- Interviews
Steve Lukather

Hey Steve!
Hey, what's happening?

Not much actually, what about yourself?
Just sitting here playing my guitar.

Cool, thanks for taking my call.
No problem man.

So what did I catch you in the middle of, in the studio?
I am just about to start something. Some weird project for John Kalodner. Actually it's a Christmas thing. Christmas in April!
You have to do these things way ahead!
But I am doing a track with the Lobotomy guys, Garfield and Phillips. We are doing a strange version of Chestnuts Roasting On The Open Fire, but kinda how Metallica would play it or something.

Sounds different!
Yeah, we're just having fun with that, and writing songs for a Toto album we are supposed to start recording in the summer. And I am trying to finish the Jeff Beck record, but who know's if that is ever going to get done.
We haven't done anything on that since the end of October, stuff needs to be done.
He takes 10 years between albums, now I understand why.

I heard that you had taken up with John Kalodner.
He is a really good friend of mine, he has been a very big supporter of me and my career, and all that sort of stuff.
He is going to walk us through the next Toto record, we are going to go back to the original concept of the band.
Stylistically speaking. Over produced, super obnoxious, stuff the critics will hate.

Great, stuff the fans will love!
Yeah, you know, five part harmonies, triple guitars, all the stuff that pisses them off.
Sort of making fun of ourselves, but making fun of it.

Good, piss them off then.
Yeah, we've got the this record coming out next month, that is 20 years of unreleased material.

Yeah, I have the track listing here. It looks good.
It's quite a good record. I am actually surprised, we dug up some cool shit.
I am listening, and going fuck, why didn't we put that on the record?!
Some of it was unfinished, so I would throw a guitar solo on that was missing, or some background vocals that were missing.
Most of it was already done.

Where have most of the songs come from?
We have got hundreds sitting in the vault. Some great stuff with Jeff Porcaro.
For Jeff fans, this will be the record to get.
It goes through most incarnations of the band. Stuff with Bobby, Jo, and a lot of stuff with Dave singing. There are a couple of live tracks on there too.
Even some from our first original demo. We haven't touched them up at all.
We have done some cool liner notes too.
Other than that, I have a bunch of stuff to produce and work on, life's pretty good at the moment.

You are a busy guy - you seem to play on a stack of records each year.
You know, I am not doing that too much anymore. I do one or two, but nothing like I was doing 10 years ago.
I would rather do my own projects, you know, solo records and Toto, and write and produce for other people.

I am a big fan of your solo records.
Thanks man, I wasn't too sure if you were getting that stuff in Australia.

No we're not, but it's all available on import.
Well, you know, we get no support whatsoever from our Record Company down there. Sony kinda shits on us there.
So that's why we can't afford to come down there.

Yeah. It has been about 6 or 8 years since you were here last.
We get no support from the record label, and most promoters think they are going to loose their ass. Very conservative.
A lot of people I know haven't even been there before. My bud Eddie is there soon for the first time.

Yeah, I have my Van Halen tickets right now. Be here next week.
Ed and I are like family, you know. He called me up from Hawaii this morning.

He played on your first solo record.
Yeah, that's right! I sang backgrounds on their records.
They are the last great rock n roll band left, except maybe for Aerosmith.
At the end of this decade, they are going to flush the toilet on the whole 90's style.

Yeah, it's like okay guys, this was the decade of lets play and sing bad.
There was some great stuff too, but it was hard to get through a lot of it.
Maybe because I am 40 now, not 20.
My kids play me a lot of stuff. And my girlfriend, she's like 26!
There is just so much that is forgettable. None of them will have long careers. It's like they will break up or die!
They won't get a gig with someone else, because they don't know how to play.
That's not being crusty of cynical, it's just the facts.
Ha ha. When the media picks up on that it's not cool to play that kind of music again, what are they going to do?
I watch this MTV shit, which I really hate. They have single handedly ruined the entire art of music. Turned it into a huge fucking McDonalds commercial. No imagination at all.
I remember they way it was, when you used to look forward to digging a new album, a big album, a LP you know! You didn't need a magnifying glass to read the album credits.
You used to think, wow what were these guys thinking of when they recorded this, and maybe if you were lucky, maybe once a year you saw them live.
Now it is shoved down your throats so much, that people just don't care anymore.
It's like, music, oh yeah…great.
What is going to happen now, though, is that it is going to change. It's time.
I am looking forward to it.
I have survived three decades in the music business.
What's cracking me up now, is the return of the 80's! Like disco came and went again. It just shows you that there is nothing new, it's just dressed up differently.

What about the style for the new Toto record, you say you are going to go back…
Yeah man! We are just going to do what we do best, and be real obnoxious about it. Over the top production you know. Lots of synthesizers, guitars and solos, percussion and all.
At the same time as making a good record, we are just going to take the piss out of ourselves.
John Kalodner is going to be involved, and check our choice of material. He has done a lot of good for bands like Aerosmith and Journey.

And what about the vocal duties?
Well, I think we might throw it around a bit. Dave is going to do some, I will do some, and who knows, you might see an old familiar face or something like that.
It all depends on how this record goes, this new old record.
We are all going to get together and go to Europe, if it all works out, with Steve Porcaro, Joseph Williams and Bobby Kimball. We are going to play a few secret shows to just see what happens.
We have buried the hatchet, nobody is mad anybody anymore. That was 15 years ago, what am I pissed of at, you know?

Just get over it, eh?
Yeah, like come on, life is too God damn short.
To be honest with you, I am just really happy to be making a great living still playing music.
I am in my 22nd year of making music.

Is that right?
Yeah, I have just turned 40, and life is good to me.
I get older and my girlfriend's get younger.

Ha ha, so how many records have you played on then?
They tell me between 600 and 700 records.

Are you serious?

So there isn't much chance of me getting the entire Steve Lukather collection then?
Nah man, why would you want to?!

Ha ha ha.
No man, seriously, some of it's crap, you know. When I was just a session man, I was doing something like 20 sessions a week, I didn't even know what record I would be playing on next.
Hence the years of drug abuse!
I would get so fucking bored playing on all these crappy records, it was like 'wow, I got to get high or something here'.
Don't get me wrong, it was a great time to be playing. Even if you were on a shitty record, musically you would be playing with the best cats in the world, so we had some fun, we tried to make the most of it, and give it out all, but it was very forgettable stuff a lot of it.
The great ones were the great ones, and they still hold up, you know.

Some of your singers had problems with substance abuse, didn't they?
Well you can't do that shit, and sing man! It's as simple as that. Anybody that has ever done that shit will tell you that.
Really it isn't good for anybody, but at the same time, if you are a singer and you do something that numbs your throat out, and you scream because you can't feel it, and you trash your voice and can't sing anymore.
That's like me sticking my fingers in fucking acid and trying to play.
Eventually you won't be able to do it anymore.
But all the guys have got their shit together, and they are clean and they don't do it anymore.
I like to drink and have a joint, I am over 21, my kids don't know that, but hey!
I went through a period where I was completely straight, not a drink, nothing, about 8 or 9 months.
I said, well that was cool, I can do that, I will have a little drink and hang out, that's cool.
There was never a point that I was blowing it or something, it just became a pattern, because everyone around me was doing it around me.
You don't really realize, it creeps up on you. It's when you start feeling shit all the time, it's time to chill.
But everyone that lived through that era was into it, and if they say they weren't they are lying.
Ha ha - or a freak of nature. I am just glad I have missed the heroin decade, the 90's. That shit you don't mess a round with. Apparently it is one of the best high's, but I have seen it destroy a lot of people.
The drag of it is, they make it cheap and affordable, so the kids can get into it.
So fuckin' stupid.
But you know, my daughter is going to be 13 soon. Don't think I am not thinking about all this. The advantage is I have lived through it, and I can recognize the signs. I have a brutally open dialogue with my kids.

That's probably the best way to be.
Yeah, they are going to do what they are going to do, so a lot of knowledge helps.
Anyway, enough of that shit, what else do you want to talk about?

Well I have a buddy of mine here who is a mad Toto fan, so can I put him on to throw a couple of questions at you?

Yeah man sure!

How's it going Steve? Richard here.
Hey Richard, pleasure to meet you.

I just have a couple of general questions I would love to ask you.
Sure, shoot!

Who is your favourite vocalist singer, who would you would like to jam with?
Oh man, there are so many great ones.
Peter Gabriel, Steve Wonder, Paul Rogers. Aretha Franklin, people like that, real singers.

I heard a rumor that you may produce Def Leppard?
Ha ha, here's the story with that. I am not producing their next album.
Rick, the drummer, is my next door neighbor, across the street, and we used to hang all the time.
At one time he and Phil come down to my studio and we talked about maybe doing a track or two together, but it never materialized.
And they are in the studio with some one or other, I haven't seen him for a while.
I love those guys, and that was that. Rick's a good friend. We all come from the same place.

So living next door, you have an instant jam session when ever?
Yeah, it's interesting, my son play drums, and Rick used to have two drum kits set up and he would go over and jam with him.

That was my next question actually, wondering if your kids have picked up any talent from their dad!
Oh yeah, my son's a drummer, and my daughter play keyboards and sings her ass off. She plays a little guitar also. She can play anything she wants.
She's going to be thirteen soon, I am about to have a teenage daughter, how fucking scary is that?

One question that has always bugged me - the Toto sword/rings logo - who came up with that?
I guy called Phillip Garace came up with that. He also designed the Grateful Dead's logo - the one with the skeleton playing the violin.
He also did the penguin logo for Fleetwood Mac.

Another question, do you see James Newton Howard much?
Well he writes scores for every 'A' movie coming out of Hollywood. He is even up for an Academy Award this year.
I haven't talked to him for a while, about a month ago. He misses the rock thing occasionally, but doesn't need to do it.

Well it has been a pleasure talking to you Steve, thanks.
It has been a please also mate.

Hey Steve. I have a couple more things to throw at you.
Are you still hanging out with Brett Walker?

Brett! I really want to do something with him at some point. We just can't seem to get it together. You know he is a really sweet guy, very talented. I hope he gets the break he deserves. Really cool music.
We keep threatening to write a tune, but not yet. We spent a little time together last year.

Yeah, he said you were a very cool guy, and it was great to hang out for a while. He said it was a real honor.
Oh shit man, I ain't no big deal.

Do you see Fergie at all anymore?
Shit I haven't seen him in years. Last time I saw him was in Minneapolis in '93.
I have no bad feelings or anything, he's a nice guy.
He didn't have a substance problem. He was freaked out in the studio man.
He could not sing in the studio. He was fine live, once he learned it he was fine.
But getting a vocal out of him in the studio was really like pulling teeth.
It became incredibly frustrating. It would take like weeks one on song to get a lead vocal.
He is a great singer, and maybe he isn't like that anymore. We were too impatient I guess, and the more we pushed him, the more freaked out he was and the worse it became.
He was kind of a nervous guy, and he lost his voice out on the road a lot.
I don't why.

Do you enjoy the singing live?
Yeah it's cool. I have gotten quite used to it. I haven't lost my voice once, because I take good care of it.
It doesn't freak me out at all anymore. I wouldn't mind sharing it around a little though. I don't have a big ego, you know, whatever is best.

On the 'Absolutely Live' album, you have shared it around a bit.
That is my least favourite record. Don't listen to that record at all.
I don't really listen to any of my records though!

My favorite is probably your debut solo record. I paid around $40 for that.
Why is that? You should be able to get that through Sony at the same price as anything else.

Yeah, it was import only at the time.

Fucking record company! We still sold like 20 million records, and they are embarrassed that we are on the label.

Hopefully Kalodner will be able to turn things around for you.
Yeah, there is stilll a stigma that surrounds the band. Each territory has a choice to release it or not. Even though they are supposed to they don't.
Get us in a non English speaking country, and we are huge.
We have been the band to hate for 20 fucking years!
The only person that has to take more shit than us is probably Michael Bolton!
They have just about killed him here too. He's just about over.

The negative press is catching up?
Yeah, you like to think it doesn't, but if people keep reading how un-cool something is, then…
Everyone wants to be cool!
The people that like us really like us, and the people that don't, really hate us a lot.

When are you going over to Europe?
I am going over twice to promote this record. Once in April myself, then May 26 I think, we are all going over to play.
All of us on stage together for the first time in 20 years, it will freak people out.

That will go off!
Well, I don't know if it will be any good or not! Ha ha!

And the next studio album will be out when?
Starting it in the summer, and finish it toward the end of the year. We will be on the road through 1999.
We would love to get down there. I had a great time last time I was there.
Supply and demand. You guys are a long way away.
It costs us like $60,000 just to get out gear down there. We don't show up and play on rented twin reverb, you know. We are sticklers for the sound.
A lot of people just got out any play along with their record, you know! Really scary. People that mime the lot.
I have seen people with all this digital shit behind the stage, and I go 'Well, what's up here?' and they go 'Well, we can't pull this shit off live!'.
There is a lot more Milli Vanilli going on than you think. A lot of people don't even play on their own records!

Alright Steve, thanks for talking to us.
Sure man, I gotta blow, great talking to you.
Bitchn' say hello to everyone down there, and call up our record company and bug them!

Very cool! Will do.

And that people, was Steve Lukather!