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Rock Club 40 chats with STEVE BALBI

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STEVE BALBI:  Same hat, different attitude…

As a Noiseworks fan, it was a privilege recently to chat by phone with Steve Balbi. In the 80s, I saw Steve perform many times with Noiseworks, a band that he still performs with today. My most recent experience of seeing Steve perform was with Mi-Sex, Noiseworks and the Angels 100% at the Rock for Doc benefit for the late Doc Neeson, held in April 2013. A gig that prompted me to discover more about what Steve Balbi is up to these days. I had a listen to his first solo album Black Rainbow and liked what I heard. On March 27th and April 24th Steve will be performing two solo shows in Sydney. The shows will not only highlight the successful Black Rainbow album but introduce fans to some new songs.  “I’ve been getting a lot of feedback on social media so I thought I’d do a couple of gigs to keep the die-hard fans happy and go out and play a few of my new songs.”

Steve is currently recording the new songs in Sydney. This accomplished musician is taking a different approach with this album to that of the personal Black Rainbow. “It’s a different record; it’s a slightly different approach. It’s not as organic. There is a lot more programming on it. It’s about a bunch of photographs I have written about.”

 

Steve said he is leaving it with the marketing people to work out if the photographs can be published with the album. “I can’t tell you where the photographs are from but they’re already published. It’s quite a popular blog, I guess, that these photographs come from.”

 

The project started with an A&R guy at his record label showing Steve a photo from the blog. Steve’s response was one of amazement and inspired him to want to write about the guy. “And then I started looking at the blog and I thought wow I have to write about these people. It’s been a really great process, where the previous album was technically about one journey (at this point Steve stops and says ‘I hate that word journey’), more internalised, to be totally writing about people I don’t know. It’s a very interesting way of writing.”

 

I asked Steve if he has found this style of writing harder than that of drawing on his own experiences. “Obviously ‘cause I don’t know them, I can’t write about them specifically but they do say a picture paints a thousand words; they do talk to you and concepts do come to you fairly easily. I see one of them and a concept unfolds. It’s not hard. Writing is one of those things. How long is a piece of string? What’s a good song? What’s a bad song?”

 

Steve is the sole musician on the new album apart from Pete Drummond on drums. He assures me that being in the studio on his own is not lonely. In fact, to quote Steve “It’s heaven. It’s an amazing bubble of rainbow and distortion. I love it. It’s absolute peace.”

 

Steve also finds that his fans are peaceful people. In all the years he has been doing social media he hasn’t had any negativity on his sites. “I think my audience are actually really quite peaceful people.” We had a chat about the nature of social media in our society. “I’m not sure how great it is. It’s great at bringing people together. However, it can simultaneously keep people apart as well. It’s time consuming and it has an addictive nature that a lot of people suffer from.” Steve is talking to me via Bluetooth whilst driving the car. He is passing a bus stop where he counts twelve people of which eleven are on their phone. He goes on to say that he believes only two or three are making an actual phone call; the rest are on social media. I can tell from his voice, that he is not too impressed by that!

 

“I’m part of this world. I need to be part of this world and, like it or not, I’m part of it. I engage and try to have fun with it. As an artist it’s really nice to be able to connect with your fans.”

 

As well as the solo album, Noiseworks and Mi-Sex, Steve is also involved with a band called Moon, who we will hear material from later in the year and is currently working on music for an animated series. I asked him how he juggles all the projects and his family. “I went to the school of musical plate twirling,” he says with a laugh. “I have fairly long days in the studio. I get home to the family for the evening, then I sit down to my emails and social media stuff. Last night I was up to two in the morning.” Steve says it’s the only way to do it. If he let it all accumulate then he would go crazy. “I do suffer a bit of sleep deprivation for it but that’s ok, I need to be there for my family and if I want to do this I have to work a bit. I’m a bit of a Trojan like that.”

 

He went on to say he knows he is not the only busy person on the planet and that his record label and manager do alleviate a lot of the work but “a lot of content and work needs to be driven by the artist these days.”

 

As well as two Sydney gigs, Steve will be in Melbourne with Mi-Sex for the Gold FM concert at the Palais theatre in May and is hoping to fit in some solo work in the Victorian capital city during that visit. When I suggested  that he’ll  have to switch hats as he moves from Mix-Sex to solo gigs, his response was “Can use the same hat; just switch attitude.”

 

I finished the interview convinced that Steve does have the right attitude. The right attitude to continue in the industry he loves; the right attitude to keep busy doing what he loves and the right attitude towards social media, the 21st century ways and family life. An attitude of hard work in a peaceful, respectful way.

by Suzanne Bunker

Copyright © Suzanne Bunker 2015. All rights reserved

Sydney fans can catch Steve at the following venues:

SYDNEY DATES
FRI 27 MAR | THE VANGUARD, NEWTOWN, NSW
Tickets:  www.thevanguard.com.au
(02) 9557 9409(02) 9557 9409

FRI 24 APR | BRASS MONKEY, CRONULLA, NSW
Tickets:  www.brassmonkey.com.au
(02) 9544 3844(02) 9544 3844

 

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