by Lucky Lawler
Livin’ the life
Steve Conte is a master guitarist and talented composer, now living the life of a NY Doll and receiving the acclaim his career deserves. NY Waste has been interested in Steve & his brother John since we first heard of the Crown Jewels back in the mid 90’s.
In 2004 Steve joined David Johansen, Arthur Kane, Sylvain Sylvain along with, Libertine, Gary Powell on drums and Keyboardist Brian Koonin for their reunion tour of the NY Dolls in London. Arthur “Killer” Kane fell of this planet to join Johnny, Arthur, Billy & Jerry. Sami Yaffa was brought in and Brian Delaney took over on drums. Steve probably has the hardest position and the easiest to knock, taking over the immortal Johnny Thunders’ position as lead guitar.
I still hear, over a year after the new beginnings, real diehard fans say, “oh, what’s Steve doing there, nobody could take Johnny’s place…” They should shut up and listen. He’s not. He’s a great guitarist whose style and expertise fits right in the new NY Dolls groove. With his help, Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen bring us back (and are continuing to create) the legendary sounds that help shape the way we hear music today.
It’s a good place to be. This world is better with the Dolls than without. There has been a void that nobody could fill ever since they stopped playing together. Even Johnny’s Heartbreakers wasn’t the NY Dolls, and his album “So Alone” is surely a cry of how Johnny felt away from his origins that started his legend.
Listening to tracks from the new NY Dolls album, they’ve matured in a way not unlike how the Rolling Stones managed to, gracefully. This new direction is more than likely a result of this new blood that is perpetuating this pure Rock’n’Roll. This is the real deal. No one can take that away from David or Sylvain. Thank goodness! Give us more!
Haling from a musical family, Steve Conte grew up with an incredibly culturally rich background. He is multitalented. From short horror films he made as a kid, to playing drums, picking up the guitar at 11 to be able to start writing songs, his ear is a finely tuned instrument. Here’s a short list of some of the fine musicians he has worked with over his jam-packed career:
Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chris Spedding, Robert Gordon, Jill Jones from Prince’s Revolution, Delmar Brown and Bushrock, Peter Wolf (of the J. Geils Band) and Maceo Parker, Billy Squier, Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel, Willy DeVille, and a few gigs with David Johansen & The Harry Smiths. With his brother, John, together they have created Company Of Wolves, The Contes & The Crown Jewels, all superb bands.
His rock star looks don’t go amiss either.
So, in true NY Waste style with a little help from Philthy Animal Taylor, we threw him a few.
Steve: Ok...here it is...fast and careless....
What is your best memory (if any) of a family vacation when you were a kid?
I have lots of vacation memories... not so good though. Lots of fighting, yelling & hitting. Long, hot car trips w/ stinky kids in the backseat.
Did you have a pet as a kid?
Yes - stray dogs.
How did you feel when it died?
My parents told me it ran away.
How old were you when you realized you could possibly make a living playing music?
Why did you get into playing?
A. to score girls?
Just a bonus by-product
B. love of the music?
C . to not be one of the crowd?
Not consciously, I always felt different.
D. ’cos all your friends etc told you you were good?
E. ‘cos you knew you were good?
Do you get less groupies since the general populace has been educated about aids?
Has aids affected your promiscuity whilst on the road?
No. Marriage and maturity did though!
If I asked the other band members what they thought of you personally, what do you think they would say?
It’s none of my business...
How do you pass your time when you’re not on the road?
Writing, reading, spending time w/ my beautiful wife & dog, diving, recording...
Ain’t goin’ there
How many years have you been playing?
Guitar - since I was 11, that’s a long time.
What’s the worst prank you played on someone that you since really regret doing?
I’m not a fun prankster. I did rotten things.
What’s the worst one done to you?
I got dragged by both feet across a parking lot w/ my bare ass hitting the ground. Asphalt in the ass. Ouch. Maybe that was karma for all those rotten things I did.
If you hadn’t become a musician, where do you think you’d be now, doing what?
Dead from garbage drugs or working in the post office (almost the same thing)
Have you ever been busted for anything other than weed?
Ever been in jail/prison?
Yes... NYC & New Orleans
If so what for?
Any advice to young wanna bees who may be reading this?
Stop reading this shit and get to work. Don’t settle for mediocrity, be great in at least one area... singing, playing, writing or performing.
Are you content with your life right now?
Do you do what your management advises, without question?
Does your management/ record company listen when you have a suggestion to make?
Yes. They have used some of my suggestions.
Or do they just pretend to and go on with their own plans for the band regardless?
They might... but I don’t take it too seriously. I’m one of 4 new guys in a band that’s been around for over 30 years. The fact that what I wrote and played helped to make the new Dolls album what it is feels good enough for me!
The Crown Jewels... what’s going on there...
How’s your brother? Are you still working together? If not, do you miss working together?
The crown jewels are taking a break... I have a new band (tentatively called “Steve Conte & The Frequencies”) that will be recording soon and my brother is working on a children’s rock & roll album. We still have a studio and do various projects together. I miss his bass playing - not only is my bro but he’s one of the best players in NYC. We’ll get back together and do something down the road but for now, it’s flowing this way...