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interview 

Submitted by Arie van der Graaf on 2017-12-01
Interview with Steelheart singer Miljenko Matijevic.

After some successes back in the 80’s hair era the original Steelheart line-up disbanded.

In different Steelheart band formations however leadsinger Miljenko Matijevic kept on going with many ups and downs along the road.

He talks about how his stage accident affected his career.

Also he gives an insight on The Doors with whom he did 2 tours, his influences and also the recent Steelheart release Through Worlds of Stardust.

How are you doing Miljenko?

I'm ok. I've been working so much.

I spent 6 months in Korea last year, did a lot of touring and jumped straight into recording the new album after that, which was pretty intense to  because of the deadline. It was scheduled for a March/April release but we just couldn't do it
We finished in April alright but to get it released the proper way was a huge amount of work, a big task.
After that i did some more touring and to be honest i am wiped the fuck out!

What do you think about the music industry today?

I'd like to say i am optimistic. I think the new model is about to create itself.
You know people are very creative in finding new ideas and stuff.
Off course there has been a set back with illegal downloading. But new ideas and creativity can give it a new direction.
You know i am going to try and ban everyone from filming shows with mobile phones.
I think it ruins the performance. The vibe.
I don't pay them to film it and put it on the internet.
It is not their right. Not their soul.
I think it should be illegal.
It ruins everything.
You know people can sit at home behind their screen and watch the performance.
We need those people to come to a show and buy merchandise.
This is how we can survive.
It will be difficult but i am gonna try.
I am confident that if i succeed more acts will follow the idea soon.
We need the vibe back when people were holding cigarette lighters up instead of mobile phones.
Most artists are really struggling these days. We need people to come back to the live shows and away from their screens.

At what age did you start playing your first instrument?

I would rather say i started singing a at a very young age
I remember one spot very clear when i was around the age of four.
I remember i was singing along with the radio in my grandmothers kitchen when i suddenly while i was singing swallowed a piece of gum.
And i had to drink coffee when it happened haha.
This is the earliest memory of me singing and really feeling it.
Very funny.

You play both guitar as well as piano.
Do you play any other instruments?


I don't. Well i could play bass.
Or create some kind of music with any instrument but i don't really.
I am more like a writer on the piano. I write songs on the piano but i am much better at playing guitar.
I stopped playing solos though.
So you play rhythm guitar mainly?
Right.

Do you remember writing your first song and what was the title?

I do.
It is titled "You Made It End" and i wrote it with my brother.
You know, we were like a team and he really was a great guitar player.
He really had that gift you know.
But he wanted a different lifestyle and was to chicken to follow through.
He regrets it now.
We wrote it in our bedroom we used to share.
I played bass on it actually back then.

Have you ever thought of taking that song to the next level and releasing it somehow?

Yes and i will.
I fact i am thinking of doing it on the next album for Frontiers maybe.
And calling the album "From The Archives" taking old songs from the past that never got released. And put them together.
Really old school.
I was thinking about doing that with the current album but this had to be done the way we did with that energy.

How was the original Steelheart formed?

I was in a band called The Mission and we were doing something like a punkish style.
After we played at a club called The Night Owl in Connecticut a guy who had a rehearsal studio came up to me and telling i am a great singer and frontman but why in this band which does not suit you. You are more of a rocksinger.
He told me he had a band rehearsing at his studio and i really should meet them.
I thought i wouldn't hurt so i went over there, we did some Zeppelin songs and that was it.
That was the beginning with Red Alert.
That band name was later changed into Steelheart right?
Correct.

Steelheart recently signed with Italian label Frontiers.
How exited are you about this deal?


Well it's tricky.
They've been after me since around 16 years asking me to do a record with them.
They are specialized in 80's music you know but as much as i love the 80's i just can't go back too far you know.
That's why when they want, and i want to do something that sounds like the 80's it has to be from the archives.
I just can't write music like the 80's anymore.
It's just not my style anymore.
It's difficult because i feel on the promotion side it's not what it used to be.
I invested a lot of money in this project myself, including them.
You know, like creating videos, recording the orchestra in Sweden.
I just don't know how to do a little record, really i don't.
I can't just put some shit together and throw it out there.
It's my legacy, my life.
I don want to be 75 looking back and thinking it sucks.
It's done with integrity.
Having said that i just don't really see the promotion, the push it supposed to have.
To be honest with you it kinda sucks you know.
I am gonna put Steelheart Records back together properly and release it that way.
I put is such a huge amount of work into the release i can't even tell you.
From logistics, artwork, studios, putting the band together, directing videos.
That is work the record company does.
I did all of it and it's just too much.
Today you need a lot of money and promotion to make it work.
To get the album heard of around the world.
So the situation kind of really sucks.
I don't know what you think but i think we made a very powerful record.

Kenny Kanowsky who worked with you on the Wait album did a guest appearance on Through Worlds of Stardust.
He recently passed away.
This of course must have been a tragedy.
Can you tell me something about him as a person and what he meant to you and your music?

 

Sure.

Kenny was like a brother, we would not agree like siblings, like brothers do on many things.

We definitely had a lot of respect for each other as artists.

Kenny was great.

The problem was he just got caught up into the alcohol and i am not sure what other stuff and after a while that catches up to you.

It's extremely sad and i am just being completely honest you know.

Now he's gone many people say he was a great guy blabla.

Yeah, he was a great guy, there was a lot of beauty in Kenny and there was a lot of confusion and pain in Kenny too you know.

That all came with him, also into the dynamics of the band when we performed.

So i am sad to say that i feel like he took himself out in a way you know and the spirit just took him.

He was going through a very difficult time.

He was an amazing talented guitar player and singer.

And writer.

 

Great that you talk with such respect about Kenny.

Is this something you would write about, like maybe a song against addiction or something like that?

 

Actually the song Lips of Rain, i really haven't told anyone this but i think i have to at this point.

Lips of Rain is written about a love addiction with heroin.

I wrote this while i was watching Netflix and they were interviewing this kid in Staten Island on the tv show Drugs Inc. And he was just hooked on heroin.

And he said i don't know what i am gonna do, i am going to kick this or i am going to die.

And then they showed the drug dealer and he was like “yeah i am just selling this making money and when i am not doing it somebody else will” and when i throw in some methanol mixing it someone od's and they know it is my signature, it's my signature thing and then they know this shit is good.

And i was sitting in tears watching this kid drugged who didn't want to be hooked on drugs.

His family tried to help him, his girlfriend too tried to get him off of it.

It's like a demon that has your soul and owns it.

I was really in tears right and thinking holy shit this is insane.

How can anybody even allow this to happen.

Personally i think artists, who do have a huge influence on young people should really carry out this message you know.

Right.

That's why i wrote the song Lips of Rain, Read the lyrics. Through Worlds of Stardust, when you're wasted, high and all that stuff. “I never thought i could love anyone like i'm loving you”.

Read it and remember what i said. Very powerful.

 

A couple of years ago you have also released the song “Hallelujah”, written by Leonard Cohen.

This song must have been some kind of influence on you also?

 

It did, i don't know i just felt it, and I think my version is so great, spiritual, Christian, it just moved me.

I always wanted to do a song like that and this was the one.

People were like no don't do that it's done so many times that they killed it. You can't compete with that.

I said you know i don't make music to compete with anyone, i make music because of what i feel.

I do it with honesty with love and heart. It's not a competition.

So i told i decided to do it the way i wanted to do it, the way i felt it and after it's done sharing it with the world. That's my gift.

I have had so many beautiful e-mails about it, it really touched me.

 

You have been quite successful in Asia for example in South Korea.

Tell me why do they have a special place in your heart?

 

You know, Korean and Asian people are somehow more connected, openly connected.

I don't know how exactly to explain it. They are very emotional and just like Hallelujah and She's gone. They get really emotional.

They really connect with the singing side of it, the emotion and the story, they just love that.

 

Recently you have recorded a new song “My Love Has Gone” in two versions, one in English and one partly in Korean.

Why did you not add that song to the new Steelheart album as well?

 

Initially i was going to but in the end i just didn't want to add anymore songs.

What i like honestly is ten songs on an album, that's it.

Ten songs is a lot of work.

One song is already a lot of work, to get it right and moving and stuff.

Yeah i decided to not add it on the album, i like to keep it separate.

 

Many Steelheart fans know you had a terrible stage accident which caused you to have a long break and eventually led to the original band to quit.

How did this accident change your life and does it still affect you in any kind these days?

 

Well yeah it affected my life drastically,

I was gone for a long time, I even didn't know who the hell I was at some point.

I was very fuzzy, very blurry.

I don't even know how the hell I wrote some of the songs for Wait.

I was in bed for about six months.

So you really were dazed and confused?

Yeah those are the exact words. I was totally dazed and confused.

I went through so many rollercoasters.

After that action i lost everything, really everything.

Family, money, car, everything.

I ended up in the attic of a friends house and started there.

So you had to start over from scratch?

Yeah i had to rebuild from scratch indeed, and you know it is not easy to rebuild something with no money.

There were lawsuits which had to be finished with my ex manager.

From the accident the lawyers screw up the whole lawsuit and left me getting not one dime, so I got no money from the accident.

And then around '98 my mother and my brother both died in the same year from leukemia.

So it was just like a never ending rollercoaster.

But I tried to keep patient and tried to keep going and keep writing you know.

Well that is probably the only thing you can do, on survival instinct.

Well yeah but it isn't as easy as it sounds and it really took a long time to get it back together.

You know when you don't have any money to put a project together it is almost like impossible.

You know even today it is almost impossible.

People think just do this, do that, put the band the band together.

You know you just can't.

People need to get paid, they need to live.

 

On the new album Through Worlds of Stardust we can hear you still are doing some high pitch vocals.

Is there anything special you do to keep your voice in shape?

 

Yeah, no drugs, a little bit of alcohol, no smoking.

A bit of tea with honey, hot water and honey, workout and a lot of sex.

 

Can you tell us anything about the way you write music?

Is there some kind of build up?

You told me you prefer guitar over piano but you also use the piano to write songs.

 

It starts with music and then the melody comes right away.

When i sit down at the piano it just comes through me depending on the emotion or state of mind i am in.

I have to capture it right away though.

It comes and goes so i have to record everything i write right away.

Once you have a good melody or when you have a title it’s already become a song.

 

You have toured with the remaining Doors members also back in 2010 if i am correct, being their singer.

Can you tell us something about that journey and how special it was to be stepping somewhat into Jim’s shoes?

 

It was actually a surprising situation because when i met with the manager, i was looking for a manager and he told me “you know i am working on a project with this band i am managing, i have been managing them for the last ten years”.

“They are a famous band and we are looking for a new singer to do these tours and i think you would be good”. “Are you interested in auditioning”?

So i was like “sure why not, who’s the band”? He told me it was The Doors.

I thought “o my god”, The Doors.

You know i grew up with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Van Halen, bands like that.

The Doors were like the complete opposite to what i was familiar with.

But nevertheless i was like “yeah i will definitely audition for that, let me fall into it”.

When i got home it was a bit of an interesting switch for me because it’s a whole other way of singing a whole other kind of energy.

When i got into it i really fell into it.

I felt i was accepted into the sacred space that is how i call it.

Whenever i make music or do something i have to feel i was invited to the space you know, from the spiritual side.

And with this i really felt so welcome!

The shows were amazing.

We had standing ovations every night.

I just really connected with Jim and i felt his presence with me as i was singing.

That was like a gift.

Like i said you have to be invited.

The two tours were very powerful and it was a pleasure to work with Ray, Robby and the rest of the guys.

Robby and i wrote several songs together which have never been released, which will be released at some point.

It was a very good experience, beautiful.

Robby and i are still friends we play golf together once in a while.

Who knows we will work again together on some new music.

 

Let’s talk about the new album some more.

On steelheart.com you have published you had 41 songs to pick from.

This can’t be an easy task.

Was this something you did as a band or was it your pick only?

 

I would pick them and share them with the band what they thought and honestly then i kind of gave up on that because i was getting so many different thoughts and ideas. So i finally said i am just gonna do it myself because it went all over the place.

What happened was we started this record with the concept “lets take some songs from the old archives and make an 80’s record”. What they (Frontiers) wanted us to do.

We recorded some songs, some newer songs and then other ones, you know, the archive ones.

So afterwards i was listening to the songs and i really got exited about the first six. you know, the newer ones. It’s got the energy of the 80’s but it’s fresh, it’s got the energy of today as well.

And then i came to the other songs, the archive ones an i was like “o man this is not good”. This is not working at all.

So i had to change four songs while making this record and re-recorded four songs.

Out of 41 songs a lot of songs did not fit the energy.

They were a little bit heavier. The parameters were different.

With Steelheart i have to keep it somewhat within the parameters and not go to far getting people to think “what the hell is this, this is not Steelheart, this is something else, you know what i mean.

I had to keep the integrity of the album, the right sequence so it all works.

 

How do you compare it with the previous album Good to be Alive?

 

I think that GtbA was an amazing album.

That album needs to be remixed somewhat touched up and re-released.

That record does deserve that.

It was a bit darker.

This new one is lighter and that was my focus. I wanted it to be light, more fun and a bit more from the past.

I think we succeeded in capturing that.

Indeed, both are powerful but this new one has a more uplifting feel to it.

Exactly that is a good way to put it.

You can put it on and enjoy it and even play it in the background, while GtbA was more like a theater. You really had to closely listen to it with attention.

 

Can you tell me something about your influences as a singer?

Like for example Robert Plant.

 

I am influenced by their spirit you know.

Plant, Zeppelin were very connected to that side.

So many people have tried to step into that space and work it or use it.

But again you have to be invited into it.

That energy what came thru them is what influenced me the most and intrigued me the most.

Because it is a whole other powerful energy that is with them to create their music.

Whether i make it up in my mind or if it's reality, i don't know.

It’s the way i feel it. My reality.

 

This is also the reason why you did the Led Zeppelin cover “Black Dog” some years ago?

 

Yeah and when i was doing it i had to make sure i felt the part of it, of that spirit.

And i think vocally i did a pretty good job on it.

Musically seen it is quite different from Zeppelin. You gave it your own twist.

But the atmosphere is the same somehow.

Yeah, you know that is the key.

When you are doing a song you have to be in the spirit of it but you can’t copy it.

Sometimes you are being told like you got to hear this band. When you do you think o my god this is Led Zeppelin.

An exact copy of it.

I can’t even listen to it, like it’s just to much you know.

You need to make it your own.

 

How did the recording process take place for Through Worlds of Stardust?

 

What happened is, i got all the songs together, did all the demo’s.

Sent them all out to the band.

Gathered them and we rehearsed for a week molding and changing parts.

We recorded live demo’s, then we went into the studio making sure all the tempotracks were ok and we recorded the bass and drums.

From there we brought everything to my studio. Then i sent Rev and Mike home and worked with Uros on all the guitars, vocals and everything else that needed to be done.

For the strings i flew to Sweden and recorded those there.

Vocals were done all over the world.

that's what i meant with making an album.

Today people make an album on a laptop or whatever.

I won’t say it can’t be good. It can be amazing

Maybe you can do a song that way.

People make albums in their bedroom these days.

That’s not the proper way to make a whole record.

That’s not what it is supposed to be.

To make an album, make a record is a gift, a gift from the universe, a gift from people around you allowing you because they believe in you and they want you to create this energy.

I can say i will record it in my bedroom and it will be great.

No it won’t be great. It will never have the same energy compared to being with the whole band together in the studio working closely.

It’s a different vibe, a different energy and a different emotion coming through.

 

What is the funniest thing which ever happened to you or the band when you were performing on stage?

 

Ehm there were many.

Once i was wearing this cool suede leather pants and sometimes i would not wear any underwear.

I will never forget it.

I was singing in the front of the stage and i squatted down and my pants just ripped right down the middle.

It was really right down the middle and my whole love connection was hanging out.

The girls in the front row must have had the time of their live.

Hahaha yeah, it was so funny.

I was thinking o shit. Ran off stage and changed my pants to continue.

You did not have a sock with you like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Hahaha, no, no sock but it was so funny.

 

We are reaching the end of the interview.

Is there anything else you would like to share with your fans?

At the moment i can’t think of anything.

We’ve covered a lot of ground and you’ve asked some interesting questions.

So thanks.

 

Thanks Miljenko for your time to do this interview with melodic.net and good luck with the recent Steelheart release Through Worlds of Stardust.

Thank you too.


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