Steve Cook
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Steve Cook

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"The song remains the same"

He's collaborated with Rolf Harris, been flattened by Led Zep lawyers, and picked up by Barry Crump. German hoteliers have formally presented his songs to Bill Clinton. Prince Charles, William and Harry have heard him play unplugged. He's starred in British productions of Tommy, Hair and Godspell, and has known what it's like to have 50 cents in his pocket and nowhere to sleep. He's gone from post-punk to pantomime. MICHAEL FALLOW profiles travelling singer-songwriter-actor Steve Cook.

''NOW I left home I was just seventeen
A little in love with a rock-n-roll dream
I packed my bag and picked up my guitar
and Said, hey Ma, one day I'll be a star ''

Yeah. Sure, kid. You and a million others. The sentiments, if not the song itself, are familiar. Steve Cook wrote it when he was 17.Twenty years later the song was on a record. Its prediction is not yet
fulfilled, but Cook's career is still a work in progress and so far has proven, can we agree, unpredictable. "Totally diverse," Cook acknowledges. "The only thing that stayed strong and true, the backbone of it, was the writing." Through thick and thin, he kept writing songs. About 200 originals so far. In his latest video there's an array of characters including a gay ice cream guy in a graveyard. Where did you get those actors from? asked his mum, who hadn't recognised it was her own son in yet another guise, enjoying the chance to impersonate his way out of the typecast box. Steve Cook does have a musical heritage: his dad Maurice was an early member of Max Merritt and The Meteors. By the late '70s, punk had arrived _ lots of Brits coming in through Bluff had picked up the records _ and its
energy connected with the young Steve in his Windsor home. He left in 1979 for Wellington, but found punk was already rapidly dating and striking credibility issues. "There's a difference between being punk in London and being punk in New Zealand. It was a little bit superficial. So I dropped it and started to grow my hair." After a time with The Pilgrims ( "hardcore rock with a new sound" ) as the resident band of The Albert in Wellington, and taking the stage at Sweetwaters, it was to England, where a decade of honest toil, much of it in professional theatre, awaited. This included leading roles in Godspell, Hair and Tommy _ where his performance kept drawing comparisons to Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant.(Flattering. Even nowadays, Cook is given to asking his colleagues "have you had that very important talk that you have to have with your teenage children? The one where you sit down and tell them that Led Zeppelin are the greatest rock band in the world." ) Then came the offer to join a Led
Zep tribute band ENZEP, with Dave Dobbyn's former DD Smash partner Peter Warren, and former Simple Minds and Pretenders bassist Malcolm Foster.Warren called Cook "so like Plant when he was young and beautiful it was almost scary." The Zeppelin influence was to have a strange mutation. Rolf Harris' version of Stairway to Heaven proved an out-of-the-blue chart hit, but in 1992 he and Cook decided to reverse the process and re-record one of Harris's own hits, Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport in Led Zep style with Jethro Tull drummer Barrimore Barlow joining in."It was an absolute killer, with five or six of the best Led Zep riffs," Cook laughs. The reaction around London was great. "I didn't have to buy a
drink for about a month." BBC support brought in seven million listeners _ and a letter from the Zeppelin company lawyers."If you proceed with this you may have difficulty walking. That's what it said, between the lines." In 1993, still able to walk, and now committed to a solo career, he was back in New Zealand and involved in a "world music" project with a Maori cultural group. By 1996 he was ready to pack it all in, but went to Havelock and spent some time with Barry Crump, who encouraged him. The upshot was that Cook's enthusiasm was rekindled and a song, Live For the Moment, emerged. It is the introductory track of his German-backed CD, Songs from the Last Century. Germany has proven a welcoming, supportive environment for Cook. Come 2000 he was playing and recording with redoutable German musician and producer Wolfgang Schmid and in 2001 he released the theme song for the luxurious Brenner's Park Hotel in Baden-Baden. It actually charted in Germany and the hotel's general manager personally presented a copy to Bill Clinton. In 2002 yet another venture awaited, this time into children's TV. Cook created the script, music and characters for a 3D animated TV series, Out Back City. Rolf Harris developed some character drawings and the BBC took care of the pre-production. Cook was a special guest at the British Animation Awards that year. And in June this year he performed unplugged for the Prince of Wales and his sons, at a Princes Trust annual charity polo event.Cook is the first to agree that the diversity of his career was partly a case of moving with the times. Sometimes, though, it was more wilful. "People say you can't reinvent yourself, you've got all that hair, laaa laaa laaa ..."One critics said I would only ever do rock opera, darling. So I did Frankenstein the Pantomime." No pretty-boy role this one _ he was the mad scientist, wearing a skull cap through which he pulled patches of his own hair. "Very painful, actually." For his own writing he draws on personal emotion and life experience for ballads, breaking out into protest songs, but still giving good-fun boogie its due. "You're trying to create something new and striving to be original, but I would say the style and essence of what I'm doing is a little bit from the '60s and '70s." "Everybody's got used to listening to digital music and processed sound. The audience is being spoon fed this. Real music is people who are playing instruments without the aid of computerisation. Basically _ how can I put this in one sentence _ without cheating." Steve Cook is at present in Auckland, preparing to work on a new CD, and will remain in New Zealand for the summer, after which Germany again beckons. Copies of his six-song CD Songs From the Last Century are available in NZ shops.
- Soutland Times/New Zealand


"Steve Cook"

What a little pearler this one is! For anyone into the acoustic singer-songwriter guitar genre, this is a great example. Just 28 minutes long, this European commissioned "best of" collection is either a short album or a long EP. Diverse seems to be the best way to describe Cook's musical exploits. Performing largely in New Zealand and Germany he has recorded with Rolf Harris and performed for the Prince of Wales and sons. His musical range can be seen in going from the feel good Live for the moment to the haunting Land of their own, which fuses Cook's style with Maori chant. The CD was recorded at Phil Rudd's studio in Tauranga with mainly Kiwi musicians and Cook has enjoyed video play on Juice and Mostwanted. With his great voice, intelligent song writing, interesting chord structures and pleasing arrangements, Cook's next album (in the pipeline for later this year) should be well worth checking out.
Tim Page
- NZ musician magazine


"Steve Cook"

Steve Cook is back from Germany,packed his Lederhosen away and is now planning to spent a lot more time in New Zealand. “I’ve been away for so long, I’ll be like a new Kiwi discovery,” he laughs. ”Live for the moment is my first release in New Zealand, so I’m really looking forward to what that brings. ”The song is a live recording from a festival in Germany, but it has the most Kiwi of roots. “It was inspired by Barry Crump”, he explains.“ He was a friend of mine. Barry said ‘those lyrics are beautiful’.” High praise indeed from a man of Crumpy’s no-nonsense, down to earth nature.
It is just one of a string of fascinating anecdotes and experiences to have coloured Steve’s work over the years. The man certainly has a story or two! Live for the moment is a troubadour tale of wine, women and song. Steve’s delivery will hit a chord with Kiwi audiences.
- Medianstrip


Discography

Live for the Moment -
Radio airplay in New Zealand
Release in New Zealand

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Influences: Led Zeppelin, The Who etc.
Steve has a unique timber in his voice and storytelling in his great songs. They take the listener on a journey.