A couple of months back I received an e-mail from musician and composer Steve Greaves about a new album he was working on under his The SG Sound
banner called Escapade Velocity
. Steve was sent my way by Lukas Kendall since I had previously written several articles in my FSM blogs about "Space Age Pop" music.
Since that introduction, Steve and I have corresponded quite a bit and in the process he has sent me most of his recordings to listen to. I instantly took to his music in a big way and thought that introducing Steve to my blog readers, all 2 or 3 of you :) , might give him some exposure and introduce his music to some new folks.
I recently met Steve in person at this year’s FSM Weekend event. We got to know each other better personally and talked about a lot of different things over the course of the weekend. Subsequently, I had a nice conversation with him about his music, his background, film music associations, etc. The following is a transcript of that conversation...
[Mark Ford] I’m just going to jump right into it and mention that at the recent FSM Weekend you were called “The King of Space Age Pop A Go-Go”. Do you like that moniker and if so, does it fit your music?
[Steve Greaves] That's about as apt as I could hope for and it does fit. I've been honing in on the space pop thing gradually for some time and the new album is clearly space themed. The tricky part with the lineage of "Space Age Pop" proper is that generally, while traditionally atmospheric and fairly visual, most of the seminal music in the genre is not particularly toe-tapping or memorable. You've heard my stuff so you know I'm all about keeping things moving, a sense of pop structure and lots of hooks.
[MF] I noticed those things, especially the use of a lot of back beat and more intense rhythmic drive than typical Space Age Pop.
[SG] These things are more endemic to the go-go, jet set, now sound, and surf instrumentals that are so much a part of what influence me and that I've absorbed for a long time. So, Space Age Pop A Go-Go really summarizes both aspects of what I do. It's space, so it's epic, exploratory and has some sweep, but it's also pretty revved up and certainly not laid back or easy listening. The WORST thing to call it is lounge. It's not nearly limp enough for that nor does it have that snarky, tongue-in-cheek attitude that most neo-lounge does. I'm not goofing on these influences, I'm trying to carry these styles forward while merging them in a different way. There's certainly humor in my music but I'm laughing with the influences, not at them.
[MF] Sounds to me like you're carrying on the Space Age Pop tradition as a natural progression with other influences being added along the way rather than just doing a retro take on it.
[MF] So before we get back to your music Steve, tell me a little bit about yourself. You know, background material like where you’re from, what type of work you’ve done. Stuff like that.
[SG] I was born in Santa Monica, California. Yes, people do indeed hail from there. I moved around a lot as a kid since my parents were divorced, but L.A. has always been home really. As an adult I worked in advertising for a long time as a copywriter and creative in L.A. and N.Y. But music was my first love, film music in particular, mostly due to experiencing Star Wars when I was a kid. So the siren call to do that is something that's always had a hold on me. Being that I do a lot of mid-60's quirky cool type stuff, you might say I'm sort of Don Draper meets Don Knotts.
[MF] That’s a pretty crazy analogy! Since you mentioned Don Draper and the fact that you were an Ad Man yourself, are you a fan of the TV series Mad Men?
[SG] Actually I just scored a few trailers for Mad Men, which is naturally a show and brand I'm thrilled to be associated with since it's not only terrific but also right in my niche.
[MF] Sounds like a perfect match to me. So, when did you become interested in music?
[SG] Well, "interested" I would say as a very young kid. I was always very rhythmic and loved records as a baby practically. My folks aren't musical but there was always music around, good show tunes, classical, jazz, big band, Beatles, etc. and I always had an ear for it. Certain pieces of music resonated with me very early. I used to dance around to Rhapsody in Blue and all kinds of show music. I still love Gershwin to this day. Whenever there was a piano around, like at someone else's house, I would sit for hours and plunk out tunes by ear. While I was exposed to music early and drawn to it, I didn't have any involvement with playing anything or in a band until my teens when I joined the school symphonic band to play percussion. I've played drums in many rock, punk and surf bands over the years since.
[MF] What kind of music do like mostly these days?
[SG] I tend to feel there's good and bad in just about every genre, except maybe hip-hop these days which I guess I'm kind of perplexed by - to me there has to be SOME hook, melody, groove or at least originality to hang your hat on and that's an area where I have to say I just don't hear any of those things. I love film scores, I listen to kooky old Italian spy stuff, Goldsmith, Barry, Johnny Williams, Roy Budd, Rosza, it's a very long list. We can get into that later. I really have a wide range of tastes and like a lot of very different stuff. I love Motorhead and The Ramones as much as I do Stan Getz or Debussy. It all depends on the mood.
[MF] Sounds like a pretty eclectic mix with a lot of diversity. Since this is a film music blog, I have to ask what your connection to film music is?
I'm primarily a film composer, it's my main calling. The SG Sound
projects I do are an offshoot of my alter ego and a way to produce and disseminate music I don't get to explore a lot in film, though there are times when that's exactly what people want from me. There's nothing like finding the perfect cue to marry with picture, the combined effect is almost transcendent.
[MF] Wow, I didn’t know you wrote music for films, so that's a surprise for me! What aspect do you like most about film scoring?
[SG] I really love collaborating with filmmakers. I consider myself part of the storytelling process so character, arc, theme and tone are all the things I love to help a director mine from their film so it has the most impact on the audience. I'm a fan first, and I like stuff that lifts me out of my seat as much as anyone. I am a huge lover of great film AND music.
[MF] I know you have a link to Film Score Monthly. What’s your connection?
[SG] I used to read the print edition all the time going back at least a decade now. I was living in New York in the late '90's and FSM kept me feeling connected to what was happening in the area of niche film soundtracks, composers, most of whom were in L.A., and in general it was just a great companion to me in a place where otherwise no one really knows jack about such things. I liked the mag so much that when I returned to L.A. I became a regular soundtrack reviewer for some time and enjoyed all aspects of that very much.
[MF] That’s a pretty good connection. FSM has meant a lot to many folks over the years in not only providing information about film music, but creating an online community for film score fans to come together.
[SG] That and I'm also amazed at the Silver Age reissue CDs Lukas puts out. Much of my favorite music only exists today because of the superhuman work that he and Neil Bulk and the whole team do on those restoration projects. What they do is vital work and should be commended by anyone who cares about the preservation of great music for future generations.
[MF] Absolutely! Any particular type of film music you like or composers you're a fan of?
[SG] Yeah, GREAT film music! Seriously though, there are so many composers whose work I'm blown away by. Henry Mancini is my idol in many ways, Goldsmith, Williams, Schifrin, Steiner, Barry, Elmer Bernstein, Morricone... I really could go on forever. Less expected, or at least less typical, might be the appreciation I have for silver age guys like Neal Hefti, Vic Mizzy, Ken Thorne, Quincy Jones and others of that cloth. I've recently become more hip to the versatile work of Frank DeVol. He's really under appreciated today. And of course I like a lot of the newer guys too, Tom Newman, Michael Giacchino, Garry Schyman, Bear McCreary. Lots of diverse talent out there doing great work.
[MF] And we'll get to some of the work that you're doing in the second part of our interview.
This marks the halfway point of the interview. Join me again next week for the other half when we'll delve deeper into Steve's music. Until then, check out Steve’s The SG Sound
MySpace page at: http://www.myspace.com/thesgsound
. There you'll find a few of his past music and video offerings.
Several of you at this year's FSM Weekend were given Steve's Planet Twist EP. If you'd like to tell us what you thought of it, please feel free to do so in the comments section.
The place for quotes, trivia, links, etc.
Quote of the week: From Lake Placid [Holding up a decaying toe that may have belonged to the Sheriff's deputy]
Hector (Oliver Platt): "Is this the man that was killed?"
Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson sarcastically): "He seemed taller."
Link of the week: Steve Greave's The SG Sound video The Sirens of Venus - http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=16551019
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