It’s been a good couple of years for Steveless. Coming to the attention of Master DJ John Peel in 2004, they received regular plays on his radio show, earning them name recognition (in some, well informed, circles) and quite a large fan-base for an unsigned act. This year, they have released their first “official” record, ‘Popular Music in Theory’, on fledgling label Cherryade Music. A collection of twisted pop compositions and Fall-esque vocals, the album has had rave reviews in a number of publications, and will doubtless take positions in a number of end-of-year polls, including the once Peel-fronted Festive Fifty.

“But what is Steveless?” you may well ask. Steveless is an über-prolific one-man band and improvisational-extraordinaire. Steveless is a four-piece noise/pop/rock group. Steveless is Welsh-born and Bristol-based student Dan Newman, who loves eating his tea and watching Prime Minister’s Question Time. Steveless is lacking in Steve.Still confused? Longing to know more? Well read on, and let Dan Newman himself shed some light on the musical noise-fun that is – Steveless! (applause)


PB : How did Steveless get started, and where does the name come from?

DN : Steveless is just me, and it started about a year and a half ago. Well, May 2004, something like that; it was just me making noise in my bedroom on to tape. I’d never really made music before that, but I played, so I just sat down and made it. I had played with a guy called Steve but then I stopped. I had never played live or anything but just thought I’d send a CD in to Peel. As Steve wasn’t there I just called it Steveless as a temporary measure, but before I knew it the great man was playing it on national radio, I had Taffpop Records wanting to release a single and I was playing gigs in another country (Well, England is another country!) so it was too late to change the name much as I wanted to, though I have no idea what else I would have called it. All the names I actually try and think about are stupidly pretentious and I just know will make me cringe in five months time like bad sixth form poetry, as if there can be any other type of sixth form poetry. So basically there is no exciting story behind the Steveless name. It does just what it says on the tin. It has no Steve.

PB : In the past you’ve always recorded songs as a solo act. What made you decide to make the transition to four-piece for your first album-proper?

DN : Hmm ,well what I usually do is a hell of a lot of effort, being the absolute centre of attention and having to improvise constantly and be interesting and both sing and play several instruments all at once (not things I find very easy). So to be honest getting a band together is an easy way out. It’s so much simpler and less hassle to have a band of people, so that it’s not all you; they can carry some of the burden and free you up a bit.

It’s also freeing physically which might sound like a bit of a simple thing, but sitting behind the kit doing the one man band is a very restrictive way to play rock and roll, and having a full band means I can move around, use up my energy, maybe jump around if the mood takes, and smash up my guitar without that meaning it's necessarily the end of the show which was always the way in the past.

Oh, yes and having the full band was an excuse to have real set songs which I’ve never had before, which again makes it a million and one times more easy to perform. Playing songs is a piece of piss and when you’re feeling lazy sometimes that’s just what you need. I have no qualms about admitting that I’m lazy sometimes musically. It doesn’t detract from the performance, as the performance and creation is me and my expression whatever mood I have, so songs just allows the lazy part of me more free reign and lets my brain rest a bit from having to think of all those bloody words to be summoned and sentences to be created during improv. It is also actually really nice to have a community of people to work with; it’s very satisfying to create with these people, to go through it with them and then have someone with you after the show who understands how much you just enjoyed that. It
makes up for the isolation of the solo performance.

So yes, the notion of actually being with people is great too, which might be odd for me to say as a notorious misanthrope but right now its true, though right now I am also in a good mood as I’ve literally just finished eating my tea so what I say may not be too representative.

I should probably not over egg the pudding of greatness that is being in a band though; if I didn’t still do the solo improvisation stuff then I’d be very unhappy indeed as I don’t find performing the same songs in essentially the same way with a band anywhere near as fulfilling as with the solo thing, or rather I find it fulfilling in a totally different way, so that I need both in order to maintain myself in a welcome place.

I really try and separate the two in my head or else I’ll be constantly unsatisfied. I need the creative power and excitement of the solo improvisation and the community shared effort of the band set, and the decision to do this, to separate into both was just one I’d wanted to pursue for a while as I was starting to get unhappy with the restrictions of my performance. Now I’m happier, although having just done the band for a while I feel kind of unsatisfied, but luckily I know that doing some one man band will rectify that.

In summary I realised that I needed more from my performance in order to be happy making music and that’s why I got a band together too, plus its nice to have a set of songs that could go down in history as something of a legacy in a slightly old fashioned modernistic sense. Oh, and as regards “first album proper” I do kind of resent that as I have made 30 odd albums of my own and they are all “proper”. But I know what you mean; the first official album release, as most of what has come out properly before has been EP. and single, but I think all my albums are proper. I don’t make them to be released. I make them to satisfy myself and if other people want to hear them they can ask me and if they like it then I’m glad that they’re a little bit like me, but as said the decision to express this second side of my music making and the invitation from Cherryade to do an album just fell together nicely at a similar time so it made sense to put them together and I do think it worked rather well.

I think 'Popular Music in Theory' will stand up well as an album for a long time, and with its use of proper songs makes a real document of tunes people can go away and sing and then revisit and find not quite as good as they were in their heads. But that’s okay, as what is as good as you tell yourself it is? Nothing really.

PB : How did you get involved with Cherryade Records?

DN : Well Rachael Neiman (Cherryade owner-Ed)had heard me on Radio 1 on the old Peely show lots and she got in touch to buy some Steveless, and I sold her lots and we just kept in touch really. When eventually she asked me to release a record, the timing was perfect for me as I was just getting the full band together for a couple of festival appearances I had, so it gave us something to work for, and made the idea of a Cherryade release even more special as it was something totally new and different for both of us.

PB : The other members of the ‘Steveless pop-band’ are all involved in other bands too. Do you have any other projects you’re involved with?

DN : I have lots of other projects. My main one is the Girl From Headquarters, a very good lovely band; a bit Morricone, a bit Pogues, a bit Dick Dale, a bit the Fall, which you could check out at www.myspace.com/thegirlfromheadquarters for some music and who have our debut EP out on Dulcet Thud very early in the new year.

I also have Steveless/Syd Howells which is myself and a guy called Syd (Howells, had you guessed?) from Swansea improvising records of sheer noise pop terror together. We have two albums, one live record from Glastonbury Festival show, and a Christmas EP all available on FuKu Records, and two tracks from that Christmas EP are actually on the new Cherryade Christmas record, ‘A Very Cherry Christmas’, and me and Syd are actually going to record another album before Christmas when he can find time to take a day off work. You can hear myself and Syd Howells at www.myspace.com/steveless.

These are my two main outlets, as well as the Steveless full band and Steveless one man band, so that’s my four main music things actually. I’m also working on a new band in Bristol which will comprise of 90 second songs with no guitar chords that are all based on books and stories we’ve read, and a project with the lovely Jemma from Sammo Hung.

As for the other Steveless band kids, Simon plays bass in Big Joan, Matt is Team Brick and Rhys plays guitar in White Trash Ambition, all absolutely superb acts in their own right, and the reason I got them into Steveless, as they make noise that I love, which is important - it’s a lot of responsibility to let other people into the sounds that I make, into me, and these people are all people whom I admire enough and was lucky enough that they shared a similar vision for our pop music.

PB : You are probably best known for your connection to John Peel. When did you first start sending your demos to him?

DN : I don’t call them demos, but my music; I started sending music to him literally the day after I made that first Steveless record 18 odd months ago. It just seemed like the sensible thing to do; his was the only opinion whom I would respect on music. I’d grown up listening to him, so it was like he was a part of my life already. It didn’t strike me as a big a deal as it was until after he’d started playing me, and then I realise how lucky I was and how absolutely chuffed I was, and from that point on every CD I made I sent to him straight away. It’s taken a while since for me to get over the thing by which I make music and get excited over, what his reaction might be to it.

Now I think I’ve managed to accept that he’s not here anymore, and sad as it may seem that I don’t make music for anyone now. I don’t really care. It’s just a bit more empty. But not to be sad. Music shouldn’t be made for anyone else and I’d only have gone into a rut of sending my stuff to him, I’m sure, and he would have hated that and would have hated the elevation I gave him in my little head world by which his taste mattered so much to me. But yes I sent him my music from the start and was so lucky that he enjoyed it as much as I did; much inspiration.

PB : Do you remember the first time you heard one of your records being played on Radio 1?

DN : Umm, yes, well he phoned me and I hung up on him as I hate people phoning me withheld number so I always hang up. I hate the idea that people think they have a right to enter my life at a time of their choosing so I like to know who it is so I can make that choice. He should have thought about that, but no I hung up. He left a slightly confused message, "oh, he hung up on me".

I listened back and realised that I had hung up on my hero so tuned into the show wondering what was going on, just me and my housemate Krissy on my little wind up radio, and there it was: he played the first track I’d ever recorded as Steveless. It was really the best moment of my life. I screamed like some mental little girl and had so much energy and life in me that I had no idea how to get rid of it, I was just on the biggest high I’ve ever known. It was such a life changing moment, for finally something felt good, truly good. But I still wish I hadn’t hung up on him.

PB : It’s quite surprising to me that you weren’t signed a lot earlier after all the exposure you were given by Peel. Did you get many offers from record labels, and if so, what stopped you from taking these offers?

DN : No, nobody wanted me which is a simple fact that I put down to most people having a shit taste in music or a wrong conception of what music is and should be. That is by dint of most people not being me.

PB : Where do you see Steveless going in the future, musically speaking?

DN: I have a new record, a solo Steveless record, out on Farm Girl Records in the new year, a new album with Syd in a couple of weeks, and plan to do lots of recording over Christmas for private fun. I have no idea what any will sound like as I really don’t plan these things. I just hope I don’t get complacent, which is why I need to reassert in my head that Steveless is not just a band. It’s my music. Otherwise I might get boring and complacent like most rock bands. I want to keep myself excited, so hopefully some noise that sounds a bit different, and I want to make the drum beats sound a bit more odd. My last solo record had too many standard drum bits; I fell into the easy trap. The new solo stuff won’t have such set beats. So yes, new Steveless solo stuff equals new odd fun I hope, and the Steveless full band is to work on new material, record a new EP of songs under a minute long and tour the countries of our island and also Holland in the first few months of next year.

PB: Thank you.











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