You can fill a lot of cd racks with albums on which you can hear Steve Lukather. The American exceptional musician, guitarist and founding member of the noble Pop Rockers TOTO is the world's most wanted studio crack. The list of the artists with whom Lukather already played together include stars like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Jackson, Elton John or Quincy Jones. For many years his fans know that Luke is also and above all a brilliant fusion guitarist. Lukather coorporated with Chicago, Joni Mitchell or George Benson and celebrates a highly individual musical style with the formation Los Lobotomys. This summer, however Lukather was on tour in Japan and Europe with his solo band [El Grupo]. He presented a colourful mix of Latin music, Rock and Jazz. We met him at a concert in the "Fabrik" in Hamburg and asked him especially for his actual ambitions. Apart from TOTO who already mixed their 15th studio album, those ambitions include a musical style with a big extemporising part.
Steve Lukather goes jazz
MM: Steve, you look quite satisfied. How's the tour going?
Luke: Yes, it is very good. It is a lot of fun to play with this great band for such a special audience. The people are very thankful, so that we can have a party on every evening.
MM: I saw a lot of fans who brought TOTO albums for signing. Doesn't they expect a completely different musical directive?
Luke: No, I think they know exactly what they are waiting for. They know my work with Los Lobotomys, they know my solo albums and they know that I normally don't play any TOTO stuff on my solo tours. TOTO is still an active band and there is no reason to play TOTO songs apart of a regular TOTO show. It would be different if TOTO wouldn't exist anymore. But as long as TOTO is there those songs belong exclusive to TOTO.
MM: So there are no demands of the audience for Rosanna, Hold the line or Africa?
Luke: Very few. Yesterday in Holland there was a wag in the audience who made jokes all the time and didn't want to stop talking about TOTO. But such people are just right for me. If it is time to make silly jokes and I mean humourous silly jokes not negative vibes, there is almost nobody who can compete with me. Particularly because I stand above with the mic, he stands below and can't do anything about the loudness. No, I take those things with humour and answer interruptions accordingly.
MM: Is such a tour more fun than the gigantic shows with TOTO.
Luke: You can't compare it because these are different pairs of shoes. I love both. I like these perfect TOTO shows, these splendid pop songs, these perfect arrangements and the big halls. I make it for many years and if I wouldn't like it anymore I would have quit long before. But TOTO is a part of my life. I am a guy who wouldn't make an album once in a blue moon. I'm fond of playing and touring and I want to experience something new every day. That's why shows with Nuno and this band are a lot of fun.
MM: This band, you are touring with now, is left of the shows with Nuno Bettencourt. Can you please introduce the band to us?
Luke: Yes, sure! On the drums we have Joey Heredia. An extremely talented drummer who seems to have more limbs to play with than any other drummer. When you don't look at him you always think that we hired a drummer and a percussionist. On the keys we have a musical genius: Steve Weingart. Playing with him is an honour and pleasure at the same time. And the bass player is Oscar Cartaya. His name had a meaning to me for a longer time. I've heard of him several times, besides he was recommended to me by Joey Heredia. I saw Oscar for the first time in a show in Paris. I was there with my Los Lobotomys, we hung around in a hotel and wanted to go out for a drink. We got, more or less into a concert of Eddie Palmieri. Actually I wanted to drink a beer on the bar but the band was fabulous and the bass player was a real sensation. So it was clear that I would contact him one day.
MM: I was also amazed at the fact that you have the most popular guitar roadie of the world in your crew: Bob Bradshaw, the master of the switching pedals.
Luke: *grin* Well, what should I say? Every evening it is the same. As soon as he is discovered by a journalist then I am only second best. No, seriously: Bob is a very close friend of mine for many years. It is not easy to get him away from his own business in Los Angeles touring with me. Usually he doesn't make it but for me he made an exception.
MM: What is his job on this tour?
Luke: *big grin* Cleaning, polishing, changing the strings, build up, pack in. Just the things a roadie does. Or what did you think?
MM: Oh really? I didn't expect that.
Luke: Look, Bob and I are friends. I do favours for him and he helps me whenever he can. Besides, the guys in this band don't have oversized egos. I mean, I could play with TOTO in the biggest halls, I could play the rockstar from morn to eve and could have a lazy life in between. But what do I do instead? I go on tour with a little band and play in small clubs. Somebody who didn't like that has nothing to do in this band.
MM: What is the most fun for you about such a tour?
Luke: Well, first of all that I can play at all. I'm still hungry for concerts. Where else can I meet pretty women? Where else can I get beer for free? *laughing* And musically it is absolutely fun. We only have a few tracks to play throughing licks to one another and extemporise freely every evening.
MM: How big is the extemporizing part of your concerts? What would you estimate?
Luke: Well, when I say 90% it probably sounds extreme but it comes quite close. We play the theme of a song and suddenly we drift away into long improvisations. Once it is Steve Weingart who gives the direction, then it is Oscar Cartaya and once it's me. You never know what happens.
MM: And obviously you never know what songs you are playing. Since yesterday you also have Birdland by Weather Report on your setlist.
Luke: Yes, it's a funny thing, isn't it? It was somebody in the tour bus who whistled the melody and so we got it. I asked: "Is there anybody who likes to play this song?" Everybody liked the idea and so we took the soundcheck for playing this song.
MM: Like the soundcheck tonight to get it more to perfection.
Luke: Yes, last night I noticed that I didn't get the right melody on a certain part of the song. That's why I needed a little practise. But on the whole it was excellent.
MM: This band seems to be quite flexible after all. Oscar Cartaya told me that there had been just two little rehearsals before the tour.
Luke: Yes, that's right. With these experts you don't have to rehearse much more. I sent all of them a list of the songs which they should learn and the precision work was done on the two rehearsals.
MM: Those jazzy licks which you play in heaps are also found in TOTO songs. On the other hand there is one or the other TOTO part to be found in your solo programme. Who influenced whom?
Luke: I think who ever want to see Steve Lukather purely can do it on this tour. With TOTO there are other points given. More things are based on the vocals. Apart from this there are bombastic pop productions which Steve Porcaro loves and arranges perfectly. I give a lot of my personality to TOTO but I'm still a part of a big puzzle. That is completely different on a tour like this. There are no points or limits given. I can play the way I want. I can show what I'm able to do and I can show people where I got my influences from. Who knows? Maybe I can inspire much more young guitarists with this tour than with TOTO?
The avocation of Robert Bradshaw
What a surprise... When I want to meet TOTO guitarist Steve Lukather on a concert in the "Fabrik" in Hamburg in Juli 2005 for an interview and I discovered Bob Bradshaw back stage. Bradshaw is the master of the switching pedals. His company Custom Audio Electronics is working for the world's most popular guitarists since the beginning Eighties. From Pink Floyds' David Gilmour or Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen to Michael Landau. As a result of my information Bradshaw has more than enough orders of established artists. That's why I was a bit surprised at his avocation in Hamburg. Apart from this I discovered three very interesting guitar boxes on stage with the name "Custom Audio Electronics Inc." on it, a construction of his company. So there had been a lot of questions to be answered and the master did it spontanously.
MM: Bob, I never thought that I would see you as guitar roadie on a regular tour?
Bob: Is this a regular tour?
MM: Question in Reply: Isn't it a regular one?
Bob: No, because it is the tour of my friend Luke and his band. That is the reason why I'm here in Hamburg. You won't meet me on other concert tours anymore. I don't have the time for it. But it is a different thing for Luke. I like to help him because I know that he helps me, too when I ask him for. Lately we had a benefit show in the school of my kid. You must know that I have an autistical son. Luke spontanously expressed himself willing to play on this event to collect money for this school. It is clear that I help such a friend anytime. Besides, it is good for somebody like me to stick my nose in a thing like this just to experience what goes on on such a tour. After all, I'm developing equipment which should work on live shows perfectly.
MM: What exactly are you doing on this tour.
Bob: What does a guitar roadie do? He cleans guitars, solders cables, changes guitar strings and helps during the concert with changing the guitars. After the show we try to meet women and drink as much beer as we can. Besides, we are telling dirty jokes all the time *laughing loudly*. Quite normal, or not?
MM: It must be a proud moment for you to see all the things in action which were developed by yourself. Almost the whole equipment of Steve Lukather is "designed by Bob Bradshaw", isn't it?
Bob: Yes, that's right. If you leave the guitars out, the equipment is developed and assembled by myself. Many things are even custom made by myself personally.
The next part is very specific and very interesting for guitar tech-heads. Bob describes Luke's equipment in details. Three channel system with small boxes etc... A very special equipment for a very special guitarist like Luke. His kind of playing shows the whole repertoire of a modern guitarist from very hard Rock guitar sounds to very slow jazzy passages. It was a challenge for Bob to develop an equipment which combines all these functions in one system. Apart from this it should be clearly arranged for playing. On the other hand the sounds on stage should be changed easily.
After Luke's show Bob Bradshow will return immediately to his company to care about all the things which will be developed in future. New equipments of "Custom Audio Electronics Inc." will be presented to the public on shows like "NAMM 2006" and the "Frankfurter Musikmesse."
Oskar Cartaya the allround bass player
The list of well known artists that Oskar played with seems endless: from Joe Sample via Steve Winwood and pop girlies Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez up to Extreme guitar god Nuno Bettencourt. They all loved to hire Oskar for their special bass chops.
In July 2005 Oskar played with Steve Lukather's band El Grupo on a short tour in Europe. In 2004 Oskar released a mind blowing solo album called My music, my firends, my time. He invited musical friends like Sheila E., Alex Acuna and Eddie Palmieri and showed his talents as a surprising composer. On the album Oskar presents a cool mix of jazz, latin music and fusion rock.
MM: How did you team up with Steve Lukather?
Oskar: I played in a small club in Paris with the band of keyboard player Eddie Palmieri, where Luke and a couple of friends showed up. After a few minutes I figured that Luke and Simon [Phillips] separated from their friends to pay more than nromal attention to the stage. I didn't know hat to think about it and I got a little nervous. But after the show Luke came over and said to me: "Hey man, listen, we would have some ideas to do a little tour with Nuno Bettencourt in Japan. We want to play a couple of fusion tunes. Are you interested? Do you want to play with us IF the concerts are gonna happen?" What a silly question. Of course I was interested and a year later I landed in Luke's band. After two weeks of touring with Nuno Bettencourt in November 2004 in Japan, Lukather's new band [that we called El Grupo in the meantime] was born.
MM: Are you a team player or a solo musician?
Oskar: Definitely a team player. I don't need standing in the spotlights and swing around with all kinds of extreme solo's. I would also be lucky enough to play behind the curtains so to speak. I enjoy the music, not the glamour side of our bizz. Luke is quite a different person. He's a perfect entertainer, who loves the attention of the people surrounding him. He's fooling and jumping around, and he's communicating alot with the people in the crowd. I'm quite different.
Gitarre & Bass, September 2005, Germany