Hey David, I've been trying to get through but we've had some power problems today.
Where are you calling from?
How about you? LA right?
Yes, you're down under and I'm up above here. I'm in LA and it's a gorgeous day here.
Fantastic. Here it's blowing a gale here! How are things with the band then?
Things are really good. The band's been touring and we've been playing around the United States doing Vegas and there's a lot of casinos we've been playing in different places.
We're going to be playing in Caribbean and we're going down to Costa Rica and Mexico City here in April. The band is doing really well.
We're taking a little bit of time off here and getting ready to promote our new album, which is 'Mindfields'. We've gone on a few shows like Donny and Marie Osmond and Rosie O Donnell and things like that you know. So we're just kind of entering a new phase here gearing up here to promote this new record.
The way the release dates for the record are kind of speared across the world, this album is going to be around for a fair while isn't it.
Yeah it's funny how they stagger dates, we end up promoting first in the States and then it comes back here to the States. It always seems to get released here later. But that's the business you know.
It looked at one stage like the album might not even get released in the States. Was that a possibility?
Yeah that was because we were at the end of our 20-year contract here so we were under some negotiations to see if we were going to re-sign with them (Sony). I don't think we are going to re-sign with Sony. I think we are going to start our own Record Company - Total Records. Sell our records on the Internet. So these negotiations have delayed our release here. We finally got released on Sony Legacy here and I guess we are just at the beginning stage of promoting.
So you seriously think you might have your own Record Label?
Very possible. Especially in the way that the world is changing now. With old groups, the older rock n roll groups like ours that don't really get on MTV or radio, it's a real alternative now with the Internet set up where you can sell records, you can be on Internet radio and you can even do live performances.
Well it's funny you should say that because I'm interviewing you for my web site and a mate of mine has a Toto Web site where he has set up his own Toto live radio.
Yeah exactly. It's a great alternative medium you know.
Do you enjoy the net yourself?
I do very much. I was a little slow getting on board here but once I got into it I found myself able to correspond with a lot of people easier than I can contact people on the telephone.
I'm much more in communication with people. I find its part of my life right now. I've used a computer for quite along time as a word processor to store lyrics since around 1980 when they first came out, the IBM's.
So they've been part of my life for a long time. Now I have an 11-year-old daughter I end up searching the web to help her to do her homework projects, looking up historical figures and biographies and stuff.
What sites do you enjoy looking at?
What sites? When it comes down to business, I'm looking up stocks on the stock market; I guess it comes down to whatever I'd normally pick up a phone for, instead of looking in the yellow pages. I don't spend hours and hours on it.
Do you check out the Toto sites out there?
Yeah, I have done that. It's very cool.
There's a stack of them isn't there?
Yeah there's a bunch of them, it's cool. You know we have great people that have done our web site. We have very devoted people that are really loyal and do a great job graphically.
What does it make you feel like seeing all these people dedicating sites to you?
It's amazing. I'm flattered. It's great for my daughter who sees Daddy on the web site. It's a great promotional thing. It kinda validates the work that you have done.
Tell us a bit more about 'Mindfields'. I was talking to Steve (Lukather) just before it came out and he was really jazzed about it coming out. Have you been happy with the response?
I think the response could be better. So far we've done pretty well with it in Europe. We've done over 500,000 units. I think this is one of the best Toto albums we have done with Bobby Kimball back in the group.
I can listen to this record and say to myself this is one of the best we've done. To me it's like the follow up to Toto 4 that everybody has been waiting for.
That's how I would describe it. I think it's got a little bit of everything on it.
I think it sounds great and the performances are fantastic. I think it's a great album even though I do try to be objective about it.
Even if I wasn't in the band I think I could put the album on and like it a lot. There's a lot of good playing and a lot of good material on there.
From the 13 tracks on the album, there is quite a diversity amongst them.
Yeah we're playing a little bit of 'tipping our hats' to The Who and The Stones on there being the end of the millennium. We were paying tribute to them and maybe showing the younger bands how you are really supposed to imitate them. (Laughs)
Absolutely. How did the recording with Bobby Kimball go?
It's been really very good. Bobby is singing better than ever and it's been so much fun to do live work. We toured so little in the early 80's because it was so hard without the technology to duplicate a lot of the stuff with a band like Toto. Now with samplers, gear and synthesizers we can go out and make it sound like the record.
That's what has taken so long. Toto in the last 8 years has toured more than we did in the last 18 years. Technology has made it possible for us to sound like our records do on the road.
Well, I have got your 'Livefields' album here and there's one big fat sound on that too!
Yeah, well that's us playing live.
No over dubs on there?
No overdubs on there. There's a little bit of editing on some of the solo spots, which went a little bit longer but no over dubs. We didn't go re-patching any of that stuff.
I think we are one of the kick arse rock 'n roll bands still around that play good.
I mean I love bands like AC/DC, The Rolling Stones that get out there and rock.
So it's been good with Bobby then?
Excellent, just like old times. It's almost like he never left the band. It's funny we'd been apart for 15 years and we got up in my rehearsal place here in my house and we started rehearsing and it felt like the first time we got together 20 years ago. We felt like 18 year olds running around playing rock n roll.
Will he be involved in future plans do you think?
I definitely think so. I think this is the unit that's going to stay like this for awhile. I think we are going to make more sporadic albums. I think we are going to take our time. Maybe put out some box sets. Take a little more time than ' here's 4 months to make the record .'
Music changes so much I think we also need to reinvent ourselves in the new millennium. So we can be part of the changing sounds of music.
So you think there might be a new sound next time?
Yeah I definitely think so. I think we'll add to what our sound is. I want it to sound fresh. I want to keep our old fans but add new ones.
I'd like to hear that. I know there are a couple of bands or artists doing there own web sites and record label thing and in there plans they are releasing unreleased tunes that have been sitting around on masters. Has Toto got a fair supply?
Yeah we have a nice supply of that. We intend to do the same kind of thing. There might be some different versions of songs on the album that's out or a couple of extra cuts that didn't go on the record.
I think it's a good way to fill in the gap between studio releases isn't it?
It is and I think fans are interested. Like what didn't they put on that album.
I bet you have an absolute vault full of live recordings.
We have hundreds of tapes that we've recorded. As an example Toto XX was all the songs that were left off the records in the old days of vinyl.
You only put so much on vinyl.
We over cut a lot. I mean there's probably 5 or 6 songs we left off each album.
Are you still playing a lot of session stuff?
Well there are not too many sessions in LA. Most of it happens in Nashville. All the people from Los Angeles, all the Nashville sounds that you hear, are a lot of guys from LA that moved there.
Our ex-bass player David moved there. A lot of people are down there now. Dann Huff, he's taken over Nashville. Mutt Lange is there and he's the biggest thing there. I do a couple of sessions now and then.
I work with Don Henley once in a while. I work with Michael Jackson every once in a while. A lot of my time is spent playing the stuff myself in my own studio.
I like to do the one man band thing where I play the bass, drums, guitar and keyboards.
Is there a favourite session that you have had? Is there one that stands out as the best?
Well the ones I did with Steely Dan when I played on 'Black Friday' on the 'Katy Lied' album stand out. They were some great sessions ..
I think when I played on 'We are the World'. That was pretty fantastic.
Working with Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson on a duet 'The Girl Is Mine'. That was a very magical night. Even though I wished it could have been a better piece of material, it was still great working with those two people.
Yes that would have been amazing. What was it like being crammed in a room with all those egos on that song?
Well I was star struck I had to pinch myself I thought I was dreaming.
I wanted to get my autograph book out. I mean you have Paul McCartney there with FBI guys. In between all the takes there is me, Lukather, Jeff Porcaro and we're jamming like on Stevie Wonder songs with Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson!
Singing these Stevie Wonder songs. Linda is about two inches away snapping all these photographs of me and everybody else in the room. It was one of the most exciting and memorable moments of my life.
Tell me there's a track on the Japanese 'Mindfields' that I've got here called 'The Spanish Steps of Rome'. Great song.
Thank you very much, I'm very proud of that song. It's one of the better songs that I've written. I'm very happy with the way it turned out.
That's one of the few times you've been on the lead vocal isn't it?
Yeah. I did 'Africa' and stuff but for some reason my band they always seem to be editing me off these records for some reason. Yeah but I ended up sneaking on this record here. I'm glad that you noticed that cut there you know. It truly represents the whole Toto when you can hear all three of us singing. To me it's like even though John Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison sang Ringo Starr always had one song on there. That's what made The Beatles you know.
Did you say your song made the American cut of the album?
Yeah it did. I realized that I wanted it on here. I wanted to be part of the sound.
Did you drop a track for that?
No we just added it on there.
There's 14 tracks for the U.S then?
What about a full solo album?
Well people keeps asking me that and I always tell them the same thing. Toto albums are my solo albums. If I were to do a solo album there would be things like 'Spanish Steps' on there. I'd be getting into my Mark Knopfler imitation.
I have these alias identities I wanna write under.
On a separate subject - I was absolutely amazed at the video clip for 'Melanie'. Oh yeah.
How much did that cost?
Believe it or not it was very cheap. Columbia/CBS paid for that Sony ran to under $200,000. It's really like a $500,000 video but they made it for under $200,000. We were really happy with that. I mean people do make today 2 - 3 million-dollar videos. We are going to release 'Melanie' here in the States.
MTV is a dead dog as far as helping anyone but is VH1 helping anyone?
Well VH1, I guess they all do, have this stigma about people over 30. They don't play too many artists over the age of 30. I mean Santana just had their thing but it's hard to break through. It's kind of a silly thing. It's like they are prejudiced and anti over 30 or 40 years old. Even though there the token Eric Clapton thing every once in a while. Anyway that's my excuse.
I've got my fingers crossed so there's always hope. Maybe with that kind of video it could be interesting.
I thought it was a fantastic clip.
I called my buddy before the call and asked him if there was anything he'd like me to ask you cause he's a big fan and he said he'd heard you were called the Uncle Fester of rock n roll.
Uncle Fester of rock 'n roll. Yes. You know who Uncle Fester is?
He's from the Addams Family. Lukather has many names for me. It's usually Bob Dylan's grandmother or Uncle Fester. It's boring now cause he calls me by my real name. It's almost scary you know. These are all private and inside jokes that are funny .he would appreciate that.
Steve's a bit of a clown isn't he?
Steve is a 6 year old inside of a 40 year olds body. 6 year old mind. He refuses to grow up.
That must be good for the band though.
It certainly is.
How do you keep up with him on stage?
It's very difficult, You basically don't try to out do him on stage. Let him have the mic and I just stay on his good side. I don't want to get on his bad side cause he's very good at putting you away on stage. He's got a great sense of humour, I love him.
Do you all play off each other when you're son stage?
Definitely. It's just like a big fraternity, a big boy's club. We all grew up together and we all know each other so there are no egos. Each person has his own little specialty. Everybody makes space for everybody. It's just like a big gang.
A well-oiled machine these days?
How's Simon doing on drums?
Simon's wonderful. He's very fussy about his breakfast though if you go to hotels. He always has the manager down in the lobby complaining. His drums are so big we call them the HMS Philips. It's like the Titanic you know. He's a monster. He's a world class drummer. They don't get too much better.
How far did you have to look to find a replacement?
Well I really wasn't looking for a replacement. It was like you couldn't replace John Bonham in Led Zeppelin. So I thought here's how I am going to get out of it. There were two side to it. If I had to have a replacement I didn't want to get another session guy who tried to sound like Jeff.
I wanted to get someone who was a killer drummer who could be himself. There was only one guy - Simon Phillips - and I was hoping that he would be so busy that he would turn it down. So we could disappear with dignity and say we can't go on anymore. Simon stopped what he was doing and said I'd love to do it.
He played all the tracks perfectly and it was undeniable. It was like we have to go on.
So you really thought about calling it a day?
Yeah. It's hard to replace Jeff Poracoro. To replace an irreplaceable member. But Phillips has played on Pete Townsend's solo albums and played with Jagger on the road. He was like the Porcaro of London.
Well it's good to see you guys still going.
Oh thanks man, Thanks for the support down there. We'd love to come back down and play. We had a blast in Sydney and Melbourne last time.
I have another buddy that saw you in '94. He said you played a club and it was a 3 hour gig.
We were rockin'.
What are the chances of you getting back down here?
Hopefully sometime next year.
I talked to Steve about this and he said 'Fuck man, get Sony to pay for it'.
Unless we go to Japan and come over after we leave Japan it's almost financially impossible for us to come down there. When we go back to Japan maybe we'll sneak down there.
I want to mention one other thing I'm doing separately from Toto Dec 5th I play in Bombay with Shankar we're opening for Peter Gabriel under the gate of 'India' there. It's like a big thing for charity. Mike and Steve Porcaro are going to fly down for a couple of gigs. I'm really excited about this. When you get into meaningful concerts that give something back to the planet and people it's great.
That'll be some gig. I hope you do get back here sometime
Thank you call again!