Take Five With Alan Steward
Meet Alan Steward:
I started making music when I was 13 and I was always fascinated by technology. In my early years performing, I traveled with 12 keyboards and drum machines and even though I was considered an electronic artist, There was always a good dose of funk and soul in my music. Today, my style can best be described as electronic world funk fusion.
Hammond B3, piano, synthesizers, acoustic and electric guitars, percussion.
Teachers and/or influences?
When I was 13, my music teacher kicked me out. "You will never learn how to play the guitar, save your money," Well, I've been a professional musician ever since. My influences are too many to mention, from Jimmy Smith to Frank Zappa to George Clinton.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I found out they get all the girls. Well, seriously, you're always told get a job doing what you really like to do, that has always been music.
Your sound and approach to music:
I am constantly trying to break down the boundaries imposed on us by styles and genres. My music encompasses jazz, funk, rock, pop, electronica, world music, reggae and probably every other style known to man. My sound could be pure George Clinton funk in one song, smooth jazz in the next and "Enigma on Steroids" in the next song. It's a jazzy funky mix of world music and electronica.
Your teaching approach:
I don't teach music. I think many artists that I produced during my career have picked up on my approach to sound and technology and have picked up a few tricks here and there.
Your dream band:
Omar Hakim or Billy Cobham on drums;
George Duke and Jan Hammer on keyboards;
Marcus Miller on bass;
Jeff Beck and Stevie Vai on guitars;
Syreeta Wright, Siedah Garrett and Randy Crawford on vocals.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
My first live gig ever was on my 15th birthday. We played with such enthusiasm (and obviously volume) that the wallpaper came off the walls during the final song. Forget playing in front of 40,000 people, this is one gig I never forget.
I played in a small club in Germany a long time ago. From the minute I walked through the doors, the owner announced to everybody in the club "the star is here" and "we have a star performing tonight." This was at a time where I was pretty much totally unknown and had not recorded a single album. It made my day. I would love to come back there one day (now that I'm still far away from being a star).
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
I love "Global Warning" from my Pop Icon album. That song just came together so perfectly. All the instruments blend so well, the song got so much power.
As a producer, I love it when I hear a song with a perfect sonic balance and this song got it. It's one of the more popular songs with my fans too and I think it got a great balance of pure power techno and ethnic sweetness.
The first Jazz album I bought was:
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I hope to break out of the box. Every musician is put into a box by imposing genres and musical styles onto them, and I make albums that can't be that easily categorized and boxed. My music's got to have some funk in it but from that point...anything goes.
Did you know...
That I once played guitar in an Eric Clapton tribute band and keyboards for an Elvis impersonator? And actually, it was fun!
CDs you are listening to now:
Black Eyed Peas, Boom Boom Pow;
Daft Punk, Technologic and Live 2007;
Natasha Atlas, The best of Natasha Atlas;
Bally Sagoo, Bollywood Flashback.
Desert Island picks:
Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer, Live (Epic);
George Duke, Reach for It (Epic); Frank Zappa, The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (Barking Pumpkin);
Frank Zappa, You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore - all five volumes (Barking Pumpkin);
Narada Michael Walden, Victory;
Jeff Beck, Beck Ola (Epic);
George Clinton, R&B Skeletons in the Closet.
(Of course I hope that I'll have an iPod with 1,000 songs on the desert island, it would help pass the time).
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
I am glad to see that jazz is not stagnant and the spirit of fusion is still alive. I hope that jazz always remains open to experimentation and new influences.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
To break barriers. Not to be afraid to mix things up and to fuse jazz with what's going on in the popular music scene today. In the '80s fusion was probably at its strongest with people like George Duke, but I hope that jazz musicians are not afraid to show up on stage at major festivals and show the world that today's jazz is very much alive and not your father's jazz anymore.