Steve Trash Gives Garbage "a New Life"
If we don't start respecting the Earth, we might not have an Earth to respect. I know it, you know it, but do kids know it? Eco-friendly entertainer Steve Trash wants to make sure his act educates children about the need to appreciate nature and replenish the environment. He's done it through magic and comedy, now he's bringing his goofy charm to music with his first album The Trash Tunes. It was released this week on iTunes and his website stevetrash.com.
No stranger to our region, Steve Trash has performed his act up and down the South Florida coast for thousands of children and will next be here February 6, 2014, at Belle Glade's Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center and May 13, 2014, at Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse.
After thunderstorms delayed our conversation, New Times reached Steve in his Northwest Alabama home, built in the side of a hill with wiring that gives energy back to the grid instead of taking from it.
New Times: What does a Steve Trash performance entail?
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Steve Trash: In my live green show, I share ecological ideas using magic tricks, using music, and mostly using found objects other people have thrown away.
It's a recycled show I started in the 1980s in New York. I was working as a busker, a street performer. People would ask me to do magic tricks with stuff on the ground, and when I did, they tended to tip me better.
After a year of doing tricks with trash, I realized there were ecological lessons in this. So I thought it would be cool to do a whole show using things that people have discarded. I have a tennis ball I found a million years ago in New York. Cracked tennis balls aren't considered valuable, but once I put it in a magic show, I give the tennis ball new life when I tell the kids in the audience to use the magic words "reduce, reuse, recycle" and they see it floating around the stage.
Is the found-object-magic how you got the name Steve Trash?
I got it even earlier, to be honest. A friend gave me that name because I was constantly picking up things people threw away. I had Elvis paintings, footlockers, trunks, that I picked up on the side of the road. And even as a child, it was inconceivable to me that people would throw these things away. Even as a 7-year-old, I was into recycling and repurposing and using my talents with magic and music to express this. I never wanted that environmental message to be preachy. I never want to wag my finger at anyone, but if it's funny or amazing, then the message soaks in.
How did your album, The Trash Tunes come about?
I was lucky to grow up in Alabama and there's a very active music recording industry here in Muscle Shoals Sound. Aretha Franklin recorded here, Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones. So I was hanging out at a recording session watching these fantastic musicians play and a bolt of lightning whopped me in the head, there should be songs about the environment. But not wimpy namby-pamby children's songs. I mean real musicians rocking it, but having green themes. I tell Kelvin Holly this who's on tour right now playing guitar with Neil Young's wife Pegi, and was Little Richard's guitarist, and he told me you write the words and we'll make it.
Did you have any musical experience?
None. So I downloaded songs from Hank Williams Sr., R.E.M, Chuck Berry, a children's band called Trout Fishing In America, and I looked at the form. How did they write great lyrics? Once I figured out that, then I started scribbling away, writing and rewriting and rewriting. Once I had songs that were presentable like "Sun Juice" about how the sun is free, and all you have to do is collect that energy. "Garbage Mountain" is about the mountains we created about resources we discarded. Then we went into the studio where Kelvin can play pretty much any instrument.
I heard some great keyboard on there was that him too?
That was actually N.C. Thurman, another great session guy. Other than me singing, it was just those two. Kelvin played, besides guitar, bass, assembled the drum tracks, and sitar on "Sun Juice."
If this is successful, is there going to be a sequel?
Positively. I have spent 30 years taking really complicated ecological ideas and making them as simple as possible. Making music out of these ideas gives me a new audience. People who don't like magic or want to go to a kid's show will listen to this album and hear amazing guitar. This is an album when a family has a 45 minute drive to see grandma, plug it in, and the kids will like it and Mom and Dad and maybe it will even start a conversation.
Steve Trash preforms on February 6, 2014, at Belle Glade's Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center, 1977 SW College Dr., Belle Glade. Call 561-993-1160. And May 13, 2014, at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8 St., Fort Lauderdale. Visit parkerplayhouse.com.
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