Steve Wynn
by Johanna J. Bodde

Interview STEVE WYNN
February 2003 (by E-mail)

Johanna: Steve, you just released your new album "Static Transmission", what would you say about its essence to somebody who hasn't heard it yet?
Steve: I tend to talk about the new album as a companion piece to my last album "Here Come The Miracles", especially as they were recorded in the same studio and city with mostly the same band. I see them as brothers, with "Miracles" being the confident successful older brother who wins all the prizes and awards and "Static" as being the shy, sweet younger brother, a little disturbed and sensitive but in some ways you have to love him a little bit more. The new album is a mixed bag, lots of variety but all tied together by a deep, emotional core-- I've heard it called "Troubled Soul" music and that makes sense to me.
J: Please, tell us about the goodies, limited editions, an extra disc?
S: The extra disc contains three bonus tracks from the "Static Transmission" sessions along with four video clips (shot on location in Tucson, Arizona), a bunch of photos from the session and some other interactive things. I've never done anything like this before and was really happy with the results (I have some very talented friends who were generous with their time).
J: When you plan an album, do you use all currently written songs or sometimes also an idea that was already in a drawer for five years? Do you need to be home for the best results or can you come up with something excellent while waiting at a crowded airport?
S: This record was almost entirely written in the first half of 2002-- only "Fond Farewell" and "Charcoal Sunset" date back to the "Miracles" session. On the other hand, the last album had a couple of songs that were leftover from the Dream Syndicate days so it changes from record to record. These days I'm writing more than ever before so I tend to use mostly new material. And I do indeed write best at home though I collect riffs, melodies, titles, random lines and, of course, a wealth of life experience when I'm on the road.
J: You're often telling a story in a song, is that coming from your own experience or is it about somebody you heard of or a fantasy?
S: Oh, like I'm going to answer that one! Seriously, I tend to mostly tell stories that are composites of people I know, movies I see, books I read, things I read, imagine and naturally my own life and feelings as well. But I don't see myself as the 100% subject of my songs. Almost never--- there are probably about a dozen that are really about me and I think it would surprise people to know which ones are closest to my actual life.
J: You're touring quite a bit and that's an understatement, I heard that you had to cancel only two times in your whole career, due to bad weather. Anything funny that happened recently or a strange place where you played?
S: Yes, and I almost had to cancel for the third time last month-- sat for about seven hours at an airport in Malmo (and it's a very boring airport-- I would much rather have been at Schiphol, for example). Read a book, drank coffee, waited and waited some more and finally made my flight to London with 30 minutes to spare before the set. The adrenaline made for a good night though the post-show energy crash was severe as well. I recently heard that The Jayhawks have NEVER missed a show. Bastards!
J: Did you ever consider to live in Europe for a longer time, as there's plenty of work here for you? What would be your favorite town/country for an extended stay?
S: For all of my travels, my favorite city remains New York City and I was so happy to move here nine years ago and don't plan on leaving anytime soon. That being said, I am so happy that I get to spend up to six months a year in Europe and may end up moving over there someday-- who knows? I do indeed like Amsterdam and am also a huge fan of Madrid. What can I say? I like big cities.
J: With The Dream Syndicate, you were part of The Paisley Underground Scene, what was that like? Did you play on double-bills, did you record together for projects, were you friends, are you still friends?
S: It was truly everything you expect from an actual "scene". Bands like The Bangs (later The Bangles), Salvation Army (later Three O'Clock), Rain Parade, Green On Red and The Long Ryders all played gigs together, wrote together, drank together and, in some cases, even had relationships together. For about 12 months we were all very tight and then drifted apart as the bands began to spend most of their time on the road-- success is truly the best way to "kill" a scene. But I am still friends with many of those people and we'll always have that special connection having spent such an important period of our lives together.
J: You're playing with The Miracle 3 now, named after the Miracles-album? Please, introduce the musicians to us, mentioning briefly what they have done before playing with you?
S: Linda Pitmon is the drummer and she played with Zuzu's Petals when she lived in Minneapolis and has since played with Amy Rigby, Freedy Johnston, Marty Willson-Piper and Russ Tolman, among others. Dave DeCastro is on bass and was in the fine band Health and Happiness Show and has also played with Butch Hancock, Amy Rigby, Richard Lloyd and many more. Jason Victor is the rookie-- I was the first person he toured and recorded with but he is now playing with soon-to-be Alt Country sensation Mary McBride. And yes, the name is a reference to the "Here Come The Miracles" album and was concocted to go along with that tour. And then it stuck. That's how those things go.
J: Everybody likes a little romantic story, did you first meet your partner Linda thanks to the music?
S: Ah, romantic stories. We did indeed meet thanks to the music-- her band Zuzu's Petals opened a show for me at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1992. We got along and stayed in touch but it wasn't until four years later that we began our musical and personal relationship. Gotta thank that booker at Maxwell's sometime.
J: Is there a favorite singer or musician you would like to share the stage with one day?
S: Well, I am sad to have missed the chance to play with John Cippolina before he died. He had considered coming to a Dream Syndicate show and joining us onstage (it would have been amazing) but couldn't get a ride to San Francisco. Crazy, right? Miles Davis would have been nice as well. I'd like to play with Bootsy Collins, John Fogerty, Ray Davies, Cecil Taylor and Bo Diddley. All at the same time!
J: What music have you been listening to lately, at home or maybe on a discman while traveling, just for fun?
S: I really liked the last Wilco album, one that keeps getting better and better. The new Nick Cave is great as is the latest by Calexico. And someone just gave me the last Sparks album. Wow! What a freaky record! Always glad to hear people take chances and go somewhere they haven't gone before.
J: Besides music, is there anything else you're really interested in?
S: Thank goodness, YES! Books, movies, cooking, eating, traveling, hanging with my friends, baseball, random and aimless walking. Those are some of my favorites. And I'm a newspaper junkie-- if I don't spend at least 15 minutes with a newspaper each day I get a little cranky.
J: When I look at your extended, interesting tourdiaries, I conclude that you must love writing. Do you ever think about putting your experiences in a book, maybe giving advice to starting musicians?
S: I would like to write a book someday but I don't think it would be an advice book for musicians-- there are some things that are better to learn on your own-- half the fun is making the mistakes and figuring out the right path in your own time. But a novel would be good if I ever learn the discipline or have the time-- it takes four to five minutes to write a great song (and longer to write a good one) but a novel just might take a little longer.
J: Your guitars, electric and acoustic, look like long-time "buddies" who have travelled the world many times with you, please tell us about them?
S: I guess they're my buddies but, man, do I beat them up. I have had the same Takemine acoustic since 1995 and my Telecaster has been with me since 1984. Crazy! And I have a few others waiting in the wings but those are the favorites. I should be nice to my buddies and get them some new cases.
J: You're living in New York City, were you home on September 11th? Have things been different for you since that horrible day, like extra security changing your routine or places you rather don't go anymore because of memories, for example?
S: Well, like most New Yorkers, I still go about my business the same as before. Sure there are more cops around and you get the feeling of higher security but I don't plan my day or travels with any more fear than I had before. But there are always reminders, especially since the site of the World Trade Center is across the street from one of my favorite record stores and it is still a shock to stand where the buildings once were and ponder what happened on that day and how life has changed ever since. I think the fear and trepidation is worldwide and not NYC specific.
J: What was the best question ever, that somebody asked you in an interview?
S: Can I buy you a drink?