Bazza Mills catches-up with Tony Steele. Singer-
Tony, we first met when you toured Scotland supporting CAST back in 2015. It seems a long time ago now and I know you have been through a lot since then but reflecting back what were highlights of that tour for you?
That tour was extensive Baz, it was around the time we released our first ever single which had hit number 1 in the iTunes Independent Charts and the video of me and Peter playing it in my house had gone viral! The next thing you know we are on a full UK tour playing some gigs with CAST and some gigs of our own! There were only 2 of us in the band at the time which was me and Peter McParland. My mate Grant Walker would come along to some of the gigs and play African Djembe as percussion and we had a fiddle player at some gigs to make the sound fuller! But basically the band was me and Peter, we done over 150 gigs that year across the UK!! The CAST gigs were definitely the highlight and the Scottish leg of the tour was also a highlight! I think playing Alloa when I met young Kieran Fisher was a night I will never forget! It was one of those nights that everything went right! And Kieran Fisher’s set blew me away! CAST were on fire and we played great and you was present for the little after party in the dressing rooms and that wasn’t too shabby either! Haha
If memory serves me correct, following the CAST tour you played a gig at Man City’s ground the Eitihad. How did that one come about and how did it feel playing the gig as a Liverpool fan?
I didn’t mind playing it as a Liverpool fan, it was a great experience looking down at a massive crowd full of Mancs and getting appreciated like that, I don’t remember how we came to play the gig now, it was just one of many gigs we were doing at the time, I think it was Sean our Radio Plugger who got us on that gig,
Speaking of Liverpool FC, what have been the high-points for you following the club throughout your life?
Winning the champions league in 2005 has to come top because we were not a great side and never expected to beat AC Milan who were by far the best team in the world at that point and add the fact we were 3-0 down at half time and we pulled off the miracle then that’s got to be one of the best memories I’ve had. Along with that has got to be watching us win the league for the first time in 30 years this year! It was weird with not being able to go to the games because of COVID as I travel the whole of Europe watching us play but still was one of the beat memories I’ve got and that feeling will live with me forever!
Back to the music, your home-town city is packed with so much music history. How has growing up in Liverpool influenced your own music and what artists inspired you to pick-up a guitar and start writing your own music?
The obvious answer is The Beatles! Which is certainly right for me! But Merseyside has been a hotbed for creativity in all the arts including music for decades! It is a creative region that has produced endless bands over the decades! CAST, Echo and the Bunnymen, Shack, The Coral, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Lightening Seeds, Space, The Zutons, The Farm, Charlie Landsborugh, The Christians, The Teardrop Explodes, The Real People, Smaller, The Sums, all of these bands have blown me away at some point in my life and all of these bands were born within a few miles of each other! It’s magical how this place induces so much creativity. My theory behind it is the fact we have such a massive Irish presence in the city! Nearly 2 million Irish came over to Liverpool when they have the great famine of 1845! That meant 60% of the city is now Irish!! So as you can imagine there isn’t many people in Merseyside who havent got Irish grandparents or great grandparents! I believe they brought their music and culture with them and that’s what sets us aside from the rest of the country! My own grandfather was Irish and I’m personally proud of that fact! To get back to your question tho........... The La’s inspired me to pick a guitar up and start a band as much as any band in my life! A truely amazing band!
If you could work with any musician, who would it be and why?
My ex bassist Peter McParland who sadly passed away this year! I would do anything to be back in a room making music with him again.
Since catching you in 2015 and following the loss of your band-mate and close friend Peter the line-up of The Massacre has changed. Talk us through the musicians making-up The Massacre.
Yes at the end of that tour in 2015 Peter and I decided we needed a lead guitarist and drummer so we brought in Charlie Landsborough Jnr on lead guitar, the son of legendary Merseyside folk singer Charlie Landsborough. We then got Nick Miniski on drums who was the drummer for The La’s when they had a brief comeback in 2005 and that line up stayed the same until this year, when first Peter McParland suddenly and tragically passed away, and Nick Miniski and me both decided to part ways. So then I had a job of getting a new drummer and bassist, I would of walked away from music at that point but there was two people I really had in my mind to replace them, which was Mal Peet on drums, he had played with me in a band 10 years ago called ‘Mojo Revival’ and was a good friend and Jesus.... the man can play alright!! And on bass which was always going to be hard to replace Peter I brought in Jon Dillon, he used to play in another Liverpool band ‘The Bribes’. Previously, Peter and me would go upstairs into the practise rooms when they were practising and listen outside! They had some boss tunes! And even at times we would just invade their room to watch them play, there bass player took the eyes of Peter and Pete would always rave on about how good he was! So it was natural when the Bribes split up I should ask Jon Dillon, and was over the moon when he said yes!! Also due to my lead guitarist (Charlie) not being able to play gigs on the sabbath we have also got Sean Gow who plays some live gigs for us! The kid is a little genuis and brings a youthful energy to the live gigs! So it’s fair to say I’ve been lucky to be wrapped around in world class musicians for a few years now; some of the best the city has got to offer!
Lyrically your music is packed full of raw emotion and I sense new track Healin’ drawing on some of the trauma you have suffered personally so I’m curious how did the track come about?
I personally don’t know how they “come about” haha. I basically pick a guitar up and play it and sing over what I’m playing, usually thoughts in my head come out in the music, I never try and force my lyrics or go out intentionally to write a song based on a subject matter or an event in my life, it just happens. If I knew what the formula was to write a brilliant song every single time then I would be living in the south of France with a guitar shaped swimming pool in my back yard! Haha! Sometimes I finish a song that’s taken me 3 minutes to write! And I’m blown away by my work and sit there and realise what I had in my mind that I couldn’t say out loud and it’s came out in a tune! Them songs mean the world to me and usually mean a lot to other people because they can relate to them, and other songs I sit there for hours on end trying to work out clever lyrics and chord changes and they end up sounding like I’ve gone all prog rock and usually in fact all the time them ones end up in the bin! I see it as the magical tunes are already out there somewhere I just have to be patient and wait until I pluck one out of the sky! I’m actually not a massive fan of ‘Healin’ and it nearly ended up in the bin too! But the band voted me out and decided to record it and then ultimately put it out as a single! I’ve been surprised by the reaction to it and the success it’s had.
How does the song writing process work for The Massacre?
I write the song on my guitar, the lyrics the melody and the structure, and then take it to Charlie Landsborough Jnr and he will add his guitar and create the sound that the song will have with his playing, he has a knack of taking a song that may sound average and after putting his infectious licks and riffs and rhythmic playing to it then it becomes alive! Once that is done I take it to the rhythm section of the band, so the song may actually take yet another totally different direction once Dill and Mal jump on it, I believe in creativity not dictatorship, I don’t just pick people to play in the band for their ability. I pick them for the creativity too, I’ve always had a band that I can trust with the songs I write and make them their own! sSo the writing process doesnt just end the second I have written the song. I let the lads add their creativity to the songs, I believe that’s the magic of a band! 4 creative minds is better than 1!
How would you describe your music to Kulbritania followers?
Bloody good, simple not over complicated, catchy tunes, can’t be put in one box!
Pre-Covid you’re normally a busy band with live gigs, what has been your favourite gig to date and do you have a favourite venue to play?
I think whenever I play the 02 Academy in Liverpool I feel it the best! I used to go there a lot growing up to watch bands that I adored on that stage and stand in wonder looking up at them blowing my mind! So when I first got to stand on that very stage with a guitar wrapped around me and look down it was a surreal moment! I’ve played it with CAST too, which was a great moment because more than half of the crowd knew us or were fans of us too! So to look down at the crowd bouncing up and down to our tunes and singing them back to us was brilliant! There was also a gig I done with the band last year in the Isle of Bute! It was a festival called ‘Butefest’ we were on before fellow scousers ‘Space’ and ‘Louis Berry’ so there was a proper Merseyside feeling there, it was this little island on the coast of Scotland and the festival is held on the coast of that island! It was one of those gigs that everything came together on stage! It felt electric! At one point it felt like there were 10 musicians on stage! I actually stopped to look around thinking other musicians had jumped up playing with us! It sounded so big and something proper magic happened with that performance, just like writing songs I still don’t know what the formula is that makes nights like that happen!
Also, do you have any pre or post gig rituals?
Drink lots of water before the gig. Drink lots of beer after the gig, has worked for me for years!
Reflecting back to your time as a boxer, I remember watching some footage of some of your boxing fights and you seemed like a man on fire, full of rage and ready to unleash pain yet seeing you on stage you appear calm and at peace with yourself and I wonder if creating your own music has helped you find inner peace or if the fire still burns as fiercely?
It’s a mad one Bazza, I used to have a lot of anger and rage inside me. I was at war with the world and so many questions I needed answering but no one to ask. I think through music I’ve got my answers that I found inside my soul! Music has saved my life! It really has! I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for music! Years ago in my previous bands before I went on stage I would be nervous beyond belief! I would feel physically sick! In fact I was sick a couple of times! It was the same feeling I got before I went into the ring! And during my performance I would be too tense! It was an intense performance I would deliver! But now in the band in this last 5 years I can honestly say I don’t get any nerves before a gig! I’m in a good place and it shows on stage as I’m more relaxed! When I’m on that stage everything makes sense! All them questions are answered and all of a sudden I know why I’m here! It’s what I’m meant to do! There is no feeling like it! I’m blessed by the lord to be able to do it and do it with world class musicians standing next to me! It’s pretty hard to find rage in a moment like that! Only a shit sound guy on the mixing desk can ruin that! Be warned future sound guys! Haha!
Do you ever get tempted to get back into the ring?
No not whatsoever! It isn’t what I was born to do! I’m a massive boxing fan, and I’m a tough little kid and I had and still have the balls and guts to get in there and do it! But I wasn’t ever gonna win anything or become anything with it! I sold lots of tickets because I would run forward ready for war and had that rage inside me, and also I would fight anyone. I wasn’t scared, but I was never a talented boxer! I was just a game kid who could get himself in great shape and was ready to fight Mike Tyson if it came to it! Haha, music though is my life! It makes sense! And without sounding egotistical in anyways, but I’m bloody good at my job! And my job is writing the songs! I’m not a great singer! I’m not a great guitarist! But I am a great songwriter and I do believe I am a great front man which is something that seems to be a dying breed nowadays! This has enabled me to work alongside some amazing musicians who take my music to another level! I’m blessed! So when I come back from a gig or a tour or a band practise and I’m in a heavenly glow of content and I look at my amazing kids then the last thing I wanna do is go and get in a boxing ring and get punched around in the head! Haha, it was a hobby and one I enjoyed and I still train and spar and keep myself in shape but I was not born to be a boxer!
I remember coming to one of your gigs in the out-skirts of Glasgow when our mutual friend Kieran Fisher was also on the bill along with your fellow Liverpudlians The Sums. Anyways, your jacket disappeared and I started to think “oh no, Tony’s going to go tonto and this is not going to be good!” Are there any fellow musicians you’ve met and thought about giving them a little back-hander or a slap?
Yeah...... Lee Mavers! As I said, he is the reason I really wanted to be in a band! The man is a genuis to me, his songwriting is on another level! And if he had of stuck around and didn’t let his head fall off he would have been up there with one of the great songwriters in British history! I think, only now years on, people are starting to realise the genius of the man! And mostly because people have to go back to find good music because there isn’t anything on the radios right now that inspires a kid to pick a guitar up! I met him in a club in Liverpool not long after my first band was formed! I was blown away and I introduced myself! I was gutted to find he was a compete and utter divvy! And I had to walk away before I did end up slappin him! It’s mad though because since then many people who played in that band over the years have become good friends of mine! Including John Power, but Lee Mavers from my experience was a complete idiot!
Finally, I need to ask…you brought Mike Tyson to the UK for a promotional tour. How did this come about and what was it like hanging-out with Iron Mike?
I’m a very random person mate! I woke up one morning and came up with an idea that I wanted to bring Mike Tyson to Liverpool and meet him personally. After a lot of phone calls across the UK and the world and a lot of hard work I managed it! He was one of my biggest heroes and I’ve got a tattoo of him on my stomach! So to meet him was amazing and we still keep in touch and I go and see him personally when I visit USA.
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Thanks Tony and all the best to you and The Massacre for the rest of the year and let’s hope 2021 is a better year for everyone!