Photo Credit Rob Acocella
Guitarist Steve Bello Interview:
Scott > Hi Steve, how are you doing these days?
Steve > Aside from the long cold winter we’re experiencing here in New Jersey, I am doing fine, thanks!
Scott > What is the name of your band, the name of each member, what they play, and do you guys tour?
Steve > It is called Steve Bello Band, because Led Zeppelin was already taken. My current line-up is myself (of course), Joe DeMott (basses), and Kamran Vaziri (drums). We don’t tour but to do it once in our lives would be quite cool.
Scott > How did the Steve Bello Band come together?
Steve > Quite by accident, really. I was through with being in a band back in 2000, just got tired of the nonsense. But when I signed on with Ibanez as an artist endorser back in 2003, I was asked “Do you have cds to sell at clinics?” So I began work on my first cd called TWISTED METAL. It wasn’t until the second cd ALL WIRED UP that I had a real trio and we started playing gigs. I honestly thought it would last two shows, and then that would be it. Somehow it lasted 11 years, so don’t know how that happened.
Scott > Why do you prefer a trio for a band?
Steve > I always loved the idea of three people sounding like five. Bands like Rush, Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience (and then Band Of Gypsies), The Police, Blue Murder, and King’s X inspired me to do the trio format, the stage always looked less cluttered and everyone had to work at their instruments. Nobody could hide behind a second guitarist or keyboards. So when the opportunity came up to start my own band, I said “Power trio, thank you!”
Scott > What’s the genesis for your last release "GO BERZERK"?
Steve > The beginnings of GO BERZERK! came about after I had recorded my 2008 cd ABOUT TO EXPLODE! I had a batch of songs, some with different titles, but no album title. It wasn’t until 2010 when things came together to finally record what became GO BERZERK! The title came from Brad at Consumer Music, when he said to me “I am going berzerk over here!” Plus I am a fan of 80s video games and I purposely spell “berzerk” like the video game.
Scott > Describe the music...
Steve > Weird! (laughs) I always say it sounds like Living Colour and Pantera fused together. Describing what I do is a challenge, truth be told. What I think it sounds like may be different to someone else. I’ve heard some bizarre comparisons over the years. Ultimately, I just do what I do.
Scott > How do you come up with your songs?
Steve > I usually have the riffs first, but a song like “Surfing To Venus” was different because I had a melody first and had to construct chords around it. It came out sounding like a hair-metal band would write with this weird melody over it but I got out of my own way and let it breathe. But overall, I tend to gravitate towards riffs or unusual chord changes first.
Photo Credit Brianna Martin
Scott > What are your personal highlights on the album?
Steve > Each song is unique unto itself but there seems to be a unifying there, so it’s tough for me to pick one highlight. If anything, I would say “Go Berzerk!” because I was channeling my inner Mahavishnu Orchestra on that one. Nobody noticed (laughs).
Scott > Are you a schooled guitar player or a self-taught guitar player?
Steve > I am self-taught, learned from guitar magazines, slowed records down and learned by ear. I learned chords from a Rush songbook, if you can believe it. I thought Alex Lifeson invented certain chords as a teenager (laughs). I learned odd time shifts from that Rush book, as well as a Yes songbook. It didn’t win girls over in high school though (laughs). They didn’t care about F#7/11 chords in 9/8 time, much to my dismay.
Scott > Did You develop your style by ear or by messing around on the neck playing what sounds cool to you?
Steve > My ear developed slowly over time, and it wasn’t until I learned “Smoke On The Water” by ear that I felt like I could tackle anything without reading the music. Messing around on the neck worked too, though if anyone heard what I was doing back then, they would have asked me why I owned a dying cat.
Scott > I was wondering if you ever hear music in your dreams and turn them into songs?
Steve > One riff came to me in a dream but I have yet to find a home for it. Sounds like Pantera, I can tell you that much.
Scott > How often when you start an idea for a song, does it actually get finished?
Steve > I always have the core of the song first, then show my bandmates. I don’t work on melodies until I hear the riffs with the drums and the bass. Sometimes the grooves help me pick what notes to use and how to write them. It’s rare for me to have a finished song right out of the starting gate.
Scott > So Steve, tell me a little bit of what you’ve learned about human nature during the production process of "GO BERZERK".
Steve > I learned that not everything I do is great (laughs).
Scott > Why Instrumental Guitar Music?
Steve > I was fed up with singers, so again when the opportunity presented itself, I said “Let me try instrumental stuff.” I never really set out to do this; I did instrumental demos back in the late 80s and early 90s, but it was to find an established band. But people would tell me “Dude, go instrumental” and I translated that as “We don’t want you in the band” (laughs). I think going instrumental turned out to be the smartest personal decision I ever made. Whether or not the public agrees is another story.
Photo Credit Brianna Martin
Scott > How did you first get into the music business?
Steve > I just jumped into it head-first, it was all I ever wanted. Even if it meant driving Steve Vai to the airport, I was determined to be something in the music world. I guess I got into the “business” when I was 15, and joined my first band in high school. I was a horrible guitar player but people liked the noises I made, so I took that as a good sign. I graduated high school back in the Paleozoic era and told my parents “I am going to college but I am also going to be a professional musician.” Started playing the clubs and learned the hard way that streets were not paved with gold. Yet I stuck it out, would eventually “quit” and then come back. Every day in my mind, I “quit” the business. But realistically, this is the only thing I am good at. That and napping.
Scott > Who have been your main influences on your career to date?
Steve > As far as early inspiration to want to be a rock star: Led Zep, Aerosmith, Queen, KISS. In terms of wanting to be a weird guitar player early on, it would be Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen, and then Steve Vai ruined my life (laughs). I had no choice but to be as out-there as possible. Vernon Reid really inspired me to be more liberal on the guitar and not think in terms of “this note only belongs in this key.” I also got into John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola because I loved their “machine gun” picking style. When I was getting into 7-string, it was Jeff Loomis and Chris Broderick that really pushed my hot buttons to get into the low B string for life.
Scott > How has your guitar playing evolved over the years?
Steve > Every day I learn something different, whether it’s a country lick or jazz progression, anything to make me not sound like a typical rock guitar player. I’m sure that will rub people the wrong way but I have to be blunt. Rock guitar players who listen to other rock guitar players tend to sound stale. I listened to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest as a teen, but I also liked Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever, also early Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, and Prince. If something moved me, I wanted to add it to my repertoire of licks. I never want to run out of ideas. As my Grandfather once told me, “Never look stupid, because someone behind you wants your gig.”
Scott > What were your favorite rock / metal bands as a teenager?
Steve > Zep, Rush, Purple, Scorpions, Accept, Loudness, Maiden, Priest, Slayer, Metallica, Black Flag, Sex Pistols, Sabbath, Venom, you name it. But Living Colour really flipped me out, they set me on the course to play funky-metal and whatnot.
Scott > Give me a song that turn everything upside down for you and got you into playing guitar...
Steve > It was when Hendrix lit his guitar on fire and smashed it during “Wild Thing” at Monterey, that I thought to myself “Sign me up, I want to be that guy!” I was kinda learning guitar for 3 years up until that point. But I saw a documentary on “those who died too young” and when Hendrix came on, I forgot about the outside world. I was transfixed, I was dumb-founded. From that point on, I was obsessed with the guitar and wanting to blow people away (laughs). Some things never change.
Scott > What are you listening to these days?
Steve > Rival Sons, they are great! Very Zep/Aerosmith, cool stuff. Of course I still listen to Colour, Rush, Jeff Loomis, been digging some Soundgarden again after not listening to them in a while. I have Sirius radio so I flip through the stations and once in a while I hear something that makes me slam on the brakes. It could be a rare Sabbath tune, or the remake of “Dream Weaver” that Crowbar did (laughs). I turn on the jazz channel sometimes and a John Coltrane or Wes Montgomery piece will intrigue me. I try to absorb whatever I can.
Photo Credit Rob Acocella
Scott > What do you think about the music biz today musically and the business side of things?
Steve > You really want me to answer this? Okay, I think the business is shot. It caters to pop tart Auto-Tune nonsense but that is a blessing for us musicians who work hard at our craft. It forces us to do things on our own, and while we are not swimming in pools filled with money, at least we are being genuine to ourselves and the public. Hopefully enough people will get sick of what is being spoon-fed to them and they will say “Hey you know, we want to hear weird instrumental music”…but I could be dreaming out loud there.
Scott > Do you endorse any Instruments or Gear?
Steve > I have endorsement deals with Ibanez, DR Strings, Morley pedals, Digitech pedals, Metal-Shop Pedal Boards, Gravity guitar picks, Spectraflex cables, and most recently signed a deal with Orange amps.
Scott > What brand of guitars do you play and why?
Steve > Ibanez, 110%! I got into them after seeing a photo of Steve Vai posing with the floral JEM back in 1987. I saw the green, pink, and yellow JEMs and raced down to Sam Ash to try one. Once I slapped a JEM in my hand, I said, “This is for me!” The necks are just right, the RG bodies are just so cool-looking. My main guitars are the 7-strings, but I have some 6s as well.
Scott > Are there any special pick-ups that you prefer?
Steve > The Universe 7-string has DiMarzio Blaze pickups, the RG7420MC has Seymour Duncan Distortions, and the RG1527RB has stock Ibanez pickups. Each of them have a unique sound. I prefer passive pickups over active ones, as they are more expressive and have more “air” to them. I was trying to get a DiMarzio deal but nothing happened.
Scott > What type of effects do you use?
Steve > Morley Bad Horsie 2 wah, Digitech Whammy 5, Ibanez Jemini distortion, Ibanez Paul Gilbert Airplane Flanger, MXR Phase 90, and Ibanez DE7 Delay.
Scott > If you could share the stage with a famous guitar player, who would that be?
Steve > Vernon Reid, hands-down. I would be reduced to ashes but I would love it.
Scott > Do You have a dream car?
Steve > Nobody ever asked me this before (laughs). I miss my dad’s 1972 Mustang. That car was awesome! So if I ever got my hands on one again, that would be great.
Scott > I also don't want to forget this... Tell us about any other things you may be in involved in or any special interest besides music that is close to your heart?
Steve > I volunteer my time whenever one of my three kids has something going on. I enjoy chaperoning my younger son’s dances, that’s always a lot of fun. I love going to bookstores, can get lost in them for hours. I do photography purely as a hobby and stress-reliever, love playing with light and colours. And of course, I am a cat lover, so my two cats rock!!
Scott > Lastly, please give our readers one last parting shot across the bow... What is Steve Bello going to be doing in 5 years?
Steve > I don’t know what I will do in the next 5 minutes! I used to look far ahead but sometimes there’s a danger to that. I could set myself up and then if something doesn’t go as planned, I get defeated easily. So I learn to pace myself and whatever happens, happens.
Scott > I would like to thank you for your time and candor with our loyal readers and keep on fighting the good fight to bring us some awesome music.
Steve > Thank you for letting me talk your ear off. I hope your readers enjoyed skimming through this as much as I liked being a part of it.