Tag Archives: Blues Harvest

Stephen Costantino – His Star Wars Story

Greetings, exalted ones! We can’t spend too much time nodding to each other waiting for something to happen this time around. We better get talking to our guest who has a story that makes even Princess Leia’s powerful friends jealous.

Stephen Costantino, musician extraordinaire and accidentally-famous Gamorrean Guard, is joining us because Blues Harvest told us he plays a mean guitar, but also because he’s got a wonderful story about getting into Return of the Jedi.

Normally Their Star Wars Stories focusses on the fond memories of being on the movie itself, but Stephen’s story is how he got there. It’s one you better read otherwise the Sarlaac awaits, and Stephen knows all about being in there…

Hi, Stephen, and thanks for joining us. You are a lucky one at the moment as your passion is something you can do right at home. How are you keeping busy?

I’m in a recording studio just going at it, five days straight now. It’s kind of cool as I can do a lot online, too. I was in Las Vegas doing my last show and everything was shutting down as I was leaving. It was very surreal, I must say.

I do believe you are the first person I am interviewing for the website who has already been mentioned in a story. Any messages for your friends Blues Harvest?

Love those guys, I can’t wait to go on air with them again. Those guys are my boys, so talented and they make me feel so at home and welcome in the UK.

We should get into your Star Wars journey because it’s excellent. How did you end up in Return of the Jedi?

I met Corey though my Sensei as we were both martial artists. Corey is obviously Billy Dee Williams’ (Lando Calrissian) son and they lived together at the time this was all going on. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t gone to his house.

I had always respected Billy Dee from things like ‘Brian’s Song’, ‘Lady Sings’ the ‘Blues and Mahogany’. I was a fan of his as an overall artist. Corey and I started playing together in the garage there; we were really open and had a lot of influences on our music. It was magic, we lived for it every day.

One day we were working on material and we were at a high point creativity-wise. Billy had come in and said to Corey, “Do you want to come stand in for me?” Corey asked where, and it was in Yuma, Arizona, for Return of the Jedi. Corey was a little hesitant; he knows it’s not as glamourous as people think and it’s a lot of work. Corey said we were at a high point and had some doubts, but Billy said, “Why don’t you bring your guitars along, maybe perform a bit on the set?”

Next thing I know we are in Yuma. It’s a Sunday which was a day off for everyone. In the back of the hotel they had these cottages for the cast and crew and everybody is hanging by the pool. That was the first time I met Peter Mayhew coming out of a four-foot hot tub, towering over me. Mark Hamill came along; he made me feel really welcome. Then we started going out to the set and that was a lot of long, hot days, and out there the sand was like an ocean because of the winds.

There were a lot of hours just hanging around which was incredible. I got to hang out with Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Carrie Fisher and Stuart Freeborn, who had an indelible effect on me. It was magnificent seeing how that workforce was put together, building this city and tearing it down.

By the third or fourth day, Billy invited us along to dinner with producer Howard Kazanjian, and I said to Howard, “If I’m out there, put me to work, I’ll do anything.” The next day they brought us in and by that point Corey was doing some background stuff and they made me a Gamorrean Guard. We had some pictures taken of Corey and I with the masks off, and that was put away.

The costume was all latex but there were marks on the floor they said, “Follow that, Luke’s gonna kill you and you are going in the Sarlaac pit for a thousand years.”

I have really great memories and I didn’t talk about it much in the past because I just thought I was another guard; there are a lot of guards in different scenes. About 10 years ago, those pictures resurfaced and the guys at Burnley Star Wars Fan Fun Day found out I was the guy behind the mask who got killed by Luke and they asked if I’d ever signed autographs. I said, “I didn’t know I could,” so they sent a lot of stuff over from England – and I’ve got nice handwriting, being a writer – and that’s how it became known that I played the guard. Pretty amazing journey!

Brilliant story, Stephen! In terms of the whole experience, what else do you remember fondly from working on Jedi?

One night there was a blackout in all the rooms so we lit a bunch of candles. Corey had a bass and I had a guitar and we just played a bunch of music for everyone – that was incredible.

The relationships with people like Stuart and Kenny Baker…Kenny had some incredible stories to tell. He had a Rolls or a Bentley and of course the steering’s on the other side. He called the hotels up but when he got to a hotel he’d get out really quickly and they could have sworn someone pulled up. He was hysterical he had such a sense of humour.

This was the first question I thought up for you as I’ve been wondering this since I was a kid… Were those Gamorrean Guard costumes as hot as they look in the desert? They don’t look very tailor-made for heat…

Oh god…yes. When they took the top of the costume off Corey would have to hold me up, I was like humpty dumpty! You couldn’t sit down and they had to put a blow dryer in my mouth for air – it’s safe to say it wasn’t the most comfortable.

For yourself, I know Star Wars had a lasting impact on you and you are obviously a big fan. Being a Gamorrean Guard has led to the name of your music label, and I believe you have a tattoo of your logo?

I was at Celebration 2015 and they had a tattoo alley who were all approved by Lucasfilm and Disney to be there. I told my girl, “I want a tattoo but I want him playing the guitar.” I didn’t have time on the day, so the guy agreed to come round my place before he left the next morning and he did a tattoo of my logo until 2am – I love it.

You are more well-known for music, so how would you describe your music for those who haven’t heard it?

I’m from New Jersey so in the 70’s I went to see Led Zeppelin a few times, King Crimson, Miles Davis, and there weren’t too many boundaries for music. I’m from Hoboken, same place as Frank Sinatra, so we are a big Sinatra family. You add that with rock music like Jeff Beck and the British Invasion; a lot of influences there.

People say I sound like Pink Floyd or Peter Gabriel, and I’ll take that, but I’ve got a little of everything. I love jazz, too. I don’t know hip-hop that well, but being from the east coast, that’s the genesis of it. I started working with Brett Mazur in that game and I started to get pretty hot in that because they liked my old-school style of playing and they could sample it. I was also in a band called ‘The Cronies’ with Billy Wirth from the film Lost Boys, we wrote together.

Music plays such a huge part in Star Wars, in your opinion does any film franchise manage the musical side better?

Music’s a huge part of my life. I was into soundtracks before I was involved in Star Wars. As far as synchronicity is concerned, John Williams…you know he crossed over into some big movies like Indiana Jones and that’s pretty amazing. He does it in a classic way that you don’t hear often. I love the Tangerine Dream soundtrack from the movie Thief which James Caan stars in, Scorsese and the way they use source music.

My last question for you is also music-related, as it’s so important to you. You mentioned that pesky Luke Skywalker sees you off into the Sarlaac pit. What song would you like to dub over that scene if you could?

I thought ‘Starship Trooper’ or ‘Your Move’ by Yes, but me going into the pit probably something that tells a story I think it has to be ’30 Days in the Hole’ by Humble Pie.

On that musical note, we thank Stephen for his time and look forward to catching more of his music in the future. Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Did you enjoy reading this interview? From one Star Wars musician crossover to another we go to Tim Dry who played for The Queen, supported Duran Duran and played J’Quille in Return of the Jedi. Read more by clicking here.

Blues Harvest – Their Star Wars Story

Welcome back readers, this is an unexpected pleasure, we are honoured by your presence.

Dispensing with the pleasantries, this time around we have a different group of guests bringing you their Star Wars story. Your eyes do not deceive you; ‘group of guests’ is correct or more accurately, a band! This site isn’t only to tell you stories of people involved in the filming of Star Wars but also fans with an interesting story or two to tell. Blues Harvest are a band made up of Nick (Lead vocals), Adam (Guitar), Andrew (Keyboards), Jess (Bass guitar) and Andy (Drums).

Blue Harvest was the working title of Return of the Jedi and carried the working tagline “Horror Beyond Imagination” in order to keep filming as secret as possible, a convenient title to make use of for a blues playing band! Name-puns, Mark Hamill endorsement and more is covered as we chat all things Star Wars music!

Blues Harvest, welcome and congratulations on being the first fans to feature on the site, and a fantastic group of fans you are too! Andy, you are the drummer in the band and have the pleasure of being spokesperson on these questions, what is your band’s connection to Star Wars?

All five members of Blues Harvest are huge Star Wars fans as well as musicians. Outside of the band we all live fairly Star Wars filled lives, from collecting figures to hosting panels at conventions and even writing and illustrating canon Star Wars content. Our frontman, Nick Brokenshire, is a comic book illustrator and has penned several tales for IDW’s ‘Star Wars Adventures’.

Impressive, most impressive. So how did your band come together?

In 2013 there was an opportunity for some musicians to perform at a ‘Dinner with the Stars’ event for Burnley’s ‘Star Wars Fan Fun Day’ and at the time we were a group of friends who met regularly to record a geek podcast so the idea came out of discussions on that show. We had the idea of forming a band to play a selection of classic blues and R&B songs with ‘a Star Wars twist’ and Blues Harvest was born.

We still perform some of the songs we re-wrote for that first show, namely Death Star which is based on Eric Clapton’s ‘Crossroads’ and Obi-Wan Kenobi, based on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.

Your band’s name will raise a few smiles in the Star Wars community, what made you settle on that name?

We went through a lot of puns at first, ‘Chewie Lewis and the News’, ‘Boba Fett Shop Boys’ and ‘Abba the Hutt’ were all contenders. But since we play Star Wars blues songs, we got to the original working title used during the filming of ‘Return of the Jedi’ and added the letter s. Now if anyone asks, I tell them we take our name from season one, episode 12 of the Ewoks cartoon named ‘Blue Harvest’!

Alternative band names from the Ewoks cartoon; ‘The Travelling Jindas’, ‘Rampage of the Phlogs’ and ‘A Gift for Shodu’, seriously if anyone is in the market for band names the 80’s Ewok cartoon is where it’s at! So now we know how you came to be, what’s the band’s best Star Wars story?

‘Rampage of the Phlogs’ didn’t fit on the Clapperboard

We’ve had lots of amazing Star Wars experiences but for us the highlight has got to be Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. We had the distinct honour of being invited to perform at ‘A Night at Canto Bight’ – a multi club bash with 3,000 Star Wars fans in attendance. During the show we invited several special guests onto the stage to join us as we kept the party rocking, including our buddy ‘Darth Elvis’, Jett Lucas (Son of George), Taylor Gray (Ezra Bridger, Star Wars Rebels), Vanessa Marshall (Hera Syndulla, Star Wars Rebels), David W. Collins (Star Wars: Resistance) and a #MysteryPorg who is a Star Wars celebrity whose identity remains hidden, for now.

You have a bunch of honorary band members there and the list keeps on growing! I understand Jerome Blake (Mas Amedda, The Phantom Menace) and Laurie Goode (Hrchek Kal Fas, A New Hope) are also on the list of Star Wars personalities to perform with you. Who made the biggest impression?

The first celebrity to join us on stage made a huge impression on us, Stephen Costantino. Stephen played a Gamorrean Guard in Return of the Jedi, and in real life plays a mean guitar! He was a guest at an event we performed at and accepted our offer to join us on stage; he enjoyed the experience so much that we organised a second impromptu show whilst he was still in the UK. For us this paved the way for a multitude of guests who have since become ‘honorary band members’ and he’s welcome to join us for a jam whenever he likes!

Your material is getting diverse and because of your convention links you got to sing “Ghostbusters” with Ray Parker Junior, what were the excitement levels for that like?

Performing with Ray was one of our shared highlights as musicians. The Ghostbusters theme is a song that’s so well known, especially amongst the geek community, and being able to play live with the man himself was an absolute dream come true.

Other than that we’ve also been able to explore music from other franchises such as the Marvel movies; one time we had an amazing opportunity to perform The Avengers theme at Disneyland Paris, we’ve also performed songs from Back to the Future, I think we have to give thanks in part to the awesome ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ soundtracks for the varied opportunities.

We understand you have a special Star Wars fan, pretty much the master of Star Wars fans…what’s it like to hear feedback on your music from Luke Skywalker himself?

We rewrote the lyrics for The Kinks ‘Waterloo Sunset’ to ‘Tatooine Sunset’ and we had an idea that Mark Hamill might one day hear it but had no idea he would respond so quickly and so warmly!

He absolutely loved the track and tweeted us saying “Magnificent! I now declare this as my official, unofficial Luke theme song!” Reading that pretty much blew us away… Luke Skywalker himself has heard our music!

Blues Harvest: Endorsed by Star Wars royalty!

This is about as close as Their Star Wars Stories will get to interviewing Mark Hamill and we are OK with it. Back to music itself, Star Wars has created such close associations with characters based simply on music, how as musicians do you feel Star Wars achieves that so well?

Two words: John Williams. Without him Star Wars just simply would not have been nearly as successful. The themes he’s effortlessly developed make us love the characters in that galaxy far, far away, from Luke’s theme in the original movie through to Rey’s theme in the sequels. We love performing some of these themes on stage and introduce them in our music where possible.

To finish, a quick game of Kiss/Marry/Kill here with 3 of the most recognizable tunes, Duel of Fates, Binary Sunset and Imperial March?

Tricky question, let’s say we would kiss Imperial March and marry Binary Sunset. We would kill Duel of Fates, because it’s music to kill a Jedi to!

Blues Harvest regularly play in the UK and you can read more about them by clicking here.

Check out their appearance at Star Wars celebration, Chicago here.

Did you enjoy reading this interview? Why not check out the Star Wars story of honorary band member and Gamorrean Guard, Stephen Costantino by clicking here.

Enjoyed this story readers? Are you a fan with a cool story to tell? Tweet us @TheirStarWars and let’s have a chat! Until the next time readers, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.