• West Coast Music

    As the name indicates West Coast Music has its origin on the American West Coast. The music emphasizes melody, harmonies and arrangements, and the vocal and instrumental performances are always with great skill and of high quality. The music is often performed by pop/rock artists from the American West Coast, but is in no way limited to any geografical area.

TOTO Reunion ’99 World Tour

INTERVIEW
w/ David Paich and Simon Phillips – Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, March 6th 1999

by Frank Achmann

Copyright © 1999 Frank Achmann, All Rights Reserved.

Apart from Jeff of course, you’re all back together in the line-up as it was drawn out in the early days and I know for a fact that a lot of fans simply love to see both Bobby and Steve Porcaro back in the set. To use a term off of one of your albums: How does it feel?

DP. It feels great, you know. The original band was with Bobby Kimball and with Steve Lukather, and Mike used to play with us in High School, so Mike’s really kind of part of the original band – we used to play all the time together – so it feels like the original chemistry, which we’ve been missing I think for a long time. We’ve been searching, trying to make it work without Bobby, and I think it’s just better than ever.

You already did some reunion gigs in the States and this world tour you launched on February 23rd.How has it been thus far?

DP. It’s been fabulous, the response has been great, the shows have been good and the people, fans, that have been following us for years really like seeing us back together.

It’s a hard habit to break, I suppose?

DP. Yeah, It is! Just like I think when you go to see any band that started out. Like I don’t wanna see Yes; I wasn’t really interested in seeing them without Jon Andersen. You know, that kind of thing.

The line-up on this tour. I saw a few shots from tour rehearsals and there’s a guy behind the second keys that’s not Steve Porcaro…?

DP. Uh-huh, yes, John Jessel.

How come he’s not with you?

DP. Well, Steve is busy doing other stuff. Steve has a different agenda for his career; he’s doing movies and he’s writing songs and doing stuff. Now what JJ’s doing, JJ’s not playing really keys, what he’s doing is certain sound effects and certain horn things that we try and cover for the record, so he sits playing a couple of horn samples here and there, and by singing – he’s also singing – and playing some samples. So I’m really handling all the keys myself.

Now, with the new album just out there’s also some promotion backing it up, and I bet that it helps you do a sell-out tour and to thoroughly carve out the new constellation in people’s minds. Are you in any way surprised or impressed as to the impact that this reunion obviously makes on the listeners?

DP. Well, we really are! I mean, we knew there might be some interest in it, but right now there’s hardly any bands that are selling better – the business is really down – and we’re doing not only better than a lot of groups are, but we’re doing twice to the business that we normally do. So I think it’s a combination of things; maybe it’s just timing, maybe it’s Bobby Kimball, and maybe it’s the new album – a combination of things. Whatever it is, we’re enjoying it.

Of course we’re all excited about how Mindfields will do and that leads me to another topic, ’cause I think it’s quite disturbing to see how a lot of artists in the classic rock genre seems to fade away or flee to Japan or at least have a hard time getting through this avalanche of modern music. It’s sort of a Lo-fi decade where everybody seems to focus on looks and charts and not talents…

DP. Yeah.

Do you feel the same way?

DP. It’s funny, you know. I think that you’ve gotta keep moving on and changing musically to keep up. You can’t just stay where you are in one place. So we try just do a 90’s version of what Toto is. I mean, our version may be not sounding quite like “3rd Eye Blind” or “Soundgarden” and stuff; we just do ours, we just try and keep the sound happening. And I like some of the really good sounding Lo-fi. You can hear on the beginning of “Melanie”, we use some Lo-fi drums, and I’d like to delve into that more. And we’ve been very lucky as a band, ’cause the average lifetime of a band is about 3 years and we went on 20 years, so…

So you’re kind of inspired also by other bands, contemporary bands?

DP. Yeah, it’s really I think a tribute to the guys and the fact that they’ve been determined to hang in there for 20 years.

However, thanks not least to the WWW I guess, plus of course the emergence of new AOR labels such as Escape and Frontiers, the genre seems to be able to blossom again. What do you think: Is there a future for the Toto alike? And do you figure that the internet has a major role in that?

DP. I think, definitely! I think, first of all, to me it started with rappers. People don’t give them much but the rappers were the first ones to go independent and said: “Listen, we’re gonna do it on our own label and we’re gonna put out records the way we want to”, because labels weren’t assigned rappers. So they started the whole thing, and now I think it’s opened up the door for bands and people that can’t get released on regular labels to release their own stuff. And the internet goes direct to the fans, direct music to them, which is great, ’cause you don’t have to worry about going to the music store and get distributed and doing all that stuff, and that’s where a lot of the profits are eaten up.

Yeah, and you really got a lot of web sites out there!

DP. Yeah, yeah, we’re fortunate.

And mailing lists as well!

DP. Yeah.

When speaking of promotion I can’t help thinking that Tambu was kept from being released in the US up until 8 months after the release in Europe because of some quarrels. The Americans seem pretty frustrated about this. Some fan even told me: “Do us a favor – tell the band to stand up and tell Sony to take a flying f**k to the moon!”

DP. Yes.

SP. Yeah, so that was the problem (laughs).

As this is the last album on your Sony contract, I wonder: Do you talk in hints about leaving or is that “mindstorms”?

DP. Yeah, there’s talks about that. I wouldn’t be really of liberty to discuss anything right now, but I can say that Sony in the United States probably won’t be getting a Christmas card from us this year.

I see.

DP. … and they don’t seem to hear the same kind of music that we do. They said they didn’t hear one good song on this new album – they ain’t our people – so I guess that we have to get into a new situation where we’re in control of our own music.

Pretty comprehendible, I guess.

DP. Yeah.

I’m curious, and you probably heard this a zillion times before, but how did it come to a reunion in the first place – who did the first step in that direction? Did you just run into each other?

DP. Well, our manager Mark Hartley thought it would be great to put out some of the old stuff, cuts that were left off records, ’cause in the old days there was only so many cuts that could be on a vinyl record, so we always had like 10, 11 to 12 cuts that never got on there, so we started going through the old phase and we started digging up things and digging up things, and finally we started finding a whole album full of that stuff instead of just like putting one or two or a few cuts on. And some of them had Bobby on them and they weren’t too bad, you know. So to promote it we went to Europe and just put together – just as a promotional thing – for the one album. And all of a sudden this chemistry clicked and we just looked at each other and said: “Geez, we’re stupid not to continue on with this”.

So you were of one mind when preparing for this?

DP. Yeah, I think so! A good way of putting it.

In the interview that Westcoast did with you the last time preceding the 20 years release party here in Copenhagen one of you said that this was the second audition for Bobby, Joe and Steve. For a while there it seemed as if you were reluctant to take on a new vocalist, but Bobby Kimball, I take it that he passed this time?

DP. Yeah… yeah, I don’t know. That’s kind of a different perspective than the way we look at it and everything. I think, after trying to fill that void with Bob, Joseph Williams and people, we kept getting tired of not settling with one vocalist, so we hang in there with Steve for a while as just saying: “Hey, tell me when the right guy comes along, we’ll do this compliment here”, and I just think time irons out certain things. Bobby had to go do certain things he was doing and his experiences have let him back here, so sometimes it’s not explanations, just luck and a little bit of magic.

So it’s not like he’s just a guest musician?

DP. No. No.

How about Joseph and Steve Porcaro – is a 3rd trial yet to come for them?

DP. Well, no. You can join Toto but you never get at leave Toto. Everybody’s just honorary members. Steve always works on the records, Joseph wrote a song that’s on this new album and stuff, so they’re always potential guys, they’re just busy doing their thing. There was only so many lead singers and so many people you could have in one band, you know, so we may have a time when we pull those guys back out with us and do breed-up Toto.

SP. It’s a bit like the Avengers when they were all dressed up in teddy bear outfits. You can’t leave! (laughs)

DP. Very much like that! Very much like that (laughs).

After the release of the fourth album you had a few other vocalists until you settled with Luke. Do you think that the time between the fourth album and Mindfields has been an asset to you and Bobby and the other members of Toto in the area of writing and exploring different styles of music?

DP. Phew… well, it’s certainly been interesting a challenge trying to make that work. I like just assume: Jump from the fourth album to this album right here, and those have all just been kind of journeys. Journeys that, some of them were fruitful and some of them weren’t, and I think we made some good music along the way doing them, but I think this is really the follow-up to Toto IV that I’ve been waiting for.

So you’d say that it effected the way that Mindfields was eventually put down, now he’s back?

DP. Yeah, yeah.

On to the new album. Really, it’s mind-bending. It sure is an impressive piece of evidence that you never cease to surprise. I wouldn’t even know where to put it in comparison to the rest of your albums, ’cause it’s so much its own thing. I know that a lot of people take it for a reminiscent of older albums, but would you agree that it represents a much wider variety of ideas?

DP. I think so. I think what it represents is, there’s a bit of traditional Toto all over there. There is some tipping our hats and paying honor to “The Who” and “The Beatles” and “The Rolling Stones”, and a little of that on there, and then there’s some new, probably fresh Toto on there, where you have your “Melanie”s and your “Mindfields” and different things like that, so I think it reflects a lot of different sides, and chronologically there’s some a past-present-future on there.

Yeah, it’s a classic.

DP. I think we put it as an album that we like it. The range is, I think, very broad but yet very accurate representing Toto’s range.

And perhaps altogether also a bit more soulful?

DP. Yeah, I think so, ’cause Bobby’s in there. Yeah, I would’ve eventually say that.

And I think the songs grow on me somehow…

DP. Yeah, that’s good! That’s what it’s supposed to do.

Do you get that a lot?

SP. Yeah!

DP. Yeah. One thing Toto’s always supposed to be able to do is have repeated listening with their records. So many times I listen to a records, once I’ve heard it, I got the whole record, but Toto I keep listening through and I go: “God, I didn’t hear that little part before”, you know.

It has this die-hard nature about it.

DP. Yeah. Hopefully you’ll be able to listen to it 20 years from now and it’ll be sounding 20 years old.

SP. Yeah, right.

One of the things that I think really rocks on this album is Mike’s bass playing…

DP. Oh, yeah.

It’s some of the best I’ve ever heard from him.

DP. It sure is.

And Simon, I think I speak on behalf of everyone when saying that you really fill up the void left from Jeff extremely well.

SP. Thank you.

Seems like you consumed the Toto spirit right away. And Bobby of course really astonishes everyone by singing his ass off, though number 52 is gaining in on him, I guess.

DP. Yeah. Yeah.

SP. Yes, he does.

You’re so tight. Could you imagine a better line-up for this band?

DP. It’s hard to.

SP. Right now it’s the best line-up (laughs). I mean…

DP. Yeah, it’s the way we play, though. I mean, you could say: “Well guys, you could get this bass player who’s technically more…”, I could just name a couple of keyboard players there’s technically more provisional, but it’s not about technique here, it’s not about virtuosity, it’s how you play with each other. It’s like “The Rolling Stones”. And these guys we’ve just played together for so long it’s like a big pocket. It’s like a big leather glove!

SP. Yeah! In fact, when we’re recording we have to remind ourselves not to over-do it – not to get almost too tight. That’s why most of these songs were cut 2-3 takes. See, we’re hearing everything very closely and we’re very critical, so we have to really keep on to that natural tightness, which I think a lot of people sometimes misconceive. They think we’ve been sitting there for hours, trying to get things done…

DP. … and rehearsed and trying to get it tight.

SP. Yeah, we don’t! We just play! As long as the sound is right we’re there…

I didn’t know you could sing, Simon? I mean, who knew?

SP. Aaah, you read the credit (laughs)

DP. (laughs)

(to Simon) … did YOU know?

SP. No-eh. But one of the cool things about this record is that there was a lot of working in each other’s studios and working in our home studios. We did a lot of stuff over at Dave’s new studio, I did stuff at my studio, we had another studio, and we were all splitting up, ’cause basically, we had a lot to do and time was creeping up on us.

So you kind of just mixed everything together?

DP. Yeah.

SP. So Luke was mixing one place, Dave was doing some keyboards, I was doing some vocals with Bobby in another studio, we had another guy doing some ProTools stuff, so that was the sort of thing. So it was very like… just a different way of making a record. So either have put stuff together more as like: “Here’s an idea”, and everybody loved it. So it went on the album. We all sort of did…

DP. I was gonna say, like on the Tambu album, I mean me and Luke went away to my house I had at the time and we wrote a lot of stuff on acoustic – we wanted to be very basic – we wrote it with acoustic guitar and piano…

… at your beach house?

DP. Yes, and also at another house that I was renting at the time, but we sat down like Lennon & McCartney, tried to just write songs, complete songs with acoustic guitar and piano, and there’s a certain neat thing about that, but this album here is so neat because I realize how creative and what input that all of the members have – it’s almost like a band written album, damn near the whole thing with exception of a few songs – with the sound of it, and what everybody brings to the record. That’s what makes it sound like Toto. I mean, it would never have sounded that way if I just took a song and just recorded it myself. It’s what everybody brings to it, you know.

Now, “Mad about you” seems like a good hook to me, perhaps a little predictable but very catchy – the perfect reunion single, I’d say. However, I read somewhere that the first single taken from the album would probably be “Melanie” a couple weeks from now. If you were to toss a few coins in the wishing well, which titles would be attached in terms of getting airplay, and why?

SP. I think we all have our favorites, don’t we?

DP. Yeah.

SP. I mean, I love “Cruel”. But “Mindfields”…!

DP. Yeah, me too…

SP. … I think it’s a very different kind of song. Actually I think it’s very commercial.

DP. Yeah, I think “One Road” is good.

SP. Yeah, yeah.

DP. But “Cruel”, I think “Cruel” and “Melanie”, and I’m looking at what we thought first of, “After You’ve Gone” was going to be a single, then all of a sudden all these songs came.

SP. Yeah, yeah.

DP. It’s funny how things can change.

Unfortunately we haven’t got enough time to pull out each track on the album, but there’s surely a lot of diverse stuff – hard rock and live blues jam, all the other “M” songs: Mindfields, Mad About You, Melanie, Mysterious Ways…

DP. “M” songs!

SP. “M” songs!

DP. “M” for…

SP. Like I said: “Me-e-eh…” (laughs).

DP. (referring to a phone call earlier on) That was “M” on the phone, by the way.

SP. Yes.

All in all, it’s a powerful collection with some of the typical elements, real killers and lots of spirit.

DP. Good.

Especially the title track, I think that’s a flippin’ great piece with some interesting tubular bells-like background sounds. And you introduced the Chicago horns again!

DP. Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s the original Rosanna section. And we didn’t have Pankow this time so it’s not really Chicago horns, but it’s that kind of thing; we have Tom Scott – yeah, that’s a little Chicago lick there.

I know that at least one bonus track “Spanish Steps” was put aside for the Japanese print (not the Spanish one) – in fact the only one starring YOU on vocals, David. So we’re done out of that here, I’m afraid.

DP. Yeah, well, I thought it was gonna be over here on the Europe one, I don’t know what happened. I was told it was gonna be on the European, extra one, too. When left out in America really it sounds like an extra bonus cut, but that’s one of my favorite cuts, but when it comes down to “what favorite cuts on records”, sometimes people’s personal cuts are more like soul album cuts or something like that, anyway.

How many tracks did you over-cut?

DP. We just about put everything on the record.

SP. That’s it, yeah.

DP. There was about one or two things that didn’t get on this.

SP. Yeah. Yeah.

I always wondered, is it like: “Hey, these hits just come pouring out, man!”?

DP. Yeah.

It is? (laughs)

DP. Well, we spent time on the record, you know. It’s really almost a double album…

SP. Yeah.

DP. …because of the length of the cuts and everything.

But when picking the songs, eventually, what’s the objective? I mean, is publishing the songs the predominant reasoning behind choosing this and that before the other?

DP. No, no, it’s putting together an album that’s cohesive, that you really have to feel really strong about every song. I mean, unless it’s really knocking you up, none of it went on there. And until we finished all these songs, we couldn’t think of any song we’d throw out of there.

OK, so usually it’s also the cream of the crop from your viewpoint?

DP. As far as this point in time: Yeah.

The label art on the album. A lot of weird stuff, symbolic stuff on the booklet.

DP. Yeah.

I’m kinda lost for words to describe it… the surreal period of Toto’s artwork?

DP. No, I don’t know if it’s even surreal, it’s just that this art director, Doug Brown, came up with some stuff, and we were looking for something that was imaginative, that just was interesting and had a lot of different pictures. ‘Cause pictures are so one-dimensional to me – with album covers – and we wanted to kinda let people use their imagination. And it seemed like a nice starting place what he had done there, ’cause we always liked the “Sgt. Pepper” albums, “Captain Fantastic”, Pink Floyd album covers which you can look at when you’re listening to the record. And it seemed to reflect this a little bit, and we worked on the album cover for a long time with input and output, so the whole package just kind of like leads back to the days when you had actual vinyl albums with covers that you can look at and enjoy. I think that’s a lost art, people don’t do that too much anymore.

There seems to be this conception of time and infinity, mortality…?

SP. Oh, absolutely, yeah! We actually put a lot of work into that album cover.

DP. Yeah.

SP. I mean, Dave and I were just hammering away. Like, new ideas and this and that, and we really contested a lot of things. A lot of the time when you have – you know, there’s 4 or 5 people in the band – you have to discuss things, you have to agree on things, and sometimes it’s a big compromise. I don’t think we were quite satisfied with having such a big compromise this time. So…

DP. Yeah.

SP. …we stuck up for things, we fought a little bit, and that’s what you get; you get this wonderful… and I opened it out now, and when I first saw it, I went: “Actually…”. ‘Cause usually I look at an album cover and I go: “Look, what do they do here. They forgot that!”

DP. Yeah, right, f**k!

SP. It’s really…

DP. They didn’t finish it, you know.

SP. Yeah, and I looked at that and I went: “Wow, actually this is pretty cool”. They put alot of effort into it.

Some even say it’s the best album since the fourth album and that’s usually a tie between IV and VII, but through it all, there are always those who doesn’t really take their time to interpret the music but just wanna pee on your oatmeal. I’m of course referring to the press. As usual, some of them hate your new stuff. After all these years, how is your stance towards that?

DP. Oh, other people have the right to have their opinion, I don’t pay too much attention to them. The only bad thing is the critics have a tendency to influence a lot of people on whether they should buy an album, so it’s… what can I say, I like the people who gives us good reviews and I don’t particularly care for bad reviews. I’ve got some intentions like everybody else in that aspect.

Let’s go back to this tour, Simon. You have a pretty heavy schedule. Soon off to Paris counting 13 dates in France, and…

SP. Yes.

… and then another 8 in Japan throughout April.

SP. Right.

A new live album is supposed to be recorded at these pit stops during this world tour and supposedly also a video? Would this be the Ultimately Live audio-visual experience?

SP. Maybe… I mean, so far we’re actually pretty averse to doing videos – to doing pop videos – because basically, we make it, we spend a lot of money on it and it never gets played. However, Sony International are really behind this record, they love “Melanie”, and they’re actually putting up the video for us, so we said: “Well, OK, fine”. So that’s the video that we’re doing. We just think it’s a good time to record a live album, and – instead of making a very quick decision, which I think we’ve done before and it’s been a little rushed – this time, we’ve got to get a lot of planning. We’re getting Elliot Scheiner in to actually record the live album, which is just wonderful luxury. So, yeah, we’re gonna really do a nice one. And basically, if we do a full length video, we’re talking about that right now.

OK, so that would be including some of what we might expect tonight… what’s going to be on that video?

SP. Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely yes, it’s basically this show.

You always say: “This is the farewell tour”, but will you be making a sequel to this album and tour? Any future prospects?

SP. That’s really hard to say right now. It’s a bit of an end of an era. It’s the end of our deal with Sony. And these were all little pointers to help bring Bobby back as well. It’s also the end of a lot of different emergences that the band has had to endure… obviously, the various different singers, then coming down to the four-piece, and then – very tragically, right when it seemed like it was coming together – Jeff passed away and the band had to endure that whole situation. They nearly did not carry on! And then, when I was asked and that all worked out, the band carried on. We didn’t even know if we were gonna make another album. I didn’t know really if, you know: “Am I gonna join the band or is that what I want to do?”. But those worries were really soon put aside, and before the end of the year I was a member of the band. So then we went through the next bit, we did alot as a four-piece and then we brought Bobby back. And now we’ve made an album like this, which I think says that the band has endured its ups and downs very well.

But most of you have individual careers to attend to as well, doing various projects…?

SP. We do, yeah, that’s one thing that Toto allows us to do.

And Simon, you also just had your latest solo album “Another Lifetime” come out in the US?

SP. Right.

Can we expect that you will be concentrating more on Toto in the future?

SP. Well, this year I will, yeah, I mean, basically, the last couple of years, Toto, we were off the road, we weren’t gonna do another album till last year, so I made the choice of really getting stuff into a solo career which I’ve enjoyed immensely; I’ve learned an awful lot and things have been wonderful and I now have a solo career. And I’ve actually just finished mixing a live album which will come out, hopefully, the end of April, May or something like that.

When you are through over here, what’s up next?

SP. After that we’re gonna do some shows in the States. We’re talking about that right now, so there’s no particular details, but I think we’re gonna do probably a couple of weeks in the States. We’re also gonna come back to Europe in the fall. We’re planning now a big tour in September/October to come through, like for example, we’re only doing one German show, so we’ve got like about 10 or 12 German dates to do. We’ll do some tows that we didn’t manage to do on this run. Maybe we’ll go to England. I think we’re gonna come back through Scandinavia and do some shows, ’cause it went really well and they’ve seemed to have said: “Yeah, come on back”.

Here’s looking very much forward to this evening!

SP. Great!

Apart from the fresh cuts, any details about the set list or is it supposed to be a surprise?

SP. Surprise.

Surprise?

SP. That’s it.

When we talked about the press earlier on, the biggest one around here suggests that this building will need a new roof by tomorrow!

SP. (laughs) I hope so!

Sounds great – I’ll be around, that’s for sure.

SP. OK.

Thanks for your time.

SP. All right, thank you.

It’s been brilliant!

SP. OK. Enjoy the show!

Thank you!

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