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  • Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper

    timmonspeppercoverAndy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper
    Artist: Andy Timmons Band
    Label: Favored Nations
    Reviewed: November, 2011

    Let me start off by saying that there are very few artists who I will pick up their music without ever hearing samples of it first. Andy Timmons is one of those artists. As the proud owner of all of his solo work, I can make that statement in all sincerity and without exaggeration. He’s that good – strike that – he’s that great.

    When compared song-for-song to the original album by the Beatles, Timmons’ treatment of the historic album clocks in at roughly 5 ½ minutes longer. Add the 5:15 for Andy’s cover of Strawberry Fields Forever and you’ll have an extra reason to be jonesing over this album.

    Timmons offers Pepper up as a purely instrumental treatment with the emphasis on the “treat” portion of the word. Recorded without the benefit of overdubbing or any other gimmicks, Andy and the band (Mitch Marine on drums and Mike Daane on bass) lay it all down as they remember the tunes. If you listen to the disc with that in mind, it’ll amp up the wow factor by several orders of magnitude.

    Person favorites from this album are:

    She’s Leaving Home: From the opening riff to the closing note, the tune is played to flawless perfection. I’ve had this one on “repeat” many, many times and each time I hear it, I glean something else from the performance.

    Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite: One would think that, without vocals, this song would be rather empty. If you thought that, you would be dead wrong. Timmons’ execution of this song brings out an incredible range of moods and emotions; from cheerfulness to exhilaration. This, too, has elicited countless hits on the repeat button.

    Within You Without You: Andy’s interpretation and delivery of this song would have no doubt brought a smile to George Harrison’s face. Both completely different and yet very much the same as the original, the song reveals many audio treats and treasures each time it’s played.

    Strawberry Fields Forever: Not only is this a great recording of the Beatles classic, to hear Andy and the boys perform this live in concert is an extra special treat. With his signature tight, crisp, note-perfect playing, Timmons puts his on print on this iconic tune – almost to the point of making dare say that he makes it his own.

    Yes, you must buy this album. Yes, you’ll love and, yes, you’ll impulsively tell others about it as I have. It’s that great.

  • Andy Timmons Discusses Sgt. Pepper

    Posted December, 2011

     

    Photo by Simone Cecchetti

    Once in a great while, one comes across an artist who is not only good but scary good.  One such person is former Danger Danger guitarist, Andy Timmons.  As I shared in my interview with Timmons last year, when I heard the strains of Cry For Youwafting across the Dallas International Guitar Festival, I became an immediate fan . . . for life.

    Since that interview, I’ve become increasingly aware of the level of high respect given to Timmons among his peers.  Some might even go as far as to say that they would just be happy to be able to play his mistakes.  Yeah, he’s that good.

    During that interview, Andy mentioned that he was working on a new CD wherein he covers the entire Sgt. Pepper album instrumentally.  A year later, Andy shot me a note to ask me to meet up with him for coffee and to pick up a copy of his Pepper.  Boy! Is this album ever worth the wait!  You can catch the Boomerocity review of Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepperhere but, suffice it to say, I think you should add this album to your listening library.

    After practically wearing out the CD, I, of course, wanted to chat with Andy about the album.  Between touring in support of the album and his continued work with Mesa Boogie as well as Olivia Newton-John, it was tough to get our schedules in sync.  We were able to carve out some time while he was on tour with Olivia.  In fact, it was during some down time during the tour, while Andy was paying homage to John Lennon at Strawberry Fieldsin New York City’s Central Park.

    Before we got down to talking all things Pepper, I briefly continued discussion on a topic that Andy and I bantered back and forth on via e-mail a few days prior.  The subject matter was the theme song from a kid’s TV show that ruled the airwaves in the Phoenix area for over 30 years: The Wallace and Ladmo Show. The theme song was written and played by the late Mike Condello who was the musical force behind anything musical taking place on that show.  Andy had mentioned in a previous chat that the Wallacetheme song was the second record he ever bought so I started our conversation on that subject.

    Before you roll your eyes and fast-forward to Pepper chat, just hold on to your Walrus.  This has everything to do with the Beatles and segues quite nicely into our discussion about Pepper.

    “That 45rpm record – I still have the original copy of it. It’s just one of those haunting instrumental tunes.  It’s a very sad, pensive kind of melody. I don’t know if it strikes you that way but for me the tune is very melancholy for a kid’s show. It must’ve been recorded in ’67 or ’68, obviously. It sounded very Abbey Road to me before Abbey Roadcame out – the way the harmony sounds – like Paul and George singing together. Mike always did a great job of copying Beatle-type stuff. He had quite a history of that. But, yeah, it was one of my first records. It’s an instrumental tune and I love it so much.”

    And, just in case you folks think that this is purely a Phoenix thing, realize that greats like Alice Cooper and Steven Spielberg were heavily influenced by The Wallace and Ladmo Show and that the show’s reach spanned the globe.  Andy attests to this fact.

    “I was actually in Sydney, Australia, back in about 2000 with Olivia. I was in a really cool collector’s CD shop and I found Wallace and Ladmo’s Greatest Hitsin Australia of all places!  They had the theme song so it was nice to have a clean version of the theme song! It had all of the Mike Condello hits like Ladmo In The Sky With Diamonds!” Andy laughs at the memory of the fun of it all and concludes by saying of the theme, “It will always be one of my favorite recorded pieces of music”.

    It goes to show you that kids are indelibly impacted by music at a very early age and underscores the importance of music education in the lives of our kids.  It’s a sad thing to see funding of music education fall victim to budget cuts in our schools.

    We shifted our chat to Andy’s current tour with Ms. Newton-John and how his Pepperwork factors into it.

    “We’re actually right in the middle of it. We’ve done three shows and have four more. It’s a brief run.  She’s been very gracious and she’s asked me to open her show with some of my Peppertunes.  So I’m out there doing that. That’s pretty cool.  She loves the CD and is very into it and very happy to help promote it.  She’s a sweetheart like that.”

    As I mentioned earlier, Andy told me last year that he had already started working on the album.  I asked him how long it took to put the project together and out the door.

    “The main time spent was just me coming up with the arrangements. I called it kind of a hobby for a couple of years because I wasn’t specifically setting out to make a record initially. We were doing Strawberry Fieldslive and it was going over great. A suggestion from my Italian promoter was, ‘Why don’t you do a whole set of Beatles?’  I really didn’t think that I could pull that off but it kind of got my wheels turning and I started experimenting with other Beatles songs but not necessarily Sgt. Peppersongs.  I think Lucy In The Sky was the next one that started to develop nicely.

    “I thought, ‘How would it be to play the whole record just by myself in my studio just for fun?’ So, I just started working on other arrangements. I thought, ‘What if I did When I’m Sixty-Four or Lovely Rita?’ – like how I had approached the Resolutionrecord in that I wasn’t doing any overdubs. I was using chords and melody together a lot. So that’s how I approached this whole project. I didn’t want to approach it as far as ‘I’m going to do a bunch of overdubs and try to exactly replicate the record’. I wanted to see how much I could incorporate into one performance while really getting across all of the nuances and memorable things about each song.

    “As I went about it, I also decided that I was just going to do it completely from memory. That should tell you how much I’ve heard this

    Photo by Simone Cecchetti

    music. Obviously, so many people have. It’s very ingrained. But I think it actually helped make it easier for me in that, going back and transcribing the record, per se, would have been a daunting task. Whereas this allowed me to replicate the music as I hear it in my head meaning that, depending how you experience music as you think about it, the important things tend to stick out to me - like whether it’s the vocal or guitar chord or an orchestration from George Martin, or whatever it might be. It’s what helped me thin it out and do what I could in performing it.  It made it fun and extra challenging. I think it’s also a cool story. People like to know as they listen to the record – it makes it more interesting than just somebody who sat at home with 24 tracks or whatever and tried to replicate it exactly. It makes it much more of a personal statement for me as opposed to the other direction.”

    As Andy mentioned earlier, Olivia Newton-John loves Andy’s Pepperproject.  I also knew that other of his guitar playing peers had received copies of the disc – folks like Steve Lukather and Andy’s label prez, the incomparable Steve Vai. I asked Andy what their feedback was.

    “I think one of the most gratifying is Steve Lukather one of my early heroes for many years and we’ve gotten to know each other over time.  He couldn’t be a sweeter, more supportive kind of guy. There’s a handful of guys that I consider when I make a record and I think, ‘Man! I hope they dig this!’ because I respect their ears and I certainly respect their taste in music. My guitar player friends that are definitely Beatles fans , I’m really hoping they’ll connect with what I’ve done because there’s a lot of nuance there that the casual listener may not pick up on but some of the musicians will definitely understand and realize, ‘Alright, this wasn’t an easy feat’ and they can hear the labor of love.

    “Steve – he was so sweet!  I sent him a link to the record before it was released.  He sent me a couple of e-mails over the course of a month, saying, ‘Hey, man, I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet. I’m traveling but I’ll get to it.’  Then, apparently, he listened to it while he had a day off in Osaka (Japan). I probably got six e-mails. He was going off on how much he loved it. He called it maybe his favorite instrumental record of all time.  Heavy praise from my hero!  That was very sweet!”

     

    And what has Steve Vai had to say about it?

    “He was the first guy to hear it – the first guy I sent it to. One of the most gratifying things he said was, ‘How did you get all those chords in tune?’  The guitar, in general, is a very imperfect instrument. You cannot possibly be perfectly in tune – especially when you have distortion. It magnifies all the impurities of the tuning – especially the more complex chords you’re trying to voice with distortion - it exaggerates the tuning imperfections. I spent a lot of time on that. Some songs happened very quickly on the CD and some I had to figure out how I could achieve the tuning, per se, to really make it listenable for me. It’s a blessing and a curse having great ears in that you know exactly what it sounds like in your head and to get it can be extremely frustrating. We went through a lot to get the tuning just right.”

    Bringing his comments back around to what Vai had to say, Timmons said, “He also said that he thought it was a beautiful record and, ‘This is the kind of project everyone talks about doing but never does.’  As I would tell people what I was up to, everybody would have that look like, ‘Really? Is this going to work?’ 

    “I have to admit, over the course of a couple of years – after I had the idea, ‘Wow! Wouldn’t it be cool to actually record this?’ I came in a confident mode where, for a while there I thought, ‘Man, this is really gonna work!’ and then when we did the recording, I thought, ‘Man, I don’t think this is going to work.” It took me quite awhile to get the confidence to really be sure, ‘Okay, I love this. I really think it’s going to work.’  Once I got to that place, it was really exciting!  I thought, ‘Regardless what happens, if a couple of my friends dig the way I’m digging it and the way the band’s digging it, then I’m successful.’ 

    “For Steve Vai and Lukather and other people who have been hearing it along the way – no matter what happens commercially, I’m already way successful with what the goal was – to try to present the music in a loving tribute, so to speak. But obviously, it’s nice that it’s getting out there and it’s selling pretty well. I think there’s potential to broaden my fan base that tends to be other guitarists – which is awesome and I’m so thankful for that – but, you know, largely, I want to appeal to a wider group of people and not just people who play the same instrument. I’m hoping this will translate to connecting with Beatles fans in general.

     

    Photo by Simone Cecchetti

    “Oddly enough, I get e-mails from people now that will start off by saying, ‘You know, I’m not really a Beatles fan but I really like your record!’  I’m like, ‘How could you not be a Beatles fan?’  I was fortunate that I was born in ’63 and I had older brothers that were all big fans so I grew up with every record that came out then. So it’s just ingrained in me. If you don’t grow up in that environment and aren’t exposed to it, you’re not as likely to be as connected.  The youth are obviously connecting when they’re exposed to it. It continues to appeal on such a large scale. 

    “For me, it’s an honor to add anything to the realm of the Beatle world and to have it be so positively accepted by a lot of Beatles websites already.  Beatles Examiner and Steve Marinucci, I’ve subscribed to his Beatles newsletter which has come out every day for 15 years. I sent him a copy. I’ve never met him before but he immediately picked up on it and loved it. I was blown away because I’m sure he gets hammered with Beatle related releases every day. But he really took a liking to it and is helping spread the word.  It’s a very cool time for me.”

    As he finished that particular thought, Andy interrupts himself by saying, “I’m sitting here staring at the Imagine mosaic, by the way, as we’re talking. I don’t know if you ever saw the back of my CD, ear X-tacy, there’s a picture of me sitting in this mosaic which had to be taken in 1993. Here I am, how many years later.”

    With Andy’s extensive network of incredible musician friends, I asked if he’s heard whether or not Paul or Ringo have heard his CD yet.

    “No, I haven’t. But that would be a dream of mine!  I know that (Beatle engineer) Geoff Emerick has it. I haven’t heard back from him. My publicist, Carol Kaye, actually manages Geoff so she gave him a copy a few weeks ago.”

    I caught one of Andy’s performances recently in which he performed several cuts from Pepper, much to the crowd’s delight. I asked Andy what his favorite tune to perform from the disc.

    “Ooh!  Interesting!  I do love all of it. We haven’t performed the whole record yet so it’s hard to say. We’ve done about half of it. Strawberry Fields is still a really strong song to perform live. I really enjoy playing She’s Leaving Home, as well. It’s one of the high points of the record just because it was always the most emotional Beatles song for me. It’s kind of like Paul had really gotten to the same emotional place that Brian Wilson was coming from on Pet Sounds. You hear Brian’s influence on Paul’s bass playing all over the record. But, vocally, that’s one of the influences you hear on that song where Paul gets into that high falsetto stuff. That’s total ‘Brian Wilson’. But he’s mentioned it many times how Pet Soundswas his inspiration, basically, for the Pepper record.

    “But Brian Wilson’s music, for whatever reason, is highly emotional to a lot of people, obviously.  When you think of his ballads - not the surfing tunes - In My Roomand Surfer Girl come from such a delicate, sweet place and, when you know more about his history and his painful childhood, you kind of understand where that stuff is coming from.  That one Beatles song kind of gets to that level.  It’s a very sentimental lyric, obviously. But what Paul did melodically is really strong.

    “Anyway, I took a lot of time trying to get to that same place on the guitar – trying to get it through the guitar in that same way. People seem to really like that, as well.”

    As for what he thinks the crowd favorite is, Timmons said, “Strawberry Fields, I think, for sure. It’s fun when we do things like Little Help From My Friendsand Lucy In The Sky. No matter what country we’re in – anywhere in the world – the crowd is signing as loud as the band is playing. It’s so cool! Everybody knows the music so well! It turns into these wonderful sing-alongs. It’s awesome!”

    For you musicians, guitar techies and gear heads, I asked Timmons about the equipment he used to play on Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper.  You can thank me with tens and twenties.

    “Essentially, its four amps running at once. Again, being just one guitar performance we wanted the tone to be as stellar as possible. It’s essentially four Mesa Boogies. There was one Marshall amp involved on a couple of songs but my Mesa’s were basically beating out my vintage amps. When it comes to recording, it’s not about what logo is on the amp, it’s the best tone wins. It’s gonna last forever, hopefully. It’s gotta be right no matter what. I had two Mesa Boogie Lone Star’s and two Mesa Boogie Stilleto Deuce Stage Two heads all running through four separate Mesa Boogie rectifier 2x12 cabinets with vintage Celestion 30 watt speakers.

    “So one guitar is basically feeding four amps in a variety of ways, split with an A/B box – one side going to the Lone Stars and those being split by a TC Electronic chorus delay. The other side is split by an A/B box and tube driver feeding into two tape echoes feeding into the Stilettos.  That’s the overall sound of the record, essentially.

    “The guitar was my original AT100 Ibanez signature guitar – the prototype from 1994.  On Within You Without You I used a brand new production model AT100 that I set up with the tremolo floating slightly to get those Eastern inflections. I also used a 1968 Telecaster on When I’m Sixty-Four.  I was trying to replicate George Harrison’s Gretsch Tennessean tone like he used on Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby and Honey Don’t, those kinds of songs – his Carl Perkins tone. I have a ’62 Tennessean which is very similar to his guitar but the Tele actually sounded ‘Gretschier’ than the Gretsch. I use that old Tele for that ol’ rockabilly/country tone that I got as a tribute to George. But that’s it –those three guitars but it’s mainly my old AT100 – my old faithful – that’s just the home base for me.”

    One thing about Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper that intrigued me was why he included Strawberry Fieldsat the tail end of the album.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled that he did. I was just curious as to why he did.

    “Well, two reasons. Obviously, that was the arrangement that got us started in the first place. But, actually – and a lot of people do know this – but Strawberry Fields was the first song recorded for Sgt. Pepper. When the Beatles came off of vacation after they stopped touring in August of ’66, John went to Spain to film a movie called How I Won The War – another Richard Lester film. While he was there, he wrote Strawberry Fields. When they reconvened in the studio for what became Sgt. Pepper, that was his offering so they worked on that first in late ’66. Then Paul had Penny Lane as an answer. When I’m Sixty-Fourwas the next one. EMI came to Brian Epstein and said, ‘Hey, we need another single.’ So the label pulls Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane as a single. The Beatles didn’t want to put singles in front of the album. But that really was the first track recorded for Sgt. Pepper.

    Timmons added, “We’re about to release an official video of us playing it in the studio.  We shot about six videos a couple of months ago and they’re just now being edited. Simple – just us in the studio playing the tunes but it’s kind of cool to see.”

    I followed that bit of revelation by asking if he was planning to do like he did when he released Resolution and that was to film a full-blown concert video of the album.

    “Yes! Absolutely!  We’re working on logistics as far as how and when and where we’re going to do it.”

    When I interviewed Andy last year, he mentioned that he was also working on another CD in parallel with Pepper.  I asked him what the latest scoop was on that CD. 

    “The only scoop at this point is that there’s 14 new songs that were recorded essentially at the same time as Pepper. So that’s going to be one of those situations like Resolutionwhere I’m going to scrap everything I recorded guitar-wise and redo it. It will be awhile because I’m so focused now on promoting the Sgt. Pepper record and getting that out there. That’s why the Pepperrecord happened before that did because I cut about half of the tracks live with the band and I thought, ‘Okay, this is closer to being done. Let me finish this and then I’ll work on the other thing and get that to the place to where I’m happy with it. That was quite handy by the time we did the Pepper record. I knew exactly what I wanted arrangement wise because I’d been playing it by myself for a couple of years. The band hadn’t heard the arrangements. They had them thrust upon them over a 2 ½ day marathon of Beatles songs. Fortunately, the performances were good so I ended up keeping about half of what I did live with the band. I’m happy to have gone down that path the way we did.”

    As we were wrapping up our chat, I mentioned that I had heard that he was going to be interviewed by David Lowry on Live From Music City and had heard that he (Andy) was going to phone in from a very interesting location for that interview.

    “My dear friend, Uliana Salerno, has a hair salon in the village in New York City. It just happens to be Jimi Hendrix’s old apartment. That’s where I’m going to do the radio interview from. I decided that I would call in from her place. What a cool place to be able to do it from.”

    Indeed, it is.  You can catch that interview here.  If you weren’t already an Andy Timmons fan, I’m sure that you are now.  You can keep up with all things Andy by visiting his website, www.andytimmons.com.  While you’re there, why don’t you load up on all of his CD’s and DVD’s in addition to ordering Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper? You’re going to love everything he’s recorded.

    If you’re interested in catching his work with Olivia Newton-John, you can find her latest tour dates that he will be working with her on at www.olivianewton-john.com/tour.html. Who knows? You just might be treated to an Andy Timmons performance before her appearance.

     

  • BK3

    bk3coverBK3
    Artist: Bruce Kulick
    Label:Twenty4 Records
    Reviewed: February, 2010

    BK3 marks the third solo project by legendary guitar virtuoso, Bruce Kulick. While the year is young, I will say right here, right now, that this disc will go down as one of, if not THE, best disc of its genre that was released in 2010. Remember that you read it here first, folks.

    Regardless of the device the disc is listened on, the listener is greeted with phenomenal musicianship underscored by meticulous production throughout this enjoyable listening experience offered up by Kulick.

    Right out of the chute, and taking what Bruce calls a “take no prisoners” approach, is the fast and furious tune, Fate. The song is a reflection of Kulick’s years as KISS’s replacement for Ace Frehley played at hyper-speed. While he bottom-line message of the tune is that Bruce definitely does not stand in anyone’s shadow, the hooks in this song will definitely give the listener a terminal but very pleasant earworm.

    What will surely be a much one of the two most talked about cuts of the album is Ain’t Gonna Die, sung by KISS front man and marketing genius, Gene Simmons. Again, with incredible earworm forming hooks with a mind-bending guitar solo, if this song doesn’t get widespread airplay then there just isn’t any justice in this world.

    No Friend of Mine follows. Joined by former Motely Crue and RATT guitarist, John Corabi, the song provides an audio-emotional roller coaster ride with what Kulick describes as Corabi’s “angsty vibe”. It’s very hard not to play air guitar while enjoying this cut.

    Friend is followed by what I bet will be the second most talked about song on BK3, Hand of the King. Co-written and sung by Gene Simmons’ son, and Family Jewels co-star, Nick Simmons, King is an incredible, aneurhythm-inducing song that both rocks and stomps. Again, the guitar work is phenomenal and Simmons has a voice that is beyond his years, giving the listener the impression that he’s been at this gig for more years than he’s been alive.

    I Will Survive is an autobiographical song that reflects on Bruce’s encounter with death during a 2003 shooting that left him wounded in his right leg and, miraculously, a graze on his left temple. This song of reflection, life, and resolve to keep on keeping on is one of the mellower cuts of the album and equally as entertaining as all the rest.

    Dirty Girl features the distinctive vocals of The Knack’s Doug Fieger. The title is a bit deceptive, so don’t think that you’ll satisfy your voyeuristic side with this song. However, it is a catchy anthem to the high maintenance women of the world. While Kulick fans will love the foundational guitar work, Knack fans will love hearing Fieger’s pipes once again.

    Final Mile is another mellow tune that reveals Kulick’s thoughts about hitting the road yet again. The pain of separation and the weariness of the road are felt in this song that has heavy flavors of Mott The Hoople.

    Front man for the German power metal band, Edguy, Tobias Sammet, lends his pipes to I’m The Animal. The hard driving beat provided by KISS drummer Eric Singer and, of course, Kulick’s signature guitar mastery guarantee’s that this song will definitely be a crowd pleaser when it’s performed. I can’t wait to hear it live!

    Bruce Kulick’s ode to love lost, And I Know, opens with majestic guitar work and actually has a “happy” throughout the song. Consistent with his introspective approach to the songs on this album, Kulick gives us the impression that he’s dusted himself off, reflected on the missed signs of trouble ahead, and embraced the lessons learned from the pains of a failed relationship.

    The one instrumental tune on BK3, Between The Lines, provides us an incredible, if not legendary, guitar duet with Toto’s Steve Lukather sharing licks with Bruce against a steady bass backdrop provided by Yellow Jacket bassist, Jimmy Haslip. You’ll have this song on “repeat” after you first listen to it, trust me!

    Kulick melodically takes over to a bench after the emotional roller-coaster ride he treated us to on BK3 and sums up his views on the acoustically dominated number, Life. Tipping his hat to George Harrison by rhetorically asking us, “How long does it take to see the signs that our minds keep on spinning?” If I close my eyes and let my mind wonder just a wee little bit, I could almost swear that I hear George singing and dying to segue into My Sweet Lord.

    I would be woefully remiss if I didn’t highlight the tremendous production skills of musical prodigy, Jeremy Rubilino. The fingerprints of his skilled hand, and even guitar work on No Friend of Mine, are evident all over this landmark project of Kulick’s. It’s always a stereophonic treat to see to people who excel in their craft join together and offer up the best that they can possibly craft. This is definitely the case with the double threat of Kulick and Rubilino.

    In addition to the Boomerocity interview with Bruce (here), you can watch him shed some more like on the making of BK3 by clicking here and going to the Featured Video tab.

    BK3 will be available online (pre-order/order by clicking on the BK3 image to the right) and in stores on February 2nd. You will DEFINITELY want this album in your audio library so don’t delay. It will be a classic!

  • Ringo And His All-Starr Band - Greenville, SC 2015

    Ringo And His All-Starr Band

    The Peace Center – Greenville, SC

    February 17, 2015

    Photo by JamesPattersonsGallery.com

         

    Regular Boomerocity readers know that, when we review a show, we focus on the music and what takes place on the stage. That certainly is the case during the recent performance by Ringo Starr and his merry men he calls The All-Starr Band.

    However, what I want to focus on first is something that I witnessed backstage before the show began. 

    My business partner/cousin and I were guests of Ringo’s guitarist, Steve Lukather of Toto.  While visiting with Luke, there were four others there, including a pre-teen young man and his dad.  After greeting everybody, Luke started sharing stories of his younger life – stories that reflected some of the craziness and “youthful behavior” that he probably shouldn’t have done. 

    He turned to the boy and said something to the affect of, “I’m telling you this so that you don’t make the same dumb mistakes I did.” Right after that, Todd Rundgren walks in, looking for his invited guests. He couldn’t find them and was expressing his concern that he had goofed up in some way.

    At that point, Luke pipes up and says, “Do you guys want to meet the boss?”  He and Todd then lead us down the hall to a reception area. Gregg Rolie and Richard Page were hanging out there as we came in. Right after we came in, Ringo Starr walks in. He and Luke’s attention was immediately focused on the young man that was part of our small group. He was kind, gracious and asked him if he wanted to have a picture taken.  His concern and attention was genuine and heart felt. It was peace and love in action and it touched me deeply to watch it take place.

    That, my friends, is what made this show very special. Sure, it was a major item on my bucket list to be able to meet Ringo. However, what made it incredibly cool was to see Ringo actually walk his talk. Not only that, but to see that same message personified in the band members. Each and every one of those men showed themselves to be first class all the way and has made an incredible impression on me that I’ll never forget.

    Oh, and the show?  AMAZING!  

    Ringo delivered his signature hits throughout his show. As in past All-Starr tours, the band – stars in their own right – each performed three of their hits that they’re known for. Lukather did three Toto tunes and joined Gregg Rolie teamed up to perform three Santana hits to perfection (Rolie played for Santana before joining Neal Schon’s then-new group, Journey). Richard Page offered up a couple of Mister Mister hits along with a new composition of his that was phenomenal. Rundgren enthusiatstically delivered three of his crowd pleasing monster hits, too. Gregg Bissonette and Warren Ham (both have played for God and everybody) played in the background with their oh-so-noticeable drum and sax work, respectively. Each of the band members are a real treat to watch perform and worth the price of admission by themselves. Ringo being with them makes it a memorable and historic bargain and all while demonstrating true peace and love towards each other.

    If you have the chance to catch Ringo and His All-Starr Band, do. It will prove to be one of the most enjoyable and memorable shows you will ever have attended.

  • Steve Lukather (2013)

    Posted January, 2013

    Photo by Rob Shanahan

    Since the launch of Boomerocity over three years ago, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing lots of phenomenal, historic and iconic talent.  Whether chatting it up with Grand Funk Railroad (and former KISS) guitarist, Bruce Kulick, Billy Joel’s sax man, Mark Rivera, or guitar virtuoso, Andy Timmons, to a man each and every one of them mentioned Steve Lukather.

    Luke (as his friends call him) is best known as a founding member/lead guitarist/songwriter/vocalist of Toto. However, he has also been involved with some of the hottest songs and albums in the history of popular music. From Michael Jackson’s  Beat It (and all of the Thriller album) to Olivia Newton-John’s Physical,  to working with such huge talent as Lionel Richie, The Tubes, Donna Summer, Chicago, Richard Marx, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and, currently, Ringo Starr, Lukather seems to find himself associated with the best of the best.  And those members of the upper echelon of musicians have great things to say about him.

    Bruce Kulick (KISS and Grand Funk Railroad) says of Lukather, "Steve is one of the few ‘monster’ guitar players in the music business. I am always in awe of his amazing feel and melodic ability on the guitar. This is why he's admired around the world. Luke = Guitar Legend!"  Andy Timmons also speaks highly of his good friend.  “Steve has been a huge influence on my playing for many years! I think I learned more from him than any other player. Like Stevie Ray, he puts so much passion and conviction into every note. Couple that with his complete control of time feel (where a note is placed in the musical phrase) and you have an amazing musician. PLUS he's beautiful and loving human being. I'm proud to call him a friend.”

    As I began my chat with Luke, I wanted to verify that I had it correct that his new CD, Transition, was his seventh studio solo project.

    “Yeah, I suppose so. If you count the Carlton stuff and my Christmas record then it would something like ten. But, there’s some of my side projects like Los Lobotomys and things like that. So, yeah, as far as official ‘Here I am,’ I suppose it’s seven – lucky seven, as they say!”

    In listening to Transition, I sense that the album has a positive “lessons learned/I’m still standing” kind of vibe to it, for the most part. I asked Steve if I was interpreting that correctly.

    “Well, you know, the last five or six years of my life I’ve had the ‘lost years’. I went through a really, really bad time. And, unfortunately, when you go through a bad time in the public eye you have to do it in front of people. I was dealing with some people I didn’t want to be dealing with. There was some business things going on. My mother died. My marriage died. I had a kid during the divorce. I quit drinking and smoking and got really healthy. I had to go through all of the psychological stuff, digging up the bodies in my backyard, metaphorically speaking – emotionally – just to clean up myself and find my muse and find my voice as a guitar player and as an artist again.

    “On the last album, I was going through all of it so it was a little darker. On this one, this is a little bit more the transition, hence, the title, coming from the darkness into the light again, as it were; dealing with all of the haters and things that I’ve just stuffed for so many years – some stuff that I really don’t want to get into but a lot of deep stuff in my personal life that was causing me to drown myself in a sea of alcohol which affected my playing, my personality, my muse, my reason for everything.

    “So, I just woke up one day and quit smoking and quit drinking and said, ‘I’ve want to be me again!’ Thirty-six years on the road can make anybody crazy.  I just caught myself. I looked around me and a lot of my friends are sick, dying or dead. I’m going, ‘Wait a second.’  When you’re twenty years old it’s party till you drop and then you realize that thirty-five years went by. Like I said, I went through a bad time and I’m not in a bad time now. I’m in a great place. For years, now, I’ve been clean and finding myself. I work out. I practice. I wake up at five in the morning and play the guitar. I’m a good dad. Even my ex-wives love me! I’m a happily divorced guy! What can I say?”

    Then, being a little more serious, Luke adds, “I’m on the road nine months out of the year. It’s hard for a woman to deal with that. I didn’t do anything awful. It just fell apart, you know? So, I had to re-calibrate my life – every aspect of it – and own up to the fact that I screwed up and played sloppy. You play how you feel. So, if you feel like crap, what do you think is going to happen? I was angry and I was just playing crap and I hated it.

    “From 2004 through 2009 were bad times for me in my whole life. It affected every aspect of it – playing, I looked like crap, I felt like crap and I was just trying to get through it

    Photo by Rob Shanahan

    in a negative way. Now, I feel good again. I feel free from it!  I have to let go of resentments and the past. If I’ve said or did something stupid, I’m really sorry, you know?  But I can’t change people’s minds if there’s that negativity but I think people have warmed up to the fact that I admitted my sins. What can I say? Everybody loses their way sometimes – at one point or another. It’s  just hard when you have to do it in public.

    “I’ve lived an extraordinary and insane life – not even a realistic one. It’s a bizzaro life. It’s fun. I mean, it has great rewards but I don’t get paid for the gig. I get paid for the twenty-two hours that I’m not playing, you know what I mean? A lot of guys will tell you that – it’s a cliché but it really stands true.

    “But I feel great! I feel better than ever. I’m working with Ringo who’s seventy-two years old and looks like he’s forty. He’s a constant source of inspiration as a human being as well as being Ringo!”

    In concluding his answer, he said, “I don’t want to dwell on anything negative. I’m just saying that this is where I’ve been, that’s what it was, this is what I’ve gone through and this is where I am now. I feel great – better than ever!  Ready to hit it!  I’ve had a really great year and I appreciate that more than I ever did ever in my whole life. I appreciate my career more than I ever did in my whole life.”

    I asked if that was the biggest lesson learned from that whole experience.

    “Yes! I think it’s great to still be here after thirty-six years of doing this and be booked up. I’m solid until 2015, pretty much. I couldn’t be happier doing all the different kind of cool things that I get to do. I’m just not a guy that’s in a band, makes a record and goes on the road. I did five different tours this year.”

    In setting up my next question, I mentioned that it was reported that Lukather had a hand in over 1,500 albums.  Before I could segue to the core question, he interrupted me.

    “These numbers get volleyed around. Sometimes it’s a thousand. Sometimes it’s 2,500.  Sometimes it’s a million. Sometimes it’s 50. I don’t know.   I like to refer to as that I’ve done a lot of records.  I really don’t know what the count is. But I’ve stopped doing sessions twenty-some-odd years ago. I’ll do a guest one or two a  year or something like that here and there. But as far as being a session guy, I’ve never really done that since 1992 or something like that.”

    I asked him how working on Transition differed from all of the other albums – especially the first albums he ever worked on.

     “Well, the technology’s changed, obviously. I just kinda flow. Listen, when my first record came out on eight-track. That’s how long I’ve been doing this. So, really, for me, we did it differently in the sense that, from the moment my fingers touched the guitar strings and we played the first chord or riff – which, ironically, was Judgment Day – the songs were written almost in sequence as they appear on the record. C.J. Vanston and myself co-wrote and co-produced and played on the record with me.

    “From the moment we started, everything that I played became a master recording and we just sort of went about it in a different way. Usually, I cut live tracks with live players. This time we did it different. I started adding people as the songs and record took shape – adding bass and drums later – after I’d done vocals and guitars and master keyboard. Then, we kind of cast it like a movie. Like, ‘Who would be great on this?’ I used my live band, obviously. They’re great musicians. Steve Weingart, Renee Jones and Eric Valentine. But I also had the pick of a lot of friends – a lot of people I had run into on the street by accident. I live in L.A., you know. We’re all friends. Everybody on the record is my friend. Some really old friends and some newer friends. All are really great musicians. We would say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have so-and-so on this track?’ and they came and played!  That’s how we did it. It was a different way of doing it for me and it was a lot of fun.”

    When I asked Steve how long Transition took to make, he said, “On and off – I started last December and I would work on it for a few weeks, go on the road, do a tour, come back, work on it for three weeks, go back on another tour and I did that all year until I finished in October.”

    Going into further detail as to how the album was made, Steve shared that, “We worked hard on it. I certainly didn’t phone it in, you know? Having the luxury of time, I would go, ‘I want to redo that vocal. I can do better.’ Or, ‘that lyric sucks. Let me fix that.’ That was a luxury I haven’t had in I can’t remember when. Not being under pressure. Not worry about it being a hit single or whatever. I made a record that I liked. C.J. worked hard on the music. My son (Trevor) co-wrote a track . . . but most of it was me and C.J. I just kind of wrote how I felt and that’s how it is from a guitar playing standpoint. I dug a little deep and try to refine it rather than trying to be super flashy. Other guys do it so much better. I went to my strongest point which is my melodic phrasing and play different stuff than a normal rock guy would play.”

    As I’ve said in other interviews, I long ago quit asking artists what their favorite song is on an album. However, what I have asked, and did ask Luke, was if he was to point to just one song from Transition for someone to listen to in order to determine if they would want to buy the whole album, which song would that be?

    “It kind of changes. Like, in the middle of making the record, you have your favorites but that changes as they get finished. At the end of it, I look at the record as one whole piece – the whole record. Not just one song. I’m proud of the (whole) record. I think the first couple of tracks kind of definite it. Judgment Day and Creep Motel kind of have the overall feel for the record. From a guitar playing, songwriting and signing standpoint, check that out. And, if you like that, keep on!”

    Knowing that Lukather is going back on the road with Ringo Starr beginning February 2nd, I asked him if there are any tour plans to support Transition after that tour.

    “Oh, yeah!  I’m rehearsing my band in January and then we’re going out in March and April in Europe for the solo stuff. Then I come back and gear up for Toto’s 35 year anniversary tour which will go on for the summer. We only work through the summer – May through September - because everybody else has stuff going on. We’ll do that for the next few summers all over the world. I’ll be back and then we go back out with Ringo in the fall, so I hear. Rumors. That puts me to this time next year and then I jump back out solo. I’ll do some dates in the states with my own band. We’re talking about doing a co-bill with somebody else just to get my feet wet as a solo artist in the U.S. but Toto is going to be working in the U.S., as well. I’ve got a full dance card and it feels good, man!”

    As noted earlier, Luke has worked on a boatload of albums in his nearly 40 year career.  I was curious as to what he saw as the most positive and negative changes he’s seen in the music business in that time and, if he were named music czar, what would he do, if anything, to fix the music business.

    Answering the second part of the questions first, Luke said, “The first thing I would do is unplug ProTools and ask, ‘Can you sing and play?’  That would be the first thing. That would eliminate about ninety percent of the people. I’d want to level the playing field. For those of us who started out playing and thinking that you had to be really good to make it in the music business, we were all of a sudden thrown off the horse by going, ‘Nah! You don’t have to be that good, really.’ The whole image/MTV years and then it became the technological years where people are up for Grammy’s who couldn’t sing Happy Birthday in tune at gunpoint.

    “I think the whole game has changed and the worst part is no one cares – or, I should say not that many people care. Nobody’s perfect. The thing is, now, records are made so perfect that they’re unrealistic. And, to perform live, if someone sings just a little bit off or doesn’t bend a note just perfect, people think you’re crap. Go back and look at The Stones and The Beatles, there’s imperfections in the blues players we all loved. Hendrix wasn’t perfect. Nobody’s perfect. It’s an unrealistic perfection. Everyone wants this utopian perfection that is unrealistic. Let’s bring back a little grit and funk, man! We live in a fast-food mentality. Everybody wants everything now and everybody has a two second attention span. I don’t believe that’s across the board but that’s what the media plays to – the lowest common denominator. I don’t want to start ragging on people and naming names but anybody that uses the word ‘beats’ to describe music should be beat-en with a baseball bat!”

    Up on a well-deserved musical soapbox, he continued, “I watched the 12/12/12 concert on TV and there were some brilliant performances, you know?  And the one, blatant WTF moment was rather obvious, need I say it?  And instead of me being a grumpy old man, I turned on Twitter and watched the comments come. And my twenty-five year old son – a great guitar player and the generation that that plays to – I look at him and I go, ‘Dude!’ and he goes, ‘Dad, it sucks, I know!’ And I go, ‘Okay, so it’s not just me?’ I wanted to love it!  I do want to love it but I can’t. I just can’t! Then, the attitude that goes with it! It’s the whole Star Magazine/Enquirer mentality of ‘let’s dumb it all down.’ To me, ‘yuh!’ is not a lyric, you know?  Just unplug the box and waddaya got? Unplug the auto-tune and put the kid up there with a band and let’s see what he’s got! Nothing. Nothing! Nothing but a bad attitude and a lot of money! I don’t want to say the name but there’s just this whole genre of people, they’re bragging about how rich they are and, really, it just makes them look how stupid they are. The arrogance of it all.”

    Photo by Rob Shanahan

    Winding done, Luke concluded, “The bottom-line: You really want to change the music business?  Can-you-play? It’s like they want to learn all of the tricks before they learn how to get there. Those of us who started out in the sixties playing the guitar like I did because of The Beatles, learned how to play folk guitar and learned how to play rhythm guitar. Can you play with other people or are you the guy that just sits on the edge of your bed and plays as fast as you possibly can in one key because you don’t know how to play in B Flat?  Be a well-rounded guy! There are some amazing musicians out there that need to be heard! The problem is how do you monetize it? How do you make a career as a musician? It’s really hard.

    “My son. Twenty-five. He just signed with a major management company but, generally, if he was to have signed his record deal twenty-five years ago, he would’ve had his record deal at twenty! It’s a different world and there’s a lot of incredible musicians struggling just to get heard. They say, ‘Give the records away for free and then go out and play live and make money.’ Well, how many venues, really, are there and how much money are people are gonna spend? If you have one song on the radio do you think people will pay fifty bucks to come see you?  Can you sustain an audience for an hour and a half with one song? Because that’s what they’re telling you, ‘We only need one song.’ Well, if you make only one song, who’s going to pay to come see you live? And you better be good because everyone does it on ProTools and you can make anybody sound good on there. But can you pull it off live?”

    As our time to chat was quickly coming to a close, I asked the legendary guitarist about working with Ringo Starr on his current tour.

    “It was the best summer vacation of my life! He’s the greatest! He’s one of the most sweetest, the most soulful, smart, funny – everything you could ever want and imagine him to be, he’s that and more. Very wise. If you listen to him speak, you’re drawn into somebody that is very, very special on planet earth and I’m honored to call him a friend. I wake up and I get a text from Ringo!  It’s surreal. He announces me (and slides into a pretty good Ringo imitation), ‘This is my very last, real best friend and I’m not having any more!’ and he announces me. I mean, really, he took a shine to me and I to him, obviously. The band is so great: Todd (Rundgren) and Richard (Page) and Biss (Gregg Bissonette) and Mark Rivera and Gregg Rolie – what a joy to wake up and make music with these guys! Everybody is so good and so much fun. It’s so relaxed. We’re hanging out with Ringo! How awesome is that? It doesn’t get much better than that!”

    Winding up that portion of his comments, he added, “What’s wrong with my life?  Nothing, really. I’m grooving. I’m thankful. I really, really am! I know how lucky I am. There’s a million guys that are better than me. I’m just the lucky guy that gets to enjoy what I get to do!”

    My final question for Steve Lukather involved how he wants to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy is after he’s gone to that great gig in the sky. His answer started with a slight chuckle.

    “Well, I’d like to think that people will say, ‘Good player, man! Funny guy! Good guy!’ All I know is that I’m trying to be the best ‘me’ I can be right now. I’ve had an extraordinary, wonderful career that spans thirty-six years and it seems to going to keep going for a while. I’m very thankful for that. I think that maybe in a hundred years somebody will poke my name in some little computer box and, hopefully, a whole bunch of information will come out and they’ll say, ‘Who the heck is this guy?’ I’d like for them to say ‘He was a funny guy. Played pretty good for a white guy.’ What can I say? I’d like to be remembered in some positive light. I can’t make a quote about myself!”

    Well, as I started this piece with quotes from other great musicians, Steve can be assured that there are many, many more members on the short list of musical greats who are saying great things about him.  And, to paraphrase a great saying about music: If words fail, then his music will speak for him.

  • Steve Lukather (2014)


     Photo by Darek Kawka

    Posted June, 2014

    The sign of a great, vibrant classic rock band is when they continue to draw loyal crowds and crank out albums and DVDs.  One such band is Toto.  Still alive and well, the boys in the band recently released a live CD and concert DVD entitled, “Toto 35th Anniversary Tour: Live In Poland”. With a reported 35 million albums already sold, this double-barreled offering is sure to substantially add to those numbers.

    When word went out that the anniversary set was going to come out, Boomerocity had the opportunity to interview the band’s guitarist and founding member, Steve Lukather. I last interviewed Luke in January of last year. Since that chat, he has toured heavily to support his solo album, “Transition”, toured with Ringo Starr and, of course, was neck deep in Toto’s 35th anniversary tour.

    What does he do with all that spare time?

    Anyway, I caught up with Luke by phone at his California home one recent morning. After chatting about his frenetic schedule over the past sixteen months, I asked him what he’s up to these days.



    “Well, I’m pretty much doing exactly all of that – just more of the same. I begin with Ringo June 1st and I’m back in the studio finishing a new Toto album that will be out in March of next year.  Toto and Michael McDonald are going on the road in August and September.”

    I asked Steve what the response to the set has been so far.

    “It’s number one around the world – number two in the UK. We haven’t charted in the UK in thirty years!  Number one all over Europe and it’s just come out in the U.S. We’re getting the best reviews of our career and there was no hype to it. We’re all, like, shaking heads and going, ‘What the . . .?’ in a very positive way.

    “We’re getting these numbers from our new manager and it’s like all of a sudden out of nowhere – a gift from God! For real! The thing is waling! When you see that we’re knocking Metallica, Bob Dylan and Springsteen off the charts – even that little Justin Beiber – we’re, like, ‘Where did this come from, man?’, because we didn’t do any pre-hype. As a matter of fact, we rather underplayed it. We were just going to see how it goes. 

    “Everybody – Eagle Rock, our DVD company – everybody’s going, ‘You can’t buy this kind of response!”. The reviews are five star reviews – for us, collectively, the most hated band in rock music? We’re kind of all laughing. Henley was right. He told me in 1980, ‘If you hang in there long enough, they’ll change their minds.’ Eagles and Led Zeppelin, they survived – not to compare us to them or anything. I only mean in terms of longevity. We’re looking at almost 40 years”.

    I commented to Luke that I was struck by how tight the band is during their jams on the DVD.  He said, “We wanted to leave some of the jam bits in. We showed the other side of what we really are. Obviously, the hits are in there for obvious reasons but we wanted to show a little bit more of what we’re really all about – at least the 2014 version, anyway, and we were able to do that and to show that we have a large audience around the world. A lot of people in the U.S. think that we died in 1985 because we had a record company who didn’t release our record for ten years. We had management get us out of that deal but, to the fans, it’s almost like we’re starting over again and here we are in our thirty-eighth year since the first album was recorded and now all of a sudden we’re number one around the world. It’s crazy! I’m on my knees, looking up at the sky and going, ‘Thank you, Lord, for this blessing!’ And because we’re not a band who is on that summer circuit as the same eight bands who put themselves together and go on the road, we’re kind of fresh meat, you know?”

    Lukather then adds, “We’re really aiming at the U.S.A. market again. With our new management and our new agents, our new DVD and the band being where it’s at right now, mentally and physically, I think we can do it. Now there’s this real, organic buzz! It couldn’t be better!”

    Of all the places around the globe that Toto could choose to record a concert, I asked Steve what drove the decision to record live in Poland.

    “Well, we were going to do it in France but we had already done it in France. Then we were going to do it in Amsterdam but we’d already done it in Amsterdam. So we said, ‘Let’s do it some place where the crowds are going to be wild but we haven’t recorded there yet’ We felt recording live in Poland was a fresh thing – Eastern European, you know? Also, the venues are friendly from a technical aspect. It all organically fell into place.”

    When I asked Steve how the crowds in Poland are today compared to when Toto first toured there, he replied, “They keep getting bigger!  That’s the thing: now we’re getting second and third generation people and families coming to the shows. Now we sell four tickets instead of one.  We’re a classic rock band. I embrace that title. There’s not that many of us left. I know that’s a broad stroke – a broad term. We are what we are. We’re just in that era, you know what I mean? And we’re a lot more rock than people think we are. I think the DVD shows that side and certainly when you come see us live we show that side.

    “But, we can play ballads. We can play funk. We can play fusion and world music. We can play it. We’re good musicians. People don’t show up to see what outfit I’m wearing. They want to hear good playing.”


    When I asked Luke how is touring, in general, different for him now than in the beginning, he replied with a laugh, “Yeah, man, we travel well. We’re not twenty

    Photo by Darek Kawka

    years old anymore. We spend our money on comfort rather than partying, you know what I mean?  And I’ve been spoiled when I go on the Ringo tours – it’s a whole ‘nother level. Private jets and all that stuff. I love that!”

    Then, coming back down to the relatively normal touring world, Steve adds, “We have nice buses and we have a great bunch of crew members that are our friends. A lot of bands never even speak to their crew. Our crew are our friends. We all hang together. It’s a real family environment. And even though we fight once in a while about BS - like brothers do – over nothing, and then we end up laughing and hugging each other two seconds later. I mean, we’ve been brothers since 1974. We’ve been through everything together. Life. Death. Divorce. Kids. Drugs. Booze. Insanity. Loss of fortune. Gain of fortune. Great career. Bad career. Whatever. Hits and misses. Disease. Disaster. Wonderful. Joyous. We’ve been through everything together and we’ve always been there for each other. I look around and go, ‘These are my bros, man! They know me better than anybody.’”

    Then, becoming humorously more reflective, he adds, “Our personalities are what they are and we accept each other for our personality flaws and we all have them, including me – especially me. I’m the loud mouth mother and it gets me in trouble all the time. I speak my mind. Now I’m an old guy. I’ve got the experience and if you ask my opinion, I’m going to give it whether they like it or not. There it is. I just laid it out for you.”

    Steve Lukather is a touring maniac, always on the road with Toto, Ringo, as well as supporting his own solo work and the like. It’s surprising that he’s not absolutely sick of it.  I asked him how he keeps it all from getting to him.

    “I rest. I rest a lot. And I practice. I have hobbies and stuff I’m interested in reading about. I’m fascinated with antiquity. I love all that alien stuff. I’m like, “Hmmm, what’s out there?’ I just have fun with it all, you know? I like to exercise. Some nights I like to sit out by the pool and chill. I read voraciously and by the time you think about it, you’re off to the gig!”

    Comparing tours of early years, Lukather adds, “It’s not like I’m in the back of a van, drinking beer and eating bologna sandwiches, like a kid. We’re all health freaks now. It’s a whole different ballgame than it was in the seventies.”

    The band has undergone some personnel changes that have been kind of hard to stay on top of so I asked Steve what the band line-up is looking like at the moment.

    With his infectious laugh that I’ve now become familiar with, Lukather gave the current band line up.

    “The line-up for the band at this point is myself, David Paich, Steve Porcaro and Joseph Williams. Then we have Keith Carlock who has joined the band on drums. He played with Steely Dan, Clapton, John Mayer and Sting. He’s one of the baddest guys out there. When we asked him to join the band, he was already committed to do this last Steely Dan tour which coincides with our U.S. tour in August and September of this  year. He’s played on the whole album and he’s going to be back with us next year.

    “The bass chair is always just filling in for Mike (Porcaro) even though Mike will never come back because of his ALS illness. It’s not good, Bro. He’s confined to a bed. It’s just not good. He’s taken care of by family and it’s part of the reason why we got back together to do this. So, the bass chair is kind of a roving bass chair. Nathan filled it for years but he had to go back to Foreplay and he’s got his album out and he’s out with Clapton. Schedules just didn’t swing. It’s an honor to have him and we love Nate but David Hungate – our original bass player – is coming back to do the summer. He hasn’t played with us in thirty-four years! There’s more original guys on the stage than there has been in twenty-five years!

    “And, then, we have Shannon Forrest playing drums, who is like the number one Nashville guy who was very close to getting the gig, himself. He’s an old friend, as well.  So, that’s going to work out for the summer. Next year? Keith comes back and we’ll see about everybody else – we’ll see who’s going to be playing bass. That’s pretty much where we’re at right now.”

    I had read where Steve and the band are doing a lot to heighten awareness about ALS because of Mike Porcaro.  I asked if he could share shed some light on their efforts in that area.

    “The sad news is that there’s no happy ending to this for anyone – whoever gets it. I think the awareness is how you get this and how you treat it and maybe slow it down. In time, maybe you don’t want it to slow down, you know? It’s really the worst prison confinement you can know – to be trapped in your own body. That’s really, truthfully, an awful way to go.

    “Mike can still talk but he can’t really move, you know? Can’t move at all! So you see the struggle. The breathing gets harder and, obviously, all the rest that goes with it. You want to find a cure for something like this. Will there ever be a cure? That’s what we’re striving for people to be aware of. So many neurological diseases have hit the world. I’ve asked my doctor and the doctor goes, ‘It’s environmental, man’ which means all the **** we’ve been ingesting and all the chemicals that companies try out on all of us decades ago while we’re having children and our children are getting all this weird stuff. Older people are getting MS, ALS, Lupus – all of these neurological, weird diseases from poisoning ourselves and our kids get it . . . it’s a brutal disease!

    “I didn’t know people with ALS when I was a kid. It’s kinda prevalent (now), you know? Autism. My youngest son is autistic. But, you know what? He’s not that bad. There’s a lot of spectrums. He’s easy on the spectrum but there’s a few ticks, you know?

    “Fortunately, he loves, he laughs and he digs his old man and he’s three years old so he’ll learn out of a lot of this. Some kids never speak and hit their head against the wall. There’s different levels of this. But as I said, neurological diseases . . . these are causes that have affected us as human beings and our families. When it hits home it really opens your eyes a bit.”

    After discussing such a heavy subject, I shifted gears in my questioning by asking Steve some questions submitted by some of your readers.  The first question centered on a guitar Luke is seen playing on the Toto’s new concert DVD, “Toto 35th Anniversary: Live In Poland”. At a glance, the guitar looks like it has caricatures of the famous “Rat Pack” painted on it and one of you readers wanted to know what the story was on it. Before I could even finish my question, Luke started laughing that laugh of his.

    “I’m a Sammy fanatic! There are a handful of us who are really into Sammy. Stan Lynch from The Heartbreakers, myself and a bunch of rock n’ roller guys – we love Sammy! It was a gift from a guy at Music Man Guitars. It’s really one of my guitars with a different paint job on it. They call it “The Sammy”. It’s a one-off. It’s a classic. I laughed so hard and it’s a great guitar! People ask about it all the time. My face is on there. Sterling Ball, the owner of Music Man, his face is on there. He’s the bald guy on it and Sammy’s on it.

    “I got into all that. George Clooney – a friend of mine – when he went and did “Ocean’s Eleven” and all of that – twenty-five years ago we’d drink booze and talk about doing something like that and he actually did it. I knew him before he was famous.”


    Another question from Boomerocity readers asked what the wrist-band he wears onstage represents.

    “Oh, it’s a gift from Ringo!  It says, ‘Peace and Love’.”

    Another reader asked Luke: With the great catalog of Toto music, is there a favorite song or period in time when he felt like, "Yeah. This how I want it to be..."?

    “You know, I think each era – it’s like looking at a scrapbook of your life. I mean, some of the stuff has held up well and some of it is like, ‘Ooo, that lyric is really bad’ or that production is really dated. But all of it warms my heart. It’s like looking at old pictures. ‘Oh, look at that silly outfit I was wearing. What was I thinking?’

    Photo by Darek Kawka

    “I think the music’s good. I think the band played well. I think there was some weirder stuff that we experimented with. But like any band with a long history, there’s always a few interesting ‘WTF’ moments. But, overall, I think I’m pretty proud of the work that we put out.”

    Up and coming artist, Ned Evett, asked, "Through a time rift you bump into yourself at 17, demoing a Strat at Guitar Center. What advice do you give yourself?"

    “Oh! Don’t ever do drugs! Not that I was ever a junkie or anything like that but there was a lot of wasted time and effort during that whole late seventies/early eighties period where everybody thought that they had to bury themselves into a pile of powder to get things done. That was a big lie.

    “Also, it would be, like, ‘Don’t trust your accountant!’ I got burned really bad as a kid. You get new money. They see you coming – a teenager with all this bread and you’re just stupidly spending it. So, I would’ve said, ‘Watch the bread! Stay away from the powder!’ would have been my advice. Stay healthy!

    “In the eighties, everybody got high on blow and did stupid things. As a teenager in the studios you’re going, ‘What’s that? I’m really tired. I need to get some coffee.’ And they said, ‘Go ahead, kid, it’s better than coffee and not addictive’ so I naively bought that for a while . . . we all did! I never got that deep in. Booze was my poison and I stopped many years ago along with smoking and any toxic shit.”

    Bringing the subject even closer to home, Luke said, “My older children, they managed to avoid all the pitfalls of all that, thankfully. And my other kids, the jury’s out. God know what they’re going to have to deal with. There’s really awful stuff out there now. It’s really pretty scary. Because I don’t smoke or drink or take anything at all anymore, I will be able to say to my children, ‘Look, you really don’t need to do that, do you? Look around. It never ends well unless you get out of it.’”

    As our time drew to a close, I asked Steve about the new Toto studio album he mentioned in passing earlier in our chat.

    “That will be out in March, 2015 with a world tour to follow. We’re really excited about the record. It’s really good. We’re really diggin’ it! We’re not trying to be trendy. We’re trying to be the best us that we can be and it’s coming out really good, if I may say so myself. We haven’t made an album in ten years so we wanted to make it a good one.”

    And a good one it will be, no doubt.

  • Steve Lukather Talks About TOTO XIV

    March, 2015

    Photo by Heather Porcaro

         

    If you’re a music aficionado at all, you’ve heard of Toto and are familiar with their mega huge hits like “Africa,” Rosanna,” “99,” “I Won’t Hold You Back,” “I’ll Be Over You,” and many other hits.

    What you may not be aware of are these absolutely amazing statistics:

    •They have recently celebrated their 35th anniversary as a band

    •Have sold over 35 million albums

    •Band members were South Park characters, while Family Guy did an entire episode on the band’s hit “Africa.” 

    •Collectively, the members of the band of made their mark on over 5,000 different albums that total a half billion units in record sales

    •It’s been estimated that 95% of the world’s population has heard a performance by a band member of TOTO

    The band is releasing their first studio album of new material in ten years entitled, “TOTO XIV.”  I recently chatted with founding member, guitarist and vocalist, Steve Lukather (“Luke”), about the album. I contacted him at his hotel room in Birmingham, Alabama, while he was on the road performing with Ringo Starr (yeah, THE Ringo Starr).

    Luke accounts for much of the previously mentioned statistics. He’s contributed to approximately 2,000 albums for artists such as Michael Jackson (including much of the “Thriller” album), Rod Stewart, Miles Davis, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, Roger Waters, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Larry Carlton and countless others. 

    Before discussing the new album, I asked Luke what he’s been up to.

    “Well, I’m out with Ringo right now, and I just started. This is, like, day three or something like that. It’s going great! I’ve been working on promoting the album, and I’m kinda managing the band and getting the tour together. It’s like juggling a chainsaw, razorblade, and a toothpick at the same time. But I’m doing ok.”

    When asked about TOTO XIV, he said:

    “I never thought we’d do another record, actually. When we got back together in 2010, it was to help our brother, Mike Porcaro, with some of his medical bills. He’s been tragically hit with ALS, and sadly, he’s really not doing well right now. It’s eight years into it, and it’s a tragic, horrible, insidious, cruel disease. That was hard. 

    “We decided to help him in 2010. We put the band back together with the high school brothers- Joseph Williams, Steve Porcaro, myself, and David Paich. We did a tour, and it was really a lot of fun. It was like the band had been reincarnated, and Joseph came back so strong as a singer. He didn’t go on the road and burn his voice out. He was doing television and film for twenty years as a composer along with a few solo albums here and there. But when he came back to the stage, his voice was incredibly strong, and it just kept getting stronger. We did a couple summer tours to help Mike, and we all have bills to pay so everybody wins. 

    “When we decided to do the 35th anniversary DVD, we found out that one of our ex-managers had signed something saying if we ever do anything, we have to deliver a studio album. At first, we sort of fought that, but our lawyers said ‘Look, you should make the freakin’ record.’ 

    “So we all looked at each other and said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we gotta do a really good one. We can’t just phone it in and make this a fulfillment of an obligation.’ 

    “We figured we owed it to the people who have been supporting us for forty years, so we need to come up with something really good. It’s been ten years since we sat down to write a record, so we dug deep. We decided if we were going to do this, we were going to go for it, really go for it. We wanted to dispel the myth that the album is dead, and old guys can’t write music. We said, ‘f*** that- we’re gonna go for it.’ 

    “We spent ten months in the studio making this record. What you hear is the result of blood, sweat, soul, tears, laughter, pain, screaming, arguing, hugging, and working. To me, I figure it’s the best version of the band to be in 2015. We have a lot of old friends back- Lenny Castro, a percussionist and workaholic. David Hungate is back after 33 years, and he’s going to tour with us. It’s an exciting time for us. The DVD went #1 all over the world, and that was a big surprise. 

    “The world is looking at us differently. We’re the classic rock band that hasn’t done every summer in eight configurations. The band is playing better than they ever have, so we are sort of a surprise wild card at this point. There are a lot of great bands out there making the circuit, but it’s the same eight guys in various configurations. We kinda came out of nowhere last year in the U.S.”

    Then, as a little tease, Luke said, “There’s a big surprise which I can’t tell you about yet- I’d like to, but I can’t. We’re going to be touring with somebody really cool, and

         

    Photo by Heather Porcaro

    it’s not anybody obvious at all. The U.S. tour starts in August/September, but we’re doing two months in Europe. Those gigs are selling out- 10,000 seaters are selling out months in advance without getting the record out yet! The UK is going clean, and it was really a surprise to hear Holland with 10,000 seats gone already. We’re co-headlining Sweden Rock with Def Leppard and a bunch of people. We’re doing a bunch of other gigs and headlining other festivals with 35,000 people, so it’s a very exciting time for us right now when a lot of people had maybe written us off. We’re back strong. Everyone is super healthy and focused, and we’re going to prove everybody wrong about the idea that these old guys have nothing new to give. I don’t believe in that, you know?”

    I was a guest of Luke’s at the band’s Atlanta show last year that included Michael McDonald. I mentioned that the pairing of McDonald with TOTO was a masterful pairing.

    “Well, Michael’s part of our family. We go way back. Michael was in Steely Dan with Jeff when I was still in high school. At one point, Michael was actually considered to be the lead singer of Toto, but he had just joined The Doobie Brothers. I worked on his first solo album, played on ‘I Keep Forgettin’’ and all that stuff. He sang on ‘I’ll Be Over You’, so we’ve always been friends. At that time we had the same manager, so that didn’t work out. But Michael and all of us have stayed dear friends and always will. That was a great, special tour for us, and it opened up a lot of doors that were closed for a long time. 

    “Now we’re doing something even wilder and bigger. The U.S. is starting to catch up, and that’s always been an Achilles heel to us. Now the doors are opening that were closed for so long, because we just had poor management and a poor view of us. Our record company wasn’t behind us. It was an uphill battle which all of the sudden seems to have been broken down after persistence and a lot of years… a lot of not taking no for an answer. Like, ‘F*** you, I don’t believe that this is no!’ Now we’re sitting in the situation to be able to do what we’ve always wanted to do in front of the people of our own country as well as the rest of the world.”

    I asked Luke what made this album different for him as compared with the previous thirteen.

    “First off, it’s been ten years since we’ve made any new music. I’m back with Steve Porcaro and Joseph Williams- we haven’t made a record since 1987. And yet, we came to this with a fresh attitude, like ‘We’re going to try to nail this.’ I’m back with my high school friends again, and everybody’s inspired and healthy. It’s a lot of fun, and I think we did something good. Now it’s up to God and the world to see how this all turns out. So far, so good.”

    What surprises on the album can Toto fans expect?

    “Is anything a surprise anymore? We live in this world where people are filming your every move with an iPhone camera. Their opinions are on the internet whether good or bad. 

    “Anyways, we’ve got a couple hundred songs we can grab to play outside of hits with all these records we’ve made. David Hungate’s back. Lenny Castro’s back on the road with us along with Steve, me, Dave, and Joe. We’ve got a killer band to bring on the road, and we’re going to perform this new stuff. We’re going to play a lot of the old stuff we haven’t been able to play. It’s just a really exciting time for us.”

    As for which song from “XIV” he would point to as the “calling card” for the whole album, Luke said:

    “I think my favorite track that we have ever recorded is a song called ‘Great Expectations’ which is written by Dave, Joe, and I. It’s an epic little piece. It’s really what I always imagined the band to sound like. Obviously, the hits have been really good. I can’t deny any of that, and we’ll play them for you- I promise! But this one has a little bit more depth to it. It hearkens back to our love for Seventies prog stuff like Yes and Pink Floyd with an odd twist to it. There’s three lead singers on it- Dave, me, and Joe. Everybody gets to shine on it. It’s a great calling card for where we are in 2015.”

    Is there a story behind the album cover?

    “Heather Porcaro, Steve’s oldest daughter, and her team put the whole art package together. We wanted to bring back the four in a different way. The XIV is interesting, because it’s a Roman numeral. It’s also a multiple of seven which is a reference to Joseph and The Seventh One album. It also has four from the Toto IV album. 

    “We were sitting around throwing ideas out, and Heather and her team came up with this great thing. We thought, ‘Wow, that’s really cool!’ The last thing we wanted to do was put hearts, skulls, angels, typical artwork. It’s so cliché. They came up with something darker and more mature. It’s new, but it’s old. Is this in China? Is this in LA? Where is this photo, this place? We ended up loving what she did with that, and it keeps it in the family as well. I’m really proud of her. We’ve been getting a lot of love on that.

    “She did this little video piece, too. We didn’t want to do a video. We’re not going to do MTV videos- there’s no budget for that. So we asked, ‘Can you put something together for this?’ She was out on the road with us filming stuff, and she just threw that together in an afternoon. She’s a very creative person, and I love keeping stuff in the family. I like to use the people around us. They care, and they’ve grown up with it and been a part of it. It means something to them. It’s not just hiring an art guy and saying, ‘Here, make something for us.’”

    Luke also shared some info about the guitar gear he used in the making of the album.

    “My big guitar is my Music Man, my L3. I do use a couple of the other versions. I use the Bogner amp, but I also use the Kemper Profiling amp which some of the weird, clean sounds came from that.  C.J. Vanston , our co-producer, really had a lot to do with putting this whole thing together. I gotta give him some love. C.J. worked real hard on this. Sometimes he’d just grab my guitar chord and plug it into his box that goes into the computer, and we’d just kinda scroll through to find some weird sound that worked. I kept an open mind and said, ‘I’ll try anything you guys want!’ Sometimes the sound inspired a different idea, a different part. 

    “It was like putting five bulls in a pen with one cow. We’re all very strong personalities, so we needed somebody to referee that. CJ Vanston was that guy. In the end, we all kept an open mind to try new and interesting things, and that’s what came out. I use Yamaha acoustic guitars, which are great.”

    What’s up after the Toto tour?

    “I can’t predict where I’m going to be in two years. I hope I’m still talking to you on the phone, healthy and happy and raving about the great success we have. That’s where I’m focused right now. In a couple years, who knows? Maybe I’ll do a solo record. Maybe I’ll take a vacation. I’ve got little kids I’d like to spend a little time with. This is what I do for a living. I’ve been doing it for forty years of my life. I don’t see anything changing other than just creating new music. 

    “I’m loving being on the Ringo tour. I just did this thing with Larry Carlton, and there will be a DVD out on that. That happened literally two weeks ago. That’s a different side of things, and I might do a couple live gigs with him if we can squeeze it in somewhere. I’m always trying to reinvent the wheel and doing fresh things.”

    Photo by Heather Porcaro

         

    Wrapping up our chat, I asked Luke how he would summarize his life right now.

    “I’ve had an interesting life, man. The dream came true. What can I say? 

    When I was a little kid, I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. And here I stand, in a hotel room working with Ringo. Last year, I did the 50th anniversary Beatles show with Paul and Ringo. I’m standing there right before we go on stage looking at them. They played ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, and there was a certain realization I had. When I was a little kid, if you told me that fifty years later I’d be standing here with these guys… and all these things that have happened in my career… just the records and the success that we’ve had. All the sessions and all the great artists I’ve had the chance to work with. I’ve got four great kids. I’ve had a couple great wives. I’ve met a lot of beautiful girls in my life. I’ve had a million laughs. Partied like a f***ing rock star, but I don’t do that anymore. I’ve had a very interesting life. 

    “There are a few things I’d go back and change. I never wanted to hurt anybody’s feelings. I should have never done any drugs of any kind, but ask anybody who’s been through that, and they’ll tell you the same thing. It was a weird, wacky time we all went through. I would save my money a little differently. But I’ve got nothing to complain about. I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’ve lived the dream. I’m very grateful to the people who’ve supported me and the band through the years. I’m sorry for a few things that went wrong, and I lost my way there for a minute. But when you’ve lived the life I have, it’s not uncommon. 

    “I’ve been given a great gift, and I’m very, very grateful for it - probably more so now than I’ve ever been. Thank you for life. It’s like that movie, ‘Defending Your Life’, where you have to sit and watch all the rough spots. I hope God has a great sense of humor.”

    Catch the latest on all things TOTO here and read the Boomerocity review of TOTO XIV here.

  • Todd Rundgren Discusses White Knight, Music, & Ringo

    Posted May 2017

     

    ToddRundgren001 cropSometimes when an artist of any stripe is described, the word “genius” is used. I’d go so far as to say that it is often overused. However, one artist who more than deserves such a label is Todd Rundgren.

    Rundgren is one of those rare artists who require more than one superlative to describe his creative output. Innovative? That’s a given. Prolific? Just look up his discography and the answer will hit you between the eyes. Timeless? Absolutely. All of those certainly work and are quite applicable. I’d also go so far as to describe Todd as being often on the bleeding edge of musical evolution yet has the uncanny ability to create classics that will endure the ages.

    How else would you explain his popularity to sell out his own tour, be asked to join Yes on theirYestival tour and the work with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr band for the past six years?

    His fans loyalty are the stuff of folklore. Affectionately referred to as “Toddies,” their passion for all things Todd could be to those of Deadheads and Trekkies combined.

    prior to a show with Ringo as he fervently looked for some guests who were apparently no-shows. He was desperately attempting to find them so that they could meet the band. In either case, his stardom could’ve garnered disinterest in either story but he and his team displayed incredible graciousness. That’s what makes me a fan.

    Everything Knoxville Logo EditedFrom a statistical standpoint, Rundgren has a musical catalog that has – and will continue to – stand the test of time. SteveI view Rundgren and his team from a slightly different perspective. For one thing, Todd and his management team have tremendous hearts. They didn’t know me from Adam when I contacted them for an unearned favor to cheer up a friend and loyal reader. Without any question, the obliged. I also watched Todd backstage 

    Orchard from the radio station, The Frog, in the upper peninsula of Michigan, tells me that Todd’s biggest selling project was his 1972 double album, “Something/Anything,” which included his huge hits, “I Saw The Light” and “I Saw the Light,” and “Hello It’s Me” (his biggest hit that charted at #5). Other Toddie hits include “We Gotta Get You A Woman,” and his remake of the Beach Boys classic, “Good Vibrations” in 1976 which reached #36.

    It was for the promotion of his current tour to promote his new CD, White Night, that I had the distinct privilege to interview Todd by phone. While making small talk, I had mentioned that I had interviewed his lovely wife, Michele, a few years ago (here) for her work on a voice training app, he piped up and said, “Well, she’s moved on from that. Now she’s a restaurateur. Ha! Ha! She opened up a tiki bar/exotica restaurant out on Kauai where we live. She’s probably there at this moment.”

    With an extensive tour schedule slated for this year – both for his own work as well as with Ringo Starr, I asked if he still enjoyed touring or did he prefer to work in the studio.

    “I enjoy being at home and I enjoy the process of making music. But, that doesn’t necessarily require me at home. But touring actually is, I think, a vital aspect of contemporary artists’ life. For one thing, you’re gonna make most of your money touring. You’ll only make a fraction of that selling records. And, so, if you really want to capitalize on any success that you had, you have to go out on the road, anyway.

    “But, for me, I think, despite the fact, after a while, you get into a routine of sleeping in different beds all the time and eating different kinds of food all the time. And you start to miss the stability of your own house. Still, being on the road is the best way to communicate with the audience. Also, depending on the kind of show that you do, it keeps you fit. When I’m at home, I just kinda sit around most of the time. But when I’m out on the road, I get two hours of exercise a night.”

    ToddRundgren003As for what Toddies can expect from the shows on his solo andYestival tours later this year, Rundgren said: “Well, we’re doing pretty much the same thing on both tours. Although, probably a shorter set when we go out with Yes. Our own show, it is close to two hours. It’s a pretty high level of production, this time. A lot ofvideo. Full band and, also, background singers and stuff, so it’s a really big “shoe”, this time.”

    As was mentioned earlier, Todd has been working with Ringo Starr for approximately six years. I asked him how working with the former Beatle affected him as a songwriter, performer, and producer.

    “Let me see, now. The first time I played with Ringo was actually in the late seventies. We were playing a Jerry Lewis telethon. We put together a little super group just for one gig. Played over on the UNLV campus in kind of a gymnasium or something like that. Jerry would kind of wave to us every once in a while and he would send the limousines full ofshow girls over to hang out with us, Ha! Ha! in our dressing rooms. That was years and years before he (Ringo) started the All-Starrs.

    “He didn’t start the All-Starrs until the late eighties, I guess. I didn’t play with the All-Starrs until the third iteration of it, which was around 1993, I think, or ’92. And, then, I played with him again a couple of years later with a different line-up. And, then, a long time went by and, then, this particular line-up got put together. This is kind of the band that he’s been looking for all these years when he’s been putting together combinations of musicians because this will be the sixth year that the same line-up has actually been playing under the All-Starrs banner.

    “So, by now, it’s not the same sort of, ‘Oh my gosh! I’m playing with Ringo!’ Ha! Ha! Because we’ve become, like – we’re in

     

    our sixth year, now. If we go to a seventh year, we’ll haveoutlasted the Beatles!”

    During an interview a couple of years ago, Toto’s Steve “Luke” Lukather (who is also an All-Starr band member) commented about how cool it was to be able to travel the tour in a private Gulfstream jet. When I mentioned that to Rundgren, he added to the comment.

    “Uh, yeah! Ringo has a way that he does things – that he’s comfortable with. There are some things that are maybe a little strange or something like that when you’re in the band. But one of the things that definitely – one of his behaviors that we definitely appreciate is the fact that he insists on flying in a private aircraft whenever have to go any distance. He doesn’t like traveling in a bus. He doesn’t even like being in a car for that long. If it’s longer than, like, a two orthree-hour drive going somewhere, we’re going to wind up flying. Yeah, an incredibleperk!

    I said, “It kind of spoils you, huh?” and he replied:

    “Yeah, it does! It’s like after you’ve been on the road a month or two months flying in a private plane and the first time you ToddRundgren006go on a commercial jet, you’re kind of, like, pissed off, ha! ha! about all the stuff you have to go through just to get into your crappy seat and eat the crappy food.”

    At the time of our chat, I hadn’t yet received an advance copy of Rundgren’s soon-to-be-released CD, White Knight. I asked him to tell me about it.

    “I imagine what’s going out now is links. I don’t know if they’ve got actual hard copies of anything. The record label, Cleopatra, is very much into kind of the material artifact – the old fashioned productized music. They wanted to have an LP come out the same time as the CD and the electronic release happens. So, essentially, it’s the tail wagging the dog process like it was back in the seventies. Ha! Ha! We have to wait for the LP to get made and, then, everything else can happen. Ha! Ha! That, apparently, has the longest lead time – like, almost three months to get an LP made. There’s a lot of demand for vinyl. A lot of vinyl collectors now and a lot of the old plants went out of business. There’s just more demand than there is manufacturing.”

    And about the album itself?

    “Yeah, an album doesn’t have to necessarily have a singular theme beyond the fact that I’m working with a lot of other musicians. That’s a decision I made when Cleopatra approached me about making a record. I made most of all of my recent records myself out on the island because it’s too hard to call up somebody and have them come on over for a casual session. It requires a different process. But things have come along in recent years in terms of file sharing services and greater bandwidth available to people. It’s become a lot morecommonplace to do these kinds of collaborations where you send files back and forth and you’re not necessarily in the same room.

    “So, I thought I’d take advantage of that. I started calling up people who I wanted to work with. Whenever somebody agreed, I got the process started. They’re actually more potential collaborators thanappear on the final record just because at a certain point you have a deadline. You say, ‘Okay, this is when I have to deliver.’ If somebody doesn’t send in whatever it is – send in their contribution – then, it just doesn’t make it. But, it could possibly come out later. That’s the electronic part. But, as you may guess, by the range of different artists that are on there, the music is, likewise, eclectic. If there’s a musical theme in it at all, I was trying to recapture a little bit of a certain era where funk music and eighties synth-pop overlap. Kind of lush sounds of eighties synthesizers and the funky bass lines of Earth, Wind and Fire and that sort of thing. That’s the area that I’m trying to be rutilant of in a musical sense but the lyrics are any variety of things but certainly more contemporary than that.”

    ToddRundgren007With the music business in a wide bit of disarray, I asked Todd what he would do to fix the industry if he were made Global Music Czar – or did it even need any fixing.

    “Global Music Czar. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Well, people tend to think – and especially the public at large tends to think – that whatever they hear at the Grammy’s, that’s what’s happening in music. And, certainly, that’s what’s happening in the industrial partin music. A lot hasn’t changed. I have to say that, in recent years, most ofpop music has been dominated by female artists. The biggest artists in the world are like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. And their audience is all teenage girls. Ha! Ha! The music industry has been dominated, quite a bit, by whatever the spending habits are of adolescent girls. They’ve made Taylor Swift the most highly paid artist/musician in the world.

    “But there are other things going on that – if you go online and do a little research – you should find out that there are a lot of different ways to approach this; a lot of different levels of success and some of them don’t have anything to do with the traditional record business.

    “I know of an artist – his name is Bones – I know him because I knew him when he was born. Ha! Ha! He’s the son of the guy who does my merchandise – who also does their merchandise. They have never sold music. They have never made a record deal and has never asked for any money for the music that they post online. They make all their money doing concerts and selling merchandise. No records at all. They make minute and a half videos and now there’s probably three hundred of them up there. That’s how they popularize themselves – using the internet exclusively and, at this point, they’re making incredible amounts of money without anything that looks like a record label – without any of those issues. I don’t know what they’re doing about the publishing the songs that they write – if somebody covers one of their songs. I’m sure that there must be some sort of publishing arrangement. But they have no record label. They have no masters. No CDs. No video discs. Nothing of that sort of nature. Only t-shirts. They just sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in t-shirts. Ha! Ha!”

    With Rundgren remaining neck-deep in the music business, I asked him who was commanding his attention, musically, theseToddRundgren010 days.

    “Commanding? Ha! Ha! I happen to be in L.A., now. I’m on my way to rehearsals for my tour but I happen to be in L.A., now, because I am sitting in for a couple of nights with a young band named the Lemon Twigs who are playing Coachella tomorrow night and playing in Pomona tonight. They wanted to have me guest on a song so I will sit in with them in Pomona tonight which will give us an opportunity to work through the song. Then, tomorrow, the Coachella Festival I will sit in on the same song with them. And, then, I will move on to rehearsal for my own thing – thendoing some press and PR for a couple of days.”

    Todd Rundgren is known to be a great collaborator so I asked who would he like to collaborate with in the future.

    “Well, like I say, there’s still an outstanding list of collaborators that we never got anything – we didn’t get anything completed, yet. But things could still happen with some of them. A lot of times people have their own releases and that conflicts, in a way. They want to focus on what they’re doing. So, anything’s possible. But, at this point, I’m on the road. I’m trying to get a show mounted. Things are pretty hectic in that regard. Until we get into some sort of stride or routine with that, I’m going to stay focused on that.”

    When you step off the tour bus of life up at that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?

    “Well, if you don’t leave a legacy until you die, ha! ha!, that’s kinda sad, you know? If people can’t figure out what you’ve done until after you’re dead, that’s kind of – you really don’t want to have to go to that extreme to get remembered. I would rather be remembered while I’m still alive.

    ToddRundgren012“Musical success is something that comes and goes. You’re popular. People forget about you. Maybe you can come back. Maybe you can find an audience to sustain you for the rest of your career – however long that lasts. The thing that I always wanted to do was to become a father. It’s not like a big public thing that I talk about all the time but, for me personally, that’s the most important thing that I did was to become a father. That, I’ll be remembered through the kids that I have, I guess. Ha! Ha! And what they do in life and their kids, as well, because I’m just part of a lineage of fathers and sons, anyway.”

    And, that, my friends, is what makes Todd Rundgren a real man.

    Keep up with all things Todd at www.tri-i.com or here on Facebook. 

  • TOTO XIV

         

    TOTO XIV
    TOTO
    Label: Frontiers Music
    Release Date: March 24, 2015
    Review Date: March 22, 2015

     It’s been nine long years since TOTO has been in the studio to record new material. The wait has ended with TOTO XIV and fans will know from the opening strains of “Running Out Of Time” that it has been well worth the wait.

    Well crafted lyrics. Intricate compositions. Amazing musicianship. Strong vocals. All of this and more make TOTO XIV an album that will command the attention of fans and naysayers, alike.

    The aforementioned “Running Out Of Time” sets the tone for this magnificent album. It grabs you by the throat (okay, ears) and doesn’t let go until the ending sounds of “Great Expectations.”

    Lukather’s guitar work is as amazing and inspiring as ever. Joseph Williams’ voice is as strong and commanding like it’s never been before.  David Paich? All you can say is “WOW!” when hearing his work. Original bassist, David Hungate, is back on bass (with some help from Tal Wilkenfeld, Lee Sklar and Tim Lefebvre). Keith Carlock (Steely Dan and Sting) is masterful on the drums as is Lenny Castro on percussion.

    Few ensembles in the history of recorded music have individually or collectively had a larger imprint on pop culture than the members of Toto. As individuals, the band members can be heard on an astonishing 5000 albums that together amass a sales history of a HALF A BILLION albums. Amongst these recordings, NARAS applauded the performances with more than 200 Grammy nominations.

    With over 38 years together and thousands of credits and accolades to their names, Toto remains one of the top selling tour and recording acts in the world. They are the benchmark by which many artists base their sound and production, and they continue to transcend the standards set by the entire music community, being simply synonymous with musical credibility.

    Paich recently shared, "The repertoire is coming together so naturally it is as though we never took a break from creating as Toto in the studio. For the fans who have been waiting patiently and continually showing the band support and love over the last decade or so, this one's for you”.

    The band is not afraid to take their chances and stretch their songwriting abilities. Certainly this is an amazing album which encompasses flawlessly Rock, Pop, Jazz, Blues and Progressive. 

    In 2015, Toto will embark on a massive world tour where they will unveil some songs from their new album, share some deep tracks from past Toto albums, and perform all the hits their fans have come to love and expect.

    Deluxe edition comes in ecolbook format, including an expanded booklet featuring a 3,000 words essay with exclusive interviews, exclusive pictures and a bonus DVD including a documentary “Making of” the album.

    Box set edition includes deluxe edition cd/dvd, exclusive t-shirt (L size only), 2LP, poster and lithograph.

     

  • Transition

    transitioncoverTransition
    Steve Lukather
    Label: Mascot Label Group
    Released: January 22, 2013
    Reviewed: January 20, 2013

    Steve Lukather is a musician’s musician. In many an interview I’ve conducted, “Luke” is mentioned as being there at some point or another in many artists’ career. His mark has been left on work by artists from Ringo Starr to Michael Jackson and is over and above his memorable work with Toto and Los Lobotomys and seven solo albums.

    Well, until now. Transition marks Luke’s eighth strictly solo effort and what an incredible body of work it is! Since the release of his last solo album, All's Well That Ends Well, Luke has been enjoying current tenure in Ringo Starr's touring band, appearances across the globe in G3 with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and bringing Toto back to arenas overseas. The new album finds Lukather delivering that perfect balance of style, power, and imagination as he takes risks and challenges himself as he has for nearly four decades, as his career has gone from the studios of Los Angeles to the world’s biggest concert halls.

    Lukather shares, "I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, and now is a perfect time for me to take stock of that, which is part of what Transition is about." Over the previous decade, a series of trials including divorce, the death of his mother and business hassles had dampened his joy in music making — a passion that drove Lukather to excel since seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan as a seven-year-old growing up in San Fernando Valley. But today the guitar guru is happy, healthy and strongly reconnected to his muse, and the lushly expressive Transition, his second Mascot album, finds him at a creative pinnacle. Lukather offers, "I equate recordings to paintings and I wanted to make Transition a big, beautiful album with lots of fine details and shadings and colors. That’s what I do and what my favorite albums — Sgt. Pepper’s, Dark Side of the Moon, Electric Ladyland, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road — are all about. So if it’s a sin to make massive sounding records with huge production values, then I’m going to Hell.”

    Transition’s heavenly sonic architecture — erected with the help of such A-list musical friends as Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, superstar bassists Lee Sklar, Nathan East, John Pierce, and Tal Wilkenfeld, live band members Steve Weingart, Renee Jones, and Eric Valentine, along with mega-drummers Gregg Bissonette, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tos Panos, and Lukather’s longtime keyboard foil and co-writer / co-producer C.J. Vanston — actually weaves a tale of redemption. Beginning with the snarling rhythmic heartbeat of the cutting Judgment Day and the evil kiss-off blues Creep Motel, the album builds to the pivotal title track. Lukather reveals, "Transition is a turning point for the album and a turning point for me. As we were writing the songs, I was thinking about everything I’ve seen — all the people I’ve lost in my life, the great and the difficult experiences I’ve had, and how ultimately it was time to get it together and embrace things for what they are, because we’ve only got one life to live and we’ve got to make the most of it.”

    Transition finds Lukather singing better than he ever has. He shares, "I’ve been working really hard on my vocals. For me, these days it’s all about the song and the performance. I’m not interested in being the fastest gun in the West. I want to make beautiful music that means something." Transition was recorded over a 10-month period during breaks in Lukather’s juggernaut 2012 touring schedule, which included dates with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, the reunited Toto, the guitar-riffic G3 tour with Satriani and Vai, and Ringo Starr.

    He reflects, "Honestly, playing with Ringo and Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and my high school friends in Toto helped make this the best year of my life. Getting the call from Ringo was a childhood fantasy realized. I play music because of the Beatles, and to be standing on stage playing a Beatles song while I look back at the drum kit and see Ringo… unbelievable! He’s such a wise, funny and gracious man.” Lukather has also worked with George Harrison and Paul McCartney — just part of a historic resume that began when he was in his teens, playing recording sessions in LA and learning about life on the road with Boz Scaggs after Scaggs’ landmark album Silk Degrees.

    A five-time Grammy Winner and member of the Musicians Hall of Fame, Lukather has worked with an A-list of fellow guitar giants: Eddie Van Halen, Robben Ford, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Slash, Zakk Wylde, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Joe Bonamassa among them. He’s also co-led Toto with fellow founder David Paich through every twist of the band’s platinum lined history while playing on albums by Michael Jackson, Warren Zevon, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Miles Davis, Roger Waters, Cheap Trick and other rock and pop royalty. And he’s done all that while writing hits for the Tubes and George Benson, plus maintaining a parallel solo career of his own that began with his 1988 solo debut Lukather.

    Seven solo albums later, Lukather reflects: “I’d like to say this is the best album I’ve ever made, but that’s a cliché. But I do think I’ve realized my goal of moving forward, so let me say that Transition is possibly the best reflection of who I am in 2012.”

    Written by Randy Patterson
    All rights reserved.

Featured Photo

 

 

george lynch

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is of Dokken's George Lynch! Check out more of Rob's work at RobShanahan.com!

 

 

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