'90s - Steve Lukather / Toto (2011)
‘The Ever Changing Times of Steve Lukather’
Best known as the guitarist for early MTV-era hitmakers Toto, Steve Lukather remains one of the world's top session men, having played on well over a thousand recordings by a wide variety of artists over the years.
Starting off as a drummer and keyboardist, it wasn't until his father purchased Lukather a guitar that he found his true musical calling. At first self-taught, Lukather eventually sought the help of older guitar-playing classmates, as well as a formal teacher, which led to an interest in becoming a session guitarist (courtesy of drummer Jeff Porcaro and keyboardist Steve Porcaro, both of whom attended the same high school as Lukather).
Right around the time Lukather turned 20, the guitarist was invited to join the Porcaro brothers in a pop/rock band comprised primarily of studio musicians, Toto (which also featured singer Bobby Kimball, bassist David Hungate, and keyboardist/singer David Paich). While Lukather would join the band, he also managed to maintain his busy session schedule, playing on various other artists albums.
Toto, specializing in mainstream radio rock sounds scored a hit right off the bat with their debut album, and continued to issue chart-bound albums, but after deciding to part ways with singer Kimball after 'Toto IV,' the group was unable to sustain their charting success. That said, Toto are still playing arenas today, and can be found live in Asia later this year.
Despite juggling his busy schedule between session dates and Toto, Lukather managed to also launch a successful solo career during the late '80s, with the release of his 1989 debut, Lukather.
Since then, Lukather's many other solo releases followed: 1994's Candyman, 1997's Luke, 2001's Grammy Award-winning collaboration with Larry Carlton, No Substitutions, 2003's Santamental, 2005's El Grupo Live (with El Grupo), 2008's Ever Changing Times, and his brand new solo record All's Well That Ends Well.
Exclusive Magazine recently sat down with Steve Lukather and discussed the exciting new album, his children, his personal demons, his thoughts on a Toto reunion, and, of course, ... Penguins!
Taking it from the top, and let's clear this up, once and for all ... your new album is called 'All's Well That Ends Well,' so is this truly the last CD of music you will ever put out?! "WHO said that? Maybe you got the wires crossed with the reality that TOTO will never do another CD. I will do as many as can till I drop and take the dirt nap, haha!"
Knowing that some of the songs contain some very personal, and real emotions to you re: your divorce, the passing of your mother, and even seeing a shrink twice a week, they also pay mention to everybody else's problems! Was this album a way for you to vent ... and if so, how much better (or not) do you feel now that it's done?! "Most artists write what they live or what they see and feel. I can’t write 'ooh baby I love you" songs with a straight face anymore, one is I don't FEEL that and I don't care how big so and so's ass is at the club so I write about real life and my true feelings. I was rather cathartic and painful and my life is in repair now. I am proud of it and I worked very very hard on it but it is auto-biographical for sure. Venting ... yes this is a bit of that. The world is pissed off, so am I."
And does this new album feature that infamous one 'lost note,' perhaps? "In the Middle section of 'Don't say its Over" there are many 'adult chords" NOT found in everyday pedestrian rock music. I tried to do this and I found a few changes and notes not found in pop music, I think so anyway. I didn't re-invent the wheel, I sort of took more chances."
'All's Well That Ends Well' features a lot of well-known (in the business) musicians, but some lesser known family ones too! Both your son, Trevor adds guitar and your daughter Tina sings on 'Darkness in My World.' Have you always been a vocal advocate to them both to enter into the world of music? "Trev is a real muso and is doing his first record now and has worked with me in the past. He is really good and I am very proud of him and all my kids but he is the only one in the 'family business". Tina can sing but lives a straight life and a real job. Not into the crazy music biz, lol. I LOVE having them do stuff and they have done little bits on all my records since they were very young. Now I have Lily 3 and Bodhi almost 2 months to add to the next record - IF they care to. I will make them anyway, haha. I let my kids choose their own path. IF they want to, great if not ..."
"The rest of the guests are just great friends that I love who stopped by and or were hangin around or co-writing with me."
The CD also features both Phil Collen (Def Leppard) and Fee Waybill (The Tubes), so who else did you want but couldn't get ... and why?! "Fee and I go back 30 years when we wrote our first songs together "Talk to ya Later" and also "She's a Beauty" for the TUBES. We have been close friends and collaborators ever since on many projects. It is so easy with him, we have a great chemistry."
"Phil and I have known each other a long time but this is the first time we did anything together. Phil was working with my Co-Producer and co writer CJ Vanston and he offered to do some BG's. I LOVED it and he did it as a favor. Lovely guy. I really appreciated that."
"I did not go asking all my friends to be on this. If someone showed up at the studio I made them do an overdub. Like Bernard Fowler of Rolling Stones Fame etc.. We are all pals. I played on his record he sang on mine, etc."
Aside from co-leading Toto through its glorious musical ride, it's also been noted that you come complete with the title: session musician. A point taken up with you by the great Jimmy Page, who told you that you should be proud of being one, as he had been one! Are you happy to be termed a session musician though? "I am honored. I was mis-quoted many years ago ( Imagine that! haha) saying I thought I would have gotten more credibility if I had JUST done Toto. I don't agree nor do I believe that. I have done over 1500 record with some of the biggest recording stars in history in EVERY style. Not many can say that. I am very proud to be called that cause MOST people don't even know what that is. They think of old guys reading dots and getting paid. That is NOT what any of us did. We CAN read music but we also painted blank canvases as well, re wrote, contributed huge hooks in tunes and solo's, etc."
You've freely admitted that you've led an amazing life and a colorful career, so what has been one of your stand out highlights? One that, in those quiet moments of reflection, still to this day makes you smile and feel proud? "Honestly TOO many to write here I am writing my own book and I will go into details there. I mean how do you take 35 years and put it into a paragraph or even a book?"
Aside from being one of the world's top guitarists, I don't think many people know that you also played drums for Michael Jackson and many other musical notables! So, guitar, drums ... what other instruments are you more than decent at? "LOL. Thanks for the kind words but there are SO many great players. I am happy just to be so busy at 53."
"I played BASS on 'Beat It,' along with ALL the riff guitar parts and rhythm guitar parts. My pal Eddie VH did the solo and I did the rest with Jeff Porcaro on Drums and Michael singing. I play drums but not well enough to play on a record. Not when there so many GREAT drummers."
"I play keyboards and have played on many records, a lot on Toto and my solo stuff too."
And talking of Toto, looking back, and can you honestly say that after all those years with them that calling it quits ("this is NOT a break") in mid-2008 was the right thing to do? "YES! I was the last man standing from the original band that had never missed ONE show, record or tour. I am the only one who can say that. I was in a GREAT cover band. I was so miserable I was drinking myself to death. I stopped that and smoking too My marriage was all but over, I was stagnant and miserable. I had to leave. There were business problems, I was just not well and I had none of my true high school pals in the band who started it all with me."
"The only reason I came back was because of Mike Porcaro and his illness. ALS. A f**king horrible disease. He is paralyzed in bed now on a breathing machine. Can you imagine? Paich called me and said " we should do something" and I said OK IF YOU do it and Steve Porcaro comes back. Joseph Williams comes back and then we have our high school brothers intact. Kimballs voice was gone (another reason I split) and Joe can really sing great again and he was a childhood friend. It was like summer camp with my high school bro's again. We are all sober guys now and we have alot of laughs. Simon Phillips came back and Nathan East joined in and we have two great BG vocalists and it is all REAL and fun. Play the hits and a few choice album cuts and have a blast and raise some money for Mike and for a little for ourselves too. It is FUN again. Maybe six weeks a year. NO new record. We ALL have outside careers. Mine is a solo career that I have been working on for 22 years. I love it all, best of both worlds ya know."
And so, once and for all, and for all diehard fans, Toto is 100% dead and buried as an original outfit forever?! "Well I just answered that. Once in a while it is fun. Full time? No."
Trolling around the internet, it seems that your 'vibrato is very pronounced and your exaggerated wide bends are instantly recognizable'! My God, it all sounds very sexual to us!! "That's funny. You guys kill me, lol!"
As you seem to work on projects all the time, what is next in the Lukather pipeline of creativity? "Just finished playing in NYC with Bill Evans, Will Lee, Keith Carlock and Steve Weingart at the Blue Note. 12 packed shows in six days. Jammed with The Roots on Jimmy Fallon. Touring the world as a solo act. A few weeks of Toto here and there. Derek Sherinian's new record. Looking at doing some stuff again with Larry Carlton as it has been 10+ years since we won our Grammy together. Always cool stuff popping up. I am very very lucky to have all this stuff going on. I am thankful, believe me! I am booked well into 2012 so far. Then a new solo record."
Lastly, and throwing you a real journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins, .... do you, perhaps? "Only as friends!"
Interview: Russell A. Trunk
So, if you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of his new CD, and you think you know all there is to know about the man himself, just answer this easy question: Which George Benson tune did Lukather co-write along with Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful new AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before April 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: STEVE LUKATHER SIGNED CDs to: email@example.com