MELODY LANE had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary STEVE CONTE! Guitarist, songwriter, singer and producer, Steve shared with us several  moments of his immense career and told us about his past in the NEW YORK DOLLS, his role as guitarist, songwriter  and producer in the MICHAEL MONROE’s band and gave us some preview details  about his new solo album.
Unmissable interview!
Exactly one year has passed since this very interesting interview that we propose here in English! Thanks Steve !!!


MELODY LANE: Steve let's start with the latest release of the MICHAEL MONROE’s band, ONE MAN GANG, another  fantastic album, another gem for which you have received tons of compliments and rave reviews. But there’s  a weird curiosity about the single JUNK PLANET, let’s say that for you it is a sort of ‘self-cover’, right?
STEVE CONTE: Ah ah well, let's just say  that MICHAEL covered me up (laughters). The fact is that, I don't know why, while we were writing for the new album, this song kept coming to my mind. I wrote and  recorded JUNK PLANET  years ago and the original version is included in my album STEVE CONTE & THE CRAZY TRUTH. I started imagining it sung by MICHAEL. It seemed perfect for his  voice and his style. The 'punky' attitude, the text that is very topical for what is happening in the world, in short, it immediately seemed to me to fit well into the 'mood' of the new album, so I brought it to the attention of the band. I played it to Michael  and he liked it right away. He didn't care that it was already released on one of my old albums and decided  to include it in ONE MAN GANG…

MELODY LANE: A couple of months ago we had the pleasure of interviewing MICHAEL MONROE and he told us about some recorded and completed songs that weren't included on the final ONE MAN GANG tracklist. What can you tell us about it?
STEVE CONTE: Yes, some songs were left off the album… Some of mine, a couple of RICH JONES and one of MICHAEL.  Most likely they will be used as b-sides on some singles or as bonus tracks for the Asian market. Maybe some of those songs  will be used for the next album, but it hasn't been decided yet. They are all good tracks, perhaps some a little strange, let's say kind of different from our style; at the time of drawing up the ONE MAN GANG's tracklist they did not match with the harsh punk rock attitude of  the rest of the songs. I think if we should release any vinyl singles, some of them could be definitely used as A-side or B-side. So let's see if I remember ... One was written by RICH, it's called 'Pushin' me back 'and will be on the next album, indeed it could even be a single; then there are a couple of my songs: 'Built for speed' which is an up-tempo, a punk rock'n'roll also this could go on the new album ... and 'Can't give up the ghosts' which is instead a a little more experimental ... We'll see, the songs that blend well with each other could end up on the next album ... Somehow they will be used anyway because, I repeat, they are good songs ... RICH JONES composed a lot of material for this album, ONE MAN GANG, so we were set on his "mind set"…on his vision. These songs, I repeat, even if good, let's say they were not really in line with the rest of the songs included in ONE MAN GANG...

MELODY LANE: I ‘d like to ask you  something  about MICHAEL MONROE’s band live shows. I have seen you live several times and you are incredible, a real war machine. How do you build the setlist and the show  in general?
STEVE CONTE: Well, you know, obviously  there are some songs that are quite regular in the setlist, it’s practically impossible not to play them live considering MICHAEL's career. I refer to some songs of DEMOLITION 23, or UP AROUND THE BEND and MALIBU BEACH from HANOI ROCKS or DEAD JAIL OR ROCK'N 'ROLL with which we often close the concerts. Then of course we focus on the new album, on the album that we are promoting on tour at that moment, to which we add some covers of the groups that inspired us: DEAD BOYS, RAMONES ... Let's say that during our concerts we don’t really need many slow songs ah ah  ah..

MELODY LANE: Let’s say you’re one of those bands that don’t spare themselves. Live always give your best, great music, but also lots of fun ...
STEVE CONTE: Well I think ours is a really great band  both in the studio and live. And this in my opinion also depends on the fact that there is a strong bond of friendship between us. This year we celebrated 10 years of the band, we are on the fourth album, but if you listen to our 2010 live 'ANOTHER NIGHT IN THE SUN', the first thing produced by the band, the sound is incredible. We had been playing together for a couple of months, but if you listen to that live it feels like a band that has been playing together forever. There have been some line-up changes regarding the second guitar, we had GINGER, then DREGEN and now we have RICH JONES, but the main core... MICHAEL, SAMI, me and ROCKFIST we'have been together for ten years and now we are really well run-in band, a 'live killing machine'. We have a lot of fun live, and we want people to have fun. It often happens to me, while I'm doing a solo,  of watching the audience, and no one is looking at the stage, they are all nose up while MICHAEL dangles from the stage lights like a monkey. I prefer  'a bit of craziness'  to those who stand motionless on the stage thinking only of playing the right note. Then of course it also depends on the type of music…You know in the beginning I practiced a lot, I wanted to be like Jeff Beck (laughters). I listened to jazz, I studied and practiced a lot, I wanted to become a great guitarist. For the first twenty years of my career I was in New York, I played with great musicians, the most diverse genres, from R'n'B to Funk to Soul. Then I joined the NEW YORK DOLLS and everything changed there. When I was young I loved Rock 'n' Roll, Chuck Berry and Keith Richards were my biggest influences, so I didn't have to work hard to get into the sound of the band but ... but I had never played live in a band Garage / Punk. With the Dolls the vision changed radically, because if I missed a note or played a wrong chord, DAVID JOHANSEN would have said to me “Yeah man, no problem! This is what people expect! ".  I remember the first concert at the Royal Festival Hall, when I got off the stage, David Johansen asked me," So Steve, how did the show go? "And I replied:" ... I don't know ... maybe a disaster! "... and he:" ... Okay! This is exactly what people expect from the Dolls! ". And so I realized that for them it was all part of the show! (Laughs)

MELODY LANE: Can you tell us how you got into the New York Dolls? Had you already known them before you played with them?
STEVE CONTE: No, I had never met them, neither DAVID nor SYLVAIN. When David decided to get the band back together he made a few calls around and more than one suggested my name. We met, a lunch together and he gave me the place in the band. He didn't even want to hear me play. No audition. At first it was supposed to be just one show, but then things started rolling, there was a lot of demand to see the Dolls live and several shows were confirmed. Arthur Kane unfortunately was already sick, so after the first concert he was replaced by my brother. We played at the MOVE FESTIVAL, in Manchester, in the stadium, as special guests of MORRISEY. And then the auditions for the new bassist began because my brother couldn't stay in the band permanently as he already had other commitments and concerts booked with other artists. I took a few friends of mine to auditions, including Keith Christopher, formerly The Georgia Satellites, today in Lynyrd Skynyrd, who has been the bassist in my solo band for some time. But then eventually SYLVAIN decided for SAMI YAFFA. He said it was the right one for us. And so began the friendship between me and Sami.

MELODY LANE: If you had to pick any bands to tour with MICHAEL MONROE, who would you like to play with? Which bands could help you expand your fan base even further?
STEVE CONTE: Well I already have the answer. Four names: CHEAP TRICK, ALICE COOPER, AEROSMITH AND GUNS 'N' ROSES. These bands would be perfect for us. Obviously there are other 'friend' bands we like to tour with and to have fun with; I think about THE DARKNESS, THE HELLACOPTERS, THE WILDHEARTS OR THE BACKYARD BABIES… 
GINGER and DREGEN were also in MICHAEL's band… but they are bands at our level. In some countries they are more popular than us, in others we are more popular than them, but we are more or less bands at the same level. I think to broaden our fan base it would be better to play with some great bands like the ones I listed above ...You know… GUNS or ALICE COOPER are famous all over the world.

MELODY LANE: Going back to ONE MAN GANG, the record was produced by you, RICH and MICHAEL… Why didn't you work with an external producer like in the past?
STEVE CONTE: Well, for a producer, working with a band like ours is not very difficult, he has to worry mainly about the sound, because the songs are already written, they are well rehearsed, we know how we play and what we want to play. So let's say that a producer mainly serves to organize and plan the works. It never happens that the producer tells us to change a song or modify a choir, the writing and arranging work is done before entering the studio. In the past we have also had some great producers, the legendary JACK DOUGLAS, who produced AEROSMITH and JOHN LENNON, he is a really hands-on producer, then we had CHIPS KIESBYE who worked with THE HELLACOPTERS and BACKYARD BABIES ... But this time we have tried it on our own and we are very happy with the final result. Karl and Sami recorded drums and bass and then me, Michael and Rich stayed in the studio for over a month to complete the recordings, guitar overdubs and vocals… Anyway I like working as a producer, I'm interested. In the past I have produced albums of various artists and also my solo works.

MELODY LANE: About your new solo album, what can you tell us?
STEVE CONTE: It took a long time to prepare the album because I have been very busy with MICHAEL, both in the studio and on tour. And then I've had other concerts with the various projects I collaborate with. My brother JOHN has now returned to the band, he has a great deal of experience, he worked as a sideman for the likes of IAN HUNTER, BOWIE and he is a member of SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY & THE ASBURY JUKES, while on drums there is CHARLEY DRAYTON, who was part of the X-PENSIVE WINOS, the KEITH RICHARD's solo project, and who also played with SIMON & GARFUNKEL, LITTLE STEVEN and BETH HART. Me, John and Charley are a really close-knit trio, classic sound, it works  great.

MELODY LANE: Will it be a typical R'n'R album in your style?
STEVE CONTE: Not really. I must confess that I am very satisfied; the sound is something between the Stones of the early '80s and the Replacements. It is classic rock but with punk and blues influences. It is a rather expressive album, absolutely not 'screamy' or 'noisy' even though we have a couple of 'really wild' tracks!

MELODY LANE: Will there be 'special guests' again also this time?
STEVE CONTE: Oh yes, there will be guests. I will have CHRIS SPEDDING on guitar, who has an immense career behind him: in England he is a legend, a great 'studio-musician'. He was the guitarist for Brian Ferry, for Roxy Music and for Robert Gordon; he worked with Elton John, Tom Waits and produced the first EP of SEX PISTOLS: he is definitively one of my all time favorite guitarists. Then there will be several vocal guests very well-known in New York. There will be WILLIE NILE, and then NICKI RICHARDS and SOPHIA RAMOS, because I wanted to have female voices that would give a Gospel / R'n B' touch to some songs. They are fantastic, they have worked with Madonna, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart… with so many great artists. However unlike the previous album, where I had many guests, including MICHAEL MONROE on Sax, GINGER, DREGEN, SYLVAIN on guitars or DENNIS DUNAWAY of ALICE COOPER BAND on bass ... This time I wanted the work to be more organic, I wanted do everything with the band. I didn't want it to end like "…Ok I have this guest, let me see what can we do…", It would have distorted the album. Only in some songs, while developing them, I realized that I would need something different and so, for example for the guitars, I asked for CHRIS's intervention. This time I will also have a co-producer ANDREW HOLLANDER, he has worked with many bands. He is a friend of mine and he is also a keyboard player, he played the piano and the Hammond on some songs on the album. As for the artwork, I will develop it together with RICH JONES, while I have entrusted the mixing to the great NIKO BOLAS, who has mixed all my albums in the past. NIKO is in Los Angeles, and he is very experienced, he has mixed DON HENLEY’s THE BOYS OF SUMMER, he has worked with NEIL YOUNG and with many great artists… He is working on it right now, we talk on the phone. For the rest I don't know, we just have to wait...and who knows when we can go back to playing live.

MELODY LANE: Steve, we're at the end of our interview, thanks for everything… A message to our readers…
STEVE CONTE: I am proud to be Italian, my grandparents came from Calabria and Basilicata. My affection and my thoughts go out to all my friends in Italy, and to the whole population, hit so hard by the virus. It is a dark and difficult time but I hope that soon we will be able to hug each other again and make live music. Proud of being italian!