AN INTERVIEW WITH BERND STEIDL
Neoclassical fusion has developed over the last ten years to include mostly electric guitar virtuosos and their cadenza-laden displays. Shrapnel Records through its emphasis on guitarists has contributed to the exposure of these previously unheard talents. Until now, however, the ground toward the acoustic had been explored only in passing from one electric explosion to another. A German gentleman has become the first acoustic soloist to debut on the label with his album Psycho Acoustic Overture. I had the opportunity to speak with him from his home in Germany late one evening.
Interestingly, Steidl used to play the electric guitar in his teens in Germany. It seems that the usual story here in the US is a transition from the acoustic to the electric guitar. Not for Steidl. His home was filled with musicians (his father played the Sitar and his sister is studying the Piano). He emphasizes that classical music "is a part of me," probably because in Germany it is the popular musical form. He heard it as he grew up and "there are thousands of classical players in Germany." Concerts are plentiful and radio play is almost exclusively classical. He started playing the Zither when he was five which soon became the guitar (a nylon string classical model no doubt). As he entered his teens appreciation for the music of Jethro Tull, MikeOldfield, Al Di Meola, and Paco De Lucia mixed with his traditional teachings of Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner.
He came to the US following High School to attend GIT (the Guitar Institute of Technology) in which he states he was "one of maybe two acoustic players out of six hundred students." Here he was inundated with the electric guitar. The atmosphere at GIT was different for him. In Germany, teaching is very rigid and structured. At GIT, he was able to pick and choose which lectures were appropriate for him. "There was no pressure." Following his time at GIT (a few months), he returned to Germany to isolate himself in an effort to find his musical identity. At this time, he basically put away the electric guitar for the classical. In 1988 he contacted Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records with some demo material. This correspondence continued for about a year over which Steidl's ideas became more structured. The two agreed on the basis for a record and Psycho Acoustic Overture was born in 1991.
For Steidl, instrumentals are "more natural." There is a paucity of a vocal presence on his record. He chose the singer when he heard her in the studio in which he was recording. Impressed by her voice, he asked her to sing on a few cuts. Although he would like to tour here in the US, he has not signed any agreements to do so as of yet. He is being received well in Germany however, with both radioplay and television coverage. He is hopeful that endorsements currently in the works will allow him to travel to the US to tour perhaps later this year.
With regards to the record, it is extremely faithful to Steidl's classical roots, however in many places set to a rock beat. The rock rhythm unit of drummer Atma Amur, keyboardist Mark Robertson and bassist Brad Russell contributed to the fusion of American Rock to German Classical. The result is a sound pleasant to the ear of the classical aficionado as well as many rockers. It is intense in feel with beautifully played nylon string passages, backing keys and vocals. Didni Michelle Collins sings haunting backing vocals in "The Death Of Ludwig II" and "Wolfgang's Night." These tunes are heavy in Gothic feel appropriate for theme music to a Vincent Price late night horror film. The technique is flawless throughout with swiftly fretted runs interweaved tightly with main themes in a characteristically classical fashion. In "La Campanella", a theme from Liszt/Pagannini for two pianos is transcribed for guitar and piano. To summarize: If you are a guitar aficionado, GET THE RECORD. If you are a rocker interested in classical music, GET THE RECORD. Just have a listen.
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