IT’S “20 QUESTIONS WITH CROSS” DAY!
Once again, I have the honor to interview one of the most talented musicians and one of my recent heroes – Stephen Taylor! He’s a guitarist and a bassist who has played in Alt-Country, Hardcore and Heavy Metal bands. To mention a few: Spunk, 16 Horsepower, Woven Hand.
Stephen Taylor took over Bass duties in Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, when Bennett Bartley left.
Also, Stephen plays along many other super talented musicians like Jimmy Bower, Kevin Bond, Steve Bernal, Calvin Dover in Anselmo’s latest, southern Gothic/Dark Americana project, En Minor.
Thank you Schteve (laughs, I hope I’m allowed to call you Schteve) for taking the time to make this interview happen. So exciting!!!
Cross – I’ll start it with one or two questions about you showing interest towards music and your first steps as a musician. When did you get your first guitar? Was it an acoustic, an electric or a bass?
Stephen – I have a photo of me with my first acoustic, at around the age of 5 or 6. Only memory of it is through that photo. I’ll have to dig that up, cause now I’m wondering if it was an old Kay, or Silvertone. Not really sure who bought it for me, or why. I can’t recall any musical interest at that age. Now fast forward 2-3 years, at 8 or 9, I will share this, which forever will stay ingrained in my mind, and only realizing a deeper connection a few short years back. On a visit to a distant relatives farm, in Valparaiso, Nebraska, I wander into living room alone. There is a turntable, a record with a dude wielding a sword on the cover, and a set of headphones. Curious me, puts on headphones, drops the needle, and volume cranked from last listener. War Pigs off the Black Sabbath Paranoid album is what was now being blasted to my impressionable mind. I suspect this was the beginnings for me. Only found out a few years ago I share a birthday with Tony Iommi. February 19th, and to make it even weirder, my wife Jeanine, shares her birthday with Randy Rhodes December 6th. These are signs and wonderment. Keep the Sabbath!
Cross – I didn’t know about your wife sharing a birthday with Randy but I knew you do share a birthday with Tony. Me too. How awesome is that?! Can you mention a couple of your childhood/youth favorite bands or albums?
Stephen – I can totally remember the first records I saved up for and bought on my own. Ha! I even remember where, It was at Woolworth’s in Gentilly La. (suburb of NOLA for those outsiders) (Gentilly People!, for the insiders). And the records were , Kiss “The Originals”, “Alive“ and The Eagles “Hotel California”. At this time, Kiss was an obsession. And I really wanted to play drums at this age, I remember taking the pots, and Tupperware out, and beating on them with wooden spoons. I still can’t play the drums, but that’s a whole other story…
Cross – As I mentioned at the beginning, you took over Bass for Philip Anselmo & The Illegals, on The Illegals debut album Walk Through Exits Only, after Bennet left. Then, you switched to axes for the second album “the voodoo metal” – Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue. (Laughs, I love that you called it “the voodoo metal” in an interview.)
Stephen – I believe I was referring to the “Metraton Nganga” path we went down, before the recording of choosing.
Cross – Which does Stephen enjoy more, playing Bass or Guitar?
Stephen – It wasn’t til The Illegals that I’ve ever played bass in a band, or at all really, I mean, besides just plucking around on one. I had to figure it out, I don’t think I really grasped the concept of bass til the second tour of Superjoint. In The Illegals, we were a 4 pc at the time, and I was up front, grinding away like a guitar player, which was called for to an extent. Jumping on with Superjoint, now a 5 pc, I learned that I had to get back in the pocket, play the backfield so to speak, make eye contact with Blu, turn off the distortion, and slam the strings. I realized I had to give Jimmy space, and get in my own lane.
Cross – Oh, I always thought you’ve been playing bass as long as guitar just been switching on whichever was needed for the project you were playing for.
We have been waiting for ages now for new material from The Illegals. There’s been a couple posts from different members of the band letting us know that you’re all working on that. How much longer do we have to wait? We’re hungry for new music.
Stephen – Yeah, I don’t like those updates, for that very reason. I mean, I’m always creating, so are all the other guys. We have a lot of songs, half songs, partial songs, riffs, ideas. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make it to a record.
Cross – It was inspiring when it happened. Knowing that we all were going nuts not being able to leave home. Can you give us some tips on what path are The Illegals going in the next album? The first two ones are similar, in the sense that you know that’s “The Illegals sound”, and also totally different from each other.
Stephen – The Illegals is really Philip’s baby. It goes where he allows it to flow. He is the common thread that identifies “the sound”. Actually on our last get together, we were chatting about how to approach it. We like to experiment, so to me, anything’s possible.
Cross – With The Illegals, you had the possibility to play for the first time Pantera Tribute shows, with Slayer too. The latest being the Vulgar Display of Pantera LiveStream in New Orleans, which was a blast for the fans.
Stephen – What a great honor that was to be part of Slayers final campaign!
Cross – How much did you guys feel the difference of the crowd from those first shows with the Livestream which didn’t have that many people attending in the same building but so many were watching it from their home?
Stephen – The Livestream was one of the most intense things I’ve ever had to prepare for, and to pull off. Live is live. But a 15 song live to broadcast, playing PANTERA is on a whole other spectrum, you’re literally being filmed, and being multi-tracked, so you have to be as close to studio quality as possible. And “you’re playing” is only one part of that equation, once you get the green light, it is what it is, so make it good! Kate Richardson put together a great team that brought that to fruition. It was an awesome set-up!
Cross – It was a blast, seriously! You guys getting back on doing couple Vulgar Display of Pantera shows soon?
Stephen – Yes, we are scheduled for a few fests in the states here soon.
Cross – How did Stephen ended up with Superjoint? Was it planned for an album after the Housecore Horror Festival shows?
Stephen – Blue and I were at “The Lair” doing illegal stuff. I believe he was already penned for the drum seat once the band decided to do reunion for the “Horror Fest”. I offered to sit in with band and rehearse with them til Hank3 was available. That’s how that happened.
Cross – What happened with Metraton Nganga? There were some rumors about this new project you guys were working on: you, Blue/Joey Gonzalez and Philip Anselmo, a couple years ago.
Stephen – It’s still there, festering. This was a writing session that went, awry, a path that had to be explored, it sits, in darkness.
Cross – Hopefully soon we’ll have a chance to listen to some Metraton Nganga.
En Minor. In my opinion is the most beautiful thing heavy metal icons like Philip and yourself could ever come up with. I want to thank you personally, and the whole crew who worked their asses off for the En Minor Livestream at the Orpheum Theatre. Y’all did an epic work. (We’ll get back to that in a bit.)
Stephen – Thank you. A couple ideas were thrown out, I think Kate soaked it in, and put together a great experience, and production. Kudos goes out to her for organizing all that!
Cross – I’m glad you mentioned Kate twice already. I hope she knows we fans appreciate her hard work.
En Minor started with you and Philip and with time other artists became part of this project. You mentioned in a couple interviews on the Livestream also how it all started. Can you tell us a memory from the time when En Minor was just you and Philip?
Stephen – It was after tracking illegal demos, real late at night as we were about to call it. I grabbed my arch-top that I had with me and started playing what you now know as Mausoleums. But a more busier version, hence the “just keep it simple”. Not sure if I should take the magic outta this one, but here goes, that’s what Philip was whispering in my headphones whenever I was trying to complicate the riff, while tracking it. I followed that with what’s now called “Hats Off”. Up to this point, I had no idea he was interested in doing any acoustic, or vibe out kinda stuff. But I think that night, by me just expressing another side of me, opened a floodgate of ideas he had already, and a bunch we came up with together. And since that moment, they flow just as easy today. We have no problem writing songs in this style, they flow naturally, and being surrounded with players that know their way around things, opens up the spectrum of the works.
Cross – I’m glad you guys decided to work on all that and release the first album. En Minor is a special band and sound. Unique.
En Minor’s first live show was at One Eyed Jacks in New Orleans, Louisiana, almost two years ago. How did it feel to get on stage to play songs people never listened to before? (When The Cold Truth Has Worn Its Miserable Welcome Out came out almost one year after this show.)
Stephen – It was kinda awkward, still is, we only have like 4 shows under our belt as a band. If we had a solid month on the road together, I think we’d be an insanely intense band live.
Cross – Getting back to the En Minor Livestream…
Stephen – Yes.
Cross – In how great it was all put together, it makes one think that it had been planed for a while and Covid-19 just interfered. Was the Livestream meant to be a normal live show and cause of the circumstances it turned into a Livestream show?
Stephen – Not at all, the “Down” livestream was successful, so that’s when the idea circulated. I think it was only planned out a month or so in advance.
Cross – We know there are three hours En Minor material ready. We would like to know when is the new album coming out and will those new songs from the En Minor Livestream be included in it? How about There’s a Long Way to Go?
Stephen – We have enough material for 4 records easy. It’s weeding through it all, and deciding on what to do with it all. We’ve kinda outgrown our own 2nd album, that’s not even recorded yet, but is half the setlist on Livestream. Every time we get together as a unit, we grow, mature, the songs/riffs are more seasoned.
Cross – That’s great news. There were unbelievably great new songs in the Livestream. I swear I never listened to an album as many times as I’ve listened to When The Cold Truth Has Worn Its Miserable Welcome Out.
Stephen – Really! That’s pretty cool to hear as an artist, from an artist at that!
Cross – Any plans for En Minor to get back doing live shows? Now that live music is having a come back little by little. Have you guys ever thought to get En Minor touring the world not only America?
Stephen – At this moment, I have no news here. But ready and willing.
Cross – An interesting thing about you as a guitar player is that you don’t stick to one guitar brand. There was a video of you and Mike DeLeon showing them axes. He plays a V all the time but that’s not the same with you. Is that how you explore sound, Stephen?
Stephen – Well yes and no. I mix it up all sorta ways. I am not loyal to any sound or type of guitar, or brand. It’s whatever I grab to achieve what we are going for. I really mix my styles up with tunings. If I’m at a writing block in standard, everything I’m doing seems generic. That’s when I’ll go to an open tuning. I’ve learned this with my Sixteen Horsepower days. I will go from major/minor open tuning, to more weirder ones. I’ve recently discovered what’s called “New Standard” or the Robert Fripp tuning, it’s scrambling up the positions, and the order of the notes. Then you try to bring order to the new chaos you just created for yourself. Gets weird, clears the room sometimes!
Cross – How difficult is it to switch from playing bass to playing guitar?
Stephen – Takes a min, it’s more so when going from bass back to guitar.
Cross – Favorite guitarist/bassist?
Stephen – I can’t ever answer these type of questions honestly. Too many great players that have left their mark in my sub conscious.
Cross – What has Stephen been listening to lately?
Stephen – My daughter recently confiscated my turntable, so, it’s been fun watching her explore the old ways. She’s on Double Fantasy John/Yoko at the moment. So I was just listening to “Watching The Wheels”. And also was just listening to Victims Family.
Cross – I had some guitar pick problems lately. I just couldn’t remember the thickness I’ve been using to play for years. (I don’t really play, just time to time, for fun, when there’s some free time.) What pick thickness does Stephen uses?
Stephen – For illegals I use the Jazz iii XL’s they are pretty firm, I use heavy stiff picks for the metal grindy stuff. For En Minor I’ve been using the dunlop orange tortex, quite a bit thinner. I use my fingers if needed, I’ve even used a make-up brush before.
Cross – Is there any other side project you’re working on that we don’t know of?
Stephen – Yes.
Cross – You have a terrific family. What does the Taylor family like to do when the man of the family isn’t on tour or investing time, talent and soul in writing new stuff?
Stephen – Thank you! Yes things can get a bit hectic with this dynamic, and top that with the way things have been lately, everyone hangin’ strong.
Taking advantage of the time by not doing much.
Pretty much just all chilling at the homestead, low key, cook outs, cruising the hood on the ole golfing cart. Might take a drive down to the beach soon!
Cross – Thank you Schteve for taking the time to go through all this, it’s been a blast! Appreciate you!
Stephen – Thank you for the interest!