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In Words: Tall Stories

- Steve Augeri - Jan. 2009 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Steve Augeri live w/ Tyketto 1996
Claudia Ehrhardt

Steve Augeri - January, 23rd 2009 (by email)

Long time hard rock fans will remember Tall Stories, others will know singer Steve Augeri from his time with Tyketto and Journey. Now Tall Stories is back with a new album and Steve was so kind to answer a few questions.

First let me go back in time... Please tell us about Tall Stories came to life first!

Very long story short, during the late eighties I was a session singer in Manhattan, most usually at the now defunct, but, world reknowned Record Plant Studios. Often home of Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith, John Lennon. In fact, I remember riding the elevator once with Yoko. Anyway, one fateful day after a session, I was approached by a Brazilian fellow to consider joining a band of Brazilian musicians called Maestro. Columbia records once called us 'Sade meets Journey'. I think that was the first time my name and Journey's was ever mentioned in the same breathe. And over the course of maybe a year or two, one Brazilian musician at a time, would get fed-up with the bitter cold NYC winters and head back home to glorious, balmy Rio DeJaniero. Who could blame them. With that, we would replace him with a New York Rock and Roll musician (Including Anthony Esposito of Lynch Mob and Ace Frehley) until just prior to entering the studio to record our debut. Strange beginning but, this is Rock'n'Roll.

When you look back, do you think it was just bad timing that prevent the band from making it big?

It certainly didn't help. But, what can you do? New York was a difficult town for a struggling musician. Sure all the major labels were there, but so were loads of other musicians. The competition was high. And frankly, at the time they (the labels) were more concerned with 'Urban' music. You had a better shot out in L.A. and God knows things were pretty cut throat out there as well at the time. Just a lot more fun than NY. We tended to take ourselves a lot more seriously in those days or so it seemed at the time. I do recall the release of Appetite For Destruction almost single-handedly saving rock and roll back then. GNR. Our heroes!

Steve, you moved on to join Tyketto and later Journey. What did the others do after Tall Stories?

Tom was busy a raising a beautiful family. Two beautiful boys. Kevin formed and still plays and sings with a band called Tangled Vine. And Jack has been recording and producing for film, television, dance and anything else you throw at him. One thing though, you have to get rid of all of the chairs in the rehearsal studios 'cause he has a tendency to sit when he should be rocking. Ha,ha, ha! All that studio time, he's getting a little soft.

Have you been in touch through all the years? And how did Tall Stories got revived?

We crossed paths every now and then. When possible the guys would come out and visit me at the Journey shows when we'd roll into town. I remember always showing them off to Neal and the guys. I was always proud of this band. It was from hearing the Tall Stories recording of Wild On The Run on L.A. radio that Neal and Jonathan first approached me to come audition.
So it just felt natural to revisit a place that, in my opinion, had some unfinished business to attend to. That being the Skyscraper album.

How was it to work together again?

Well, it was the summer of 2006 when I first approached Jack Morer to see, if he would be interested in producing the project. It was a little awkward at first. But in no time we were laughing and treating each other like the band of brothers we once were or at least the friends that I recall we were when we were riding high. There's a lot of water under the bridge since January `96. That was our last string of shows in Paris. Two weeks in fact. It was the best of times... it was the worst of times.
Back on track, we've all grown in all aspects as well as musically. We're obviously more seasoned this time around. Seasoned, that what you call it when you're getting up in age. Ha!

How long did you work on Skyscraper? Writing songs and recording them?

The writing process and bulk of the recording was probably four years in the making. Mainly between '92 and '96. Then the recovery of the tapes and post production, overdubs another two and a half. Not because anything except Jack is a very busy boy. One week he's in the Carolinas rescuing puppy dogs then the next three months he's in Japan, etc., etc. Jack gets around. I guess when you don't have a record label breathing down your neck or worse the landlord or the IRS you tend to take a more lax approach to life. Very west coast. Better yet, very Brazilian. I mean that in a positive way. Brazilians really know how to live. We should all vacation there this holiday! Rio, here we come!

The drums been recorded by different drummers, but Tom DeFaria is still the Tall Stories drummer. Why couldn't he do it? And how important is it to have him in the band?

Technically, Tom left the band a year prior to the rest of us throwing in the towel in '96. Maybe he was the bright one at the time. In any event, once the recording process resumed and we realized the drum tracks on the basics needed to ultimately be replaced, Tom was the first phone call we made. Which brings me back to an earlier question. All of Tom original tracks were brilliant. The man's performances were perfect in the sense that they were the right part for the right song at the right time, These were also live recordings being made by four band mates in the same room at the same time. A real rock and roll band in every sense of the word. Inspired, vibing, grooving together. Not your typical modern recording today I assure you. The problem was that the drums sonically, were recorded so poorly. We tried every trick in the book to replace them. Samples and more samples, this and that and all kinds of techno mumbo-jumbo. Fast forward two years later and we finally bit the bullet and decided to re-record #$@^%&*! drums. Jack knew from the onset, but, I wanted to try everything in our power to keep Tommys 'vibe' on the record. Two years later, conflicts with Tom's schedule, and we're calling the best of the best in NYC. Certainly among our circle of friends. We really happy though when Tom decided to join us for the Firefest gig. He and his sense of humor were the best part of the trip. The man's a gem. Sorry girls, he's taken.

Why the title Skyscraper? And who had the idea for the b/w photo of the art deco top of the Chrysler Building? It looks cool and fits well to the title..

The initial concept was that of Stacy Negas. When it was time for a cover it immediately sprung to mind. The original artwork, much like the tapes were nowhere to be found (That's another story for another time). So we made it an Augeri Family affair and I recruited my wife and son to devise and recreate the image from my memory. Once we had the cover done I found myself obsessed with the Chrysler Building. Kind of like Richard Dryfus in the movie Close Encounters. My home studio is plastered with the image, it's a little weird. Anyway, I was chatting with Gulio, my art director at Frontiers Records, and after a few glasses of wine we got to discussing the lyric booklet and when I suggested walking around town like a tourist and taking pictures of my favorite skyscapers..., that was it SKYSCRAPER! I declared. That's it! Skyscaper! I think the expression is drinking and dialing. Never drink and dial. But, it wasn't until the next day that in my sobriety, I still liked the title, and so it came to be. Ha, ha!

I know this is a tough question, but which song(s) present Skyscraper best? And what is your favorite?

I can't say. I'm very indecisive in these matters. It's the offspring metaphor. They're all my children. I love them all the same. Just for different reasons.

A bit different then the rest is You Shall Be Free. Please tell us a bit about that song!

Alright, this is one of my favorites. You win. How did you do that? Seriously, from the moment I heard this song of Jacks, it spoke to me. It was originally inspired by the loss of Jacks best friend Curtis. It was also a favorite of our biggest fan and brother-in-law of mine, Dr. Nick Cirillo who also passed. Ironically, it's this very song mainly, that the CD is dedicated to. In fact it was his wishes to be sure to release this record. So, you see. These recordings had to come to light.

Will you go on tour, if you get one offered? Or is Tall Stories a studio band?

That would definitly help the process along. We are all currently involved in various other projects and commitments. But, we are trying to work out the particulars now. It's my personal priority.

Another touch question... The music scene is constantly changing. But it seems that many bands become active again... Is this the time for AOR / hard rock / classic rock to return and bring back melodic sounds?

It's always time for good music of any genre. Especially one that's taken a backseat for some time. You know like most things in life, if it worth coming around the first time it's usually worth going around again.

Do you think that Tall Stories will get more attention due to your Journey time? Is it an advantage? Or do you think people will be more critical?

Sure, that's only natural. It is an advantage. But, it's a double edged sword as one would expect. We are not the polished AOR band Journey is. We've had our moments, but, think we're a bit more organic. Raw, you know? I think that's when we're at our best. I hope that the listener will take us at face value. With an open mind. Even from comparing us to our first recording. We've evolved and grown as any band worth their salt does. You bet they'll be critical. They'll be comparing us to one of the finest AOR bands in history. But, in the end, I'm confident in what we've achieved. We are who we are, and there's no mistaking that on Skyscraper. Take it or leave it.

What's on your schedule for 2009?

The sky's the limit!

Thanks again to Steve for his time and it surely gives you an idea about Tall Stories. As Steve said they are a Rock'n'Roll band and so they are a live band. I hope that there is a chance to bring them out on the road... And if not, please don't let us wait too long for more Tall Stories!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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