Little Steven says he’s going back to the rock, R&B and soul sound he played with Southside Johnny on his new album. (Courtesy Big Hassle)

Busy Little Steven makes time for ‘Soulfire’

It’s taken Steven Van Zandt, aka Little Steven, 18 years to release his latest album “Soulfire,” which mixes new material with 1970s catalog classics (“I Don’t Want to Go Home,” “Love On the Wrong Side of Town”) he wrote as lead guitarist for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. He’s been busy: touring with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band; acting in TV shows (“Lilyhammer” and “The Sopranos,” as ruthless mob enforcer Silvio Dante); and running the retro-rocking Sirius XM radio station “Underground Garage.” He says, “For the new record, I decided to go back to that which really defines me — that rock-R&B-soul that I started with the Jukes.”

On your 1982 solo debut “Men Without Women,” you created this embroidered-leather-duster look that matched its soulful sound perfectly
.

I was about to do Bruce’s “Darkness On the Edge of Town” tour, coming up on ’78, and I needed an outfit, an original look for this tour, and I thought, “What’s never been done before?” I’d just seen this movie “The Long Riders,” so I had the long coat made for that tour. And then I continued it as my trademark with my band The Disciples of Soul. I put the logo on the back, like the Hell’s Angels wore, which we heard about from the Hell’s Angels, by the way. But I ended up getting their permission.

Some of those early political songs, like “I Am a Patriot,” resonate even more today.

Yeah. It’s been going over big live, I’ll tell you. I don’t even have to say anything anymore — it’s all built into the song. It’s kind of scary how relevant some of those songs are. But that was one reason why I didn’t feel the need to revisit a lot of those themes, because I knew they were going to hold up just fine in the live show. So I was able to feel liberated on this new album and have the music come first, instead of the politics. I never did that before, really.

Every day, though, I give thanks for “Underground Garage,” where you can listen for a whole hour and not recognize a single song.

I started my weekly two-hour radio show a few years before satellite came along, and I had hand-picked 3,000 songs, but I was only playing 25 a week. So when it turned into a 24/7 thing, I had the format, and the whole thing figured out. Everybody said it was impossible, but I said, “I’m going to do all 60 years of rock and roll, and I’m going to connect the dots.” And now we’re an institution.

IF YOU GO
Little Steven
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Oct. 13
Tickets: $67.50
Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.ticketmaster.com

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