New Jersey musician Bob Solberg once played with Peer in a band called TV Toy in the ’80s. He thought making the album was a great idea “since nobody could really get together to record anything.” KEVIN BENNETT PHOTO

A global rock thing: Enjoy drummer’s own musical journey on his newly released album



ELLSWORTH — Steve Peer didn’t set out to create an album that included 39 other musicians and vocalists from around the world.

The drummer for the popular local band The Crown Vics just had a few rockin’ tunes bouncing around in his head that he knew were enough to put together an album.

“I was just starting to sense, ‘Yeah, I’ve got some songs that I want to do,’” said the Ellsworth musician in the living room of his Bayside Road home.

Released earlier this year, “It’s a Global Rock Thing” ended up featuring 40 musicians calling themselves “Steve’s Theme Park,” their one-off band’s name. The 16-track album is an homage to rock ‘n’ roll as an art form and a crazy patchwork of Peer’s own musical journey. But the production process is just as captivating as the end result, so we’ll start there.

The first step in bringing his creation to life was to get the bones of the album laid out. For that, the drummer went to his friend Jeff Crossman, who runs The Engine Room, a local recording studio.

“I said, ‘Jeff, I know the songs, just mic up the drums, give me a music stand, I’ll put the piece of paper in front of me, you know, let’s say the first track, ‘Dandy Man.’ I’ll put up ‘Dandy Man.’ I’ll go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 In the parking lot …’” explained Peer, imitating the recording process. “I knew the songs in my head. They were pretty tightly arranged already … I’d kind of lived with this stuff long enough. So, then I sat there with the drum tracks and then I was like, ‘OK, what am I going to do?’”

At this point, Peer had all the building blocks ready to go, but he also had a couple of problems. One issue was a lack of available artists from the local scene to help him realize his vision. To solve that quandary Peer went right to his Rolodex of Rock and started reaching out to some of the many connections he made during a life immersed in the clubs and bars essential to the music scene up and down the East Coast.

“I just started to think, ‘OK, who’s still active? Who’s still kicking ass? Who’s still paying attention? And you know, it didn’t take long to start kind of filling in the pieces.”

His first call was to Tommy Frenzy, lead singer of the Tuff Darts, an old New York CBGB band that Peer had done a few gigs with. Frenzy would end up lending his vocals to several tracks on the album. Peer leaned heavily too on connections from his days playing in New Jersey bars along the Jersey Shore. He recruited former bandmate Bob Solberg, who played with him in a band called TV Toy in the ’80s. He also called Stan Steele, “the rocker from the Jersey Shore who knows all the other rockers from the Jersey Shore,” as he is described on the Steve’s Theme Park website.

But Peer didn’t want this project to just become “the veteran rock ‘n’ roll show.” So, he reached out far and wide, even across borders, to find some young talent willing to get involved. And this is where the second problem, a little something called the COVID-19 pandemic, helped and hurt the process.

Peer was adamant that, while COVID-19 may have shaped the final album, “It’s a Global Rock Thing” was not a product of being stuck at home during lockdown or anything like that. He had the idea in his head and was well underway with production before celebrities started to put out split-screen Zoom collaborations (“That stuff just drives me nuts,” said Peer). But the extra time afforded by the pandemic did allow for certain artists to participate who would normally not be able to.

The prime example is British vocalist Gemma Parr-Smith, who responded to a London ONE ad that Peer had put out.

“Gemma normally would be out on a cruise ship [where she works as a singer], or backup singing for somebody on a UK tour,” Peer explained. “She was on lockdown in her flat in London, you know, with a home recording set up. And she had a lot of time on her hands. So, I started to find that, OK, I got some veteran contacts, but now I’m finding people that have time on their hands who are sort of like-minded.”

While the pandemic opened up a few opportunities for Peer, it also created a few logistical challenges when it came time for the rubber to meet the road and the album to be recorded.

Peer would sit in his living room, along with his partner Katina, and record the guitar and vocal portions of the different tracks as he envisioned them being done and then send them out to all of the artists who were involved in recording that specific song. They would sometimes have to send multiple videos in order to get it right, but they also would get back recordings that were different but improved and those would end up in the final track.

“Instead of being in the same room, like a normal band or normal players … it’d be this epic, protracted sort of method of communication,” the drummer recalled. “You don’t want to use the cliche of herding cats, but it was definitely that.”

This method of collaboration contributed too to the scale of the band. Peer would often send requests to artists and not hear back right away. He would then move on to another option, only to have the original contributor send him a track that he loved. And Peer was surprised in the end by the number of people who were willing to help out.

“My whole thing was, even though nobody ever asked me for money or said, ‘Well, what’s in it for me?’ I always would say, ‘Well, what I’m doing is, I’m going to do this. I am going to finish it.’ You know, believe it or not. I’m going to print a thousand CDs, which I know is an old school format, and you can have as many as you want and I’m giving them away for free. I’m not selling them. So, it was essentially telling people: give me something, give me a vocal, give me a guitar, give me a keyboard part, give me something. And you get some free promo out of it for your own career. And everyone was like, ‘Well, that sounds cool.’ And I thought it was unusual because most people would be like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that. Give me a couple of hundred bucks or something.’ That wouldn’t be my response, but it wouldn’t have offended me if someone asked about compensation or an honorarium or something, but nobody did. Which, again, sort of made me think that I was running with the right pack.”

“Quite simply, Steve is such a lovely guy to work with that you just want to help,” said Peter Cook, one of the artists who collaborated on the album. “Steve’s a typical drummer in so far as they are often the nicest, most patient and humble members of the band!”

All told, Peer ended up soliciting contributions from artists in California, Florida, France, Georgia, Iceland, Ireland, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Sweden, Texas and the aforementioned UK. He even ended up getting help from some locals, with Annie Schwartz, Greg Mitchell, Frank Richards, Trisha Mason, Jay Lundstrom, Laurie Jones, Doug Hoyt, Frederick Hanke, Andrew Fiveland, Kyle Duckworth, Michael Townsend and Steve Sporn all getting credits on the finished product.

The album itself is just as fun and frenetic as you would expect something forged in this manner to be. The different performers’ wide range of talents and styles means an almost completely different aural experience for the listener as they proceed from track to track.

The one constant throughout the entire album is Peer. It’s not just the steady drum tracks he provided for all 16 songs, you can feel his passion and energy ingrained in the album’s DNA.

Peer, who recently left his day job as a special education administrator, wants to put a smile on your face while also sneaking in a few quick jabs of truth to make you think.

His songs are starting to get picked up on various indie and community radio stations, which Peer considers a perfect home for Steve’s Theme Park.

“I view community radio as the new indie/college radio as many college radio stations have been defunded or reduced to internet-only and listenership slashed,” Peer explained. “Community radio still shocks the airwaves as long as listeners help fund their guerilla-style programming tactics. Also due to the ‘global’ nature of the participants, stations in the UK, France and Sweden have enthusiastically been spinning tracks.”

Pushing the album far and wide is the next task. Peer’s made a couple of videos for tracks like “Sister Supersonic” and “No More Heroes,” an ode to rock legends the world has lost recently. He plans to make more videos and hopes to use some of the local scenery around Ellsworth.

He’s also launched a website that prominently features everyone who contributed to the album.

“I do feel an obligation to these folks, you know. I didn’t promise them the world, but I promised them a global rock thing, anyway.”

Peter Cook, a speaker, thought-leader, scientist, musician and author, was one of several participants from Great Britain. Cook said, “This was a mind-blowing experience. Since none of us actually met each other, there was a real thrill involved in laying down a track without knowing what else would surround it.”

The only thing not on Peer’s to-do list is figuring out why he even put this album together in the first place.

“I tried never to ask myself that question. ’Cause there’s so many times I would be sitting here putting this together and we’re trying to plan a trip. We want to go somewhere, we want to do something or we just even want to go to the movies, but no, Steve’s fartin’ around with his theme park …” Peer explained.

“The joke between Crossman, the engineer and the guy who compiled all this foolishness, our little joke was, ‘don’t ever ask why.’ You know, first of all, we don’t really have the answer. We’re very childish. We’re very selfish. We think we’re really important. We think we have something to say, but don’t ask why, why are we doing this? You know? It’s the unanswerable question, right? Why? Because I used to have people in bands, you know, I’d say, ‘Hey, let’s let the singer and a guitar player on fire and have some fun.’ And they would be like ‘Well, why would we do that?’ To have some fun! It would be exciting! People would like it! You know? ’Cause that’s what Freddie Mercury would have done. I don’t like when people ask me, well, why are we doing this? Why are we wearing these funny clothes? Why are we doing this? Because it’s rock ‘n’ roll! That’s what you do.”

Peer made 1,000 copies of Steve’s Theme Park’s “It’s a Global Rock Thing” album. To listen to it, go to https://www.stevesthemepark.com/team-2

Zachary Lanning

Zachary Lanning

News reporter Zach Lanning covers news and features in the Ellsworth area. He comes to Ellsworth by way of New Jersey, which he hopes you don't hold against him. Email him at [email protected].

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