I've struck some real gold here! An interview credit to Farid (Funkylol94) and located here. This is beautiful!
Farid: Could you tell us more about how you started out in music, like how where you touched by the musical ‘virus’?
Steve: I’ve always been fascinated by music. When I was a kid, I played records before I could read, by associating the song with the label. I used to just stare at the 45’s going around. The first song I ever liked was “Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pop”. My great uncle, Charles Cook called me ‘Moosic’ (That’s how he said music). I loved my mother’s Jimmy Smith album, “Walk on the Wild Side”. We listened to that on our Saturday morning house-cleaning day, long with Aretha’s, “Skylark” album on Columbia Records. Some people don’t know about Aretha’s jazz days. That’s how I got the bug.
Farid: You come from Dayton, Ohio. How do you explain the fact that the Ohio scene was so prolific although Ohio was far from all the big music scenes from the days like Detroit, Chicago, NYC & L.A?
Steve: James Brown, the godfather of soul had King Records in Cincinnati, Ohio. Everybody that’s funky owes a debt to Brown.
Farid: If I’m not mistaken, the first big band (in terms of commercial success) to come out of Dayton was the Ohio Players. The Dayton scene has a sound of it’s own. I mean it’s rough and funky in the deepest sense of the word.
I suppose that in the early 70’s the Ohio Players was THE band you were looking up to in your town? Were there any other bands or artists at that time who were a driving force on the Dayton’s music scene?
Steve: Yes, the Ohio Players. They were the band that everyone was looking up to. They were so funky, jazzy, bluesy, and most of all original! Another band that I, and the younger guys, looked up to was the band called The Young Underground, who later became the mighty Lakeside.
Farid: In your early days, as a drummer, what were your main influences? I feel some jazz too in your music, am I wrong?
Steve: One of my early influences was Billy Cobham, when he was with Mahavishnu Orchestra. I saw them in Cincinnati, Ohio, on the bill with Frank Zappa and Florescent Leach and Eddie. I had never heard of Mahavishnu Orchestra, until that day in about 1971 or 72, since I have never been the same.
I also love the Yes drummer, Bill Bruford, in the ‘Round About’ and ‘Close to The Edge’ days.
Also, Tony Williams, ‘Lifetime,’ and then later when I heard him with Miles Davis, which lead me to Elvin Jones with Coltrane. Oh, my God!... Elvin with Miles, Tony with Coltrane, Billy with Mahavishnu, and Bill Bruford with that crazy snare on Round About got it done for me. And of course anything that Brown did was a lesson in all things funky! Clyde Stubblefield in the house.
Farid: I read that you were in College with Mark Adams, Slave’s legendary bass player. So why didn’t you join the band right from the start?
Steve: I was in High School as a senior with Mark Adams, who was a freshman at the time. We were in a band together called, The Young Mystics. Bad management broke us up. I went to California and ended up playing with Pete and Shelia Escovedo and Carlos Santana, who did some touring with us. Mark Adams joined with Stevie Washington, a new guy in town and nephew of Peewee (Ralph Middlebrook) of the Ohio Players.
Farid: On ‘Stellar Fungk’ you’re on drums, and then in 1979 on ‘Just A Touch Of Love’ you handle the vocals. How did this change happen? Was it the departure of Curt Jones & Starleana Young who went to create Aurra?
Steve: No. Star, Curt, and Stevie did not leave until after the ‘Stone Jam’ album. I started singing lead vocals because Danny Webster, who sang most of the leads on the 1st and 2nd album, disappeared from the Atlantic Record studio in New York, for 2 weeks and we asked ourselves “What are we going to do?” I said, “Give me a shot at the mic, since we’re just sitting.” And voilà, “Just a Touch of Love.” Curt, Star and I contributed on different songs, but at this 2-week period I came forth with “Just a Touch of Love.”
Farid: At the base of the Slave sound there was trumpet-player Steve Washington & of course Charles Carter on sax & keyboards, who followed you in your solo career with his brother Sam. Steve became Aurra’s producer & released a solo LP on Salsoul in 1984.
Do you keep in touch with all the band members or has everyone gone his own way? Also why did you leave the band in 1981, following the release of the Showtime LP?
Steve: Yes, I keep in touch with band members and, yes, we have all gone our own separate ways. I left the band in 1981, because of the classic R&B story: we are not getting paid, and so we implode. Unfortunate how as a musician, you can do your job, work hard as a child all the way up to the big time, and somebody behind a desk decides they want their money and your money, too. Just to do it.
Farid: Let’s go back to your solo carreer. In 1983, you released your first LP ‘Hall of Fame I’. I remember the first time I discovered this album at the end of the 80’s (sorry but I’m only 31 years old!) with a track that hit me severely (!) : "Nobody Can Be You", with a sound that was pretty different from other records at that time, with a heavy groove and handclaps.
When you wrote that song, what influences did you bring and what state of mind were you in? What kind of sound were you looking for? If you can still remember, what kind of instruments did you use for that particular track? (I am a vintage instruments freak as we say today!)
Steve: I played Fender bass on “Nobody Can Be You, But You.” I either played Buddy Hankerson’s Music Man or my Precision. I like the word ‘severely’ in your reaction to the song, “Nobody Can Be You, But You” because I wanted that song to be intense and yet, smoooooth.
The state of mind I was in was to try to encourage somebody who wasn’t sure that they were
important or special. There are no two people alike, so you are as important and as special as the next one. Period, end of story!
Farid: My second favorite track on that album is ‘You Meet My Approval’. Still a very original sound, with a slight touch of jazz, very subtle, and a latin touch towards the end of the song. Do you like latin music (salsa, samba, mambo & other south american rhythms)?
Steve: Love Latin music! I played with Shelia Escovedo, also known as Sheila E., the greatest female percussionist ever. My mentor was her uncle, Coke Escovedo, who played percussion on the ‘Abraxas’ album with Santana. Coke was also co-leader of the groundbreaking group Azteca with brother Pete Escovedo. You got it! “You Meet My Approval” was a meeting of several musical worlds. I used to love to play that song live.
Farid: I own both the vinyl and the CD version of the ‘Hall of Fame I’ album, but the CD carries two unreleased bonus tracks : ‘At It Again’ & ‘I Love You’. The first one has a slight P-Funk feel but your personal touch and arrangements are still very much to the forefront, and the second one is a sure dance floor filler. Why didn’t those tracks end up on the LP?
This album was met with great commecial success. Do you remember how the people received it? The album was released on Atlantic Records but some singles like ‘Way Out’ were issued on a small label, Konglather. Was this your own structure?
Steve: They were very melodic, more melodic than the tracks that made it on the album. (A peek into what was to come.) People loved Hall of Fame I. I was nominated for the Soul Train Awards, new artist of the year. The song “Way Out” from that album was on my own label, soon after picked up by Atlantic.
Farid: In 1985 comes out your second LP ‘Dancin' In The Key Of Life’ with the huge ‘Feels So Real’. I remember hearing that particular track in a club in London. How many times did you visit Europe for concerts and which countries did you visit?
Steve: I went to England, Germany, and Holland.
Farid: In 1986, you followed with ‘The Jammin National Anthem’, with Paulhino Da Costa on drums on a few tracks. You appear on the cover with a lot of children from different ethnic background. Was this a message towards open-mindedness?
We all remember that at the time, apartheid still existed in South Africa, but towards the end of the 80’s, a lot of artists opened their musics to ethnic music (or world music).
Steve: It certainly was a message for open-mindedness! Racism is passed a drag. Racism is a nuclear bomb! I just wanted to tell somebody that it’s about LOVE, and my Lord and Savoir, Jesus Christ, even though some followers of Christ have fumbled the ball in this area many times.
Paulinho Da Costa is a great percussionist. He played percussion in the movie, Roots and is a great session player in Los Angeles. Also, George Johnson, of The Brother’s Johnson, played Guitar on the ‘Dancin’ in the Key’ album. I know we are talking about the “Jammin’ National Anthem” album right now, but I have to say that George Johnson played some wonderful on guitar on “Dancin’ in the Key of Life.” Freddie Hubbard played the trumpet solo on ‘Feel So Real’.
Back to “Jammin’ National Anthem” album; I really like the song ‘Holiday’ off that album.
Farid: You are now a Reverend, so has your musical background an effect on the way you handle your ministry and is it present in the Gospel in your Church?
Steve: Yes, it does, because I’ve been in the limelight and a star, where most people say they’d give anything to be. Because I’ve been there, I can tell people, you get used to it, the limos, the hype, the accolades. In the end, we are all the same; we just want to be loved.
Farid: Are there any news today on your side, like do you plan on putting out other albums or will you be touring any time soon?
Steve: I’m finishing up a new album right now and will be touring. I’m looking big time forward to it, too.
Farid: What kind of music do you listen to nowadays? Todays’s music or the great music that was made back in the days?
Steve: Both. I listen to mass choir music. I listen to Thelonious Monk. I listen to Daft Punk. Lately I’ve been vibin’ on ‘Come See About Me’, by the Supremes and ‘In the Sanctuary’, by Kurt Karr.
I want to thank your parents for the love they showed Monk, Miles, Dexter Gordon, and Bird. In this generation, thank you for the love you’ve shown me. There’s a lot of racism in America. A lot of my heroes received a lot of love in Europe and for Miles, especially France.
And remember, that Jesus Christ is way over the top, slammin’! He’s the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Can’t wait to see ya! Somebody talk back to me on this thing!
Rev. Steve Arrington
Reformatted slightly for it to read a bit better.