Steve Lewis talks about Creepers and Vines
Nashville-based guitar brain surgeon Steve Lewis is about to self-release his new album Creepers & Vines and it’s a magnificently diverse panorama of musical moods and extreme moments. With a feeling reminiscent of the classic guitar-centric albums of the early 70’s, Steve Lewis deftly navigates waters both still and deep as well as crushing waterfalls and raging whitewaters. It’s all good, but there are moments where the music is so strong, the notes come so fast and furious, and everything comes together so perfectly that it takes the experience to a whole new level. This has a lot to do with the creative ideas, but it also has a lot to do with the tech… both the artist’s technique and the technology used to get “that sound.” Not only does RUST Magazine endorse this album but we do so with enthusiasm, and we were so curious about the story behind the music that we reached out to Steve to talk to us about recording Creepers & Vines.
RUST: Hello Steve, thanks so much for talking to us, first question, who were some of the people that helped you put this project together?
SL: These tracks were first put together in NYC when I was working with some great producers and engineers, including Rev. John DeLore and Jon Altschuler. Many of the basic tracks were done on a really sweet API console, top of the line. We also did a lot of the tracks at Seaside Lounge in Brooklyn. Overdubs were mostly at various locations in Nashville and New York. And the team at Ol Elegante (Birmingham, AL) did a great job on the finished sound – Lester Nuby III mixed and Jason Hamric did the mastering.
RUST: Now that it’s all done, how do you feel about the final album? Did you accomplish what you had hoped?
SL: Yes – I feel so good about the sound and the lineup of songs. The performances from some of my favorite musicians really came together. Also I love the photography and design from Jay Frederick, who also played the all the drums on the record.
RUST: The album starts super-strong with “Off This Rock” can you tell us a little about this song? To us, it’s got that classic FM 2.0 sound.
SL: It’s an escapist song, really, about alienation, but there’s a teamwork aspect too. So I think of it as a desire to leave Earth behind, and confusion at the fact that we’re not living in some Diamond Dogs-esque dystopia on another planet already.
RUST: We really like to track Hard Bargain, especially the intro guitar work. It sets the stage for the whole song and really captivates. Steve, how did you get that funky sound?
SL: I recorded that track with my Lotus Les Paul, which is a bolt-on Korean black beauty. I’ve had Seymour Duncan P-Rails installed, as well as a Schaller 4021 retrofit tremolo for Les Paul. So it’s reminiscent of the sound of Neil Young’s Old Black with the Bigsby. On this track we stretched out the delay (MoogerFooger delay) to be its own texture within the track. It’s a really weird guitar, and I always use it for the p-90 Les Paul sound.
RUST: Baby’s On It. Wow! You just dominate this sizzler from the get-go. This is a pure shot of guitar goodness and it’s our favorite song on the album. So Steve, did the amps and speakers catch fire while you were playing this… because that’s how we’re imagining it!
SL: I was playing a Fender Tele Deluxe through the factory Fender Champion 600 reissue (Left Channel), with it cranked to 10. We were definitely going for the Ron Wood/Faces dry tone from tracks like “Borstal Boys”, “Stay With Me.” I’ve used that amp on lots of records, and now I’ve had a custom speaker (6 inches!) put in by Kevin Shaw (Shaw Audio) so it is even louder and more powerful for such a cool tiny amp. Milo in the right channel is playing a great old Gibson SG through the Fulltone Fulldrive and a Fender Deluxe Reverb. There’s definitely some good tone interplay between the two guitars.
RUST: Hmmm, are you sure no speakers caught fire? Maybe exploding mice like in Rock And Roll High School?
SL: Well, we goosed it in the mix a little too I’m sure, with eq & compressors and such…
RUST: Alright, Moving To France. This song is more of a slow burn with long, long lead up to an audio butt-whoopin. What was your mindset in going into this track?
SL: This is a bragging song, and the protagonist is a loudmouth who is clearly full of it. Maybe he will be a big man in France, and maybe things will be better for him there. I wish him well. There’s lot of bluster in the lyric, which comes out in the chaos of the rocky sections.
RUST: Thanks Steve, last question, can you tell us about your favorite guitar? Maybe tell us about your favorite effects? What does the essential Steve Lewis gear kit contain?
SL: My favorite guitar is a 1981 Gibson ES-347, which is very versatile as it has dirty fingers pickups which are coil-tapped for Fender-ish sounds – I love it! My rig I try to keep simple – after much wandering from amp to amp, I have come to love and embrace the Fender Deluxe Reverb (blackface) and make it my go-to. I love the crunch you can get, but still plenty of clean headroom for most gigs. Effects-wise I always have a Dunlop Crybaby Wah and Fulltone OCD. lately I’ve been using the Way Huge Swollen Pickle Fuzz – which I love for rhythm guitar – and a variety of delays including Catalin Bread Belle Epoch, and MXR Carbon Copy. And with the Deluxe Reverb I love having the footswitch, and switching the vibrato and reverb a lot for texture.
Thanks! For more info visit http://www.stevelewismusic.com/