(NOTE: Your responses in the comments section below have been tremendous. I will be passing along each and every one of them to Steve’s family. Please contribute to the memorial fund that has been set up in Steve’s name. I have also designed a poster in Steve’s memory that can be purchased here. All money will go directly to his wife and children.)
One guy went out of his way to truly help me in life. His name is Steve Carlesi and you should read every word I have to say about him. I’ve exhausted my current supply of tears and my nose is packed with boogers and congestion. The only other thing I can do is simply write about Steve.
In the late 1990s I had a job working in the back room of Graphic Research Unlimited in Fanwood, New Jersey. The room smelled like this oil-based paint. I had a shitty little ladder and a radio with a coat hanger antenna. My job was pulling film for burning print plates. The press men were a funny bunch, but nothing compared to tuning into 102.7 WNEW and listening to the Opie & Anthony show. I always laughed. They were not typical radio “shock jocks” and had me calling friends saying “turn it on now!” Always funny. Every single day.
In nearby Scotch Plains, New Jersey a comic book store called Little Shop of Comics had a customer named James Hannon. I also shopped at Little Shop of Comics. The owner, Steve (not Carlesi), put me in touch with James so I could design a logo for him. James was super happy with the Lantern Media logo and kept me in mind for the future. Fast forward a bit and Steve Carlesi needs to cover up a tattoo he hates. At this point, Steve C. does production work for Opie & Anthony. Hilarious sweepers and funny in studio appearances. I know absolutely nothing about Steve outside of his radio personality. Steve sends me a few photos of the existing tattoo and asks me to go to town. Mind you I have never designed anything meant to be stabbed into a human body with sharp needles and ink. The heat was on and I felt immense pressure to do this right.
Steve loved the design and brought it to his tattoo artist who faithfully reproduced the design. People joked that it looked like a Journey album cover. I take that as a compliment to this day. It was such an honor that he endured the pain of getting that tattoo. That design also acted as a trial by fire. Now Steve trusted me with basically anything else that he threw my way. The radio show was mega popular and he needed a small army to keep up with the work behind the scenes. I loved being a part of designing banners, web sites, animations, etc. Whatever he needed I was ready, willing, and able to help with.
Steve and I weren’t terribly far apart age-wise. I think both of us should have been listening to far less 1980s metal than we ended up listening to. We constantly made fun of bands still kicking around with terrible lineups and even shittier albums. I was violently opposed to anyone wearing Ace or Peter’s makeup in KISS, but Steve always thought Gene was a marketing genius. (Let’s give some credit to Paul as well.) Countless hours spent chatting by AOL Instant Messenger and e-mail about these sorts of things. We also would spend hours coming up with hilarious web banner quotes. Steve was not allowed to use gratuitous nudity on his web site. Certain clients had web sites containing such material. This meant coming up with even more creative ways of getting people to click! And, damn it, people clicked those banners. They also got the attention of people like Blair Lazar who is still someone I work with to this day. Blair contacted Steve and wanted his banner guy. Steve was always looking out for me. If he could help me out, he always took the time to do so. This is where I became more of a friend to him. You could tell it was never just about business. That aspect took a back seat to the interaction we had about things that had nothing to do with the task at hand.
Back to the metal. Steve loved music. He was in a band and always loved talking about music. Never got tired of it. He knew that I played bass and was learning guitar, so one day he basically said “I have a ton of BOSS pedals, want ’em?” Ummmm….ok! So he ships me a box full of guitar effects pedals. Just BECAUSE! He was also constantly recording bits for Eddie Trunk’s radio show. Steve would send me .mp3 files of things that were just too insane to air. Always trusted me to listen them and not distribute. Never did. Never will. Steve also knew I was a massive Queensryche fan. When they finished recording “Operation: Mindcrime II”, Steve sent me the album before it was ever released. He also sent me Queensryche’s “The Art of Live” DVD once he was finished reviewing it. The dude was always thinking of me when it came to Queensryche and I loved him for it. My second to last e-mail to Steve was about Queensryche. Things never change.
Behind the Scenes
I’ve always enjoyed knowing how things work. The radio industry is one of the most foul and wretched places to work. Unforgiving talent. Horrifying hours. Merciless co-workers. I felt like Steve was burning the candles at both ends and tap dancing in the middle of it. We’d talk during show hours about things that had absolutely nothing to do with the show. I cannot tell you how many times. It makes me laugh just writing about it because the Steve Carlesi AIM Show was usually more entertaining than the actual radio show. As time went on, I worked with people like Jeff Shain on new projects. Steve invested more and more in my skills and I never wanted to let him down. Between running foundrymusic.com and opieandanthony.com, Steve was always working. He got up at an unfathomable time of day to haul into work to book guests, cut more promos, update site content, etc. If there was one person that deserved a shitload of credit for keeping that show going it was Steve C. By the time he was acknowledged for being a crucial part of the show, I think it had run its course in his mind. However, he was always grateful for the experience and years of meeting his own musical idols.
Dinners at T.G.I. Friday’s in Springfield, NJ
Most of my conversations with Steve were over the phone, email or messenger. But during the planning stages for the Traveling Virus Comedy Tour, we would meet up at Friday’s to exchange media. I helped pull together years of footage into segments played on large screens between comedians. He’d always arrive in the infamous Prius and proved that tattooed tough guys are still concerned with getting decent gas mileage. His gastric bypass surgery made every meal just a few bites and then he was full. He was a good sport about waiting for me to finish my normal sized meal. It always came back to 1980s metal though. We couldn’t resist. Plus, the restaurant had vinyl records plastered all over the place. How could the conversation not turn back to music?
One of Steve’s interests beyond radio was getting into producing films. He never stopped coming to me for new adventures like his T. Stephen Carlesi intro (2009). I always liked the FoundryMusic logo, so I tried to keep his brand recognizable with the “Stay Cozy” teddy bear in the middle of the infamous Foundry gear. The intro appeared in at least one short film that I know of. He always had his hands in something that interested him and that is to be respected. Too many people rest on their laurels! He even re-released old Foundry songs on iTunes with a cover that I designed.
MJ, Aubrey, and Xander (X)
None of these words will add up to a particle of what Steve meant to MJ, Aubrey, and Xander. His whole life changed when he met MJ and Aubrey. It changed even more with Xander being born. I know that people will tell countless stories about the person Steve was and that will comfort the family as well as let young X know he was deeply loved by his father. Steve told me the downtime between gigs was great because he got in family time. He learned what really matters in time to enjoy it.
Final Words to Steve
I will legitimately miss you, Steve. I hardly ever cry and I opened the flood gates when I got the message from MJ. You lived beyond the average person’s life and I hope you will give each of us some peace with the memories you helped create. I close my eyes and wish MJ and X the most intense wishes to overcome this. There are going to be many moments when I will start writing to you or think about a terrible band reuniting for one last cash grab. “Gotta get Steve’s spin on this.” Most importantly, I owe the majority of my success in life to your kindness and faith in me. There is no replacing someone like you, but I know you have reunited with Sara and so many other gentle souls that have left us.