Q&A With Peter Steer of Tenek
(PIC COURTESY OF MARTINA PEITZ)
Q.. Hi Pete. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. I'll start off with your recent gig at Bedsitland. A sad but enjoyable occasion?
Pete : We had a truly fantastic night at the final ever Bedsitland, it was the 4th time that we've played there and every night has been special in it's own way. We've been a mainstay on the playlists and it has definitely helped bring us a new and wider audience in the London area. It was the only true synth-pop night and we are all extremely sad to see it go but we fully understand Tracy's reasons and wish her all the best for her future ventures. I'm sure our paths will cross again very soon!
Q.. You performed tracks from the new album 'Smoke & Mirrors' How did they go down?
Pete : We were all delighted to see the new songs get such a positive and lively response as it was their first live airing. Two of the songs have been previewed on Soundcloud and they were chosen as
a.) they are close to finished and b.) we thought they would work well in the live show due to their anthemic sound. We look forward to playing more of the new material in the coming months, it also helps to keep the live sets fresh and interesting for both us and our audience.
Q.. Many people know 'Smoke & Mirrors' is a phrase used in forms of deception. Why that title?
Pete : The title 'Smoke & Mirrors' was formulated a long time ago and a lot of the concept is borne out of people and incidents that we've witnessed and been involved in over the last 4 years. It become very apparent to us that many people, musicians and things in our everyday lives are not what they seem to be when you scratch beneath the surface. It's a side of human nature that has always fascinated both of us as I think we'd regard ourselves as pretty decent and honest people and that what you see is very much what you get with Geoff and myself. I guess we are keen to delve into the darker side of human nature, it also seems that the social networks can seem to bring out the worst in otherwise quite decent people!
Q.. Earlier tracks from Tenek go under the Electronic Genre on Soundcloud. The new track teasers go under 'Electronic Rock'. Is that the new foundation and the new sound of Tenek?
Pete : To be honest, we've never seen ourselves as a true 'synth-pop' band and have never particularly liked that genre being tagged to us. Whilst we are primarily an electronic band, we've always been very keen to use other instruments such as guitars and slightly different things like violins and cellos etc. I would say that this album is slightly a bit more 'rock' in some ways although there is a little less conventional guitar, which is something of a paradox. The bass guitar has pushed its way to the fore and there are 3 different bass players on this album!
Q.. I think it's fair to say Pete that Geoff loves being in the studio. He has produced some brilliant tracks for other bands. Is he a perfectionist and does his attention to detail slow down the recording process and have you ever stood and thought 'for f**ks sake Geoff, Come on mate' :)
Pete : I think that we have an equal level of 'perfectionism' and the attention to detail is something that comes from both of us. There can be some long and sometimes laborious sessions in the studio but we never lose sight of the song and what we are trying to achieve. I also respect the incredible amount of hard work that goes into the production when I'm not there and that's why Geoff's productions stand head and shoulders above most other music in the current scene.
Q..Lots of new bands come and go and they always look up to Tenek as their mentors. Who does Tenek look up to?
Pete : Well I think Geoff would say that first and foremost it's producers that he looks up to and not other bands and musicians as such. The people I look up to are generally the friends we have in the business such as Gary Numan and Republica who have been so supportive and given us such great advice and encouragement over the years. Toyah was also very lovely too!
Q.. You have supported the likes of Toyah, The Human League, Republica, De/Vision and also a big favourite of yours Gary Numan. That must have been a highlight of your career?
Pete : Yes, supporting Gary Numan with three different bands has certainly been a highlight but releasing both of the Tenek albums surpassed that for me. Both took a lot of hard work and I felt very vindicated when they were finished and we listened back to them. You stand or fall by the music you release as once it's out there for everyone to listen to forever! At the time when we started Tenek and Alien 6 Productions I was at quite a low ebb musically as I'd been involved in a project that had stifled my music creativity and I'd lost my musical confidence as I was allowed to contribute very little. So I will be forever grateful to Geoff for helping me get back into music and feeling that I actually had something to contribute...
Q.. Your Brother Michael has been appearing with you guys live onstage of late. Is Michael part of the studio process too?
Pete : Michael (or Micky as he prefers to be known) first played bass for us on ' Under My Skin ' during the 'On The Wire' sessions and it worked so well we were keen to get his contributions to the new album. So, yes he will be playing on at least 3 or 4 of the songs on 'Smoke & Mirrors' as he's far more proficient than either of us. He also adds a great deal of depth to the live sound and can also play a little bit of synth which is always helpful as not all the tracks feature bass guitar!
Q.. I recall you saying a couple of years ago that you need a stiff drink to calm your nerves before you go on stage. Are you naturally nervous before any gig, big or small?
Pete : Well any excuse for a stiff drink is a good one. I do like to have a small nip of brandy before I go onstage to warm the throat! I used to suffer quite badly from 'pre-gig apprehension' shall we call it but after nearly 90 gigs and numerous mechanical breakdowns, etc… I’ve learned to handle these situations a lot better now.
Q.. You work in the railway industry by day and as a musician by night. Would you say that most musicians like yourself who perform and produce their own music do this mostly out of passion, even if there isn't always a financial reward?
Pete : Actually, its often the other way round as I do work a lot of night shifts and work on the music by day! For Tenek, we definitely write and record the music for ourselves first and if people enjoy what we do then we are both genuinely pleased. But the original intention was just to write exactly what we wanted to but we also wanted to ensure that the band was on a sound financial footing and we've done well in that respect. This is always helpful as being a self-financed artist can be costly but the rewards can be greater in the long run and artistic freedom is priceless!
Q.. The power of Facebook & Twitter and other social network sites give a platform to many unsigned bands to get their music out there. I think it's safe to say without them the electro/synth scene as well as many others would be totally finished. Would you agree?
Pete : I do agree that Twitter and FaceBook are invaluable to both new and established artists if used properly but there can be a tendency to 'over post' which can annoy and alienate a potential audience. If you are going to go down that route then I would say it helps to have a very sound product to sell! But it's also good to use traditional promotional tools such as radio, TV (if you can get it!) and good old-fashioned posters and flyers etc. If you rely on social media then I think it could well be a dangerous game to play. I also think that having a decent website certainly helps and getting out there and gigging too, there's no substitute for live performance.
Q.. I posted a question to Geoff via Derek Williams on his DEF Radio Show. I asked 'Out of all the tracks that came from other bands to be produced, which one did you hear and think 'I wish that was ours'? I'm putting that question to you now Pete.
Pete : To be honest, I can't think of too many. We have our own sound and song writing that I think is very much Tenek and it's from the heart so very personal to us. But my favourite track that Geoff has produced for another artist is 'Lock, Load, Aim, Fire' by the excellent and much underrated John Costello. I love the attitude and darkness of the subject matter and it has a nice edge to it. The song that I really wish I'd written though is 'To Lose My Life' by White Lies, simply brilliant! I will never tire of hearing that song.
Q.. What are your Pet Hates/Likes regarding the current electro/synth scene? Do you think it is healthier now than when you first started out?
Pete : I wouldn't say I have pet hates as such although I do get annoyed when I hear songs that are badly produced and mastered. If you write a song and care about it, then you should be aiming to get the very best result for it. I can't understand bands that will not invest in production, mixing and programming when it is clearly evident that they cannot do it for themselves despite their own ego telling them they can! Bands will gladly spend £1000's on synths and equipment but don't feel the same about spending that amount of money on their music, I find it all very odd. Also, today's technology and music delivery methods mean that just about anybody can write and record a pretty poor piece of music, upload it and then call it an official 'release' so there's no quality control and therefore there is a flood of sub-standard music jostling for position which dilutes any music scene. The UK synth scene is healthier now in that there are now more DJ's and podcasts playing the music and there are definitely more live opportunities so that's a good thing as there was very little in 2007 when we initially formed the band.
Q.. The Sophie Lancaster Project in my opinion was huge. I actually think one massive push would have took the track to the top of the download charts. Was that a proud moment and project to be involved in?
Pete : Yes, we were very proud to be involved in the project with our good friends The Last Cry although I think in retrospect that we should have pressed up some physical CD's as fans of both bands seem to prefer that format. I think it would have needed a much bigger PR company plus a video and much more press to have got the release into the charts but it did do extremely well in the first week of sales on Amazon in particular which was encouraging to see! The sales have been steadily coming in over the months so that's good news for the Sophie Foundation which is a cause that is very close to our hearts.
Q.. You've done Bedsitland and next up it's i-synth II in France. That must be a favourite date in your diary?
Pete : Yes, last years i-Synth was indeed an excellent event! But we enjoy every live show so this will be no different, we always feed off the audience so they can determine how good the gig will be themselves. Bedsitland was probably the event we were most closely associated with and the response to the live debut of 'Blinded By You' in 2010 ensured that it would be the first single released from the 'On The Wire' album. Probably the best organised event we've played at was Infest 2012, it was run with military precision but still retained a fantastic atmosphere and there was great variation in the artists chosen. For anybody wishing to put on their own event then that should be the blueprint!
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Q.. You've formed Tenek with Geoff. You've supported Gary Numan as well as many other top acts. You've had the pleasure of talking to a Tory Politician (cough) and you've even been on The Weakest Link :) What's next for Peter Steer?
Pete : Well the next thing is to finish off that 'difficult' third album and then promote that as much as possible, in the meantime I'm really looking forward to getting married to Lisa in August, some will say it's long overdue! I'm very excited about the coming year, it's going to be one of the most memorable of my life I suspect.
Finally Pete. Anything at all you would like to add? I personally would like to thank your PR Manager Cheri Freund. She Licensed the image used for the Revival Synth Logo and just like yourselves, Cheri has been a great supporter of Revival Synth.
Pete : Andy, thanks for the questions. I've nothing much to add apart from I'd like to say a big thanks to all of 'Team Tenek' who work so hard for Geoff and myself behind the scenes. Plus thanks to everyone who support us and all independent electronic music artists. Cheers! Pete
Many Thanks Pete - Good Luck With Smoke & Mirrors & Best Wishes To You & Lisa On Your Wedding Day