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Monday, December 2, 2019

Exclusive Interview: Toto's Steve Lukather on the Band Taking an Extended Break, a Second Book in the Works & Playing with Ringo Starr

Steve Lukather Official Promo Shot

ICYMI

Steve ("Luke") Lukather may be best known as a vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, producer and founding member of the iconic band Toto, but that's just scratching the surface of what he is actually capable of. He started his career as a session musician and you'll find his work, spanning various genres, on more than 1,500 albums. Lukather has spent decades working alongside so many of the industry's best, but Toto is his main job and cultivating the musical fruits of the bands' labor has been the centerpiece to his prolific career.

It was recently confirmed that Toto will be taking an indefinite break after their October 20th show at The Met in Philadelphia and I was lucky enough to catch up with Lukather for a chat about the band winding down, and what's next for him. Check it out below!

 Steve ("Luke") Lukather on life on the road:

"We work about five days a week and those days off cost money. Luckily I don't really need more than a day or two off once in a while. I'm out here working, it's not a vacation and I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms. They've turned into a bit of a sanctuary, to be honest with you. Especially since I'm running the business end of things too. I mean, there's a great team but I have to wake up and make all the decisions and take care of all the BS. That means that I've got to be up early and I've got to have some space to do things. I've got my guitar with me so I practice that and take care of the band business. I've got things to do and if not I can always watch films or peruse the internet or something.

I've been around the world so many times that going out to sightsee is almost laughable at this point! I've already done that so many times in the 44 years that I've been doing this, so I just kind of stay to myself. There's nothing normal about my life, but I've normalized it. I used to be a crazy party guy and so the days were spent recovering. Now I get up when I used to go to bed (laughing). I have to be sober, together and functioning to run a business on top of being an older guy on the road. I have to take care of myself now. I had my wild days and it was fun, I guess. They tell me that I had a great time (laughing), so I've got nothing left to prove in that arena. I'm really fine being an older guy out here and you have to learn to like hanging out with yourself, otherwise, you'll go mad (laughing).

It can be terribly depressing at times too. I've got little kids as well as grown kids, then my dog passed away and I was on the road when that happened. There are things that you just can't prepare for, but you've got to deal with them. I chose this job and the great thing is that the good parts are great and the things that suck, well they really suck and that makes it just like anyone else's life. My doctor has known me through every aspect of my career and I told him he should really come along and do everything that I do, eat what I eat, sleep when I sleep. Travel around with me for a month and then tell me your real thoughts on this job because in some ways it's tougher than people think."

Luke on being away from his family:

"It's very hard having little kids and being on the road, but it has always been that way. My father was in the television and movie business, so he would go on the road for six months at a time, long before cell phones, and I didn't love him any less. That gives me a little peace. My kids only know me this way, so if they only know me this way then there is nothing else to compare it to. When I come home I'm a dad and I do all the dad stuff, which I love doing."

Luke on working with his oldest son Trev:

"Ever since he could play guitar at all he has been working on my records with me. He has played songs for my solo record and he has played live with the band. He wrote Halestorm's first hit, so he has got a gold record, and he plays in this band What So Not that headlined Lollapalooza. Then he has his new band ZFG, with Mike Pocaro's kid on bass, There's a bidding war for that band, wait until you hear them! They opened for us all summer in Europe. He's my best friend so we always try and do as much as we can together. Right now it's his turn to be the artist. That's what he is focused on and I'm trying to help him with that."

Luke on Toto's music being categorized as 'yacht rock':

"The term yacht rock is kind of funny. All they did was put a label on a thing that we called, going to do session work, and we did that every day for fifteen years (laughing). They'd put a piece of paper with a bunch of cord symbols in front of us, count off the song and then you better play something because that's what you got hired to do. All of those records have suddenly become a genre. We didn't write all that music but we did contribute to the arrangement and the performance of it. We gave a lot of ourselves. That was just the era and style of music back then, sure there's some cheesy shit in there but there's also cheesy stuff today.

They always want to put terminology on things. They can't just say, hey this is a cool band, instead it has to be called soft rock. I mean at what point did the music go from soft rock to hard rock, what is the criteria for that shift? Is the guitar louder or does it have a bigger drum sound?  Why do we need terminology? If you don't like something that's cool but in the end, an E-chord is still an E-chord. Everyone likes things in a nice tight little box and there it is, now we know what to call it (laughing). The fact of the matter is that regardless of what anyone calls it, none of us expected any of this music to last almost 45 years like it has."

Toto Official Promo Shot

Luke on Toto becoming an interesting part of pop culture:

"We were Family Guy characters the other night and how cool is that? It was absolutely hysterical, we were howling with laughter. "Africa" kind of went crazy for us these last few years, it has kind of leveled off now which is fine with me, but it was really great for our careers. Everyone always says 'Africa by Toto' which makes us part of the whole schtick and gives us free publicity (laughing). I love all of it and it's an honor for us to be a part of pop culture. You have to be able to laugh at yourself and realize that parodies and things are really an honor."

Luke on working with Ringo Starr's All-Star Band:

"The Beatles spent eight years putting together music that would not only last for 55 years, but it's still going strong! There's never going to be another Beatles and I'm just so grateful that I got a little teeny piece of that experience by getting to work with three out of four of those guys. I've been working with Ringo's band for going on eight years now and I'm very honored to do that. When I first signed up in 2012 I thought I'd be doing one summer and here I am still. We've become really great friends and I just love this guy, regardless of the fact that he's Ringo (Starr). I mean, he is 100 times cooler than you think he is, but to have him as my friend is great. I'd love him even if his name was Joe Smith because he's just the kind of guy that makes you think, 'I want that guy to be my friend' (laughing), and I cherish that. I'd do anything for him and Ringo's band is like my vacation gig (laughing)."

Luke on Toto winding down, at least for the foreseeable future:

"Toto has been my job and I've spent my whole life cultivating this. Toto has had its' best year in terms of live performance and live revenue. Musically, including ticket sales and reviews and all of that, things are fantastic. Sadly, some stuff going on behind the scenes has kind of crippled us so we have to step off and see what happens next at the end of this tour. We are at the end of our 40th-year cycle, it's now actually 43 years of togetherness (laughing) and so we do need to go away for a while there's no question about that. For how long is the thing because there is definitely some darkness behind the scenes.

There is litigation from hateful people that want to tear us apart for no particular reason other than finding personal joy in doing so. None of it makes sense to anyone who is actually in the band. It's kind of insidious and messed up but it is how it is. Sometimes you're forced to do things at the time that don't really make sense but then, in the end, they really do work out for the best. It's just time for me to get out there and do some other stuff.  Out of the dust and ethers, something happens. I don't know what that is right now but I do know that change is good. Music is in my DNA and I've spent my whole life making it so I know that I can play whatever I decide that I want to play."

Luke on what's next for him:

"I am doing book number two! The first one was successful, which is surprising to me (laughing), but okay. I can't put my life into just those first 300 pages, I have a billion stories so now I can get more into the session thing and more into the goings-on behind the scenes. It's going to take me a few years to do it, just like the last one did and I've got a documentary in play too. There will never be a Toto story per se because there's a person that'll stop that. Actually, there are a couple of people now that'll stop it from happening.

So I'll write a second book, write a solo record, I'm going back out with Ringo, I've got other tours to do and I want to stay home and just be a dad. I want to watch my little kids grow up a bit, I'm hardly out of work (laughing), I haven't been out of work since I've started so I'm very fortunate, but there is a price to it all. So, for now, I'll just get to stay home a little bit more and that will be really, really cool for me. This is a great time to step back because it's the end of a cycle. We never thought we would get to forty years, are you kidding me? We're going out with a bang though! Every night there's nothing but good vibes on stage, the reviews are great, revenue is good and the audiences are loving it. We have just decided to go out there and kick ass."

Steve Lukather & Joseph Williams
Color By Kevin Albinder

Luke on the future of Toto:

"There have been eight versions of Toto, eight from the beginning lineup right up to today. People come, people go and we reconfigure. I'm the only guy that has been there for every one of them. Will there be a 9.0 (version)? I don't know, not the way it is now. It breaks my heart and I can't predict the future, but I'll tell you that on October 20th, in Philadelphia, it's the last time that you'll see this incarnation of the band."

Check out Toto's official site for tickets to their final shows & check out Luke's official site to stay up to date on everything that he's doing!

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