Giving up your place in a mega-successful arena rock band to go it alone would be considered a risky move by most people, especially if you happen to be the drummer. But that hasn’t stopped ex-Placebo skin basher Steve Hewitt from giving it a go, ditching his sticks for some time with a microphone. And wouldn’t you know it, the results are astounding – his new band Love Amongst Ruin having produced a stunning debut record that is well worth a listen.
We talked to Mr Hewitt himself to find out all about his transition from the backline to centre stage, some sage advice from The Cure and avoiding the hurdy-gurdy at all costs…
Hi Steve. You are back in action with Love Amongst Ruin – how would you sum up your new band for those who haven’t heard you yet?
We are the dark side of melodic rock. Six musicians, lots of guitars, keyboards, cello, upright electric bass and of course drums. There's nothing quite like us right now.
You’ve made the step up from drummer to frontman. What is it like being the centre of attention after so long sat at the back?
Great. I'm really enjoying that up close and personal experience with the audience. It's amazing what a difference it makes being those few feet closer the fans and out from behind the drum kit.
What would you say are the main perks of being frontman compared to being the drummer? And vice-versa, are there any ways in which you think the sticksman has it best?
Well obviously the frontman gets a lot more attention, it's just the way it is. Singers have it best because at the end of the show it's just putting away the mic and guitar and then you're all done. Setting up and breaking down a drum kit is a lot of work every night. I think the sticksman has it best if the crowd turns hostile. Placebo opened for Metallica and their fans really don't want to see anything but Metallica, so of course they start throwing stuff at you. The guys on the front line always stood a much better chance of getting nailed than I did.
After having been in Placebo for so long, how does it feel practicing with a different group of musicians full time?
Very liberating it's nice to have a new set of people to work with, new ideas and influences and of course a new way of working. The synergy is great between us, I can't wait to start recording with the full band.
Who’s the best drummer out of you and Keith (York, drummer for LAR) then? Have you come to blows at all over how to play anything?
I am, of course, but the only thing we hit is the drums. Keith has learned the patterns that I played on the album well enough that he has started adding his own little flourishes when we play live. It's all good. I know that I will have a hard time giving over the reins completely when we record the next album though. So I'm picking up a few side projects like Polaroid Kiss so I can keep my hand in.
People are always going to look for parallels between you and Placebo. What influences would you say you have taken from Placebo in making your new music and are there any similarities that you have purposefully tried to steer clear of?
This is a completely fresh musical perspective, we are different, more melodic and with a vaster range of textures. There is no comparison.
Your departure from the band has clearly had a big impact on some of the lyrics on the album, with a mixture of sadness and anger towards your former band mates clear to see. That said, is there anything that you miss about being in Placebo?
The fans. But the good news is that they are gradually finding out about my new project and the response has been very positive.
On listening to your debut album, one thing that really sticks out is the sheer variety of it, with various musical styles and influences shining through. How did this come about?
All musicians are to a greater or lesser degree a sum of their influences. I suppose because I have such wide and varied taste I am the sum of many more things.
Did you take inspiration from any frontmen in particular when taking the step up from the drum stool? Or along those lines did you seek any words of wisdom from any rock mates of yours prior to becoming a lead singer?
I did talk to Robert Smith at one point and his advice to me was just to be natural and find my own voice. It's good advice and has served me well.
Being a new band you are getting to play some more intimate gigs, how are you finding that after years of playing bigger venues?
I love it. I like to see the look on people’s faces, their lips moving with the words and being right there at the end of a song when they let you know they approved. It's a great place to be standing.
You’ve got gigs coming up to support the album across mainland Europe imminently. When can we expect to see you across the U.K? And what can fans expect from your live shows?
We have a bunch of UK dates scheduled just after the European leg of the tour. Starting in Southampton on October 29th and finishing in Dublin on November 9th. All of the dates are up on our website, loveamongstruin.com.
You’ve been a drummer and now a frontman – are there any instruments that you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole?
Bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy are definitely off limits. Having said that Korn did some interesting stuff with bagpipes, so maybe just the hurdy-gurdy.
Where do you see Love Amongst Ruin this time next year?
Rocking some bigger shows, recording the second album and bringing more people over to the dark-side.