Steve Kouba
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Steve Kouba

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Don't know what to say
Austin Powers funk going on here. Wow, spoken word feel, and it's brilliant. Tom Waits, Pasties and a G-String feel. Great muffled samples. Lyrics are lewd, crude and excellent. Well suited. Stream-of-consciousness creativity worth rewarding. The music is a great supporter of the poetry going on here. The keys and percussion stand out. I'd love to hear the vocalist sing. Sounds like he's got some serious pipes, and his voice oozes charisma. I would pay money to see this band in a local, smokey nudie bar, backing the girls as they strut their stuff onstage. Great sax to take us home. This has awesome written all over it! Creative and ingenious. Very smooth. Well done!
O
- Celticpunk
Chicago, Illinois
April 13th, 2004 - garageband


Millionaire Playboys..
..If you could love yourself more lol..Enjoyable,clever Beck-like indie-dancey thing with excellent sexy chilled rhumba-funky band backing,brilliant horns,piano and some wit and fun in the close-mic whisper rapping.something the Fun Loving Criminals might do if they had more musical intelligence.Genuinelly feel good music for sitting on a beach drinkin' a pina-colada watchin' beautiful girls drift by.I'd defy anyone not to get at least a little (self!)pleasure from this track,hehe..4/5
Best Feel Good Track.

- SteveIson
Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom
November 24th, 2003 - garageband


"Chicago musical mainstay and keyboard wizard." - ~ Paul Barile, Chicago Arts & Entertainment


Very tastful, classic 70s sound
I won't mention that this band is a dead ringer for a former 70s artist who changed his name when he found religion. You certainly have your stuff together for this song. The retro feel, the vocals, the arrangement, the piano playing, everything about this song is excellent. Why isn't this song on the radio, if there is any justice in the world it is or soon will be.
Extra Credit: Male Vocals, Keyboards, Production, Lyrics, Melody.

- LifeJelly
Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada
November 4th, 2003 - LifeJelly, Canada, Nov. 2003


Lyrical masterpiece
Interesting intro, takes you by surprise. Love the way the vocals come in. The lyrics are innovative, catchy and full of imagery. Overall sound reminds me of a neo Peter Gabriel. Very cool synth solos. Original and entertaining tune. Great job!
Extra Credit: Keyboards, Lyrics, Originality.

- griffinv
March 21st, 2004 - GriffinV, 2004


Keyboardist Steve Kouba's Consanguinuity shows a great deal of ingenuity, passion and potential, mixing pop stylings of artists like Thomas Dolby, Happy Rhodes, John Mellencamp, Elton John, Madness, Crumbacher-Duke and the Butthole Suffers with his own brauvara brand of creativity. He's a bold producer with an ear for the colorful, fills his album with excellent backing musicians, and shows flashes of genuine cleverness in his songwriting. He's a talent, and One To Watch.

Kouba's originality and potential are easily missed, though, because of his overreliance on tinnily piping keyboard voices, which threaten to brand the album with the mark of the sophmoric. Kouba has a taste for the big, dramatic and multi-layered, but he either has inconsistent taste in keyboard sounds or a limiting armory of low quality gear. The earnest persistence of Kouba's pluckily overambitious electronic arrangements sometimes amount to the musical equivalent of a smack-talking midget walking into big bars and taking on 200-pound bullies with delusional bravery.

The problem may simply be a lack of restraint--a characteristic that pervades some of his songwriting and vocals. The hyper video game sound effects sometimes emphasize the macho strutting and primping of his earnest vocals. He's a good singer, and needs only sing to make that clear.

But overambition is often preferable to underambition, and it's not surprising that Kouba attracts top-flight backing talent, including Earl Talbot of Poi Dog Pondering (percussion), and Billy Denny of Trippin' Billies (electric guitar). He's recruited a pair of guitarists whose solos and atmospheric backdrops are easily the highlight of the record: Tony Newman and Mike O'Cull (O'Cull's acoustic solo on "Jah Love World" is particularly good).

There are moments when Kouba's keyboards manage the sort of resonance and originality keyboards are capable of at their best: the wispy 70s solo that concludes "Tribute to You," the steady ethereal chords which underscore some terrific meandering guitar sounds on the bridge of "Resentment Song." There are also moments when he seamlessly mixes acoustic guitar pop folk into the elaborate synth stuff, as with the hidden cover of the Beatles' "Norweigan Wood," or "North California," which sounds for all the world like an attempt to imitate Boston contemporary folk guru Ellis Paul.

So what shall Steve Kouba give us, poor as he is? He's obviously given us his heart (to cheesily paraphrase the Christmas ballad). If his budget continues to keep him from successfully duplicating the sweeping sounds he hears in his head, he would do well to give us a little less heart, a little less drama, and a little more maturity and restraint. That done, there's no reason Kouba's career can't soar. He's perfectly positioned to capitalize on what is bound to be an escalating fondness for the synth-heavy sounds of 1980s pop (as more children of the '80s become nostalgic twentysomethings and wealthy early-thirtysomethings). Consanguiniuity may well be remembered as the embarrassing juvenilia of an excellent pop artist.
- ChicagoGigs.com


Steve Kouba
Original score for Trust, a play written by Steven Dietz and produced by the Frump Tucker Theatre Company.
By Darryl Cater


The Frump Tucker Theatre Company's new production of Trust, scored by Chicago pop artist Steve Kouba, ought to have particular appeal to those denizens of Wicker Park's rock scene famous (fairly or unfairly) for cruising nightly from rock bar to grunge club scoping for fresh sexual hook-ups and attractive musical talent.

Local scenesters will be drawn not only by the presence of Kouba, who opens the show standing and strumming an acoustic and never leaves the stage thereafter, but also by the subject of the story by American playwright Stephen Dietz: the pleasures and pain of the meet-and-greet-court-and-copulate rock-n-roll lifestyle.

The script, whose many barbed witticisms are somewhat sharper than its insights about rock, tells the story of Cody Brown, a singing-songwriting hot young thing (played in this well-acted production by a perfectly cast David Hoke) struggling to keep his introduction to magazine cover-level fame from threatening his engagement to a high school sweetheart.

Kouba's live performance (which on a few nights is replaced by a recording) helps to lend three-dimensions to a play that doesn't go out of its way to define the music of its lead characters. Not that this is a musical. Kouba's instrumentals don't really attempt to give us insight into the songwriting of Cody or the embittered, faintly Joni Mitchell-esque, ex-star with whom he has an affair. That's a bit disappointing, but frankly an attempt to embody the sound of these allegedly exceptional rock heroes could as easily be disastrous as successful.

Instead Kouba underscores the drama with relative understatement. The main leitmotif opens with way simple moveable guitar chords (the sort you learn on day one of guitar lessons), perhaps to match the mood of the play's comic depiction of the deceptively carefree side of the rock business. The theme then slides into bittersweet minor chords appropriate to the themes of lost innocence and trust born of casual sexual interplay.

Peppy Hammond organ jams set the stage for comic scenes in which characters trade witty rejoinders about the differences between long- and short-term love (wedding gifts, one character wisely notes, are wasted on the wedded because it's single people who could really do with a new set of non-stick cookware). Drum machines, synth strings and loud minor key acoustics emotionally amplify the more purple moments of heated drama. Once or twice, a U2-esque electric guitar effect will add some welcome originality. Basic acoustic guitar strumming creates believable (if repetitive) atmospheric backing for scenes in a rock club, as barflies plot their conquests.

While the melodies occasionally border on dull, Kouba is to be commended for avoiding the overambition of the synth orchestrations on his promising self-released album Consanguinuity. As NPR's This American Life proves, the simplest of chord repetitions can add resonance to any story. To his credit, Kouba's play score usually chooses its instruments for their own resonance and not for the resonance of the instruments they electronically attempt to imitate (thus avoiding a common failing in original scores in small theaters).

The simplicity of the music, somehow, seems better suited to a play about a sub-fame rock scene like Wicker Park's than a post-fame rocker with his face on the cover of Rolling Stone. But then that may simply accentuate an inherent problem with Dietz's script: while his pithy observations on the pressures and problems of the rock life are entertaining, they don't always show any real depth of knowledge about the biz. Cody Brown is supposedly at the apex of his stardom: who he eats with is said to be trivia, who he sleeps with headlines. So why does he waste his time with an interview on a local public radio station with a new age hour? The nerdy public radio DJ says his album is at the top of the charts. Which charts? Is this DJ breaking format to play top 40 records? Dietz's script is hardly dense with evidence of a Nick Hornby-like grasp of pop trivia. Perhaps the situations would ring more true if Brown were on the cusp rather than the wave of stardom.

After all, the play is smartest and most knowing on the subject of sex. My guess is, Wicker Parkers will relate to the play less for its observations on the high-stakes world of big record labels than its observations on single life in rock bar culture.

Kouba's score succeeds quite nicely in setting the latter mood.


- ChicagoGigs.com


By Gina McIntyre

A strange hodgepodge -- parts Thomas Dolby, Mick Hucknall, and Joe Jackson -- Steve Kouba's Consanguinity makes for good listening even if it is a little difficult to pin down. Kouba, who writes, performs, and produces all 12 tracks on the album, defies categorization, although he's decidedly quirky. His music most resembles intelligent pop with an emphasis on keys, be they electronic or piano, but Kouba is not afraid to occasionally embrace the esoteric ("I Can't Help Myself," "Noizes, Voices, Choizes"). "War & Peace & War," an infectious, synthesized number, again displays another side of the artist, who, at the very least, deserves credit for his ambitious scope.

- Illinois Entertainer


by Greg Butler.
Chicago entertainer Steve Kouba already has a lot on his table, and it looks like one of the projects he's involved in right now is getting ready to take off.
In addition to that project, which we'll discuss in a minute, Kouba recently did the music for Frump Tucker's production of "Trust", which closed on May 25 after stellar reviews.
"The play had cues for pop music, but they wanted original music," Kouba said. "I loved the way the project sounded so I agreed to do it."

Kouba has also taken a gig working from 2-4 a.m. Monday mornings (to you night owls) at the Underground Wonder Bar, 10 E. Walton, Chicago.

"That's a great gig." Kouba said. "I get to play anything from Elvis Costell to liz Phair tunes, hang out with great people, and play on a a grand piano. It just makes my happy."

But Kouba's big project, or most promising one to date, is working wiht Tony Rogers on his performance in "Pop Psychology" (see stellar review on page six) which runs Saturdays thruough June 29 at Davenport's, 1383 N. Milwaukee.

"It's a very smart show. The reactions have been amazing."

(edit for end.) - Chicago Arts & Entertainment, June 2002.


Discography

The Good, "Interstellar", single release, 2010, synth
Tony Rogers "Climbing The Sycamore" , to be released 2010, piano
Tony Rogers "Mustache Ride", Movember 2010, piano
Adam Johnson "Waiting For My Drug (To Kick In)", EP 2008, piano
Mike O'Cull, "Look This Nice", EP, Mike O'Cull Music 2007, piano and organ
Steve Kouba "I Can't Help Myself", original song, CMEAS Compilation CD 2005
Steve Kouba "Steve Kouba" , promotional CD EP, 2004
Chicago Mike Beck "Chicago Mike", original LP/CD, 2002. piano
Steve Kouba "Trust" original score, Frump Tucker producion, 2002
Steve Kouba "Consanguinuity", re-release 2001, Bleeding, Ink Records.
Steve Kouba "Consanguinuity", original CD, 2000. Big Ugly Music & Media
Steve Kouba "Demo You Need, Demo You Get", original EP/CD, 1999
Convulsions "Bar Hoppin' an' Boppin'", full lenth LP/CD, 1997 Big Ben Productions. piano and organ
Steve Kouba "Martin Eden: Heir of Desperation" - cassette LP, 1996

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Bio

Steve Kouba says he's living the musician's dream. He's established his reputation as a recording artist and live performer. He makes a living as a piano player and rock entertainer, and his recent callings have been for music soundtracks and on-stage musical theater. Steve performs regionally and even overseas, playing solo piano or with guitar, live bands, and backing symphonic tracks and electronic beats. He's been called a "bold producer with an ear for the colorful," and his original music has been compared to a wide array of contemporary artists from Joe Jackson, Thomas Dolby, and Cat Stevens to "John Mellencamp, Elton John, (and) Madness."*. Steve released his self-produced debut CD "Consanguinuity" in 2000, an album that initiated his reputation as one of Chicago's most original and promising recording artists.

It should also be noted that Steve has alter egos, counted cards in Las Vegas, and claims to be "more Faustian than Jeffersonian." He admits to a great love for god, strippers and good literature. He's a happy malcontent touched by, in his words, "...existentialism, unique vice-virtues, visions, cheap thrills, intellectual chills. The kind insanity of Christianity. I work hard, live easy, exploit my modest talent and pray for health and a hit rock single." It's the stuff great music is made of, and Kouba embraces it all with humor, egotism and a slight dose of schizophrenia. "I play the anti-hero in a movie about me" he sings, and his pursuit of both artistic and commercial success would affirm a twistedly heroic self-vision.

Born and raised in the Midwest rust-belt city of Lima, Ohio, Steve listened to AM radio and took piano lessions until he was 16, then became an Eagle Scout at age 18 and a man at age 20. After graduating from Northwestern University, he traveled cross-country to record in New York and play rock music in the San Francisco Bay area. He now calls Chicago home and makes his living as a performing musician. He is known to many in the city's music industry and has performed with some of Chicago’s best players,among them members of Poi Dog Pondering, The Bad Examples, Liquid Soul, The Good, Underwater People, Fareed Haque Trio, Trippin Billies, and Quantum Leep. He has recorded music in numerous professional studios, and is currently working on a follow-up album amidst a full and varied performance schedule.

Steve's performances this past year alone have included venues such as House of Blues, numerous street festivals, esteemed Chicago theaters like The Athenaeum (where he performed live to excellent reviews his original soundtrack to "Trust", Steven Dietz's play on rock stardom), and The Mercury (with Tony Rogers' "Pop Psychology"), the city's best piano bars (The Redhead, The Underground Wonder Bar) and dueling piano clubs (Howl at the Moon, Rum Runners). His musical tour of Holland and Germany in March of 2003 further demonstrates his will to achieve at constantly new musical endeavors. "I know there's power in music, it's the magic that I choose to work with in my life. It drives me to make my living and entertain, enlighten, and uplift others in the ways I can. Music serves me the most, though, as the vehicle for my own dreams."