Toto: ‘We use chords and harmony no other rock band uses’
Interview with Steve Lukather on the Toto XIV album and the world tour that will follow the release of the album.
You succeded in rejuvenating Toto on stage and now in the studio with Toto XIV. What is the secret of this success?
It is a lifelong friendship with all these guys. I have known The Porcaro brothers, David Paich and Joe Williams since I was 15 years old. We have been through every great and horrible thing you can imagine in life… but the music and laughter has kept us together.
Yes there were times that all 4 of us were NOT in the band at the same time but we remained friends no matter what.
When I saw the Falling in Between show in 2007 I did not feel that the band on stage was Toto. How did you do to slowly convinced all the former members to come back?
Well it was not the band we started. There were awesome musicians on the stage, Lee Sklar and Greg Phillinganes are world class players and dear friends, Simon is awesome and still very much a brother and friend even though he left to persue his solo career… It was NOT Toto from the old days and I was in a very dark place in my life then as well.. the singer could not sing.. I was a mess and I quit to find myself and get healthy . I still Love Lee, Greg and Simon.. things change./ people change. Like a divorce changes your life. Sometimes you can reconcile and be happy all over.. like with Steve Porcaro and Joseph coming back with Dave and I, and Dave Hungate is back on Bass.. Lenny Castro is back on percussion.. In wake of Mike Porcaro’s ALS (Mike Porcaro died three days after the interview) and Jeff Porcaro not being here with us.. it is as close to the original concept and band of brothers we could have in 2015.
Toto XIV is presented as the follow up of Toto IV. Why did you feel like doing the follow up of Toto IV?
Steve Porcaro said that. Really it is the first record HE sang lead on since Toto IV and all of us coming back together with him and Hungate .. well it has a magic that perhaps was missing before on the Post Jeff era…
We had a b;ast making Toto XIV. We did fight sometimes as brothers do.. but about music and the stuff like that and in the end we always laughed and hugged each other. No one went to bed mad. haha Sometimes tension makes the music better. In this case.. yes but it was 95% great times.
“Chinatown” has a very 80’s sound. Was it an old song?
That song was writing in 1977. A gem that we found and I made Paich finish it. it is classic Toto and we thought it would be fun to have a nod to our old sound. It is the only old song we used.
Toto XIV has a very pop sound compared to the last previous albums. Is it a frustration for you as a guitarist?
Pop? What does that mean? I don’t think we sound like pop stars in 2015. Pop means ‘ popular’. Thats all. It does NOT have wall to wall power chords and bombastic snare sounds no. We are not a metal band. And it is SO cliche all the ‘same sounding’ production… I am tired of it all. We use chords and harmony no other rock band uses. We have ‘ pop’ sensibility but I hardly call us a Pop band. You might want to see us live. We like R+B-funk- prog, classical, jazz, world music and yes pop.. and yes heavy music..classic rock.. its ALL in there. Put that in a blender and you get Toto.
You played guitar on maybe 50 % of my records collection. What memories do you have of all these recording sessions? And what was the most memorable one?
Haha. Sorry. Oh man.. you are talking A LOT of records here.
I stopped doing sessions 25 years ago but they were great times. I suppose Thriller was the most famous but check out our discography. It is unlike any other band in history.. yet in most music journalists eyes we are just the “Africa band”. People should do some homework. Haha Someday I will write a book. I started and stopped cause right now.. there is gone a MUCH better ending to it!
What is your best memory with Toto?
It is my entire life. How do you write your whole life in a paragraph. Like I said.. a book someday in 10 years perhaps. I have every year at a glance date book from 1977 on telling day to day life.. could be a fun story. without all the cliche sex-drugs shit.. just the music is a cool story. Toto is a family. perhaps a dysfuctional one .. haha but a band of brothers none the less. I love them all and we will see a 40th anniversary in a few years. An amazing feat.
For several decades, Toto has been more popular in Europe and in Asia than in the USA. Do you think that things are changing with your recent and upcoming US tours and with the release of Toto XIV?
Its all catching up now. After ALL these years the USA is starting to catch on. Live DVD in Poland went # 1 here and all over the world.. Top 3 at the least.. and last years USA tour was great .. this year we have a big surprise coming.. there is a resurgence of interest in us and we have a new record we are very proud of so the future looks bright!
The comeback of Joseph Williams is a real plus for Toto. How could you explain the instability of Toto’s singers in the past?
We have a real strong voice again. Joe is better now than he was in the 80’s.
I dont want to dwell on the past man. I think it is all very obvious if you bother to look.
Fergie was a good guy .. He passed away from cancer last year.. he was never a drag it was just too much pressure for him. Byron was a joke..a bad record company idea from a record man that wanted to sabotage us. I will not speak of the rest of it.. I wish to stay positive and in the present.
You will tour in Europe and in France very soon. Could you tell me more about the new tour and the setlist?
We will tour the world over the next 2 years. We have to do the big hits.. Five new songs and then we are gonna dig DEEP into the album cuts and play stuff we have never played Iive and or not in 30 years or so. Big surprises!
Marc Brickman is designing our lights. He did Roger Waters the Wall, Springsteen etc.. We are going with a new fresh look. Seems everyone has the same light show these days.. Vari-lights flashing in your eyes.. wW may go for something very different. You will see.