CS: TOTO has played in its career a lot of times in Holland, the 25th anniversary live album was recorded in Amsterdam. Is there a special relationship with the Dutch?
SL: Always has been! Holland was the first country to have Hold the line on #1. You guys broke us, in Europe. The support from all the fans, Alfred Lagarde, God bless his soul. Just the love, you guys, the Dutch people last night I don't have to sing and stand up there, and they do it all for me. Last night show was brilliant, I mean we don't play clubs very often you know, so our relationship: we love to come here, I think you guys are one of the most civilized nations on the planet. I'm serious! Really! Listen, I didn't vote for Bush, don't blame me, I want him gone as much as anybody, but I won't getting too political 'cause that's never what we've been all about, but I just want peace in the world, you know. But you guys have been great, I mean the Dutch people I have very strong love and respect for!
CS: So that was the main reason to play 3 gigs here in Hardenberg?
SL: Well, here's the deal: we're doing the festivals primarily! Festivals are always weekend gigs, that's when people go to a festival, so there's nothing going on during the week a lot of time. It's hard to find new gigs and we've toured extensively in Europe, we've done like 4 legs a year since we've started our 25th anniversary, which is now the 27th anniversary and soon will be the 28th! We want to play, when you're not working we have to pay our guys anyway and I wanna play, you know, that's what I love to do, that's the purpose of it. So we sit and ask ourselves: can we go to Holland? Let's go to Holland. Can we find some place in Holland? We go!
CS: So when you're in Holland, in fact it doesn't matter where you play?
SL: No, I mean, we always play the Ahoy or Heineken or something like that, these are big shows. This kinda shows, you're right there, you know! You can see the people in the back! The others are big stages, you see the people but after a certain line..., this is great for us, believe me! But we're having some fun! They've treated us incredibly well here, they can bat over backwards to show us a good time: five-star-meal, five-star-wine, what can we get for you, you know, just been treated brilliantly! And the shows were fantastic. The first night we didn't have a soundcheck, 'cause we were a little late, so the first half of the show trying to get that shit together, but last night was fucking brilliant!!! I mean, one of the best audiences I've ever played for, ever!
CS: After all those years of touring, what do you prefer? The stadium and big hall gigs or the gigs in small venues like tonight?
SL: How about all of it? Look on this tour: 10.000 seat, 20.000 seat-festivals, we played The Albert Hall, and then we played here: we're versatile that way. I mean, obviously you don't have big showbizz-extravaganza-lightshow and -stage, you're in a club, in the rough: The Stones do it, Springsteen does it, why the hell not, I like it all. It's sometimes in a small club like I explained to you before: you can get that intimicy, you really feel like we're all breathing together, and that's really magical, that doesn't happen very often. You always give your best every night, but sometimes the stars come together, it's all in all works, but there's nothing wrong to play for 50.000 people either, that's another kind of rush, it's a different rush. It's apples and oranges, you know, I like to taste the both. Obviously financially, you know, there's no question what the answer is to the financially! I play clubs in L.A. all the time with jambands and stuff like that, it's fun!
CS: In 1995 you played in Ahoy, Rotterdam, during the Tambu World Tour. I can remember Simon Phillips was ill, and you had another drummer behind the drumkit.
SL: Bissonette! Gregg Bissonette!
CS: How did you came up so fast with that man?
SL: Well, I know him for 25 years, and we needed somebody out really quick, you know. Gregg is one of the best drummers in the world and he's right in the Top 10, as far as I'm concerned. I worked with him, he's worked on a lot of my solo records, we've done a lot of projects together, he could side-read music like nobody had ever seen before, and still play with soul! He loved Jeff (Porcaro) and he could stay true to that vibe, he loves Simon and he could stay true to that vibe, he's a name-drummer other drummers would know who he was, O.K. they'd say: I'm sorry 'bout "Si", 'cause Si had like colitis, he was all messed up. He was in the hospital man, that was scary! Don't tell me we're losing our drummer, don't do this to me, God please, don't forsake me! By the grace of God Si got well, and Gregg just came out and one or two rehearsals, we had all the music written out, he played the first show flawlessly, we were just looking to eachother: I can do that, I'm in the fucking band.
CS: It was just unbelievable, as if Jeff or Simon were there!
SL: Well, you know, he's one of the great musicians that I've ever run into and one of the sweetest cats, he was friends with Jeff and Si, I mean, obviously I had Simon's input as well, 'cause we had this tour booked, we couldn't not do it. He got sick right last minute, and 50 people were depending on this, their families eating, because we were be on the road for seven, eight months. Fortunately he was able to finish the tour, but Gregg was fantastic, it was really neat, it was really good fun! He worked on my Christmas record that I did last year, good vibes, we've been friends forever!
CS: And he was free at the time?
SL: He made himself free! And he felt he got his dream come true when he got to play double drums with Ringo (Star)! I've got a picture of him, and he looks like: "That's it! God if you take me now, it's cool!" 'Cause he's the most all-true Beatles fan that there is! And as I am too, that's why I started to play music! I got to play with Paul (McCartney) and George (Harrison), separately, and he got to play with them too, so he said: "I played with them too, you know, it's fucking unbelievable, I can't believe it!"
CS: Although Steve Porcaro isn’t a member of TOTO anymore, in what way he’s still involved?
SL: Steve's a soulbrother, man! He's a film and tv composer now, the ratrace to the road wasn't for him, he didn't feel like he was contributing enough, or that we weren't letting him contribute enough as far as his songwriting and his aspect of things. At that time there were some other issues as well, but he's why I'm in this band, I met the Porcaro family through Steve, as we were in the same grade in highschool, at the same highschool. He's very happy and very successfull, he's got a couple of new babykids, different marriage, he's like James Newton Howard's protégé, you know. When we do a record, Steve's on! We say: do your thing, come and help us. When we were rehearsing on this tour we said like: "Man, Steve, some of the synth sounds the last couple of years have just started to gone away from the love they used to give. Would you come down here and tweak the shit. And he came down a couple of days, he fuckingrtrfrlikefrttfrt and there it is! So that's how he's involved in the band, he's just not a touring guy. When we play L.A., he comes up and we play!
CS: You play together?
SL: Oh yeah! I work for him on his projects, on his T.V.-stuff. He was wanting me to do something when I get home. And I love him dearly and respect him, and ever since Jeff's death he's grown as a musician, 10.000 volt! He's focussed, commited, he's sober now, he doesn't get high, he had a tough time with that, so it's all good news for Steve!
SL: So making an album right now, we wanna try and make a great record! A really definitive great classic TOTO-record, put out all the stops! Maybe we're even going a little bit more progressive, a little bit more amuso, let's still retaining the worldmusic percussion, the big vocals and harmonies and stuff that everybody dug about the band, you know what I mean, initially. Put just a little more modern, like we don't have to worry about a 3 minute-hitsingle, we can write a 10 minute piece that has like whole lots of different sections. Maybe even put a piece together like the second side of Abbey road type where everybody has a little bit, you know: Bobby's a singer like a 2 minute piece, that goes into another thing that's rocking and has the big harmonies, and then it goes into an acoustic bit, maybe we're going into odd-time progrock-shit. Because the people that would really like our music and want new music, are much more open to hear that kind of stuff. If we wrote first Africa, they fucking wouldn't play it!
So for us we know we need new music, we know we need a new record. We maybe take a year and a half to do it, while we're now messing about touring all over the world, but we get a little bit more serious about it in the Fall. Everybody is writing and has bits and pieces, but we have to sit down and say: what have you got, what have you got? Let's write some together, you know how the process is! 'Cause I want to be fucking awesome! Why put together a mediocre record to see and keep doing? Then people thinking you've lost your edge and that's why people say about Through the looking glass: "You guys can't write songs, uhuh!" We heard all the rumblings, you got websites now, you can see what people are saying. You take away the greatest songs, you worry about pleasing everybody, but you can't do that, impossible! But we're gonna give it a go, I can promise you that!
CS: Are there more musicians who influenced you, or did you had an idol when you began playing guitar?
SL: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, The Stones, I love Keith and Brian, Jeff Beck who's a dear friend, and in my opinion he re-invented the instrument as well. Actually you hear his growth every record and if you don't like the material per se, whatever, just Jeff is a musician. I've had a chance to work with him, he's a genius man, but he isn't schooled, he doesn't know what he's doing that works to his advance 'cause he doesn't want to play normal like everybody else. Jeff is still to me probably the greatest living guitar player we've got!
CS: And Jimmy Page?
SL: Page is great, man! Zeppelin! He payed me the greatest compliment! We were in a guitar center, many years ago, everybody was there: Eddie Van Halen, Peter Frampton, Neil Schon (anybody who was anybody was there!), and Jimmy Page was there! And he walked up to me! He said: "Come here, I want to talk to you for a second." Jimmy Page is speaking to me? He wants to talk to me privately? He took me aside, he was very sober and he said (I'm not quoting him!): "Don't take any shit for being a session musician, 'cause I was a session musician, we were all session musicians in Zeppelin! You can be very proud of what you've done, and I think you're really good!" And I was like: Ahh! Ohh! Like I was humble, I didn't know what to say! I hugged him and said: "You have no idea how much your music has meant to me, and your playing and your production, how much I've learned." I almost had a little tear in my eye! I was like: Wow!
I met Robert Plant somewhere on the road, we sat down, had a couple of drinks then! Beautiful cats, man! I mean the fact that I get to now know these people just cracks me up! I never thought I would know any of these people! You know, I'm still star-strucked by this as much as anybody would be! Like: Brian May came to see me?? You know what I mean? Eddie's here? Jeff's here? Eric wants me to play on his record: do you want to help me? Miles Davis called me to join his band, Aretha Franklin loves my music. Oh, fuck man!! I'm the luckiest fool on the planet! Very humble about it, man.
CS: Now there you've got something, because on your website’s biography the headline is: “I think I would have been more respected as a guitarist if I had just done TOTO...”.
SL: It's a really stupid perception. It's seen like the chef at McDonalds, just makes the same hamburger every day, you know what I mean? That it's: anybody can do that, when in fact it's quite the opposite: to be able to go in and trigger somebody else's music in 2 seconds and rewrite it on the spot and play it perfectly in 1 or 2 takes, is not something anybody can do. But the press gets a hold out and they view a session musician as a soulless cold robot, that reads little notes all day long! They haven't got a fucking clue with that what it takes! I defy any of these motherfuckers to follow a session player around for a year. Actually they can't do that anymore 'cause there is no session scene anymore. People make records at home with computers, you don't have to play anymore. You don't have to play good, you don't have to play at all! It's almost uncool to play too good, which is why we still race through the calls! People think that our music is slick and polished, we fucking actually played it! And everybody knows that it's all trickery, and nobody cares! Nobody cares when they go to a show and see somebody lipsinging! Nobody cares, they know it, they go to the show!! This shouldn't be a concert, this should be like theater!
You're coming to see a show, you're not coming to hear music, 'cause the music is all prerecorded, or primarily prerecorded. Hey, we use loops, we use samples sometimes, sure, everybody does! You name a band, I'll tell you exactly what the story is! And everybody's kinda cool as long as they realise we're really playing and singing leads! Everybody knows this, come on! The fucking Eagles does it, Van Halen does it, everybody does it! Nobody talks about it, because there's nothing to talk about! We improvise, when people come to see the show, we play the same song but we don't play it the same way! I wanted to be a musician, not a rockstar! Sure, I wanted to be like The Beatles, you know, John, Paul or George, but at first I wanted to be a musician! Anybody can be a rockstar but it takes fucking decades to be a musician!
CS: When you play a guitar solo (live or in studio), is it improvisation or do you transcribe it??
SL: It's 99% improvisation. The obvious ones are the obvious ones! The melodic ones, to have a point, are part of the composition. But not: it's rehearse! No matter of fact sometimes, when I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, that's when I play my best shit, because I'm not thinking then. My best shit is the first 3 takes, if not the first! Often I played 2-take-solo's before recording, occasionally that was really great and I fucked up when I punched in! But I don't like doing hundreds of solo's, I'm too old and lazy. I was a session musician, I was known for being able for hit shit, you know first on, first two seconds on! I've taken that with me to this day. It's more real that way, but I have crafted and written solo's before, but 99% is all just on the fly. Occasionally people wanna hear that Rosanna solo, they wanna hear the certain exact part, so I give them what they want. But most of the time I just kinda go for it.
CS: What are your future plans concerning TOTO and solo?
SL: Well, like I said we're writing songs, we're gonna get real serious about the record in the fall, we're on the road pretty much. I will be on the road, I'm gonna do a tour in Japan with Nuno Bettencourt, just to do a thing, just for fun. I might go out and play with Joe Cocker in November, I worked on his new record, it's great, they formed a superband together for that to do a DVD and do a bunch of gigs in Europe. I love Joe, I worked with him a lot on his records, and C.J. Vanston is the producer and musical director. It's fun, I just love to go out just be the guitarplayer, no pressure, you know! Really great versions of old classic tunes, you know what I mean, not a cover record in the true sense of the word, but Joe's never really wrote songs anyway, so it doesn't matter. Great record (Heart and soul)!! Just love to do that for 2 weeks! And I might do another record with Larry Carlton since we had a great success: we won a Grammy for best instrumental album in 2002 (No substitutions, CS)! So hey man, still a lot to do!!
classicrock-startpage.com, July 1st 2004