Interview by Kevin Julie
Stef Burns is best known for his stint playing guitar in Alice Cooper's band in the early '90s, as well as being in the last incarnation of Y & T. Around the time he released his first solo CD "Swamp Tea" Kevin Julie of Universal Wheels had a chat with him about his work with Alice amongst other things. For more info on Stef check out www.stefburns.com.
Kevin Jay: Where and when were you born?
Stef Burns: Oakland, CA, June 26, 1959.
Kevin Jay: Who were your earliest influences? how did you get into guitar?
Stef Burns: Jazz, blues, soul records of my parents. My dad played a little guitar and I picked it up around 7 years old. Then I became more influenced by the great guitarists like, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, etc. Allman Bros, then later by Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, Mike Stern, Scofield, Pat Metheny, sax players, singers, drummers all were very influential.
Kevin Jay: What were your favorite albums & bands growing up? favorite guitarists in early days?
Stef Burns: Hendrix - Are You Experienced, Jeff Beck - Blow By Blow, Allman Bros. - Live at Fillmore East, Montrose, Deep Purple - Machine Head, Led Zeppelin - All of them, The Beatles - All.
Kevin Jay: What was your first professional gig?
Stef Burns: Touring with the R&B group - "Omega" featuring members from the Elvin Bishop Group.
Kevin Jay: How did you get involved with Y & T?
Stef Burns: Being a San Francisco Bay Area musician we kind of hear about each other. They asked me to join and I accepted. Was really a good hard rocking time.
Kevin Jay: How was the 1998 "Endangered Species" album received? What has the band done over the past decade?
Stef Burns: That was the last album recorded by the band. I hardly had anything to do with it other than one song as I was busy working in Italy that year ('96). I like that album though because it has a raw trio kind of feel to it. Dave plays his ass off on that one as well as "Musically Incorrect" ('94). I was more involved with "Ten" ('90) and "Yesterday and Today, Live" ('91)
Kevin Jay: You mean you only played on 1 track on the album??
Stef Burns: Yes.
Kevin Jay: I'm not familiar with these ones. will look them up. Did you write & record on Ten? where & when was Live recorded? [what labels are these on?]
Stef Burns: Yes, I played a lot on "10", 4 solos. It is on Geffen. "Yesterday and Today, Live" is on Metal Blade.
Kevin Jay: Seeing as Dave M. and Jimmy D. both played on your album, are there any plans for future Y & T gigs or recordings? What are the other guys currently up to?
Stef Burns: No plans as of now, but I think some day we'll get together and do something. Don't know exactly what though. Dave works with his band and does other projects in his studio. Jimmy is in Megadeth. Phil has a bunch of great songs I hope he releases some day.
Kevin Jay: What other recordings and name bands were you involved with prior to working with Alice Cooper?
Stef Burns: Well, there was Michael Bolton, Sheila E., Pablo Cruise, Berlin, Jesse Colin Young, (we're going back to '82 now). There was a band I was in, in '88 called the VU. The stuff we did then will be released in Europe next year. It's power pop rock, I guess you would call it, and sounds really good.
Kevin Jay: Geez, a lot of "pop" stuff! Who was in VU? anyone of notoriety ?
Stef Burns: Ross Valory, Prairie Prince, Kevin Chalfant and Tim Gorman.
Kevin Jay: How did you get involved with Alice Cooper? what do you recall of the auditions, etc... ?
Stef Burns: I was recommended to Alice by Joe Satriani, whom I know from the Bay Area, and I sent Alice a tape, got hired to do the "Hey Stoopid" album, then to tour. Then I recorded "The Last Temptation" which I felt more involved in creating sonically.
Kevin Jay: You were not in the songwriting credits on Hey Stoopid or The Last Temptation; why not? was songwriting a 'closed shop' with Alice due to his working with outside 'pro' writers?
Stef Burns: I don't know. I really didn't have anything prepared that was in the Alice Cooper style.
Kevin Jay: Hey Stoopid had a lot of big names on the album, including other guitarists. What do you recall of these sessions? Any stories from these sessions ? [ie Satriani, Ozzy, Vai, Slash, Vinnie Moore, Mick Mars.... ]
Stef Burns: I was only present during the Motley stuff. Oh yeah, and Slash too. He was super cool, little bit drunk, but...
Kevin Jay: Why were there almost no big name guest stars on The Last Temptation?
Stef Burns: I guess that was Alice's choice to make more of a band sound.
Kevin Jay: When did you tour with Alice ? Any stories or Recollections?
Stef Burns: Toured a lot with Alice from 91 to 95. Again in the end of 98. It was always fun.
Kevin Jay: How close were you to Alice? How was he to work with? Are you still in contact?
Stef Burns: Alice is a breeze to work with. Very easy on stage and rehearsal. Great poker games on the bus. Haven't talked to him in a while though we sent messages to each other through mutual friends.
Kevin Jay: What are your personal favorites [songs] from the stuff you recorded with Alice Cooper?
Stef Burns: The Last Temptation.
Kevin Jay: The song? anything else ?
Stef Burns: No, the record. Some of my favorite songs are, "Stolen Prayer", "Cleansed By Fire" and "You're My Temptation".
Kevin Jay: What have you been doing since The Last Temptation?
Stef Burns: Vasco Rossi, tons of sessions, released "Swamp Tea", Huey Lewis etc...
Kevin Jay: What's your involvement with Huey Lewis? [Recordings, tours, etc...] [What's Huey been doing for the past 15 years?]
Stef Burns: Right now it's just touring. The new album to be released first of 2001 was finished before I joined. Chris Hayes plays his ass off on this CD. Some of his best playing ever, I think. Huey has always been working.
Kevin Jay: Have you done any recording with Huey? How long you been in his band? [where have you toured? where's his market these days, cause I ain't seen anything of him until the other day when i saw him in the promo for the "Duets" movie].
Stef Burns: Have not done any recording yet. Will play on one live track that I think will be for Europe. I have been playing with The News since March. The band's market is spread out. We just played for 12 000 people at Pine Knob in Detroit.
Kevin Jay: How did the solo project come about? [who runs Lakeside Records? ]
Stef Burns: I did it myself with the help of my friends and collaborators. Always wanted to. John Seppala and I worked a lot together to finish it. He's amazing.
Kevin Jay: Swamp Tea is less of the Alice Cooper riff-rock stuff, and more of a almost progressive / fusion sound in the vein of DreamTheater, Steve Morse, etc... Is that the style of music you are more into? How did the sound / idea come about to not be a 'metal' album, but a more prog style? [agree with this too?]
Stef Burns: We just came up with music that we liked. Sometimes very melodic or jazzy. I never wanted to do a metal album.
Kevin Jay: What can you tell me about a few of your favorites on Swamp Tea? Any stories behind any of the tracks? any favorites?
Stef Burns: Some of my favorites are Walking the Penguin, Echo Lake, Summer of '68. These have a bit more of a soulful melody style.
Kevin Jay: How was the response to Swamp Tea in Europe and Japan? What promo plans are in the works for North America - any gigs, tracks receiving any radio attention, major mag features, etc.. ?
Stef Burns: I did an Italian tour and it went well. There were features in a few of the Italian guitar mags. I think I'll go back to Italy first of the year. My Italian band is great. Next I think I'll get working on my next CD.
Kevin Jay: What would YOU compare it to? Familiar with [fond of] Steve Morse' work?
Stef Burns: I don't compare it at all, but some of the influences that I hear are Todd Rundgren, Led Zeppelin, Toto, Deep Purple, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Mike Stern. I am familiar with Steve Morse but I am not really influenced. John's song - "Wayfunner", has a 'Dregsish' line in the verse.
Kevin Jay: How has the reaction been so far? any plans to do a follow up?
Stef Burns: Good and yes.
Kevin Jay: Any ideas for the next CD ? [ie What direction? new ideas?...]
Stef Burns: Not sure yet really.
Kevin Jay: Aside from the Italian mags, any major features, chart placings [ie internet, foreign countries, etc...]
Stef Burns: Haven't got my first statement yet, so don't really know what I sold.
Kevin Jay: What are you listening to these days? what guitarists out there do you admire these days?
Stef Burns: I still listen to the old guys. Beck, Hendrix, more Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Pat Martino, Rage Against the Machine.
Kevin Jay: Who's Gets & Martino ? [I'm not familiar, sorry...]
Stef Burns: The late Stan Getz is a great Jazz tenor sax player. Pat Martino is a great jazz guitarist.
Kevin Jay: Any Uriah Heep stories ? :-)
Stef Burns: I just remember seeing them in San Francisco in the late 70s and they rocked.
Kevin Jay: thanks Stef!
Stef Burns: You're welcome. This is the longest interview I have ever typed in my life!