Friday, June 1, 2012

Catching Up With Steve Smith - LIVE! One Great Night - The Interview

Check out my review at:

Does it ever get frustrating to have a critic or any media type consistently toss in "former Journey drummer" when Vital Information has been around as long or in some cases longer then most rock super groups and how do you account for the bands longevity and consistently high level of creativity over the years?

S.S. - "I don’t get frustrated when some writers refer to me as having been a member of Journey. It’s true that I did play with the group during its most prolific incarnation and it’s a way for some people to identify me. In the early years of my career after Journey it did bother me, because I felt I had to prove I was more than “the drummer from Journey,” but over the years I have developed a strong identity as an accomplished musician separate from my work with Journey.
As for Vital Information’s longevity it comes down to my perseverance and focus. I maintain high standards of musicianship for myself and I’ve been able to find some excellent players who also want a high-level musical experience and the opportunity to tour and record."

Live! One Great Night is one of the finest live CD+DVD packages I have seen across any genre. There is variety, texture, swing, odd meter but nothing ever borders on self-indulgent it is simply great music played at an incredibly high level. How did this project come about?

S.S. -"With Vital Information’s 30th Anniversary coming up I started looking for documentation of different periods in the bands history. One gig that I remembered was a web cast that we did at a small venue in Oregon. Not knowing if there was a recording or video of that show I wrote numerous emails and made many calls and finally found someone that had the recording. We made a rough mix and I could hear that it we played very well that night. I had a final mix made and was going to release that on BFM Jazz as a live album. The artwork was finished and we were ready to go, then someone found a copy of the web cast. It was in black & white, not HD, but it captured the energy of the performance. We decided to add the DVD to package to give people more value. We had to push back the release date but I feel it was worth it.

Sometimes when you know you are recording a live album, you tend to play “safe.” We were totally relaxed that night and weren’t thinking about making a recording. We were truly in the moment and the creativity flowed."

As a critic, I have often said paralysis by analysis is killing jazz. No other genre of music I can think of dissects itself to the same degree. Critics speaking of Vital Information call it fusion, jazz-rock, post-modern fusion and I really don't think anyone gets it right and it drives them nuts. How would you define the music of Vital Information?

S.S - "The music of Vital Information has changed over the three decades that I’ve kept the band going. The band serves as my “workshop” to develop my current musical ideas. For example over the last 10 years I’ve been studying and developing rhythms from India. About 6 years ago I gradually incorporated those ideas into the music and you can hear that influence on the new album with the two “Interwoven Rhythms” songs, “Seven and a Half,” and “Khanda West.” I’m also looking for the band members to influence the direction of the music with their concepts, playing and writing.  Vinny Valentino has contributed substantially to the band as a composer as has Tom Coster, who has been with me for over twenty years. Baron brings a deep-rooted funk aesthetic to the music and truly embodies the improvisational ethos of playing totally different bass lines every night. You never know what he will come up with but it’s always fantastic!

As far as defining the music, fusion is okay with me. I just won the Modern Drummer Readers Poll of #1 Fusion Drummer, which I’m very happy about! When I think of fusion I think of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, The New Tony Williams Lifetime and all the innovative fusion bands of the 70s so I’m happy to be associated with that music. I think our music is unique and draws upon the free-spirited explorations of those groups along with the influence of the blues, be-bop, R&B, New Orleans music and South Indian Carnatic music -- we like to swing, play funky and in odd-times."