TOTO's David Paich
acknowledges that he thought 2006's Falling in Between
"was going to be our last album, ever." But a combination of resurgence, legalities and genuine creative desire led to the making of Toto IV
, a new album featuring co-founders Paich, fellow keyboardist Steve Porcaro and guitarist Steve Lukather, along with longtime singer Joseph Williams.
"We're pretty excited about this," Lukather tells Billboard. "The band is tight. We're having fun. Everybody's revitalized, rejuvenated. We've got this buzz going right now that just came out of nowhere, so it's great." Paich adds: "I'm really proud of this album. It feels really good. It's kinda scary when you haven't made one in a while, and I really did think we were over. But we had a lot of fun doing it. I think our writing level is elevated, and we had a great time. It reminded me of making the first album, 'Toto IV' and 'The Seventh One.' The creative juices were flowing, as they say."
Toto reactivated in 2010, after bassist Mike Porcaro was diagnosed with ALS. A short tour of Europe went so well that the group decided to continue alongside the members' other activities -- including Lukather's current stint in Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. And with one album left on its deal with Italy's Frontiers Records, Paich, Lukather and company decided that Falling in Between might not have been its final word after all.
"We decided that instead of getting into a big, elongated dispute [with Frontiers Records], we should go in and make some new music, which is what we do," Paich says. "And it worked out really good. I've never seen the guys this excited again, like I said, since the early days, and I think it's because we're writing music with our original members here, and everybody was more together and more mature in their lives, so the band was really clicking. We worked on it every day, on and off, for a year, and I think you can definitely hear that effort."
There was material ready at the start of the project. "All of us are always writing and have stuff, and because it's us writing it, it just naturally sounds like Toto," Lukather says. Paich recalls that among the initial "little odds and ends" were "All the Stars That Shine," which the keyboardist said he started at the end of theFalling in Between sessions, and "Chinatown," which actually dates back to sessions for Toto's 1978 debut album. Initial studio sessions for Toto XIV, meanwhile, yielded "Burn," which Paich wrote with Williams. It's premiering exclusively on Billboard below:
"That came from a song Joseph had written, a whole song," Paich recalls, "and I said, 'I really love that.' And he said, 'Oh, you like the song?' I said, 'No, [just] the very little ending.' There's a piano riff, and that ended up being the riff that is the engine or the heartbeat behind 'Burn' that keeps playing over and over again in that song. That's probably the first song we started writing [specifically] for the new album."
Toto will spend the late spring and summer in Europe, starting May 21 in Glasgow, Scotland, and currently running until July 19. The rest of a planned world tour will take the band into 2016. Lukather and Paich, who refers to Toto XIV as the group's Abbey Road -- aka final -- project, won't rule out the possibility of more new music, but neither is voicing great optimism either.
"I doubt very much we'll make another album as Toto," he says. "I think this is our last record because of how much emotion we spend on it. It comes from our hearts and everything. It just wrings you out when you're making a record because everybody's so passionate about it. I want to say 'never say never,' but until we actually make another album, we can consider this to be the last Toto album. Everybody's still writing all the time and making music and doing stuff on their own, because we each have studios and stuff, but whether we'll get in the studio and make another album as Toto, that's something no one knows yet. It hasn't been revealed to me in my crystal ball yet."