At an age when most would think of slowing down and taking it easy Steven Machat, a Rock’n’Roll impresario who has had a hand in the sales of over 250 million records in a career spanning five decades has announced his return to the music business. His life spans towering success, heartbreaking tragedy and more anecdotes of the rich and famous than he will ever have the time to recall.
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Learn all about Steven Machat in the following All Access interview with him here:
What has this past year been like for you and your career? How are/did you get through the pandemic? What kept you happy day in and day out and continues to keep you happy these days?
In many ways as a writer I’m used to a certain level of isolation and over the last few years I’ve been writing a number of books all underpinned with musical references, but relating those to my research into myths and the truths therein. This sort of work thrives in a lockdown situation, but I’m also an enthusiastic traveler and love meeting new people so in that sense it’s not ideal.
I’m wrapping a movie I’ve produced called ‘Saving The Motherland,’ which focuses on the battle of Stalingrad and changed the course of WW2. I’ve also produced ‘Climate Live , A Documentary’ which as you will surmise tackles an issue I’m supremely passionate about. However after some five years ‘away’ I was inspired to return to my first calling, music. It was a wrench emotionally to launch a record label following the death of my son with whom I’d worked alongside until his death in 2015. I decided to call it SSK Records (School of Sacred Knowledge) an umbrella initiative that links all my creative output. The catalyst and inspiration for returning to ‘roots’ was discovering a band called Roxx Revolt and the Velvets. The songs are pure energy, combining rock with pop and invoking, certainly in my mind, a raw Jim Morrison energy I’ve not witnessed in other bands and singers for awhile. I’ve also signed an authentically heartfelt country singer songwriter called Dalles and as my career credits illustrate I’ve never been one to fall into any particular niche so I’m developing artists from various different and eclectic genres. With such a track record in Urban music across four decades I’m channeling strands of Bobby Brown with the urgency of the WuTang Clan in one project and never one to be afraid to ‘push the envelope’ I’m working with orchestral maestro Steve Sculli on ‘plant music,’ but more on that in due course.
In essence the discipline of lockdown to reach introspectively and to move forward alongside my life partner Debbie unlocked the next level of creativity. While I love the experience of film making having been involved in many films (‘Street Fighter,’ ‘Judge Dread,’ ‘Anaconda’ to name a few over the years) and writing books (‘The Creation of Ozzy’ drawn from his years of experience working with the former Black Sabbath vocalist).
I’m curious to know how your musical upbringing truly inspired your various career paths? What do you think motivates you day in and day out? How has that changed over the years?
My father, the legendary Marty Machat represented some of the most iconic names in music history. As young as 12 I had the unique experience of being in the company of say James Brown, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin or Frankie Valli. As I graduated through high school these experiences continued and while still in my teens I would be hanging backstage with anyone from Mick Jagger and Phil Spector to Leonard Cohen and Sly Stone. As I progressed I’d find myself listening to artists explaining their creative process while studying accountancy and law and ‘cutting my teeth’ as a public defender in Tennessee .
Despite this I was drawn deeper into the creative side of the industry and decamped to England to produce the first Elvis musical following his death in 1977. I then swapped the West End of London for Broadway as associate producer of ‘Private Eyes’ with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
I aspire to motivate people to realize their potential , the importance of dreaming big, appreciating you are only as strong as your team and that you will always experience disappointments and setbacks, but it’s part of the process of growing and it’s how you deal with this aspect of life that will ultimately define your character.
Learning to come to terms with loss can be one of the most challenging aspects of life.
Having had such a pivotal influence on my life and career my fathers death hit me hard, but my sons death so young, so unnecessary and avoidable, particularly as it can be attributed to the recklessness of others even more so. This, combined with two failed marriages and all the ‘wisdom’ you acquire from those relationships makes me so grateful that I re-connected with a woman who I’d actually known from childhood. We were drawn together by mutual tragedy, but bonded on a shared appreciation of the creative process and Debbie provides a perfect foil for ‘my excesses’.
I review the experiences of life as a whole and they you could say have become the ‘quilt’ of my life. Each one was special and when the excitement and desire that fueled that a particular project dissipated I had to seek out the next challenge.
I would love to know more about creating WOMAD with Peter Gabriel. What is it exactly all about and where did the idea to form it originally come from?
The story of Peter Gabriel and WOMAD is one I cover in my 2009 memoir ‘Gods Gangsters And Honor‘ at length. Let me take you back to London, August 1981. Peter had tried to contact my father about the potential for a World Music and Arts Festival. However he reached me and was thrilled when I jumped at the idea. I’d already been producing records from an eclectic range of artists around the globe with considerable success. I’d had a No. 1 with Rita Lee in Brazil as well as working with Gilberto Gil, hits in both Italy and France where I was scoring heavily with disco tracks, while breaking acts like Soft Cell (Tainted Love would go on to be a No. 1 around the world) as well as Matt Johnson’s critically acclaimed The The. The next day I was in Bath in the south west of England and we drew up the concept of WOMAD and the idea of the festival that would become reality the following summer.
What did you learn to creating a record label with your son, Barron? Would creating one today look very different then when you did originally?
It felt natural to have my son Barron work alongside me, just as I had done so nearly 40 years earlier with my father. I respected his ‘ears’ and he was first to discover a number of artists who would go on to achieve critical acclaim, Grimes being a standout example. In many ways we were ‘cut from the same cloth’. We had a desire to travel and source new music and cultures and he would feel excitement for a project, but as soon as it became formulaic he would want to move on. While you always have to learn from your mistakes, my desire to create and break through musical boundaries is just as strong as it was in 1977 with Dad, 2010 with Barron, and now in 2021 with my partner Debbie.