For a guy who chose the nom de rock ”Little,” Steven Van Zandt has always had oversized ambitions. In the ’70s, he midwifed a horn-and-saltwater-soaked brand of Jersey rock as Bruce Springsteen’s rhythm guitarist and occasional producer. In the ’80s he veered off E Street for a solo career (Pearl Jam covered his shoulda-been hits like ”I Am A Patriot”) and assembled such musicians as Bob Dylan and Miles Davis for the anti-apartheid single ”Sun City.”
Then, of course, there’s that little cable show, ”The Sopranos,” where his mobster-with-a-heart-of-stone, Silvio Dante, has turned him into a made man. These days, the 51-year-old Van Zandt is busy shooting ”The Sopranos”’ fourth season — and apparently participating in recording sessions for what could be the first Springsteen-plus-E Street Band studio album since 1984. He discussed his multitasking life with EW.com, and explained why he’s taken on yet another gig: DJ of his own syndicated garage-rock radio show, ”Little Steven’s Underground Garage,” Sunday nights on stations nationwide (for times and stations, see littlesteven.com).
You’re doing these top-secret recording sessions with Springsteen and the E Street Band — but they don’t seem that secret anymore, since word leaked on the Net and some of your bandmates are talking about it.
[laughs] You getting the feeling that the omerta is breaking down? If you ask me, absolutely nothing official is going on. When Bruce’s publicist announces he’ll be making a new record, then he’ll officially be making a new record.
And when Clarence Clemons says Bruce is making a ”soulful, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, modern-sound kind of album”?
[laughs harder] Uh, everybody’s got their fantasies and various dreams — sometimes you have a little too much scungilli late at night and crazy things happen in your head. Look, Bruce is the kind of guy where he’s always writing, he’s always recording. Eventually we will do something and it will be good. I’m convinced of that.
How does Springsteen’s music fit in with garage rock?
We all started as garage bands. Is it classic garage? No, as soon as you’ve got two keyboards, you’re no longer classic garage. Are there garage elements? Yeah, you’ll see. And it works; it fits in with my radio show. There’s a lot of obvious ’60s roots [in Springsteen’s music] — that’s the main characteristic of garage.