Interview: Steve Fister

Dan McAvinchey: Steve, your new CD, "2 Ways 2 Skin A Groove", is a return to the song mix you used on your 1998 CD, "Shadow King" - six instrumentals, four vocal numbers, and another song we'll talk about later. Why did you decide to include vocal numbers this time around?

Steve Fister: I finally decided to make a guitar record that reflects what I do live. Live I wind up playing around 65% vocal tunes, and the rest instrumentals. A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down a bit easier, you know? It opens more opportunities to be heard. In my book, that is a good thing!

Dan McAvinchey: The new CD is a showcase of hard driving grooves, wicked slide, wah-wah drenched solos - but also some jazzier moments. Did you set any goals in advance for the sound you wanted for this album?

Steve Fister: When the time came to start writing a new CD, I wanted to address some styles and influences that were hinted at on "Shadow King", and "Age of Great Dreams". One part was the hard rocking blues side, and the other being a funky jazz side. Hence a "concept CD", 2 Ways 2 Skin a Groove! By maintaining my own guitar style and keeping the production consistent, it fused the styles and influences together. It's like eating a banana split, you get a bunch of different tastes, but you still know you're eating ice cream!

Dan McAvinchey: The last time we spoke, you mentioned using a home studio for writing and demos, and recording the final product in a commerical studio. Is that how you're still doing it now?

Steve Fister: This time I got a few ADATs, mixer, monitors, and started writing. When I had a batch of tunes ready, I went into a commercial studio to record real drums. Then back to my studio for overdubs. In some cases I went in with rough demos, cut the basic tracks then back to my studio to finish. That meant a lot more freedom, less clock watching. It also meant a bit of a learning curve to track the stuff properly. Now, a year later, I sold the ADATs and am working with Pro Tools. There is always something new to learn! As a result of having my own studio, I am producing different artists, as well as playing on a lot more records. Now I get sent the Pro Tools files and send back the guitar parts. Technology is a wonderful thing!

Dan McAvinchey: Has your approach to writing and recording evolved in the past four years or so?

Steve Fister: I still record ideas onto a dictation recorder, then move it into a proper studio. Only this time it's my studio! Or I'll sit down and start writing with a drum loop. Either way, having the recording gear has really helped the creative process.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a bit about the musicians you chose to support you
on "2 Ways 2 Skin A Groove".

Steve Fister: Let's see, on drums, I have the twin towers of rock drummers, Tommy Aldridge and Carmine Appice. Also, the marvelously funky Eddie Tuduri. On bass Jimmy Haslip and Tony Franklin. I met Tony on a session I did for a Carmine Appice project. I've been playing shows around town with Jimmy Haslip, and it's always a blast! Did you know Jimmy plays with The Yellowjackets, has played with George Harrison, and played bass on the KISS album, "Creatures of the Night"? Talk about versatile!

On all three of my CDs, I have been very fortunate to be able to work with some extremely talented, genuinely nice people. I am very thankful for that.

Dan McAvinchey: Did you get a chance to perform any of your new material in front of a live audience first?

Steve Fister: Yea! I got to play a bunch of shows with my trio,Tommy Aldridge and Jerry Watts. What a pleasure to play music with these guys! We got to try out a bunch of the new tunes. I have a few things that did not make it on the new CD, but you never know, they may surface as bonus tracks.

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Dan McAvinchey: The fifth 'vocal' number is "Hidin' The Bone", which mixes high tech guitar, funk, talkbox vocals, and, uh, rap. What is the story behind this tune?

Steve Fister: Easy Dan! I prefer to call it "spoken word". (laughs!!) But seriously, I had the track with the heavy funk verses, a cool solo, but the guitar melody wasn't cutting it. Eddie Tuduri suggested a "rap" style, Red Hot Chili Peppers style vocal. He wrote a few verses and I cut it. So, if you like the tune it was my idea, if you don't, it's Eddie's fault!

Dan McAvinchey: My favorite section on the new CD includes the fifth and sixth songs ("The Bottom Line" and "Dodgin' Bullets"), which is a slow instrumental groove with some haunting guitar work followed by a high energy instrumental. Any story or background on either of those pieces?

Steve Fister: "The Bottom Line" was written in the studio. Jimmy Haslip was coming in to cut bass on another song. He was warming up and started playing a very cool melodic groove. I asked what it was, and he said he was just warming up! So I grabbed my guitar and came up with a B and solo sections. Meanwhile the engineer on the session called the drummer (Brett Chasen) whose kit was still set up from the previous session. By this time it was 11:00 at night, by 1 AM we had the track! "Dodgin' Bullets" was an up tempo rocker I knew Tommy Aldridge would knock out of the park. We just put that one in the live show.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you plan to do to get the word out about your third solo record?

Steve Fister: More gigs, more press, maybe even a banner behind an airplane! Basically more of the same. The beauty of being an independent artist is that I don't die if I don't score a big record deal! I'll still have a career. These days with, Guitar 9, and some independent distribution, I can grow and have more control over my musical fate. A new CD means a bright new day, with more to follow!

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California based guitarist Steve FIster is back with a brand new CD entitled "2 Ways 2 Skin A Groove", his third, mostly instrumental, solo CD (others include 1998's "Shadow King" and 1999's "Age Of Great Dreams"). Perseverance is certainly one of guitarist Steve Fister's strongest qualities. After a major label effort that was never released and a nightmarish experience with an smaller 'indie' label, he has continued to take control of his own destiny with his self-released projects, as well as maintaining a busy recording and performance schedule.

Dan McAvinchey conducted this interview with Fister in order to talk about his recording methods and his latest CD.