STEVIE SALAS TALKS TO THE RSFC...
RSFC - Stevie you toured with Rod on the Out Of Order tour in 1988 when Rod picked a new band. How did you land the job with Rod?
I was still a kid in LA but at that time I was really getting a buzz around LA. Randy Phillips who was Rods Co manager with Arnold then found me and hired me to be in Andy Taylors band when he left Duran Duran. I remember Andy playing me the Ruffs of the Out Of Order record and thinking MAN that's gonna be a big record. Well Andy and I didn't really hit it off and he gave me the sack. At the time I was scoring the film Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure and also working with Was Not Was ( we would soon have a massive hit with Walk The Dinosaur and I would co produce Out Come The Freaks). This was 1997 and when Rod was putting his new band together I got a call from Randy Phillips so I returned from London to audition. I remember walkin into a room and there was Rod himself. I was scared shitless but I acted as cool as I could be and said hey and he said hey and looked me up and down. I was also nervous cuz I was a huge fan of Bowie and Chic and Run DMC and there were my heroes Carmine Rojas , Tony Thompson and Eddy Martinez. Well we rocked and they told me I had the gig but soon I would find out it was not the case since I had no experience and I also played a lot like Eddy Martinez and they needed a bit more of a seasoned guitar player. After all, the only band I had ever been in was in was my High School band This Kids in San Diego. Well I kept in touch with The late great Malcolm Cullimore who worked for Rod ( Mal was one of Gods true Angels) and one day with only a couple weeks left before the tour started Malcolm called to me to come down and audition again. Eddy Martinez and Tony Thompson both left the band had the Great Jeff Golub and Tony Brock from the Baby's. Well I got in there and we rocked and Rod looked at me and said You Got The Gig and this time I mean it! And about 8 days later we were off to Pureto Rico and my life would never be the same again.
RSFC You played some
massive venues with Rod do have a most memorable moment & favourite venue that stands out?
Well our first 3 gigs were football stadiums so I got thrown into the fire fast! The 1st gig in Pureto Rico was insane. They said Lobby Call at 11am and I said OK! Problem was I had no idea what a lobby call was since I had never been on a tour before. There is no school for this madness! That night Rod took me and Carmine out on the town and we had some hot models with us and that's when it hit me...I looked at these fountains outside and the models and Carmine inside the car then I looked at Rod and I thought to myself for the first time OH MY GOD THAT'S ROD STEWART!! I remember it as if it were yesterday. I had not had the chance to let it hit me cuz we were so busy with getting the songs ready for the tour. Well when we got to the first club we could not get out of the limo. Hundreds of Kids swamped us and were climbing all over the car and we had to make a break. The next stop was nuts cuz they put a table behind a rope with security guards and we sat and drank while people stood at the ropes just staring at us. I felt like an animal in the zoo. The next night at the show I remember this big fence 30 yards from the stadium stage. I hit the first chord to Lost In You and the crowd went bananas and the fence was no more and thousands of kids were running at the stage it was so awesome! The next night we were playing Tampa stadium and and I knew Rod had a good sense of humour so during the day I was backstage and met about 100 girls that were there together. They walked up to me and said YOUR HIM!! And I said YES I AM! Who? then I said I am sure I am not who you think I am and they said, Your that kid Rod found and I said How do you know that? They told me they heard Rod on the radio talkin about this new kid he discovered and put in the band ( I was 10 years younger than anyone in the band) so I asked the gals to do me a favor and all scream my name out during a quiet part of the show cuz I knew it would be odd since I was a complete unknown and only in the band for a couple weeks. I started First Cut Is The Deepest and they all screamed WE LOVE YOU STEVIE and Rod looked at me with the most puzzled look on his face and I shrugged my shoulder like ..I Don't Know?
RSFC: What was Rod like to work with at that time?
A bastard! No I am kidding. He was a big brother father figure to me and I would have taken a bullet for the guy. I love him still and always will. He taught me how to be a pro and also kicked my ass when I needed it. He made me buy my first house instead of a fancy Mercedes Benz and he told me a story that I tell young artists including all the American Idols that I work with. He told me a career is full of mountains and valleys and when your on top you can't stay there forever BUT when your down you can't stay there either so you must always keep moving and never give up. We are both sports guys so I really understood Rod.
RSFC: Did you ever go in to the studio with Rod?
We recorded Forever Young live in a Chicago studio for the MTV awards in 88. I think that's the only time.
RSFC: When you joined Rod’s band you replaced a couple of the guitarists that were in the original Rod Stewart Group is there more pressure on when you replace people that have worked with the same person for a length of time?
Are you kidding? YES! First off I had natural ability but little professional skills so I am sure it was an insult for me to be on that HUGE gig when many felt I didn't earn it. I was never afraid to ask Jimmy Cregan or Ronnie Wood for advise (In fact Ronnie years later would do a drawing of me that I saw for sale in a gallery for 20k). Cregan hated me at first and I can't blame him after all it was his gig and I was on the stage. He and Robin are really fantastic blokes at the end of the day. It's funny cuz when I get around Woody and even Jeff Beck we always some how end up talk in about Rod....Even when I was doing Mick Jagger we talked about Rod. Seems all roads lead to him at the end of the day in my life.
RSFC: How do you find Rod’s audiences compared to other artists you have worked with? I watched a show from that tour in Philadelphia & even though Rod had throat problems the crowed was electric & you did about 3 encores
That tour and those Phili shows were insane. Our band had such a strong vibe that we were knocking the bottom out of every arena. I think its cuz we were a real band and perhaps one of Rods last. What I mean is we were a band. We ate together we partied together we fought together and we always had each others back. We all flew in the private plane together and if you messed with one of us you had to mess with all of us. It was a real family and I think that's what I miss the most. We even stole limos together! We would pull up to a club and tell the driver to let then know the Rod Stewart Band was here and Rod or one of us would crawl through the boot and drop the limo in gear and off we were. It was so awesome to watch those limo drivers running after us! So when we would play I think the audiences could tell how much fun we were having and the shows were huge and Rods records kept selling and the original 3 month tour I was hired for would go on for a lot longer. Rod has amazing fans indeed
RSFC: As well as Rod you have worked with some amazing people like Aerosmith who else have you worked with?
So many hmm George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Justin Timberlake, Adam Lambert, Terrence Trent Darby, Public Enemy, TI, David Cook, Daughtry, Micheal Hutchance, Jeff Healy, Jordan Sparks, Kris Allen, Tommy Lee and tons of others.
RSFC: You have just released a new album is this your first solo project or have you released others & are they all Rock (N) Roll or have you done other Genres?
I have sold a couple million solo records over the last 20 years. Just enough to keep a recording contract and still play big festivals. I have messed with some crazy outside jazz with Bill Laswell and Ronald Shannon Jackson and of course tons of funk music but I am a rock guy at the end of the day.
RSFC: Do you ever get nervous before you play in big arenas or stadiums?
I get more nervous at the small gigs. I LOVE the big ones and feel more at home on the big stage and on the pressure cooker sets like Saturday Night Live. I am an athlete and show time is game time for me and I always try to leave nothing on the field. I think nerves are a good thing cuz it reminds you to do your best
RSFC: Outside of work what do you like to do you have any hobbies?
Wine Women and Song of course with some surfing in exotic locations ( I have beach front properties in Costa Rica where the water is still warm and in Carlsbad Ca. where I grew up) I also love hanging out in Africa and recently took my father sailing in the Seychelles. You can see I love the ocean. I am deeply in Native American issues and projects and also work at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Wash DC and NYC. I have been working on a exhibit about Native musicians in pop music history and ironically Rod has worked with 3 of the 12. The great Jesse Ed Davis , Robbie Robertson and myself. So far Clapton , Ringo , Slash, Pete Townshend and the George Harrison estate have been helping me on it and I hope to get Rod's help on this soon.
RSFC: How old was you when you started playing guitar & did you have lessons or are you self taught?
I was 15 and self taught but some great local San Diego boys helped me a lot like Robert Mann, Steve Burt and Luke Albano. I watch people play and take what I can. Of course the biggest break thru came from playing with Jeff Golub in Rods band who taught me my vibrato and so much more. I owe a lot to him and of course I learned a lot from Joe Satriani when we did my first solo tour together in 1990. That's when I was voted 3rd best new guitar player in the guitar world readers poll and the # 1 best new guitar player in Japan.
RSFC: Who are you idols & do you will listen to there music to this day?
I still like the old records/artists like James Brown, Led Zep, and all the early British stuff. Funny enough I have worked with most of my idols. When I was a kid in San Diego I said I and gonna play with Rod, Mick and Bowie and I have played with 2 out of 3 and I am not giving up on Bowie.
RSFC: Does Stevie Salas play any other instruments?
A little drums and bass
RSFC: What would you say would be your career highlights so far?
Rod, Jagger, George Clinton , Bill and Ted, American Idol, and my first 3 solo records that are pretty big cult records to this day.
RSFC: Do you still keep in touch with the guys you played with from your time with Rod?
All of them. We all email and talk. Just the other day I was in Australia on the beach and a gal said I'm Jimmy Roberts Girlfriend and I said I bet you are! And my brother Jeff Golub who is going thru a ruff patch always stays in touch as well as Carmine. I also just had Nick Lane in the studio workin on some Bernard Fowler stuff.
RSFC: Where can members of the RSFC keep in touch with Stevie Salas do you have a website?
Stevie salas on facebook is good as well as steviesalasweb.com
RSFC: Steve it’s been a pleasure to speak to you & we wish you all the very best for the future
Always remember I LOVE ROD
Stevie Salas was interviewed by Dave Reddy on 16th October 2011