Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Sunday Conversation with Steve McLeod

After Steve McLeod’s album, Human Uniform, left the Ripple offices a gyrating soulful mess, we tracked the man down in the midst of a tour across Australia to see how he made the whole groovin’ thing happen. With the help of a number of the major (and a few of the minor) colleges along the West Coast, we were able to split atoms, or refract light and sound waves, or whatever scientific jargon it took to teleport the good Mr. McLeod from Down Under to the red leather interview couch. So, sit right alongside us and find out a thing or two about Steve McLeod and how Human Uniform came to be.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon & Garfunkle, the first time I ever hear Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphanies since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

The first one that comes to mind is hearing / seeing Prince's Purple Rain. I was just a kid and didn't understand the depth of it but all I can say is that it hit me...and since then music has been it for me. Then I'd say listening back to my dad and brothers record collection. Jimi Hendrix Axis:Bold as Love and all The Beatles stuff changed the way I hear music. Also, hearing Richie Kotzen's Mother Head's Family Reunion for the first time - WOW.

Human Uniform is packed with a wide variety of musical styles, which can make categorizing it a challenge. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

Guitar driven, groove, heavy but sometimes soft, busy but emotional.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

When writing there is no standard process for me. Sometimes I'll be on the piano and a progression or vamp I'm jammin on will inspire something, other times it will be the guitar. Mostly it's the guitar as it's always around me. Also, ideas for song titles that I have written down sometimes inspires me.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

My musical intention is to keep things real and honest. In the songwriting, real and honest. In the recording/performances, if there are mistakes but the vibe is there, I'll leave it.

Being that all of the instruments on Human Uniform are played by you, and obviously all instruments were tracked at separate times, how were you able to make the music so cohesive? How were you able to retain such soul power in the music?

When tracking, I start with the drums first. I play along to a click track and a basic guide until I get the take that feels right. Then I lay down guitars, then vocals, then bass and keys and percussion. I don't think about it too much to tell you the truth. I just go with what I'm hearing in my head and the feeling of right or wrong.

Great music touches each listener differently, but for you, what makes a great song?

Melody - When you hear it and it makes you feel something you can't explain. One that you can listen to over and over and never get tired of. For me, every time I hear "Let It Be", I get the same feeling no matter how many times I hear it.

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

Off my album, I am really proud of "Push The Pedal." That song is pretty typical of my guitar, bass and drumming style. Outside of my album would be a song called "Beautiful Life" that I wrote with Richie Kotzen for his Wilson Hawk record. Working with Richie was the greatest moment for me as he is one of my idols. He is a genius. I have learned so much from him.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

Staying motivated is cool because I don't play for the business. In regards to making money from it, it can be difficult for a new act with so much happening. Great music can get lost which sucks as there's some amazing stuff out there. My plans is to just keep on making music. If people hear it cool, if they don't that's cool too because I have to play whether there is money in it or not. Money can be earned elsewhere.

Describe to us the ideal (realistic) record label and how you'd work with them, and they with you.

The ideal situation with working with a label would be them - promotion and distribution but I own the masters. Split things evenly and fairly. Keep it simple, as if your dealing with family, not enemies.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

I love listening to vinyl. Especially Miles Davis and Beatles records. I love reading the linear notes, studying the artwork...Having said that, I'm cool with digital too as I understand the convenience of it.

Any words of wisdom that you’d like to share to our readers?

I can't say that I am very wise, but just wanna say thanks to the readers for taking the time to read this and if you ever hear my music, thanks for taking the time to do that also.

As our goal here at the Ripple is to shine a brilliant light on these well-deserving artists, we were thrilled to learn that a site as large in the industry as Jemm Site, home of the famous guitars, picked up our little conversation with Steve McLeod and made it a feature on their own blog site.

To check it out, go and see what other nice tidbits they have in store for you.

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