Fighting for Rock and Roll’s Right with Little Steven (Relix Revisited)
You use an interesting phrase at the end of your essay about garage rock: “Only giving everything.”
Well, that referred to one of my favorite garage- rock songs by Them, which is “I Can Only Give You Everything.” Them was Van Morrison’s first band. That’s where he did “Gloria” and “I Can Only Give You Everything” and “Here Comes the Night.” They had five or six great, classic songs. They did two albums and then he started his solo career. But Them was classic garage. They were just sort of primitive and right out of a bar. But anyway, I was partly referring to that but also referring to 100% commitment. This is what I do; this is what I believe in.
Rock ‘n’ roll is my religion. That’s how much I believe in it. I believe in its power to communicate, its power to heal, its power to educate, its power to bring people together, which is different than other genres of music. It just is. You don’t get that sense with hip-hop or modern-pop or with heavy metal or hard rock or even indie rock. You just don’t get that same sense of community that you get from rock ‘n’ roll.
You organized the Sun City project to fight apartheid back in the mid-‘80s, which found some success and resonance. I’m curious to know your reaction to more recent politically, socially or environmentally-charged projects like Vote for Change or the recent Live Earth concerts.
Well, I’m very proud that we contributed to the fact that these things happen a little bit more often. Part of what we were hoping to do back then was… political involvement was not cool back then, in the ‘80s. It was not cool. I mean, it ended careers. Ultimately, it ended Jackson Browne’s career. The more political he got… not ended, but certainly hurt it. And I’m very proud of the fact that now, you can do these political things and nobody thinks twice about it. It’s all very cool, very accepted. In fact, it’s expected of you to be involved in some of these. And that’s an amazing difference in 25 years.
You paid for Southside Johnny’s first album from “a good summer at the track.”
That’s true (laughing). We were big racetrack nuts. I used to be really into it. We would go to Monmouth Park, down in Long Branch. Johnny’s father was a real track guy. He taught us how to read the racing forms and all that. He was a great, great, classic character. He was a big-band freak. He would always have the bands blasting away in the house. He was a cool guy. But anyway, we happened to have a good year that year. We made whatever it was, six or seven grand, and we put it into our first album. After that, I sort of got into it. I just liked the lifestyle; until I realized that you really can’t win. And then I pretty much stopped doing it. But it has always got a place in my heart. I’m sort of half rock ‘n’ roll and then a significant part of me has always been that sort of goomba, Jersey, Rat Pack thing which now has been revealed by my being involved with The Sopranos, but it has always sort of been there.
You’ve contended that you have no interest in acting beyond what you did for The Sopranos. Now that the show is over, has your opinion changed at all?
No, I never really said I wasn’t interested in acting beyond the show, but I said that it is possible that it would be my first and last job, for a number of reasons. Number one being that I fired every agent in Hollywood, who are just the lowest of the low. I just refuse to tolerate that level of incompetence. But I also just don’t have time to pursue that life. But I really like it, I mean, I really started to get into it. Obviously I just started to learn about it and I really liked it. So I’m hoping that at some point I’ll be able to do something else. Maybe a director will come to me that I know or a writer will have something for me that I feel I can do and I certainly would consider it. If I can find the time to do it, I’m gonna do it.
Music played a big part in The Sopranos. Did you ever suggest any music and/or have any impact on the music?
You know, I really didn’t. David Chase is a huge music fan. He was a drummer himself in a band, in a garage band in high school. And I think if he had a choice, that’s the career he would have taken, because he really could have. So most of those choices are his. He does occasionally get some help from a guy named Martin Bruestle, who was the post-production guy. And once a year, they would come up to me and say, “We need something new. What are you playing on the show this week? We want to get a new thing in.” So we got the Greenhorns in, we got the Swinging Neckbreakers in, we got the Chesterfield Kings in, you know, a few things. But mostly not. It was maybe once a year. It was mostly David.
The show ended with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” If you had it your way, what song might you have picked from that tableside jukebox instead?
We had long discussions about that, believe me. I was like “Man!” Again, this is David Chase just really not compromising. He was like, “This is what he would play. The character is a Classic Rock kind of guy.”
So you knew ahead of time what it was going to be?
Oh yeah! We discussed it for weeks. Big debate. Huge debate, with me and David. We went round and round and round. I suggested three or four different things. I wanted “Loose Ends” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, I suggested “Pretty Ballerina” by Left Banke, “The Devil Came From Kansas” by Procol Harum, you know, just a bunch of different alternatives that David considered. In the end, he said “No, I got to stay true to what I think this character would do.” And I said “Oh no! Not that! (laughing) That can’t be the last thing anyone ever hears from The Sopranos. Nothing personal against Journey, but anything but that!”
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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