Having interviewed him on my show several times in the past, I can say that he ranks up there as one of the best guests ever. Unlike many musicians, he is never afraid to share his honest, thoughtful opinions about not only himself and PQ but also other bands and the music business in general. I will truly miss Power Quest and what they brought to the metal scene over the last decade or so.
The full audio of our conversation can be found below, including some highlights which I have typed.
0:00 Preparing for the final Power Quest shows
3:30 Setlists for last shows
6:00 Recordings of last shows?
7:30 Second guessing decision to end PQ?
10:00 Future of PQ - Kickstarter or something similar?
14:00 Effect of technology on the metal scene
17:30 Ability to record under a different name?
18:30 Record label reaction to end of PQ
21:00 Steve's future in music
24:00 Steve's auto accident
26:00 Thoughts on recent metal albums
34:00 PQ history - looking back on live shows and tours
38:30 Steve's future - work in other genres?
44:00 Thoughts on vocalists
45:00 State of PQ's back catalog
47:00 What will other members of PQ do in the future?
51:00 Reflections on PQ
Choosing a setlist for PQ's final shows: It's a nightmare, to be honest. Even a 2-hour set, you think, 'Christ, there's plenty of time to play everything we want to play', but even then, we were having immense difficulties, saying, 'Well, we don't want to leave this song out', and before you know it, you've got 25 songs on the list, and that's not going to cut it with the length of some of these songs as well.
What we're trying to do is cover all the various periods of the band to make sure there's representation from each and every album. Some albums will be favored slightly more than others, purely from the popularity with the fans side of things. The Neverworld album, for example, has always been the fan favorite, and so there will be a heavy dose, I think 4 songs from that record. And also, the last album, Blood Alliance, given that all the guys from the band apart from me only played on that record, I felt it was only fitting that we gave that some serious attention as well. And with people coming back from previous incarnations of the band, I wanted to make sure that songs that those guys had played on in the studio were also featured in the set as well. It's a bit of a juggling act, to be honest, but hopefully we won't disappoint too many people.
Reaction to the announcement that PQ was done: It was very reminiscent of 2009, when the original lineup of the band sort of split, and I recruited a new lineup. At that point I was in that situation where I was thinking, 'Do I really want to stop? Do I really want to carry on? I'm not really sure.' But it was the weight of the fans' reaction that encouraged me to carry on. The same thing has happened this time around as well, to be fair. People say, 'Don't stop. Don't stop.' And as I've tried to explain to people, it's almost a case of I'm not stopping because I don't love what I do or I don't love the PQ ideal or anything like that. It's just at this present moment of time, I can't justify the amount of expense that it's costing me personally to keep the thing floating on the sea, so to speak. That's not to say that a few years down the line I might think differently about it, but at this stage of the game, I have to have my sensible hat on, if you'd like. Having put 12 years of my life into PQ and really immersed myself in it, I think we've done some cool things. We've achieved far more than I ever thought we would. Having said that, we didn't achieve everything I would have liked to have achieved either. So there's always an element of things are slighly unfinished to a certain extent, and I think post the final shows, those kind of thoughts I'll probably have to deal with a little bit and exorcise the demons somehow or other, look at it in the cold light of day and decide then, 'Have I made the right decision?'
Possibility of asking for fan support to record a new album: Any new PQ record would have to be offered to the record label initially , and in that sense would leave us in the classic scenario of the advance for the record doesn't enable me to do an album of sufficient quality for me to be happy with it, and that's the be all and end all, really, for me. If you're going to make a record, it has to be the absolute best you can make it at the time, and it can't be compromised by a lack of a thousand dollars here or there. If the money isn't there to do it, then the record can't be done. I don't believe in cutting corners and leaving things that need dealing with undealt with. I just felt at this moment in time I wasn't comfortable with the idea of taking the risk of me having to cover 50% of the costs of the whole product.
Current state of the music business and album promotion: Now it's debatable sometimes as to whether a record doesn't do well because of the quality of the record, or does it not do well because of the quality of the promotion? There's a kind of double-edged sword there in my mind. These days, promotion cycles or windows are an awful lot smaller than they used to be. Years ago, you'd see an album being pushed for 3, 4, 5, 6 months even. Nowadays, it's a month, and if you don't make a big splash then, forget it. They're on to the next thing and so on and so forth. I get it, in the sense that that's how the business has to be with declining sales. Labels are almost in a position where they have to have more product available rather than less product of a better quality.
Are albums dead? Firstly, when I make a record and I'm thinking of everything that goes with a record, it's a package, a product, or rather, it used to be. I put an awful lot of time into the conceptuals behind the artwork, particularly the last record, making sure that the lyrics and themes really tied together as a single entity. However, nowadays, as you rightly say about songs appearing on iPhones or iPods or whatever, I think we're now to that kind of generation of people who don't appreciate an album, they don't talk albums. They talk about the new song from this band, or the new song from that band, and I honestly believe (maybe I'm being detrimental to the vast majority of people), but I don't think people have the concentration span to listen to 60 minutes of music, as sad as it may be.
Reaction of Napalm Records to ending PQ: To be fair, we haven't discussed it that much with the label. They didn't seem that bothered, which in turn made me not that bothered about what they thought of it. It was all a little bit sad, really, in some respects.
Steve's future in the business as a band member instead of a band leader: It would be interesting for me, I think, to just be the keyboard player rather than the guy who runs the whole show. [Note: Steve has recently joined the band Eden's Curse]
Surviving a scary car accident last winter: I was a very lucky boy, shall we say? It was sort of snowy period in late January, and I was driving from Nottingham to Southampton. It was about 170 miles, but I was having to really crawl, doing 30, 40 miles an hour, no more than that, the whole way. I got to within about 40 miles from home, hit some black ice on the road - fortunately there were no other vehicles in the vicinity at the time. Yeah, I crashed into a sign post at the side of the road, which then launched the car into some trees, and I flipped three times before finally landing the right way up. Amazingly, I just got out and walked up. A couple of bruises, and that was it. But the car was a total and utter write-off. When the recovery guys came to collect the vehicle and pick me up, they just said, 'How the hell did you survive that?' So someone was obviously looking down on me that day.
Thoughts about previous tours: There was one particular one, I think it was 2009, where we opened for Michael Schenker, and arguably, that was the worst decision I ever made about going on tour with someone.
How the rest of PQ felt about the decision to call it quits: Ultimately, nobody really wanted to stop from a point of view of it's not like we all hate each other, or we don't get along, or we don't enjoy what we're doing, because far from it.
Thoughts about PQ returning at some point in the future: What I've definitely noticed over the years is that once people have tuned in to the PQ sound, if you like, they seem to stick with it. It seems to be something that people can relate to in a lot of ways, maybe lyrically as much as musically. You look at it and think a lot of people don't want their favorite band to be massive anyway, do they? They want it to be the best kept secret, and I think we've certainly achieved that. [laughs] But I think that should we deem it appropriate to return at some point in the future, I'm confident that the fans we've made over the years will rally to the cause again. And as I say, whenever I work such long hours with the day job, I appreciate that my bread and butter is in the day job. It's not in the music, and the music has always been and always will be for me about the music and not about what I can make out of it. My only caveat with that is that I don't lose a lot of money doing it, you know.
Looking back and final thoughts: Maybe I would do some things differently if I had my time again. Probably not, though. You live and learn, and all that kind of business, and mistakes you make, and I'm by no means the world's greatest businessman, as people who know me will tell you. All I can say on that side of things is I tried my best. I tried to keep control of everything so that what little pie there was went to the band rather than to the hangers-on, and that was a key thing for me. We had opportunities to, for lack of a better phrase, sell our souls over the years, but I chose not to and tried to maintain some integrity in what we do. Yeah, financially and career-wise, maybe not the best move. But from a point of view of leaving fans with something to remember, something that was honest and hardworking, and always try to put the fans first, I hope we've achieved somewhere close to that.