Last week, musicinterviewmagazine.com spoke with Stevie D. aboutTorn From the Pages, released Sept. 6, 2019 via Mighty Music. Rooted in hard rock, blues and soul and fueled by the powerful vocal stylings of Corey Glover from Living Colour, the new album covers several musical bases.
Stevie D.’s production contributions are listed in the liner notes of albums from artists including Nuclear Assault, Overkill, Grammy Award-winner Cyndi Lauper and more. D. has mixed and engineered music at the producer’s New Jersey-based Sound Spa Productions studio for a wide range of notable acts, from Punky Meadows to Vanilla Fudge.
An Interview with Stevie D. – Continued
MusicInterviewMagazine.com spoke with Stevie D., whose real name is Steven DeAcutis, about the producer’s 30-plus year career in the music industry.
Musicinterviewmagazine.com: How did you get started in the music industry?
Stevie D.: I was always interested in the recording process and having already been an accomplished musician, it opened the door for me to get to work in recording studios, where I eventually gained the trust of the studio owners. One studio owner in particular took notice of my enthusiasm and gave me the keys. I would go to the studio after hours and record my own music. I eventually learned enough to be able to take on paying sessions. I loved the work and it paid well. Also, it enabled me to record my music. So it was a win-win.
While in New Jersey, the 1970s and 1980s were formidable years for you. Could you give us a sense of what that was like and why it might have been special? Did you have your own band and then tour local clubs to build a reputation and network?
New Jersey had a very active music scene back then, where you could go see a local club concert pretty much every night of the week. Bands had steady nights at the popular clubs and there was a revolving door policy. Bands like Twisted Sister, Skid Row and even Bon Jovi sprouted from there. But then the drinking age went from 18 to 21 and pretty much killed the scene. I was always involved in original music. My band in the 1980s was called Darcutis, which had a production deal with Ron Piccolo, a promotion guy at Columbia Records. He was responsible for breaking Boston’s first record. So, I spent my time writing and engineering in the 1970s and 1980s.
Would you say a musician or band today should follow the same route?
Artists need to follow their heart. At the same time, keep in mind we get into this to make a living, so balancing art and business, while having a clear vision, is key to longevity in the arts.
You mentioned working with great musicians earlier; it is unsurprising that you eventually connected with Overkill, a loud and proud Jersey band. Metal fans might be interested to learn you handled pre-production for 1988’s Under The Influence. What are some memories when working on the album?
My most vivid memory, aside from how cool they [Overkill] were, was the massive amount of gear and road cases the band brought into the studio. I hadn’t seen that before and I thought, Holy fuck, now that’s a big league rock band. The group was focused and intense all at the same time and very high-level players. I knew when I was recording, the material was going to do very well and stand the test of time.
If you were recording Under The Influence today, would your approach be different?
With the ability to complement the drums with samples and what I have learned over the years as a mixer, that in itself would be how I would approach those tracks differently. As long as the technology doesn’t overshadow the strength of the band as performers and musicians, it will be an upgrade to an already great product.
You have a long history with T.T. Quick, another New Jersey hard rock band which flew under the radar for decades. How did you get acquainted with them?
I would go see T.T. Quick in the Jersey clubs in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I don’t remember exactly how we met, but eventually word got out that I could make a proper rock record, so I started working with quite a few of Jersey’s finest.
In 2009, the band’s singer, Mark Tornillo, successfully landed the frontman position in Accept, which signaled revitalization for the German metallers. What was your reaction to Tornillo’s recruitment and how do you feel when you see him headlining festivals?
I wasn’t surprised he got the gig. Mark is a powerhouse talent and he is not just a rock singer; he is a diverse musician. He is such a strong presence in front of the right players. It’s clear that he should be performing at that level and to the masses. I am really happy that he has gotten that chance.
Was recording Tornillo’s vocals different from Overkill’s Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth?
There is a certain level of talent that puts a musician in a special category that makes my job easy and both of those guys are at that level. They each bring something different to the table but at that same are high level.
You engineered and mixed Cyndi Lauper’s 1989 album A Night to Remember. The collection was certified gold overseas and Lauper received a “Best Female Rock Performance” Grammy nomination for “I Drove All Night.” What were some of the key points while working on the album with Lauper?
Working with high-level talent is always a learning experience for me. Cyndi didn’t want me to use compression on her voice and A&R Recording Inc. co-founder, Phil Ramone, gave me a lesson in fader riding, so that was pretty cool. Being a recording engineer gave me the opportunity to work on many styles of music I may not have been involved in just as a musician.
Finally, what’s next for Stevie D., the producer and the recording artist?
I am currently writing for the next record and strive to continue making honest, high-level music with great people as a producer/mixer, musician and performer.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Writing about metal, rock and jazz, Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York – either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.