The Steppes Interview with John Fallon

July 12, 2011

The Steppes Interview with John Fallon

1. Thanks a lot for taking your time! It all started as the Blue Macs, right? I Would love if you could share story about the very beginning!

The beginning…playing in bands in Chicago as a teenager from 1976-79. Was that the beginning? Got a Gibson folk guitar for Christmas 1970…then a Japanese Teisco Del Ray electric guitar June 1971 for my birthday….I believe there were several beginnings. Anyway, The Blue Macs…this began in early 1982. We had moved to the Los Angeles area in 1979 but David and I couldn’t settle…we went to Ireland and stayed with relatives in Co. Mayo. By 1982 I returned to Chicago to finish my studies at Loyola University…for some reason I started writing songs…it turned out that David was doing the same thing at “home” in California. It really was odd. I went home for Easter break and between us we had written a solid stash of interesting tunes! We decided to get back into having a band. I invited a friend of mine to L.A. from Chicago, Eddie Grzyb. We had played together in a band in ’79 doing covers of The Stones, Faces, Who, etc. I knew he could play. So the summer of ’82 was busy with rehearsing, gigging, and then recording 5 songs for a 7″ EP. We played shows a MOD house parties…we were VERY into The Who and The Jam…it showed, we kicked ass! Later in the year, I finished college and got the records pressed in Chicago…200 copies. David and I relocated to Dublin in Feb. ’83 and sent a tape of the songs to Melody Maker magazine. They freakin’ loved it!(you can read this review, a copy is on our facebook page under the “wall” section). This rave review gave us a big lift…a note from Paul Weller, himself! Also, a letter from Slash Records in Hollywood! They said they’d be interested if we were in Calif. Well, our parents were in L.A. still so we went there! We then did a bucket full of acoustic demos for a producer at Chrysalis Records…then we did 4 tracks that were later used on our Mystic Records 8 song, 12″ EP.

2. You released several albums. What are some of your favourites and what can you remember from producing and recording it?

I think my 2 favourite albums are “Drop of the Creature” and “Harps and Hammers”. “Drop…” was a total thrill to do. The album has a great feel to it…a bold beginning!Many years later, The Times of London said it was the best debut LP since “The Doors”!!! Now that was one hell of a compliment. Strangely, both LPs have a fair bit in common…they both have distinct overall sound that unifies the proceedings. We experimented with sounds throughout the sessions. We truly wanted to step up and record a great album. The kind of album that could be played back to back with the greats…Beatles, Stones, Who, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Cream, Byrds, Buffalo Springfield…it was a joy to create…sound and image came together in a perfect union.

“Harps and Hammers” was the realized expression of a band coming into the height of its power. We had already recorded 3 full albums and that Mystic EP, plus toured Europe twice…approx. 70 shows on the continent in late ’88 and late ’89. We were confident that we could take on ANY band and destroy them, haha. WE kicked ass everywhere we went…we loved it. We were like a band from the late ’60s dumped into the wilderness of the 1980s. Some people understood this immediately. Honestly, in the late ’80s we had no serious competition…we had no money and no financial future, either…but that’s show biz.
3. Where do mostly come your inspiration or should I say influences?

Our influences are many! In music we love the big 4…Beatles, Stones, Zep, and The Who…love The Kinks, Dylan, Byrds, Neil Young, Donovan, Chicago Chess Records blues, Vivaldi, Handel, Irish folk, American hillbilly, Elvis, Chuck Berry, a lot of stuff…

We were also heavily influenced by the writings of Oscar Wilde, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Wordsworth, Hermann Hesse, and even William Shakespeare! David even said in an interview, “we read books!”(see it in our video called “The Steppes…1983”)…we were always smart asses…intellectual acid dandies…fallen aristocrats, followers of Lord Byron.
4. What are some great memories you have from touring? Would love to hear some interesting stories..
Touring…story one: Going into Italy from Switzerland…stopped by the guards, told to get out of the van, a machine gun pointed at me!, VERY ugly scene…then as they are ransacking all the contents of our van, they see copies of “Enquire Within” and yell, “AH, Irlanda, The Steppes!!!”. They demand records, T-shirts, and autographs!… at first they didn’t like the look of “5 guys in a van from Amsterdam”(including our driver). It turns out we happened to be in a major magazine that week and these asshole guards had actually heard of us!
story two: Italy again…2 shows in 2 different cities in 1 night! We do a concert in Modena and then are driven all the way to Rimini to do another show!!! We are 3 hours late!There are hundreds of kids roaming around outside the venue in Rimini…total chaos…they spot us and rush the van and start banging on it and going nuts!! It was crazy and scary! The driver almost kills 2 kids trying to get us to the door…once inside, some weird promoter tries not to pay us! We don’t go on without $$$..we’ve already been burned by another jerk. We drift away and let the driver handle things…I’m taken down a long hallway, brought into a radio station booth, and interviewed by some goofy communist idiot..a total freak show! The kids are banging on the walls and the promoter finally pays up! He was worried that the police would arrive and a riot would break out. We then blast into our set! Some of this is in those “The Steppes in Italy parts 1-4” videos.
There are loads of stories! I should write them all down one day!
5. Harps and Hammers is my favorite album of yours! Would you like to remember some memories you have from it?

“Harps…” Working again with a great engineer named Mark Dawson…he was perfect for us…the guitar sounds we achieved with his help are for others to be jealous of ’til the end of time, haha. I remember Tim always sleeping in too late and we’d leave for the studio without him! I’d lay all the guitars down…almost finish everything…then Tim strolls in 5 hours late and lays down a freakin’ brilliant lick on one song and then a great, complete lead on another!!! The guy is a total natural, he has perfect pitch, too! I work on guitar stuff…he creates perfect finishes…we were very good together…just listen to the two of us on “Let Me Love You”…we are almost Abbey Road on that!

6. What happened after The Steppes?

The Steppes fell apart in 1991 due to being screwed over by Mother Records/U2/ Paul McGuinness. We were supposed to record an album in U2’s Dublin studio. We are gathered in my rented cottage in Westport, Co. Mayo. Went to meet Pal McGuinness(U2’s manager), we were promised a tour of Ireland, TV, radio, and a full album. We were left high and dry…no tour, no album, no nothing…in fact, they owe us $18,000 plus interest for the last 20 years! By the summer of ’91 it was over. I did a solo LP for Voxx called “Atomic Cossack” back in London at the same studio with Mark Dawson.

However, in 1995 we got together and recorded “Gods, Men and Ghosts” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This was for Delerium Records in England. John Frankovic of the group PLASTICLAND was our producer. We also organized the “Rarities” CD for Delerium. In fact Delerium released CDs of “Drop…”, “Stewdio” and “Atomic Cossack”. These were remastered/baked professionally…they sound great!
7. What are you doing these days?

These days I run our YouTube channel, SteppesTV and our facebook page( and my facebook page,too…it’s Steppes related really). This came about because we’ve signed a deal with Cherry Red Records in London to re-release our entire back catalogue.

Seperate from all this, I’ve been offered the opportunity to release some new songs on 7″ 45rpm vinyl records! I’m also helping my son’s band, ACTON TOWN. They are recording a single for the same label. Here are 2 videos of theirs…Cromm, my son, is the guitarist/singer/songwriter…the drummer also sings and writes!
8. Thanks a lot for the interview. Would you like to add something else, perhaps?

To wrap this up, I now live in Las Vegas, I drive hip cars from the ’60s and early ’70s, I’ve been happily married for over 20 years, I have a great son, and I have a wonderful dachshund named Sammy..”the best revenge is living well”, Oscar Wilde….see, I’m still an intellectual acid dandy…except these days I don’t wear green velvet…I tend to look more like a private detective from a ’60s TV show…and that’s fine by me,haha.

All for now, John Fallon of THE STEPPES…still sailing the silver cloud.

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011

© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/ 2011

One Comment
  1. william doucette

    Had the privilege of meeting John this weekend.. Delightful gentleman.


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