Steve Weingart interview, June 2008

By Will Minting

Will Minting teams up with Steve Weingart to an in depth interview about what´s going on.

Will: Hey Weino! I’m fahn, how’r yew?

Steve: Everathing is fahn! How’r yew?

Will: A lot has happened since we last did an interview, three years ago, prior to Steve Lukather’s last European tour. I’d ask you what you’ve been doing but we’ve spoken or emailed almost every day since!

Steve: Yeah, it’s really a good thing too, thanks for your help! This has been a very good year for me so far. I’ve been working with a lot of great musicians, and have been really enjoying all of the different styles each artist brings.

Will: So right now, you’re on the road with Simon Phillips Band.

Steve: Yeah, we’ve been having such a great time. We’re on a bullet train bound for Nagoya at the moment. Tonight will be our 3rd night performing. The playing just keeps getting better and growing. It is really a special experience being in the middle of watching a band grow together and get tight.

Will: And before that, you were on the road with Victor Wooten’s Band. I hear that Victor and Derico Watson groove hard!

Steve: That was an incredible tour. Victor and his band welcomed me like I was family. I’ve been very fortunate to meet and work with genuine artists like Victor. He’s one of the nicest people you could meet. One of the coolest things for me that happened in my short experience with them was being in the presence of those grooves. Derico is one of the best feeling drummers around, and along with Victor’s vibe, it was incredible.

Will: That’s cool! Regular visitors to your websites will know that you performed at NAMM this year with Victor and Derico. How did that come about?

Steve: In the later part of ’07, I got an e-mail from Derico. He contactedme out of the blue, and just asked if I’d be up for playing with him and Victor at the Sabian Event at NAMM ’08. Derico had known of me and my work from my days in Weckl’s band and felt that the configuration with him, Victor and guitarist Brett Farkus would be cool. It seemed like a good idea to me, and it turns out that it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. I had so much fun hanging, laughing and playing on the road with Derico, he’s like a brother to me.

Will: And of course, you’ve been touring extensively in the USA and Canada with Warren Hill.

Steve: I’ve worked quite a bit with Warren in ’98-’99. I think Warren is one of the better instrumentalists out there. I always really enjoyed doing his shows because he has a great bond with his audience. He is quite a showman without ‘trying’… he is just a natural. In late ’99, I made the decision to work with some other artists to expand my career a bit. For about the next 6-7 years, I didn’t really have a chance to work with him. We got back in touch roughly a couple of years ago and started playing together again. He is a cool guy to work with and for. I recorded a couple of tunes for him on his upcoming CD, and I’m sure I’ll work with him again.

Will: You often perform at La Ve Lee and the Baked Potato with Marco Mendoza and Joey Heredia, and also in various groups with Hussain Jiffry, Tom Brechtlein, Frank Gambale, Carlitos del Puerto, Jimmy Earl, Mike Miller, Frank Briggs, Eric Marienthal and Eric Valentine – and others! The core of you, Eric Valentine and Carlitos seems to be one of the most happening grooves in LA right now.

Steve: Thanks for the kind words. Actually I met Eric through working with Warren Hill. People need to hear and see this guy play. Like Derico, he’s got a feel that is really happening. He has quite an diverse resume. He’s worked a lot with contemporary adult jazz artists, but he can play from the most complex odd-meter to heavy funk to rocking extremely hard and burn it up. I met Carlitos in L.A. quite a few years ago when he came from Cuba. I first worked with him in Cecelia Noel’s (the Wild Clams) band. We decided to do some other things together, and have stayed in touch over the years. He’s one of the most creative, melodic and rhythmic musicians I know.

Will: When we did the last interview, you hadn’t released Dark Blue Dream. That’s a serious groove you got going there, as well as some beautiful compositions.

Steve: Thanks again for the kind words. I enjoyed putting that CD together. As it went, I again learned a lot of new things about recording CDs. The 2 solo CDs I’ve done were self written and produced, and that is quite an undertaking. I’m looking forward to putting
that knowledge to use in my next CD.

Will: So, you, Tom Brechtlein, Frank Gambale and Jimmy Earl recorded Dark Blue Dream live in the studio?

Steve: Yes, we rehearsed the the music one afternoon and recorded it over the next 2
days. Everything that is on the CD was recorded live, which is something I insisted on doing in this recording. I wanted it to feel like the listener was seeing us perform. There were a couple of exceptions in the final outcome where I added some songs and instruments separately from those original sessions.

Will: And your wife Renee, Ernie Watts and Ronnie Guiterrez also contributed.

Steve: Renee and Ronnie were part of the exceptions I mentioned above. I scheduled Ernie to come in on one of the 2 days I planned in the studio with the band. He performed on the song I wrote in his honor called “Asfew”. (the title is an acronym for “A Song For Ernie Watts”) I added Ronnie’s percussion tracks at my house on the same song. Bringing Ronnie in on that song really brought a new life that I thought was really appropriate. Renee and I worked together on 3 songs on the CD: “Soundscape 1”, “Soundscape 4”, and “Unforgotten Path”. There were some songs from the original two day recordings that I didn’t feel fit the majority of the CD, so I decided to not include them. I started messing around at the computer and came up with some grooves and melodic ideas. I’m always happy to include Renee musically because she is really very talented. She and I are really compatible and enjoy a lot of the same things in music. She came in the studio as I was working on those songs and made some suggestions that really contributed positively to the vibe. Having her play and sing was just the next logical thing to do. I’m really proud of her, her input, and her performances.

Will: And you’re also writing and recording a new CD with Renee?  How’s that going?

Steve: Its really coming along very nicely. She is contributing some of her compositions which is very exciting for me. The only ‘problem’ I’m experiencing is that I’m not at home enough to actually finish what we’re working on! I’m really looking forward to seeing this one come about because we’re both exploring some new things musically and also singing.

Will: You were involved with Marco Mendoza’s Live for Tomorrow CD, released a couple of months back.

Steve: I did play on a couple of cuts. If you listen real hard, you might hear some keyboard in there, hahaha! I’ve always had a great music relationship with Marco, and it was fun working in the studio with him. I also played with him at the “Live for Tomorrow” CD release party at La Ve Lee. It was a really fun couple of evenings. He’s got some really cool and rocking songs on that CD.

Will: I guess the sessions with Marco helped get your rock chops ready for this outing with Luke!

Steve: You could say that! Actually, It seems almost that I’m  ‘typecast’ as in the way some TV and film actors are considered. I grew up listening to a lot of rock, prog rock, jazz, fusion, funk, classical, etc… I like a lot of different styles of music, and enjoy playing almost everything. It just happened that the first things publicly I did that were recorded were jazz and fusion oriented recordings. I’m really happy to be involved with other artists to have the opportunity to expand a little bit.

Will: Absolutely – this is the “No Jazz Tour”! You can hold your own in any situation! How much of Luke’s “rock” material did you know before the rehearsals?

Steve: It is hard to throw a stone in any direction and not hear Luke coming from where it lands! I knew a lot of Luke’s work and am looking forward to playing some of it.

Will: I hear that the Lukather tour rehearsals are going well.

Steve: The rehearsals are really going well so far. We’re learning a lot of music in a short amount of time! Seems pretty intense right now, but is going well. The band vibe is definitely happening…buddies all around. It’s going to be a great hang on the road! This band kicks ass!

Will: Which songs have you found the most challenging to learn from the older records and Ever Changing Times, and do you have any favourites?

Steve: Well, the challenges in the older songs to me are playing them in this time period. I think we’ll be adding some things here, dropping some things there. Luke has grown and changed as people do, and we’ll be doing some new things to the older material. For “Ever Changing Times”, I really enjoy a lot of that CD. It is hard to pick a favorite when there is so many good songs. As for the challenges on that CD, some of the material is challenging to play and sing, and some of it is challenging in recreating the sonic atmospheres on the recordings. It is quite a production.

Will: You also told me a few months back about your fusion project with Jason Scheff, Jeff Babko and Tom Brechtlein. I heard some early “roughs” – that project sounded great. What happened with that?

Steve: I don’t think that project is finished. I’ve been fortunate to stay so busy, and I know that the other guys are working a lot. Jason created the project with the idea that we’d come together from time to time and play and record. I’m sure we’ll get together again in the future and continue where we left off.

Will: And most recently but by no means least, Steve Lukather’s  Ever Changing Times! 

Steve: It was a lot of fun recording in the studio with Luke. It was an unforgettable experience hearing those tunes for the first time. I remember thinking how cool it was to just ‘be myself’ in the sessions. It isn’t often that I get to work with someone who says “do your thing”. In a lot of cases, the artist or composer has a specific idea of what they’d like to hear and it is up to the person playing (recording) to meet that vision. It was a great experience hanging with Luke in the studio… not to mention what a wealth of information to pick up on from so many years of his legendary sessions.

Will: Right. I was fortunate to witness Luke at work in the studio too, on Toto’s last album and mixing the El Grupo CD. I heard that the El Grupo Live CD from your last tour with Luke sold so well, they had to run another print!

Steve: That is so cool. I’m proud to be a part of that project. We had a lot of fun on tour, and I feel very fortunate that it was recorded.

Will: For the musicians who will inevitably be at the shows, what keyboard rig will you be taking on the road for Luke’s tour? Will your rig be different to what you’d use on say a funk tour with Victor Wooten, or a Fusion tour with Simon Phillips?

Steve: It seems I’ve been fortunate to have a different rig for each gig I do. It’s challenging and keeps me on my toes when it comes to whats happening in the music instrument marketplace. For Victor’s tour I used a Korg Trinity, Roland Phantom and my Nord Lead 3/computer. For Simon’s tour, I’m playing a *real* Fender Rhodes (!) along with my Nord Lead 3/computer. As you might have noticed, the one instrument that stays consistent throughout all the various tours I’m doing is my Nord Lead 3 (Clavia) linked to my computer. It has become ‘my instrument’. Besides being a great sounding axe, I really like that the Nord Lead has all the ‘old school’ rotaries and switches. I came up in the time period right before the DX7s, -Prophet 5s, Oberheims, Rhodes, B3s, – whats considered ‘vintage’ these days, and knobs and switches is all there was. With the digitals like the DX7s, you had to push buttons and scroll through menus just to get to basic Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release envelopes. This can be time consuming, and that kind of time isn’t available on the gig when you need to brighten up a filter or change a release time on the fly. The digitals do have their advantages as well such as reliability and sampled sounds, but that’s another discussion! Hahaha! For Luke’s tour, I’ll be using my Nord Lead 3/computer with a Yamaha Motif 7 ES.

Will: Cool. The last time I saw you, you pitched up at Poquito Mas in Burbank on your Harley and you were telling us about your late night rides down Sunset Strip with Joey Heredia! I don’t suppose you’ve had much time for this, or supporting Jeff Burton in the Nascar season?

Steve: I’ve had some great times riding. Its a little tough to do it all of the time because of my schedule, but there’s nothing like a nice ride with friends. I can recall many bike hangs with Joey, but a few times we’d ride down Sunset Strip and all of that Hollywood area on a Friday night. Thats really something to see. There is a lot of clubs, restaurants, and stores open late. Its a hang!  My latest hobby is following Nascar races.  My nephew in law, Jeremy got me hooked. Renee and I went to visit my  Grand Niece in Atlanta when she was born, and that happened to be a  race weekend. I remember when Renee and I landed, he picked us up at  the airport and took us straight to a (Nascar driver) Jeff Burton signing appearance. I didn’t know at the time what I was in for. I met him, got his autograph and didn’t really ‘get it’. But, when I went to the race two days after that, I was blown away by the whole thing. I was so amazed and had so much fun, I couldn’t believe I went that long without knowing about Nascar. I know Mr. Burton is a music fan, so maybe I can get him to come out to one of Luke’s shows. He is having a pretty good year so far with being second in the points standings. It would be cool to see him get to the top!

Will: That’s great, Steve! I am looking forward to the hang! I feel an Apple Martini coming on!

Steve: Hahaha, yeah! Thanks man. I’m really looking forward to seeing old friends again and making some new ones on the tour with Luke. The musicians are happening and the music is great. What more could you ask for?

Read more about Steve Weingart at his official website or MySpace.