Jeb: I think it is bullshit that Through the looking glass has not got more promotion. To be honest with you Steve, if I had not got the review copy in the mail I would not have even known it was released.
Luke: It is an obligatory release here in the States. Andy Slater is a fucking asshole. I have known him since he was a writer at Rolling Stone and now he is the President of a record company. We got signed overseas through EMI. EMI American wanted nothing to do with us. Nobody knows it is out there and they have said to our faces “We are not going to promote this.” They just spend 80 million dollars on Robbie Williams. He is nothing here in the United States or Asia. We sell more records outside of this country then he does. We just have got a rep and nobody wants us. We are like the redheaded stepchild of music. Everybody wants to play on our records and write songs for them and produce them. But as Toto in the United States -- we live in an Eminen world. They are not going to play our records on the fucking radio.
The music business is falling apart. Sony lost $150,000,000 last quarter. They just fired 1000 people. EMI just fired 1500. They are going to go under because of Robbie Williams. Coldplay, who I love, is the only other act getting any attention from EMI. Who else have you heard on EMI besides Robbie Williams and Coldplay?
I bet you a hundred bucks that if you asked their publicity department about Toto they would tell you that we were not on their label. Here is the deal: We made this record and we licensed it. We are not signed to EMI so they can kiss my white ass. We still sold a bunch of records. Of course we didn’t sell them here because people have to know it is out in order to buy it. We don’t tour here - we are doing a couple of dates here and there. We still do arenas in Europe. We are going back for our third leg of the tour and we are going to be headlining major festivals. We get lots of young kids coming to our shows. Here we are stamped as an 80’s band. We are a bunch of session musicians that every critic in the world is supposed to hate whether they have heard the music or not.
Jeb: What does that do to you as far as the drive to write new music as Toto?
Luke: When we were signed to Sony we were always in search of the proverbial hit single but there is no point in that now. It would be a fluke. Look what happened to Tom Petty’s record: Stiff. Phil Collin’s’ record: Stiff. If you are over 30 then forget it. If you are over 40 or 50 then it ain’t going to happen. A 22-year-old program director isn’t going to play it. Classic Rock stations will play all of your old stuff but they won’t play any of your new stuff.
Jeb: I don’t understand that one.
Luke: They like the band because they play our shit everyday but they won’t play anything new. You can’t tell me people would not be interested in hearing something new.
Another reason we did this record was so that they could not say that they didn’t hear any hits on this record. It is a record full of classics. We knew our chances of getting on the radio were slim. You are not going to hear the new Styx, Journey or Boston on the radio no matter what.
Jeb: Styx new album is good.
Luke: I have not heard it. Tommy is a real nice cat. I have not talked to the other guys. Neal Schon is a great guitar player. What can I say? It is just difficult. We still do the business live. That is what is ironic about it. These new MTV bands go to Europe and can’t sell any tickets yet they have a # 1 record and video in America. That is why they don’t go. We have been working that market for fucking 25 years. We go over there and do 5,000 to 17,000 a night.
Jeb: Do you think it is just about money?
Luke: You can buy anything on the radio, bro. If you think that the radio business is not corrupt… It costs a million dollars to break an artist.
Jeb: That’s insane.
Luke: Clear Channel owns everything. They own the radio stations and the venues. If they want something to happen then it will happen.
Jeb: It is a lot cheaper for a record company to break a rap artist then it is for them to break a new band.
Luke: Sure it is. These guys have two-year careers. They spend it real quick and then they are back on the street again. They are not real musicians. They can’t get a gig as a real musician.
Jeb: Why are audiences more open minded outside of America?
Luke: They are more loyal. With us it is like we get the family to come out and see us. The folks bring the kids out to see us because they grew up with us. If they like you and they see you live and they know you are good then they will stick with you for life. Over hear it is like a three second attention span. Look at Billboard Magazine five years ago and you tell me who is still together making records.
This is my 26th year in the business and they are still paying me. I don’t do just Toto, which is great because it keeps me alive in a lot of other areas and it keeps me a working musician. If Toto fell apart, as it does every three or four years, I am not sitting around the house panicked as I am booked doing other shit.
Jeb: Just like the record you did with Carlton on Steve Vai’s label.
Luke: That was ridiculous accident. Larry and I went off to do this fun little project in Japan. We decided to do it for the fuck of it. Vai happened to be starting up a label. I gave him a rough DAT of one of the shows we did and he told me this was the kind of stuff he was looking for.
Jeb: There is nothing wrong with a little overindulgence now and then.
Luke: It’s good enough for a Phish concert. That is not a put down as those guys are cool. Those people have an attention span longer than three minutes. Anyhow, Larry and I do this and it comes out and gets rave reviews and we fucking win a Grammy. It was like, “WHAT?” Larry and I both looked at each other and go, “With all the shit we have done that we thought was kind of cool, it is this one that gets picked out.” This was one that we put no effort in. We were just jamming and having a blast. Maybe that should tell ya something.
Jeb: Do you think Favored Nations Label is a bit of a backlash against the major labels?
Luke: It goes to show you that there are people who like to hear good musicians. It is the anti-pop music. It is about the music and the musicians. Steve is a hands on guy who is one of us. The president of the label is one of us, one of the best musicians on the planet. It is not like calling up Sony’s president. You could put a gun to his head and tell him to play a C scale or you will kill him. He would be a dead man. How is this guy going to tell me about music if he can’t play? If you work at a hospital the best doctor runs the place. If you are a complete clown who has a small dick then you can run a record company. You can quote me on that one.
Jeb: Now how do you really feel about that Steve?
Luke: Every record company president I have either worked with when they were producers or I knew them or I was signed to their label. I know where they all come from. They are not qualified not one of them. They all think they know everything. That is the reason that the dumbing down of music in America has happened. MTV ruined everything. They turned everything into a McDonalds commercial. Look this way; buy these clothes; buy this drink and you’ll be cool. It took all the mystic out of it.
Jeb: We started this site because no one else was doing anything.
Luke: God bless you man, I appreciate it. In five years there will be no record companies. They will all only be record distributors. They make eight bucks a record and we make two. Out of our two we have to pay back everything that we spent. They are a glorified loan shark operation. It is not fair. We are the guys creating their shit. They are firing 2000 people a year yet their president gives himself a 30 million dollar bonus at the end of the year. That is as stupid as making George Bush our President.
Jeb: You think the record companies are going to bury themselves?
Luke: I am sitting back and laughing. If you put the music business back in the hands of musicians then you are going to get a whole lot of different stuff.
Jeb: How come you and Vai have not done anything yet?
Luke: We have jammed together many times. That is a good question. I love Steve. We are on a lot of great records but not at the same time. I just played on this new Yardbirds record, which was really interesting. The founding members of the Yardbirds plus guest guitar players. It was Slash, Jeff Beck, Satch and me. Skunk Baxter was on there. They redid some of the old stuff and they wrote some new stuff. It is a really interesting little record. That is on Steve’s label. You don’t get a big advance but you get a nice royalty and you get a lot of press and attention -- more than you would on a big label by far. He is not selling millions of records but this kind of music is not meant for millions of people. You have to be real with your expectations these days.
Jeb: What are you going to be doing after Toto is done touring?
Luke: I will have a Christmas record coming out that is interesting called Santamental. I am on the cover in a straight jacket. Eddie Van Halen is on it. Steve Vai is on it -- hey Steve and I did play together. Slash is on it. My son Trevor plays some guitar on it. I did a duet with Sammy Davis jr. via sampling. It is like rock/fusion versions of Christmas classics that will just crack you up. It is really good and I am proud of it. It will come out in October.
I also want to do another record with Larry if we can get our schedules together. Toto maybe will do one in a couple of years when everything else is done. If we do one then it is going to be totally left field. We will do something like Toto’s version of Dream Theater or something.
Jeb: What Van Halen record are you on?
Luke: I was on Balance and I was on the one before that. Eddie is one of my best friends. Obviously he doesn’t need me as a guitar player. We are actually neighbors. We live near each other.
Jeb: I remember hearing a story that you were there when he got his keyboards.
Luke: Actually, that is not true. I remember him playing me the demo of Jump. One of the first nights we every really hung out he played me that. We were just hanging out at his house and we drank a ton of beers and he played me this new stuff. He told me, “Roth hates this song.” I was like “Dude, that’s a smash.” The song was Jump.
I didn’t have anything to do with him getting keyboards. He was playing keyboards way before that. There are keyboards on Women & children first. There is a Wurlitzer plugged into a Marshal.
Jeb: Cradle will rock is that song. I think I read somewhere once that you knew Eddie and he was just getting keyboards.
Luke: Oh so its my fault? Is that it? They can kiss my fucking ass. There are so many false rumors about us.
Jeb: Toto came out of the box strong with your first album.
Luke: We sold something like four or five million. We have sold a lot more records than people think. I am really happy to be where I am. I have a lot of friends who are very famous actors and they can’t go out anywhere. I am like, “Fuck the fame. Send the money.”
Jeb: That’s honest, man.
Luke: It’s the truth. Being famous is a curse. It is not a blessing. Anyone who goes, “Oh I can’t wait until I’m famous” better be careful for what they wish for. People fucking dissect you, man. They follow you around. It is horrible.
I get, “Hey, you’re Steve Lukather. I like your guitar playing” once in a while. No big deal. But it’s not like I have Paparazzi that are after me cos I am that famous. I have buds that are that famous and it is a drag. They have all the money in the world and they can’t go anywhere and spend it.
Jeb: Eddie Van Halen.
Luke: There you go. It’s not so bad for him now since he has been out of the public eye on their hiatus.
Jeb: You have always given the band the edge.
Luke: That was sort of my job. I was the rock 'n' roll guy. Paige was the classical guy and Jeff was the groove. Bobby was the blues. We all brought something to the party.
Classic Rock Revisited, May 2003