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Steve Towson: a short biography
As a multi-genre artist, Steve Towson has a rare talent; to deliver passionate, convincing and crafted music no matter what the style.
Towson embarked on a solo career in 2001 after the breakup of his previous bands, Penfold (formed during high school years in Toowoomba) and The Defectives. Initially surprising audiences with his unorthodox solo electric style, Towson rapidly established a reputation on his passionate live shows, mixing music and politics to challenge injustice and inequality.
His one man, one guitar approach allowed him to play 'anywhere, anytime' – which he did with prolific intensity. In addition to taking his music to audiences within the relatively safe political climate of Australia, Towson toured throughout South-East Asia six times. Despite the tight or turbulent political atmosphere in some countries, Towson has been unwavering in his advocacy for equality and his desire to connect with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
Collaboration with fourteen musicians around the world allowed Towson to develop the concept of his first backing band The Conscripts. He invited five musicians into the studio to work on a full-length release. Titled SHAH MAT ("The King Is Dead"), it saw his music take a new turn since the first releases and continues to attract radio play.
After several years of touring as a soloist and with The Concripts, it occurred to Towson that his knowledge of music from outside Australia was increasing rapidly, yet he had only an elementary knowledge of traditional Australian music. He began collecting recordings, books, online resources; any information that would help with learning more about the many peoples who have lived in Australia throughout its history. Having collected a swag of tunes, he roped in some fellow musicians and so began the project, "Steve Towson and The Kunkala Station Band".
Illustrating Towson's musical diversity, press and punters have compared him to artists as varied as Nick Cave, Billy Bragg, Jello Biafra, The Clash, The Pogues, The Ramones, Leonard Cohen and Woodie Guthrie. Musically Towson has rubbed shoulders with some of the big names in music, playing support to legendary Brit punk band The Stranglers, Billy Bragg (UK), Against Me! (USA) and Frenzal Rhomb (Australia).
SELECTED REVIEWS: Steve Towson and the Kunkala Station Band live review, Cygnus Olor EP, The Beginning, The Struggle, and The Reward EP, and Shah Mat album reviews
Steve Towson and the Kunkala Station Band live review at The Powerhouse, May 2012
"The Turbine Platform has turned into an impromptu Sunday school lesson for all things traditional folk as singer/guitarist Steve Towson, with fiddle, flute and cello accompaniment from The Kunkala Station Band, keenly conveys the tales of bygone eras. Kicking off with The Ballad Of 1891, the central Queensland shearer's strike of the day is brought to life with Towson's vivid portrayal. He also stops by Mudgee to recall a lively instrumental fling of the region, the Torres Strait, and back to a 19th century river city with an intriguing rendition of Brisbane Ladies. Moving from the calmer end of the folk spectrum, Towson and his band get toes tapping with a quick Irish jig, complete with tin whistle, and offer something for everyone by visiting some of the more popular traditional folk songs Will The Circle Be Unbroken and Whiskey In The Jar. Towson's enthusiasm for the genre is both infectious and admirable; teamed with his natural flare for storytelling through performance, he is at once an educator and an entertainer."
Post Box Zine, 13 April 2011
"From the very first bow stroke on the Cello you can tell this is a top notch recording. This 3 track offering from The Conscripts is some of their best work to date" (Looey)
The Beginning, The Struggle, and The Reward
Rave Magazine, 07 June 2011
"With this handful of tracks Steve Towson outlines a thumbnail sketch of over a century's worth of worker's struggles. His versions of these traditional songs are sparse - guitar and vocals only - but that brings out the subject matter all the more, and Towson's voice sounds angry, tired and desperate, as the subjects demand. The EP celebrates the lives of workers and doesn't shirk from targeting the bosses in the shearers' strike (Ballad Of 1891) or the role of religion in keeping workers hungry in this life in exchange for Happy Meals in the next (The Preacher And The Slave). Tom Edwards is the only new song here - it's told in present tense, keeping Edwards, a dockworker killed in a clash with Fremantle police, alive for as long as people keep listening." (Don Sinnamon)
The Dwarf, June 2006.
Shah Mat means 'the king is dead.' It's good to know isn't it? Shah Mat, not Shat Mat: it's a subtle but very important detail. I won't even try to label the album with a genre; it'd be an ugly scenario, too many hyphens.
Shah Mat is awesome. Just awesome. Some of the songs are absolutely stunning. It swings from a rocking swagger to brutal pangs of desire. I imagined, that this might be the sort of music Nick Cave might make if someone bashed him over the head with a shovel and told him come the hell back down to Earth. What I mean to say is that Shah Mat is poetic and acutely aware without the overbearing pretension (that's where the shovel came in.) There's a wholesomeness and verity to the album that's impressive to behold.
The CD finished spinning and I was left feeling pretty satisfied with the whole experience, except of course for the fact that I was struck by the stark realisation that I'm an ignorant fool. Granted, I feel like an idiot fairly regularly but Steve and The Conscripts really burst my happy little apolitical bubble. Thank God for the lyric insert though, without it, I wouldn't have even noticed the politics for the music- Steve's voice is soulful and intense but sometimes it's nearly impenetrable without a hint from the cheat sheet. While you've got the words out, learn them. That way you'll know them for when you're compelled to see him live.
Anyway closer A Beautiful Murri Girl has a didgeridoo solo. I didn't expect it, but I probably should have. Opening with The Straits of Gibraltar, it kicks off with a passion and verve that penetrates the whole albums. A personal favourite of mine was If This is What it Means, chronicling some of the details of a woman in an abusive relationship with a jaunt that sounds vaguely reminiscent of an Irish jig. Irony comes best with rhythm. (Steph Maker)
The Venom In My Veins
Ricecooker Zine, 26 June 2005
"What can I say, you lot! Go out and get this ASAP! As for myself, I'll be hunting for more Steve Towson & The Conscripts stuff, they are right on my alley what brilliant punk rock is supposed to be and I'm stoked!" (Joe Kidd)
The Straits Of Gibraltar
Bizoo Zine, June 2004
"Having never heard of Steve Towson, this recording has left me in a spinning world of procrastination with its raw and such unique sound. I could not compare this cd to anything of my previous knowledge as the cd breaks out into the upbeat sounds of "The Straits Of Gibraltar" and ends in the strong and hard soulful sounds of "Winds Over Meandarra". The guitar work has been done extremely well with an implementation of many styles such as funk, folk and soul all wrapped into one; the guitar is fast, technical and precise as it compliments the lyrical abomination that is to follow.
Lyrical wise this record is awesome, a poetic feel that is contained well with his emotional vocals. A range of vocal styles has been used to keep up to pace with the diversity of Steve's guitar. Credit must also go to the Conscripts for the backing instruments, it must have been a challenge to adapt to such an original sound.
In all this is a great release, if I could find a down point to this cd it would have to be that there are only 4 songs. But having said that there is nothing wrong when I put these 4 songs on repeat. Keep a look out for Steve Towson in the future!" (Nathan)
1 Shot At Freedom
Blunt Magazine, Issue19, May 2003
"Steve Towson is a very brave man. It's just him, his guitar, his ideas and his emotion up there on stage and on CD telling us like it is. Or at least, like he thinks it is. He has no band to cover up his inadequacies, no lush production and harmonies to aid his weak voice and obviously no editor to guide his socio-political meanderings. Hailing from Brisneyland and armed with a rawboned electro-punkabilly style of playing Steve Towson is aware, astute and ballsy.
A much more worthy act than many of the corporate aided, Pepsi swilling troubadours currently spreading their cheer, Towson has a bright future, but the blood and bone approach of 1 Shot At Freedom will grate many.
7/10 stars." (JS)
In A Shattered State
Semper Floreat Magazine (UQ Student Union), July 2002
"Steve Towson's overwhelmingly manic 50s blues/rock style is impossible to ignore from the moment you start listening to "In a Shattered State". Frantic, yet at times lulling, this album is unique in Brisbane's oh-so-repetitive meat and potatoes rock and pop diet.
The overall sound is classically retro, Bob Dylan-esque vocals with insightful, reflective lyrics accompanied solely by blues/rock guitar which, at times, reaches fever-pitch. "When the Revolution Comes" draws you in with its catchy guitar rhythms and melody, a really enjoyable track and more moderately paced than most of the album. The opening songs, "Ngombi's not dead" and "15 minutes of your love" burst out enthusiastically and are rounded off with the cruisy sounds of "I want the blues" and "You're a fool (Kinda weird)". I found the more relaxed paced tracks easier to digest, both on the basis of melody and lyrics, although the rapid guitar-based tracks have their own dizzying charm.
The flavour of the lyrics is overwhelmingly left-wing, with social upheaval and politically commentary equally addressed. Unfortunately the impact of these sentiments is often lost in the unrestrained fervour of the guitar. An interesting musical contribution, check Steve out to hear him for yourself around the local Brisbane scene." (msterygrrl)