Solo guitarist and artist. Stevie talks with Guitarhoo! about guitar techniques, song writing, life, past experiences with other artists and more.
January 9, 2004
Guitarhoo!: What first got you involved with music?
Stevie Salas: I’m not sure… I just always loved music, but I do remember when I was a kid Iwould go to the San Diego sports arena and when the roadies would test the amps,hitting power chords, the crowd would go wild. I always wanted to do that. I never dreamed it would come to this.
G!: Have you had any jobs outside the music field?
SS: No. Well, that’s not true. I worked selling Christmas trees in 11th grade.
G!: If you were a piece of cheese, what kind would you be?
SS: Jalapeno Jack.
G!: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of music?
SS: Most sports. I am into my Hemingway thing, you know, big game fishing off the coast of Mexico or surfing in Costa Rica or riding motorcycles on beaches in Tanzania,but I also love football.
G!: What inspires you to be creative through your music?
SS: Life. If I see a gal walking down the street, I might hear a beat.
G!: Do you play any other instruments aside from guitar?
SS: I dabble on drums, bass and synths.
G!: What are your best and worst musical experiences?
SS: I have been so lucky… perhaps a great moment was when I joined Rod Stewart a few years after high school and when we came to play San Diego stadium all my friends from high school were there and my father was speechless. That was awesome. Also,doing Saturday Night Live with Mick Jagger was an incredible experience. But the best personal experience was when my second CD blew up and I went out and sold ten thousand tickets in Japan. I could not believe all those people were there for me— I was very proud and humbled.
My worst experience was when I was young. I got a gig with Thomas Dolby and Andy Taylor on the same day. I chose Andy’s gig because he was going to play the L.A.forum but he fired me a week before the tour. I was crushed. Oh well, fuck Andy Taylor, he is such a jackass.
G!: What song or solo of yours has been a musical highlight for you?
SS: I never think of myself as a lead player, but I think perhaps the solo on “TheHarder They Come” from my first CD (Stevie Salas Colorcode) was cool. I also likethe solo on “Crackstar” from the Shapeshifter CD. As for songs, I always tried tobe a writer. I do like “I Once Was There” from Back From The Living.
G!: What have you been listening to lately?
SS: A British punk band from the 80’s called The Mighty Caesars.
G!: Favourite sexual position?
SS: On the bottom. I ain’t a spring chicken anymore and I date a lot of young gals so I gotta save my strength.
G!: What three musicians, alive or dead, would you like to play with?
SS: I have played with most of my dream players but Bowie, Mick Ronson and Frank Black would be the shit!!
G!: You’ve used a multitude of different guitar sounds, what have you settled on for your gear?
SS: In the studio, there are no rules. I plug into effects backwards if it sounds cool. For live playing, I like loud, clear single channel heads and a mixture of new and old. For instance, on the “Being Mick” television special, I used a ’69 super lead and a ’65 Fender Deluxe with Boogie cabs and EV speakers. This year in Europe, however, I used prototype Ashdown heads and Cornford amps.
G!: As a studio guitarist, have you ever ended up on any albums where you weren’t allowed to say it was you?
SS: Tons. And I still can’t say.
G!: What is your take on mp3’s and file sharing?
SS: It’s great that kids can get the tunes but perhaps there will only be shit Pro Tool home records in the future because there will be no more budgets.
G!: Betty or Veronica?
G!: What’s your most recent project?
SS: My new CD, “The Soulblasters Of The Universe”.
G!: How autobiographical is your writing? For example, a song like Indian Chief?
SS: That song is for my dad. He is alive and kicking and I did not want to write that song, like so many do, after the fact. I wanted him to know so he could dig it now and not the afterlife. Most songs are about my life and if it is something bad I will put it on myself as opposed to saying how fucked someone is except in the case of the song “Punk Ass Bitch”.
G!: What advice would you like to impart to struggling guitarists everywhere?
SS: Never give up. The day you quit might be the day before your life changes. One day I was broke, then the phone rang and eight days later I was playing a stadium with Rod Stewart and flying in a private jet, so you just never know.
G!: How do you feel you’ve been treated by the music industry?
SS: Great. I am still in the mix and my ass is getting old. That’s the hard thing —just staying in the mix, but if you don’t sell out and you keep your credibility,you can sleep at night. NEVER SELL OUT!!!
G!: What’s the best drummer joke you know?
SS: I worship drummers so I don’t know any, but I do know most have crazy girlfriends.
G!: If there was one song out there that you wish you had written, which would it be?
SS: Sex Machine or Castles Made Of Sand.
G!: How did you get that sound at the end of your solo for The Harder They Come?
SS: I will never tell but it was sick and Bill Laswell fell out of his seat when I did it. Well, I will tell you it was an accident.
G!: How does your Native American spirituality affect your music?
SS: It’s all over it in melody and lyrics. I will sing a song that you might think isabout the loss of a woman but it will be about the loss of a mountain.
G!: Stevie, is love really about the little things?
SS: Fuck, I don’t know. As I have heard from many women in my life I am a great friendbut a shit boyfriend, so don’t ask me. It is just a sweet song…
G!: Tell us what it was like to work with some of the musicians that have been on your albums like Sass Jordan?
SS: I am always inspired by the players I work with and it is funny that you mention Sass because she is so awesome. In 1994 we toured the world and the band was myself with an unknown kid I found named Taylor Hawkins (drummer for the Foo Fighters) as well as the personnel that went on to become Alanis Morissette’s band. There are so many great players I have played with: Dave Abbruzzese, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Rod and Mick, Tony Thompson, Carmine Rojas, Doug Wimbush, Zakk Wylde,Richie Kotzen, Brian Tichy, Ronnie Wood, T.M. Stevens, Terence Trent D’Arby, Sammy Hagar and John Entwistle… there are so many I could never list them all but whenyou jam with those people you step up or you step out and I prefer to be under the gun in over my head.
G!: Zakk Wylde?
SS: The best heavy rock guitarist of my generation of players.
G!: Rick Neilsen?
SS: The coolest and one of the best songwriters.
G!: Richie Kotzen?
SS: The most insane. I mean, he once learned “Giant Steps” note for note!!!! And what a voice!!
G!: What’s a hoochie toad?
SS: Originally it was a fishing lure when I was a kid but it was meant to be the opposite of a hoochie mama. It says “hoochie toad – another word for gigolo”.
G!: How was your experience touring with Rod Stewart?
SS: It was my life education. I had never done anything and considered myself lucky. As far as I was concerned, I had no business being on that stage. Rod taught me how to be a rock star and the band, especially Jeff Golub and Carmine Rojas, taught me how to be a pro.
G!: And with Duran Duran?
SS: They were fun dudes. At the SDSU Amphitheater, Simon once called out my parents and sister and made them stand up in the spotlight, introducing them to the crowd. I was shocked. After all, I was only the opening act!!
G!: At the end of your Electric Pow Wow disc, you have a backwards version of “I Don’t Want To Waste Your Time”. How come?
SS: I forgot that was there. Probably just to fuck with people.
G!: Are you bitter that you’ve never found the same success in North America that you have in Japan?
SS: I have had my spells in the past but now I am so happy just to have the great life I have. Come on… Mick Jagger calls me!!!!!!
G!: Has your name ever been misspelled on a marquee so that a bunch of people came to see the latest Latino singing sensation “Stevie Salsa”?
SS: No, but there is a Steve Salas from the band Tierra and I think a lot of people go to see him looking for me as well. I think he is cool to never have sweated me to change my name seeing as he was famous way before I ever was. I am sure we will meet some day.
G!: If I recall correctly, you were the “stunt hands” in one of the Bill & Ted movies. How was that experience?
SS: It was the first one (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and I did all the guitar score in that movie, even when they were jumping around in the garage. It was mad fun. We had no idea that the movie would be big and when I see Keanu these days, I forget that that was him. We have not talked about it in years.
G!: Do you have any little tips or tricks you can share with us as far as soloing or songwriting is concerned?
SS: Write your song, then sing your melody the same way you wrote it but change some of the chords to their relative major or minor. You will be surprised how it opens up a song. Listen to old Dean and Frank. Their chord progressions ruled. Figure them out and apply them to rock.
G!: Can you describe what’s going through your mind as you’re improvising a solo? Or when constructing a song? What are the similarities between the two?
SS: Songs are different than the solo. Songs are about a journey and the solo is a part of the song that helps that journey along. A great solo can make a great song better but a great solo can’t make a bad song great.
G!: Have you thought about doing an instrumental album like Vai or Satriani?
SS: Yes, but more like native music, not a shred album. Plus, I can’t shred.
G!: You went through a tragedy a few years ago. Is there anything you’d like to say about it and how the media treated you during that time?
SS: Listen to “Punk Ass Bitch” but I am trying to move on so I will let this one go.
G!: Thanks again for your time, Stevie, and keep on rockin’!
Interview © 2004 Guitarhoo!