Steel Soldier Interview
Who is the "hottest" unsigned act in all of Los Angeles? Steel Soldier. The group has been together only 11 months, but already they've created quite a stir. Record companies are lining up to sign the band, and it's easy to see why. Not since the early days of Kiss, has a group presented themselves in such a unique theatrical manner.
We spoke to Steel Soldier's lead singer, Major Daniel Dundee.
Q. Steel Soldier has really taken what Kiss started,
and created a totally different look for themselves. You're probably the
first group to do that.
A. Well, I'll tell you, we like Kiss quite a bit. Kiss was 4 guys from Queens, N.Y. that wanted to look a little bit sexy and different onstage. They were very successful, and this band really likes them a lot. Each guy in this band has a different background. All four of us are from four different places here in the United States of America. I myself am a really big (Alice) Cooper fan. We're a little bit different. Right now a lot of people think we represent death metal. When people understand what the concept is about us, then things will really start taking off the ground. We. get really good feedback from just about everybody. We are not Kiss. We had some people go, 'You're trying to duplicate Kiss!' But, that doesn't affect us. That's really a compliment, to us, and to anybody. We primarily like the Cooper image though.
Q. How did the idea for the make up come about?
A. Donavan Kelly, one of the guys who's running the band at the present time, had a tremendous make up person. We had an article in "Metal Forces" (magazine) awhile back and they said, 'those are kind of neat look masks.' And our publicist at the present time just wrote them a note and said, 'I'm sorry, but that's all make up." "They were kind of blown away.
Q. How long does it take to put "that make up on?
A. Each member of the band starts by outlining. Usually it takes about 25 minutes to really do a decent job. If we're going to go into a picture shoot, a little bit longer. We've got it down pretty well.
Q. What part of the country are you from?
A. Well, I grew up out here on the West coast. I lived primarily in Nevada. I've lived now in 4 western states.
Q. Who have been the musical influences for Steel Soldier?
A. Jonathan Time (drums), likes a variety of music, I myself am influenced by Cooper, Hendrix, and Jimmy Page; Matthew Queen (lead guitar) likes Metallica, and Billy Brooks (bass) is more into Chick Corea, bands like that, jazzy. With our combination I think we'll be able to come up with some type of music that America can adjust to. I consider us pretty good musicians. We don't compete against anybody. We don't think we're better than anybody. There's no place too big, and no place too small. We know our limitations, and what we can do. Right now, we're trying to get a little more commercial, because that's what a lot of the record companies illustrated to us to do. It just takes a little bit of time.
Q. How did the idea for Steel Soldier originate?
A. I'll tell you the way it was brought on to us. Donavan Kelly's cousin (Neal Smith-drummer in the original Alice Cooper band) used to play in the Cooper band. Donavan was a very talented artist and at the same time, a make-up artist. When he was growing up, seeing his cousin come to town, he was really into the circus concept, that's why he thrived on Cooper, a very theatrical person. He basically got the idea from him and his step brother Kingsley Ott, who also runs the band. You wouldn't believe it, Donavan's got pictures of guys in a band, and he started out with stars. And you know what's kind of funny; Paul Stanley of Kiss, his first original make up was a mask. It wasn't a star. And here Donavan Kelly had stars. He basically got the idea from talking to his cousin, but at the same time, it was primarily his original idea, which is really neat. I talked with Donavan's father and he remembers they were in New York City, and saw Kiss perform at one of their earliest gigs. That really blew them away. That was his idea, and now, somebody took it.
Q. Why are you wearing a military uniform?
A. Basically, each guy in the band and Donavan, have a lot of backing from the military. They have a lot of friends and relatives in the military, people who have died for their country, and all they ever got was a plaque on the ground for it. The concept is basically about America. Just imagine how many different military outfits we can come up with. As soon as things start happening financially, we can just take it to the ultimate. I'm just very excited to get an opportunity to play in this band. I take it day by day. It's a really tough racket out here in California, because it is like anything else, very, very political.
Q. Donavan has told me the group has not played out
all that much. How do you guys survive? Do you have day jobs?
A. All of us hold down some type of small position. I'm a supervisor at an ice-cream factory. I put the rest of the band members in, and we work. Our steady income is coming from Kingsley and Donavan. They work their tails off. Kingsley works at NBC in a studio, and Donavan also works in a studio in Hollywood. We try to maintain a little bit of the income coming in, but the majority of it comes from those two individuals.
Q. So, who picked the guys for this group?
A. Kingsley and Donavan. Donavan has traveled through the states quite a bit, and Kingsley was a minor league baseball player. He was playing a game in Vegas when he came out to see me play. They really did a lot of research before they came and picked us out. All 4 of us consider it a privilege to play in Steel Soldier.