Hi Steve, it is so great for me to talk to you, Toto (along with Kiss and Van Halen) is one of the bands that gave me the first interest in rock music when I was eleven or twelve years old or so. So you are a kind of hero to me. How does it feel to do a job that puts you in a position to be an example and an idol to so many people?
Well thanks man. I dig Kiss, I have worked with Paul, Gene and Peter. Peter is a great cat. You got to love these guys. Eddie and Alex van Halen are soul brothers from the 70's and in one of the greatest rock bands of all time! I do not, nor ever could see myself as an "idol". I am just a lucky motherfucker who gets to play guitar, get paid well and see the world! That is all I ever wanted. If people like what I do or the band does, great. If not, well that is cool too. There is plenty of music out there for everyone to dig. Hell, I listen to old Miles Davis records, acoustic jazz. All the rock shit I hear is either my old favourites from childhood on CD or the stuff my kids play for me that is new. There is some way cool new stuff but also, in my opinion, A LOT of rubbish as well. Just my two cents!
When you were young (which should be a long time ago, I guess), what kind of music or artists did influence you and made you decide to pick up a guitar and learn it yourself?
HAHAHAHA, well I am 46 years old so I guess I am over the middle aged hump. I don't FEEL or ACT old but the numbers don't lie, hahaha. I am way cool with getting older. I have had a great life and it is still awesome. It is all in your heart and soul as to how old you are. I mean I have met people in the 20's that act like there 60. No fun at all. I have LOTS of love and laughter around me. That's the only thing that really counts anyway!
I was seven years old when I started and I still try and practice everyday if I can. I still care about trying to get a little better every year. It takes work. I was self-taught till I was fifteen then I started to study with a great teacher named Jimmy Wyble. I learned to read music, harmony, theory, jazz improvisation and orchestration. I was WAY into studying for like four years then I got the gig with Boz Scaggs in 1977, then Toto, finally all the sessions. The next thing I knew I was 46 soon to be 47. They tell me I had a GREAT time.
At that young age you started playing guitar can you still remember buying or getting your first guitar?
As I said I was seven years old. I got a KAY acoustic guitar with strings 5 feet off the neck and a copy of 'Meet The Beatles' that forever changed my life. I still think the Beatles are the best EVER! George Harrison is my hero!
Prior to Toto, did you already have some band experiences or was Toto the first band you played in?
I have played in a million bands from age nine on. Way too many to count or even remember. I was always playing with kids a lot older than me as I was kind of good for my age. It was a novelty back then to see a nine-year-old kid that could play all the solos of the records of the time. Now they have foetuses that play JUST like Stevie Ray Vaughn! hahahaha
In the days Toto started, what was the way to get the record companies interested in the band? Was it sending demos or inviting the important people to live shows?
We were very lucky as David Paich and Jeff Porcaro were riding the wave of success from Boz Scaggs 1975 record 'Silk Degrees'. We did the tour just out of High School and Sony heard that Dave and Jeff were starting a band with Steve Porcaro and me and they offered us a big deal without hearing the music, as they already knew the reputation of the musicians and songwriters in the band. We were VERY lucky. This does NOT happen anymore at all. Now you have to sell 20,000 copies of your self made CD out of the back of your car before they ever even look at you.
In 1977 (or was it 1978; the Toto-site says 1978, your site says 1977?) Toto released their first self-titled album and the roller coaster began to ride. It brought us some great hits like 'Hold The Line', 'I'll Supply The Love' and 'Georgy Porgy'. Can you still remember the first time you heard your music on the radio and what kind of feeling did it give to you?
We recorded the record in 1977 and the first single came in 1978 and we were off on the road working it. I remember the first time hearing 'Hold the Line' on the big FM radio in LA. I was so fucking happy. It felt amazing really. The dream was starting to come true!
And then after you heard it on the radio for the first time, you see your music become a hit and grow and grow. Was it difficult to deal with the sudden success or did you let it come over you however it came?
It was rather surreal but awesome at the same time. We got so busy that we didn't really have a lot of time to think about it all. Hey, EVERYONE wants to be successful at what they do no matter what it is you do.
That was then, imagine you are sitting in your car (by the way, I am a car freak, what kind of car(s) do you drive) now in the year 2004 and you listen to the radio. Suddenly they play, say 'Hold The Line', do you still get excited when you hear your own music on the radio or has it become to common to you?
It is still nice to hear yourself on the radio. I don't freak out, I just smile and say: "Well, I just made some money" hahaha. It is strange to think that people around the entire world hear our music everyday. I mean, I wrote the stuff in my living room or with the guys in the studio. To think we transcend languages and customs and are beamed out to the masses, it is a trip.
Cars... I have had them all bro. When you are young and get a little money it is the first thing you want, a bad ass car, hahaha. I now drive a cool Porsche Carrera and I have a Mercedes and my kids have cars etc. I am not really that deep into it anymore. I am into property now. hahahaha
Recently Toto released the anniversary DVD 'Live In Amsterdam'. It has become one of the jewels in my collection. The concert is awesome, a good choice of the back catalogue from Toto although I really really miss one of my all time favourite songs, 'Kingdom Of Desire'. And it is so much fun for the fan to have a look behind the scenes. How did we Dutchmen get the honour of being the place for this anniversary recording and do you have a special feeling about Amsterdam?
Man, what can I say? Thanks but I was REALLY sick that night and going thru a difficult period in my life. I was on all kinds of medication and was totally burnt. I thought I played like shit on it. I wasn't in the moment. I was sick and over-medicated and on the wrong stuff. I was boozing too much too. Sorry for that. I am only human and subject to human mistakes. I am 1000% better now and back to my old self. The road will change your life, isolation, loneliness, people scream for you and then you go home alone and go to bed missing your loved ones, not getting enough sleep, eating badly or not at all and after being out for months and months at a time you can get lost in it. It is very common for guys like us. I still love it but you got to police yourself otherwise it is easy to fall into the after show partying every night. At my age I just don't have the chops anymore. I used to but, haha, well you know. hahahaha. Having said all that, there are some great things on the DVD. The production, the looks and sound are great. Love the B reel stuff. We do have fun out there. Simon did an amazing job on the 5.1 mixes and the director and the camera guys, the editor's were way cool as well.
One of the highlights on that DVD is the special appearance of this little moving sheep. Is this kind of a band mascot or so and where can find his or her biography?
Our Wardrobe girl Pascale Hardiman (Dutch girl) found that in Japan the last time we were there. You have a lot of time sitting around waiting for things to happen or for the show to start or on the bus. You get a demented sense of humour after awhile. I was born with one. hahaha
When I look into your website, and I see your discography, my head spins. You have hundreds of involvements on so many albums with so many various artists and bands. Imagine I would exhibit say a hundred albums to you; are you still able to pick out those albums that you were involved in from the pile?
Actually the websites have about half of what I have actually done. It is hard to get them all as I did a lot of foreign stuff that is off the radar. Yeah, it's strange to see it when I do. I ask myself: "Did I really do all that?” People have come up to me and shown me records I did that I have NO memory of. Lots of times I would show up, do one take of a solo and five minutes later I was gone! haha. Other times it was painful. hahahaha. I might be able to guess most of the records I played on but some I forgot. The last real count I heard was around 1500 records since 1977.
I like to pick out some albums you were involved in from my own line of interest and see if you still can remember what your input was on that particular album and if you still can remember how it was like to meet and work with that artist/band.
1977 - Diana Ross - 'Baby It's Me'
Jeff Porcaro got me on this record. I was still living at home with Mom and Dad. Jeez... this was one of the first hits I played on.
1978 - Peter Criss - 'Peter Criss'
I don't remember that much. Peter was a great guy. I am not sure if he even played drums on the sessions, haha. He was there. I never understood it. I still dig him and all the KISS guys.
1978 - Olivia Newton John - 'Well Kept Secret'
DAMN, you are taking me back. These were "guitar for hire" sessions but Olivia is a great singer and you couldn't meet a nicer person. She was gorgeous as well; especially back then to a nineteen year old kid, hahaha. John Farrar was and is a great producer and songwriter and a great guitar player in his own right. I did a bunch of records for her over the years.
1980 - Elton John - '21 at 33'
I have awesome memories of Elton. I have done like three or four records with him. At this time James Newton Howard got me on these sessions and we did it in a studio in the South of France. Elton is a character! At one point he wanted me to quit Toto and join his band. I could not do that but was VERY flattered to be asked! I have not seen him in years but will always be a fan and this working with him was a highlight for sure.
1982 - Michael Jackson - 'Thriller'
I was doing all of Quincy Jones' records back then. I wanted to be a part of this one as Michael was way hot after 'Off the Wall'. I remember having a lot of fun and the music was good. Funny story: I was in the house band for the Grammy's "Album of the year " three years in a row. Quincy's 'The Dude' record, 'Toto IV', then 'Thriller'. It was happening big time back then. The last great era of the 'session guy' scene. I had a blast at that time as we were doing almost every record that came out of LA. We took a lot of shit from the press for it; still do, but 28 years later I am still working!!!
1990 - Asia - 'Then And Now'
Hmm, vague. Don't remember much. Sorry!
2002 - AOR - 'Dreaming Of LA'
What IS this?? hahahaha
2003 - Mike Tramp - 'More To Live Then This'
Mike is a great guy and a great singer. I have known him since the late 80's. I was in Denmark and Ulf from Ulftone, an old friend, called and asked if I would come in a blow a solo for Mike. I had some time so I said yes. I hope it is going well for him.
Recently you released the ultimate Xmas album called 'Santamental' on Ulftone Records. Can you tell the readers some more about this album, how you came with this idea and the musicians that are involved with this album?
Man, I could write a novel here. I did this as a challenge. Elliot Scheiner and Al Schmitt (legendary producers and engineers, along with Ed Cherney who worked with the Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Quincy etc...) started a label in LA called Bop City records. They asked me to be their first artist and they wanted me to do an Xmas record?? That's what I said. ????? I had to do it in a week, all analogue 24 tracks TAPE and they told me to mess with some new arrangements for old classics and write two originals. I had no budget and pulled every favour I had. Jeff Babko, an awesome keyboard player was my partner and we just went for it. I have a great band and some serious guests. Go to my websitehttp://www.stevelukather.netand get all the info. For any other info tryhttp://www.Toto99.comas well.
About the Internet, nowadays you cannot imagine life without Internet I guess. All bands have websites and is a great way to reach much more people then in the early days. You can find out anything you want about the artist you desire, contacts are easier to make through the Internet, but there is also this big problem about the illegal copying and music file sharing. I like to hear your opinion about the easy way people can get your music for free instead of paying for it. I think artist will miss bigger income because of this problem.
Well, I just saw the future. A friend of mine has come up with a new business model that is going to wipe out record companies and be about the ARTISTS! Record companies have made WAY too much money for too many years. I cannot wait to see them all fail and these smarmy asshole company presidents and A+R people out of a job! Fuck them all! Download all you want. It doesn't matter anymore because it is ALL going to change soon. It is a drag that we don't get paid for our hard work but it was an interim period problem. Bound to have happened anyway. These idiot record companies never thought the Internet was going to take off. They are eating their words now!
Especially for young and new bands it has become very difficult nowadays to even make a living through music because of all that file sharing. Can you offer those bands the golden tip to make it anyway?
Yeah, learn how to play LIVE. Get REALLY good at your instrument and your craft. They can never take THAT away from you. Hell, these days it is SO fucking easy to be a 'rock star'. These cats got heart but NO chops for the most part. All you need is an average song, some booze and blow and a GREAT pro-tools guy and bang... you are on MTV. Hahaha. Sorry to sound like this but it is true in so many cases. NO ONE wants to put the years in to be a great musician anymore. I spent years and years and years trying to get good enough for a SHOT at making a record and making a living as a musician. They changed the rules in my 30's. haha. But hey, skill and talent will ALWAYS win. I got teenagers; I know what's up! Just my opinion as a middle-aged lifer musician!
Beside the bad side of Internet for artists, what does the net mean to you personal, for what goals do you use it?
Like I said, the NET IS the future. Be ready!
What I am interested in on a personal level is what your involvement will be in the new Van Halen album? I read you are going to be a guest on that one.
Ed and Al have been close friends for decades. We grew up in the same place playing the same gigs. I was three years younger than Ed but that matters none. He is one of the best guitar players of all time and a soul brother. Alex too. I have sung background vocals on a few of their records. They asked again and I was more than happy to oblige. I was singing with Mike Anthony and Ed on one song. I forget the name. haha. The new stuff is awesome and it will be SO cool to hear REAL music on the radio again. Glenn Ballard did a great job on the production as well. VH is back!
Steve, as it was up to me I would like to ask about a few thousand questions more but then you would not be able to make it in time to your next show on May the first in Agoura Hills, so I like to be fair and try to make an end to this conversation. So a few short last questions.
This show is a benefit for the Casey Lee Ball foundation. It's the UCLA paediatric Kidney foundation. It is my best pal Sterling Ball's charity named after his son Casey whose life was saved here. VERY worthy cause!!!
When can we expect a new album from Toto?
Honestly. Next year. We are so busy touring and we are all still writing and we haven't even started to write as a band. It has GOTTA be GREAT so we will take our time with it. The cool thing is that we KNOW radio will never touch us (unless it is the old hits) so this means we don't have to write or chase the "hit single". We want to make a "personal best" CD that we can be proud of. Now, we can NEVER please all the people so we got to please ourselves. I THINK we will retain all the classic stuff people like about us, big production and vocals and synths and solos etc but we may get more experimental with longer pieces of music, maybe a bit more prog rock as we all started out that way anyway. Hard to say now as we haven't started getting into it. I could be full of shit saying all this. hahahaha. It will come. Be patient. Selling records is the least of our income at this point. Most peoples really. Rap and bad machine R+B-"pop idol" music is the only thing pop radio will play and rock radio is for kids. Catch 22 really. We will see what happens.
How and where does a band like Toto rehearse for a tour?
In a rehearsal hall called the Power Plant in North Hollywood. We have been there for years and years.
Where does the Lukather family live?
I have two homes. One in the Hollywood Hills and one near Palm Springs on a lake.
Do you like to tell the readers a bit more about your son's band, the kind of music they make and their plans for recordings?
My son's band is named HYDRA. I know... I asked him why? He said: "Dad, its a cool name. No one my age has ever heard your album 'HYRA' from 1979”. Hahaha. I said: "You're right, carry on". haha
Trevor is really coming along with his song writing skills and his guitar playing. We were in my studio a few weeks ago cutting tracks for his up coming CD. I am doing it with my old pal Phil Soussan. I think Trevor will go the distance. He is a work in progress and at seventeen VERY impressive and passionate about his work. I predict great things for him in the future. He is playing all over the Sunset Strip in LA soon coming out to see the world. I am a very proud Dad. My daughter Tina has one hell of a voice so you watch out for he too. The apple didn't fall far from the tree here kids. hahaha
Do you have any hobbies outside music?
I like to masturbate a lot... haha. No, kidding. Man, I like dining out at nice restaurants with close pals hanging with my wife in our Palm Springs pad, or at home with the kids. I am not a big sports guy. I am very simple at home. TV is cool as I never watch it on the road and I am on the road NINE MONTHS a year!
And to end it would be great to hear what ever comes to mind when I mention some names and words.
Eddie van Halen:
He has been a close soul brother and one of the greatest of all time. GREAT guy and I love him dearly!
They are my brothers since 1973. I would not be here if it were not for ALL of them. I thank them and look forward to twenty more years of fun if not longer.
My LIFE... my PASSION, my GIFT from God. Man I am lucky!
My wife Shawn, My kids Tina and Trevor and my close family and friends. It is the ONLY thing that really matters at all!!!!!!!
See the two answers above.
I am a dyed in the wool Democrat. GET BUSH OUT!!!!!!! I am about peace and love and lets face it, the whole world is fucked up and in need of repair. I see the world and the perception that ALL Americans think like Bush is bullshit. WE never VOTED for the war or all the other bullshit! Don't hate us all because of this idiot! Kerry is the lesser of two evils as far as I am concerned. Granted I do not pretend to now EVERYTHING or all the facts but I know what I read and I travel the world enough to know what other countries think of the USA. A shame really as most of the world's people could get along great given the chance. It only takes a few psychos to ruin it for ALL of us!
Do you like to say some final words to your Dutch fans?
Thanks SO much for the love and friendship. Holland will always have a special place in my heart and I love y'all!