For the past 36 years keyboardist extraordinaire Steve Nieve has been best known for his collaboration with Elvis Costello. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 along with Elvis Costello and his band The Attractions. The multi--talented musician has several solo albums under his belt and has even written the score for an original opera, Welcome To The Voice, which was performed at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris with Sting singing the lead. Tall Ullys is the lead singer of, Tall Ulysse, one of Paris' coolest alternative rock bands. They're touring coast-to-coast with gigs scheduled at both The Standard, East Village(part of the Annie O Music Series) and The Standard, Hollywood.
STANDARD CULTURE: Steve, you are a classically trained pianist but at the tender age of 19 you somehow found yourself playing keyboard in what would be one of the most influential rock bands in history. Please tell us the story of how this happened? STEVE NIEVE: I had a wonderful time at the Royal College of Music, studying piano and composing. Nevertheless, I was constantly dreaming to be in a rock band. Each week when the Melody Maker and the New Musical Express came out, I spent my free time pouring over articles about Soft Machine, John Lennon, and Punk Rock. And one fateful Wednesday, I stumbled upon an advert: Stiff Records require keyboard player for Rocking Pop Combo. I applied for the audition, went at the appointed hour, played Alison and Less than Zero by ear on a Hammond Organ, first time I'd ever seen one. After my fifteen minutes I insisted to hang around and in the evening went to an Indian restaurant with Elvis before heading home. A nail-biting week or so later, I got the call, I got the post, and the rest is history...
Your newest album, ToGetHer, features collaborations with some very talented musicians. How did this record come about? STEVE NIEVE: My friends on ToGetHer are great musicians and I have collaborated with all of them previously. I am not a singer. As soon as I began to write the songs for ToGetHer, it became an exercise in style, to compose arrange and produce songs that would suit my friends voices and allow them to coexist in a natural cohesive way. I also wanted to work with young artists, with enormous talent, like Tall Ulyss, Joe Sumner, Harper Simon, their powerful energies transform my music in new and rewarding directions.
What’s your favorite adventure to date in your life as a musician? STEVE NIEVE: I have been very lucky to have so many musical adventures, performing with so many killer artists over the years. I would have to say that Welcome to the Voice at the Chatelet in Paris, directed by Muriel Teodori, with Sting and Sylvia Schwartz and the Orchestre de Paris, all the team, would be the top of my list.
Tall Ulyss, how does touring and playing with Steve differ from your experiences playing with your band, Tall Ulysse? TALL ULYSS: Steve came to see me at the end of one of my shows. Us working together is a very different frame of mind, a different mentality that I am used to. We are playing very different kinds of music too. In my project I evolve in a modern rock, metal fueled, electro/dubstep based environment. With Steve it's the research of the melody through minimalistic orchestration. All we need is piano and vocals. It's a light and melancholic energy where I can let my more gentle side express itself. He is THE best collaborator to have when it comes to duet and I know that whatever he decides to play I will have an amazing ground for my voice to be supported. When I am on stage with Tall Ulysse we are playing a music with samples and a clic which makes a lot of already defined paths and where precision is key. With Steve it's a wild world where anything can happen. He is a free spirited live musician that strives in changing waters.
On ToGetHer, you join Steve on the powerful song, “Save The World”. Tell us about the evolution of this song? TALL ULYSS: When Steve offered me the chance to be involved in ToGetHer I knew it would be a challenge on my part! The big question was "how can we merge universes so far apart into one cohesive idea?" The theme of the song really helped us. A grandiose ideal with a melancholic realization that we would all like to save the world but can't. We found a middle ground in the very eclectic world of rock! I brought the heavy drums, alternative rock vocals and grungy distortion, and he took care of that gorgeous rock and roll piano line, sensitive light pop vocal response and that classic Steve Nieve solo. Damn... how did we fit all this in one song?
You are both seasoned travelers, what secret travel item do you always bring with you to help make your journeys easier? STEVE NIEVE: Muriel Teodori. I always purchase her the seat next to mine. The flying hours seem to go by in minutes. Plus, I always have a much deeper, passionate visit.
TALL ULYSS: I always carry my good luck bracelets on me that were offered by loved ones. That way they are always with me on stage, in a plane...
Whats up next for both of you? STEVE NIEVE: After performing Tender Moment with Elvis on the Tonight Show on October 28, my next goal is to live 2 months in Los Angeles and find a director to compose film music for.
TALL ULYSS: My own EP is now mixed by Roger Bechirian. I guess the next step is an agent and a label. Watch out!