Steve, to get things clear...you aren't a
"PUNK" rocker, correct?
Steve Conte: No, but I play one on television. Seriously,
I grew up on 60s/70s rock & roll, then went back to 40s/50s
jazz & blues. When punk hit in the late 70s i was in my jazz
period; Miles, Trane, Bird, Diz, Wes, etc. At that time I did
like a few post-punk bands like Pretenders, XTC & Police
because they were very melodic & musical with different
influences other than straight white rock. I liked the energy
of punk but I was pretty focused on things that were more
musical whereas in punk, the focus was more on the attitude &
the message, rather than being able to play. I was already a
good musician & rock guitarist but wanted to be an even
better player (and singer) so that's what I worked on. So I
missed all the hanging out and cultivating of a rock & roll
lifestyle that some of my contemporaries did...but ya know,
I've got a a solid musical background now so i can pretty
much play with anybody and have...from the Les Paul Trio to
Maceo Parker and all things in between.
Punk Globe: Being raised in a musical family, was
becoming a musician always a goal?
Steve Conte: Not only was it a goal, it was just a way of
life. My mom was a working jazz singer supporting a family of
5 on her gigs so I never thought twice about music as a
"career choice"...it's just what we all did. I was a drummer
first at age 7, then started singing,writing songs &
recording at age 10 and finally became a real guitarist by
Punk Globe: While playing with other musicians, your most
commercial recognition has come from your work with the
Steve Conte: Well, it's a legendary band...practically a
"brand" name. I've played with people more famous and
commercially successful (Paul Simon, Billy Squier, Peter
Wolf, etc.) but none as notorious in the rock & roll game as
Punk Globe: You also played with the King of Swag, Willy
Deville. How did that come about?
Steve Conte: I was a longtime fan of Willy's
voice/writing and my friend David Keyes was playing bass w/
Willy when their guitarist Freddy Koella left to play with
Bob Dylan. Knowing what a fan I was he called me first. There
was a bit of a learning curve there for me as I'd never
played mandolin, slide or Tex-Mex nylon string guitar onstage
before. I stayed in the woodshed & worked my ass off for
about a month and by the time the tour was ready to roll I
Punk Globe: Of course there is a connection between him
and Johnny Thunders/The New York Dolls. Is that even relevant
to your life?
Steve Conte: Well, Willy & Johnny were both legendary New
York musicians - AND junkies. They knew each other and I've
got some kind of connection to both of them - but I'm just a
Punk Globe: When you were in the Dolls your contributions
often went unthanked. Do you feel you contributed more than
you were given credit for?
Steve Conte: Well, as much as I'd like to think we had a
real "band" when Sami & I were there, the Dolls is really
David & Syl. They were the originators so whatever anyone
else created, even if they were given credit on paper or
business-wise, it was mostly perceived as David & Syl's
genius. What can ya do? Not to take any glory away from them,
they are the real deal. Very creative guys.
Punk Globe: When you released your solo album between the
writing and arrangements your hand in the Dolls could be
seen. Was there something you were trying to prove with the
Steve Conte: More than trying to "prove" anything i
wanted to bring that Dolls spirit of LIVE recording and loose
rock n roll back into my own band. I had done a few
beautifully written & recorded albums before The Crazy Truth
with my brother John (The Contes, Crown Jewels) but i was
having so much fun onstage w/ the Dolls that i wanted to have
a band of my own that could do that live as well. So we set
about to record it in the same manner as i did w/ Jack
Douglas on "One Day It Will Please Us...." - live tracking &
solos, minimal overdubs, shout-y choruses (not much harmony)
& dirty production - even dirtier than the Dolls. I suppose
that after hearing my solo album if people thought the guitar
power on the Dolls albums was Sylvain they'd have to think
again. It pretty much RULES in the rock & roll guitar
department, if i do say so myself.
Punk Globe: As the Dolls continue on, their style seems
to change to accommodate David Johansen's pallet; when you
heard their new album what did you think?
Steve Conte: Where's the guitar? It's not the Dolls sound
people are used to but then again, neither were the albums
Sami & I did w/ them. Sure, they have the right to evolve and
I guess this is what they chose to do this time out. I do
know that time was a factor in the record's release so a lot
of the songs were built on demos Syl had started at home w/ a
Vox organ. It's just kind of funny because Syl was always
the one saying "we gotta keep true to the Dolls sound and not
do any stuff that belongs on a David Johansen solo record" -
and to me this album sounds more like a solo DJ record than
either of the last 2 albums that I did with them. In my last
few years w/ them David has been down on the big guitar
"rock" sound...he passed on many of the rock & roll guitar
song ideas that were brought into the writing sessions and
favored the more moody, acoustic ideas. And I get it - he's
moving on and doesn't want that loud guitar shit screaming in
his ear at age 60. I love my acoustic & moody music too.
Punk Globe: Escaping the shadows of David and Syl, you
are now the driving force behind the Michael Monroe band. Is
your new band, "better?"
Steve Conte: I don't know about being a driving
force...everyone in this band is a killer. Sami & Karl drive
the rhythm section! With either Ginger or Dregen on guitar, I
am the "proper" guitarist and I leave them to the sloppy,
punk stuff. That's not a judgement either - I'm sure they'd
be happy to agree. But I do think that I am now in a band
that is much more energetic & entertaining live, I mean, for
myself as a rocker - to get pumped up and have fun onstage.
Of course, that's totally subjective and you'd get die-hard
DJ/Syl fans who disagree. But I do still love all that music
we played together in the Dolls. The blues/R&B/50s&60s side
of rock & roll comes more natural to me than the aggressive
late 70s punk rock that MM is known for...but i enjoyed the
challenge and have risen to it.
Punk Globe: You were technically the lead guitarist of
the Dolls but have stated that you were lower in the mix than
Sylvain. Do you have more freedom in The MM band?
Steve Conte: It seems that there's not much "guitar-ego"
from the other guys in this band...I'm pretty happy with the
Punk Globe: Is ‘artistic freedom’ part of the reason why
you left the Dolls?
Steve Conte: Nope. It was purely a business thing. I have
a family to support and I need to work a lot...at least more
often than they were working at that time. I hung in there as
long as I could but when I saw that the situation was going
to remain the same I had to move on. Nothing personal or
Besides the personal satisfaction you are
finding in your new band, you have also won several awards.
Could tell the readers some of “Sensory Overdrive” awards?
Steve Conte: It was fantastic! The Michael Monroe Band
was up for 2 awards; Band Of The Year and Album Of The Year
for our record "Sensory Overdrive" that we made w/ producer
Jack Douglas in late 2010. I think Foo Fighters took Band Of
The Year but we did get Album Of The Year which is quite an
honor as we were up against the Foos, Metallica and other
giants. We all went to the awards ceremony in London which
was filled with celebs & rockstars from my childhood; Brian &
Roger from Queen, Roger & Pete from The Who, Glenn Hughes,
Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck (who played that night!) - I even
heard Jimmy Page was there but didn't see him. Gene Simmons
hosted the awards and we ate & drank very well. After we got
our award we took photos w/ Lemmy & Duff McKagen. It was a
charmed evening for sure.
Punk Globe: You worked with Jack Douglas, who you worked
with in the Dolls, did you find this experience to be
different than the first time around?
Steve Conte: Yes, the 1st time around it was more like
the David & Syl show so I just played my parts - usually 1
take - and went home, leaving all the other creative stuff to
those guys & Jack. But on the Monroe album Jack & I were much
more involved with guitars, sounds, performances,
songwriting...and hanging out (we all lived in the same house
in LA for a month) We had a routine; get up early & go to the
gym (Jack, Ginger & me) then get to the studio around 12 noon
to work and be back at the house smoking cigars on the porch
& listening to Jack's Lennon & Aerosmith stories by 10:00pm.
Punk Globe: Could you explain the motivation behind
releasing a solo album while playing in highly regarded band?
Steve Conte: It's what i do and have done my whole life.
I can't stand still with my creativity just because I am
playing guitar in someone else's band. I have my own visions
to see through. I am firstly, Steve Conte the
musician/artist/singer/songwriter...then second, I am Steve
Conte the guitarist/BG singer for others.
Punk Globe: Did the album come out the way you wanted it
Steve Conte: Yes, exactly...considering that it was done
on a small budget.
Punk Globe: Flying under the radar, how did the album
Steve Conte: I dunno...it's still selling. It's with
Universal Music, the biggest distribution company in the
world so it's available almost everywhere; besides iTunes &
Amazon it's out in Austria, Belgium, Luxemburg, Czech,
Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain,
Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA, Canada &
Punk Globe: It covers different genres running in and out
of the borders of “soul.” Do you think “soul,” regarding
music, is a genre or a personal ambition extended into music?
Steve Conte: Soul is something you have or you don't.
Yes, it used to be a genre of music done by people like James
Brown, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, etc but the modern
R&B/Soul bears almost no resemblance to the classic soul
music I grew up with.
Punk Globe: You have a solo tour coming up. Deets?
Sunday 4 December: Bristol - The Thunderbolt
The Thunderbolt, The Olde Turnpike, 124 Bath Road,
Totterdown, Bristol BS4 3ED
Tel: 0117 3738947
Monday 5 December: Manchester - The Ruby Lounge
28-34 High Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1QB -
Tel: 061 834 1392
Tuesday 6 December: Glasgow - Soundhaus
47 Hydepark Street, Anderston, Glasgow G3 8BW - Tel: 0141 221
Wednesday 7 December - Day Off in Manchester
(where our good friend Ginger is doing a show...hmmm...)
Thursday 8 December: Derby - The Flowerpot
25 King Street, Derby DE1 3DZ - Tel: 01332 204955
Friday 9 December: Underpass - Milton Keynes
with Ed Tudor Pole and Henry Cluny (Stiff Little Fingers)
Saturday 10 December: London - Nambucca
596 Holloway Road, London N7 - Tel: 020 7281 8872
Sunday 11 December: Brighton - The Hope
11-12 Queens Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 3WA - Tel: 01273 325793
Punk Globe: What can the fans expect?
Steve Conte: Both kinds of music; Rock AND Roll. Lots of
guitar & NYC attitude...with soul!
Punk Globe: When’s the next solo album?
Steve Conte: I'm working on getting a Pledge Music
campaign together for it...I should be announcing it soon.
Punk Globe: Who is in your band?
Steve Conte: In NYC my band was Phil Stewart & Lekko who
I made the record with but since I've been spending a lot of
time in Europe I got a band together over there; Belgian
bassist Jozz Verhailen & Dutch drummer Jeroen Polderman.
Punk Globe: Desert Island, five albums, go!
Steve Conte: Beatles/White Album, Stones/Let It Bleed,
Hendrix/Electric Ladyland, Prince/Sign 'O The Times, Muddy
Punk Globe: What advice could you give the readers?
Steve Conte: Keep reading!
Punk Globe: Thanks for the time Steve, what is the best
way for the readers to get in touch with you?