MELODY LANE had a great interview with the living legend STEVE CONTE!  Songwriter, guitarist, music producer and lead singer, Steve shared with us moments of his huge career, and told us about his past in NEW YORK DOLLS, his role in the MICHAEL MONROE band and about his solo projects. Interview not to be missed! 

MELODY LANE: I read you played a solo acoustic show just some day ago, I think in in New York, in which you played songs by New York Dolls, Michael Monroe, Willie De Ville and Paul Simon...Was it a good show? Gone well? Do you play some song from the first incredible Company of Wolves album?  And are you going to do this kind of acoustic shows also in the future?
STEVE CONTE: Yes. In fact , I posted my set list on my facebook band page SteveConteNYC - you should go have a look. I love to play acoustic shows and will surely do more soon. I have so many songs to choose from between. All my various bands and albums - it's impossible to get them all in! Anyway, the main thing is. When you've got a room full of people, you've got to entertain them...and sometimes that means going outside of my own songs which some might not know and playing a few familiar tunes. For example I ended up playing songs by Ramones, Who, Tom Waits, John Lennon & Stones as well as songs I wrote for Michael Monroe & NY Dolls. But I always encourage people to "yell shit out" - I do take requests! 

MELODY LANE: In this period, are you going to touring, writing and working for your solo project? What's in the near future for you?
STEVE CONTE: Besides playing shows in support of my new album, "INTERNATIONAL COVER-UP" I am writing songs for my next all original record, the next Monroe record & producing other artists (not only in NYC, I travel anywhere to do that, I love being in the studio )

MELODY LANE: Yours is a huge and splendid career, as musician, writer, producer etc etc... What has been your biggest achievement to date and what do you want to achieve in the near future?
STEVE CONTE: At the top of my list is always PLAYING A SHOW WITH CHUCK BERRY! Also up there is my being a member of the legendary New York Dolls. I hope to be able to focus on my own music more...but I don't have another job so I've always ended up playing with other artists to keep a roof over my head :-) As a sideman it's getting tougher because out of all the artists/bands still out there touring & making records there are not so many I'd want to work with...

MELODY LANE: Talking about  guitarists…Which are your main influences?  
STEVE CONTE: Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Chris Spedding, Pete Townsend, Jimmy Page, George Harrison, Andy Summers, Wes Montgomery, John Scofield, Steve Morse, Larry Carlton, Marc Ribot, Albert King

MELODY LANE: At the moment, have you got permanent musicians in your solo band or playing with you live? If so…Can you tell us their name and which bands/where…do  they come from?
STEVE CONTE: Here in NYC I have Phil Stewart on drums who has been with me since he joined The Crazy Truth in 2005, and on bass I have Keith Christopher who was a founding member of the Georgia Satellites. (Keith recently replaced my brother John Conte who played w/ me in Company Of Wolves & Crown Jewels as well as being a sideman for Ian Hunter & Bowie and is a current member of Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes.)

MELODY LANE: Do you think is there any chance to bring  the Steve Conte NYC on tour in Europe and here Italy?
STEVE CONTE: I sure hope so! I did a tour of UK in support of the album w/ my Dutch band but i need to get back across the pond. I have only done a solo tour of Italia and that was right after I toured there with Willy DeVille in 2003 - so I am long overdue!

MELODY LANE: If i'm not wrong, in the past, in some dates of the tour of the Michael Monroe Band, you've been replaced by Slash's bassist Todd Kerns due to your unavailability to tour in that period. Anyway are you still a permanent member of the Michael Monroe band and are you going to join the band in the future for touring and writing?
STEVE CONTE: Yes and yes. Todd filled in for me when my baby boy was about to be born. Other then something major like that, I am always the lead guitarist, main backing vocalist & songwriter with Michael Monroe.

MELODY LANE: Many of our readers (me too) are great fans of two cult and legendary bands in which you have and had an important and basic role: Michael Monroe Band and New York Dolls. What's the difference in working with two legends like David Johansen and Michael Monroe? Were/Are you free to write and propose your music unconditionally?
STEVE CONTE: Yes. I am & was always free to "submit" my own songs or music for albums by the Dolls & Monroe. The main difference between those lead singers is that Johansen rarely took my lyrics because he has so much to say (and in such an eloquent manner!) whereas Michael does not write as much. It's a nice challenge to write for Monroe - I actually have to "become Michael" in my head and then it's easier to write for him. Many people just assume that he wrote Ballad Of the Lower East Side because it is written in the first person ("I lived down on 3rd street way back in the day...") but I had that song sitting around forever - I just needed the reason to finish it and when I started thinking about who MM is and what he likes to sing about it was easy. 

MELODY LANE: And have you ever had problems with the fans (maybe some comparison) that were used to see legendary guitarists like J.Thunders or Andy McCoy near such singers?
STEVE CONTE: Yeah but people have to get over it. Thunders is dead and ain't ever comin back. McCoy & Michael tried to get along for a 2nd version of Hanoi Rocks but Michael wasn't enjoying working with the guy anymore so that was the end of that. Both of those guys are completely different people from me anyway so there is no way I could ever compete with their lifestyles. I got over all my drug abuse before I stepped into the ring as a pro guitarist. I never let that stuff get in my way of playing music or ruin my reputation for being a dependable band member. It was never like "I wonder if Conte is gonna be able to play" or  "what kind of antics will he pull tonight?" I started out like those guys being self- taught and playing rock n roll but later I acquired a thirst for knowledge of jazz so instead of just being content with my rockstar dreams & image I  actually studied, took lessons with great players and went to college. That is why I have had so many different kinds of gigs - Paul Simon, Maceo Parker. Peter Wolf, Yoko Kanno - completely different styles of music. So when people give me grief that I'm not Johnny , etc I can smile and think to myself "yeah - maybe I'm not a legend for my rockstar attitude, fashion-sense or bad-boy behavior but I'll be a working musician till the day i die..."  because I really do know a lot about music; theory, harmony, jazz improvisation, composition, etc.

MELODY LANE: Why you and Sami Yaffa left The New York Dolls and how did you get the job in the Michael Monroe band?
STEVE CONTE: I can't speak for Sami but for me it was simply that there wasn't enough work. Sami had been friends w/ Michael a long time so it was obvious he would join him - and he pulled me in to play a few gigs and a week later Monroe offered me a permanent position.

MELODY LANE: From the first to the last, could you list the 3 albums, you played on, that you love the most?
STEVE CONTE: Well of course I love all my solo albums & indie bands with my brother but the most exciting experiences were the New York Dolls "One Day Ot Will Please Us To Remember Even This" because the world was waiting for it with such anticipation & expectation - and it did not disappoint! The Michael Monroe band's Horns And Halos would be up there because it was my first time writing most of an album for another artist... and Company Of Wolves debut because it was my band and my 1st album being signed to a major label.

MELODY LANE: …And could you list your 3 preferred songs that you wrote for the Michael Monroe Band?
STEVE CONTE: Balled Of The Lower East Side, Child Of The Revolution (w/ Dregen) & Goin' Down With The Ship (w/ Rich Jones)

MELODY LANE: In the last years you played with Ginger, Dregen and Rich Jones…Who is more complementary and goes better with your sound and guitar style?
STEVE CONTE: Each guy was different and great in their own way. Dregen was probably the "greasiest" and most intuitive player, meaning that he just does HIS thing, whereas Rich & Ginger can shift gears more readily. But writing-wise the most productive partnership has been with Rich. I didn't write much "with" Ginger and my writing with Dregen was me putting my words & melodies (and chords) to his riffs.  

MELODY LANE: In the end…A message from you to all MELODY LANE readers
STEVE CONTE: Please, help keep rock and roll - and all styles of music played by human beings - alive. Too much music coming out now is the kind that you can buy some software and make at home with no musical knowledge. We have to keep the respect for real players & song writer's talents. Thanks in advance - see you out there on the road or on