California born musician, engineer and producer Steve Wold is known for play crazy personalised guitars and surprisingly, for getting seasick. He has played guitar since he was 8 and has lived the life of a street bound hobo from an early age. Now reportedly aged 72, his recent succeses have seen him perform on Jules Holland’s New Year TV Party, which attracted massive attention, won a MOJO award for best breakthrough act and played numerous worldwide festivals. Not one to be pigeonholed, he refuses to see himself as a blues guitarist and instead claims to just ‘do his own thing and let the folk work it out’.
Ant Standring took time out with the man himself who answered some of our more pressing questions about his extraordinary life so far but mainly to see if he could instigate a possible collaboration with Aphex Twin.
AS: You claim (MySpace quote) to sound like ‘the back of a grainer in the middle of a hotshot’, can you explain?
SS: Yeah sure. A hotshot is like a kinda train that don’t stop, a priority… a freight train. And a grainer is like a ride on, shelter giving vehicle that can drive over a silo and drop grain. I guess what I was getting at is my sounding like a noisy train, in my own way!
AS: The Three Stringed Trance Wonder, (a normal guitar, but with only three strings. It has an old Harmony pickup, added with duct tape and is played tuned to G, G and B using an E string in the A position, a D in the G position and a G in the B position, got it?. Bought for $75 in this condition in Como, Mississippi from a man named Sherman, who later told him he only paid $25 for it the day before. Steve vowed never to add another string and to tour the world telling his tale of how Sherman ripped him off, all in good fun as Sherman is a good buddy. Steve refers to it often as being “the biggest piece of shit in the world”), The One Stringed Diddley Bow (a one stringed string instrument played with a slide or old screwdriver in Steve’s case. It consists of a 2 foot long 4×2 (timber), with a semi-loose guitar string nailed to it at both ends. It was made especially for him by James 'Super Chikan' Johnson) and The 'MDM' / Mississippi Drum Machine (a small wooden box that is stomped to provide percussion and is decorated with a Mississippi license plate and a small piece of carpet) are some of your instruments. What inspired their creation and elaborate names?
SS: I actually bought the three stringed trance wonder off Sherman, a friend who bet me I couldn’t play it. I took the bet and named it so ‘cause to me it sounded kinda trancey! The Diddley Bow was around way before I was, so I hold no claim on that. As for the Mississippi Drum Machine, well that’s as close to a drum machine as I’d perhaps like to get. It’s actually made with (amongst other things) old motorcycle parts!
AS: Did it feel good to sell out the 2 upcoming London Scala gigs?
SS: I’m filled with wonderment really! They got me doing the Astoria now too! Pretty much everywhere is selling out and here’s me just happy to have a job!
AS: December sees you playing alongside Portishead, Thurston Moore, Low and many others at the ATP festival. Any special place in your heart for any of them or anyone else you care to mention?
SS: My kids got into Portishead and I liked the way their stuff sounded. Who else? Low…jeez I used to know them…it’ll be good to catch up! I meet more people on the road you know, more low key acts. I’m influenced more by stories really; I’m more of a minstrel or a storyteller myself actually. I’m not much of a guitarist or musician, though the guitar gives me something to bang on!
AS: Your new LP planned for November; have you any working titles or themes?
SS: I plan to begin in November, so no plans yet. More of the same, some of the new… I think I’m gonna record it in my kitchen like I did with the last record (2006s Dog House Music). It’s cheap too.
AS: Who do you aim at with your sniper rifle?
SS: Redundantly George Bush. There’s always gonna be someone waiting to fill his role. I could’ve given you a bigger list in my younger days but I’ve mellowed I guess.
AS: What’s your message to any underachieving or odds facing musician out there?
SS: Keep your music close and personal. Stay real to yourself. Music about surreal or irrelevant shit loses its impact or importance. And keep at it. It’s took me 50 years. Too many folk get in a band here and there and quit before they begin. I guess if you love music then there’s nothing else to do anyway; you gotta keep playing as opposed to not doing, right?!
AS: Have you got a thing with dogs (Dog house music, “I’m the dog hisself”, Yellow Dog)?
SS: There’s a 6 minute story about dogs on my last record too! I like dogs. My last one died just last year. Dogs are faithful and when you’re on the road, they can be comforting. As for Dog House Music, that’s a little in joke I suppose… “I’ve spent my life in the Dog House”, you know!
AS: Have you ever heard of Richard James / Aphex Twin; he’s known to make his own instruments too, considered by some to be a bit of a genius for it. Perhaps a meeting of (surely very different) minds might be in order!
SS: Err… yes I have actually; he’s at the ATP festival. Is he electronic based or…
AS: Yes, that’s why I think collaboration would be cool!
SS: I’ll get myself taken over to him and meet up then. I like experimental stuff… it’s gotta sound good though!
AS: EXCELLENT, I’ll keep my eye on that situation then!
AS: Give me an epitaph for headstone. What will it read?
SS: That’s a good one…I actually had a heart attack a couple of years back! I’m not gonna have a headstone, there you go.
Seasick Steve, thanks for your time, it really has been a pleasure.
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