Dennis De Young Interview

Dennis De Young is an established legend. No doubt. Speaking to Dennis was one of my bigger interviews and I would like to say that he was a pleasure to talk to and one of the funniest guys I have listened to. He is genuinely down to earth, humble and a very nice guy.
Thanks to my awesome fiancée Cathy for typing this interview out for me. Even she commented how genuine Dennis sounded and I hope that comes across in the text...

How are you? I hope you haven't been trying to get through?
No I did try twice before when Jim Peterik gave me your number I think about 6.30 our time and the phone rang out…

It's good to finally talk to you it is a great pleasure to talk to you.
My pleasure also I've never talked to anyone in Australia EVER.

Really, good grief.
My wife has always had a burning desire to come down there.

Well you've got an excuse now.
Well yeah. She reads romance novels and a lot of them are set in Australia.

I guess it is rugged and considered romantic down here.
I don't know who knows!

It's good to include in novels like that, because you can't verify it when you are in the States.
That's right and the toilet's flushed the other way! What do they know right?

No yours flushes the wrong way. I guess there is more of you so we have to be the wrong way.
I wonder if that happens in Antarctica?

I have no idea, maybe they don't even flush at all.
They just freeze (laughs)

So how's things for you anyway?
Well as the song says and as Dickens once said 'It was the best of times and the worst of times'.
Recently some wonderful things have happened. This past November a fellow called Tim Orchard who runs the Rosemont Theatre in Chicago called me up and offered me the opportunity to perform.
He basically rang me up and said Dennis De Young at the Rosemont Theatre with a 50-piece orchestra and I said, 'Tim, every once and a while you need to empty that bong water'!!
But he was serious and he convinced me to do it. I was very skeptical because the theater holds about 4,200 people and I thought why would 4,200 people come and see me. Apparently they wanted too and it sold out in advance.
It was very well received, particularly by my relatives, who were all on the dole!!
So we are doing it again May 12th at the same theatre and May 13th at the Riverside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We have also about 25 to 30 other offers around the country to bring it to other cities. We're just trying to figure out the right time and moment to do this. It's pretty amazing.

What are you singing? What are you performing?
Led Zeppelin 4. No I'm not!
I'm doing 10 or 11 Styx songs; Babe, Lady, Best of Times, Come Sail Away, Mr. Roboto, Don't Let It End, Show Me The Way, Grand Illusion, Lorelei.
Then what we do is take advantage of the Symphony Orchestra. In the song Lady there's a bolero at the end of the song we break into Ravel's Bolero and play that with the orchestra. Then we do Eine Kleine Nacht Musik by Mozart right into Lorelei and we do Clair Du Lune by Debussy into Don't Let It End. So we do actual classical pieces and weave them right into the fabric of the Styx music. In addition to that I have spent some time developing my skills on Broadway.

I was aware of that, yeah.
As an actor and as a composer and I do 2 or 3 songs from an album called 10 on Broadway that I recorded for Atlantic records and some Gershwin and we do that with almost like a jazz trio and some orchestral accompaniment. We do 4 songs from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is a musical that I composed, and bring in the fella that played the role of Quasimodo in Nashville, Tennessee where we had the one and only performance. He sings a couple of songs as well as the girl who's on the CD from that who sings a song. So that's the show and people applaud and then we all go home.

That sounds like a pretty intense night?
It is. I don't think anyone is doing anything like it by combining rock music, symphonic music and Broadway all in the same show.

That's a mixture!
No one in their right mind would do it. That's why I did it.

Fantastic. I talked to Jim quite often and the one reason we got onto the subject of you is I commented that I thought the track that you have on his World Stage album is one of the best tracks on the album. I really do love that song.
Thank you. Yeah it's Jim's song and he asked me to come and sing and so I came in and occasionally I goosed him. Jim and I have known each other for a number of years and he's a great guy. He goes back to the days of Vehicle in the 60's doesn't he?

When I first interviewed him I'd forgotten about that.
He was just a kid then. I think he was a fetus when he recorded that song.

Haha! I think he'd have to have been. It was a while ago.

We got onto the subject of that and I was talking about the song and I expressed to him some concern that I'd seen a lot of Styx/Tommy Shaw press on the Internet through many interviews and articles but I had yet heard from you at all.
Well Tommy had committed himself early on to the idea of communicating constantly on the computer via the internet and of course for somebody like me I know there is such a thing but I don't know how to get to it (laughs). I actually have my own web site which a fella runs for me and every once in a while he rings me and begs me to go take a look at it (laughs). I go 'oh it's good, it's a pack of lies keep doing it, you're doing a great job'

Here's a quote and call me back in six months?
I've been providing stuff. You know, Andrew I'm going to tell you the truth, are you ready for the truth?

Forget it, I'll tell you lies they're better.
The truth is when this guy started this web site I thought who really gives a shit. You know what I mean, about me. Then when I played this concert and all these people showed up I thought hey maybe I'd give something to this web site. I realized people really care about this.

There is a huge Styx fan base that includes what you do.

They are loyal to Styx but everything to do with Styx. If you branch off they follow you as well I've found.
Yeah it's a very dedicated following. It has been a very difficult 2 years for me considering what's happened with the band. I don't know if you know the story or not.

Well not really only from what I've read from Tommy Shaw's side of things on various articles that's why I thought you could have your say.
Ok here's what happened. I can give you several publications and my story stays the same. From the moment I've told it in the press and of course between Tommy Shaw and James Young - their story keeps changing every six months. Here's what happened Andrew.

In 1996 Styx did a comeback tour and in '97 we weren't supposed to tour. I had written this musical and this was the year I was supposed to take time to do 2 things. The first was start writing and doing some demos for a new Styx album and I was supposed to have the opportunity to work on the Hunchback.
I had put the Hunchback on hold for a year and a half when the Styx thing came up in '96. I had producers in fact who were like what about us. The manager of the band came to me and said that one of the band members a tour would be beneficial financially to him. I said all right I'd try and do both.
What I did is I produced that live Styx album and came up with the idea for the show. I then did a workshop in Tennessee in January and did the whole Styx tour and then 2 days after I was off the road with Styx I was in Nashville for 2 months for the first production. All the time we were on the road I was going back between New York and Nashville trying to get this whole Hunchback thing settled. So I worked myself to death. To death.

It sounds like it.
I hadn't planned on doing it but I did it in the spirit of helping people. When I finally got off the road in October from the musical my father passed away which was a shock and it was very difficult. Then my best friend had terminal cancer and my wife's sister died all within about 6 weeks. So the mental and emotional strain was enormous.
When we came back from the funeral in California both my wife and I got a terrible flu. Well Andrew, there was nothing left of me. The flu just devastated me. The upshot of that was I just couldn't get better.
What I got was this post viral symptom, which I didn't know for 8 or 9 months what was causing it. My face always felt like I had a fever, it was hot.
I couldn't figure out what it was and I went from doctor to doctor and they didn't know what it was. Eventually I actually figured it out that I was sensitive to light. I didn't know why. It was only precipitated by any strong or fluorescent lights. When I finally recovered enough to keep working on the new Styx album we got together and started working on it.
I was recording in my house because that's where I had a studio. So we were making the record and things were going swimmingly and there were no problems as far as I knew.

In Feb 1999 the manager came in and said here is the tour that we want to do and they wanted a commitment from me for a full tour. I was barely able to record and still felt like crap. I asked them to give me another 4 or 5 months to recover from this thing. I said let's finish the album, give me a little time to recover and then we can plan something but I can't commit at this moment.
So a couple of weeks later Tommy called me up from Los Angeles and said that it was not in his best interest to finish up an album if there wasn't going to be a tour.
I said what are you talking about - we had to finish this album. Then the day later James Young called me and said they wanted me to commit to this tour but if I was not going to commit to the tour then they were going to go ahead and tour without me.
I begged them not to and I tried to convince them a thousand different ways that it was a mistake and asked them just to give me some time and so forth. That was it. So what happened was they had planned on stopping the album and just going on tour. So a couple of weeks later I called the head of the record company Tom Lipske at CMC I said if you hear this album was stopped because I got sick that's baloney. I told him I wanted to finish the record and he said what do you mean the record was stopped?
He didn't know about it. So he stepped in and got his attorney's going and he said he didn't care if there was a tour or not he wanted his album. So he forced the issue and the album was completed and unfortunately JY and Tommy finished their nine songs in California without my input. I finished mine in Chicago. That's why the album is what it is.

It sounds like two different bands.
That's why the album is what it is. Andrew did you listen to the live album?

Yeah, I've got it right in front of me.
All right so there are 3 new tracks on that live album. They are Dear John, Paradise and On My Way. Now those three songs sound like they are from the same album don't they?
That's because, do you wanna know the difference Andrew? It's because I produced them.
I have produced every album since Equinox, even though it said Styx. I was the producer.
I was the guy that brought all those 3 styles together and made those records sound like it was the same band doing them. On this album though you will notice it's the first album that hasn't been produced by me.
I'm telling you since Equinox.

So you produced your own tracks on Brave New World?
I produced my tracks.

I was fairly critical of the album, I'll be honest with you.
You can be as critical as you like about the album. I'm critical of the album

I gave it just an ok review because there are some really wonderful tracks on there. 'While There's Still Time' is a wonderful track but there are some others that I just didn't think gelled. From start to finish it does sound like a couple of different bands in there.
Well the problem is it really was just an album of missed opportunities. The material when it was presented, I was really excited with it.
But really in making a record it is in fact about someone making sure that the performances are good enough. Styx was a combination and always was of 3 personalities and what they did together musically. It wasn't me by myself. What I brought to it was I'm the biggest Styx fan in the world and I knew what Styx was as a band. I used my personality and I used my skills as a producer to make sure those albums always sounded like Styx records.
If you listen to 'Edge Of The Century' it still sounds like a Styx record. We had Burtnik in there but it still sounds like a Styx record.
This one doesn't because Tommy and JY went out and worked with, actually I have no idea. When I got the record and they sent me their nine tracks and I heard them I actually sat in my room and cried when I listened to them. I knew a terrible mistake had been made.
So when we got together 3 weeks before the album was due to come out for the first time, because we had all committed to a TV program, I talked to Tommy Shaw for over an hour and begged him to stop the release of this record - to allow us the chance to go back in and fix it.
They were quite happy with what they had done. Andrew, my role as producer all those years was to make sure any song that wasn't good enough didn't actually get on the album.

Tough job.
Yeah. And sometimes an unpopular one. You know what? It works.
If you look at those Styx albums they all have 8 or 9 songs on them. There are not 14 songs.

Well you get the very best songs. It isn't about the quantity it's about quality.
So anyway that's what happened. They decided to take the thing on the road and my only recourse was to sue them to stop them. I felt in my heart I couldn't do it and hoping and praying they would show some sense and stop the nonsense. They went touring July '99 and by August '99 I was well enough to say 'hey if you're going to do a full leg….'
They'd been asking me and I called them through attorney's and said I'm willing to sit down and talk and since that time they have absolutely refused to have any communication with me.

That's sad.
Very sad.

What forced the issue? Obviously you are all strong personalities, which have fired the band to be as great as you are.
Well look at The Who or The Rolling Stones that's what fires every great band. Appealing personalities. Yeah.

What happened when Tommy left and you reformed to do 'Edge of the Century'?
In 1983 Tommy decided that he didn't like, well he didn't like a lot of things, but number 1 thing he didn't like was he was convinced he could be a solo artist on his own.
Someone was whispering in his ear. He quit the band in the middle of the '83 tour. We knew he was going to quit. When the whole thing was over at the end of '83 and the beginning of '84 Tommy had quit and James Young, John and Chuck were still in the band they wanted me to replace Tommy Shaw and to go forward immediately. I said I wouldn't do it. I said this band is these guys.
So what I did is I became a reluctant solo artist because I was not going to go back and put a new Styx together with somebody else.
My contract read that I had the ability to make a solo record for A&M so I decided I'd make a solo album and wait for Tommy to come to his senses. So I made Desert Moon.
So Tommy made his solo album and I made mine. When Tommy's record deals had run out he called up in about 1988 and wanted to talk about getting the band back together.
I thought it was a good idea but I had just signed another deal with MCA to make another solo album, my 3rd. I told him let me just record this album and get this together and we'll talk about getting this band back together. As I'm going through that process he called me up one day and said I'm antsy. Remember Tommy is the guy that wrote the song 'Too Much Time On My Hands'. Catch my drift?

Ok. He called me and said when are we going to do this Styx thing? I said I've gotta finish this project and he said I've got this offer to from my manager to go get with Jack Blades and Ted Nugent and do some demos. I said go and do it. I'm not going to stop you from doing it. So he went and they got a record deal and off he went.

So what happened was after it was clear to me he was now in Damn Yankees the band came back to me again, JY called and said when are we going to do this. I realized at that moment that with Tommy happily in Damn Yankees that maybe if we were ever going to do it we should do it. So we forged ahead and put the thing together with Glenn Burtnik.
In that same year or the year later Tommy actually sold back his right to the name Styx legally.

Oh really?
Why? You tell me why somebody would do that?

Signing off on it really.
I guess so isn't it? So when Damn Yankees ran its course again well we got back together again.

Good grief. So where you are now…
I'm in my kitchen!

So am I actually. Haha.
What I was concerned about was they cut off your access to the Styx web site.

Well look let me ask you a question.
Is that playing games or…
It's absolute nonsense. The fact of the matter is I have received no compensation for anything they are doing. I own that name you know. I'm part owner of that name. In other words, what's your web site called?
That's what I thought. If I tomorrow started a web site called Melodicrock and took the name Andrew McNeice what would you do to stop me, what could you do?

I could take you to court of course.
The police aren't going to arrest me are they? If you don't take me to court what's going to happen?

Well, nothing?
Well then I'll just have my web site then won't I?

That's what I've done for the last year or so. I've just sat. I've really patiently hoped. They have taken a band that was loved for what?
If only they had given me 5 or 6 months. It just crushed me.
You know Andrew I started this band when I was just 14 years old. Tommy and JY were nowhere to be seen when this band was formed. Me and the Panozzo's formed the band. You know there was 5 albums before Tommy Shaw and 1 album after he left. So it's been a really hurtful thing.
The good news is because of one guy who offered me this chance to do this thing with the orchestra another door has been opened. I've got to be honest with you they've taken a headlining band. In '96 and '97 we were a headline act wherever we went. I didn't know this was going to happen.
My wife's greatest fear and we've been married for 30 years, she was there at the very beginning and we've raised our 2 kids on the road and when this happened it was devastating to all of us. We've given our life to this thing called Styx. Now they are packaging up and playing fairs and casinos. You know what I'm saying?

I do.
So it's crushing to me because to me Styx was something sacred. That's the way I always treated it. Really when I heard that record and said I cried I really did because when I heard it I knew it was a terrible mistake. Right from the artwork, which I begged them not to use.

Not the greatest cover in the world.
Oh please. I begged them I said you couldn't do this. There you go. That's what happens when girls start fighting over each other. Really if you went back and read over the Goldmine interview you'd see that there story keeps changing.
The first thing was Dennis is ill and he's handing the baton over to Tommy. Bullshit.
As we say up here in the States 'I was robbed'. It's just 2 guys JY and Tommy. Chuck is retired. So that's it, it's kind of a sad thing for us over here.

I can totally understand why.
Did you wanna ask any questions about 'Brave New World' or anything?

Well. I'm happy to listen. I wanted to give you the chance to have your say out there. It's a reply to the overwhelming publicity that surrounds the other guys.
Andrew, Tommy wrote a song called I Will Be Your Witness.
It would have been a hit record if he'd just let me produce it. I bet the fact the only reason that song is on the album is because I insisted it be on the album. I would have produced it differently.

It's one of the better tracks.
It's a great idea to have something to say but then you have to say something.
I hate to sound bitter but I have some reason. There is nothing worse than wasted opportunities. That's really what happened to Brave New World.

What do you think will happen to the band next? I get the impression they will try and record with this current touring lineup.
Well I guess that's where some gauntlets are going to be thrown down.
You know what I mean. The thing that is most disturbing is it's clear to me they never really ever understood what Styx was to their fans. Other than getting on the web and dealing with a small amount of people who'll click on and basically drink your bath water if you want them too.
If you look at a tour when 3 or 400,000 people come to see you or if you're able to sell 400,000 or 500,000 albums the people that go to that web site regularly comprise maybe 5,000 of those people. So you can't keep preaching to the choir thinking that it's the whole congregation. It is not.

Good point.
So my theory is simple the fans have in some way spoken in that when Styx went out and tried to sell a hard ticket. You know what a hard ticket is?

A solo bill or something?
You come into a town and put a contra for sale with your name. They had had difficulty doing that. In '97 when we played NYC we did 10,000 people at Radio City Music Hall.
They went back in Nov '99 and they played Hammerstein Ballroom and drew 775 people.
So you see what I'm saying. In some ways the majority at large has spoken and the thing that is always perplexing me is how could they miss the fact.
Even in 1984 when Tommy quit they wanted to see Tommy, JY and me together. I mean you don't want to see Mick Jagger without Keith Richards and vice versa or Plant without Page. You know even with the Eagles who have more than one singer you want to see the guys.

You want to see what they were known for and why they became famous.
That's right groups are really those particular personalities.
That's enough whining for one day. What else do you want to know about?

Well I wanted to hear your side of the story in fact.
Well you can tell everybody what my web site is. Right now you can just do

Too easy.
It was originally called Grand Illusion Music.Com because somebody had taken my name. Now that's been turned over to me in the last 2 weeks. The fellow turned it over to me very nicely.

That is nice.
Yeah so there are video clips of the concert I did at Rosemont and all sorts of things. Pictures of me naked from the waist up, oh that's another web site. I'm sorry Andrew I got carried away.

That's the hidden page right?!!
Yes. Oh god. Haha.

Well I really am happy that you're positive about what's going on.
Yeah. Have you ever heard the Hunchback.

Not yet!
Give me an address and I'll mail it to you.

That's very kind of you Dennis, thank you.
It's no trouble.

Well thanks for talking to me today and hopefully I can send some people to your website.
Thanks Andrew. All the best.