Steve Lukather: Here Lies Mr. Toto.
The self described road dog of melodic rock. Steve Lukather is one of my favorite people in this business and as has been the case with my previous interviews with the legendary guitarist - he once again lays it all bare, his heart on his sleeve.
Mr. Lukather! How are you?
I'm doin' OK, just one second here, I've just gotta fix one little thing.
OK. I'm feeding my dog right now.
Now, here we go. Never a dull moment in family life.
I know it mate, I know it.
I've just gotta to put this up, hold on a second Drew, give me two minutes.
My whole house is being torn apart because we're remodeling. That and with the new baby it's kind of hectic around here.
How's she doing?
I wanted to save you for last so we could actually have a chat.
Thanks man, I appreciate that.
Usually it's just newspaper stuff promoting the shows.
Did you get through some good interviews?
Yeah, they got a shitload of them. More press than we've ever done in Australia. Ironically, as we're heading to the demise.
Hold on one second, I'm almost done. This dog won't eat the food unless I put a little cheddar cheese in there. She's a spoiled little beast, but we love her. (laughter)
So we were talking privately earlier about life on the road – how tough it can be…
I mean everybody's like God forbid anybody should have a hoarse throat.
When I was on the road with Jeff Scott Soto for a couple of weeks, it's a hard fucking slog.
It is man, and he's one of the best singers out there.
Yeah and I should have documented the hardness of it all but I had a tour to run because I was doing the tour manager thing, but you've been on the road for two years.
You're allowed to be bloody tired. By the time it's all done it'll be two and a half years on the Falling in Between thing.
We're bringing a little bit more rock and roll set down this time, you know.
It's a lot of the same tunes, but with Sklar on bass because Mikey's still sick.
Yeah, that's too bad.
I wish I had better news there. He's still trying to recover but it's going very, very slowly.
Is he holding up mentally himself?
When I see him yeah, he puts on that, he doesn't say too much. I keep going 'how you doing man'.
It's a tough lot and you know…I'm looking around the stage and saying every single motherfucker's been replaced at least twice. (laughter)
Except me, now you can print that.
Yeah, that's gotta be on the record.
Yeah, well c'mon, I'm the only one that's been there from day one and everybody else has been replaced two or three times.
We just can't kill you.
Well, I don't want to be killed. (laughter) It just kind of hit me all of a sudden and I started realizing, it's a fucking great band but is it Toto? I mean everybody's a motherfucker and I have nothing but love and respect, but is it Toto?
You still don't take yourself too seriously do you?
Well sure and that's another misconception that I'm all serious and don't get a sense of humor about all this shit. I get tweaked when people say things like I'm a coked out loser, yeah, and you can print that (laughter) but I mean, do these people know me? Have they ever met me or are they just making something of me having a hoarse voice and my voice isn't like it was when I was 20 years old? Hell is anybody's?
Nobody's you know, I don't think anybody's voice is the same.
Well I thought my quote in my email to you, which is usable, is that yeah my voice isn't as smooth as it was when I was 20 and neither is my ass. (laughter)
I'm getting a few wrinkles myself.
Well, you know what I'm saying, it's like c'mon, I've been doing this shit for 30 plus years. And you know when you're gonna get on the road, you get a cold, you can't help it. Both Bobby and I were kind of sick when we did the live show in Paris for the DVD that's coming out, but we fuckin' persevered. Then people come in there speculating that 'oh that's the reason see, they fixed all the vocals and made it sound all fucked up'. I didn't have time to do that, we were on the road.
McMillan's a genius man, he managed to make things sound bigger than they really were. When you've got a 5.1 mix you've got to fill in the holes. It's a big thing and when people remix this stuff in 5.1 they digitally enhance the doubles and the stuff like that. When we did the record all the background vocals were quadrupled for God's sake. We're not out there lip synching, but everybody's got an angle. Everybody's trying to bust your nuts. That sounds too good, or it sounds bad, or like 'is that real or is that fake?'
I mean c'mon, in the era that I grew up we didn't even…what does faking it mean? I learned to play before I made a record. So I think people are being a little too harsh. It's like they've got their jeweler's eye out looking for every little possibility. 'Oh yeah at 3 minutes and 42 seconds you can hear the pitch does like…blah, blah, blah.' Get a fucking life. (laughter)
Do you honestly think that we wanted to come back home after doing all those songs on a fucking tour then sit in a recording studio and listen to it and re-record it? Are you fucking nuts? I'd still be doing the overdubs if that was the case.
I'd think they would just enjoy the music and relax.
Right, I mean listen, when I have a minute I kind or peruse, you know I love the site, and I kinda check out what people are saying. I also check out what people are saying about other bands.
And there's some fuckin' harsh shit in there man.
Oh yeah, there is sometimes.
Oh man, put yourself in our shoes. I mean it's really easy to put down people and tear them all apart when you're sitting in your home, but what the fuck are you doing? (laughter) What are these people doing? Everyone's an armchair critic. Listen, you know we're not perfect.
Yeah, we're fuckin' a lot older, voices change, you don't run as fast as you used to, there's a lot of shit you just can't do that you used to be able to. I try to practice, keep my chops up to do the best I can. But what can I say?
And by the way, to clear up another misconception, David Paich and I have never been better friends than we are right now and I just got off the phone with him 5 minutes ago.
And yes we will definitely be working together down the road on something or other whether it's Toto or not.
We went through a rough spot, like brothers do. I'm a very emotional; wear my heart on my sleeve kind of guy and I can tweak sometimes. I can get upset about things. And we never really talked it through. When he didn't talk to me about it my initial reaction was 'fuck you' and then it became this 'fuck you' fest.
Then we went out to dinner, just me and him, and we looked at each other, and we like hugged each other for about two minutes and at almost at the same time said 'I'm sorry'.
It was almost like a perfect double and then we sat down and we've been in close contact ever since. I've been confiding in him about my feelings about where this band is at, where it's going and if it should even go on, and he totally concurs with where my vibe is at.
I'm really pleased to hear that mate. That's great.
But listen, you get pissed off at people but when you've been friends for 35 years it wasn't going to last forever, c'mon. Everybody's speculating and yeah, sure I spout off a lot of bullshit but the written word never really conveys how one feels. That's the danger of e-mail and internet in general. Even when somebody's taking the piss out of me, maybe they were laughing when they wrote it but the way it reads was that they were serious so it's hurtful.
Yeah, you can't see the smile can you?
That's the whole thing. Unless you actually write it in like LOL, or Ha Ha Ha a statement is a statement in the written word. Sometimes it hurts. I don't care if people don't like the music or they don't like the band. That's their right. I hate this like 'Journey or Toto', you know what I mean?
Or like this guy sucks this guy's better, who's better Neal or Luke, you know that's stupid. Neal and I are dear friends man. I can't be more supportive of him or him of me. We're friends.
Fuckin' his son Miles is down there staying at my son's house. They're buddies. I mean this is ridiculous. People who don't know it make these horrible assumptions. Why do you have to be on one person's side or the other? Why can't you just dig both bands, or dig one, you don't have to slag off the other.
No, look mate. I've got so many favorite bands it's not funny.
But you know there's no such thing as the best at anything. Music is subjective. Art is subjective. Beauty is subjective. Do you think that when two ugly people are fucking they're saying 'Ha ha you're the ugliest person I ever fucked in my life?' No, of course not, they see beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Music is exactly the same way. (laughter) I don't like everything either but it would be horrible if I were to go off and slag off bands I don't like. It's hurtful. I know what it feels like. When somebody you don't know says you suck, you go 'Dude, you don't even know me.' If you don't like the music there's a nicer way to say it like, 'I don't really care for this kind of music, it's not my thing. Good players, I respect them, but it's not my thing.' You don't have to go, 'You fuckin suck man, you fuckin suck. You're the worst fuckin shit ever'.
You're coming to Australia again in March.
Here's the thing. The last time we went it was a big success. Yeah. Except for my poor guy John Howard man and his partner who took it up the ass from the guy that owned the fuckin' gig. He ran off with about $80,000 dollars.
I couldn't believe that.
Here we've got sold out shows and the cats are all ecstatic and they thought, great you made money, we made money, everybody's happy and all the sudden he gets fucked and I just felt terrible because I consider John a very good friend.
Yeah, absolutely John's a great guy.
Yeah, he's gonna release my solo record down there, do the promotion, you know. Then he believed enough to fucking throw down again to bring us down even after taking a beating like that. But I think he was learning, you can't trust people, you think you can, but you can't, not in this fucking business man. (laughter) Cats will suck you dick while sticking two fingers up your ass to get the cash you just ate. (laughter)
It's a shame to see good people go down but it was such a big success that they said let's break you out into some other markets. We're even going to do New Zealand.
Are you going to New Zealand?
Yeah, we're doing Auckland.
As a matter of fact it's our first stop. That's someplace I've always wanted to see.
We're doing that, then we're coming over to do five or six dates I think you've got it there, I don't have it in front of me.
Yeah, I've got it here mate.
We're very excited about that, then we're running off to do a Malaysia and then we're going to do Japan with Boz Skaggs. So that's kind of fitting, then Paich is coming over to play with us in Japan.
Really? Oh that's great.
So it seems really fitting that we started out in Boz's band, Toto came out of that. Now we're ending this chapter with Dave back with Boz. It's bookends, you know what I mean? Then we're going to put this thing away for God knows how long. Two and a half to three years is a long time man. Everybody wants to do their own projects. Simon wants to produce records. As some cats get on they don't want to be on the road for eight months.
They're not like me. I'm a road dog. I'll live and die on the fucking road. That's who I am and what I am and I'm built for it. I mean physically built for it. I'll probably have a massive coronary in my room one night, but hey, what a way to go?
Only when you're 95 thank you.
Well, like I said, you know. I figure I've got this solo record coming out that I'm really proud of that's getting great reviews out of the box. I did a real video, a concept video.
Yeah, what song for?
The title track, Ever Changing Times.
Thanks. I have no idea what it's gonna be about. We did it in Japan with a lot of green screens and stuff so there's gonna be all kinds of trippy shit going on.
I really like the artwork. The e-card kind of concept. It's simple, but I really love the colors.
I'm really proud of it. Robert Knight and Mary Ann Billens did all the photos. We did it out in the desert here.
Yeah, it looks sweet.
Conceptually I can't even tell you what perfect timing it was. I just says it all about my life. It's changed so much. I've mean from the beginning to now. Toto's been so good to all of us. Thanks to everybody out there for supporting us all these years. It's been an amazing journey, and amazing run.
Not to say that it's never going to happen again, but you know it's time to put it away for a while. We worked really fucking hard. Everybody wants to do their own solo things or take a break whatever. Everybody's got projects and stuff lined up. It's a great way for us to end up. We're all still friends. There are no bad vibes or anything like that. We're gonna go out and do it with a big smile.
So there's nothing planned for next year or the 30th Anniversary?
Oh no. No, no, no…nothing. The books are clean. Instead of the 30th it'll probably be the 35th Anniversary. (laughter) At that point who knows what's gonna happen.
I cannot predict the future. All I know is that we've worked very, very hard and everybody wants to do some different things.
That's fair enough too.
If you put yourself in my position with people saying 'well you ought to do the 30th tour next year', those people haven't done what we've just done. You be away from home for 2 and a half years and then say it. A lot of these guys in the band just don't want to do that. So, no, no, no, no, no not at this point.
I'm gonna go out and concentrated on my solo stuff and do some really weird, bizarre, obscure Toto songs. I'm gonna do songs off all three of my solo albums probably culled from the first, second, and the new one, maybe a track or two off the third one. And maybe some very interesting covers that I wrote for other people and/or did versions of. It's going to be a really kick-ass band. Everybody in the band in gonna sing including the drummer.
Who is the band? Have you got that lined up yet?
It's too early to tell. There'll be a few familiar faces and a few newbies. It'll be another world tour, so I'm gonna be out there working for a long time.
Well hopefully we can get some loop dates in Australia as well.
If all goes well the answer would be yeah. After we've made this contact with the Australian people again it would be a shame to lose that momentum. Big John says the shows are selling pretty well, but I won't really know until I get there.
Yeah I was gonna ask you about that because you have bigger venues.
I asked him about and he's goes 'no it's doing really well and I'm really happy'. If he's happy that means he's not taking a bath, so. I would not want to do that to the cat again.
Who could have predicted that was going to happen?
Well, like I said, we got all our money up front so he's the one that took a bath. We felt terrible and the time and said 'we gotta go back and make this right'. He's a good mate and we stayed in touch through all of that.
John's awesome and he just had a baby boy too.
That's right. Everybody's having babies.
All us old buggers.
Well, ya know what I mean, the dick still works for something. (laughter) For now. Yeah, for now and there's always Viagra after that.
Just to clarify Toto, this leg of the tour is ending, you're coming off the road and that's it for the foreseeable future.
Yeah. Like I say, we're gonna go out and give, it's like when you know it's the last lap you run real hard, real fast and give it you're all, that kind of the attitude that we're going in with. So it's not like we're gonna walk through the shows. This is a little bit more rock and roll set. We got rid of some of the ballads and all that acoustic stuff and we're gonna go out and rock.
Oh, I can't wait. I'm gonna have to make sure I'm there mate.
I'll get you over there one way or another. (laughter)
I'll come and see you in Melbourne this time, I think. That's closer for me.
We'll make that happen. When we get closer to it we'll be in contact.
Yes mate, of course. So this solo album is, congratulations again, we've talked a little about it you and me, but it's a fantastic record.
Aw thanks man, I appreciate that.
It's my favorite Luke album since the first solo album.
Thank you man. I worked really hard on it because I wanted to see if I could make a personal best at 50 years old. A lot of people say nobody makes a good record anymore, everybody's past their prime just going out and playing the hits, taking the money and going. I've read that so much about so many people and I refuse to believe that that's all I've got. You know everybody has their personal favorites. I mean is there gonna be another Africa? Probably not it's a different era, there couldn't be. But for me as an artist I needed to make a record first off that wasn't a fusion record. (laughter)
I kinda got that shit out of my system but I needed to do that for me. It was very selfish and very self-indulgent, but hey fuck it, you know. I've been playing Hold the Line since I was 19, I'm 50, do the math. I needed to go out and freak out. But I needed to make a real record, a real artist's record and Randy Goodrum's the guy that brought the concept, my old song writing partner. He executive produced the record and brought me to the Blue label. They're really behind the record, really gonna spend money, and these guys treated me like I first signed in 1977. I was wined and dined.
They love the record. They never said no to anything. They're writing checks for tour support. They did a nonrecoupable video and big promotion budget. And Serafino's working with me in Europe and again and he did such a fantastic job there. I'm really happy to be back there.
Then I've got big John down in Australia and another company here that's releasing it in North America. So I'm gonna go out and go for it. Give it all I've got. It's like, I'm not gonna do this when I'm 60. I'm 50 and everything's winding down. Everything's changing. Everybody's happy.
I wish everybody was healthy. I mean my brother Mikey's, it's just fucking me up that he's not getting better real fast.
It's like I said before, I'm the only guy that's really gonna go out and go for it right away. I have product and I'm putting together a great band and I got dates on the books. So I'm hoping that the record does well and I'll be able to build on that and stay out there for a while and get my own thing going on. I'm sure the other guys, well I've gotten emails that say 'good luck man, we're with you all the way'. God bless and we'll see each other again soon. I'm not making any official statement or anything like that. People are gonna read into it what they want. But after 30 years and the last 2.5 years on tour I've gotta take a break.
I can't think of another band on the planet that's been on the road for the last 2 years in this day and age.
It's a big world.
Yeah, but who else is doing it?
No one does the world like we do. A lot of bands tour every year in America.
It really shits me that Bon Jovi on their last album called it a world tour and the did I think a couple of dates in Canada and the rest in the USA and called it a world tour.
Well no, they do a big business in Europe. They were there. They're doing football stadiums.
I know they're doing OK, but it's not really a world tour.
No when we go on a world tour we do a World-fucking-Tour.
I mean Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, America, Europe that's a world tour.
Well, you know there are very few spots we missed. We were considering the “Let's find Osama” Mideast tour but that fell through. (laughter)
Well you didn't get to Tasmania so….
Hey, it's never too late. That's another thing with Toto. It took a huge overhead. There are so many people involved and it's a much bigger operation. I might be able to sneak into some of these places because I have a smaller operation. I'm not gonna need all those crew guys and all that shit but Toto is its own beast.
Absolutely, it's a big beast.
But like I said, we're all family. Everybody's come to this place where we see like, Ok man this is going to a great last run let's have fun with it. And whatever happens after that, happens after that. I'm not fucking Nostradamus, you know. I can't predict the future. Every time I have I've usually predicted wrong.
It's gonna be a great set of shows and the DVD about to hit any day now…
Yeah it's gonna be a month and when you see it man, it looks really fuckin' cool.
I can't wait to see it.
It looks like we're, it's just huge, there's a lot of people in the audience. The way it was filmed, you'll see the full production. With the 5.1 that's the way to do it. You need a big screen TV and a couple of beers or whatever you're into, and check it out like that. Then you'll see if everybody's faking it or not. Do you know how long it would actually take to go in there and redo the vocals and have it perfectly lip synched? I'd be doing that for the next 50 years of my life. (laughter)
So I mean come on, COME ON fellas. I don't want to dwell to much on that shit though. I like to make one blanket statement and just be done with it. All that does is open up the internet blog from hell. I want to try avoid anything negative if at all possible. I mean let me take the piss out of myself don't leave room everyone to come at me with a fuckin' chain saw.
An old buddy of yours is doing very well out on the road at the moment isn't he? Mr, Eddie?
Eddie V, I went to Staples and saw the show it was great. I was at the rehearsals too.
Everybody says it's great. You know for everything it took for this tour to happen there's been relatively no rumors…
Well I saw it at the Staple Center and there's 18,000 people, and man, they looked great, they sounded great, Roth was singing good, and the set list is the dream set list. And Eddie was playing great. You know, you hear stories about good night, bad night, I don't know man. The guy I know is really trying to give it all he's got. There's always gonna be somebody slaggin' him. 'Oh man he's lost it', they say the same shit about me man, the same shit about everybody. If the guy never did anything else again he changed the face of guitar history. Let him alone. He should be immune to people fucking with him. We're all getting older man, c'mon.
That's why I'm glad it's happening now, because it may not have a chance to happen in the future. It's going well enough that they've added more dates.
I think that's fantastic.
You know I love them, him and Al are like fuckin' soul brothers to me.
Absolutely, I hope they get down to Australia but I don't know.
Well if they get out to that side of the world don't be surprised. But I don't know. I haven't seen them since I saw them back stage before the show standing next to a very bewildered John Mayer.
Hell yes, I walk into the dressing room, which by the way's in like Def Con 5 security. Ed's in his own room and I just walk in and…[off the record…sorry!]
I'd like to see some of today's band still around after 30 years.
Exactly, walk in my shoes. Where are you cats gonna be in 30 years? If all you're relying on is Protools and eyeliner you're gonna be in deep shit real soon.
Well, anything else to add mate?
Geez, that I'm happy, tired but happy. The two dad's thing is pretty cool.
Yeah, how's she doing, good?
Oh, she's a beautiful baby. She's growing already. It's a trip. It's a trip man you know, you're gonna go through all this shit again. I haven't done this in twenty years so I'm really like wow. My wife is thriving. She's just wonderful. She's a great mom already. I'm on the A-list with the in-laws because it's their first grandchild. It's gonna be the last for me but she does have a sister. (laughter)
Long as you're the first.
Right, you know what I mean? But everything's going good man. I really want to thank all the really wonderful people. Thank you for keeping the shit alive on the site and for having my back and promoting the music, promoting the music for all of us, not just me and Toto but for all the guys that are still out there kickin' it. We're all out there bustin' ass man.
Don't pick on the old guys because someday you're all gonna be old. This is really ironic. It's like all the old reviewers that have trashed us are all retired or dead. So there's a new young breed that says Toto's pretty good so that's gonna do OK.
What did you do wrong? Nothing!
You know, all I did was play music. But you've gotta be honest. We were the band to fuckin' beat up. We were without question the most berated band ever in rock history. I'm still taking some for the fuckin' name man. I figure that just made it too easy for them.
I like the name.
It's a stupid name. (laughter) You can print that. (laughter) I hated it from day one but now I am Mr. Toto so what can I tell ya? (laughter) I can't shake it if I want to. (laughter)
That'll be on your tombstone mate.
(laughter) Yeah, exactly, here lies Mr. Toto. (laughter) And there'll be dog shit on top of it probably because that'd be the last fuck you, ya know. (laughter) A fitting end!(laughter)
That's a fitting end to an interview mate. I can't possible top that.
(laughter) OK mate I think that's very good.(laughter)
Oh good, OK.
(laughter) I like that idea, keep the funny shit, keep people laughing. They'll get a better idea of who I am because people think that we all take ourselves too seriously.
You're one of the funniest bastards I've had the pleasure of being with all these years.
Well hell man, like I said, I get the joke. There's the title of the interview.
I get the joke.
I get the joke, “Lay Off Me I Get The Joke”. See I'm hoping to get interview of the year again.
That'll have to be for next year because it's January. (laughter) We didn't do one last year.
That's right we didn't.
Well not formally anyway.
But we had a couple beers together. That's a good thing.
And that was fun wasn't it?
And we'll do that again.
Oh shit, that was the last time I was badly drunk.
Boy you are a cheap date!