Steve's Morse Code
John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, "Progressive World", October 2000
When Alice Cooper wrote "No More Mr.
Nice Guy" he probably hadn't heard of
Steve Morse. Born in Hamilton, Ohio on
28th July 1954, Steve Morse in a way
doesn't fit the stereotype of the "rock star,"
as he is without any doubt one of the nicest
chaps working in the rock'n roll circus. After
having been offered an interview by phone
prior to the commercial release of his Major
Impacts album I kind of "declined" the offer,
as I then knew Deep Purple would tour
Europe a couple of months later and to me
it would be much more interesting (and
fun!) to meet the man "in the flesh." The other interesting point
being that Deep Purple would perform with a huge symphonic
orchestra and with Ronnie James Dio as support. There was no way
a "phoner" could compensate for this.
The day prior to the interview, tour manager Colin Hart had
e-mailed the record company, saying my name would be on the
guestlist and the interview with Steve could go ahead as planned.
Having been around a cool twenty years in the business I know I can
only be sure once the whole thing has happened, so when I arrived
at the venue and the lady behind the counter said my name was not
on the guestlist I had this voice inside my mind going: "oh no, say
it's not happening!" She let me go to the back of the venue though
and there I was introduced to a very nice chap who would pass the
message on to Colin. A mere ten minutes later and thanks to the
nice cooperation of Colin, I found myself in the possession of a
backstage pass, witnessing the soundcheck of Deep Purple and the
George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra from
Bucharest, Romania. My pass enabled me to
walk back and forth between the venue and the
backstage area, which also gave me the
opportunity to speak to Ronnie James Dio, who
guests on this tour, and also to Mickey Lee
Soule, keyboard player with Dio's band Elf, with
Rainbow, and now keyboard tech for Jon Lord.
What a small world! During the soundcheck I
witnessed a collaboration between Morse and
the orchestra that later that night would be
performed for the very first time ever and called
"Guitarstring"! After the soundcheck I
introduced myself to Steve. He asked if I wanted to grab something
to eat and, believe it or not, I was invited to sit at the same table as
Steve, Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Jon Lord! I mean growing up
with Purple during my teens and now sitting with my all-time idols
was made possible by the newcomer in the band. Thanks again
Steve, I owe you one (or two, or three, or …)
After dinner we looked for a quiet room so we could talk without
being disturbed. In the middle of the interview Steve suddenly saw
he only had twenty minutes left before he had to be on stage so we
left it for the time being. The final part of the interview was
conducted after the concert which added a couple of more
questions. I went to the gents only to find myself standing next to
Jon Lord. I pinched myself, headed to the acquired room and fired
my first question to a relaxed and enthusiastic Steve Morse.
The first actual band you put together were the Dixie Grits, which
through name changes became Dixie Dregs and then Dregs, and is in
fact a band that still exists. What was the initial idea once you kicked
off with Dixie Grits? What was the ambition?
Actually my first band was called The Plague who mainly played
cover material. The Dixie Grits was the first time we wrote our own
material, which was progressive rock like Yes, to which we added
some weird influences such as bluegrass because it sounded like
fun, and that's what's important: that people have a good time both
as an audience but also as a performer. In no way was there a
market for this kind of music. This happened in the south, in
Georgia, in the late sixties but there was no market and I mean
NONE. We could have a free concert and have people come, which
is what we did normally. The most we ever charged I think was 25
cents at a coffee house. If you look at my career then you have the
proof that I have never aimed at a certain market.
Still you suddenly get a recording deal with Capricorn records so
there must have been some kind of market anyway, as I don't see a
record company giving you a contract merely for the color of your
eyes? Certainly not way back then!
Capricon were a pretty progressive company way back then. I mean
they went from Otis Redding to the Allman Brothers; they had Martin
Mull, the comedian, who was one of the first of the new era of
modern comedians. They liked artistic things, they wanted to do
something different. They didn't spend a fortune on us simply
because they had to be realistic about it. They sold some records,
not a bunch but they sold some!
Aren't you amazed by the sheer volume of output by the Dregs?
No, not really, because I write new music all the time. One time I did
add up the number of records that I played on, which was over
twenty, and that surprised me as I didn't know there were so many.
I'm also not surprised that the band still exists, as there have always
been a lot of aficionado types out there and it's always fun to play
for them. We just get together and play. Now if we were to support
our families doing this it would be a lot harder.
When I interviewed Jordan Rudess not so long ago he told me that it's
his biggest wish to record a Dregs album with you in the band.
Apparently, although being in the band himself, he never got around
recording with you. Do you think his dream might come true one day?
I'm sure we will. Jordan is an incredible musician. It's just a matter
of time. But let's make one thing clear: we don't rotate our lives
around anything really. There's no master plan of boosting our
career or anything like that. We are musicians and when we have
some time off and we like doing something together, then we will
whether it does something for a career or not. I don't remember
thinking about that much in my life!
Was your involvement with the band Kansas a result of your guesting
on Steve Walsh's solo album Schemer Dreamer ?
They lived in Atlanta at the time and
so did the Dregs. Steve would come to
see us play and we would go over to
see him perform. He just wanted to
have some people that he knew.
That's all it was really. When I joined
Kansas as a permanent member, what
I wanted to do was to write new music
which kind of contained all of the
"old" elements of the Kansas music
that I loved, such as lots of instrumental passages and polyphony,
kind of like Yes. That was my idea. Unfortunately at the time the
record company and the management had a big influence. They
kind of said: "if you want to make this record then we want to hear
some songs which can be played on the radio." So from the
beginning I was kind of pushed out of the band by them at the same
time that I was part of the band by my writing and by the fact that
we all liked playing together. So it was a strange thing. And I ended
up leaving the band as I found that I could not function as well as
somebody else could under these circumstances. The presure from
the record companies to write hit singles was just too much for me. I
mean, I can write music and who knows that music might turn into a
hit single, but don't put the pressure on me demanding me to write a
hit single. What exactly is a hit single?
Come Deep Purple. Did you at one point feel like you were only the
second choice, replacing Joe Satriani in a way?
The band had booked a tour in Japan and suddenly Ritchie
Blackmore quit, so it was like "what do we do now?" I believe
Purple's manager talked to the promoter in Japan to discuss this,
and he requested that either Joe Satriani or Jeff Beck - in other
words, a well-known guitarist in his own right - would step into
Ritchie's shoes. They were kind of looking for a guitarist who could
fill big venues on his own, let alone as a member of Deep Purple.
So in the end they opted for Satriani, as that was who the promoter
wanted at that time.
Normally the band would look for a replacement close to who they
know, but this time it was at very short notice. Right now, if anyone
from the band would quit then the rest would look among their
circle of friends to find the right person. Don't forget that the
personality of someone is a huge part in the success of working
together. So this line up of Purple got together by an outside force.
Of course Satriani is a great professional guitar player. He can pretty
much make anything sound great. It's like how can you lose with
Joe Satriani playing guitar? It takes some time before you actually
sense that the chemistry is going to work. They weren't writing any
music together, either. So in a way that collaboration might have
gone on for a while, be it not that for this tour the main idea was
"performance." Who knows if it would have lasted if they came to
the songwriting part. Songwriting is really where the chemistry
comes in. Everyone can sit there and listen to someone's idea and
say "oh yeah, that's a great idea," and then inside their head they're
saying "boy, I don't like that idea but I'm gonna be nice and say I
do." That's what usually happens in a polite company. What a group
needs to do is say: "there's something about that idea that bugs me,
but I'm not afraid to tell you," [but said] in such a way that it doesn't
make you angry, but opens your eyes and makes it constructive to
work on it even more so to obtain a better end result. That's what
successful partnerships are made of, yet it's the hardest thing to test
out, because in an audition you can't find that unless it's a miracle.
I guess it was Purple's manager who contacted my manager and
that was all due to Roger seeing me perform live. If you see
someone play live then you get a pretty good idea of where they're
going, what they're capable of. The rest of the band heard me play
on recordings by the Dregs. So again it was a shot in the dark and
we all agreed to do just four shows and during that time we would
find out something. The rehearsal the day before the first show, well
I had some tapes to learn things, so I pretty knew much of the
material when I got there. At the end of the first day of rehearsal we
knew it would work because, without even trying to, we had written
a new part for the set to bring in a drum solo. The musicality of Jon
Lord really blew me away. Roger instantly could organize musical
thoughts. He kind of held the band together as far as organisation is
concerned, and Ian Paice felt so great, so easy going; he had swing
in his play as well as great rock'n roll, whilst Ian Gillan wanted me
to be in the band as opposed to push me out of the way so it
instantly felt good. Just wonderful!
Being an American, you must know that Led Zeppelin has always
been the band in the States to which Deep Purple kind of played
second fiddle, if you like.
Sure, Deep Purple was more of an underground type of band than
Led Zeppelin. But they always had a good reputation, they have
always been a good band that you always wanted to go and see, but
you were unable to see them because they never came [laughs].
Going to your latest solo album Major Impacts ,
there's nothing Purple on that one. Wasn't the Purple
impact high enough for you to include on this disc?
I have enough early impacts to do at least two
albums. I stayed away from Purple on this first
album because it would have been too obvious to
play those hard riffs backed wth some loud Hammond. Furthermore I
didn't have the time to search for the right tone like Ritchie's. In fact,
I don't think I'll ever get exactly the same tone as him, as he's a very
unique player, but I'd like to do it, for sure.
When Magna Carta approached you with this idea, did you delve into
your record collection in order to make the right shortlist and then
maybe analyze the most representative track from a technical point of
Well, the record company just let me do whatever I wanted. They
said that's the idea and I said I loved it, let's go. I told them they
could come over to my studio any time and listen to what I recorded,
but I didn't want to send them any tapes. Nobody ever came to my
studio as they trusted me and really let me go. For my own purposes
and challenges I use my one electric guitar for everything, just trying
to change the sound by using different pick-ups and different amps. I
also used a twelve string and an acoustic guitar for certain parts.
One of the other limitations that I put onto myself was that I would
not study anything. I would not listen to the artists after I decided
which ones I would do, that I would just do it all from memory.
That's because I wanted to get the influence not what they sound
like. If you listen to The Byrds thing you'd say it's very remeniscent of
The Byrds because there's this twelve string doing this melody line.
In the George Harrison thing the guitar sounds very much like
Harrison's guitar, you know? Things like the Clapton tune I tried to
base on how I felt when I saw Cream play live in their heydays. Just
the feeling of great freedom and soloing and just live energy, it was
that kind of feel that I wanted to capture. The same with the Beck
and Eric Johnson tune. It was just the feeling of how they played
which was the inspiration. One of the first ones I had on my shortlist,
which I thought would be very easy to do was Santana. However,
the song I came up with sounded so "tried," I simply couldn't do it.
Maybe I'll try something else next time because there certainly will
be a second "impacts" album. Maybe the Mountain thing is also
pretty obvious to me yet it still sounds rather different.
When I listen to the album, to me "The White Light" track, inspired by
John McLaughlin, sounds to me as having most soul.
Then there's a section that kind of lets you hear mandolins, reminding
me of Italy.
Those are not mandolins but guitars, played in the same way like
McLaughlin did on "Lotus On Irish Streams" from, I believe, his first
solo album [No, it came from the Inner Mountain Flame album by
Mahavishnu Orchestra, as released in 1971 - Bobo]. That's where he
did the picking like that, like a mandolin. I did an acoustic type John
McLaughlin song because I tried to do many Mahavishnu type songs
with the Dregs so I thought I'd better not do that on my own as well.
Being such a great fan of McLaughlin and Mahavishnu how pleased
were you when Jerry Goodman stepped in as a Dregs member?
Very happy of course. We went on tour about two months ago and
when we were driving in the car, Jerry would still be telling me
stories about John and Mahavishnu. It's fun!
Were there certain guitarists who you wanted to tackle but who
seemed to be too difficult in the end?
Right. Yeah, some of them were hard to get across. Say Chet Atkins
as he was an influence as well. I tried Chuck Berry and I couldn't
come up with anything that didn't sound like a true rip off. I mean,
Chuck Berry played three chord songs so how could he still come up
with something completely different? I tried this as a first song, and,
as I write fairly quickly, when it doesn't come spontaneously, I stop
altogether. I also tried Ted Nugent, who's a big influence on me. I
simply couldn't come up with what is definitive about Ted Nugent to
me, because he played so differently on "Cat Scratch Fever" than on
"Amboy Dukes," who are pretty different stylistically, so I still haven't
tied that together. Jim McCarty, the guitarist with Cactus, I liked a lot
as well. I also listen to the other guitarist in Purple, Tommy Bolin,
because my brother, who's a drummer in our band, told me I should
check him out. He said I already sound like him, which I find
interesting. Again I can't really put my finger on what it really is.
By doing this Major Impacts album don't you get extra respect for the
"older" musicians who had to do with what was available at the time
as opposed to the digital age of today?
In a way people had more technical abilities in the sixties than they
have today. In those days it was easier to have your own voice
because there were not ten thousand other bands around. Record
companies were picking up new talent launching their careers as
opposed to saying "let's go sign 100 bands this month and throw 'em
all against the wall to see if anyone will stick!" I mean, in those days
maybe they had 2 or 3 channels on the television; it was a time
where disk jockeys would pick what they wanted to play based on
how it made them feel. They would introduce the band and explain
who it was each time they played a record. It was just a different
time. I went to see concerts where the Dave Brubeck Jazztrio would
play before Janis Joplin, followed by The Isley Brothers, then Jimi
Hendrix and then Led Zeppelin. All on the same day. Today you
have like "death metal day" where all the bands look alike and
In the sixties musicians really had to be original and talented as they
had no examples to follow. A guy like Jimi Hendrix might have
picked up a thing or two on the way, but his way of playing guitar was
unique in the entire world. Today everybody can buy instruction
videos, interactive CD-ROMS, follow master classes on Internet, go to
music high school. Now you can learn every lick in the universe. How
difficult is it today to remain original?
I don't know because I do lead a sheltered life in a lot of ways. I
don't immerse myself in everything new that comes out, and I live
away from the big city. I'm never part of what's cool or hot at the
moment. I live pretty isolated from being cool. So it gives me every
opportunity to sound exactly like myself. Trying to be myself might
not necessarily sound interesting to a guy who's trying to make big
bucks in the record business, but for me as a musician, to keep my
own identity, it works great!
So in a way this works out perfectly for you because, once a tour
starts, you already know you'll be back at your isolated place after a
while and once you're at home you are looking towards a new tour in
the future. So this certainly keeps the balance level at all times.
Life on the road is pretty isolated as well. You are surrounded by the
same small group of people. The only other people you meet are
the bands that perform as a support. The only new music you get is
these demos that people keep giving to you. They usually come up
to you and say: "well I did this demo three years ago and it sounds
really crap!" So why the hell do they give it to me? Record
companies never listen to me, so they're giving it to the wrong
person and they should keep on doing what they're happy with.
They shouldn't go around handing out demos for the next three
years and then call everyone assholes when no one gives them a
Don't you take a portable computer on the road with you?
I have it set up at my hotel room right now to record ideas. In fact,
I've improved it so I can store it on those 250 MB removable discs. It
will hold enough material like an idea, not the entire arrangement,
but as soon as I get home I have plenty of material to work on.
Major Impacts is not your first encounter with Magna Carta, as you
already did two songs for the Yes tribute and two for the Rush tribute.
Didn't they ask you to do "Tarkus" for their ELP tribute as well?
I got a rough demo of what they wanted me to do, but all I could
hear was Emerson. All I could hear were keyboard riffs. I tried them
on guitar but it didn't sound right, it didn't impress me as being as
good as on organ. Sometimes you can do things on guitar that work,
things that originally weren't written for guitar, but to me this ELP
thing really didn't work.
It would be like asking Jon Lord to do a Hammond version of a Jimi
Exactly! And in the case of ELP, because it was such a big
centrepiece, there was no way I could do it.
In the end did you check out what guitar player Marc Bonilla did on
the "Tarkus" track?
No I didn't. In fact I haven't heard it simply because Magna Carta
didn't send me a copy of the album [loud laughs]. I never go to
record stores as I get depressed there. Especially their hype of "this
is the coolest album of the moment" is something which makes you
puke. I mean they're leaving so many people out.
Don't you feel that current bands are helping each other more than
ever before? I mean, I never heard of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and
Uriah Heep guesting on each other's albums in the seventies. Yet now
members of Dream Theater and King's X and Shadow Gallery, etc…
etc… they all help on each other's albums.
I think the key here has to be the invention of the ADAT. The second
reason is staying in a circle of semi-starving artists. People get paid
for what they do but they don't get paid enough so that they could
stop working altogether [laughs]. So sometimes you get this call
saying "I'll give you so much money if you play so many tunes on
this album," which is much more interesting, instead of "start a new
band, come up with a concept, write everything, record it, produce
it, and starve on the road for three years." Now they come up with a
little bit of money for a small contribution and you look whether at
all you have some free time on your hands and you just do it. And
then an ADAT arrives in the mail and you just do your thing and the
next you know, the money's in the mail, too. There are so many
good musicians around nowadays and with the computer formats
they can all be heard on one project or another so it would be a
waste not using them.
As a guitarist you're also very much interested in the technical aspect
of it all, whether it's guitars, amps or even the recording part of the
process. Can you still enjoy listening to music or are you constantly
analyzing each release to know what amps have been used, what kind
of mike was used, what type of effects, etc…
It depends. If it's done very well I won't analyze it the first time
around and just enjoy it. If it's not done very well I just can't help but
analyze it. I don't know how the mind works, I really don't know. It's
a little bit of a curse sometimes. If there's something that bugs you, I
will try to find what the problem is. My nature, my personality will
simply say to me "why am I not enjoying this?"
You are currently performing with a philharmonic orchestra. How
different is it working with an orchestra that size?
Well, there's a lot of changes we have to make. First of all, my rig is
much smaller and less loud, on stage anyway. Whether it sounds
that way upfront depends on the soundman. I make my equipment
as low as possible so you can easily see the orchestra behind us and
during the concerto I'm actually sitting down during certain parts to
take away the attention. The timing is the big issue. But we very
much got that solved. During the concerto there are long periods
where I don't have to play so when I have to step in again I feel like
I'm not warmed up to do the job properly. On the parts especially
where Ian Paice is playing it easy to keep time together.
Imagine if there were only either electric or
acoustic guitars in the world. Which would
Oh boy. It depends whether at all I would
have to perform. If I was to perform in front
of a large audience, then I'd chose the
electric guitar. If I was only to play on an
intimate level then I'd settle for acoustic.
Anyway, acoustic guitar becomes an
electric guitar once you start performing in
front of a large audience because whether
at all you're using certain pickups or a
microphone for one reason or another it
has to go through speakers so it becomes electric anyway. You can
have more dynamics with an acoustic guitar just because it's a clear
tone as long as you don't compress it. But with an electric guitar you
have a huge amount of dynamics there if you use it.
By now Steve gets a little stressed out because there's only twenty
minutes left before he has to hit the stage and we simply forgot to
look at our watches. So next up was watching Purple perform with
the George Eonescu Philharmonic Orchestra with Miller Anderson
performing the wonderful "Pictured Within," Ronnie James Dio
doing "Sitting In A Dream" and "Love Is All" (amongst others), and
then Deep Purple delivering songs like "Ted The Mechanic," "Fools"
and a brand new Morse composition called "Guitarstring," which
they performed there and then for the very first time.
Suddenly it's the end of the show and Steve performs kind of a mini
impression of his Major Impacts album, bringing in riffs from "Sweet
Home Alabama," Zeppelin, and The Stones in order to finally hit the
well-known opening chords of "Smoke On The Water." Before you
know it, it's all over, and the houselights go on. Once in the
backstage area, I wait a little until it's OK for Steve to continue the
interview. This time we do the remaining bit in the Deep Purple
dressing room, whilst Roger Glover and Jon Lord are entertaining a
fifteen year old handicapped guy who was born without any arms.
The kind, human approach, plus the fact that each individual
member of the band takes time to talk to, sign autographs for, and
have pictures taken with the guy, really astounds me. The only other
time I ever met the band was backstage in Brussels many, many
years ago when Ritchie was still in the band. Then they wouldn't
even come out of their dressing rooms to speak to the fanclub
president! Now Roger offers this guy a beer, whilst Jon Lord looks
how this youngster lights his cigarette, whilst holding a lighter
between his toes! You could see it on this guy's face that this was the
best night he ever had. When I asked him how he got to like Deep
Purple, he answered that in the area he was from they played good
rock music instead of stupid house and techno. So there are still
some good places on earth!
So I ask Steve about this new song called "Guitarstring" which was
rumoured as having been written five minutes prior to the show.
I brought in some of the parts today and all of the other parts I
brought in yesterday and I was still writing parts right before we got
here. We finished the tour in South America and there was a tune
called "Night Meets Light" and it was orchestrated by a genius guy
from England who played on it, his name being Graham Prescott,
who played on the live version of it. I decided that whilst the
concerto is so laidback, we needed something more uptempo. The
idea was for everyone to do a kind of solo thing, so I made a very
short, high energy piece on which I would use the orchestra just a
Once you joined Deep Purple, was it understood that you would help
out with the writing as well?
That was the understanding from the beginning. They wanted
somebody that could do the writing with them and have the right
chemistry. That's the hardest thing really as there are so many good
guitar players out there but very few have the right personality, the
Looking at both studio albums you've recorded with Purple so far, all
songs are credited to the entire band, although I'm sure certain ideas
came from just one person.
A bunch of them came from guitar riffs. What happens is Ian Paice
and I would sit around and jam. I would come up with a certain riff,
which could be used as a verse, and some other stuff which might
work as a chorus. We record those jams a lot and when Roger or the
other guys hear those jams they come up to us and say "hey, what
about that idea or that jam? We certainly can make a song out of
that." So Ian would try and come up with the melody and some
words and then the other guys might think they need a bridge
section and would take it from there. So most of the times the main
idea comes from me and Ian Paice jammin'. Usually I come up with
two different ideas simultaneously because it's boring to do the
same thing over and over you know.
Can you tell me something more about a song called "The Turtle
Island Shuffle" performed by Dick Pimple. Apparently that should be
Purple in disguise with you being credited here as a certain Mo St.
Jon shuffles letters around from people's names so Steve Morse
became Mo St. Severe during the Purpendicular sessions in 1996.
The song was actually released.
They released it? Oh my god! I think it was initially recorded for the
Going back to Major Impacts , in the closing
section for "Prognosis" you refer to it as being
very Yes-like, whereas I hear a lot of Pat Metheny
Because of the vocal? When Pat started working
along with this Brazilian percussionist, they
would sing along with the melody, which is very
close to what you hear in "Prognosis." I'm convinced Jon Anderson
could do something very similar. When I listened back to it
afterwards, I was also amazed it sounded very much like Pat
Metheny with this Brazilian guy. Metheny has also been a big
influence on my playing. Pat and I are friends. We went to the same
Being a great Yes fan, weren't you a bit jealous when they took Trevor
Rabin on board? Didn't you think that Yes with Steve Morse could
have written better, more complex material in the style of Close To
The Edge ?
I know Trevor, and I could never have done what he has done. The
guy is a genius and thanks to him, they reached an audience which
otherwise might never have come across Yes in the first place.
Trevor is an amazing guy. I watched him work, I know him, I think
he's a brilliant musician. I saw him put together a demo using
samples of Jon Anderson's voice, then putting it through a sampling
machine and then play the demo that he wrote so you would hear
Jon Anderson sing in words that didn't make sense as Trevor had
sampled them. He's a master of so many disciplines and then again
you look at Steve Howe and he's totally different. But you have to
love Steve Howe because he's original and very different. Steve is
the main reason why I picked up classical guitar in the first place.
He also plays on one of the Dregs albums. When he was still part of
Asia he once came to my farm in Georgia when they were on tour.
He's a really fearless guy who wants to give everything a try.
Do you think you might collaborate with John Petrucci in the future?
We're already doing it. We have already written a couple of tunes
together but the difficulty is finding time because he's constantly
touring with Dream Theater and I'm on the road with Purple. There
was a Dregs and Dream Theater tour in Florida and I invited John
over to my place and we wrote and recorded some stuff together
knowing we were going to do an album. It will be intense guitar
stuff! As far as other musicians are concerned, John was a little
pissed off by other Dream Theater members collaborating on Dream
Theater-offshoot projects, so I don't think there will be any DT
members on our project, although obviously we both love the guys
because they are amongst the very best musicians around! We
definately will be looking for people who can be very low profile
because we want all the attention to go to the guitars. The nice
thing is that we're not with a major record company and thus don't
have major recording budgets. We simply have this idea, talk to
independent labels about it, and once they're interested we just do
it. I see an album as nice to do and an artistic outlet but I can't really
see records as a steady income.
I believe John Petrucci is also involved in recording with a classical
orchestra, together with Jordan Rudess?
Yeah, Jordan is a great orchestrator. Jordan is really amazing. John
is a fantastic guitarist, he's the most disciplined, most perfectionist.
Eric Johnson is that same way too but in a different style of course.
John is an electric guitar virtuoso.
You were nominated no fewer than six times for a Grammy, yet you
never won any of them. Which category were you nominated in and
why do you think you never won.
Each time I was nominated in the category "best rock instrumental"
and I lost to people like Paul McCartney, Flock of Seagulls when
they were big, even The Police. You can't win something like a
Grammy without being a household name. If these guys ever wrote
an instrumental tune, then it had to be an obscure tune, yet they
won because, as I said, they are household names. Actually you
don't know who nominates you but my personal guess is that it's
mainly the press people. It feels exciting when you receive an
invitation to the Grammys in your letterbox to attend the evening,
but I only went there once. On the other occasion, I played during
the aftershow party. The "best rock instrumental" is a category that
they don't show on TV anyway, so very few people would actually
know you won it. So it's not really a big thing. In fact it's the same as
getting a gold or platinum album. It gets you respect, but in the
meantime it doesn't change the fact that there're a lot of people that
don't get recognized, people who have done as well or even better.
Getting back to the Purple thing, did the band kind of demand that
you should play as close to the Blackmore sound as possible?
No, pretty much the opposite. They said "we want somebody
completely different who's original, who has their own personality,
and sound, so like it or not, they got just that. There's lots of guys
who could've done Ritchie's stuff. They made it obvious they didn't
want to replace Ritchie. Ritchie was very original so they wanted
someone new who could be as original as well.
What are you currently working on?
I'm working on a new solo album. It won't be like Major Impacts 2,
but it'll be the trio of myself, bass player Dave La Rue and drummer
Van Romaine. Most of the material has already been written. I think
we have two more songs to do. Then in November, December and
January we'll be working on that part-time. It'll probably be released
on Magna Carta as well. There will certainly be a second Major
Impacts album as well. Names that I want to tackle on that album
are Santana, Pat Metheny, Ted Nugent, Joe Walsh, Jim McCarty,
Rick Derringer, Johnny Winter, BB King, Chuck Berry. There's so
many influences and I'm really concentrating on the early ones
when there were not so many guitarists around. I certainly have to
come up with more names than there will be songs on the album for
the simple reason that you don't know which ones will work and
which won't. The majority of the ones which will be on Major
Impacts 2 are the ones that seemed too difficult the first time around.
Now I'll have more time to delve into it.
Having played with the Dregs and Kansas and Deep Purple, is there
still something you want to achieve, a big Steve Morse dream that you
want to come true one day?
What I really want to do is write more stuff
on electric guitar, with typical Celtic Irish
influences, [performed] by traditional Irish
players, and we're working on that right
now. I have recorded one song so far which
will be used for a benefit CD to help the
Native Americans. Actually I wrote two songs
for that album but one is done with Paddy
Keenan, an Irish musician from the Bothy
Band. You can compare it to Riverdance but
with weird, loud guitars. I want to make sure
I piss off all the traditional Irish people and make all the rock'n roll
people rise their eyebrows and say "what is this?" Other people that
contribute are like Sonny Landreth and Lucinda Williams. I would
also like to play with every aspiring musical genius in the world. I
sometimes dream of Jimmy Page coming up to me saying "hey
Steve I'd like you to produce my album." I know it'll never happen
but it's something I dream might one day happen. Never say never!
I'll just keep on doing this as long as I have fun doing it. The day I no
longer have fun in playing music I might take up being a pilot again!
With sincere thanks to Colin Hart, Anne Leighton (Magna Carta), Yvo
Tap (Mascot), On The Rox, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and of
course Steve Morse.
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