Little Steven Tunes Up For Springsteen Tour

Between hosting his popular satellite radio show "Underground Garage" and running two record labels, one of them brand new, Little Steven Van Zandt assures Billboard he'll have time to tune up for the next Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tour, which begins April 1 in San Jose, Calif.

"This will take, I'm going to guess, five or six rehearsals, only because we have a new album," Van Zandt says. "We need to re-learn or re-arrange the new songs for the live versions. We'll fool around with that stuff for maybe a week, and out we go. I have fun learning on the road (laughs). Every tour, you spend the first month or two relearning the songs as you play them. I'm still learning the chords for 'Born To Run!'"

Van Zandt admits the E Street Band rehearsed for their recent Super Bowl halftime show appearance "more than the last two tours combined. The technical stuff was absolutely fascinating, to see how they did that staging. It was just amazing to me. They had the thing up in four minutes!"

The guitarist also says there are no firm plans at the moment for Springsteen and company to feature complete performances of vintage albums as part of the upcoming tour, as had been suggested in the press, but that he doesn't rule out the idea.

In fact, the band played the albums "Born To Run" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town" in full at a May 2008 benefit in Red Bank, N.J. "That was so much fun," Van Zandt reports. "It might be a fun way to do something different. Maybe we'll be able to fit that in somewhere, but we have a whole new album to do as well."

Meanwhile, Van Zandt is about to launch a new hard rock label, Lost Cathedral, with the May 14 release of Crown Of Thorns' "Faith." It joins Van Zandt's garage rock label, Wicked Cool, under the banner of parent company Renegade Nation.

"We basically decided to keep Wicked Cool identifiable as a garage rock label, at least for now," he says. "In the last couple of years, we've gotten a lot of hard rock things submitted to us. A lot of it is quite good -- a little bit punkier or hard rock than we do with Wicked Cool."

And, one of the labels may prove a logical place to reissue Van Zandt's back catalog, which includes several successful solo albums from the '80s. "We're in possession of all of those," says Van Zandt, who now owns the masters. "I just haven't had time to focus on it. We actually should, because my stuff is really not very available. Maybe we'll stick it into one big boxed set."