Steve White Interview by Ross Keen
Steve White has been a mainstay of British Popular Music for 3 decades now; 2013 marks the Drummers 30th Anniversary in Showbiz and ‘Whitey’ will be playing two sold out shows in North London to celebrate. His cultured drumming has graced the likes of Oasis and The Who, yet he is synonymous with Paul Weller after a stints with The Style Council and The Paul Weller Movement. Since stopping touring in 2007/8 the Bermondsey-born Musician has become a distinguished Producer. We’ve caught up with ‘Whitey’ to discuss his phenomenal career.
Louder Than War: Steve Music has been your life – You were just 17 when you successfully Auditioned for The Style Council (Paul Weller and Mick Talbot’s then newly formed group) – and have been professional ever since. How daunting was that first Audition?
Steve White – It wasn’t particularly daunting. I was pretty fearless then, plus I was doing lots of auditions at the time. I just wanted to work!
Louder Than War: Is it true that you weren’t particularly familiar with Paul Weller at the time?
Steve White – I knew who he was! But I wasn’t one of these people quoting Jam Lyrics. We forget how big that band were; at that time he wanted people that weren’t going to stand there looking at him like frightened rabbits on stage.
Louder Than War: You were with the Council for the next 6 years – number one Albums, World Tours, playing at Live Aid (Steve was the youngest musician at Wembley) all followed in that time. Can you sum up your memories of this period? It always looks as if you had a blast together.
Steve White – Amazing, a real privilege. I was incredibly lucky. I worked really hard too – we had a fantastic time – and Cafe Bleu and Our Favourite shop still stand up as great albums.
Louder Than War: Have you watched Jerusalem at all recently?
Steve White – Fraid not, my Mrs watched it and all she could say was “good job you can play the drums!”
Louder Than War: It seems, looking back, that the band splitting up was almost inevitable. Was it a shock at the time?
Steve White – We had a good run. I was doing loads of other stuff in that final year or so, Ian Dury, Galliano, Working Week, Young Disciples, Jazz Renegades, James Taylor Quartet – being out of work wasn’t a real worry!
Louder Than War: You started working with Paul again with his Solo career; you became practically synonymous with him. As a Musician, how highly do you rate Paul?
Steve White – Paul is just a great musician – one of the best writers we have ever produced. A fantastic voice, and a great guitar player too.
Louder Than War: You played live with him until 2008. At that point he decided to chop and change his band and you were effectively ‘replaced’. It shocked a lot of fans at the time – was it almost a mutual decision though? And it was purely musical, wasn’t it?
Steve White – We did Glastonbury in 2007 and there wasn’t much of a vibe there, I could tell he wanted a change and I wasn’t going to just clock in for the money – I knew that was our last gig in that line up. I did a couple of tracks on 22 dreams, but I felt I wasn’t the kind of drummer he wanted anymore. He did ask me to do the tour that accompanied 22 dreams but I didn’t think I’d be right really anyway.
Louder Than War: Do you look at that now as almost a blessing? You’ve been managing/producing the hugely promising Sam Gray since, was Production something you’ve always fancied?
Steve White – I’ve always done little bits of production – I think the best way to guarantee the kind of future I want is to work and invest in younger musicians and help them; I could of hawked around for another gig or tried to tag on to a reunion but it’s not really my thing
Louder Than War: One of your first jobs as a Musician was in a Squeeze Musical. That sounds brilliant – could you tell us a bit more about it? It seems a shame that Ben Elton has probably wrecked any chances of reviving that sort of thing.
Steve White – It was a great idea, the music was obviously fantastic. There wasn’t much story but it hasn’t stopped Queen! I also did a similar thing for Ian Dury called Apples.
Louder Than War: So what’s next? Can we expect more from Trio Valore or The Players?
Steve White – No, I don’t think so… I think it will be straight on with Sam Gray.
Vital Statistics/In His Own White
Top 3 Albums Played On
Wildwood, Stanley Road and Our Favourite Shop
Top 3 Songs You Wish You’d Played On
Sex Machine – James Brown, Let’s Stay Together – Al Green and Cum on feel the Noize – Slade
Top 3 Musical Memories
Playing Sao Paolo to 40,000 people two years ago with Jon Lord… Live aid – I guess… The whole Weller period between 1990 and 1996really too, the first solo album , Wildwood and Stanley Road
Who’s In Your Supergroup?
Me on the drums, Mani on the bass (top fella) Jon Lord on Hammond, Melvin Sparks on Rhythm guitar and Weller on lead and vox… produced by Dr Dre!
All Time CAFC XI:
Jorge Costa Richard Rufus Chris Powell Herman Hriedersson
John Robinson Scott Parker Paolo Di Canio Mark Kinsella ,
Derek Hales Superclive Mendonca
(Managed by Curbs)
All words by Ross Keen. More work by Ross on Louder Than War can be found here.