A Brit’s ‘Modern English’ Journey to Becoming a Texan

He says he’s seen the difference – and it’s getting better all the time.

By Laura RiceApril 15, 2015 8:59 am| , ,

Steven Walker has thick-rimmed glasses and full beard. He’s wearing a pearl-snap shirt with a Western pattern sewn in on the pockets. He looks right at home in artsy East Austin.

“People are shocked when they come in and they see all these amazing American artists on the wall and then the guy in the beard and the cowboy shirt comes up to them and says, ‘yuh alright?’ (in a British accent). It is a bit weird for them I guess,” Walker says.

Walker’s journey to Texas wasn’t direct. His first trip to the state was a 90’s Christmas visit with his sister in Houston. Her husband was stationed there for a job.

“And it was really odd for me because at home, back in England, Christmas is just sitting around by the fire and drink cocoa and you’ve got hats and scarves on and everything ,” Walker says. “And this was Christmas day in shorts and we were discussing whether to do a barbecue or not on Christmas Day.”

Before long, he was spending a lot more time in Texas… on tours that took him across the country.

“I was the guitarist for the band Modern English,” Walker says. “And I toured America relentlessly with the band for years and years and years, and I came through Austin a bunch of times and I fell in love with the place.”

Here’s where the story sounds familiar to anyone familiar with Austin. After Walker and his wife had their first child, he decided to hang up his guitar and settle down with his family to pursue another passion.

“Whilst I was on the road I kind of got a bit bored, as you do, so I started taking pictures and I fell in love with rock photography,” Walker says.

He and his wife decided the live music capital of the world was the perfect place to open a gallery of rock n’ roll images.

“So these are the Nirvana prints, the outtakes from the Nevermind shoot, and we’ve printed them on metallic paper – which, this isn’t going to work very well on radio, but you can see it so there you go,” Walker says.

The photos feature the grunge band in the pool and under water. They were taken by a photographer who’s home base is also Austin – and they’ve never before been up for grabs.

Steven Walker got them because of that Austin connection, which has also brought him other treasures.

“I’d been open about a month and a guy came in and said, ‘I’ve got some Jimi Hendrix.'” Walker says.

That was another Austin photographer whose shots had never been seen before. Walker says such encounters wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world.

His shop, Austin Modern Rocks Gallery, has been open a year now. This weekend, it’s celebrating with an exhibit of images of The Smiths. But, later this year, he’ll be bringing it all back to Texas.

“Yes, I came here and I’ve got a lot of British artists on the wall, I’ve got like Oasis and the Clash and the Smiths,” Walker says. “There’s a lot of American artists here as well but I want to fill the gallery with Texans. Just to say thanks and also because they are just such cool images and some cool people, too.”

Photo by Daniel Brock for Austin Monthly.

Steven Walker played guitar for 'Modern English' before moving to Austin to open a gallery.