Meet ‘Em – Steel Beans

Molotov cocktails and moustaches, Steel Beans has it all. The one-man-band sixties revivalist is hitting the stage here at The Bodega very soon, get to know him down below…

Firstly, we’ve got to ask, how did the idea come about to even begin attempting to play everything at once? It’s a well rounded sound and works so well with the style of music you’re playing.

Well thank you, I’m a drummer that got into guitar to write my own songs, and I played drums in a few bands until I had the balls to not only play my songs for other people but teach the parts to other people and front my own band. I never set out to be the centre of attention I only wanted it to be about the music, and not me as a person, I don’t matter, the songs do. Around 2010 I was waiting for the rest of the band to show up to rehearsal and with my guitar around my neck I sat down and put the drumstick in my strumming hand and just did it by accident. Again, never wanting to be a solo artist I just went “hmm” and it would be years before I’d re hatch it out of necessity after losing my rehearsal space, living in my grandparents back yard in 2014 when going solo was the only option.

Speaking of the style of music, how do you go about crafting your live sound?

My live sound in my solo act is limited by the voices of my guitar, voice, keyboard and drums and what I can do between my arms and legs. Honestly I don’t put too much thought into it I just feel out what sounds right, what feels good.

The octave pedal adds a great layer but how do you go about keeping the drums sounding impactful and steady?

Well there are always going to be holes and empty spaces, there’s no way around that. it will never be the sonic palate of my 9 pc. band with bass, horns, strings, percussion, vibraphone, etc. but I’m not really trying to even attempt matching that wide variety of voices and frequencies, that’s what my full band is for. I think the double kick pedal is definitely the glue behind everything. with it I’m able to do certain triplet and quadruplet drum fills that would take both arms to create, I actually don’t use an octaver that often, just here and there. I’ve never been a metronomic drummer, I definitely speed up and slow down and in my playing my passion gets the best of me. I’m a Keith Moon obsessor, he changed my life. But I cant not mention my other heroes Ginger Baker and John Bonham, whose fast bursts of single kick notes are a big part of my playing and my solo show. I’d say the kick drum IS the glue, and the star of the show. And the fact that I’m playing the best drumset I’ve ever owned which is a Ludwig classic fab maple 22″, this is my dream kit, I got it a couple years ago and it has been inspiring.

You’ve got a huge discography, do you incorporate some of the deeper cuts into your sets now or do you tend to keep your setlist full of newer tunes written for playing solo?

I’ve added a lot of old material to this new tour. Songs that I havent touched on since they were recorded in 2007 or 2011, and just sort of “one man band-ified” them. as for newer tunes, (or older tunes) I’ve never actually written any songs specifically for the solo drums/guitar act. I’ve only written songs , record them on all the instruments and then if they work in the solo format I’ll do them.

How has your sound evolved over the years with the addition of members, collaborative projects and eventually the ‘going solo’ moment?

Well in the mid 2000’s I was ambitious to get out a lot of musical ideas I didn’t yet have the experience or focus to really execute. I wanted to make reefer jazz, classical music, surf rock, doo wop, hip hop, motown, pretty much everything under the sun I was trying. I had some pretty clear visions of what I wanted to do but not the ability to arrange or produce them accurately, but thank god I tried anyways, most people never learn anything because they’re afraid to fail. Every year or two I’d start getting a better idea of how to write and produce these styles and get the sounds I wanted. And now I’m 35 and the last 5 years I’ve nailed it down pretty well, until 2017 I was using tascams and boss recorders, in 2017 I built out a studio computer and saved up for new mics, and I’m still doing a lot of weird shit but my focus these days allows me to make a lot more mature arrangements and productions. I have several albums since 2017 but haven’t put them out yet, each album is a different genre or blend of compatible genres from garage rock, to afrobeat/jazz/funk and psychedelic. You can find videos of a few of the singles like “Transcending class” from one 2020 album, or “Halfstep Trills” and “Shadowdance 9003” (from the psyche album of 2021) on my youtube channel

The (nearly 50) band members since 2007 inspired me in certain ways, I’m not trained , I’ve never had lessons so being around a lot of the members that were trained helped me get a perspective on how unorthodox my process can be. It also inspired me to appreciate the different approaches and keep on doing my own thing. So I’d say over the years I’ve learned to document almost exactly what I hear in my head onto my recording set up. Which is what I live for, writing songs.

There’s definitely a big 60s influence, is that an era of music you’ve always looked upon for inspiration?

Sixties music has been my main music since I was in middle school, I kind of tuned out of the mainstream which was getting pretty bland and whiney, and just started collecting 60s cds and records. stopped watching tv, threw my video games in a closet, got a bong and dropped out of high school to play drum solos and record little demos on an 8 track recorder all day every day. And that is still essentially my life other than the fact I’m older, sober, and wiser… and fatter. but I don’t feel any different. I’m permanently 16 years old. ask my girlfriend, there are bills and other adult things piled up and I sleep on a couch and put all responsibilities off to pursue songs every day. I am ridiculous. It’s fucking great.

Lastly before we go, the moustache has made a comeback recently. Tell us the secret to growing and maintaining such a powerful ‘stache.

I don’t know, honestly I never styled my stache, I just listened to Frank Zappa until my facial hair started coming in that way, I took the headphones off after listening to frank for 7 years straight and kind of looked like him. I don’t know how that works but that’s the last thing I remember. Praise F.Z.

Steel Beans plays The Bodega on 20th June. Tickets are on sale now.





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