It’s possible to be an expatriate in your own hometown, as Steve Steele makes perfectly clear on his album The Expat, released on his own Ultraviolet Catastrophe Records.
“The theme of The Expat is being disconnected,” Steele says. “I live in Houston, and I don’t feel comfortable here at all.”
Ironically, despite this relationship, the city of Houston has rewarded Steve Steele by nominating him for Best Rock Band and Best Male Vocals in the 2011 Houston Press Music Awards.
But, he adds, comfort isn’t always conducive to making great music: “Schoenberg and Stravinsky did their best work when they were in miserable Europe, pre-World War II. When they moved to America and lived in sunny L.A., their work seemed to lose purpose, because the immediacy of tension was gone. They were the Beach Boys all of a sudden.”
Multi-instrumentalist Steele displays his multi-dimensional talents on The Expat, showing his skill on guitar, bass, synthesizer, drums, and percussion; he also plays Indonesian gamelan, and contributes ambient sound design. His potent singing reflects years of vocal training and his contemporary take on bel canto, an Italian classical style – favored by musicians as dissimilar as Joan Sutherland and Frank Sinatra -- that emphasizes power and clarity.
Steele co-produced The Expat at his own Andromeda Sound Studios and at Houston’s Sugarhill Studio with Steve Christensen. His instrumental collaborators on the album include guitarist Scott Ayers and drummer Richard Cholakian.
The 12-track collection is the long-gestating follow-up to Steele’s 2003 EP InfraRed IntroSpective. He admits today that after completing that record, he ultimately grew dissatisfied with it: “I tried performing some of the songs from it, and I felt very uncomfortable. During performances I was embarrassed, and there was nothing I could do.”
So, he continues, “I started over. In order to reinvent myself at the level I wanted to attain, it took five years. I relearned everything. I went back to all the instruments that I played. I sort of started from scratch, and re-taught myself everything I knew theoretically, and applied it to the instruments.
“I really worked on my voice – I think you can hear the difference between the two records, in terms of my singing. I found my voice. Probably the biggest thing that matured was the lyrics.”
New influences came into play in the writing and recording of The Expat. Steele points specifically to David Bowie’s so-called “Berlin” albums – Low, Heroes, and Lodger, collections written, appropriately enough, during a period of self-exile – as well as the ambient recordings of Brian Eno, Prince’s forward-looking funk, and the work of Morrissey, whose distinctive baritone pointed him in a fresh vocal direction.
Lyrically, inspiration came from a variety of sources: short story masters John Cheever and Ray Bradbury, novelists Thomas Wolfe and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., the poetry of T.S. Eliot and such French symbolists as Mallarmé and Nerval. (Steele cites few rock lyricists among his influences, but does acknowledge the impact of Richard Palmer-James, who penned the lyrics for such late King Crimson albums as Lark’s Tongues in Apsic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red.)
Steele acknowledges that an intense relationship with a woman from New York led to the deepened writing on The Expat.
“The music was written over a pretty short period of time,” Steele explains. “The lyrics are what took longer, because I changed them as things were happening in my life. As I grew as a person, by going through some extremely trying life experiences and also by getting into literature, I found myself as a lyricist.”
The Expat is the culmination to date of a life spent in music. Steele began studying piano at the age of five before moving on, one by one, to the other instruments in his arsenal. “I had the habit of switching instruments every few years,” he says.
He studied music with Dr. Kevin Korsyn at the University of North Texas in Denton; the works of such impressionist composers as Debussy and Ravel had a marked impact on his later work. He studied independently with noted bassist Jeff Berlin and a student of renowned vocal coach Seth Riggs.
There was also a detour into work in electronics for Apple and Motorola. “It got me into technology, into building my own studio,” Steele says, “and trying to mix my classical music background with modernism. The Expat is a reflection of that.”
Steele acknowledges that the diversity of his musical tools – which encompass rock, jazz, classical, and soul/R&B/funk – make him something of a rara avis on the Houston music scene.
“Classical musicians and jazz musicians don’t understand me, because I’m not playing pure classical or pure jazz,” he says. “Then the rock musicians look at me funny, because I’m not playing pure rock music.”
But, Steele adds insistently, he employs all these tools to forge a new mode of expression: “The Expat says that the vocabulary of rock music has not been mined. There’s still plenty of vocabulary there that rock musicians haven’t looked at. I just want to open the door.”
Steele – who notes that mathematics came into play in everything from the construction of the songs on his album to the design of its cover – cites an equation of his own devising when summarizing its intent: “The very first thing I wrote down on my whiteboard when I was beginning The Expat was ‘energy + ambience + narrative.’ I followed that recipe all the way through.”
Kez Morris - Drums
Daniel Charles - Bass
Kyle Lanter - Guitar
Steve Steele - Vocals/Guitar/Piano
Steve Steele's The Expat is genuinely provocative, intelligent, and satisfying music. Often challenging, and sometimes arresting, Steele combines his literate expression with fine musical innovation.
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On the back of Steve Steele's debut CD, The Expat, he comments, "I'll sing whatever I like, to whome...On the back of Steve Steele's debut CD, The Expat, he comments, "I'll sing whatever I like, to whomever I like." A more concise and clear artist's statement for any aspiring musician could hardly be written. It fits Steele whose music is as personal and passionate as it is eccentric and eclectic. He is certainly composing the music he likes.
Before speaking to the music, the theme/content of The Expat should be noted. Steele explores the isolation and disconnectedness from the modern world even in the presence of Internet connectivity and social networking. Therefore Steele becomes the 'expatriate' in his native Houston. The work is in three parts, with each part preceded by 'disjointed radio snippet.' Steele is (largely) the protagonist and guide through the songs.
The music on The Expat is largely rock, at least in the broadest sense. With his knowledge of multiple types of music, jazz, classical, rock, and others, the more specific nature of this work might be called art or prog rock. The arrangements are in one sense heavy, but perhaps a better word is dense. Revelation on the Radio or My Brother The Devil are awash with layers of sound. Steele reminds of David Bowie and Frank Zappa washed through Brian Eno. Possibly the most interesting element of The Expat is Steele's vocals; it's certainly unique and expressive. However, listening to Dramatic Girls Forever or Via Satellite, to mention only two examples, I can't help wondering if I hear a sneer, sarcasm, of that aforementioned elucidation.
Admittedly, digesting The Expat requires repeated spins. I was initially put off by the near grating signature very first song, Revelation on the Radio, and Steele's singing style. However, changing context, from office to automobile, and playing through, Steele's music became intriguing (and exposed his creative literacy). Dramatic Girls Forever, Godwin Park, Via Satellite, and Star City are terrific tracks.
Ultimately, Steve Steele's The Expat is genuinely provocative, intelligent, and satisfying music. Often challenging, and sometimes arresting, Steele combines his literate expression with fine musical innovation.
Steve Steele finds a harder-edged sound on his debut album.
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Steele has been busy promoting his just-released, full-length album, The Expat (Ultraviolet Catastro...Steele has been busy promoting his just-released, full-length album, The Expat (Ultraviolet Catastrophe). Deeply personal, thematically offbeat and, more importantly, quite distinctive, Expat ditches the Brit New-Wave sound for a harder-edged, post-punk, dark-wave feel, complete with Bowie-esque vocals.
From the way Steele talks about the album, it's easy to understand why it took him so long to release it.
"The Expat, the music and narrative, it's a dream," he explains. "The very first sound you hear is your brain going into REM sleep, and the very last sound you hear is you waking up."
"The angles that all of the lines form on the front cover, the ambigram name, the songs in threes and the abrupt endings are all signs that it's all a dream," he adds.
It's not only a dream, Steele says, but a very calculated one.
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"Steele’s work here ensures that listeners will not get the same sense of lull that is present on a great many current albums."
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“Revelation on the Radio” is an absolute epic track in the vein of Styx or Queens of the Stone Age. ...“Revelation on the Radio” is an absolute epic track in the vein of Styx or Queens of the Stone Age. While rooted firmly in the rock genre, listeners can hear equal amounts of metal (Fear Factory) and even punk (Jello Biafra) present in Steele’s first cut. “Via Satellite” provides listeners with a tremendous amount of energy, as Steele’s vocals drive into listeners with all of the allure of a Tubronegro or even of a Dani Filth. “My Brother, The Devil” kicks the instrumental side of things into high gear, as a darker sound issues forth during this track. Taking a page from 45 Grave or “The Top”-era Cure, Steele’s work here ensures that listeners will not get the same sense of lull that is present on a great many current albums.
“Godwin Park” continues ramping up the momentum, despite having a much more intricate feel than “My Brother, The Devil”. The back and forth that is achieved with the vocals allow the narrative weaved by Steele to be especially effecting. This introduction is given a bold exclamation point with the guitar and drum barrage that follows; at five and a half minutes, “Godwin Park” may just be the disc’s most epic track. The song still represents the same type of dark, hard rock that has been the norm on “The Expat”, but follows a much more classic sort of composition. The different movements that listeners will be witness to seems to me to be like scenes from a movie, a microcosm of the different paths and tales that the whole of “The Expat” provides.
“Star City” is the final track on “The Expat”, and exists in the middle zone between New Romantic, goth, industrial, and metal genres. The track converts a diverse collection of Steele’s influences into a cohesive and cogent song, while acting as the perfect end to the album. This expansive track gives listeners brief flashes of what could conceivably come to be on further Steele efforts, while showcasing a never say die attitude to the album’s last notes.
Top Tracks: Revelation on the Radio, My Brother, The Devil
Steve Steele – The Expat / 2011 Self / 12 Tracks / www.stevesteele.com / www.twitter.com/thestevesteele
"One aspect that was simply mind boggling was the fact that Steele played guitar, bass, synth, drums & percussion yet it sounded like he had a full band backing him."
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Whether you like alternative, progressive, experimental or art rock, you’ll hear all of this and muc...Whether you like alternative, progressive, experimental or art rock, you’ll hear all of this and much more on Steve Steele’s debut album The Expat. Steele’s record literally plays out like a well-written story that has three sections. The first part focuses on Steele’s character living a secluded life and feeling alone in a world full of millions. The second part aims at the character standing up for himself with signs of him coming out of his shell. The final part shows a sense of hope & redemption with the character finally taking full responsibility for himself and everybody and everything around him.
It makes sense that Steele has studied many literary works, which served as a major inspiration toward the writing of The Expat. Some of these writers that Steele credits as being primary influences are: James Joyce, John Cheever, Ray Bradbury, Thomas Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and T.S. Eliot. Besides literary greats, Steele also has some music legends that played a key role in his life such as: David Bowie, Prince and Freddie Mercury. You can pick up on the Bowie reference right away on track two “Revelation On The Radio” where you witness a singer/songwriter being born. Right out of the gates, I’m hearing a distinct voice to go along with great guitar presence. Moving along into the next two songs “Dramatic Girls Forever” and “Via Satellite”, the good guitar playing continues while you also hear an interesting grouping/phrasing of lyrics and out-of-this-world sounds. The record ends with a futuristic dream that will intrigue you on “Star City”. Steele ends the story with a solid conclusion that confirms an overriding theme of time due to hearing the ticking of a clock. Time is or isn’t on your side; that is the question.
Steve Steele definitely had some deep concepts here, but it never was too hard to follow. One aspect that was simply mind boggling was the fact that Steele played guitar, bass, synth, drums & percussion yet it sounded like he had a full band backing him. Steve invites listeners to immerse themselves not just in the music but also within the narrative at hand. This singer/songwriter from Houston proves to be one innovative artist that seems to have a lot of tricks under his sleeve. Steve Steele has found a style that works perfectly for him, so I can’t wait to see what he will pull out of his hat next! For now, enjoy The Expat that will unfold right before your eyes & ears.
By Jimmy Rae (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
"His voice is incredible, as his orchestration."
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CD Review: Steele's 'Expat' Ex-Specially Out There Jan 23, 2011 Melissa Kucirek Steve Steele's...CD Review: Steele's 'Expat' Ex-Specially Out There
Jan 23, 2011 Melissa Kucirek
Steve Steele's The Expat - Photo Courtesy of Ultraviolet Catastrophe Records
Houston's Steve Steele releases the 12-track The Expat, a collection of intriguing and progressive rock tunes.
Listeners will not be able to deny the enigmatic, deep vampire-ish voice Steve Steele showcases in the dozen tracks on The Expat. With strong chord progression and pulsating orchestrations, the so-so lyrics are overshadowed by the gritty fire and meaty guitar licks.
Steele's own label, Ultraviolet Catastrophe Records, released this breathe of work. It is evident his own confidence is equaled to the work he has completed.
Theme for Album is Being Disconnected
According to his official biography, Steele's theme for The Expat is being disconnected. An interesting thought, though, that while reading through his sheet, Steele is prolific in several instruments and is in fact, completely connected to each song in more than one way. The listener's connection to each song, especially in the first handful is best exemplified in "Dramatic Girls Forever" (track two).
"Girls" has a power guitar riff that could easily sweat its way into a Rob Zombie or Disturbed track; yet Steele's voice (much like Geoff Tate of Queensryche fame) strangles the listener into this power hold. Steele is harsh without hate; airy without fluff.
In track six, "My Brother, The Devil" the sinister opening riffs channels into this geddie-up 60s Mod Squad roll. Steele's chorus and vocals erupt into this dramatic story teller. There is not sense is silencing this song. It is out there, but fun.
New York City Song is One of The Best
In track eight, "Pretty" the mood is lessened to a calm shady tracky. Steele's voice is a bit like David Bowie. This is a repetitive song, but Steele manages to create a beauty in a murky water of simplicity. Track 10, "New York City" has a creepy intro to it, before the bass-heavy section interrupts it.
What this writer liked about "New York City" is the sense of movement. Steele creates a moving picture through sound. The guitar orchestration is killer. While he does not create a grand landscape of light; he manages to come close. The ending to this song could have jammed much longer, but he trimmed perfectly.
Overall Review Grade of B
Other stand out tracks on Steele's The Expat are track four "Via Satellite" and track 12 "Star City". A few tracks (five and nine) are just spurts of sounds. Overall the review for The Expat is B. His voice is incredible, as his orchestration. This writer wanted more juice to the lyrics. Fans of Queensryche, Bowie, some 80s New Wave, obscure progressive rock will really dig Steve Steele.
Read more at Suite101: CD Review: Steele's 'Expat' Ex-Specially Out There http://www.suite101.com/content/cd-review-steeles-expat-ex-specially-out-there-a337004#ixzz1CxEdgzra
"Steele's voice is fantastic - soulful, deep and engrossing... It's innovative, for sure. If detective noir were to be made into music, The Expat would be it.
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Steve Steele appears to have found his voice. Off the back of an EP he admits freely to not liking, ...Steve Steele appears to have found his voice. Off the back of an EP he admits freely to not liking, Steele says he has spent the last two years working on his singing and "not feeling at home in Houston", which (in terms of this record) is a very good thing. The theme of The Expat is disconnection, homesickness, being out of place and is broached effortlessly through a progressive take on classic rock sound which connects quite well, ironically enough.
Steele's voice is fantastic - soulful, deep and engrossing, and goes a long way to making the so-so lyrics into an emotionally affecting story. The album manages to grab quite a few intense and complex issues by their metaphorical balls but never becomes hard to follow, on the condition that you let it swallow you. Not entirely difficult - it's hard not to be drawn in. Tracks such as the intricate 'Godwin Park' and the Queens Of The Stone Age homage 'Revelation On The Radio' could have been composed by Bowie, but they have a harder edge and a modern flavour both intriguing and candid.
It's innovative, for sure. If detective noir were to be made into music, The Expat would be it. Sure, there are some Chicago-accented mob cliches, and you know how it's gonna play out in the end, but it's the getting there that's important.
ROCKWiRED RADiO PROFiLES PRESENTS: THE MESMERiZiNG SOUND OF STEVE STEELE AND HiS LATEST CD 'THE EXPAT'
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(There is an audio file containing the radio interview attached to this page) JANUARY 28, 2011 - ...(There is an audio file containing the radio interview attached to this page)
JANUARY 28, 2011 - In my interview with multi-instrumentalist and singer songwriter STEVE STEELE, he expressed concern over the fact that no one had asked him about the meaning behind the title of his latest CD THE EXPAT. The title is short for the word 'expatriate'. STEELE's latest album explores the notion of being a stranger in a strange land. In STEELE's case, the strange land is his hometown of Houston. While the young singer songewriter is of the mindset that he's got to get out of this place, his surroundings have also provided a great deal of the inspiration behind his music. Taking his queue from DAVID BOWIE'sclassic albums LOW and HEROES, STEELE has created an ambient rock sound that is epic in scope and sonically mesmerizing.
Currently, the set run time is approximately 50- 60 minutes.
Revelation On The Radio
Dramatic Girls Forever!
My Brother, The Devil
New York City
There are no upcoming dates at this time.