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Newman - 2003 Interview with Steve Newman
INTERVIEW: Newman, Steve (Aug 2003)
We preview 'Sign Of The Modern Times' with Steve Newman.
English melodic rocker Steve Newman tunes into GLORY DAZE for a few words about the new album from NEWMAN: 'Sign Of The Modern Times'..

Interview with Steve Newman
Written by: Gdazegod, Editor GLORY DAZE (Aug 2003)

English melodic rocker Steve Newman is not one to sit back and take it easy. Sure, the UK and the rest of Europe might be in the middle of a heatwave right now, and the inclination for many would be to sit back, soak up the rays, and do much of nothing. These days a musicians lot is hardly the tale of 'sit back and take it easy', particularly for artists on smaller independent labels. To make an impact in the market, not only do you have to be the jack of all trades, but you have to stand behind your product (yes it sounds like 'Marketing 101' I know!). Just ask New Jersey based workaholic melodic rocker John Taglieri what it takes to survive. He is the ultimate example of the one-stop-shop melodic rocker!

On the other side of the Atlantic however, Steve Newman continues to plug away with his commercial brand of melodic hard rock. Fans of FM, Strangeways, and Harem Scarem should be well familiar with Steve's output, which now spans four albums, the latest being this months release on Escape Music: 'Sign Of The Modern Times'. Apart from an initial stint with Point Music for his 1997 debut, Steve and his project/band NEWMAN have found a permanent home with the UK label since then, in particular one of label highlights being 1999's sophomore album 'One Step Closer' which was a stand-out release for that year.

In between times and leading up to this release, Steve has been just as busy. Perhaps not the workaholic that John Taglieri is, but busy nonetheless, as he points out. 'Hi George, nice to speak with you. Well yes, quite a few things have been going on. I relocated to another part of the South Coast of England, and spent around 6 months setting up the studio I have now. I also wrote a lot of songs with some other musicians in a project called Butterfly Tattoo which I hope will be released sometime next year. Then I finally sat down, and wrote the songs for the new album.'

We've just reviewed the new 'Sign Of The Modern Times' here at GLORY-DAZE (90/100), and commented on the fact that the music is prime-time commercial melodic hard rock, with elements of classic rock flowing through it. We can assume then, that Steve still has the incentive and drive to play this type of music, considering the scene/genre is becoming more marginalized by the day. 'Yes, I have always loved the classic rock sound, and really I don't try and kid myself that I am creating anything really different or that it will sell by the millions. The only thing that really drives me is to make good music, and certainly music which I believe in, and can be proud of creating. I think that guitar driven rock is making a bit of a comeback, certainly in the UK, where they seem to be so anti-anything like that, we are starting to see a lot more rock in the charts. I think it has the same excitement as 80's rock, but it's just being packaged in a slighty different way. Whether this will pave the way for more melodic American sounding rock again we'll have to see' says Steve.

Each of Steve's previous albums as a snapshot in time, were great pieces of work (check out some of the songs on the first two albums especially). By and large though, Steve has kept to the same formula that's worked for him previously. 'Thank you for that George. I think that each album definitely has it's own sound, whether the reason being the place that it was recorded in, or who helped on the final production. I can hear things in, say, the first album, that I know I wouldn't have done the same now. The whole experience was and still is a great learning curve, and you find particular ways of recording, or writing which seem to work well, so you tend to use that as a building block. My only deviation really, was Butterfly Tattoo which is very different from the Newman material, and so it needed to be kept away from the Newman name. Hopefully sometime in the near future you will hear that, it's more of a escape, away from the writing style I do with Newman.'

I asked Steve whether there was anything substanitally different about 'Sign Of The Modern Times' compared to the other albums, and what aspects these would be. 'I am pleased with my vocal performance on this album. It has been a big advantage being able to record the vocals, guitars and keyboards in my own studio this time around as the past albums have always been quite hectic when the time has come to record those parts. I think the production is great, I think it captures what I was trying to achieve, and both Mike Brooks and Pete Jupp did a great job playing bass, and drums respectively.'

Yes, and while we're on that subject, we all know of Pete's background with FM, but what about Mike Brooks? 'Yeah, everyone knows Pete haha!' chuckles Steve, 'but not everyone knows what a great and down to earth guy he is though, and that was really cool. After all, FM were one of my favourite bands, I used to go and see them on every tour. I hadn't met Mike before he showed up at the studio. Pete had suggested Mike because they play together in a band with Steve Overland (FM) and so really know each others technique. I knew they would work well together, and they both put some great rhythm down. Mike is a truly nice guy and we got on really well, I think both he and Pete have added great things to the album.'

Media have picked up on the soundalike comparisons being FM and Strangeways, though I suspect Steve doesn't really care about that aspect. My suspicion is that he just plays it as it comes, and it's proved correct as Steve explains. 'Well yes, I do tend to just play what I feel really. I'm not one of these musicians that can sit down and say to themselves 'OK, today I'm going to write a song like Strangeways, or write a song like Whitesnake'. I guess I spent a lot of years listening to those kinds of bands, and when it comes to writing songs those influences sub-consciously come out anyway.'

In some places there are hints of that other Southern English band Pride who are currently doing the rounds. As it turns out, Steve managed to catch up with them during the production phase, as Pride were working at Pee Wee Coleman's Runcorn Studio putting 'Signs Of Purity' together. 'Yeah, I've heard some tracks from both the Pride albums, they're a great band. I had the good fortune to go up to the studio in Runcorn when they were laying down tracks for their new album and met up with Chris Green, we had a long chat, that guy can really play guitar, I'd love to work with him sometime in the future. I wish them all the best on their new album.'

I have to say, when Escape Music sent the disc to G-DAZE, I wasn't sure what to expect, but owning all of the other Newman CD's, I needn't have worried. there are some excellent tunes onboard. 'Last Known Survivor', 'Worlds Apart', 'Watching You'.. They all tickle my fancy at the moment. However, trying to get Steve to pick out a fave proves to be a difficult task. 'Mmmm, I don't really have a favourite on the album. I guess I've listened to it too much recently, ask me in 6 months time!! haha.'

As always the guitar sounds is razor sharp, and we do know that Steve loves to tear it up.. and loud too! Just referring back to the vocals for a moment, and also the way that the songs are constructed. One of the questions I put to Steve was what sort of preparation he goes through when arranging the material. i.e writing to a scale that suits his voice, or just writing/playing spontaneously. He explains. 'The ideas I have come from many directions, I may have a lyrical idea in my head, and at which time I'll usually try and match the scale of the guitar to what I'm comfortably singing. Other times it may be a guitar riff that maybe doesn't sound great in any other scale, so I'll change my voice to pick out the best melody. As with all singers I do have keys that my voice is more comfortable in, but I don't really have this in the back of my mind when writing. If it really is too low, or too high, then I'll transpose the key to make it sound right.'

And how about some of the vocal greats that Steve is into? A lot of 'rock' guys always mention the 'Voice Of Rock' - Glenn Hughes as being a prime contender.. 'Well, I haven't really been singing that long, I used to do a lot of backing vocals in the previous bands I was in. The one person that made me really want to try and sing lead vocal was Steve Lukather. I had respected him as a guitarist, and to hear what he could do vocally to a song was amazing. I say this, because he has not got the range of many vocalists but is able to use his voice to great effect. I continued to work on my voice and now have quite a varied scale. I would have to say that my vocal idol is Mickey Thomas of Starship, but I have other favourites too, such as Joseph Williams, Jeff Paris, Michael Bolton, Marcie Free and of course Steve Perry.'

We get to the stage in our interview when I quiz Steve about his playing rig. And it's appropriate with Steve as he plays both guitars and keyboards on the album. 'OK for all you Tech-Heads out there, All the guitars on 'Sign Of the Modern Times' were played on the following: Ibanez JS, Jackson PC3 and a Ibanez Electro-Acoustic. I've recently taken stock of two more guitars from a good friend down here that builds them, one is based on a Les Paul, and the other is based around a PRS. I think there will be a big difference on the new stuff that I record as both these guitars have Twin Humbuckers, so I'm going to get a really fat sound both in rhythm and lead. A lot of the solos for the new album were recorded on the Jackson which has a thinner sound. In the studio I tend to use the Line 6 pod and then patch that to two Lexicon effects processors for delay/reverb etc. Live I use Marshall, but tend to concentrate more on vocals so I let Paul Raby take care of the guitar stuff, he uses Crate and Gibsons mainly.'

'My keyboard set up is the following: Roland D50 used as a master keyboard to drive a Roland JV1080 Synth Module, that's been expanded so many times I can't remember! For all the other sequencing, studio stuff, currently I'm using Cakewalk Sonar, this is controlling a Fostex D2424LV recorder, and then into a 32 channel desk.'

And finally, Steve intends taking the live NEWMAN band out for a few gigs either at the end of this year, or next year. 'My live band really want to do it, and I think the time is right' says Steve. 'We have 4 albums worth of material to choose from, so the set should be really strong.'

Steve, thanks very much for the update, and for giving us a few words about 'Sign Of The Modern Times'. I look forward to catching up with you again! 'OK George, nice to talk to you. and all the best to your readers, thank you for keeping this music alive. I hope they enjoy the new album - Regards, Steve Newman.'

Vist Steve's website at:

Related Articles:
Newman - 1997 Newman
Newman - 1999 One Step Closer
Newman - 2001 Dance In The Fire
Newman - 2003 Interview with Steve Newman
Newman - 2003 Sign Of The Modern Times
Newman - 2006 Heaven Knows
Newman - 2007 Primitive Soul
Newman - 2013 Siren
Newman - 2015 The Elegance Machine

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