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Steve Schad: An Outsider Looking In.

Middleton Times article by Matt Geiger 1/11/2007

     After being part of the local music scene for two decades, Steve Schad finally found his voice: a guitar.

     "Starting out, I used to sing a lot more, but I realized over time that I'm a much better player than singer, so now the vocals really take a back seat.  My music is pretty guitar-centric," he explained.

     Schad, who is playing upcoming shows at Prairie Cafe and Cafe Muse in Middleton, has a sense of humor so arid you get the impression it would crumble if jostled slightly.

     "I'd like to think the music speaks for me, but you have to joke around a bit between songs too," he said.  "If I do have a persona, it's probably as a dry humor kind of guy.  People say I'm funny I guess, and I'll accept that."

     Born in Sheboygan, Schad moved to Madison 20 years ago and recently relocated to Black Earth.

     "Growing up, I was in a couple bands, just your basic youthful garage band kind of thing, and somewhere in the late 1990's when I was down here I decided it was a good place to go solo," he said.  "I decided if I was going to be dedicated to this it was best to go it alone, so I started playing a lot of coffee shops.  I just built from there."

     Schad's music is eclectic to say the least.  He sounds something like the child of George Harrison and Santana - adopted and raised by Jimmy Page and El Mariachi.

     Though he started playing guitar as a child, his style didn't develop overnight.

     "I went through a long period of just trying to get my feet wet as a solo performer and build up a reportoire and get a name going for myself as an artist.  Finally, I think I'm there:  I've got six CD's out, and I'm getting more notice," Schad said.  "Every time I play now I can pretty dependably blow people away."

     Though his albums are more heavily produced than his live shows, his technical proficiency on the guitar is still the centerpiece of his latest recording, appropriately entitled "Guitar World."  On the back of the CD cover it states:  "Recorded at home" - a luxury afforded by the availability of high quality recording technology today.

     "The only daunting part of a solo career is all the responsibility is yours - it's all on your shoulders and you can't blame anyone else...but the good part is you get total artistic control and total financial control," Schad observed.  "The best part is you can abandon the rest of your life and just focus on this, and you don't have to worry about anyone else's commitment."

     The songs on the album vacillate from "Feeling The Force," which sounds like it was composed by an ambitious wandering minstrel, to "Bullnose Almondine," a rockabilly Johnny Cash style tune that plunges suddenly into techno, synthesizers and all.

     "I would probably have to say my favorite song is "Mystic Skull" - which pretty much seems to be everyone else's favorite too," Schad said.  "It was an old funky bass riff I had years ago and never knew what to do with.  Then I finally started recording it last year, even though it's not really like the kind of stuff I normally play live - it's more elaborate with screaming electric guitar and some really interesting drum patterns."

     While he enjoys the freedom of trying new sounds on his albums, Schad is still a guitar player when he takes the stage.

     "I guess the live thing is more of a demonstration of your technical ablilities.  It's like, 'here is me with a guitar, nothing else, watch what I can do,'" he commented.  "Studio recording is an entirely different kind of music and concept because you can put so many overdubs together.  You can make it something that you couldn't produce live, even with eight guys behind you.  I like aspects of both, and that's why I am trying to showcase my live music and let people hear something else on the latest CD."

     In an intimate setting like a coffee house, Schad strips down his songs and goes to work on the guitar.

     "In the early days I was just flailing away on anything that I thought would work at my shows, all sorts of different songs, all kinds of different goofy stuff I was writing," he recalled.  "Nowadays I realized that people just wanted to hear me wail away on my guitar - that seems to get the most reaction." 

     As for his recent move to Black Earth, he explained his life as a traveling musician never allowed him to get too attached to the capital.

     "I guess I'm an outsider looking in, though in some ways I'm part of it," he said of the Madison music scene.  "My last album was nominated for pop album of the year at the Madison Area Music Awards, so I guess I'm fairly well known, but the difficulty comes when you are a working musician.  You are sometimes so busy playing that you don't get much of a chance to see other musicians play, and you don't get to really become part of the scene.  I'm always on my own while othere people are playing somewhere else."

     He travels throughout southern Wisconsin, preferring the quiet intimacy of cafes to the raucous atmosphere at most bars.

     "When you are a musician that does what I do, coffee houses are kind of necessary," he said.  "Bars generally want some band playing throbbing rock and roll music that's familiar so people can drink to it.  I'm not really into that, but coffee houses give you a kind of freedom that you need - you can be a little more unconventional.  I play the occasional bar and even in bookstores, but coffee houses are more of a listening environment."

    

    

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ISTHMUS ARTICLE May 13, 2005

Multi-instrumentalist Steve Schad has no plans to leave the city he's called home since 1987, even though he really doesn't see himself as part of the local scene.
"There are a lot of guys in Madison who are sensitive coffeehouse strummers, and there are punk bands and rock bands. But there's really no one doing what I'm doing," says Schad, who has essentially converted his far west side apartment into a recording studio, where he creates music influenced by the Beatles, Yes, Captain Beefheart and the Sex Pistols when he's not working to support his music career. "And that's the best possible thing."
Schad has released four albums since 2000, including two last year-the charming acoustic pop-rock "Maybe You Didn't Hear Me" and the eclectic instrumental disc "Lump Weaver." But he didn't even establish an Internet presence until February, after his live shows in Madison and around the state started garnering more attention and he realized he needed to start promoting himself more.
"I've seen a lot of bands and singers, not just in this city but everywhere, who are kind of average. Yet they've got better than average publicity," Schad says. "They're out there with a Web site right away, but they have not developed as artists. I thought, "Well, I'm not going to worry about a Web site and publicity and all that stuff." I just wanted to play as many gigs as I could. That's how you get experience."
Schad is a true one man band, using a drum machine and recently incorporating a sampler into his live performances. "It's very difficult to find people who are like minded and want to do the kind of thing I do," he says. "I live and breathe music, so I want to rehearse all the time, and I want to do a gig whenever I possibly can. I have no other commitments. It's difficult to find other people like that."

By Michael Popke

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