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Greg Allen Interview
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December 2020


JK - Rumor has it that you have a new disk on the way. Does it have a title yet? Who’s in the band?

Greg- We’ve been working on a new record for about 5 months and have 5-6 songs in various stages of mixes. We probably want to get about 15 songs together and pick 10 from that. It’s a fairly eclectic group of songs so far but there is a cohesive thread that runs through them. Some of them are years old, some of them are months old and some of them are brand new.

We don’t have a title yet. We’ve been throwing around a few ideas but it changes constantly. When we’re done with the record we’ll have a better idea what to name it. Hopefully we’ll be done by the spring or summer of 2021 but you never know with all the shit that’s going on now… It looks like we’ll have a 7” coming out on Ghost Highway in Spain. I’ll say something about that later on.
Greg Allen
Photo: Nicole Tammaro
Greg Allen
Photo: Nicole Tammaro

The band consists of Greg Steinbaugh on bass, Jeff Larson on drums, Cory Wells on guitar and obviously me – unless I fire myself…
Greg Steinbaugh and I go way back. We were in Two Saints with Joe Mazzari in the late 80s or early 90s, toured the UK together in that band and later in Port Charles Quintet with Cam Ackland and Dennis McCarthy. Cory moved here from Texas a year ago or so. Jeff is great - a real solid rock and roll drummer. They are all fantastic musicians!

JK - Given the state of covid how are you putting it together? Who’s behind the board? How close are you to finishing?

Greg - We had to stop recording a couple of weeks ago because
cases in this area quadrupled; when something breaks we’ll resume.
Cory, our guitarist, is the engineer on this record. He’s the one making it all happen sonically and he’s doing a wonderful job. He also plays bass, sax, keys and of course, bagpipes.

JK - Did you have ideas that you were trying out or some things that you wanted to change up from past efforts?

Greg - Yes, this is going to be a pretty diverse record. Some are 60’s – 70’s pop-ish, some are punk rock (whatever the fuck that means), some delta blues, some almost like ska, a couple of acoustic numbers, some rockers. We’ll see how it all comes to fruition. Its closer to a record that I did with Johnny Rao a few years back called Just for You – but with more variety and detail.

JK- The song “I Need a Facelift” that you premiered on Joe Public Speaking (Listen Here ) is hysterical. Do you consciously think of making a song funny?

Greg - I saw some disturbing evidence that led up to writing that song. I don’t ever consciously write to be funny but sometimes the characters lends themselves to it. That one took about 5 minutes. It’s pretty easy when all the information is right there in front of you and you don’t have to labor over the lyrics or anything. Like Joe Friday on Dragnet, “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

JK- Others have told of creativity problems during the quarantine period, is that true for you?

Greg Well I guess it’s hard to spark inspiration when you’re locked down in your house for several months; sometimes it takes something to initiate the creative process. I guess if I got too conscious of my surroundings I’d write even more depressing songs so I tend to let my imagination wander a bit…well, a lot. I think I wrote a few at the beginning of this mess when I had just woken up in the morning and they all sucked…just fucking miserable shit.

JK - How did you feel about the Jerry Nolan book that came out a couple of years ago? Was it fairly representative of the Jerry Nolan that you knew?

Greg - No, not as far as I’m concerned. Curt Weiss is a good guy, a good writer and a good drummer but he didn’t know Jerry. I don’t think he even met him. All the information in the book is from other people - their opinions. And who knows what salacious intentions the publishers had to sell that shit.

The Jerry Nolan that I knew was a good guy – sorta like your cool older brother who goes to Vietnam (War) and comes back different but he’s still your cool older brother. We had some seriously good times. Whenever I was down on my luck he would buy me breakfast or whatever and when I had money I’d do the same. The book portrays him as a stereotypical junkie scumbag which is far from the guy that I knew. We’d spend hours jamming on tunes. Sometimes I’d play drums and he’d play guitar. Only rarely would he be all fucked up.

JK - A lot of the bands around town obviously have Boston roots. Your roots are in NY. Tell us a couple of stories that inform the musician you are today.

Greg - Well actually I grew up in Rhode Island and didn’t move to NYC until I was in my 20s. I used to see all the cool Boston bands in the RI clubs in the mid-70s – Thundertrain, Orphan Annie, Celebration. My favorite Boston band at the time was Johanna Wild. They
The Blue Ruin
Blue Ruin
were unbelievable!!! Like early Aerosmith / Humble Pie, Stonesy, funky kinda thing! Used to sneak into clubs underage and see ‘em when I was in high school. In fact I used to come into Boston in the mid-70s to play in the Combat Zone with this stripper / singer and we had Dave and Sev from Willie Alexander’s band played with us a few times.

Later on I formed a band in Providence called Blue Ruin and we would play shows with the Neighborhoods, Robin Lane, John Butcher Axis, Lou Miami, Boy’s Life, Del Fuegos – played with some cool Boston bands as well as opening shows for Blue Cheer, Nazareth, Johnny Winter, Johnny Thunders, Rick Derringer, Jim Carroll Band. We did our first record, produced by Billy Rath of Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, at Euphoria Sound in Revere, MA in the early 80s.
I moved to NYC when I was 23 or 24, then to England for a while, then back to NY. Spent about 20 years there. Funny…been here now almost 15 years.

JK - Favorite Boston Bands of All Time (excluding famous ones like J Geils)?

1. The Neighborhoods
2. Real Kids
3. The Dawgs
4. The Bags
5. Johanna Wild
6. Lou Miami and the Kosmetix
7. DMZ
8. Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band

JK - You do great interviews because of your stories. Ever think of getting them all done in a book?

Greg - Yeah, I’m a real raconteur, aren’t I? Haha! Umm…well I guess most people don’t really want to hear about what you had for lunch and how hard you rocked the night before and how everyone loved your groovy band. I just like telling stories about what happened when I was playing music without all the self-glorifying pretense. Let’s face it I’m at an age now where self-parody is the norm for me and unfortunately a lot other people still don’t get it. I’m quite proud of it frankly.
As for doing a book…hmmm…well years back a girlfriend of mine who had a magazine in England suggested I do just that. But eventually the idea fell out of favor with me when I wrote about 3-4 chapters and I got painfully bored with myself and couldn’t go on.

JK - Your charming wife Heather Stewart is a talented painter. Do your respective creative efforts, or work ethic inspire the other?

Greg - I don’t know if we inspire one another. I guess so. She’s more introverted so she doesn’t want to be harassed with my constant babbling and useless knowledge when she’s working. She locks herself in her art studio and I work in the living room or another room in the house. Its funny ‘cause the last place that I lived in NYC my roommate would lock himself in his room every night to write songs. That inspired me to do the same. A lotta good songs came out of that time period because you had no one to engage with and you had to focus on writing and re-writing. Sometimes I’d get in the car at 2am in the morning and drive over to Johnny Rao’s house in Staten Island and yell up to his window, “Hey - check out this new riff” and we’d spend ‘til the sun came up finishing it off.

JK- Her painting was on the last record cover, will that be repeated?

Greg Allen CD Greg - As for the record cover that she did for the Happiness is on the Way EP – I just loved the painting of the clown sign that she did based on photos from our trip to Las Vegas. The clown is waving a lollipop among a bunch of high tension wires; I don’t know if most people understand the irony in the painting. I loved it because it was so disturbing to me. Hopefully she’ll do more in the future. She's been selling a lot of her work lately and she’s going to be president of Salem Arts Association in January so that’s a good thing, too.

JK - If you could jam with anyone who would you pick? Why?

Greg - Wow, that’s like the $100,000 question! I guess I would have liked to have played with Brian Jones just to see how he would treat a song, what he’d play, what instruments he’d use in it – weird, right? Or I’d love to write with Peter Perrett of the Only Ones or Lou Reed or Tommy Bolin or one of those Brill Building writers in the 60s. Or maybe just be a fly on the wall and watch Ian Hunter write a song. I don’t think I’d care too much about jamming with anyone but I bet it would have been a scream to sit in with the MC5 or Dolls or the Stooges. But just having been able to see them live would be enough.

JK - Assuming you have options, what is your favorite guitar, amp, pedal set up?

Greg - My favorite guitars? I try out different guitars but I always end up going back to Les Paul Juniors. I’ve been playing them and Les Paul Specials almost constantly since 1979. I had a bunch of original ones – a ’55 TV
Les Paul
Special (that Johnny Thunders begged me to sell him but I didn’t. Thanks Joe Mazzari ?) , ’57 TV Junior, ’59 Special. The only vintage one I have left is a ’56 tobacco sunburst Junior that I’ve had for 30 years.

The Custom Shop / Historic Juniors or Specials are just as good and I have several of them. I love the growling mid-range honk and fat ‘baseball bat’ neck on my ’57 white TV Junior - which I’ve been using quite often for the last 20 years. I have some other Les Paul Customs and Standards, and Strats, and a couple of Zemaitis guitars that are reissues from Tony’s sons company that are pretty cool, too.

For pedals I just use a Cusack More Louder Boost or the front end of an Xotic XP Pre-Amp pedal or a Boss Blues Driver – no other pedals.
My favorite amps are my ’59 Victoria Bandmaster Reissue 3x10 or my Music Man RD 50 head with 1x12 EVM cabinet – that think will sink a continent. I also have a Marshall JMP that was owned by Kelly of Girlschool; that’s sounds brutal but its too much to move around in this day and age.

JK - We need a laugh during the Zombie Apocalypse - tell us a story about an incident in your first band.

Greg - Oh man – so many ridiculous incidents over the years that I probably couldn’t decide what was more fun doing the gigs or just engaging in idiotic behavior. Here’s one that still makes me laugh.

When I was in Blue Ruin we started getting more and more shows in Rhode Island and on the East Coast. We figured we might want to look for a manager ‘cause we were sick of booking shows ourselves and dealing with club owners, etc. We figured we’d look more professional if we had someone to represent us. At the time I was working in a Strawberries record store in Providence, RI which was the worst paying job I’ve ever had but a lot of fun. This older guy would come in and buy a whole bunch of records on a weekly basis. He was 30 or so and was well dressed and well spoken. One day we got to talking and he said that he’d seen my band play. I told him that we were looking for
Greg Player
a manager and he said that he might be interested; he said that he had a few clients already and had managed some pretty famous people in the past.
I was pretty excited and told the other guys in the band. We set up a time to meet with him a couple of weeks later in a nice restaurant / bar on the East Side of Providence.

After a couple of beers and small talk we decided to get down to business and discuss what was at head. Up until then he seemed very intelligent and well-rounded.

I asked him who he was managing presently and who he had managed. He said that he’d worked with Barry Manilow and the guy who played Skipper on Gilligan’s Island. We were pretty impressed that he had clients of that caliber.

When I asked who he was presently managing he said George Jetson and we all said “Wow” – we loved The Jetsons. (For those that don’t know - The Jetsons was an animated / cartoon TV show. It was Hanna-Barbera's Space Age counterpart to The Flintstones.)

He said that he’d been with George (Jetson) just last week and had talked about maybe starting a new series. The drummer asked him, “Who is the voice behind George Jetson?” and he responded that it was ALL George.

Then I said, “Yeah…but who speaks the voice of George in the cartoon?” He looked confused. He said, “I don’t know what you mean.” Then the guitarist added, “I think what he means is who is the voice behind the animated cartoon character, who speaks his part?”

That’s when he said, “There isn’t one.” And I said, kind of panicking, “What? You mean that George Jetson, the cartoon character, is a real person?”
And he said, “Yes…exactly!” The room went silent.

That was our first attempt to get a manager. There would be many more…
Les Paul

JK -A few folks are dropping videos, podcasts, Facebook live recordings, to scratch the itch to play and get their music in front of people. What do you have out there? Where can people find it. Anything upcoming on your agenda?

Greg - We have a new 7” single record coming out on Ghost Highway in Spain. That will probably be out sometime in 2021. Although we’ve had our own label, Straight to the Top Records, for the last 15 years we figured this would be a good opportunity to branch out and Marco is a great guy! Hopefully we can get over there to play next year sometime depending on covid. Everything is dependent on covid…

Our 12” LP will be out about the same time on Straight to the Top Records and digitally via Kudos Ltd in London.

All of our past recordings are distributed digitally by Kudos Ltd in London and are available on Spotify, Pandora, all the formats, overall international distribution, etc. All our vinyl and CDs are presently available at BOMP! Records in LA. Both Dan at Kudos and Suzy at BOMP! Have been great!

We have a lot of stuff on YouTube and I’ll be doing an interview on Steev Riccardo’s Blowin’ Smoke podcast in mid-December.
Also – we want to thank all of you guys at Boston Groupie News for all of your support – and thanks to Mike Stewart of WMFO! Me and the other guys really appreciate it!

Greg's Top ‘TEN’ Albums
NY Dolls Exile on Main Street
New York Dolls
Big Star
Transformer – Lou Reed
All the Young Dude – Mott the Hoople
Never Mind the Bullocks Here’s the Sex Pistols
Teaser – Tommy Bolin
A Soap Opera – the Kinks
Aerosmith (1st album)
I’ve Got My Own Album to Do – Ron Wood
Real Kids – No Place Fast
Sensational Alex Harvey Band – everything
L.A.M.F. – The Heartbreakers
Kick Out the Jams – MC5
Professionals So Alone - Johnny Thunders
Aladdin Sane – David Bowie
I Didn’t See It Coming - The Professionals
Let it Be – the Replacements
David Johansen – 1st album
Teenage Head – Flamin’ Groovies
The Only Ones – 1st album
Kill City – Iggy Pop and James Williamson
Catholic Boy – Jim Carroll
Rocket to Russia – The Ramones
Who’s Next – The Who
Could easily name 100 more…

Greg's Favorite ROCK BOOKS – Not all are ‘rock’ books…
Please Kill Me – Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil
Diary of a Rock Star – Ian Hunter
Jaco – Bill Milkowski
Nick Kent Speed /Kentucky Ham – William S. Burroughs, Jr.
The Dark Stuff – Nick Kent
Up and Down with the Rolling Stones – Tony Sanchez (Is it non-fiction or fiction?)
Rage to Survive: the Etta James Story
Diary of a Drug Fiend – Aleister Crowley
Edie – Jean Stein and George Plimpton
Vinyl Junkies – Brett Milano
Hollywood Babylon – Kenneth Anger
Touched by Magic: the Tommy Bolin Story – George Prato
Play it Loud – Brad Tolinski and Alan DiPerna
Interviews with Tom Petty
Three Dog Nightmare – Chuck Negron



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