A Conversation with Steven Van Zandt

Little Steven Van Zandt talks with NJM about his induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, his Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, and whether he'll make an appearance in the Sopranos sequel.

The New Jersey Hall of Fame will induct Steven Van Zandt with its Class of 2017 at this year's induction ceremony, May 6, at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.
The New Jersey Hall of Fame will induct Steven Van Zandt with its Class of 2017 at this year's induction ceremony, May 6, at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.
Photo courtesy of Jo Lopez

New Jersey Monthly: You were inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame as a member of the E Street Band in 2012. On May 6 in Asbury Park, you will be inducted as an individual artist. What does that mean to you?
Steven Van Zandt: It’s always wonderful to be recognized and win awards and that kind of stuff, but I don’t really pay much attention to it. I don’t judge my work that way or my life that way. Most of it is about commercial value, and commercial value comes and goes. I try to have a higher standard than that.

NJM: Will you perform at the ceremony?
SVZ: I’m definitely going to be there. But I’m not playing.

NJM: Turning to the Sopranos, was your Silvio Dante character based on a real-life New Jersey mobster?
SVZ: Nobody specifically, but those guys were always around in New Jersey. You were constantly running into them. You didn’t know whether they were the real thing or wannabes, but what’s the difference? They were all equally scary.

NJM: Have you been approached about playing Sil in David Chase’s planned Sopranos prequel?
SVZ: Everybody thinks so! Everybody is congratulating me, like, “I can’t wait to see you guys together again.” But they don’t quite grasp the concept of prequel. Silvio might show up in the film, but he might be 20 years old.

NJM: Yeah, but you could pull off Sil at 20.
SVZ: I could be Silvio’s father, maybe. We’ll see. Right now there’s no plans to actually be in it.

NJM: How important is it for you to keep touring with a band?
SVZ: Playing live is something I’ve been doing my whole life, but I stopped doing it with my own material 25 years ago. I didn’t realize how much time had gone by. I started acting, and then Bruce put the [E Street Band] back together, and it seemed like a day, but it was 25 years. So it’s been good to get back to performing my own work and reconnecting to it. It’s going to take awhile for me to become a true front man again like I was in the ’80s, when I had gotten quite good at it.

NJM: What’s the show like?
SVZ: It’s really entertaining. At this point you don’t see 15-piece bands too often. This band is the best musicians in the world, and you’re seeing the whole history of rock ’n’ roll during a show.

NJM: How does the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation connect with the SoulFire tour?
SVZ: Basically, we’re inviting teachers to come to a seminar in the afternoon, pre-show. Somewhere between when school lets out and sound check, we’re going to have hundreds of teachers come for workshops on their curriculums. It’s free, and they can stay for the show if they want to.

NJM: Will you lead the seminars?
SVZ: No, my foundation people who are academics will be leading them. But I will visit them for sure. And the teachers can also bring young students with them if they want, and they can stay for the show, too.

NJM: You live full-time in Manhattan now, right?
SVZ: Yeah. But my roots are still in New Jersey. I’ll always be a part of that family.

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