compulsion than anything to do with having energy.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
I am remastering the best songs from my three 2002 releases and releasing it exclusively on Bandcamp to see if I can guilt anyone into paying for it. Then I’ll probably watch “Rumble Fish”. I’ve never gotten around to seeing it.

When did you first become aware/ interested in sound in general and
what do you remember of your earliest ‘hearing ‘experiences whether musical or not?
Pretty much music. I was probably 5 or 6 years old. This was the mid-70’s. My dad had a home stereo with an 8-track player. He had one 8-Track that I was particularly fond of, which was some kind of collection of 50’s hits. For some reason, I was fascinated with “School Days” by Chuck Berry, and spent a lot of time waiting around for the tape to cycle back around so I could hear it again. I listened to a lot of children’s records after that. Then my Dad would bring me home occasional 45’s. “Convoy” and the theme from “S.W.A.T.” were two of my favorites. Then the neighborhood kids introduced me to KISS. I bought ROCK AND ROLL OVER when it came out. I spent the next couple of years listening to KISS as if they were the only band that existed.

First instrument/sound making thing of any kind you played/owned? Did it come to you or did you go looking for it?
When it came that time around 3rd grade or so when they start having kids join school band, I went to the :”sign-up” session. My original intention was to be a drummer…but of course EVERYONE wanted to be a drummer, and they told me I had to pick something else. I settled on Alto Sax, because my favorite TV show was HAPPY DAYS, and Ritchie Cunningham played sax. I never practiced or learned how to play it and gave up on it completely pretty quickly.

So did you take instrument lessons of any kind or did you just go off and learn to play yourself? And what about your earliest ‘jams’with other people?
I took lessons long enough to realize that after I knew how to play a power chord, that was good enough for me at the moment. My friend Mike Myers started playing drums, and we started writing and recording almost immediately. We didn’t have any inclination to learn other people’s songs, probably because I was too new at it to figure any songs out by ear. I knew how to play power chords and he knew how to play a 4/4 beat, so we became a 13-year-old studio band called MINOR 2049er, named after a popular video game. A few years later, I met Evan Peta, and he taught me the importance of the blues in rock soloing and explained major modes to me.

How did you approach forming your first bands? mates in the garage kinda thing or advertising for players etc? And when did you do this, how early did you get band stuff going?
The first band I was in that played in front of people was called STAINLESS STEEL (very metal!). We were kind of manufactured by the local music store. Mike and I had gotten to the point where we were starting to get good enough to learn how to play hackneyed versions of KISS, QUIET RIOT, BILLY IDOL, ZZ TOP, et al. We asked the people at the music store to find us a bass player and they did.

What about as a music writer, can you recall any articles on music that really had an impact on you influencing you to write? Or just any big writer influences?
If you listen to the Minor 2049er tapes (which you can at my website if you’re brave),I don’t know what you would say we were really influenced by. Our main bands were KISS and THE BEATLES, but I don’t think you could really hear much of either of those bands in it. More so THE BEATLES if anything. Our approach to songwriting was that one of us would write some words, I would come up with a couple of chord progressions, and we would record it in one take mostly. Mistakes didn’t bother us.

So aside from songwriters & bands what about experimental stuff, noise, free form kinda sound that some wouldn’t call ‘music’ how did you come about that stuff?
Never been into noise. Listening or making. Not on purpose anyway. Maybe an occasional blast of noise, but nothing longer than a few seconds.

How about other forms of art…whether doing it yourself or as a fan or both, writing, painting, drawing, reading etc When & how did you get into these things, what influenced you in other creative fields aside from music & sound?
I suck at drawing or any kind of visual art created by hand. I started making covers for official releases in 1986. The first few tapes were just pictures found in magazines. The comics in National Lampoon were a big source. I’ve done 99% of my cover art myself, and some are photo collages, some are abstract. Mostly photos these days.

Most of my reading over the years has been books about music and bands. I prefer non-fiction overall.

What role, if any, have various ‘altered states of consciousness’ whether it be drugs, sleep deprivation, belief in bizarre powers etc played in your musical life, as listener or creator?
The only altered states that have influenced my music have been occasionally alcohol (mostly in my 20’s) and clinical depression and anxiety.

Equipment, instruments, sound gadgets, home recording gear etc can you list and/or tell us a bit about different things you’ve used over the years, favorites you’ve had?
The progession of my recording eqipment is as follows : Ping-Pong recording with two tape decks (1982-1987), Tascam Portaone 4-Track (1987-1995), Tascam 488 8-Track (1995-2000), went back to the 4-track for one album in 2001, Boss BR-something digital 8-track (2002-2003), Cakewalk and ACID (2003-2008), Pro Tools with Mbox2 (2008-Present). I wrote some really great stuff in 2002 with the digital 8-track, I was also living in a house at the time and had a drum set in the basement. I love Pro Tools.

Can you list (and tell us a little about) all the bands you’ve been a member of and any releases or performances you’ve done solo or played a part in some way over the years?
Minor 2049er (1983-1984) – Studio only

Stainless Steel (1984) – cover band – played out a handful of times in some really unfortunate locations and situations. One time we played in a church basement for some guy’s 90th birthday or something. I’m sure they all enjoyed listening to us play “She” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”

XTD (1985-1987) – (cover band) – I made quite a bit of money playing in this band, which allowed me to buy a 4-track.

Ten Center (1995-1996) – The first “real band” I was in. Played about 50% my originals and 50% covers so obscure that no one probably knew the difference. We played a ton of shows, but no one ever liked us or came to see us because we weren’t alt-country, which was the big trend in town at the time.

The Sneakies (1996-1997) – I joined this band to replace someone. It had originally started out as a pop-punk band but by the time i got there, it had morphed into a tough-guy rock and roll band a la Johnny Thunders. All originals except for “Ever Fallen In Love” by the Buzzcocks and “Chinese Rocks”. For our final show we also played “Havana Affair” by The Ramones.

Stickler (1998-1999) – After The Sneakies broke up, the drummer and I stuck together and got a new bass player. Similar to the Sneakies, with some Weezer influence thrown in. Biggest accomplishment : opening for Mike Watt.

Moist Host (2006-2007) – I also joined this band to replace someone. Weirdo punk. A very original style. I enjoyed the practices more than the gigs, except the time we opened for Neil Hamburger. It was a ton of fun, but then we lost our awesome practice space and slowly melted away.

That’s it. I no longer own an amp and will never carry equipment again.

The End.

TEN CENTER – ROCK AND ROLL ALL NITE

HOW ABOUT VACATION HOT-SPOTS? DO YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL?
I have been to Vegas and Minneapolis many times. They’re both cool. I would like to go to Los Angeles and Washington D.C. in the future. I have been to Virginia Beach, which included lay-overs at JFK and in Cincinnati. So, technically, I’ve been to NYC, birthplace of KISS and OHIO, birthplace of two of my favorite bands, Devo and Guided By Voices. So many great bands from OHIO! The Dead Boys, The Cramps, Ripper Owens, Devilcake. how did you guys get so talented up there? I love flying. I hate driving more than three or four hours.

Music From The Stedman

Music From The Stedman

THIS WILL BE A GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR ME TO ASK YOU ABOUT YOUR ALL-KISS COVER ALBUM, “MUSIC FROM THE STEDMAN.” IS IT AN OFFICIAL RELEASE? WHEN DID IT COME OUT? YOU REALLY COVERED A LOT OF GROUND WITH THAT CD, TONS OF SONGS FROM EVERY ERA.
No, it’s not an official release. I pretty much made it to show off to you. There were three copies made. One to you, one to Mike Myers, who played drums on a lot of the songs, and one to my good buddy Evan Peta. Maybe I should upload it to archive.org, but I would never consider it an official release. There are recordings on it spanning 1986-2006. My favorite is the Reggae version of “Naked City” from UNMASKED.

I LIKE THE SONGS FROM “THE ELDER,” THOSE ARE HILARIOUS. YOU NAILED THE GUITAR TONE! WHEN DID YOU BECOME A KISS FAN?
1976. I was 7. A kid down the street had a ton of KISS stuff and got me hooked.

HOW BIG OF A FAN WERE YOU?
At times, I topped out at over 300 pounds. But seriously, they are the band that got me into music and made me want to play guitar and without them my life probably would have been completely different. They were eventually replaced at my top spot by Frank Zappa, but If people ask me what my favorite bands ever are, I say 1. Zappa, 2. Kiss, 3. Devo.

CONVERSELY, DID YOU EVER STOP LIKING THEM, AND HOW BIG OF A FAN ARE YOU NOW?
When they crashed and burned on that slide from ’79 to ’81 which was DYNASTY, UNMASKED, and THE ELDER, I remember telling my Mom one day “I don’t like them so much anymore” and for some reason she said “Oh, you do too!”. Then CREATURES OF THE NIGHT came out and I got to see them live for the first time, and I snapped out of it. I actually like UNMASKED and THE ELDER now. DYNASTY I can take or leave. KISS died for me the day Tommy Thayer put on Ace’s makeup and costume. I consider the current incarnation of the band to be an insult to my decades of devotion. Nowadays, I just wish they would go away.

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU SEEN THEM IN CONCERT? DO YOU RECALL THE TOURS, AND WHO WERE THE OPENING ACTS?

1. February 19, 1983 – Sioux Falls, SD – Creatures Of The Night Tour – Opener : The Plasmatics
2. March 19, 1988 – Rapid City, SD – Crazy Nights Tour – Opener : Anthrax
3. May 11, 1990 – Sioux Falls, SD – Hot In The Shade Tour – Openers : Slaughter and Faster Pussycat
4. December 4, 1992 – Sioux Falls, SD – Revenge Tour – Openers : Trixter & Kix
5. July 13, 1996 – St. Paul, MN – Alive Worldwide Reunion Tour – Opener : The Melvins
6. April 18, 1997 – Sioux Falls, SD – Alive Worldwide Reunion Tour – Opener : Some completely forgettable band that no one ever heard from again.
7. December 16, 1998 – Omaha, NE – Psycho Circus 3-D Tour – Opener : I have completely forgotten.

LUCKILY, I HAVE THE BOOK “KISS ALIVE FOREVER” WHICH LISTS EVERY SHOW THEY PLAYED BEFORE 2003. THE OPENER WAS…. ECONOLINE CRUSH!

8. August 29, 2000 – Omaha, NE – “Farewell” Tour (yes folks, that was over ten years ago) – Openers : Skid Row and Ted Nugent
Once Peter and then Ace left again, I decided I didn’t need to see them anymore.
The fact that they are still touring over ten years later, and with other guys wearing the original makeup, is astounding and embarrassing. I wish they would stop before somebody breaks a hip or Paul’s heart explodes live on stage.

DO YOU FOLLOW ANY KISS MESSAGEBOARDS?
No. When I got my first computer in 1997, I used to read rec.music.artists.kiss on usenet every day, but after a few years, nothing new was going on and I lost interest.

FAVORITE KISS LINEUP?
The original, of course. Although it would be cool to hear what the classic 74-77 albums would have sounded like with Eric Carr drumming.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE KISS ALBUM?
Probably ROCK AND ROLL OVER, the first one I ever bought. I bought it in 1976 when it came out. I was 7 years old. If you leave off “Hard Luck Woman” it rocks ass all the way through. Top 5 in no particular order would be ROCK AND ROLL OVER, DRESSED TO KILL, ACE’S SOLO ALBUM, THE ELDER, CREATURES OF THE NIGHT. You didn’t ask me my LEAST favorite. HOT IN THE SHADE is fucking horrible. Bottom 5 in no particular order would be HOT IN THE SHADE, PETER’S SOLO ALBUM, ASYLUM, CRAZY NIGHTS, PSYCHO CIRCUS.

WHICH LINEUP PLAYS THE BEST VERSION OF YOUR FAVORITE KISS SONG?
I LOVE the MTV concert from Amimalized tour! They over-compensate for having no make-up and costumes by playing everything REALLY FAST and running around like a bunch of gorillas on crank. It’s great!

DO YOU PREFER THE WICKED LESTER SONG “TOO MANY MONDAYS” WITH GENE SINGING, OR PAUL?
Gene. I love his “Soft Beatle Voice”, as also displayed on his ’78 solo album.

WHAT TV SHOWS DO YOU LIKE, APART FROM THE YOUNG ONES.
WKRP IN Cincinnati, Archer, Dexter, House, Louie…there must be more.

HAVE YOU SEEN ANY GOOD MOVIES THIS YEAR?
Hmmm…this year? Not sure…I’m always six months behind because we don’t go to the theater anymore…we just wait for Netflix. The last movie i saw in a theater was the documentary “CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP” about his pre-TBS tour. Some of my all-time favorites are Repo Man, Angel Heart, Office Space, Breaking Glass, Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains, Fight Club, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, The Never-Ending Story, Happiness, Annie Hall, Army Of Darkness, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Caddyshack, Fletch, Eraserhead, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Room, Slacker, Suburbia, the Stoned Age, Talk Radio…I could keep going and fill a whole page. I’m also pretty much a Kevin Smith whore. Love the Jersey Saga movies.

HOW’S THE WEATHER THERE?
It’s fucking hot and sticky here. In winter it will be 110 degrees colder. It’s the worst of both worlds. Florida in the summer and Hoth in the winter.

I DON’T FOLLOW SPORTS, I CAN’T ASK YOU ABOUT THAT.
The Oakland Raiders.

DID YOU SEE OR HEAR ANY KISS BOOTLEGS IN THE 1980s?
Almost none. I had no access to such things before the internet. I have around 500 Zappa concerts…but was never big on KISS bootlegs, because they always play the same songs the same way every night.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST HEAR WICKED LESTER?
Hmmm…I’m going to guess in the first half of the 1990s somewhere. What a trip that was. Hippy KISS.

DID YOU EVER HAVE A BIG KISS COLLECTION BEYOND THE LPs?
I used to have some stuff. Almost nothing now. I have the Creatures tour book I bought at the show. I have my original Spirit Of ’76 poster on the wall behind me. That’s about it.

DID YOU PICK THE KISSOLOGY DVDs?
I had them all, but have since sold them. I was very disappointed that they edited out part of the Tom Snyder interview and that they used the European version of “Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park” with all the Solo Album songs dubbed in. Annoying.

“ALMOST HUMAN,” DISCUSS.
*GONG* Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. What else is there to say?

YOU’RE RIGHT, THAT’S IT. FAVORITE OF THE FOUR KISS MEMBER SOLO ALBUMS IN 1978?
My order of preference has always been Ace, Gene, Paul. I like to pretend the other one doesn’t exist.

WERE YOU IN THE KISS ARMY?
Not officially, but I did get my Mom to let me send away for a Rock And Roll Over songbook from one of the order forms inside the albums. It never came. 😦

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SONGS FROM EACH ALBUM 1974-84?
1. Kiss – Cold Gin
2. Hotter Than Hell – Watchin’ You
3. Dressed To Kill – Rock Bottom
4. Alive – 100,000 Years
5. Destroyer – Detroit Rock City
6. Rock And Roll Over – Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em
7. Love Gun – I Stole Your Love
8. Ace Frehley – Rip It Out
9. Gene Simmons – Living In Sin
10. Paul Stanley – Move On
11. Peter Criss – …the part where he goes : “This is New York. Yo!”
12. Alive II – Larger Than Life
13. Dynasty – Hard Times
14. Unmasked – She’s So Urine Peein’
15. (Music From) The Elder – Mr. Blackwell
16. Killers? – Partners In Crime
17. Creatures Of The Night – Creatures Of The Night
18. Lick It Up – Young And Wasted
19. Anamalize – Under The Gun

DISCUSS THE GREATNESS OF SIDE 4 OF ALIVE II.
They should have taken these songs (minus the Dave Clark 5 cover), picked the most rockin’ songs from the three solo albums, and made an album out of that. Then not done Dynasty. Then had Michael James Jackson produce Unmasked. Then left the two shitty Paul Stanley Opera songs off of the Elder. Then they could have slid into home with Creatures Of The Night and been on their merry way.

CORRECT. “ANIMALIZE LIVE UNCENSORED” SHOULD’VE BEEN ALIVE III, RIGHT?
It’s pretty great, as I mentioned before. I should have included Alive III in my worst of section.

AND, FINALLY: DID YOU EVER GET TO PLAY ONE OF THE OLD BALLY KISS PINBALL MACHINES?

Yes, A number of times. There must have been shitloads of them made, because they even made it to Mitchell, SD.

thank you again, Russ!

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