By Kenneth Bremer and Thomas O. Høyer.
The soundcheck is just over. Everything seems to be working quite okay, except the whole operation is behind schedule. Toto came in late from Sweden but Steve Lukather did take the time to talk to us, as always loyal to his fans and friends around the world.
One of the frequent questions that Lukather gets concerns the setup of his gear, what kind of instruments he uses, etc. On this website there are lists and diagrams of the setup that he used on the road over the years, made by Steen Skrydstrup. We showed Steve a diagram of his present setup and asked him about it:
(Steve gets the diagrams)
Steve: There it is.
Kenneth: Is this correct or is it totally wrong?
Steve: I’m surprised how correct it is. That’s basically it, I have a couple of spare heads up there, but other than that… Actually there’s a fourth head that I’m using…. My amp has three channels, three different sounds, and I patched in another one so I can use a fourth channel with a different sound. I can actually have more options, I could string a whole bunch of them together if I wanted to.
Kenneth: When you’re choosing equiment, are you involved in making the products?
Steve: Yes, absolutely! (looks at the diagram again) Oh, I don’t use a fuzz tone, I just use a compressor just to get that little extra sustain.
Thomas: But the units are basically the same?
Steve: That’s allright. The only thing you don’t have is the fuzz tone [only thing that’s not correct in the diagram, ed.]. I have one of those and they’re great, but I don’t really need a fuzz tone with the amp, you know. There’s plenty of distortion in it..
Kenneth: Being a famous guitar player, you see a lot of the fans going with the same gear… and I think it’s great when people buy something that they see their idol has, what do you think about this yourself?
Steve: Well the guitar is really doing well, they’ve sold about 2500 of them, which is good in a day and age where nobody buys signature guitars… It’s just a really good guitar. Don Felder and Joe Walsh used one of my guitars, when Felder had to play my solo on Dirty Laundry he used my guitar which I thought was really cool. And Joe has one, he really liked his… and they told me the guitar player in Backstreet Boys has one, which my daughter was very excited about.
Thomas: How many guitars do you bring on a tour like this?
Steve: On this tour? Well, I’ve just changed my main guitar to the black sparkled one, it’s a really great guitar. I just changed my mind, they’re all so good and sometimes I get fond of one them and I start playing that one for the whole tour, you know. But all my Musicmans are out there, I’ve got a purple one, the classic blue-ish/green color, gray/blue color, and I’ve got the Telecaster style one that has Jeff Beck’s signature on it. I’m not really using that one right now, I’ve got a spare, a black one…
Thomas: Is that the one with the cream color?
Steve: Yeah, cream color with an Eddie Van Halen body, with a Luke neck on it. It’s bastard guitar with some DiMarzio pickups on it…
Kenneth: If you look at all the projects you’ve been involved in, apart from Toto, Los Lobotomys and your solo work, what projects are the ones that are closest to you?
Steve: Hard to say. There were a lot of great moments, it depends on what kind of music…. Miles Davis was great… obviously working with George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, they’re all my heroes, you know… Elton John… asked me to join his band at one point, …Miles asked me to join his band at one point, but I couldn’t do it, obviously because I was doing this.
Kenneth: That reminds me of the old Norwegian Woods recordings where you are playing a lot of Beatles stuff….
Steve: Ohh, that was just a one-off little session, I really wasn’t involved in the project, it was just one of these sessions, you know…
Kenneth: Well, it was quite good !
Steve: Was it good? I don’t remember….
Kenneth: Yeah, you cannot get these records anymore,..
Steve: Probably not….
Kenneth: You’ve also done a lot of Hendrix, I was thinking if there was a project you wanted to do that involved the Beatles stuff and the Hendrix stuff, is there something?
Steve: Haven’t really thought about it, no. I mean, I did that ‘tribute to Jimi’ record with Tony Williams and Stanley Clarke, that Eddie Kramer was producing. The tracks were great but the orchestra stuff was mixed way too loud, like OK, but you know, I’m not so sure Jimi would have wanted to hear it that way. But it was great to have the opportunity to work with those guys on the project, so for that experience alone it was worth doing.
Kenneth: It must have been great being involved in so many different projects…
Steve: Yeah, it really has been a great honour for me to have the career that I’ve had. What I can’t believe is how fast time has gone by… 25 years almost…
Kenneth: I’m really glad to see that Toto is still on top. Take Mike McDonald, he made an album two years ago called Blue Obsession and he cannot get a record deal. And he’s been a part of Doobie, all the major things…
Steve: It’s a dying style of music, I promise you that… I mean the record companies just shun it, they’re only in it for the quick haul and they’re not developing careers anymore, they’ve even come out and said it: “we’re not doing that anymore, we don’t really care”. It used to be they signed an artist for three or four albums and develop it, and see a longterm career. But now there a so many people that write maybe one good song, or one pop song, and then they become a big hit for about two years and then you never hear from them ever again..
Kenneth: The Danish Aqua is a good example.. Barbie Girl…
Steve: Well, whatever, that’s just silly little kid pop music. There are very few people, or rock bands that’ve had careers for over 20 years that are still out there selling tickets…. In America it’s especially horrible. I mean overhere and in Japan..
Kenneth: Japan, Sweden, the Scandinavian countries have always been good…
Steve: yeah, and France. It’s the English speaking countries that we’ve had problems with. But we still manage to do it.
Kenneth: I heard that Mindfields is out now in US, but they cut some of the tunes off..
Steve: No that’s not true, we actually put all the songs on, we just put them in a different order. We had rushed the sequence…
Kenneth: In Denmark there is the Blue Desert homepage that is a tribute to West Coast music in general, there’s a lot of your and other’s stuff on it, and has in general 25.000 hits per month, so I can see people are interested in this type of music.
Steve: It’s like anything else, man. If you feed somebody something, that’s what they’re gonna believe, they’re only gonna keep a small vision. There’s a lot more music than what’s on the top 40, and it’s difficult for guys that are over 30, let alone over 40 to get on the charts. I know a lot of people struggling right now. The Van Halen brothers are shitting themselves right now, because the media has turned on them and they’re not getting any new fans. You know, they’ve had the same lead singer problem as we’ve had.
Kenneth: It’s great to see that Bobby’s back on the stage again, also because we can hear some of the old songs…
Steve: With the original sound, yeah.
Kenneth: But for me, I think Toto has done great with you and Dave singing, so…
Steve: We still do, it’s still very much a part of it all, you know.
Kenneth: When I look at your first solo album.. I remember talking to David Paich about four years ago when I interviewed him, that it seems like when a guitar player makes a solo album theirs is a lot of keyboard on it, and when a keyboard player makes a solo album, there’s a lot of guitars on it..
Steve: Never really thought about it, but I can play keyboards too, so… I don’t know what the next one’s gonna be all about, I’m gonna do another one. I’m supposed to maybe do a project with Tony Hymas and Terry Bozzio as well, and I’ve also got a live album with Larry Carlton coming out in June, we’re gonna do a tour.
Kenneth: Is there a Los Lobotomys album coming out?
Steve: We’ve got like our own live bootleg record, and we don’t know what we’re gonna do with that yet. That may have to wait until the year after next, just because there’s too much product out there.
Thomas: How about Steve Vai, are you gonna work with him?
Steve: …Me and Larry Carlton signed to his record company, which is distributed by a sublabel of Sony, so it’s a little more easy for me. But yeah, we’re gonna work next summer. The album with Carlton is done. It’s a live album, Live In Japan. I’m just gonna mix it, edit it, some of it is really long.. 20 minute songs…
Thomas: Are you going to do an album with Steve Vai?
Steve: He’s after me about my solo record, he’s like, come on man. Have you heard his new album? It’s fucking brilliant. It’s fucking awesome. Him and I are really close friends, he’s a fucking genious, my soul brother! We’re very connected, we became really great friends in the last two years. We hang out. He’s on tour, he’s got the record label with Ray, who’s another friend of mine, Ray Scherr, and I’m gonna be doing projects, a lot of stuff with that company, because I really believe in the concept of it, I really believe in the people, that they’re not full of shit.
Kenneth: Yes, just like Toto, a band on the fans’ premises..
Steve: We’re like the peoples band. We’re not big rock stars, we’re very approachable people, just like you, man, having a drink before the show. Would you like something…?
With this we say thanks to Steve Lukather for taking the time and of course also thanks for the beer (did taste very good).