Steve talks influences & guitars
Steve told us about how Planes work, his background, and the encouragement he has had from Placebo. Check out the extra video below too.
Well I grew up on music, really. We grew up on a small farm in the middle of nowhere in California, and we didn’t have much to entertain ourselves with. With an older brother, an older sister, you had loads of different adventures but the best was, my mum’s side of the family and my father’s both, they would come over and everybody played musical instruments and every now and then everyone would get together and have these jams, and that’s where the fascination with it began, it was just sort of what my family did.
And I started getting really into drums when I was, about eight or nine years old and then from that sprouted interest in other instruments, such as bass guitar and standard guitar and tried dabbling at the piano, and tried trumpet for a couple of years, and harmonica and basically just anything I could get my hands on and make a song out of, I tried to do.
Planes - Steve
Music from the 60s and 70s
My father was really musical and he had lots of records. He would always play me lots of old country music and bluegrass and lots of classic rock. He didn’t care too much for the Stones or Led Zeppelin, funny enough, but he loved The Eagles and Chicago.
I love everything in the 60s and 70s, I love The Mamas And The Papas and Airplane and Pink Floyd and Bowie and loads, I do DJing as well and I have this radio show where I’m the sort of oldies guy and it was the music that had a bit of class to it. I’m a bit of an old soul in a young body I guess.
For me it was so great because it was music that was made so long ago but you listen to it now and it’s still fresh, and I want to do that with music, you know, anything that I wrote or put out, I want to try to make the same, because that’s, I think being successful in music is being able to have a song that 20 years from now still sounds fresh.
Planes - Steve
Performing with Placebo and Planes
With Planes I think one of the biggest things is they’re all my age, and you know we think along the same sort of levels, but not only that but it’s a band that I started from scratch and I’m seeing grow and become something really successful and I think that’s a great feeling, and I think the most exciting time for any young band is that moment.
With Placebo I jumped straight - you know six years ago, I joined a band that was already pretty well established, so with Planes, we have the opportunity to start something fresh. Placebo, they’re my brothers and we’re bandmates and they love me but there is a 14 year age gap.
Planes - Steve
How does Steve juggle his very different roles with two very different bands?
I have to pay respects to Placebo, I book everything with Planes in the inbetweens, so it’s busy, it makes me a very busy guy, but I like being busy. When I’m not working I get really sort of pent up and wierd. So you just make it work. How do you make it work? You just make it work, you know, you get your priorities straight and as long as whatever band you’re with at the time, you just give your whole heart and everything to it and just make sure to be all about that band in that moment, then you’ll be fine and no one gets upset.
From drummer to singer and guitarist
We wanted to know what it’s like being a front man instead of on drums. It’s not always an easy transition to make.
Planes - Steve
Making the transition from drummer to frontman came quite naturally to me. I’ve been playing guitar and singing since I was about 13 and I think I never really had the confidence for it until I was about maybe 20, 21, and it was when I got kicked out of my old band.
My friend Eric and I started this band and he said, I can’t sing, you have to sing, and he kind of forced me into it and I just did it, you know. It was nerve racking but it was like, well I’m up here, I’m going to do it, so just go do it to the best of your ability, go balls to the walls with it.
Placebo have been really supportive and also nudged him into the limelight.
We were on tour in various bits of the world and they had me open up for us, half-an-hour sets in front of you know five to sixty thousand people at one point, and it was just myself with an acoustic guitar, and that was what really kind of broke me in. And Brian was really good with that, he really kind of pushed me to do that. And from there, came the confidence to do Planes.
Steve’s favourite guitars
Steve plays guitar in Planes and changes between a few models - much of the time he plays a Gibson SG.
My SG I use for a lot of our stuff, I use quite fat gauge strings as well, I use 12-56 (Ernie Ball), sound great on the SG. It’s a really hot guitar, really ballsy and I like that. When I throw my drive and my Coloursound on, it really just knocks the door down, it’s a massive sound, it just bites your head off.
And at other times the sound I get from the SG is always this nice thick warm sound, regardless of what I’m doing, it’s not really too thin.
For the majority of the stuff that I play I really need that full sound and with the SG I get that full sound, and it’s one of the most comfortable guitars to play, and that’s why loads of guitarists swear by it.
A really hot guitar, really ballsy
Fender Thinline 72
My other guitar I use a lot is my Fender Thinline 72 reissue and that is great because on a few of our songs I play lots of rhythm, Ted really takes a lot of the solo stuff. So we need a jangly sound for some of the stuff we do and I capo a lot of our songs, and with the Thinline and the SG you’ve pretty much got your bases covered.
The Thinline is lightweight, it’s fun to play, it’s easy to play, it’s your best all around guitar I think, it’s not too much this, it’s not too much that. I mean it’s a hot guitar so it will cut your head off as well when you want it to, but you can get some really nice cleans out of it, some really soft tones, so it’s not as aggressive as the SG. It’s good to have them both next to each other for different sounds and songs.
Fender Thinline Telecaster
Fun to play, easy to play, hot guitar, will cut your head off when you want it to
Gretsch Duo Jet
My third guitar that I use is my Gretsch Duo Jet and that is fantastic. The pick up selector on it is great because you have three different guitars, it really varies. I love busting that out for some songs we have on the new record, a more surf, rocky vibe.
It is the most comfortable guitar I have to play by far, even more than the SG. But its sound’s not quite there yet I think. The original Gretsches, the old 50s ones, 55 and 58, those sounded great so I need to change the pick ups in that to get closer to that sound.
Gretsch Duo Jet
The pickup selector is great, you have three different guitars
There’s a couple of guys that I know that work with Duo Jets a lot so I just need to sit down with them and say, what’s my best option for these? I like the open top Humbuckers, they are really great so maybe throw a couple of them in there and see what that does.
Guitar wish list
Steve’s got his eye on another guitar too, that has a classic 70s sound.
I’m looking at getting me a Blackback, an Epiphone Les Paul Blackback, like a guitar of the 70s, very Americana but great. Lindsey Buckingham, the guitarist from Fleetwood Mac, he used to own it.
Planes - pedals
Steve has an interesting mix of pedals, both boutique and more standard ones, and says that for his sound he doesn’t need a massive chain of effects.
My pedal set up, I like using just what you need, not going too excessive with it and so what I ended up using was, obviously you’ve got to have your (Boss) chromatic tuner but I have a Fulltone Fulldrive 2 which has two different settings, main overdrive and you have your boost as well, which really kicks it up.
Fulltone FullDrive 2
Really kicks it up
Then I have a Coloursound Overdriver. The Coloursound pedals were made in the 60s and 70s, by one family, and they still make them, handmade. So I got one of those for my overdrive and it’s a really really big pedal. I don’t use it that often for chords and stuff, mainly when I’m doing lead riffs, it really cuts through and it’s great. But you don’t really want to use it for any power chords or anything because it can sound quite metal and with our band it doesn’t work.
It’s a really really big pedal, when I’m doing riffs it cuts through
And then I have my MXR Micro Amp which is amazing, because it’s just really a signal booster which doesn’t change your tone too much, it doesn’t put too much grit on it, if you just want a nice clean tone that’s got a little bit of bite to it, it’s perfect. However you can also crank it and you’ve got a good big drive pedal if you really wanted it.
MXR Micro Amp
Amazing, a signal booster which doesn’t really change you tone
And for my reverb I use the Holy Grail Nano. I think for tour and transport the Nano is all you need because it saves space on your pedal board.
Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano
It saves space on your pedal board
I got this analogue delay pedal from this shop that some guy had ordered from America. It’s a custom handmade job and I don’t really know where it came from. But I ended up with it and it was just the best call. It had the warmest, richest sound and I wish I could find out where I got it so I can get some back ups. That’s all I really need. Ted is a different matter altogether because he’s doing a lot more lead-based stuff, he needs a lot of the effects, but me I just keep it simple.
Wampler Faux AnalogEcho
The warmest, richest sound
Fender Hot Rod Deluxe amp
For my amp I use a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe and it’s perfect. My ultimate amp is the Fender Twin, the twin reverb. Those are amazing but they’re really expensive and they’re really heavy and with this I have the same sound, I have the same tonality. You know you can keep it on two and I can’t go above two otherwise it just screams at me, especially with some of the guitars that I’m using.
Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
It’s half the weight and you know, the same sound and everything, and a quarter of the price. So I went with the Hot Rod and I think any musician travelling around, especially if you’re doing it off your own back, you know, in a van, and you don’t have like techs, or a crew, get a Hot Rod, they’re the best.
Fender Hot Rod Deluxe Amp
I’d love to have my Blackback guitar and the Hot Rod’s great but I wouldn’t mind getting an Orange set up, I always loved the Orange amps and heads, I think they’re fantastic, really good-sounding gear. Aside from that I’d love to get my hands on some really good vintage guitars but the good ones are so hard to come by, and good ones that play well are so hard to come by, and good ones that play well that are affordable are even harder to come by. So I think, once the money starts rolling in I’ll be looking at getting me a really nice old Gibson hollowbody or something like that, you know.