Steve Stevens

Moxy at the Roxy
Steve Stevens
Steve Stevens: Hristo Shindov.

Steve Stevens earned stardom as Billy Idol’s songwriting partner and guitarist in the ’80s. The Grammy-winning New York City native has also recorded with other major artists and released his own solo albums. A forthcoming album with Idol, State Line, is from a concert filmed at the Hoover Dam, and Stevens is planning a solo EP. A remastered and expanded edition of 1982’s Billy Idol is now available (see review in this month’s “Hit List”) with a remix of “White Wedding” and the previously unreleased 1982 concert, Live from the Roxy.

When Billy Idol’s manager, Bill Aucoin, suggested you two meet and work together, were you skeptical because of your different musical backgrounds?
Actually, I was not skeptical. The office sent over a copy of the third Gen X album, and that was the first record that Billy’s producer, Keith Forsey, worked on. There was obviously a progression from their first record to their third. I saw those textural things and that direction. Then they sent me over Billy’s first EP, Don’t Stop, which had just been mixed but not released. It was completely different from Gen X. I thought, “If that’s where he’s looking to go, I’ll go with him.” It kept with what was happening, guitar-wise, at that time; though I’m a product of ’70s guitar players, by that time I was listening to a lot of XTC, the Police, Elvis Costello, and new wave. I thought, “I could make this work.”

How important was Forsey as the producer?
Keith was great. We all had something to prove, and he afforded me the opportunity to learn as we went. I really didn’t have any recording experience. A lot of other producers, if I wasn’t getting the take, would’ve said, “Okay, we’re good for the day” and after dinner would’ve called Steve Lukather or somebody (laughs)! But Keith never did that. He encouraged me to find my way. He trusted me. I’m so grateful for that. He’s a great guy, and we owe so much to him.

What do you think of Billy Idol now?
Even though it was recorded in Los Angeles, it’s so obvious to me how it’s such a New York/Manhattan nightlife record. Things like “Hole in the Wall” really represented our existence. On “Shooting Stars,” I was influenced by Andy Summers and his delay – even (Paul Reynolds from) A Flock of Seagulls. And we all loved chorus pedals in the ’80s (laughs)! “Come On, Come On” is very much a rock-and-roll song influenced by glam – Sweet and T. Rex.

Which guitars did you play on the album?
When I met Billy, he took me to buy a Les Paul. We found a ’54 that had been converted, and it was a hell of a guitar. It had a Tune-O-Matic bridge and PAFs. I don’t remember how much we paid, but that’s the only guitar I played on that whole first record. It got cracked and beat up so many times. I eventually gifted the pickups to Eddie Van Halen.

What other gear did you use?
Fortunately, I still own the amp I used – a 1971 Marshall Super Lead 100 with a matching cabinet that I got from a guy who had a rehearsal studio. At the time, I was building pedalboards to make money, so I traded him a pedalboard for the amp. For effects, I used a Boss compressor, CE-2 chorus, and a [ProCo] Rat.

Was Live from the Roxy recorded for a radio broadcast?
I wasn’t even aware there was a 24-track recording of that show! I was surprised to find out we had that in the archives. It may have gone out for radio or something. We did so much promotion back then it was hard to keep tabs on everything. We were going on sheer adrenaline, and it sounds like a whole lot of determination! I remember at that time, at the Roxy – which is a pretty small place – I had my two 100-watt Marshalls and two cabs. We were loud, and shooting from the hip. It sounds like a young band out to prove something, so I’m amazed it sounds as cohesive as it does.

This article originally appeared in VG’s November 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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