A Conversation with Toto Guitarist Steve Lukather

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Legendary rock band Toto is back with a new lineup and a new live record called With A Little Help From My Friends. Guitarist Steve Lukather first stopped by MisplacedStraws as Toto was preparing for the live show that this record documents, he is returning now to talk about the show, the live record, and the future of Toto.

Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with Steve Lukather of Toto –

On whether working with the new Toto lineup met his expectations -It surpassed actually, I was the most nervous one up there going, “Is everything going to be OK?” And that affected my playing. I was like, “All right, I got to play, too”. But the point was to showcase the new cats and see if it will work. I had 10 days to get the guys together from scratch. Now, some of the guys from the old band were there and they knew their stuff. But integrating a new rhythm section and a new keyboard player that does all the vocals, you have to go over all the vocals. It was quite a task to do in a short period time, and it was an overwhelming reaction. We did really, really well and. (We’re releasing it) by popular demand, it’s going to buy us some time until we can tour in 2022 which has been in the works right now. There’s also comes a companion DVD with David Paich, myself, and Joseph (Williams) just talking about the whole why we’re doing this and how this has morphed into this, and because it wasn’t it wasn’t going to happen. Then Joe and I made records and we were going to tour together and it just came up. We dealt with the legal aspect of it. We have to give up percentages to people that aren’t on the road. But that’s the price of doing business. So we had to take the whole thing and scale it down in order for Joe and I make any money. David can’t tour. But he’s still very much in the band. He’s still the leader. We still talk every day and like six or seven in the morning. It’s pretty fun. We used to go to bed at that time. I always refer to him and how he feels and, “What do you think, Dave?” He comes to rehearsals and musical directs the band. It’s actually very interesting because he can listen to it from a point of view that he’s never been able to, and it really helps tighten the band up. You never know when he’s going to show up. In L.A. he’ll definitely show up. If he’s feeling good, he’s got to be very careful how he travels, how far he travels because of a medical thing. He’s not in it anymore, and the rest of us really want to play, so we’re going to give it a go and see how it goes. :54

On David Paich’s role – He’s still got his ears, man, and they’re very big. He really has a great voice. It was very helpful because he wrote some of our biggest songs, all of our biggest songs. So it’s like we’re going to put David Paich Presents on all posters to cool everybody out. Things change in life and you have a right to change your mind. The downtime we’ve had is really made one relook at life and what the opportunities that you’ve had and ones you don’t want to throw away. At this point after 45 years (of) me being in this business 44 with Toto, it just made sense. We want to play our music. We’re the only ones left to do it. 3:17

“Till The End”

On picking the new setlist –We picked Toto songs because that’s what we figured people were going to judge the band on. Can they play this stuff? There’s always the purists that are going to say, “Toto was over when Jeff (Porcaro) died. They may be right. It changed and there’s no question about it. Then it changed again, like 15 times. I’ve been the only guy there the whole time. The last version got a little tense and weird. We hit the wall. There are some great cats and there are some not great. I’m not gonna get into it. It just had become (a fight every night). Life is too short to be bummed out every night. . So Joe and I and the promoters and the agents said “Use it”. David said “You got to do this”, try to make our money back that we lost on the lawsuit. Just getting out there and playing again, I’m not going to get in the back of a van and do this again. I’ve spent enough time on the road and all the reaction has been like, “Guys, go”. We did what we’re hearing. Every time we made changes in the band, there was always the same push back, “Oh, it’s not Toto anymore”. They may be right, but we made it. In the end, we change people’s minds and I want to keep doing this, there’s tribute bands. Why shouldn’t we do it? 4:18

“You Are The Flower”

On playing in Toto with no Porcaro brother –I’ve done this many times. Steve was out of the band for twenty-five years. Paich had some medical issues, his sister was dying and we had some replacements for him. Mike (Porcaro), after he got ALS, had three, four replacements, drummers, we’ve had four or five. It changes. Yeah. But Joe’s voice, my guitar, and the songs played by great people give it the sound. It’s different. It’s always sounded different. The last band sounded different than the first band, people grew to like it. I’m hoping people go like this. Give me a month with these guys and it’s going to be ridiculous. 6:00

“Run To Me”

On playing his studio guitar parts live –What I do is I take the parts of the record and I kind of arrange them as one part on the guitar. I just do the key stuff, you can’t do twenty overdubs. We had a lot of fun in the studios back then. Let’s quadruple everything. I feel good about moving forward. It’s different, but life goes on. A lot of things in my life that I thought would last forever didn’t. It’s hard to carry on. It’s like being divorced from people after forty-five years. There’s so much history. It’s hard to get past. Some people have really bad feelings and that makes it hard. 6:59

“I Found The Sun Again”

On recent solo records from him and Joseph Williams –Mine got like two million streams. That sounds great, but I make forty dollars. But it’s done really well, in terms of being received and great reviews for me, and that gives me a chance at selling. That’s what you hope for in this day and age. It is the vehicle to get people into us being able to do the Toto hits, what everyone wants to hear, some really deep cuts, different ones than we did last time, and a couple of solo things from Joe and me to spice up the set a little bit, freshened it up. That makes sense to me when. Joe and I are working on something new with David, doing a little EP. Got some cool shit. So, it’s nice to see him getting back in the studio and doing it. So he’s feeling better and that makes us all feel better. We’ll help him out there a little bit because that’s what we gotta do. He helped me. I got to help him. 8:38

“Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”

On his record being rock while Joe’s is more lush – That was the intention. I can’t speak for him, but I think his album is so brilliant. It’s so layered in such ways, in such detail. But mine is just like, “Come on, here’s the chart. Let’s do this, live solos and everything”. No fixes unless you really shit the bed, and everybody really nailed it. It was really great fun to make a record like this because that’s the only thing I knew I could bring to the party is do something that nobody else is doing, which is playing live in the studio and that’s it. Making a record like from 1971 or 1972 and doing it in 2020. I had a blast, definitely a vanity record for me man. I wasn’t trying to write the next hit single and nothing like that. I just wanted to make some new music with some friends, raw, and make myself keep everything. So I came to it playing-wise from a completely different angle. I thought, “Oh God, I’m got to play some shit here or I’m going to I’m going to break my own rules”. So I didn’t I was real proud of myself for that. I just played I didn’t think I could do this again or I got 100 chances to fix this in Melodyne or something like that. There’s no Melodyne on the record. Just some nice delay, a big fat delay on the voice. 9:43

“Never Saw You Comin'”

On the future of Toto in the studio –There’s not going to be another Toto record. What we do is continue doing what we do. Joe and I can make records that have some of the cats on it. We can go out and play as Toto. We get the audience, we pay off the people that sued us and we go forward. I’m going to dig in. I don’t roll over easily. I’ve taken a lot of punches over the last 45 plus years. Whatever the hell it is, it’s a long time. I can take a punch and I’ve taken a whole lot of them on falsities, but that’s OK. It’s behind me now. I let it all go. Peace and love to everybody I don’t carry around any hate. I’m like, “OK, life changes. I’m sorry”. It broke my heart too. It’s like getting over a divorce, you got to get back on the horse again and do it. That’s what we plan on doing. There’s no malicious vibe or no, “I’m going to get even with everybody” or anything like that. It’s such a waste of time. I’m 63 years old, man. I don’t want to play the games anymore. 11:07

“Here’s To The Nights”

On his relationship with Ringo Starr – I love him so much! Joe & I just wrote a song for his new EP and then we wrote another one is for the EP that’s coming out in October, and that was thrilling. It came out great. But that song was actually written for Ringo’s 80th birthday because we didn’t have a party for him because of the pandemic shit. So everybody was going to make a video or they were singing a wish or playing a song. So David Paich, Joe, and I wrote a song for him and he dug and he wanted to play on it. So we worked on it. And then Joseph came to my house with an iPhone and we goofed off in my backyard making fun of being old rock stars. 12:34

“Not Enough Love”

On future touring with Ringo – I’ve been putting the Toto dates together first and then the Ringo things fell right, right in. I’m going to do something with him, hopefully, if all goes well. Maybe I shouldn’t be saying this. Let’s just say I’m going to be touring with him next year. I don’t have the right to make any announcements. He is a dear brother of mine. I see him a lot. He just loves to create. This guy is the greatest inspiration for getting older, man. He’s going to be 81 and he’s running on a treadmill (at full incline), it’s just incredible. Plus I just love him to death. He’s the most wonderful, interesting, enlightening human being I’ve ever met. and he’s fucking Ringo! on FaceTime, it’s Ringo, it never gets old…The reaction is different than if you meet anybody else. I’ve been with him now for nine years, and I worked with Paul (McCartney) and I worked with George (Harrison). We were friends and stuff. You get in the room and you know you’re in the room greatness, But they’re the nicest people you ever want to meet ever. That’s all I can tell you. You think they would have the right to be the biggest assholes, so far from it. No. That’s how to be, that’s all. There’s a great deal to be learned from all those guys besides their musical genius. That’s the way they handled their life in public like this for 60 years. 13:17

On his studio work – I don’t really do sessions anymore, I stopped about 25 years ago, I’ll do a guest spot on somebody, a friend of mine or something. Somebody wants to bring a stupid amount of money. Those calls don’t really call me anymore. I’m leaving room for the guys that are doing it. WhenI started out it was (Larry) Carlton, (Jay) Graydon, (Lee) Ritenour and all these guys, Ray Parker, everybody. The deal was you go for about ten years or so and then it’s time to move up to be a producer or artist or whatever and leave room for the next group of guys. Because with studio musicians, especially on records, they want different flavors. One time I was really popular and that was really some of the greatest times of my life. But I realized I started to hit a wall. I wasn’t as inspired as I was when I started out, and I thought it would be better for me to get out than turn into the bitter old guy. I always had so much respect for getting the chance to have that job that I wanted to respect it and also make room for some of the up-and-coming guys who were there. I was moving on to be a solo artist outside of Toto. So I was working double duty and I had plenty to do. 15:23

“If I Fell”

On Toto’s 2022 touring plans – There are more dates to be added (to the European tour). Some people want to hold it. If there is something missing, like there’s a block of four days missing, it’s getting filled…It might be March of 2022 (for US shows) and then again in the fall. Ringo may go out to so we’ll move around. 2023 is going to be full-on as long as everyone is healthy. 17:31

On the future –I love to do it all and I can’t wait. It has been nice to be home and find myself. I found out that I hate retirement. I’m not ready for right now. I’m still like I’m twenty-five years ago inside. I should look a lot worse considering, but I’ve been a good boy for almost 12 years. Records used to be (the main source of income) and then touring was to sell the record. Now, it’s records to sell the tour, we had to move with the times Our first album came out on eight-track. All my friends are dying, it’s time to do something. Your brothers start falling, I’m getting like one or two weeks now and then, legendary old dear friends of mine. And you just go, “Oh, wow, there’s a reality that the end is real”. You got to make the most of it. So I’m not going to sit in my house, with my lower lip hanging on my thumb up my ass. I’m going to get on the road. That’s what you do. 20:21

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