Best known as a founder and current member of Toto, singer/guitarist Steve Lukather started playing in bands while in high school, and after graduating he went on to do sessions for a number of top stars. Lukather, David Paich, Bobby Kimball, Steve and Jeff Porcaro, and David Hungate came together as Toto in 1978, and that year made the Top 10 with their self-titled debut album. In 1982 Toto went stratospheric with the Grammy-winning Toto IV, from which came Africa and Rosanna, after which the in-demand collective travelled a multitude of musical highways that included doing sessions for countless major artists, and the kudos of effectively being the 'house band' on Michael Jackson's Thriller album, with Toto collecting gold records along the way.
In '89 Lukather began a parallel solo career when he recorded his debut solo album Lukather. He followed that in '94 with Candyman, and Luke three years later. SantaMental, Steve Lukather And Friends' album of Christmas songs, is released on Favored Nations; Toto's Live in Amsterdam CD/DVD is available now on Eagle.
PH: What would you say was the best career decision you ever made?
SL: This answer may sound weird, but it was to go to Grant High School instead of North Hollywood High. I argued with my parents, because I wanted to go to North Hollywood with all my friends. But had I not gone to Grant I would never have met the Porcaro brothers, and I would probably have a different life path to the one I do now.
PH: Which career move would you like to be able to go back and change?
SL: There's a lot of stuff I would have changed. I mean, I could have skipped the whole drug thing, y'know. That got pretty heavy in the mid-80s. But we were all young and stupid then. But I would say I would have liked to have established myself more as an artist than as a session guy first. Because in that era between 1977 and '85 the perception was that we weren't a real band because we were playing on so many records. On the other hand, l wouldn't have traded the experience of working with the artists I got to work with.
PH: Which song would you rather never hear again?
SL: Ha! Jesus! Let me see... The thing is, the ones that you get sick of playing are the ones people love. Obviously Hold the line, Rosanna, all those songs are cool songs and stuff, but if I never played them again it would be okay with me.
PH: How many groupies have you slept with in your career - 10 to 20, 5O to 100...?
SL: More than you've mentioned. I mean, I was a dog, man. I was married and had kids young. Then I was single for ten years, and that's where it all went wrong. I just went crazy from,like, thirty-two to forty-two.
PH: What's the most ridiculous thing you've ever asked for on a tour rider?
SL: Nothing, really, I don't have any great Van Halen stories with the brown M&Ms. That used to just be taking the piss out of the fucking promoter. That's a young man's game, for kids who become rock stars. But anybody can be a rock star. Shit, man, that's easy. Being a musician's hard. You've gotta dedicate your life.
PH: What's the worst stunt a record or management company has ever tried to pull on you?
SL: Probably when we got that Byron guy [vocalist Jean-Michel Byron] in our band. That was the record company saying, get this guy and we'll stick all this money into you... They talked us into that one, man. That was a pure, one billion per cent mistake. I was against it from day one. It turned out to be a nightmare.
PH: What would you liked to have done with your life if you hadn't become a musician?
SL: I'd probably be standing in McDonald's going: "Do you want fries with that?" But ever since I was seven or eight years old I never for a second thought I was gonna be doing anything other than music.
PH: Would you ever have sold your soul to the Devil if the terms had been right?
SL: No way. Never. But I mean, once you sign a record contract with a big corporate you've sold your soul anyway. And I can't wait to see them fall. I'd rather give my music away for free on the internet, than pay those motherfuckers.
PH: Do you think great musicians are born as such rather than made?
SL: I think born. I think there's a little extra something that some people get. I don't know what that i's, and I can't really put it into words. It's an extra touch, an extra feel thing; anybody can leam to play faster.
PH: Given the increasing importance of image. If the time came when you needed to, would you wear a wig if it would help your career?
SL: I'd shave my fucking head first, bro! They look stupid. I'd dye it, cos it's fucking going grey on me, but it's all mine.
PH: What would we find on the 'hobbies and interests' section of your CV?
SL: I don't reaIly have a hobby per se. I like to read a lot, which I find relaxing. I don't watch TV on the road, so when I come home l like to sit on the couch and watch a lot of TV. I like to see movies, or go out and have a great meal with my friends. I'm not a big golfer or anything like that, although I play on and off.
PH: What's the worst aspect of doing what you do?
SL: Being away from home. EspeciaIly if you have family. My kids grew up reaIly quick, and I was gone a lot of the time. I missed a lot of birthdays, a lot of thanksgivings, anniversaries, y'know. And sometimes it gets lonely living in hotel rooms.
PH: What goals, musically and otherwise, would you still like to achieve?
SL: My musical goal is to be perfectly candid. I feel like I'm ready for a period of musical growth, and I'm practising every day and rediscovering. Outside music, I think it would be to take really good care of myself.
PH: Which song or piece of music would you like to be played at your funeral?
SL: Little wing, by Jimi Hendrix. That or Where were you by Jeff Beck, my favourite guitar player.
Classic Rock, December 2003