Guitar Virtuoso Chris Steberl of Project Alcazar

Chris Steberl

For forty plus years Chris Steberl has been plying his trade on the guitar. During this time with his band, Project Alcazar, he has released two Demos, “Visions and Spells” and  “Gothic Belladonna” one solo EP “Play Times Over”, two CD’s and played on numerous compilations and tributes. The CD’s 2001’s “Reasons for A Decade” and 2016’s “Chasin’ Voodoo”, have been released by Lion Music of Finland.

Playing Neoclassical Progressive Metal has not always been easy in terms of drawing a fan base in Central Ohio, especially when the band focuses on instrumental music rather than vocal based popular music, that draws the beer drinking, fist pumping crowds into the local clubs. Project Alcazar is the only band to ever win a battle of the bands WITHOUT a singer back in 1989. Instead Chris and Project Alcazar appeal to a crowd that appreciates talent and music that appeals to the senses of the mind. Talent credentials are suggested when attending one of the rare Project Alcazar live shows.

I recently had the privilege of sitting in on an Alcazar rehearsal. They were working on some new music, and the true talent of the band became clear as they professionally worked on the structure of the new song, each contributing their own signature as Steberl directed the band as it’s maestro. Finally, they played “Water Music” their Neoclassical tribute to Handel.  As I was sitting there I imagined guitar great Al DiMeola in the next room pausing his rehearsal to listen to the magic power of Project Alcazar. They are that good. Check out the videos below for validation.

I sat down for lunch with Chris recently to discuss Project Alcazar and music. Here is some of the interview:

TRBC: Where did the name Alcazar come from? And the meaning behind it?

Steberl: Myself and the original drummer came up with the name, we were going through a thesaurus, and landed on “Alcazar”, which means castle in Spanish. No real meaning behind it, just thought it sounded cool.

TRBC: Talk about the Chasin Voodoo CD, the process producing and recording it.

Steberl: Chasin Voodoo came out in March of 2016. I started working on the songs for that CD in the of 2015, doing all the writing in my home studio. I recruited some guys to play on the CD. Ended up going into Sonic Lounge Recording Studio with Joe Viers, who did most of the mixing, producing and recording on it. Currently working on another CD.

TRBC: I first saw you play in the early 90’s, specifically you and Alcazar opening for Dream Theater. What has evolved or changed since then.

Steberl: The whole scene has changed. Right now there are so many guitar players out there that play the instrumental stuff. Its really hard to make your mark now, than it was 25 years ago when Dream Theater released “Images and Words”. A lot of people are recording out of their home studios and you can put anything on ITunes or Amazon. Its basically a bigger market.

TRBC:  Introduce the other musicians in Project Alcazar to us.

Steberl: You got Matt Cistone on bass. Matt and I have known each other for about 30 years. He has played on a couple projects for Project Alcazar in the past. Great bass player, has played on several projects around town and he also runs sound for many bands. Doug Bryant plays drums. I met him through Matt. Doug is another guy who plays with many different bands. He is the guy you call on when you need a great drummer quick. Caleb Hutslar, is on keyboards. He is a great Jazz Fusion player. He used to be in a band called “Charged Particles” that played in Columbus quite a bit.

Bassist – Matt Cistone

TRBC:  What would a newbie to Project Alcazar’s music expect to hear for the first time?

Steberl: First timer would hear a lot of notes. (laughter) They’re going to hear a lot of different versions of composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Vivaldi. We are a versatile band, we might sound like Al DeMeola at times, Tony McAlpine at others, maybe some of the Shrapnel Artists from the past. If you are drawn by talent, your eyes will be moving across the stage taking it all in.

TRBC:  It seems like you don’t play live often. Why?

Steberl: The market is limited for an instrumental band in terms of where we can play and so on. Often we look for a National Act coming through to open for.

TRBC:  What is next for Project Alcazar?

Steberl: Trying to play out more, and we are writing new songs for a CD we hope to put out next spring and a couple videos out by the end of the year. The videos can be found on YouTube and the Website.

TRBC:  If you could play for any band, at any time, who would you replace in that band, and what song would you choose?

Steberl: Play for Dream Theater, replace Mike Portnoy, and song played would be “Under a Glass Moon”.

TRBC:  You have the skill-set to be a “Hired Gun” (recent movie – Hired Gun – The Untold Stories behind your favorite musicians) – Ever have an offer? Something you were or are interested in or have ever pursued?

Steberl: I have done some studio work in the past on some projects. It’s definitely a different way to approach music. You’re giving an artist what they want instead of what you want. Your hired to do a job, like a contractor. It’s a different a challenge. You have to be able to walk away at the end of the day. They can do with your parts what they want to.  TRBC: What if Bruce Dickerson from Iron Maiden called and asked if you would get on the Jumbo Jet today?: Steberl: I would most defiantly get on! (laughter)

TRBC:  When did you first pick up the guitar, who taught you and who is your biggest single influence?

Drummer Doug Bryant

Steberl: Parents made me start taking lessons at 8 years old.  They would drive us down to Springfield Ohio, to take lessons from an old lady for 75 cents a half hour. I hated it, my mother would make me sit next to her or in the kitchen while doing dishes and practice one half hour every night. About the time I was ready to quit, a buddy at school turned me on to the first Van Halen album. Edward Van Halen had to be my biggest single influence. Had I not heard that, I would have quit. I would sit and listen to the album with head phones and stare at the album cover and think how bad-ass they were and how I wanted to be like that!

TRBC:  Top five guitar players of all time in your opinion?

Steberl: Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Greg Howe, Tony McAlpine and Michael Schenker

TRBC:  Top five most important albums of all time?

Steberl:  “Van Halen I”, brought a lot of guitar players around. “UFO strangers in the Night”, a double live album. “KISS Alive II” is another big one. You just don’t see live albums anymore. They captured the band. You were able to get to know a band through their live album. AC/DC “If You Want Blood You Got It” another live album. Steve Vai’s “Passion and Warfare” on the fifth one.

TRBC:  Your favorite new artist of the last 10 years?

Steberl: Shinedown. I saw them with my son, open up for Five Finger Death Punch, and I was impressed with their song writing and live performance. I really didn’t expect that. I ended up going home and doing more research on them.

Chasin Voodoo CD

TRBC: Speak to your most memorable moment in your music career to date.

Steberl: When the “Reasons for A Decade” (Project Alcazar) topped the MP3 charts when the music scene came alive on the internet, and every song on it topped out at number one.  It was based it on downloads. Many people did not pay for downloads, but I got a nice royalty check at the end of the year from MP3.com.

TRBC:  Where do you see Project Alcazar in 5 years?

Steberl: Still writing and recording CDs, hopefully playing some bigger venues, and head lining if possible.

TRBC:  Favorite all time boy band?

Steberl: Hanson of course! (lots of laughter)

If you are fan of talent, love shredding, explosive and melodic guitar playing, backed with thundering drums, a perfect bass groove and smooth keyboards, check out Project Alcazar today. You can find them on YouTube, ITunes, Amazon Music and on Facebook. Check them out on Facebook for live dates coming soon. Also check them out on the Prog Power USA CD distributed at the convention this fall in Atlanta. If you come out, you won’t be disappointed. You will leave entertained and you will be amazed that this talent is readily available right here in Central Ohio. Stop and say hi to Chris and the Band after and most likely I, Mac from The Rust Belt Chronicles will be on hand as well.

Prog Power USA

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Mac About Mac

Today Mac lives in Dublin, OH. The father of a 19-year-old son, he works as a Home Improvement contractor, but his first love remains music. Mac can be found at many Rock Shows in the Central Ohio area and always looks for forward to the annual Rock on the Range music festival each May at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus.

On his play list today you find a very diverse lineup on Mac’s playlist. From the Jazz Fusion of Al Di Meola, the Ambient sound of Michael Conn, the beauty of Miranda Lambert to KORN, RATM, The Beastie Boys, Shinedown, Red Sun Rising, Stone Sour, Amon Amarth to Lady GaGa, Mac loves a wide range of music and continues to listen to the classics while leaving a wide-open mind to recent music

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