Steve Senes wowed the crowd at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore, CA. (From Guitar Player Magazine’s website)
By Brian M. Howle
One of the coolest, neatest things about being a music junkie is that from time to time, one gets to savor the moment of realization that you have just witnessed or listened to one of the truly, exceptionally gifted musicians of our time – and that person is a local. It is, in an odd way for someone like me who loves to verbally interpret the sounds I hear, difficult to convey to non-audiophiles how satisfying the discovery can be.
So, when one of those discoveries up and wins Guitar Player Magazine’s “Guitar Player of 2009” contest, you’ll have for forgive me for reminding folks, “I knew that boy was gonna make the big time!”
And Murrells Inlet’s resident guitar laureate Steve Senes did, indeed, make the big time, as he stood above nine other of the best guitarists on the planet to take the prestigious title in San Francisco, CA, on Sept. 12, 20009.
Here’s some background info from Steve’s website:
Steve is currently lead guitrist for his homespun band, Super Swam[p Heroes. Having played with various bands over the years, Steve Senes has amassed quite a large variety of styles ranging from Rock, Metal, Country to Funk, R&B and Soul. Every band Steve has played with has left a mark on his playing and writing style. This diversity is especially evident on Steve’s soon to be released solo instrumental CD, “dE-eVolution oF thEorY”.
So who is this guy? Imagine if you will the soulful, melodic catchiness of Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson and George Lynch; the sneaky, rhythmic quickness of old school Eddie Van Halen and Nuno Bettencourt; the harmonic complexity of Steve Vai and Jason Becker; the insane shred of Yngwie Malmsteen and Paul Gilbert. Now add the drum and bass-heavy crunch of Metallica; the brutal grooviness of Pantera, Disturbed and Sevendust. Toss in a cool Latin journey ala Carlos Santana; even take a trip back to the 70’s on a Starsky and Hutch vibe.
Since discovering the music of KISS at the age of 7, loud pounding Rock-n-Roll has played a central roll in Steveʼs life. Growing up in a rural town ﬁfty miles south of Washington, D.C., out of range of most radio stations (no MTV), exposure to new music wasnʼt easy to come by. Being content with the escape provided through the music of such bands as KISS, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Van Halen and Ozzy (to name but a few), Steve didn’t actually start playing seriously until the age of 15, after hearing the insane playing of Yngwie Malmsteen.
According to Steve, “I was at a party and my friend Dave said “hey check this out”, and puts on the live Alcatrazz album. As soon as I heard Yngwie’s playing, I committed myself to becoming the best player I could be, right there on the spot!”
Solely self-taught, Steve quickly began building a name for himself, pulling off Randy Rhoads and Van Halen solos by ear, only mere weeks after picking up the guitar. Cutting his teeth playing the local scene, Steve learned early on to love the stage. Driven by this, Steve retreated into an almost unimaginable practice regimen. On days when he actually went to school, Steve was playing guitar 12 to 14 hours a day, sometimes more.
All the heavy practicing began to pay off early as Steve started entering and winning every guitar contest within driving range (including one judged by the legendary Steve Vai). Local gigs grew into regional shows and soon Steve caught the attention of such notable ﬁgures as Eric Johnson, Paul Reed Smith, “Dimebag” Daryl Abbot and others. After years of constant touring in pickup trucks, dealing with a withering metal scene, Steve got a wild hair to move to South Carolina and play Country music. Yee Haw!
The Country thing only lasted a few months, but liking his new surroundings, Steve decided to stay. Spending the next decade-plus playing with a wide variety of cover bands, provided Steve with an expansive range of additional inﬂuences; a collection far too extensive to list here.
Several years of 300+ gigs a year with various local/regional acts has further transformed Steve, from a guy who just loves to play, to an artist who craves the stage seven nights a week. Through all this, Steve has continued writing music. Over the years this wide range of inﬂuences has really begun to show in Steveʼs songwriting. Although heavy grooves and riffs still make up a good number of Steveʼs songs, youʼll notice the huge array of inﬂuences.
Steve is currently endorsed by Voodoo Amplification and Keeley Electronics.
Steve is a busy guy, so he also plays in an acoustic band called Pale Horse. You can catch them on Wednesdays thru October at Bully’s in North Myrtle Beach.
You can read firsthand about his win at http://www.guitarplayer.com/article/steve-senes-wins/sep-09/100721
To view a video of Steve’s original composition, “The Swami” (which he performed live in winning “Guitar Player of 2009”) go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Or3i2RcVV4
And of course, to learn just about everything you need to know about the man, visit Steve’s site at http://senesmusic.com
Note: Look for my Sept. 21 interview with Steve soon (to be added to this article), and also in the next issue of Alternatives NewsMagazine (Oct. 8, 2009) and then online at http://www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com
My personal congratulations to a truly gifted musician, made even sweeter by being a local whom I and countless others have supported and patronized by attending live shows all over the Strand and Low Country. Remember – it’s not what kind of music that counts; what counts is that you keep live music live.