Steve Lukather Interview (1989)

Posted: September 4, 2013 in Classic Rock - Interviews, Deep Purple Family, Jämtland (County), Retrofuture


Back in the days when I was a freelance journalist I met Toto and Steve Lukather a few times (I counted seven, when that chapter was over), and he always struck me as a super decent fellow. As a guitar player and writer, he certainly has the chops, but I have always enjoyed him as a singer as well. Back in September 1989, I met him at Hotel Plaza in Stockholm (Sweden) for a chat about his then newly released first solo album “Lukather”. This is a translation from a translation, picked from a newspaper here in Östersund (LT, September 16 1989). I also re-printed this interview in RETROFUTURE 4 in 2011 along with some other related stuff from back in the day (a Toto Special, if you like). In recent years, Steve has been busy with Toto and other exciting projects, and his solo career is going strong with records like “All´s Well That Ends Well” (2010) and “Transition” (2012). But this is a chat from when he started his own thing, and I guess this interview reflects that era pretty well. Enjoy!

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So Steve, when did you begin to think about a solo album?

– Well, I have been thinking about it for years. When we got back home after the last tour with Toto we decided to let the band rest for a bit. After ten or eleven years it felt like we needed it. But I couldn´t stop playing and friends of mine – some are on this record – started to talk me into doing a solo album. That got the ball rolling and soon enough it was a project.

How did you get the big names to guest on it, did you just pick up the phone?

– Oh, that was easy, they are my friends. I offered them to write and to produce the stuff with me as well so they felt that it was as much fun as I did. It would have been easy to have hired a few professional musicians, but I wanted it to be more… I wanted the attitude! Some of the players that you hear on this album would never have done this for anybody else, so it is special.

The track with Eddie Van Halen certainly sounds like Van Halen…

– Yes, but he has his specific style. We are friends and we are also neighbors so we hang out all the time. I was at him to contribute something and suddenly the phone rang at about one thirty at night and it was him saying that he now had a song that he wanted to do with me. He was on the road with Van Halen at the time, the Monsters of Rock tour. So he actually plays bass on this track.

Was it intentional to open up the album with the toughest song?

– Yes, because if the record had opened with one of the more commercial tracks people might have thought that it was just a Toto Jr album, and I didn´t want that. As a matter of fact, the first side of the album is harder than the second. The record company pestered me for more commercial songs – in fact, they really only wanted songs like that – but I would never have done that.

Have you done a video for the first single, “Lonely Beat of My Heart”, yet?

– Yes, and it turned out OK I think. I realised that the song itself was pretty commercial, so I tried to toughen up the look of the video a little. The video should have been out by now but I guess that somebody has screwed it up somewhere.

Who is in the video apart from yourself?

– The guys in my live band, like bass player John Pierce and drummer John Keegan. They also play on the record.

Will you take this to the road?

– I have already begun! I payed a visit to Japan with Jeff Beck recently and I hope to be back here in Sweden by November if I can.

So how long will Toto be on hold?

– We are not sure about that at the moment. But there will be a “Greatest Hits” album on the market by October that will include some new stuff that our original singer Bobby Kimball sings on. They are called “Modern Eyes” and “Going Home” and I think they are pretty good. Who the next singer in Toto will be we just don´t know. This thing with Bobby was more for old times sake.

I heard that you had problems getting this record released?

– Yes, the record company tried to control everything, and that is not their job. Record companies can really get on your nerves. It ended with my manager buying back the tapes and selling them to C.R.I and we made good money in the process. So the album will be released by another company in America, early next year. It was a bad situation that turned into a good situation. When I record the next album it will be exactly how I want it to be. 75% of this one was stuff that I wanted and the rest was added because of outside pressure. I tried to avoid including too much pop, which of course was the only thing they wanted from me.

Does this mean that Toto will switch labels in America as well now?

– Well, to be honest, I have to say that I hate the people at Columbia Records, I think they are a bunch of assholes. They just look at what is on the Top 10 at the moment, and then they tell their artists to copy that. They essentially want you to sound like everybody else and that is one of the major problems in the industry right now. I mean, what the hell happened to originality? Zeppelin did Zeppelin and The Stones did The Stones – it was their own thing. Thank God that The Stones are still around. I love the new album, you can hear right away that it is them. But look at all these Metal bands – they all look and sound the same. Boring!

The last time Toto was here the band also jammed at a club after the concert that night – is this something that you do often?

– I wish we did it more often! A gig like that can often be more fun to play than the actual show that night. The pressure is off and you know that you can relax a little. Every note does not have to be perfect. People are often surprised when they see us jam stuff by The Stones and other artists that they may think that we can´t do justice.

Yes, because in Toto you have this invisible straight jacket on, musically speaking…

– Exactly. A lot of people may get frightened if we suddenly played harder than what they would expect us to. At the same time, as a musician, one needs to feel that there is some room to grow. That is one of the reasons that Toto needs to rest. It is not that we don´t like each other or anything like that. We just felt that it was in the bands interest to rest a while. We noticed some aggression within the band on the last tour, mostly because of Joseph´s troubles with his performances. It was a frustrating period for us and we felt that we might as well stop it. It might have ended with people screaming at each other if we had not. When I told the others that I was going to do a solo album they were all very happy for me. They supported me and that felt good.

Some of your roots comes from jazz rock, right? Guys like Tommy Bolin?

– Yes, Tommy Bolin and Jeff Beck. I first heard Tommy on Billy Cobham´s “Spectrum”, which was amazing. Everybody played so well on that album. Jan Hammer, Cobham… and it was all played live in the studio. You can hear Tommy break a string in one of the songs! Have you heard Beck´s new album? It is so fucking good! He is phenomenal on it. Jeff might tour Europe next year and if he does I hope I can tag along. We had a blast in Japan together. Neal Schon´s new band Bad English was also on the bill and we jammed stuff like “Going Down” together.

So right now, it would be fair to say that all you want to do is tour this album as much as you can?

– Yes, because it feels like a new beginning. I can´t play the big arenas, like Toto, nobody can do that this early on. So it will be clubs and I am really looking forward to it. Playing clubs is a whole different thing, people are drinking cocktails and feeling good, with the band entertaining them as the spice of the evening. You can´t have that in an arena, when you have spent hours in some dressing room just waiting for the show to begin. It is good for my soul to play to people. Back in Los Angeles I jam with people all the time, at bars and in clubs for no pay. I just do it for fun.

You sing on this album. In Toto you will sing on a couple of tracks on an album. So how does this feel? Will it work on stage as well?

– It is pretty hard work but you quickly learn what you can do and what you should avoid if you want to keep your voice in shape. But I move around more on stage now and I have a singer called Warren Ham from Texas with me for some of the songs. He can do the bluesier tracks really well. We will perform stuff by Hendrix, the James Gang and Beck on this tour. We want to give the audience something special and I am sure that people want to hear more than the songs on the album. The set will change from night to night. When the crowd leaves I want them to feel that they have heard something special. Something that they may never hear us do again.

You haven´t thought about leaving Los Angeles? Some people already have, like Glenn Hughes who relocated to Atlanta…

– Los Angeles really is a dump and it worries me because of my two children. It is not a good place for children. When I was in Japan my wife was struck down and robbed. Los Angeles is filthy and filled with junkies. And on top of that you have the smog, which is not very nice. But on the other hand, you have all your friends there and the recording industry almost exclusively dwell there. But it is a fact that I try to avoid my own home town as much as I can. I know Glenn Hughes well, he used to go out with my wifes sister. Have you met him recently? Do you know what he is doing now?

I heard that he sang on the new Whitesnake album, and that he got 40.000 dollars for it.

– Wow, David Coverdale is really spending a lot of money on this record. I heard that Steve Vai got 300.000 dollars to join. I love these guys because they have done so much great music over the years. I was a big fan of Deep Purple in my teens and I still listen to them. I love Ritchie Blackmore´s personal style. So many have copied him, but he is the greatest.

Have you had that? People copying you?

– Yeah, there are a few guys out there actually. One of them sounds so much like me that I have people coming up to me asking me if I didn´t play this and that song! I don´t know how Blackmore feels about it but I am just a little surprised and slightly flattered. It is a bit of a compliment after all, even if it would be better for these guys if they did their own thing.

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Michael Eriksson (1989)

(No part of this interview may be copied without permission)

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