If you’ve wondered what ever happened to quintessential Placebo drummer Steve Hewitt since he parted ways with Bri and Stefan in 2007, he’s actually been up to quite a bit… like, a whole lot, actually… 2009 saw the formation of Love Amongst Ruin, a band fronted by Steve, which had him exploring sounds that were a little more abrasively heavy and conventionally “hard rock,” than the things he was best known for in Placebo, all the while maintaining a certain kind of goth-and-new-wave-inspired sonic morbidity… sort of like Smashing Pumpkins at their darkest or Depeche Mode at their guitar-iest. Love Amongst Ruin’s self-titled debut LP was out by fall of 2010 and by mid-2012 their follow-up was nearly done. However, it was at that time that Hewitt was pulled away from the process to produce and play with acts like Italy’s Spiral 69, France’s Lys, and England’s Six By Seven. However, three years on and Love Amongst Ruin’s follow-up, Lose Your Way, is finally ready to hit shelves next Tuesday, June 30th. The album seems to pick up where the band’s debut left off, but lightening up a little on the guitars and letting the goth and new wave elements come closer to the front, and at times even embracing an aesthetic not dissimilar to gloomier moments of Brit Pop. Steve, a childhood hero of the teen angst persuasion to your humble narrator, recently took some time to tell me the story of Love Amongst Ruin
Izzy Cihak: It seems weird to me, because it really doesn’t seem that long since the last Placebo American tours I saw you on, but Love Amongst Ruin has actually been around for quite a while now. Not to start with a huge question, but what have been the highlights so far?
Steve Hewitt: I suppose LAR have been around for a while; it was essentially to carry on making music. I was always a writer in Placebo and bands before that so it’s something I’ve always done. I think the highlights of putting LAR together are the fact I’ve had to master singing, whether it’s been writing the vocal lines and then singing them in the studio to then really feeling the pressure and going to perform the songs. I do actually enjoy singing and it’s been great, improving as I’ve gone along though, to be honest, I never thought I would become a singer in a band. I do get very nervous about going on stage to sing.
Izzy: So I guess this is a weird question, but what are your present thoughts on your soon-to-be-released Lose Your Way album? I understand it’s actually been done for a few years now. Does it still represent the kind of music you most love and enjoy playing at the moment?
Steve: I’m really looking forward to getting this album out, it was finished a while ago and my intention was to release it straight away but I got asked to produce other people’s albums and that kind of thing kept happening, then before you know it time has passed. It’s weird, I became the British Dave Grohl for a while, playing drums with everybody and producing and now I’m back to what I intended to do. I love the record and I still think it should be heard, I think it’s important to show the evolution of the band and I still think the songs are relevant. I think musically I’m still into rock but this album slightly moves away in part from that.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise? You seem to be influenced by a lot of aspects of history and the human experience that fall outside the realm of music itself.
Steve: I always try to make music in a vacuum and try not to think about things that are around me musically at the time, but you can never get away from what you’ve been influenced by over the years. All that stuff finds its way in somehow and you can’t stop it. Each of the songs though are their own entity. Each has a different story and context ranging from love, self, loss, lust, war, etc.
Izzy: And how do you feel like the album compares to your self-titled debut? Did it feel like an evolution, or was it just the next logical step for the band?
Steve: I think Lose Your Way is a huge step forward from the first album in terms of songwriting and production. This album was easier to make in a way. I wrote most of it at home as usual, but when I got into the studio it was myself and Donald Ross Skinner from the band and Paul Corkett and Dan Austin. Donald and I played everything on the album, which kinda made the recording process much, much quicker, less discussion with a whole band, etc. We started tracking drums with our long time partner in crime, Paul Corkett, but during the tracking he suggested that we do a track with his friend Dan Austin. We gave the demo of the single “Lose Your Way” to him and then we started work on it a few days later and from that point we had the most amazing time, the three of us were on the same page straight away and the creativity just flowed from the moment it was clear we had the right vibe to make this album. It’s definitely an evolution.
Izzy: Do currently have a favorite album track? “So Close” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
Steve: It’s always hard to choose your favourite track, it’s like having to choose your favourite offspring. But if pushed, I suppose I love “Lose Your Way,” “Modern War Song,” “Swan Killer,” and “So Close.”
Izzy: The music videos you’ve put out for the band have all been quite cool. Are there any especially significant influences behind the visual elements of Love Amongst Ruin?
Steve: I think it just depends on whether the treatment for the song is right. I like the videos from the first album but this time I’ve gotten more involved with the video treatments. I have also come up with all the artwork for the singles and album cover. It’s easier to do if you know what you want. I’ve enjoyed getting the photography together and I think the images capture something about the song. I don’t really stick to a certain style so that allows me to explore many ideas but it still has to beautiful or cool.
Izzy: How do you plan to spend the second half of 2015, after the album is released, whether with Love Amongst Ruin or otherwise? Any chance of a US tour?
Steve: The rest of 2015 will be spent working on promoting the album and I think we will be coming to the States to do promo in July then hopefully back to tour the U.S. towards the end of the year.