Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Interview with Local Artist Steve Harris of The Styletones

Most San Diego locals are familiar with the soulful funk group, The Styletones, and the lead singer and co-writer Stevie Harris. Harris is also the lead singer guitarist and songwriter of Stevie and the Hi-Staxx and was previously signed by Cargo Records as solo artist, touring with the group Conglomerate throughout the United States and Morocco.

In 2010 and 2011, I collaborated with Steve Harris on a few San Diego shows geared toward highlighting his acoustic work as well as his side project Stevie and the Hi-Staxx. We recently spoke about the future of his music and, since I learned recently that he also paints, I had questions about his art. With that in mind, I asked Steve to show some of his paintings at an upcoming event at The Go Lounge. What follows are insights about his music-related projects as well as his artwork.

How do you view yourself as an artist?

“My vision is cloudy -- but it is to continue going forward for beauty and some truth I can relate to in my music. I want to stay honest. Right now I’m comfortable letting all directions develop; I want to stay out of the way.

The Styletones continue to be a surprising little dessert for me … I don’t have administrative responsibility so I’m down to step out the way of it rolling.

I will always play acoustic, however. I think best, regardless of whether I have an audience for it, it is my truest art form; my first art form --

The Hi-Staxx is my opportunity to play electric guitar in the tradition of my alternative black forebearers such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, D’Angelo and several others.”

When did you start painting?

“I did my first few paintings seven years ago in Florida but the main thrust has been since late April 2012. I've drawn all my life but the color is new.”

What do you consider to be your main motivation for painting?

“My motivators – honestly, I think I seek father figures -- mostly soul singers such as Al Green and Marvin Gaye. I have always been into Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Salvador Dali – more their lives than their art, maybe. Painting strengthens my connection to them and it's not music and so it offers a nice break.

Art is so new to me; I don’t feel any pressure to do anything but enjoy it. I am not pressured to make a living with it because I’m not that good. Strange motivator. I also just like beautiful things so it’s cool to be part of it. It is also very relaxing for me. I have a few watercolors and a few ink drawings -- mainly acrylics on canvas or fancy cardboard.”

What have you gained through painting that may have been a surprise or that is different from creating music?

“As an artist -- in a broader sense -- I see myself as a child. I'm just now gaining real understanding of how little I know and, more importantly, I don’t live like I know the little I do. But I've never stopped creating so there must be a reason for it and that has nothing to do with self gratification or paying bills. Maybe if I get clear enough and sensitive enough, answers will come. I have no history with painting; it’s like a new girlfriend -- no baggage, no expectations. It has helped me realize that your art is not the tools or medium you use to express it. Whatever your frequency is it shows itself. I think the roughness of my sound is translated into the roughness of my brush stroke. I don’t know why I paint flowers.”

How do you feel about the first public showing of your paintings in a club setting, along with your music?

“I've spent a lot my life in bars, playing music. I was also a doorman for three years at El Rio on Mission at Cesar Chavez (San Francisco). It is a culture. I don’t drink either never have -- but I’m a night person, a blues person -- according to Amiri Baraka. I have spent way less time in galleries.”

Steve Harris performs this Friday, November 16, 2012 along with Michael of the Earth and Sun and The China Clippers at The Go Lounge in the College Area, 7123 El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, Ca. Show starts at 9:00 p.m.

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