ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 5, 1991
By Steve Newton
If you’re a hard-rock kinda person, sometimes it really pays to hang out at Club Soda, along with the folks from Aerosmith and the Scorpions. For local rocker Chrissy Steele, that’s where she first met former Headpins guitarist Brian “Too Loud” MacLeod, who was impressed enough with her performance at a jam there to invite the Courtenay native back to his 41-foot studio/yacht, the Grand Marnier, to work on some tunes. That led MacLeod to produce, play most of the instruments on, and write the majority of tunes for Steele’s recently released album, Magnet to Steele.
So who says bars are a waste of time?
“We had a really good time recording in the boat,” says Steele, who honed her wailing vocal style while paying dues in a number of B.C. and Alberta-based top-40 outfits. “I sang all the vocals right in the living-room. It was so casual—we’d crack a bottle of red wine, sit back and relax, and he’d tell me some of his old road experiences with the Headpins, and working with Loverboy and all those guys.”
Since Steele sings in a throaty, pushed-to-the-max style, and since MacLeod’s trademark squealing leads and grinding rhythms are all over the new album, this scribbler had no choice but to join the long list of interviewers who have felt compelled to ask Steele about the possible comparisons people might make between her music and that of the Headpins, featuring Darby Mills.
“Oh, the ‘H’ question!” blurts out Steele. “Everybody asks me that, and my only answer is that this is my voice, and I’ve always had my voice. The comparisons are going to be there. I can’t help that. As far as the Headpins sound, that was Brian—he wrote all the songs and produced all the albums. So of course it’s going to sound like the Headpins.
“But working with Brian was really just a great opportunity, because he has the connections and respect in the industry. If I tried to do it all myself, I don’t know if it would happen as fast for me.”
MacLeod’s weighty pull helped attract people like vocalist Mark Slaughter to the project. He happened to be in town mixing a tune for the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack at Little Mountain Sound, so MacLeod got him to sang back-ups on one tune. Other notable names that crop up in Magnet to Steele’s liner notes include Def Leppard and AC/DC producer Mutt Lange, who co-wrote one song; former Bryan Adams drummer Pat Steward, who slammed everything into place; and knob-twiddler-for-the-stars Mike Fraser, who mixed the album.
You won’t see any particularly illustrious names among Steele’s performing band, though, because she decided to go more for guts than glory when it came time to form the touring group. “The record company originally wanted us to get a bunch of L.A. ‘dudes with attitudes’,” says Steele, “to get them up here as hired hands. But Brian and I weren’t really into that, so we started hunting around town.”
Their search resulted in a line-up that includes primo axeman Joey Wolk (formerly with the now-defunct Kick Axe/Loverboy spin-off Paradise), keyboardist Jim Webster (from Giant), drummer Rick Fedyk (from the Dave Steele Band), and bassist Tony Vott (from nowhere, yet—he’s only 22).
With her band geared and primed—having got a taste of the big stage after opening for Bryan Adams in Revelstoke last month—Steele is hoping to snag an opening spot with a major headliner. And she’s also making every effort to get herself on the airwaves.
“It’s just like pulling teeth, especially down in the States,” she admits. “When you’re a new artist and you’re playing anything that’s very heavy, these radio stations go, ‘Well it’s not Foreigner, it’s not Bad Company—whaddya mean you want us to play your song?’
“But I’ve been doing promo down there for months now, and it’s starting to show up. I got to see my name pop up in [the music industry trade publication] Album Network, and we’re starting to get add-ons now. It’s been a lot of hard work, but there are just no other female hard-rockers out there in the States right now that are doing it, so maybe that’s an advantage.”