Steven Van Zandt: ‘We literally brought down the South African government’

2 months, 24 days ago

The E Street Band member and Sopranos performer has his first solo album since 1999 here he talks about Springsteen, Trump and taking on Apartheid

Hey, Steven. Youre back with your first solo record in 18 years. What attained you decide to come back ?

It simply felt like the right time to do that. It was circumstantial its always circumstantial. You can scheme your life meticulously and it never goes that style. I put together a band and we learned 20 anthems and did a depict[ in London ].

How did that go ?

It was just chaos. I mean, I just fulfilled some of the band members for the first time. These days its extremely difficult to get 15 people that they are able commit to three months for a tour, so its very likely that every time I go out with my Disciples of Soul now, therell be a most varied Disciples of Soul.

Sounds tough. How did you cope with being a frontman ?

It was a bit of a shock to the system. Its quite a different job of being the frontman as it is from being a sideman. I have a whole new appreciation for what Bruce[ Springsteen] does.

Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt in 1977. Photograph: Michael Putland/ Getty Images
Youre known for your strong political views. Do you get into any of that on this album ?

My other five soli albums were all very political and this is the least political thing Ive ever done and the only anthem that has a hint of politics is[ the new way] Soulfire. Its kind of where politics meets spirituality.

How are you feeling about the political scene right now?

When I got into politics and blended the politics with the music , no one was doing that. You know, Ronald Reagan was God and everybody simply bowed down to him and I simply felt this is a lot of things going wrong here that need to be “was talkin about a”. So I started talking about them in the songs. Which was unusual back then. The epitome of it all was[ the ballad] Sun City, where we literally brought down the South African government. Thats a tale for another day but after Sun City, everybody became more political and that was good. But it was not a normal part of the business back then. In fact, a lot of us really hurt our careers.

Did it hurt your career?

Mine truly objective. I wasnt treating my work as a career, to be honest, anyway. So that was my own naivete, my own being instead stupid about it. But its a whole different world now. Politics is very much integrated into our business, into daily life, which is good. Since the whole Trump thing, politics is just everywhere. You cant get away from the politics. So, in a funny style, I dont truly feel the need to talk so much about it anymore, because everybody is talking about it. Now I can do love ballads and be like everybody else.

How did you feel about Trump playing Springsteen sungs at his rallies ?

Yeah, well, I suppose Bruce attained him stop. You can see why hed wishes to do that, the same style Ronald Reagan did. Ronald Reagan tried to use Born in the USA, and Bruce had that stopped. You can see why people want to use Bruces songs hes a really good songwriter, and people want that association with him. Its not a big deal, but you simply get it stopped.

But it also feels like a deep misunderstanding of the meaning of the ballads .

Well, thats for sure. If you look at the words of Born in the USA, its not exactly my country, right or wrong. Its a criticism of the countrys government.

Are you thinking of returning to television ?

The idea at the moment is to tour every summer either with Bruce or with my Followers of Soul, and then hopefully do a Tv show in the winter. That would be a perfect kind of life if I could construct that work.

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