Interview With Vic Stevens in May 2008 - If People Could Listen

It is a real mystery that a musician with such fantastic abilities like Vic Stevens is not a superstar - there are not many drummers in the progressive/jazz area that play with such sensitivity and creativity like him. His background is enormous since he performed with Allan Holdsworth, Dave Fiuczynski, Jordan Rudess, Percy Jones, David Torn, Marc Johnson, Bon Lozaga, Scott McGill, Michael Manring and Pat Martino among others. So read some interesting facts about this man who recorded three solo albums then listen to his music and talk to others about him.

ragazzi: "You played on about thirty albums; almost all of them are jazz or progressive music. Can you imagine to be the drummer in an avant-garde death metal band for example?"

Vic: "To be honest with you I really cannot picture that, but I would certainly not turn the opportunity down if it came along. Doing new things is part of our learning and growing experiences as musicians. I would be up for the challenge of anything that is musically honest."

ragazzi: "When did you meet Scott McGill for the first time and under what circumstances did your collaboration start?"

Vic: "I met Scott in 1997 I believe. We had gotten together through a mutual friend to jam and we really hit it off. Shortly after that he asked me to play on the "Ripe" CD which is still to date one of my favorite CDs."

ragazzi: "Will there be another McGill/Manring/Stevens album in the near future?"

Vic: "I do not think so. We did our thing, it was cool, we made some interesting music, but I think that was it. Michael of course is on my new CD."

ragazzi: "You played on the last two albums of A Triggering Myth; was it just a job or do you like progressive rock?"

Vic: "The Triggering Myth CDs were a lot of fun to do. I have some early roots with the prog rock stuff with Yes, UK, Genesis. I do not listen to it frequently any more but I have a fondness for it and a lot of it in my itunes library."

ragazzi: "Would you play on the next CD of this excellent prog band then?"

Vic: "If asked to I certainly would."

ragazzi: "You released your first solo album in 1995, your second in 1997 and your third in 2007. Why is there such a long break between the second and the third?"

Vic: "The long break was for a variety of reasons. My time was pretty consumed with working, sessions, moving, and I did not really have the head to dedicate to writing. With that said I also felt that I needed to work on my writing more. I wanted the songs to really be able to stand on their own. "

ragazzi: "The style of your newest solo album "If people could talk" is more lyric and not so drum-oriented. Is that a result of your development of personality?"

Vic: "It is more of my development as a writer. There are some drummer led CDs that have great chops and playing but the "song" is not really saying anything. I wanted the listener to be able to take a journey. I hope I have done that with the new CD."

ragazzi: "Did you always want to become a drummer or was there a light bulb moment that changed your life?"

Vic: "I guess I did always want to be a drummer. I have played in bands since the 6th grade."

ragazzi: "Are you a trained drummer?"

Vic: "I am not formally trained but privately yes."

ragazzi: "You must have had - apart from your talent - some good teachers according to your skills on the drumset; is that right?"

Vic: "I had great teachers. The guys I studied with the most were Kenwood Dennard, Barry Altschul, Roberta Petacia, Frankie Malabe and Joe Morello, These guys showed me so much. The important thing about studying is that it is up to you to take what they give you and make it your own."

ragazzi: "Do you practice regularly these days?"

Vic: "I do try to practice on a regular basis but it depends on my schedule. I will try to get 3 - 4 days in a week. I have an 1 1/2 hour workout I like to do first, take a break and then onto tunes or ideas."

ragazzi: "You play products of Factory Metal Percussion; is it just for the looks or are you looking for different sounds?"

Vic: "They do look cool but I dig their sounds. I picked their stuff up at a NAMM show 3years ago. They are so quick and add an interesting color to the sonic palette."

ragazzi: "You changed your cymbal company lately - for what reason did you do this?"

Vic: "I had played Bosphorus cymbals before and really dug the sound. Especially on the straight ahead jazz gigs. When I was touring with Pat Martino we got the deal done and I am very happy that I did. They are a great company with great people. I was able to tour the Bosphorus factory while I was playing in Istanbul with Pat. That was wild to get to see the start to finish of a cymbal being made."

ragazzi: "Istanbul made you some little china cymbals; will Bosphorus do the same for you?"

Vic: "Yes they will. We just have not gotten there yet."

ragazzi: "Are you interested in creating some cymbal prototypes with Bosphorus, maybe bells?"

Vic: "I do not think that is my thing. That should be left up to the guys that really want to do that."

ragazzi; "You never seem to use bell cymbals except for the bells of your ride cymbals. Why?"

Vic: "I guess I do not hear that sound as part of "my sound" at the moment. Perhaps in the future it might change."

ragazzi: "What tone color should the perfect ride cymbal have in your opinion?"

Vic: "To be honest, I do not think there is a perfect ride cymbal. Perfect for a song or a band, but perfect for everything ... I do not hear it. I have maybe nine ride cymbals and they all have a perfect place in the right music, but none of them, in my opinion, is perfect."

ragazzi: ""You have a satellite bass drum in your set-up; for what reason?"

Vic: "I was using the satellite bass drum for an open sound. It was a very cool contrasting sound. It has not been in the arsenal for a while however."

ragazzi: "Sometimes you use bongos, mini timbales or frame drums; do you play percussion instruments too?"

Vic: "Yes I actually do. I play congas, timbales, bongo, udu, talking drum, dumbek and a bit of tabla."

ragazzi: "Are you trained in the orthodox playing techniques?"

Vic: "I did study congas and timbale. I was doing a latin show in Atlantic City N.J. which latter went to NYC. For that show I was playing a combination kit that was comprised of kick, snare, a floor tom with a guirro attached, timbales in the front, congas on the left, clave pedal on the left, and remote hi-hat on the right side. Now that was a fun challenge."

ragazzi: "Let us imagine you could chose a partner for a drum duet - would it be one of your own heros or an up and coming talent?"

Vic: "Wow, what a question. I can't answer this one. It would depend so much on what was trying to be accomplished musically."

ragazzi: "Which person inspires you the most concerning to drumming?"

Vic: "I would have to say Vinnie Colaiuta without a doubt. For years he is been an inspiration. His versatility, his feel, everything. His musical vocabulary is so vast that it truly inspires you want to become a better player."

ragazzi: "You played on the CD "Breaking Through The Darkness" of the Convenant Lif Worship Band; do you have a Christian background or was it just a job?"

Vic: "I do not like to say anything is just a job, but I was hired to play drums, some keys and produce this project."

ragazzi: "You are the owner of the Giant Steps Recording; what is behind this studio?"

Vic: "I guess the short answer would be that I had dabbled in recording since I was about 20. I never liked that fact that on a lot of sessions I was doing, the drums always sounded like garbage and there really was not any concern about it. So in 1996 I was able to open up my own studio. I am now in a new facility which is pretty sweet I must say. Great sounding rooms, lots of space, a baby grand piano, a lounge. I am in there almost everyday either recording for someone or recording someone, it is a great place to hang."

ragazzi: "You are not only a drummer and producer but also a songwriter; do you think as a drummer when you are composing?"

Vic: "Actually, 90 percent of the time the drumming ideas come way after. In fact on the new CD "If People Could Talk", I had no idea what to play on "Kaos". I loved the tune and was faced with, what the heck am I going to play to this."

ragazzi: "Which instrument do you use to write music?"

Vic: "I generally write on piano or synth."

ragazzi: "Did you write all songs for your solo albums totally on your own?"

Vic: "I do all my own writing. I do try and collaborate on one song per CD however. I do not really know the full chord structures in the sense of telling you this is a Bb maj 7th flat 5, but I am playing them. I know it is not "correct" but ... that is the truth. I go in phases of writing. When I am ready to go it is a fairly quick process. The tunes kind of begin to flow. I started out on piano as a kid; I remember getting in trouble all the time for departing from the lesson to jam or improvise in my own way at that time. Funny how that was so taboo."

ragazzi: "Are you trying to compose a hit or is it intuition that leeds you?"

Vic: "Total intuition, mood, state of mind. I do not have the ability to compose on the fly so to speak. I wish I did."

ragazzi: "Let us assume you would get an offer to join a famous rock band; what would you do?"

Vic: "Pack my suitcase."

ragazzi: "How about the future of jazz?"

Vic: "Jazz seems to be like public radio/tv, people want it and need it but do not want to pay for it. There are a lot of great players and composers that just cannot seem to get the time of day."

ragazzi: "What are your plans for the next months?"

Vic: "Well, I am finishing up some projects in the studio right now. There is a very cool christian rock project with really great songs that I played on and mixed, an 18 piece big band I recorded and mixed and a 10 piece college band doing a tribute to Chick and Herbie that I recorded and mixed. There are some new CDs I am playing on that will be released soon which I will update on my site as well."

ragazzi: "Which records are most representative for your playing?"

Vic: "As a leader: the three CDs of Vic Stevens Mistaken Identities ("Till We Meet Again", "No Curb Ahead" and "If People Could Talk"), as a co-leader: three CDs of McGill/Manring/Stevens ("Addition By Subtraction", "Controlled By Radar" and "What We Do") and Alex Domshot´s "Venusian Commute", as a side-man: three CDs of Bon ("Full Circle Coming Home", "Bon" and "Undertow"), Gongzilla´s "Live" and "Suffer", A Triggering Myth´s "Forgiving Eden" and "The Remedy Of Abstraction", Bobbi Eakes´ "Something Beautiful", Tony Desare´s "Want You" or Andreas Oberg´s "My Favorite Guitars".

Ragazzi: "What are your favorite records?"

Vic: "Any recording of Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Keith Jarrett, Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny and Sixun, Allan Holdsworth´s "Secrets", John McLaughlin´s "Que Alegria", Julio Barreto´s "Iyabo", Markus Stockhausen´s "Karta" and Vinnie Colaiuta´s solo album."

Frank Bender