Dennis DeYoung: Four Decades Of Influence.
The elder statesman of rock n roll is Dennis DeYoung. This man has seen everything and when he speaks - many listen. Dennis is always a joy to speak to and once again shares his wisdom in an interview that covers his new solo album, the record industry as it stands today and as always, a little reflection on Styx. Over to Dennis...
Good morning, or good afternoon to you.
It's good night, but it's close enough.
How are you Dennis?
I'm good, and yourself?
I'm doing pretty well thank you. It's good to be talking to you again.
Now is it winter down there?
I'm sorry to say it is.
How cold is it?
It's not too bad, it'll get up to about the mid-fifties today.
Well that's spring here. (laughter)
That's our winter so that's pretty cold for us but not for you.
Not for us, no, we could lose another fifty degrees and that would be cold. But what're you gonna do? We're stupid, we don't know any better. (laughter)
Move to Florida.
Oh, I'll stay where I am. I like Chicago. All my friends and family are here, so that's what's important.
I'm looking forward to seeing the place in October, next month. I've never been to Chicago.
Are you gonna spend any time in Chicago or are you gonna be in South Bend?
I'm gonna spend a few days in Chicago before hand.
You'll love it.
I'm looking forward to it.
You'll love it. Where are you staying, do you know yet?
I don't really know yet to be honest.
OK, you want to stay, if you can, it would be nice to stay north of the river if you could. It doesn't really mean that much, but that would be best.
Ok, I'll keep that in mind.
So who's this, I don't like to call you an old guy but
Oh you can call me an old guy. I'm officially an old fart, it's all right. (laughter)
I was going to say, as a great term of endearment of course - but who is this old guy with a #1 single?
For a minute I thought it was Roger Whittaker. (laughter)
But then I flashed and realized it was me. Here's something that'll put it in perspective for you Andrew. I was riding in my car and turned the radio on and they said if Keith Moon would have lived he would have been 60 today. So I thought, there ya go, that'll put it in perspective for you. I'm here though, so that's OK.
And you're bigger and better than ever.
Well, thank you for that. You know I'm doing what I've always done Andrew. I'm making it up as I go along. (laughter)
I have no idea, I'm clueless, but I make it up as I go along, and what I do is pretend that I know what I'm doing. Then people around me go, 'Hey he knows, he knows.' (laughter) But it's just a grand illusion Andrew, a big act. (laughter)
Looking from the outside there does seem to have been some concerted move by yourself in the Canadian market and it's obviously paying off well. Where did that first start?
I think it probably has something to do with an album called Equinox and a song called Suite Madame Blue which has somehow managed to be popular throughout Canada but in particular in the province of Quebec. Suite Madame Blue is still in the most recent survey the number three most popular rock song of all time.
So I think it has something to do with that, but more importantly, I think it has to do with my going on a TV show in Quebec called Star Academy. Then the next morning I spent two hours on Montreal's biggest classic rock station Chom. Those two things together were like a sort of perfect storm. A lot of people who are in what I would consider my audience still like music.
People like those Styx songs but they're not as active as far as paying attention to what's going on in the music scene. And I think a lot of them were watching me on TV and I did this show where I was on TV for approximately 14 minutes which is a long time on television. It's one of the highest rated shows in the whole province and I sang with these four young people, and people just really connected with me.
It was a miraculous thing because we, Ken and I, my business partner, my son always says don't say it's your partner because it sounds gay, not that there's anything wrong with that (laughter), but we had been attempting to get up into Canada for a couple years and didn't really have a great deal of success. So we took a chance up there ourselves with a first time promoter and put a show on sale hoping we'd do well.
You know, it's a 3000 seat hall and we just hoped we'd do OK. And we went on to sell five. Then we came back the next year and sold two more. We just had an incredible amount of success in Quebec and in Canada as well, but primarily Quebec.
And listen, if I knew exactly how to duplicate it I'd be down in Australia selling the shows. They'd be calling me the king of Sydney. I would be the Earl of Melbourne. I would be the Duke of the Outback. (laughter) I would be Captain Kangaroo.
I think that position's vacant.
And make sure this gets in the interview would you? (laughter)
Oh absolutely. And you were on Canadian Idol as well. I saw those episodes.
I was asked to be on Canadian Idol and that went well. I was on with Roger Hodgson of Supertramp.
That was quite an interesting pairing.
It was. We spent a couple days together and got to know each other and now because of that he owes me money for some bad gambling debts. (laughter)
Very cool! So you've obviously embraced the Canadian thing with the late single from this album.
Well because of the success of the Double Live up there going platinum and the DVD going triple platinum, Andrew, you know more than anybody how truly difficult that is anywhere in the world.
Because for a lot of the acts that you promote and have on your website you know that to have a platinum album in Albania would be wonderful. I mean it's just very difficult to do it for bands of a certain age and certainly for artists of a certain age it's very difficult to have that happen. So when I tell people that they say 'Wow that's great,' and I say no that's a miracle. Here's what great is. Do you wanna know what great is?
Having a record deal.
That's a start isn't it?
That's great. If you get airplay, that's amazing. Then to have a hit record, that really is miraculous. Because of that, my record company, DEP Universal is a French company, and I asked them if I could do a duet. I'd like to tip my hat to the good people of Quebec, the Quebecois, for all their support. I wanted to sing something that I had written in English and in French and Eric LaPointe was suggested. I thought it would be an interesting match in that we're so completely different.
You know, both as human beings and as singers. And I said, if it works it'll really be pretty cool and if it doesn't we're really gonna smell the joint up. (laughter) But you know, it worked. And I honest to God, when I wrote A Hundred Years From Now Andrew, I never for one second thought it was gonna be, well first of all I never thought it would get a single, that's the truth. I knew they gave me $175 to make a record (just kidding)
(laughter) but I never thought there would be an actual single because, you again know Andrew, how do people my age get singles released?
Well they don't.
They don't. So I never thought about it but when I wrote A Hundred Years From Now I never thought for a minute it would ever be a single. Why we ended up singing it together is because I thought it was the song of all the songs on my album that Eric and I would sound good together on. That's why it got chosen and the fact it has become a #1 record it's a surprise to me.
Tim and my wife both encouraged me for the first time in my solo career, to go back to my roots and kind of be the guy that I was in Styx. That's something that I really avoided during my solo career. I really tried, I guess, not to go to that bag of tricks. You know what I mean?
Why is that, do you think?
I think, no I know why it is. Not to sound corny, but I thought it was sacred.
I thought it belonged to us as a collective. I thought it was something that was special and that if I was to go out on my own I had to find my own way and carve my own niche. If you listen to any one of my solo albums I defy anyone to say I was trying to be Styx on those albums. I shouldn't say trying to be Styx, but trying to sound like that. I went in another direction for myself musically trying to carve out something new.
Yeah, and that's great. That's what a solo record is all about.
I think it is. Otherwise you should be in the doggone band shouldn't you?
So does that answer your question?
Yes it does. But this time around
a little change of tact then
Look, after 1999 it's clear to me that I'm not in Styx anymore. So I felt I could do musically whatever felt comfortable to me. So I dragged out the old OB-8. When I was in the band the songs I wrote were by and large really written for the people in the band. By which I mean, for the talents that we had in the band, I wrote my songs specifically for the people that I knew were going to sing and play them. So on my solo album I didn't do that. I didn't even think like that, I just wrote songs. Now on this record, on some of the songs I thought to myself, well what would I do if I was still writing like that? And so that's what happened on my summer vacation. (laughter)
It sounds very natural. I mean the record just sounds, it just sounds like Dennis DeYoung.
Well I tried to sound like Tiny Tim and I ordered thong underwear and they haven't come in yet. (laughter)
Over what period did you write these songs Dennis?
I would say the majority of them were written, from the time I found out that the Double Live had broken in Canada, probably within the last year and a half.
Oh Ok, so they're all very fresh.
Yeah, there's a couple of them that were written prior, Breathe Again and, let me think. I think Breathe Again might be the only one that I've had for a while. I did have another six or seven songs that were written but in the final analysis I thought that these were the group of songs that fit together the best. Because as a writer I never constrain myself, Andrew, to a particular style.
I sit at the piano and whatever song that comes out, I record it. That's always been my philosophy, even when I was in the band. My philosophy from day one has been that I don't really care about style. I don't care if you wear short hair, long hair, you wear bell bottoms or you have tattoos and a ring in your nose. I think that's all fashion of the moment. The only thing I ever really cared about is, is this a great song, does this song really move me. I don't care what style it is. I was always, first and foremost, focused on the song. So when I did my record I felt the same way. I did my songs on the record and it doesn't matter what style they are.
And what you get on the record is a little bit of a cross section of your solo work and your style. There're some songs on there that people say are more Styx than Styx are these days.
Well, um, I'm not sure what that means, but I'm gonna take it as a compliment.
It was a complement, yeah.
I didn't think you said that but when people say that I think to me Styx was so broad. I would say to people 'What do Renegade, Babe and Mr. Roboto have in common?' Nothing do they?
No not really.
No, it's just that they were done by the same band. That's my point. So when people do say that it sounds more like Styx I say well what are they talking about, the song, the arrangement, the production? Are they talking about the harmonies? I'm never sure what that means because Babe certainly doesn't sound like Mr.Roboto or The Grand Illusion to me. They're all very different and yet to me they're all part and parcel to Styx. When they say that about this album I think of it in a positive way because I think they're probably Styx fans.
Exactly, and the record appeals to them because they can hear the classic elements of what makes Styx a great band and what makes a great song.
I have this philosophy that, generally speaking because there's always an exception to the rule, but I believe that by and large the first album that introduces you to a band, that one that always has a special place in your heart. And when an artist or a band veers off from that, what you originally liked about somebody, it can come as a shock to you and initially you can be put off by it. Sometimes you grow with the artist and say 'Oh I can go in that direction with them', and sometimes you say 'I can't get over my first kiss. I want those lips that kissed me the first time and any other lips are not as good'. So that is always the dilemma of any musician. How do I, after I've established myself and gotten myself, God willing, an audience, how do I take them on my journey?
Considering the diversity of your solo material and Styx over the years, you've been pretty fortunate to get away with quite a lot.
I think there are those who believed at the time that certain styles of music would ultimately hurt us. And I think one thing that Styx proved is that we were able to record a straight ballad and come back and have another triple platinum album. We were able to do different styles of music and our audience would take that journey with us. Most of the, like I said, not all of them because as you mature and change, because good Lord knows I've been making records for over 30 years.
And if you speak to your audience who's gone on this journey with you, you have to say to them 'I dare you to be like you were when you were 25 years old'. You're not the same person and neither are the people who are making the records that you love. They're not the same person and it's very difficult to go back to a particular period of time and try to duplicate that. What you end up with is a pale imitation.
Andrew, when I was writing Come Sail Away for instance or The Grand Illusion or you name it, Lady back in 1972 when I wrote it, guess what I wasn't trying to do. I wasn't trying to write Lady. I wasn't trying to write Come Sail Away. Dammit I was just trying to write a good song. So if you are 30 years down the line and people say 'I liked you when you were like this', what are you going to do? Are you going to say 'Oh I see what they mean. They want me to be that'. But you can't because when you were inventing it you weren't trying to be it, you were just doing it.
So today you've just got to be the same.
I've just gotta do
. I'm talking about writing songs, what you can do is you can use elements of your own style in the creation of the records. But when it comes to the songwriting you've just got to sit down and hope that you can write a brand new song that people will love. You can't go back and take a snapshot of your history and expect it to be anything more than a Polaroid. It just isn't gonna be the same.
Now you have artists all the time that you promote that face this dilemma.
Yeah absolutely and sometimes the fans want to come along for the ride and sometimes they don't.
You know, I only have one thing to offer people Andrew. My point of view, that's it. I don't have anything else. I got nothing else. That's what I offer them and this record to me is my point of view, how I feel at this point in my life.
Well it seems to have hit the target. I don't think I've heard anything but kind words about the record and I certainly think it's a great record.
Well I appreciate that. On this record, I recorded almost 70% of this record myself. I engineered it, something I'd never done. Mainly because I have some equipment in my house that's specific. I recorded this on Radar 48 classic. It's not Pro Tools. I'm not a big fan of the way Pro Tools sounds. There goes my endorsement. (laughter) So I recorded on Radar 48 which I really like. And I have a Euphonics 2000 board which not a lot of engineers know how to use. So I became hostage to waiting for the couple engineers in Chicago who know this gear to work with them. So many times I was just in the studio all by myself. I recorded my keyboards, I recorded my vocals and the vocals of the people who sang with me. And I actually recorded some electric guitar. It was pretty wild. At the end of the sessions I also got to clean up all the pizza boxes and coffee cups as well. (laughter) That was a pain in the ass.
Come on, don't tell me you don't have some little personal assistant to take care of all that for you.
I have no such thing, (laughter) I have no personal assistant that I know of, other than my wife.
If she's the same as my wife she wouldn't touch any of my mess.
No she told me to go down in the basement and try to earn a living. (laughter)
Just to review a couple of the songs on the album, I really enjoyed the lyrics to I Don't Believe in Anything.
I knew you would. I wrote that especially for you.
That's very kind of you.
'Cause I know you don't believe in anything either.
Well you tell me about it.
It's a very realistic snapshot of what's going on out there isn't it?
Well it is from my point of view. One thing I didn't put on the album is that no time or pitch correction was used in the recording of this record. I really abhor
I believe that if you can't go into a recording studio with multi-track recording at the state it is today and sing it line by line right, if you can't even do that I think you'd better go get another job.
I couldn't agree more but some people are getting away with murder it seems.
Well I know people who are using this crap live.
Exactly, that's even worse. I can't even stomach the thought of that.
A live performance is a moment in time and if you can't play in time, sing in time you probably shouldn't be making records. That's just my opinion.
Something that really upsets me is that we're going to try and teach the kids of today what real performance in music is all about
and then the biggest thing in the world right now is this High School Musical from Disney.
And I'm watching their live concert special and there's not one note of it live.
You know what's aggravating is, any rock band, any rock band, and I mean this so let me say this again any rock band that's using prerecorded vocals, you know, even in harmony, bite me.
Let me say that again, bite me you pussies. (laughter)
You've gotta go out there and do it Andrew. That's what I believe. That's why you are what you are, because you can do it and if you can't, sit down. If you can then do it and if people still come and see you God bless you. I've heard, as Robert DeNiro said, 'I heard tings'. 'I heard tings' about people that I used to admire and I thought well
.and I've played with a couple that I thought, wait a minute, those background vocals are in that guy's keyboard. I said that just ain't right. I'm sorry, I don't know how you feel about it but I think you agree.
I feel very strongly with you there Dennis. I see people put out so called live records and I'm thinking there is just no atmosphere on this record whatsoever.
You want me to tell you why that is?
Well it's doctored up in the studio isn't it.
Wait a minute, I'm gonna tell you why that is. In the old days, so said the old fart, (laughter) records were made in recording studios. You went to a place that had its own board, its own speakers, its own room. It had a room Andrew. You sat in a room, you put mics up and stuff, and the room was part of the way your record sounded.
Now with the advent of Pro Tools everything is recorded in the room of Pro Tools. So, when you pitch correct, when you time correct, when everybody uses the same delays, the same plug-ins, the same reverbs, Ok, there is a homogeneity that develops.
The records tend to all sound the same. That's what it is. It's more to do with people doing a lot of work in their homes like I did. I did a lot of the recording in my home, obviously you track the drums somewhere else. But when you go in there and you sample drums and everybody's got the same samples and they process them through the same processors, Ok we'll put them in this room, you tend to get records that sound samey. That's what I think most of this is about because Pro Tools really is an aphrodisiac; it will suck you in like the sirens. It's so fast, so quick, so malleable, easy to manipulate. You know what I'm saying?
So that's why records tend to sound a great deal alike now. It's because there is no real place or location that's carrying over in character. Now having said that, I'm not putting down music of today because I hear tons of things on the radio, I buy CDs, there's a lot of things I like. I still hear a lot of great songs and there are things I really enjoy. I'm not putting down the artists because there're still talented people making records everyday everywhere in the world right now.
It's just that the technology has come to a place where, not only has it made the records sound the same, but obviously it has sounded the death knell for the music business as it has been known for the last 75 to 100 years.
Yes and it's done it pretty dramatically and pretty suddenly.
Oh, I'm telling you. I said it the minute I saw it. I told everybody who would listen to me. I've seen a lot of journalists who were writing about it in the beginning saying 'oh this is the democratization of music'. This is the best thing that could happen to those record company people, those bastards, right? And I said boys, you don't know what you're talking about. You're misguided, stop saying that because what this is is the death knell of the music business as we know it. And it's not gonna be, I don't believe, unless something happens that I don't foresee, and that's entirely possible, a benefit ultimately to people who want to make music for a living.
That's what I believe and I believe it 100%. I know there's a great deal of blame to the record companies. I've never been a big fan of record companies. I've been ripped off, I've been mutilated and gouged by record companies and let down like everybody else. But they provided a filter Andrew. They provided an editorial process. Not everybody who owns some digital recorder and a keyboard or guitar should be making records. (laughter)
No, it's true. It's true, so what it becomes is more democratic certainly but it's more like socialism that democracy. It's run rampant and record companies, radio stations they provided a filter. They would make mistakes, but they would say 'this is crap, we don't need this crap'. There is no more of that anymore, or very little of it. And I don't care what you say about record companies, 'oh their prices were too high', 'oh CDs don't cost that much to make'. Oh OK, right, I'm not gonna argue with you but Andrew you can say this to yourself, nobody pays for things they can get for free. And I'm gonna say it again, nobody pays for things they get for free. If the record companies went from $15 a CD to $5, free is still cheaper.
That's pretty hard to argue with.
That's right and technology has allowed you to duplicate things digitally. Although really all this MP3
am I going off on a tangent here?
Oh no, please continue. It's of great interest to me.
I kill myself in the studio trying to make the best sonic recording I know how. Now whether you like what I do or I don't do that's up to you, but I really pay attention to it. I make it sound to the best of my ability the way I want it to. And then when I'm done somebody says 'put that in an MP3 and send it to me, I wanna play it for someone', and I'm like, you must be kidding me. That is the worst sounding crap. You know the way they compress stuff to get it smaller on files? Everything you spend your time and energy doing is lost. I shouldn't say everything, but a lot. I feel like I'm on a rant here. Am I Dennis DeYoung or Dennis Miller? (laughter)
You're the Dennis Miller of the music business.
Yeah I'm gonna grow a beard and start using really big words. (laughter)
You know, this stuff has to be said though.
Here's what I think. The next time somebody on the internet sells a million CDs give me a call.
It's not gonna happen is it?
Give me a call and let me know. I want to know then I'll shut up and go 'OK fine'. And the truth of the matter is, I don't care if somebody wants to download one song off my record. I think that's a good idea. They used to be called singles and they were quite popular when I was growing up. People should not have to buy the whole album to get the song. If the record companies made a mistake it was really to demean the importance of the single. If they only want the song and they want to shell out $.99 let 'em have it. I want people to like my music. They don't have to pay $15 for it, or whatever.
You're right in that a good album would have 3 or 4 singles on it and you'd go wow, if I've heard 3 or 4 good songs, there's no risk is there? People would buy the record. Now you hear one song and you've got no clue whether the rest of the album is crap or not. People aren't willing to take a risk.
Yeah, I think you're right about that. I came from the era that directly followed the Beatles. And all of us guys that grew up in that period, we wanted to make Sgt Pepper. We wanted to make Revolver. We wanted to make Rubber Soul, right? We wanted to make an album where you would be blinded by the brilliance. So we aspired to do it. We didn't get there but that's what we were trying to do. We wanted to be considered great purveyors of album making.
Well Styx, more so than most bands, really did create an album rather than a set of songs.
Well we did the best we could. We were on the road all the time so every twelve months we had to come up with eight new songs and that was our life for almost ten years. We did album, tour, album tour so the thing that I respect the most about Styx was we had consistency. We made a string of albums that were, in my humble opinion, pretty good.
Damned right, absolutely.
And that's the deal. To put a string of them together, that's the hardest part. People say the hardest thing to do is to have a hit record and I say yeah, you have the first hit record and then what. You've got to have a second act, a third act, and a fourth act. That's when it gets to be tough.
And how many bands today will be still around in twenty years?
I don't know but I think that could have as much to do with the fact that music is just not central to people's lives like it was when I started making records. I was fortunate to live in what I believe was the greatest time to be a musician in the history of mankind.
You're probably right.
Believe it. There were no video games, there was no internet, there weren't two thousand magazines. There weren't all the distractions that modern culture inundates. We are entertaining ourselves to death. Music now competes with that so the attention span of the public is less than when our audience was growing up. We were central to their life. They looked to us to provide clues to the universe. We had none, but we tried. (laughter) We were as clueless about the universe as everybody else, which was the point of the Grand Illusion album. I was saying to people, 'hey look up here this is a grand illusion, we're clueless'. You know what I'm saying? This is entertainment. Don't think we know something that you don't know. We're just like you. In those days young people really made music central to their lives. Not as much today.
You're absolutely right. You couldn't have stated it more clearly.
We made four records on Wooden Nickel. Only one of them, in my humble opinion was really good. That's my opinion. I know it pisses off Styx fans when I say this because they like things but if you're asking me my opinion there's only one. In this day and age we would never have had the chance to develop and get good. I think we were lucky. In this day and age we'd have been chewed up and spit out. There would have never been a Grand Illusion. It never would have gotten to that. We had good fortune in that we had a chance to work out the crap before people got a good look at us. Here's an analogy. You know the first time you see a pilot for a TV series, right?
You've got an actor and an actress on there and they look OK. By the time it's the third season man they look great. They look like different people. They've got the right hair, the right makeup and everything is perfected.
Absolutely, they develop it don't they?
When we started out we were doing the best we could but we could have used some Proactive. We could have used some Clearasil. You know we had some blemishes. (laughter)
I wonder how many bands today would be capable of recording a classic album but will never get the chance.
Lots, and that's what wrong with the internet. That's what's wrong, listen, music has been devalued. Here's the thing that made it so clear to me. When I did my mastering for my record, which is, for all of you people who don't know, it used to be you had a thing Andrew. It was either on magnetic tapes or a DAT player but it was a thing. Do you know how I sent some of my songs to New York to be mastered? Via the internet.
The evil internet.
It's not a thing, it's data. So the minute something stops being a thing Andrew I contend that it isn't as valuable. I know that's crazy because I don't mean that 100% but you know what I'm saying. It's not a thing. If it's on your i-Pod do you know what the thing is? The things are data, does that make sense to you?
Yeah, it makes total sense. Even though I'm a bit younger than yourself I'm still in the old school of mind where like to hold something in my hands.
I know CDs aren't as glamorous as albums because they were bigger, but CDs ultimately, you know analog sounds better than digital. That's just a fact, I don't give a shit argue all you want, it's better. Frequency response is larger. The delivery system for analog, when it was records was imperfect and crappy. It degraded very quickly so CDs are nice in that way. They sound better for a long period of time, but analog is better than digital. That's all there is to it.
I really appreciate insights and I agree. I don't know where things are gonna go but I agree completely.
They're going wherever they want to Andrew and there's not a damned thing you or I can do about it. Technology has always, always, changed the world and it will continue to do so. My son is my LD, my lighting designer and he's a drummer in a band and I said Matt, be really good at the lights. (laughter) Because people are always gonna need people to turn the lights off and on. Bands are tough. I know there're still going to be a million kids having a million dreams like I did and you can't stop them. But it's gonna be harder and harder for people to have real music careers.
Yeah, and who puts up the money to go on tour anymore if the record label isn't there to do that?
No and that's what record labels provided. They gave you a chance. If you had a success they could take you from your garage and put you on the stage someplace. Then you could start a business, by which I mean you could go on the road and tour and make money and support yourself. The real thing about the music business is this; we make records and we hope they sell not just to put money in our pockets but because we want to hear our songs on the damned radio. We want people to love our music and we want to have a chance to make another record and to have another concert. And unless somebody's shelling out money to do that you ain't gonna do it.
Very, very wise words.
I just made all that up. (laughter) I'd like to mention a few people on the record. I sang with Kevin Chalfant. You know Kevin.
In fact, that was my next question. Good old Kevin, I love Kevin.
Go ahead ask your question.
Well, it is a simple one
how did that come about?
It's the craziest thing you've ever heard in your life. Tim got an e-mail by accident from somebody on a link. It was something about George Harrison of the Beatles. You know Tim's from Liverpool. He was born in the same hospital that Paul McCartney was born in. He loves the Beatles and I love the Beatles. A link to Kevin's band, I can't think of the name of the band right now.
No, it's the contemporary one. He's gonna kill me for not knowing this.
Shooting Star maybe.
Yeah, Shooting Star. He e-mailed me and said this guy sounds like he can sing and I said yeah he can sing, he sounds like Steve Perry. He lives just about an hour from my house. So I had him come over. I wanted to hear what we'd sound like singing together because that's the magic. And we started singing together and I said, baby, now you've got something, now you're livin'.
I actually did an interview with him a little while ago and he said you walked him into the studio and gave him the highest song on the album to sing and when he did that you said, 'Well it's all downhill from there'.
That's right. I put him to the test I'll tell ya. It was a miserable part I gave him but I said if he can do this he can do anything. He was great, so those harmonies on the record are essentially me and Kevin and Hank, my bass player joined in on one or two songs. But it's really me and Kevin.
You did a tremendous job with the harmonies.
Yeah, I'm very pleased with them. They just sound like the kind of harmonies I like to listen to.
It's a real pleasant, organic, great sounding record.
We didn't sing one verse, then the chorus, then duplicate it. We sang every one of them. So every one of them has a real, organic, I did this feeling. Then at the end I said 'Why did we do that anyway'. (laughter)
Who else is on the record?
Well obviously Eric LaPointe who sang with me. Eric said he wanted me to listen to his guitar player, Stephan DeFour who is like the Eddie Van Halen of Quebec. So Stephan played on A Hundred Years From Now. I actually sent him the demo and he came up with some idea changes. A Hundred Years From Now was originally about six minutes long. It had a huge instrumental section that was kind of a progressive rock thing. Stephan came and edited it and simplified it and made it more like a single. When I heard that and heard his playing I said hey man you've got to be on my album with me. So he played the solo on A Hundred Years From Now, This Time Next Year, and he played acoustic and electric on Breathe Again and he played power rhythm chords on Rain. He's got that big marshal sound like, you know, I don't know how to describe it but it sounds like a guitar army.
Then Tommy Dziallo played the solo in Rain, he played on Respect Me, the played the dobro beautifully on I Don't Believe in Anything. Then Ernie Denoff, he's actually in Gary Sinise's band, Chicago guy, and he came in and played on Save Me and Turn Off CNN. Three different guitar players and then Jimmy Leahy who's now in my band played acoustic, the twelve string solo in front of Breathe Again. He just came in at the end and played acoustic and he played great. I played all the keyboards for the most part. John my keyboard player played on one song but I decided I had to play the keyboards if it was gonna sound like me.
Absolutely, that's essential. Your partner in crime Glen Burtnik wasn't on the record though.
No he had a million things going, you know he's in New Jersey, but essentially I felt that I needed in my own mind to, I guess, do this record and have it be just about me, if you know what I mean.
I do because you've got the Styx connection with Glen haven't you?
I do and you know Glen and I are working together all the time and we're going to do something together. It's just that on this particular record it was important for me to say 'This is me'. If you don't like me Ok, I get it. If you do like me thank you very much and hopefully I'll get the chance to make another record at some point. You understand what I'm saying?
I understand completely. He's a great partner to have around with you live isn't he?
Oh I think Glen Burtnik, forget live I said this from the beginning, if you go back to Edge of the Century this is what I thought of Glen Burtnik.
When we did Edge of the Century I was the producer. I was absolutely fully in charge of the band and I chose the first single to be a Glen song. That was my choice, to put him out there ahead of myself to establish him and establish the rock identity that he brought to the band. That was my decision. You know we titled the album after one of his songs. It was my decision also during Crystal Ball to call the album Crystal Ball when Tommy first joined. Because I believe Andrew when you're in a band all boats rise with the tide and that's what bands sometimes lose sight of.
Interesting, I like that.
It's the truth. When Tommy first joined the band, for instance, it would have taken an imbecile not to recognize his talent. So we got rid of all the imbeciles that were around us (laughter) when he started he was standing on the outside of the stage where he always did and I said Tommy you'd better sing these in the middle. You've got to be in the middle of the stage when you do these things. So quite frankly, the better Tommy was or the better Glen is, the better it is for everybody. Glen, to me, his greatest gift is he's just one heck of a songwriter.
I love his stuff.
That's what I say. There's a song on his new record and I was gonna say 'Glen do you mind if I record this?', but I love that song Bam. I mean, I just love it. When he wasn't in the band I did It Takes Love to Make Love because I loved that song. I just think he's a first rate songwriter.
He's an absolute genius.
I'll always believe that.
Yeah, I love his stuff, I really do, always have.
And the truth of the matter is, as soon as we figure out what hair color he's gonna have we'll be better off. (laughter)
Yeah, he's a character. So Dennis, with you talking about Styx there I'm almost hesitant to bring it up because, do you ever do an interview, ever, without being asked about the future and the possibilities?
I do a lot of interviews where people don't ask that question but there's rarely an interview where people don't reference Styx. I mean how could they not? It is my single greatest contribution to music to this date. And maybe forever, it's impossible to tell, but I think, look, the most hurtful thing, and there's still a lot of hurt.
The most hurtful thing to me is not even so much not being in the band anymore, which is plenty hurtful, but it's the simple fact that some miracle occurred, some bad miracle occurred, that when this all came down the fans of the band that I had given my life to, not the fans but the band, somehow the fans began choosing sides. It is to me the most obscene thing because the band was about all of us. It really was. If you look at the songs on the records, if you looked at the live performance, it was a balancing act, a difficult balancing act. Because you had a lot of people with talent and everyone's grabbing for that same golden ring, which is, it's human nature Andrew, which is 'I'm the most special'. Isn't that human nature?
Yeah, I guess so.
But you keep it together because the collective is certainly the most important thing. So I've said this over and over again, I want the fans, the true fans of Styx and I mean true fans, to know that if you liked the band you liked it because of all of us. I mean that.
Yeah, not one element over the other.
No, I liked Lennon and McCartney best of all the Beatles, but I loved the Beatles because they were special together. That's my view of Styx. Man, rejoice in the music that we created together because we did create it together.
And you created a lot of music.
So you were asking me about the future? I don't have an answer. My answer is still the same. I'm not in the band because the two fellows that decided to go forward decided that they'd just as soon not have me be a part of it. I didn't like it but I had no choice and I just had to move on and respect it for what it was. What I've been able to do Andrew and I forget, how old was I in 2000? I was 53 years old.
At 53 years old I embarked upon having a solo career. I had never had one. I'd never toured. When I was 53 I didn't even take it seriously. It wasn't until two years later that I started to embark on trying to go on the road and find an audience for myself. Because everybody knows nobody confuses Mick Jagger with the Rolling Stones. Those are two different things aren't they Andrew.
Mick Jagger plays a 3000 seat hall, Rolling Stones, they play the enormodome. So at 55 I went, with my partner, my wife, we just went out there and we said lets see if we can do something. You know, we've worked extremely hard over the last four or five years. And it has miraculously, as I said before, paid off.
Well, there ya go, hard work does pay off.
No, and here's where I disagree with that. Hard work counts, but my dad worked hard for 40 years and never amounted to anything because he worked in a factory. But he worked hard. Hard work along with talent, real talent and the intangible, which I'm happy to call dumb, stupid luck, you gotta have it Andrew. The harder you work the better chance you have of having dumb, stupid luck but I'm sure there are many people out there who have talent who've never had the dumb, stupid luck and they had to give up.
I don't know why but you've put it so crystally clear to me Dennis. I relate so much to what you're saying but I
Andrew, Lady was a hit by accident. Otherwise there would be no Styx, there would be no Grand Illusion. There would have been nothing, that I know. I lived it; I know this so we hung in there to allow the dumb, stupid luck to catch up. Once in a while things have got to go your way. Call it serendipity, call it karma, the universe, I don't know. But you can't think it's just because you have talent and you can't think it's just because you work hard. Every once in a while the universe has got to tilt in your direction.
Perfectly put, I can't possibly add to that. You're absolutely right again.
Geez, I'm glad I did this interview then because I like being right.
You're an absolute philosopher Dennis.
Am I? I'm beginning to think, like my wife says, I'm getting rockzhimers. (laughter) You can put this in your article; that's a disease where any band of the 70s, suddenly in 2007 can't remember anything. (laughter) Now quote me on that. You know how to spell rockzhimers don't you?
I made that up today in an interview and I said 'I want to invent that one'.
I like it.
The greatest proponent of rockzhimers is of course Ozzy Osbourne.
Yeah, the more he goes forwards the more he goes backwards.
Oh my goodness. That's not good is it?
But you're doing fantastically well.
By the way, I'm thinking, in keeping with Ozzy, you know those little marshmallow bunnies at Easter?
I'm thinking of biting the head off one of those. (laughter)
That's very rock 'n roll of you.
That's me. Get my pants tighter and let me bite the head off something. Just bite the head, and God knows, play really loud.
I used to say we play really loud in lieu of talent. (laughter)
Well, I think you got by with plenty of talent. Look Dennis, I really appreciate the time. Is there anything you'd like to close with or add?
You can just direct them to dennisdeyoung.com and that's about it. I appreciate it Andrew and I'm glad you like the record. There will be a US release. I just talked to the guy today. It'll probably be in the first quarter of next year, it'll be by a US company and it'll have a couple of new tracks on it.
We're gonna do the A Hundred Years From Now and try to get somebody, you know, some young stud English singer to sing it with me. Then we'll see what the heck happens.
That's a great plan. I like the sound of that and who knows, maybe you'll have a Billboard #1 next year.
If that happens I might fly to Australia just to kiss you on the lips. (wife in backqround yells, 'Yeah, I'll finally get there') (laughter) Yeah, my wife wants to go to Australia. I say 'we can't go there honey the toilets go backwards'. (laughter)
One day Dennis!
when I said Styx was sacred to me I don't say that lightly. I gave everything in my life to the band. None of us is perfect, but my intentions were always 'How can we make this band bigger?'. I never wanted to be a solo artist, ever. When Tommy quit the band, the only reason I made an album was I wanted to have something to do. I knew in my heart which I believed, and which was borne out in many ways, people wanted to see Tommy in Styx. They wanted to see me and him together.
And they still do.
When the other band members, in 1983 wanted to replace Tommy I just would not do it because I thought it was the stupidest thing ever. To not know, to not understand how important Tommy and I were to what that band was you'd have to be a damned fool.
I think everybody acknowledges that.
That's the way I look at it. And I know in many ways I've been vilified, but they just don't know the story Andrew.
Well you know, there're people that, like you said, they take sides. There're people on yours and people on theirs. It is, it's distressing.
I'll be honest with you. When people tell me by and large shitty things about the other guys, it doesn't really make me happy. Because I believe that any insult to any of us is an insult to Styx.
And I never wanted that to happen. Anyway, I'm off my soapbox. (wife in background encouraging Dennis to tell the story, he won't so she does: When the band fell apart, Tommy quit, our sound guy came to us. We were in Hawaii, I'll never forget it. He'd been with us at least 9 years and he came to Dennis and he said, 'hey man is this true, is it really happening, I can't believe it, we're a family'. He said those words and it stuck in my mind because that's how I believed we all were.)
And like most families, like the Manson family, (laughter) no Andrew when people ask me what I think of being in a rock band Andrew I say this is what you've gotta do, call your brother up, your uncle, your father and your two cousins and you've gotta build a birdhouse together. And then you've gotta build ten more. That's what it's like. Your uncle's gonna say, hey that hole's too big. The birds will
you know what I'm saying? (Wife: So then after you build the house what do you do? You sit down, you have dinner, you have laughs.)
I know, but it's hard to build a birdhouse together.
It can be, yes.
That's what it's all about. How many people you how to run your website?
If you had two other people telling you everyday how that website should go, that's what it's like. So there you go.
I know, but still the best job in the world.
All right my friend I appreciate the time.
I appreciate your time.
We'll be looking forward to somebody giving me this interview so I can go 'did I sound like a jackoff?' (laughter)
I think it has been great and I'm really pleased we had this chat, and thank you.
All right, great.
Thank you Dennis.
Thank you my friend.
I'll talk to you again soon.