Toto - The 2006 Interviews

Part 4 - Steve Lukather
This is - I think - my fourth full length interview with the great Steve Lukather - guitarist, musician, singer, frontman - but not Rock Star! As always the conversation doesn't stay on track as far as Q&A interview goes, so enjoy the 'chat', which I left as it was spoken and how it flowed.

Hey Steve…nice to talk formerly once again!
Hey…you're a good man, I appreciate the support.
Thanks for helping us get down to Australia – it's going to happen.
Some guy came in after you did and said we'll pay you 60K a show, but I'd rather play a small show and make it a hot ticket – sell it out rather than make an asshole of ourselves like selling 500 tickets in a 5000 seat place.
That would be a bad idea and I didn't want to take advantage of your good faith.
I am a loyal person.

I believe that.
And the band has my back on that one.
So let's hang. I'm in the perfect mood to do this.

Ok, let's talk!
I just finished doing a sold out show in Toulouse, things couldn't be better. I'm the happiest mother fucker on the plant.

I have no idea where I'm calling as I just dialed your cell phone. Where are you?
Toulouse, France.

That's always been a very friendly territory for you guys…
It has…it has…but things are better then ever, it's beyond what we could have expected. The promoter's happy…we are making percentages every night….things are going well.
I don't want to say too much as I am humbled by it.
I just want to groove and take a ride that I haven't had in a while and enjoy and appreciate what the good things God has given us.

And Toto are in the charts! How's that!
Bizarre. I mean, here we go with this small indie label that is making fools out of Sony and EMI. I don't know what they are doing, but they are working very hard and they have put a lot of time and money and effort into it and we're doing great.
We did the biggest TV show in Germany; we are doing TV even in America!
It's just weird man; we're just taking this trip. We tried as hard as we could and now all these things are happening.
For a bunch of old guys, we are just tripping…in a really positive way.

It must be nice to be the big band on a small label rather than the other way around?
Absolutely. Big fish in a small pond and these guys are out there killing for us. We are selling out most of our gigs. We're just tripping.
The first [gig] was a drag though. I have to give Bobby some love man. His ears went out and he couldn't hear shit and my wireless went out. London was the worst place in the world to have our first show.

It really was. They were ready to beat us up anyway.

I was pissed off at our management and the people who booked us. I was like, couldn't you give us a couple of shows to get our sea legs, to get it together and make sure the set list and monitors are all working?
We only had a couple of days of production rehearsals – I think the set list was kicking, but it takes time to get it together. So many things that can go wrong and nobody's perfect every night. We aren't singing to pro-tools so it's like I sing out of tune sometimes, Bobby sings out of tune…you can't hear yourself sometimes.
That's the way it is.
David Paich wrote these fucking songs in 1977 thinking we'd only be playing them for a couple of years. Not to realize that our fucking lead singer is nearly 60 years old and still has to thrown down this shit.
Bobby has the greatest work ethic ever! He goes to bed [early], drinks water, eats fish and vegetables, he's lost 15 pounds. He has some hearing loss, so I have to help him out from time to time. But the cat's out there busting his balls.
Anyone from the era we come from, that has those singers that sing in that high range, couldn't do that every night 4 or 5 nights in a row…
It's alright for the guitarist, I wrote my songs in my range, so I don't have to worry about it. If I sing a little out of tune….perfection is for records….not for live.
When I'm improvising playing a solo, I'm not trying to perfect what's on record.
You go for it – sometimes you miss.

My favourite live albums are all ones with mistakes and fuck-ups on them…
Take any record from the 60s….all you hear is mistakes. Does that make them bad records?
You know, we live in this Internet world where people can hide behind a mask – they have no face – they can say all kinds of mean shit.
I take constructive criticism really well. I think we made a better record because of the constructive criticism from someone like yourself and fans that actually dig the music.
Then you get the comments like, there's too much Lukther, where are the keyboards?
Or that I don't play blazing solos on each song – so where are the solos?
Everyone knows I can fucking play. I can shred…I can play fast, but that doesn't mean it is the right thing for the song.
I let the keyboard players fly on this one. It's about the composition, the production and the work we did together as a group to make a group record.
It isn't a Steve Lukather record, it's a Toto record. I am one person in a band of 6 people.

This record, I think more than any other in recent memory, is truly a band record.
It wasn't an ego record. It wasn't like dig me – it was dig us!

But everyone still gets that ego moment on the record. There's a couple of tracks on there where you absolutely shred!
You know, you gave us the best review of our entire career. And I know you have been tough on us in the past, so that's why it means something.
The thing is I know you are taking some shit for it.
You either make the decision to read the good reviews and believe them, or read some of the bad. Someone says our music was worse than Chemotherapy.
You know, we are not that bad!

No, not quite!
I can take a good criticism….I don't dig this and this is why… I don't like this band's music because the sound….you know, that's cool.
But mean spirited stuff like 'fuck you, this band sucks ass' when they have only ever heard 3 fucking songs on the radio – Rosanna, Africa and Hold The Line – after 30 years, that's all I got? That sucks.
I find it hard to get on your website and read shit. A lot of people are rally kind and very nice and can say I don't dig the record but they are good musicians. That is totally fine….totally fucking cool…
But to say die mother fucker die and you suck ass. That's tough to read!

That's tough for me to read! I don't recall seeing die mother fucker die on my site though!
You gotta take good and bad. You walk off stage and go yeah, I played well tonight. No one is harsher critics than the guys in the band ourselves.
If it's perfect that means you are dancing around to the record. It is a little bit off that means you are going for it. You turn a mistake into a riff and learn to improvise.
It is a drag to read something negative, but that happens to any artist on the planet.
I have had a great career. I have done of lot of great things with some amazing people.
The Internet is a wonderful and a dangerous thing.
I mean I wouldn't go onto anyone's site and say you suck, you should die! I mean, worse that chemotherapy? My father died of Cancer; I had to take him to chemo.
All we are trying to do is play some music man, we aren't the hippest thing in the world….we aren't rock stars.
We're having a laugh!
When they say my parents should have been sterilized so I can't play this music I am now, that's when I'm going to get pissed off.
If I sucked that hard, why would I have this long a career.

That's pretty harsh.
But now it is turning around a bit, you know. We've taken the punches and we toughed it out, we lost the greatest drummer in the world, Jeff….we've been through 95 lead singers…

We are just trying to keep it real man. Tonight was an incredible show. It was sold out and there we all these kids in the audience. We're just taking the ride with thankfulness, humbleness and we're still here – after 30 years.

Critics be damned! If you are still in the game after 30 years, who can argue that point?
We are actually on an up-roll. We don't mean fuck all in America, but we're doing this TV show and we have new agents, new things.
You have to keep thinking that things can turn around and believe in the music.
Standing on stage with that guitar is the highest of highs. The best feeling in the world.
Is it perfect? No, because we're not playing to Pro-Tools.
We use loops and we occasionally use a sound effect or background part, but if we were doing that no one would be saying that Bobby sang out of tune or I screwed this part up or whatever.
If it was perfect every night then there would be something to worry about.
Look at Robert Plant and Led Zeppeln back in the day. You are going to have tough nights sometimes.

I know Journey have had the same criticisms leveled at them.
It's tough and I feel for the cats. It's really hard. I don't have the headaches of a singer, but Paich punished poor Bobby by writing these tunes in the 70s that were ridiculously high and the cat is busting his balls out there.
You go out and do this 5 nights in a row and travel and deal with this…

A lot of people don't understand just how tough it is on the road. The lifestyle…
There is a lot more to us. Have we hit the mark every time? Absolutely not.
We've missed the mark many times.

I don't think I own a catalogue as diverse as the one from Toto.
How about this – forget Toto. Can you name any band that has done as many records for other people?
I have played on a thousand records. I have so many Gold and Platinum records from people that I stuck them in my garage.
I have 200 Gold and Platinum records…I have been on Album Of The Year like 5 times.
Nominated 100 times. No one ever talks about the fact we are just musicians.
I am not a rock star. I am not a rock star. I am a musician.
There is a huge fucking difference. Underline that. [Ok Steve!]
We are just a bunch of musicians trying to make a living playing music. I don't think I'm the best of anything. There are a million guys better than me.

No way!
Sure, I can start listing them. My son for one. You'll be talking to him soon.
He goes 'Dad, I love your guitar playing, but my second favourite guitarist is Neal Schon'.

Really? Haha.
And after that – Eddie Van Halen. These are the guys that have been hanging at the crib. Nobody is trying to cure cancer here…we're just playing music. It's just a gig.

But you have hit the mark with so may people over the years.
Well, you have the hippest site out there for the music we do and all my friends do. There is an audience out there for this.
My son is 18 years old and all the music he listens to is classic rock. They listen to the new shit as well, but they are open minded as well.
They don't have the jaded view of some rock critic who is 800 years old with cum-stained pictures of Bono in their fucking wallet.
I love U2, don't get me wrong, but these critics are all failed musicians which is why anyone with any skill gets a bad review.
In the mainstream press…
You have raked us through the coals before and I can dig your criticisms. You weren't mean spirited about it. Of course you always want everyone to say you are the greatest in the world…haha.

I was looking through this only yesterday. I know your history, but I wasn't aware of how many records Greg had been involved in.
Yeah, and how many we have done together. I met Greg when he was playing in Stevie Wonder's band – he was 19 – and I was playing in the Boz Skaggs Band.
Paich picked Greg, but it was a great call and we kinda moved it together. David is still in the band, he's still going to make records with us, he just doesn't tour.
His health isn't there and he has to deal with his sister in the hospital having major surgery – he has to take care of that.
People just say shit without knowing the facts about why things go down.
People don't ask what's The Edge's wife is up to!
The guitar community – I'm friends with everybody….it isn't a competition, it ain't a beauty pageant.
We get together and hang all the time – we don't even talk about music most of the time. You know, it's nice to have a night off, know what I mean.
We don't sit there and talk about how important my music is compared to you. What a joke that would be!
Just because I'm friends with Eddie Van Halen doesn't mean I know everything about his fucking life. People are always asking about him. He's my bro man, him and Alex.
I don't know what they are up to. I don't even want to know.
When Ed comes by the house or when Al and I do out for dinner, we don't talk about that.

I was going to bring this up actually. You do get asked about Ed all the time as he doesn't do a lot of talking for himself. How do you feel being Eddie's unofficial spokesman?
If Eddie doesn't speak for himself, why should I speak for him?
I am not his spokesman and if he doesn't want to talk, why do you think I will talk for him?
He's my friend. He comes by the house we hang….my son loves the music.
Why can't we all be friends?
We all came from the same era, why is it so strange to believe we aren't all friends?
Warren DeMartini lives around the block, Slash is a dear friend of mine, Neal Schon, Satriani and even Yngwie likes me and he doesn't like anyone!

Yngwie has always been way cool to me. He is a gentleman and a great guitar player. A great fucking guitar player.
So maybe you don't like his shit, so find something else to pick on. Buy something else. Unless you can play like him - fuck off.
He is a flash guitar player and makes no bones about it. I respect him for that.
He's a good guy and he has always treated me well, but I have had my ass whooped by more press people than any other band in history! Toto is the band to hate!
But Toto is also the band that has played with everyone from McCartney to Miles Davis and everything in between. But no one talks about that.

And you are still going.
Yes, we are still going. I'm sitting here in my hotel room by myself now, trying not to look at myself in the mirror…I ain't pretty, but I'm the luckiest mother fucker in the world and I have had a great life.
I have had my share of pain in life – I have human pain – divorce, death….my uncle's wife just died last night.

Oh man…
But that's my personal life I'm in love with a beautiful woman, I have great kids, I have all that. Look at the positives.

And you are coming to Australia!
Yeah, thanks man….I didn't realize you lived in Tasmania, I thought you were in Melbourne or something.

No, I live in the middle of nowhere! I'll be flying up to Sydney for the weekend.
I'll pay for your flight bro.

You don't have to do that!
I'm going to personally pay for your flight man, to make sure you come and hang. I want to let you know I appreciate the support.
I know you have been honest – I dig that – you aren't licking my ass.
You have been tough sometimes and I sometimes I don't agree with what you have said, but it wasn't 'I hate you I wish you were dead'…

I do try and avoid saying that in my reviews!!
Yeah, but you also give a little bit of love and more than you should have sometimes.
At the same time, you gave us the best review of our career. When you give 100% - people are going to say nothing is ever 100%.

I don't mind that….I like seeing stuff like that debated.
I don't think it is 100%. I can find flaws in everything we have done.
Some people will assume I am an egotistical guy who sits in his room and says everything I have done is great. What a bunch of bullshit that is.

You have always struck me as one of the more open and honest guys in the business.
Bro, to tell you the truth – I owe myself that. Everyday I practice and try and find a new riff. There are a million guys out there better than me, but I was geographically present and lucky and I know that.
I just ran with that…what would someone else do?
There's a million guys that could out shred me, but in a session with Aretha Franklin, what would they play? I know what to play.
I can read a chart with all the notes on there, but it's what you play when there is nothing to go by.
I did millions of sessions where there was nothing but 300 notes in E and noting else. So we re-wrote the songs and arranged it and got no credit for it.
I could do a three day interview with you about this shit!

Haha…I don't doubt that for a second!
I could write a book about the bullshit I have seen. So called legendary producers turn up to do nothing more than order lunch.
I gotta give some more love to Frontiers. They are put us on the fucking charts.
To tread my name next to Coldplay, who I love, and Kanye West. Milan sold out 10,000 people, Paris 8,000 – for a bunch of old farts we are doing pretty well.
I still get paid to play the guitar – not a bad job!

Do you know how many records you have sold yet?
No man, we gotta count up internet downloads and all that yet. We own the rights to all our digital music.
More people watch the Internet now than TV. We are going to start something called Toto Network.
We have technology that other people don't – how do I put this – it's not quite together yet. It is like having your own personal TV show, you own it, but it lays on top of the internet. All my friends – everyone I can possible think of…see us all hang out – you can log on and hit all of a sudden you can see this conversation real time. Your face and my face would be together and you can see this.
We have a friend who we grew up with who had this concept and has a patent – it's big time.
It is not only us – it will be about a musical community. There are people that want to know about what we do – the inside shit.
So for a half the price of a movie for a month, you can check us out and hang and all of our musco friends are on there too, so you can log on their sites.
You can hang with the cats.

It sounds like a very cool concept.
The people that support it we want to give back to. The internet is where it is at now, but there is another wave coming.
All the biggest bands in the world are going to get in on this. Nokia are breathing down our neck right now to get in on this.
I can't properly articulate all of this, but we have shit [to feature] going back as far as our first Toto rehearsal and bootlegs and all our friends.
If you want to talk to studio guys, or the bass player from Jams Taylor Band…it's going to be like MySpace for big-time musicians.
We put up the money to do this, but it's going to be a great idea.

Sounds killer….
It's fetal right now…but soon, we'll be able to talk in real time on there and it is like having your own personal private network with technology you can't copy.
It's viral….one person gets it and then onto another. It's like the clap! Once you give it to somebody everyone's going to get it.

Well…I really look forward to that then!
Haha…ok, ask me some questions.

Ok, a couple of days back I was listening to a soundboard live recording of the Kingdom Of Desire tour. At that point in time you were kinda forced into fronting the band – but you've now gone from a position of one singer to six.
Yeah, but I still front the band….haha.
The thing about Toto from day one, it was always about multiple singers. We are not worthy to be compared, but it's kinda like The Beatles….

Cuts Off….Phone rings again…

Fucking cell phones….from day one, we have always shad three or four lead singers on each record. Paich singing Africa, me singing Rosanna, Bobby has his tunes…Fergie, Joseph. We are not rock stars – who ever has the best voice for the song.

Photo: / Geen Schippers

With any other band it might sound disjointed, but for some reason it doesn't. Falling In Between sounds so good.
Thank you for that awesome review. Sorry you have taken some shit for it.

Haha…not much really. I think the vast majority love it.
You were very kind, we were all very proud. We put your name on the front of the cover.

I saw that – I had no idea…nearly had a baby.
And now we are heading your way. I saw Foreigner put their ticket prices at a much higher price. We are making cheaper tickets…we'd love to bring the whole production down there, but all we are going to do is shut up and play.
Right now we are selling a lot of records – not compared to 1982 mind you – but compared to now, we are doing great and getting great reviews – even from the Swedish press, which normally rakes us through the coals.
We can take a punch. You could hit me in the side of the head with a brick and I'd laugh at you. I'd say – is that all you got man?
Shit, you haven't been divorced man. You haven't met my ex-wife….she's a ball buster man.

I do love the fact you brought Joseph back for a tune.
Sure….Joe and Steve were I think were a really wise move. We are still all very good friends. Steve is one of my closest bro's you know. I wouldn't be in this band if it wasn't for him.
And I have known Joe – I was in a high school band with this guy. We all have our rough spots and I've had mine. All these years later, give him a break…forgive and forget.

Joseph came out the other side ok didn't he?
He is a major fucking talent.

Now, there are 2 singers not on the record – Jean Michael Byron and Fergie.
Now why not? You don't actually have to answer that seriously there either…
You know, I wish them all well. I don't hate anybody.
I think with Byron it was so wrong and it wasn't all his fault. Last I heard he had put a curse on us all.
And I don't hate Fergie, but he was put there putting himself out there as Mr. Toto singing Rosanna and Africa.
It would be one thing if he was doing the Isolation tunes…I don't wish him ill-will and I have heard he's not doing too well.
I hated that he used our name to promote himself for $1000 bucks a night, but if he sang the Isolation tunes and then threw in a few hits, that'd be ok.
You don't have the right to use our name and sing those hits. I don't begrudge a guy for trying to make a living. We were friends at one point, but I saw him on national TV and they said here's Toto and he sang Hold The Line. That shit pissed me off because we couldn't get the same show; they said we've already had Toto.
It is one thing when Bobby was doing it – we were pissed at that too, but at least he sang on those records.
Because people don't know us – were not famous faces, it's like a Top 40 band saying they are Toto. I don't hate the cat…he raped the name Toto and Bobby did the same before we let him back in the band.
Byron – he's not even worth talking about. He was a victim, that was the label trying to fucking ruin us.
But I don't want to say bad things about people. I'm a spiritual person now, it's bad karma talking about people. It was the wrong fit – for him and for us.

How's the setlist coming along?
Well, the worst thing we ever did was open up in London, we were nervous and Bobby's shit went out. But we are honing it every day…
Then we got ragged for it….Bobby sucks, Lukather sucks…

But the reviews since have been amazing.
Well, no one's perfect doing it live. People just take the shit apart like it's an ant farm!

You'll go down well here in Oz.
We haven't been there since 1992. We won't bring the full production, but we're not a backline band. We'll bring all our gear and we'll sound great.
Shut up and play! Things are going really well….
We'll pay for your flight up.

Very kind Steve…
Did I mention you'll have to blow me?

We might have to negotiate on that!
Ok, you got my number; you know where to find me. Call me anytime and thanks for hanging thru the good, bad and the ugly.
God Bless, look forward to talking soon.

Thanks Steve…talk soon.

c. 2006 / Interview By Andrew McNeice
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