PENSEYEVIEW
 
Chris Steele
Submitted by admin on Sat, 03/06/2010 - 01:06. drummer Richie Frieman rock Todays Feature trevor hall

It’s not every day that I get to write about an artist I feel like I actually know personally – so I take some real pleasure in introducing you to Mr. Chris Steele. We’ve hung out with Chris a few times, first when he played with Trevor Hall at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore, followed by a video shoot with the group at Sound Garden in Fell’s Point, as well as more musical reviews at Sonar and 8x10. For those of you that don’t know, Steele is a fundamental part of the Trevor Hall Band makeup along with Trevor and bass player super Mario – playing both the drum kit and… the “box”.

Those of you who have caught a live show know exactly what the “box” is – an instrument that can rock a packed show with a full band and if necessary take it down an acoustic notch at the same time. The “box” is actually two cajons - Peruvian hand drums made out of wood. Whether on the kit or cajons, Chris says “My drumming is an expression of me. I’m a happy guy, a deep guy, a passionate guy, and a very honest guy who F----s up sometimes. I think I’m a happy drummer coming from a deep place with a ton of passion that’s honest and full of mistakes!”

No doubt you can tell Steele’s demeanor and personality are awesome – about as remarkable as his live performance. He says “I think in day to day life, social settings put restrictions on the way we act or the things we say. When I’m on stage I get to shake all that off and just be me. The language of drumming lets me express deeper emotions and feelings that words can’t describe. What a wonderful thing to have! You can expect me to give my all and sweat my ass off at every show.” As a guy who has seen Chris Steele, Trevor Hall and Super Mario play five times in the past year – I’m telling you now – that show will be one of the best you’ve ever seen. Read on for some great answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Chris Steele

Pen's Eye View (PEV): What was your inspiration for getting into music?

Chris Steele: My Dad was/is a drummer and I would see his band play and it just made me feel good all over. They were a wedding band but to me at the age of four they might as well have been Led Zeppelin themselves. My oldest brother Steve always had a band and I couldn’t wait to get good enough to join his band.

PEV: What kind of music were you listening to as you were growing up?

CS: Steve turned me on to Zeppelin and I couldn’t stop listening. Their drummer John Bonham still today inspires me when I hear him. Then I went on to Rush. It’s a typical progression for a lot of drummers. I would come home from school and put on my headphones and learn all their drum parts note for note and play along. Physically I was in my basement but mentally I was playing in front of a sold out arena. Then a switch happened around my senior year of high school and Jazz music took me over.

PEV: How would you describe your music?

CS: My drumming is an expression of me. I’m a happy guy, a deep guy, a passionate guy, and a very honest guy who F----s up sometimes. I think I’m a happy drummer coming from a deep place with a ton of passion that’s honest and full of mistakes!

PEV: What can fans expect from a live show featuring Chris Steele?

CS: I think in day to day life, social settings put restrictions on the way we act or the things we say. When I’m on stage I get to shake all that off and just be me. The language of drumming lets me express deeper emotions and feelings that words cant describe. What a wonderful thing to have! You can expect me to give my all and sweat my ass off at every show.

PEV: What goes through your head the moment you step onstage?

CS: I always take a moment before I play to show gratitude for the amazing opportunity I get night after night to express myself in a way that brings other people joy! Then I let my mind get quiet. The quiet place is where I can create. Its still a work in progress but I can remember in college my biggest hang up as a drummer was all the negative chatter in my head. “Your slowing down”, “The sax player thinks you suck”, “Is the chorus coming up next?” “Damn did I leave my car unlocked?” “I hope I don’t F up, shoot I’m going to blow it, oh damnnnnn!” I went to my teacher about this at the time, Peter Erskine, and he gave some great advice. He said “The samurai warrior knows he’s going to die so he fights on without fear.” So, when I play I know I’m going to make mistakes and so I play without fear. Low and behold the mistakes come less often. This is just one of the many life lessons that had been reflected in my growth as a drummer for sure.

PEV: What are the best parts of “life on the road”?

CS: Every time we get on the road it’s like a rebirth. “This time I’m going to read more” “This time I’m going to cut out caffeine” “This time our set will be different!” The same thing happens when I get home from a long tour. Having a life at home and a life on the road gives me the opportunity to reflect on each one as well. I see the value more in my relationships when I step away from them. Life never gets stale and stagnant when you are always in motion. The other best part of touring is all the great beautiful people you meet! They’re everywhere and how lucky I am to meet them.

PEV: Worst?

CS: Lack of sleep can be tough and getting sick seems to be unavoidable.

PEV: Tell us what you remember about your first live performance? How did it go?

CS: I was ten years old or so and I sat in on the song Mustang Sally at a restaurant where my teacher was playing. My whole body was shaking with fear but at the same time adrenaline flooded my body. I’m sure I sucked big time but it was a fear I faced and survived. This was another great life lesson mirrored in my drumming path. Drumming has always been more than just hitting something. I didn’t know it at the time but it’s a series of obstacles to overcome just like in life. It prepares you for happy living and allows you to observe your own growth.

PEV: Tell us about working with PEV favorite and early feature, Trevor Hall.

CS: Trevor is a true artist with an overwhelming drive to spread positive energy. I feel so blessed to be a part of it. As a fan I would be at his shows anyways, lucky for me he lets me get on stage. He also lets me express myself. This is the greatest gift a leader can give his band members.

PEV: What is it like touring with him?

CS: It’s as smooth as organic apple butter! We get along beautifully. We also have some truly deep conversations. I eat better because of him and I look at things differently. He and Mario, our bass player, are truly amazing people to be around. They’ve both helped me grow beyond my own capabilities and I am forever grateful

PEV: Obviously you are extremely talented with the drums, but you also play, for the lack of a better term, “a box.” Please explain the box to our readers.

CS: I play two cajons. These are Peruvian hand drums made out of wood. I just kind of fell in to it about 8 years ago. As a freelance musician in LA I needed to work as much as possible. Drummers don’t get to play the acoustic shows as much because the drum set can be too loud. I started bringing the box to some shows and it went over well. I started to evolve my own sound and behold something original came out of it. Now I can play more gigs because I have that option to play acoustic shows as well. Anyone that’s ever tried to play music for a living knows that the more you bring to the table the more chance you have of paying your rent. I guess it’s like that in any career music or not.

PEV: Is there an artist out there that you have not worked with that you would like to?

CS: I wouldn’t mind playing with Sting.

PEV: Tell us one thing that would surprise us about Chris Steele.

CS: I’m pregnant with twins!

PEV: What is one word that would describe Chris Steele’s music?

CS: ChrisSteelesMusic!

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, away from music?

CS: I love the ocean and I love the outdoors. When I’m at home I’m always at the beach either running, body surfing, rollerblading, throwing a Frisbee, or just sitting there. I need it for my mental and physical health!!! That’s right I did say rollerblading.

PEV: Is there an up-and-coming artist that we should all be looking out for?

CS: Umm… I’m a huge fan of Knaan. There’s also this girl named Leah Felder who will be worth checking out when her album hits in the near future. She sings with more soul than makes sense. Oh yeah, and I love Keaton Simmons.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to your career?

CS: They’ve always been extremely supportive. My Mom has always been aware of my dream and allowed me to pursue it relentlessly. My Stepdad would watch TV on mute while I practiced drums for hours on end after school without a single complaint. Things are going better for me now but there have been years and years of struggling and they have stood by me the whole time. I’m lucky for that. Now they come to shows and I can see that they’re extremely proud and happy for me.

PEV: So, what is next for you?

CS: Honestly I don’t spend too much time on what’s next. I’ve spent many years trying to nail down what tomorrow should bring and I’m always way off the mark. It’s almost like something or someone knows what’s best for me. Call it God, call it the Universe, whatever it is, it has way more wisdom than me. I’ll leave it in their hands. I know tonight I’m playing a show in Alta, Wyoming.