Steve Stevens to play The Paramount on Dec. 18 with Kings Of Chaos, talks Long Island & more
While the majority of people first learned of Steve Stevens from his decades as Billy Idol's guitarist, his guitar work on "Top Gun Anthem" and his collaboration with Michael Jackson on "Dirty Diana" led millions of other people to discover him. In the years when Steve wasn't playing with Billy Idol, he still remained active, playing with the likes of Robert Palmer, Jerusalem Slim and Motley Crue's Vince Neil. Since regrouping with Billy Idol, Steve has contributed to albums by Sebastian Bach and P!nk, beyond releasing a few solo albums.
Steve also keeps busy as a guitarist in Kings Of Chaos. The all-star band -- which also features members of Guns N' Roses, Linkin Park, ZZ Top, Stone Temple Pilots, Cheap Trip and Slipknot -- has three New York area appearances set for this month. Beyond Kings Of Chaos' Dec. 18 show at The Paramount in Huntington, fans can also see Steve and crew at Jersey's Wellmont Theater on Dec. 17 and at Irving Plaza on Dec. 21.
No Place Like Long Island caught up with Steve by phone. Part 1 of this chat appeared on the website of Downtown Magazine.
Well, speaking of gigs, you have your upcoming Kings Of Chaos dates and that's not your first supergroup. How did you become this magnet for supergroups?
SS: Fortunately, one thing that's great about being a guitarist is that you get to work with a lot of different people. I've done that since the beginning of my career in the 80's. I worked with a lot of people, Thompson Twins, Michael Jackson…I always wanted to grow as a musician and it's great to be in a band. But when you work with other people, you kind of pick up their work habits or how they go about writing songs, and that always was a real important element to me.
So when they get a call to work with say Tony Levin and then Terry Bozzio, I was like, “Yeah,” you’re obviously gonna grow from great musicians like that. And in L.A., there's a lot of musicians here who get to do their thing with their respective bands and go out on tour and play their band’s catalog, but what's really cool is when you work with other musicians and you get to play songs outside of your own catalogue and you learn from people.
I mean, Kings Of Chaos, being onstage with Billy Gibbons is just like going to blues guitar school…It’s just a great hang. And we're all friends, you know, I've known Matt [Sorum] since I moved out here to L.A. First and foremost it's fun, and secondly what a setlist — it's like going to see the best cover band in the world, but the songs are actually performed by the people that wrote them.
Sure. I was able to see Hollywood Vampires live over the summer, which seems similar to Kings Of Chaos. How did you first come into the picture of this group?
SS: Originally, the sort of “celebrity cover band” started with a group called Camp Freddy, which Matt was in originally with Dave Navarro with Chris Chaney and Billy Morrison, who's second guitar player in Billy Idol now. So I was working with them and I still continue to do dates with them…The very first Kings Of Chaos show was on a tour of South America and included Gene Simmons and Billy Duffy…I'm one of those guys who I think Matt can count on to learn the material, play the songs the way fans want to hear them and also I bring the billy Idol catalog with me as well.
Do you sing live on any of the songs of Kings Of Chaos?
SS: No, I’m the worst singer in the world. Nobody wants to pay a penny to see me sing, believe me.
With regards to that, when was it that you knew that even though you were a writer that you shouldn't be the featured singer out front? You have put out solo albums, and usually people hear solo albums and they think, “Oh that's the guy who's singing.”
SS: As a young kid I remember seeing Elvis on TV and I just always identified with the guy behind, Scotty Moore. I said, “I want to be that guy”…I just like the mystique of the guitar player. It just fits me, I get to do my thing and also retain a bit of anonymity, which I like, and I'm just really comfortable with my personality fixed in that role of the guitar player and the guy behind the singer.
So for you to be so animated onstage, where does that come from? You just think of yourself primarily as a sideman.
SS: You know, I wouldn’t say sideman but a partner…It’s just, guitar players are guitar players. We have our own D.N.A., so to speak, and I gotta hand it to singers because there’s a lot of pressure on getting onstage and then touring and your instrument is part of your body…You have to maintain that, and I'm a guitar player at heart, that's the instrument I express myself on, so I think I chose wisely.
Going back to Kings Of Chaos for a second, do you think that there is ever a chance of the band recording original music? Or putting together an album of some sort?
SS: Yeah, I mean we've talked about it and I’d love to see that happen…Obviously it's, you know, putting these things together, you have to coordinate schedules with guys who are constantly touring as you imagine between ZZ Top and Cheap Trick and we're all touring band members. This worked out right for me. It’s in a break that I have a little window not touring, so that's the main consideration in this case, trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule.
I read that Billy spent a year or something of his life in Rockville Centre on Long Island. Is that true?
SS: He was a little kid, but you know I was told that he had a relative in Long Island, and when he was a little kid, he might have lived there for a little bit.
And people from there usually have a weird relationship with Long Island, where they’re just five or ten miles out from Manhattan, yet they think of themselves as city people. Did you have a history with Long Island?
SS: By the time I was 17, I was playing the cover band circuit with Twisted Sister and all those bands and I loved it. I mean, it was the greatest training ground for a burgeoning guitar player and a lot of those musicians went on to do successful things. By the time I was 17, I left high school and I was playing simply five nights a week. We played every club in Long Island, so it was a really great time for me.