Desert rockers Steak released Slab City this month and it’s a record that sounds as authentic as anything the early-90s scene ever produced. Calling London home, Steak headed to Palm Springs, California for two weeks of desert immersion, thus producing a record that could only be made there. Napalm Records handled the deal and I was amped to ask the band about the label, guitar tones, John Garcia’s involvement, and what a working band’s take is on the glory of rock ‘n’ roll. Go!
The band name Steak follows in the tradition of great, monosyllabic band names like Prong, Tad, and Clutch. Was this intentional?
We just fell in love with the name, it was never really something we was conscious of at the time but having a memorable and simple name works for us. ‘Who calls a band Steak’ is a normal question that’s asked. Like the band or not, the name always get a reaction.
Going through your catalogue, we’re all loving the comic book art. How did working with DC come about?
The band all dig comic art and when we were working on the 1st EP we thought about getting some cool comic book cover for it. Then the idea developed of making us part of the story and we were off. Now I have a whole backstory and working with Eduardo on the comic. We found an agent that looked after a whole bunch of artists mainly in South America. We loved Eduardo’s work and he has done a great job for us.
Let’s talk about Slab City. How much influence did Harper Hug have on the record? Did he help with arrangements or was he just there to push buttons?
The producer was important to us and we knew Harper was doing some good stuff over there with Vista Chino, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri. We wanted to make an authentic desert rock album and we wanted to head out there and enjoy the experience. As well as Harper, there was co-producers Arthur Seay (Unida) and Trevor Whatever who worked on Songs For The Deaf. So there was a lot of experience in the room but what comes with that experience is letting the band be where they are most comfortable. For us, we are best as a band playing together and they got that straight off. We tried the playing through headphones at first, then we just said fuck this and set up as we would at rehearsal. It was a great experience seeing how those guys got the best out of us, taking time to understand our personalities and knowing what works best. Most of the tracks were pretty much sorted before we went out but having their input was so important to how they ended up.
John Garcia’s vocals on Pisser was a neat surprise. Was it planned from the beginning and how did he come on board?
That was down to Harper. He mentioned it after he had heard the demo’s that Garcia may be interested, I personally was unsure that it would happen. Kip had the idea of sharing the song with him and Pisser worked really well for that, there was a big break that suited a change in vocal to keep it interesting. We recorded the track while we were there and sent it to John, he held onto it for a week or so while he worked on it. He had a chat to Kip about the song and lyrics and you got the sense that he really wanted to do right by the song. He showed up one day, we had a few beers and a chat and he went in and totally killed. It was an amazing moment when John Garcia is laying vocals over one of your riffs.
What’s your song writing process? Is it collaborative or does one member write all the material?
Most songs start with a guitar riff, either from me or bass player Cam and the basis of a song structure. I try not to over think a song before the band can start working on it as it always changes once we are together and you need to be open to the changes. We just get the basics so we have something to work with as a band, from then it’s very organic and natural. It’s important for us to leave space for the other band members input into a song. The organic stuff ends up the best stuff normally.
The tones on Slab City are pretty awesome. Were there any interesting guitar/amp/pedal choices or was it just your live setup?
We have been experimenting with the fuzzy sound from the offset of the band. Originally I played through a Boss FZ3 on the 1st EP, then played a Russian Big Muff for the 2nd EP. This time it was through and Orange head and a vintage tube screamer pedal mainly for the guitar, that is a great pedal. Arthur Seay and Gary Arce (Yanwning Man) also come in with plenty of pedals to experiment with which was a lot of fun.
With so many rock ‘n’ roll bands going the DIY route these days, what does Napalm Records do for the band to make it worthwhile?
A band can get far with the DIY ethos now which is great and we really wasn’t that fussed about getting signed. We had a plan of releasing 4 EP’s with the comic book, we were having a lot of fun anyway. Having said that, we jumped at the chance of signing for Napalm. They have a great reputation and when you look at their roster of bands then it didn’t take much thinking about. They also offered everything we needed to go and record a record the way we wanted to, they left us to the creative process but were always on hand to support when needed. The opportunities that opened up for us after signing was huge, a couple of years back I would have never dreamed that John Garcia would be on the album and we would be supporting him on tour. That would not have happened without being signed in my mind as we would never have gone to the States to record. Thanks Napalm!
And on that same note, after the whole Gene Simmons fiasco, being a working rock ‘n’ roll band in the trenches, what’s your take on the current status of rock ‘n’ roll music?
I personally think that Gene Simmons is so far removed from the real dirty grass roots rock n roll he wouldn’t know what’s going on anyway. There are not the big labels throwing money at smaller bands now but there is more accessibility for people to listen to new rock bands now than there ever was. Most bands don’t start out to be famous, people go on X factor or some shit for that. If a band goes into it because they love it, then they can succeed, they have succeeded by starting the band in the first place. There is so much variety on the scene at the moment, but you need to dig deep and find it. It’s there and thriving but I don’t expect to see Gene turning up to see any of it, any time soon.
Other than yourselves, are there any other current bands out there you wish more people knew about?
There are some really cool bands in the UK at the moment that are starting to get noticed more in Europe. Bands like Gurt, Stubb, XII Boar just to name a few. There is such a strong scene of bands in the UK at the moment, it’s great to see.
What would you consider to be some career highlights?
There have been loads including supporting Monster Magnet in Spain and Garcia singing on the album but one that stands out is being given a Les Paul guitar by Trevor Whatever after we recorded Slab City. Trevor had been Slashes guitar tech for years and has worked on some amazing albums. Before we left the studio he handed me this black Les Paul that I played through most of the album. What a dude, the guy is a legend!
Any last comments on what you want folks to know about Steak?
Interviewed by: Drew Fulton