The strange sounds are coming from the main room where Pete Klehr, master musician in his 40's, is swaying back and forth as he picks at the strings of his Stratocaster. They make a strange sound, just the strings, without the benefit of speakers or amps to hear what is being played. I am directed to a set of headphones like the ones Pete is wearing. Suddenly I am plugged into the infectious grooves that the group is creating in the digital universe. 'Lefty Brown', 40-something techno-wizard and drummer, gets the recording equipment in the next room set up and jacked in. Then he climbs behind his massive drum set and dives, sticks first, into the musical brew in progress.
The most recent incarnation of SteelHIP is now jamming away, full force, with their rollicking creations of original cutting edge rock. The digital revolution has given basement musicians the opportunity to make state-of-the-art studio quality recordings without the expense, and meddling of manipulative middlemen of past years. The console, alone in the next room is sponging up all the digital output of bass, drum and guitar. Meanwhile the neighbors are sleeping peacefully. Only the drums make any noise. The special effort to fill the window wells and cover them with buffers makes it all but impossible to guess at the dense musical jungle being created in the digital laboratory downstairs.
Digital home studio set-ups now allow independent musicians the opportunity to do things their own way. Suddenly they have ultimate control over their creations, and they conceive and produce themselves. Modern sound technology, in the hands of people who can master it, allow the musicians, themselves, to decide the content, style and direction of cutting-edge music. For so long various 'fat cats,' from record producers to agents have determined what bands would produce. "It's all in the attitude," says Pete later, as he tilts his chair back against the wall in the console room as we wait to hear the playback. "We do it mainly to entertain ourselves. And if we entertain ourselves, maybe we'll entertain others. But the freedom to do it the way we want to do it, allows us to follow our interests."
Pete Klehr, considers an organ line he may lay over the newly created track. Pete can play it all, rhythm, bass, lead and keyboards. He may show up with either a new musical composition all laid out in his head, or just an inkling of an idea for the hyperactive trio to delve into. Pete was raised in Chicago and has opened for 60's, 70's and 80' bands from Iron Butterfly and Chicago, to Styx, Muddy Waters and Jay Ferguson of Spirit. He has jammed with Rick Neilson of Cheap Trick and toured the Pacific Rim with his two brothers in a rock and roll USO show.
Greg 'Lefty' Brown drummer and mastermind of the digital hardware that allows the band such creative freedom, has, likewise, opened for bands from Alice Cooper to Head East. He's done his barband time in the many rock and roll groups he's performed with since taking up the drums in his native Oklahoma. His work as a videographer gave him the opportunity to become acquainted with digital hardware. There he dug in deeply, creating the state-of-the-art recording studio in the basement of his home. Greg's delight in being able to 'lay down' his, Pete and Grover's years of experience, and mix it up with Grover's moving bass line, is evident in his cool demeanor and hardy laugh. He considers pulling out his synthesizer to build some saxophone-sounding bits on to the track.
Grover Cummings, the new guy, bass virtuoso extraordinaire, showed up through a friend-of-a-friend. Grover has been playing 25yrs, and can run the gamut of musical variety and exhibit the speed of the bass guitar hot doggers. Grover played with a variety of Colorado's power rock bands and has known Pete and Greg for years. He lists his influences as, Pantera, Ozzy, Zep, even Elvis and the Everly Brothers, but most especially, The Beatles. Grover has no fear of taking the microphone. In fact his cut "Money" on their CD-in-progress shows his dark cynical lyrics along with his tight bass guitar finger work.
While the computer quietly assembles tonight's track, they play back last weeks recording. Last week they created "It's In the Blood," which Pete has since, penned and recorded a vocal track over. It describes the laments and newfound freedom of musicians plugging into the new home digital recording revolution:
The record big shots said this group won't sell nuthin'
Nobody wants to hear their music,
So we bought our own equipment, set up our studio
To make our records.
It's in the Blood; you can't get it out
It's in the Blood, it won't go away
It's in the blood, you can't make it stop
It's there until your dying day."
At early morning, the playback sounds outstanding and laughter and congrats circle the room as we stand up and stretch. "Original material is where the creativity is." Pete tells me proudly. "It's a contribution. It's what we do." We blink at the approaching morning, yawn, stretch and climb out of the basement. Out of the digital downstairs and into the dawn of a new musical day.
Written by Larry Holgerson.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Mighty Man
2. Lotto Blues
3. Da Boogimon
4. It's In The Blood
6. Cover Girl
7. Just A Thing
8. Techno Ha
9. She's My Girl