Whistle Down
The Wind '98


Nocturnal
Pleasures

The Artist's Mind

Jim In The Studio

Jim Steinman on...

...his theatrical roots...
I spent the first seven years out of school doing nothing but theater. That's what I was trained to do at school and that's what I loved doing. All of the rock 'n' roll and pop music I've done since then has been very theatrical.

...Whistle Down The Wind...
I thought it was a great fable - a great sort of mythical little tale but I wasn't sure it would make a good musical. When Andrew asked me about it I was skeptical at first but [then] he said "What do you think about setting it in America?" And that's what really appealed to me because the minute he said "America" I thought of the Deep South. I wanted to set it in the Deep South to capture the same essence as Tennessee Williams and To Kill A Mockingbird, and to write a musical that wasn't for old people and their parents - a musical that had mainstream appeal.

...Southern Gothic...
It's very much in the great tradition of Southern Gothic which always seems to involve a very young girl just on the edge of adulthood and a very steamy, magical world where miracles can happen but also dark magic. It involves the awakening of sexuality and the awakening of awareness to all sorts of things. We tossed around a lot of different ideas, for example - a mining town in West Virginia, but I became obsessed with the idea of doing it in Louisiana.

...why Louisiana was an ideal location...
For a musical you need a really heightened musical type setting. A setting that lends itself to eruptions of song - a setting of heightened extremism. Louisiana is an incredible treasure-trove of musical sources. So, musically, it was a wonderfully colorful place. Plus, in terms of the plot, what was great about it is that Louisiana really is the Bible Belt. People every minute of their lives are obsessed with religion and the Bible in a way that isn't the same [elsewhere]. It made a lot of sense to set it in a world where people would believe that [Christ had returned] because every minute of their lives they're being told "Jesus is coming back and you'd better be prepared to recognize him." So it made sense in terms of musical richness and possibilities. We went to New Orleans for research and a lot of the story is based on a town called Donaldsonville which is about an hour outside of New Orleans. I swear it could have been 1959. The cars were the same and literally every car had a bumper sticker about Jesus. In every store window there was a sign that mentioned Jesus. Religion was rampant - it was everywhere. It was like entering a whole different world. It was not a sophisticated, questioning, cynical world.

...choosing the year 1959...
That period in America crystallizes a lot of things. That period was about the birth of the teenager, of rock 'n' roll, of the freeway, and all this is perfectly right for the story which is essentially about a 14-year-old girl who's discovering sexuality, magic, God, and music.

...the title song...
There's a whole series of images about lighting bonfires, stemming the tide, burning torches, howling at the stars, whispering in your sleep, crying - every possible thing a human being can do to send a signal to someone else that says "Please be here with me. I'm in trouble." It's basically about emotional S.O.S's.

...the Christ figure called "The Man"...
Writing the character in the barn, the convict, was really tricky because he's a feverish, delirious character. Literally feverish. He had to be very Quixotic, really dark and scary and brutal at times but also very vulnerable and sympathetic. He's a victim but also a victimizer. You shouldn't know from one second to the next whether he could do something really terrible to her [Swallow] or something wonderful.

...the future of musicals...
The only way for musicals to remain totally vital is to remain totally connected to the jugular pulse of popular music. The division between mainstream pop and musicals has been very damaging. Musicals should be the music of the streets as they were in the 30's and 40's. I think that people forget that [the songs of] Cole Porter, Gershwin, and Irving Berlin were actually, in a strange way, literally the music of the streets.

...collaborating with Lloyd Webber...
I'm not really that much the opposite of Andrew. Musically, we have the same roots. We grew up with opera, theater, music and rock 'n' roll: a rare, strange and combustible combination. I set out to do theater and I was amazed I ended up doing records. I always joke with Andrew that we took each other's career. To this day I put a lot of my theatrical impulses into records, and I think Andrew has put a lot of his rock 'n' roll impulses into theater.

Making Soundboard Magic

...the Whistle Down The Wind concept album...
We all threw names around. Andrew asked for Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler, I suggested Sounds Of Blackness and the company had already contacted Tom Jones. The songs the artists have done are quite different from the originals, but retain their essence.