Reggie Boyle: "I witnessed another chapter in the story of Steve Lukather and "Ever Changing Times". Today it was the Tour rehearsal Chapter. This was the second to last day of rehearsals. I arrived at the North Hollywood,Ca. rehearsal hall just before 10 a.m. Steve Weingart, band director and keyboard player arrived first as he roared up on his motorcycle. Weingart greeted me and we went into the hall together. He confided in me how well the rehearsals were going and how tight the band was.
The band arrived one by one. As I sat on the couch ten feet directly in front of Steve Lukather I reflected back on Chapters One and Two of this story. In Chapter One I spent the better part of two days in the studio during the recording of ECT. I heard some songs in raw form, some songs almost ready for completion and I heard some songs the were done. Chapter Two was the finished product ECT. Now I was here for Chapter Three.
From the first sound that came screaming from Luke's guitar I recalled why this was called the "No Jazz Tour". To me there didn't seem to be much reason for any more rehearsal. I at this point it was fix a little here, fix a little there. By this time the ship was running smooth. This band also consisted of Eric Valentine (d), Ricky (Zahariades) Z. (g) and Carlitos Puerto (b). The band was put together to Rock hard!
This was going to be a long day. It is really the last full day of rehearsal. The band ran through an entire full set, broke for lunch and then ran through a set again, sans the instrumentals. This also turned out to be family day. Luke's son Trevor who is opening some California shows was in attendance with one of his pals. Trev told me how much he was looking forward to opening for his dad. He also, with excitement, told me about his recent successful stint at the Key Club in Hollywood. Wives and friends were also in attendance including Luke's wife Shawn for a lunchtime visit with their baby daughter Lilly- Rose.
The set itself was a toe tappin', head boppin and groovin' set. It's really hard to believe that these guys have played together less than two weeks. This quintet sounds like they've played together for years. I noticed some very uplifting, exciting energy especially from the younger cats Eric and Carlitos. Eric brings some definite thunder and flash to this band. Luke joked to Carlitos and the band during the second set of a long day "let's rehearse the bass solo!"
At 5 p.m.,the end of the day. I felt like I'd seen a full blown,true Steve Lukather solo show. Tomorrow would be the last rehearsal and load out. It was off to Europe next week! I talked to Luke about the set list and he told me "there will be some surprises and something for everyone!" For ANY Steve Lukather, guitar, music or Toto fan this is a can't miss show!"
Reggie: Hi Steve. Could you please tell us a little about yourself for our readers.
Steve Weingart: "Hello. I'm the musical director for the "Ever Changing Times" Tour with Luke. It's been a great opportunity for me to work with Luke again. A few years ago I was in the El Grupo scene. That was just a blast! We did a couple of Tours of Europe and one of Japan. It was just great. I'm kinda speechless with it. We had such a good time. The band was great. Getting to present time. I've been working with Eric (Valentine) in other situations and Carlitos (Puerto) in other situations. I overheard you talking to Carlitos about the Ventura Blvd situation. We all kinda know each other. Just through chance meetings with the guys I've gotten to hang out with them and work with them in musical situations.
When Luke was asking me about some guys to come in and play in this band I thought about these guys. I chose them because they are so versatile and good at what they do. And on top of that they're great guys. They're good for the hang. Also they have an incredible work ethic. These guys came to the rehearsal knowing the music. They owned the music before we even played one note. I can't say enough good things about them.
Unfortunately after the second rehearsal we started to get into scheduling conflicts with Tony Spinner (ex-Toto). It was Carlitos' suggestion to bring in Ricky Z. Ricky basically came in and killed it too! He came in on the first day knowing Lukes' material from the earlier CD's. So it was just getting up to speed with the newer material and everything's coming together great. It's a real honor for me to be in a situation to call myself musical director."
Reggie: That says a lot about you that Luke gives you that much responsibility. It says a lot about the band too.
Steve W.: "Ya, thanks. I'm real proud about the whole situation. It's just great to be hanging with Luke again!"
Reggie: Tomorrow is the last day of rehearsals. How have they gone so far?/p>
Steve W.: "We started off with the normal method. Song by song. We started working, pulling the music together instrumentally, without vocals. We rehearsed it. We got the forms of the songs. Section by section. We got it fitting together real nice. Then we started working on the vocals. We kind of imagined ourselves around a camp fire. Luke got an acoustic guitar and we just started with the basics from ground zero and worked our way up. Now we're running the show like a dress rehearsal."
Reggie: You guys have a huge diverse list of material to choose from.
Steve W.: "Somebody asked me about some of the older material with Luke and his compositions. I said you can barely throw a stone in any direction and not hear Luke in it somehow. He's got so many people that he's written music for, with, co-written with and just being involved from the ground floor. There's truth in what you say about the songs to choose from. There's going to be a lot to like about the show."
Reggie: Go ahead and tell us about how you got the gig and yourself.
Ricky Z.: "It's like the old days at Disneyland. It's a serious E Ticket ride! The phone rang and it was Luke. It was" 'dude,GREAT! Can you be here tomorrow?' "I ran off and started shedding immediately, since last Tuesday when the phone rang. I was running around trying to catch up trying to make sure EVERYTHING would work and was ready to go. Slick fifty!"
Reggie: Tell us about who you've played with.
Ricky Z.: "You mean the trouble I've been staying with, don't you? I've played with a lot of Latin artists Alejandro Sanz, Paulino Rubio, Joan Sebastian a Latin Grammy winner with Carlitos (Puerto) for four years. So we kind of have this long ol' history. I've worked as well with people like Jessica Simpson and Lauryn Hill, Jazz folk like Don Grusin and Ronnie Laws. Lately it's been in town doing some television, movie things, jingles and sessions on records. But this will be a little departure. I've been home for a little bit. So now it's like let's go out and tear the world apart!"
Reggie: What's it going to be like to play some Rock now?
Ricky Z: "It's boogie until you puke! It's nice I don't have to behave myself so well! Before sometimes it was like behave yourself, play BEHIND the singer. MAYBE a little step here a little step there. With Rock 'n' Roll it's fun! It's kinda like being in a band in high school again. Carlitos looks over at me and he has this big grin on his face. Or Luke will turn around and come over and just let out a big YAAAAAA! It's a LOT of fun! It's like getting the kid out again. This is entertainment. People want to get out and have some fun, get away from reality for a minute. And we are lucky enough, blessed to be on the other side of it. Yet we are still connected to the audience. We are up here having fun. They call it PLAYING music. PLAY. We're still in the sandbox!"
Carlitos Del Puerto
Reggie: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little about yourself.
Carlitos: "My name is Carlitos Puerto. I play acoustic and electric bass. I've been getting ready for this very exciting tour with Luke. The rehearsals were going great! I'm learning really great material. I'm singing, I'm jumping, super fun dong all that good stuff! I'm excited to be here! I play mostly Jazz. I've had a few Rock gigs but nothing as important as this gig. I've played with Herbie Hancock, Kenny Garret, Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D' Rivera. The list goes on and on, but mostly Jazz. This is a great opportunity to get introduced into the Rock world! "
Reggie: There's kind of a tight knit musical family on Ventura Blvd (Los Angeles) at the Baked Potato, La Ve Lee, Cafe Cordiale and other places. You guys all play together and support each other.
Carlitos: "We had a fantastic band with "Wengie", Frank Gambale and Tom Brechtlein. It was a great band. We did a few gigs with it and we had a little following. We had a blast playing fantastic music with great players.
Reggie: This is going to be a long Tour traveling across many parts of the World. Could you please tell us about that.
Carlitos: "This is going to be incredible. We are going to have a blast. Not only musically, but hanging with the Cats and getting to know them! So far I've known Luke for three,four weeks. But it feels like I've known him for years already! He's a fantastic person. I'm looking forward to going out with him."
Reggie: I think half the battle of going on a long Tour is digging the people you are not only going to play with, but live with for so long.
Carlitos: "It's going to be easy because EVERYBODY is so easy going and nice. It's not going to be a problem at all. It's going to be GREAT!"
Reggie: Hey Eric welcome aboard. Please let us know who you've worked with and tell us about yourself.
Eric: "I'm originally from Washington,D.C. I moved out to L.A. three years ago. I met Steve Weingart doing a gig with another artist and really bonded well. I started to work with Steve Weingart and the opportunity came up to work with Luke and he asked me if I wanted to do it. This is a great opportunity to work with a legendary artist. That's how we connected. It's been great. It's been awesome! People may know me from working with a South African guitarist Jonathan Butler, I was his musical director for a few years, Patti LaBelle, Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, Kirk Whalum, Dionne Warwick, a lot of different people."
Reggie: How have rehearsals gone so far?
Eric: "They've been awesome since Day One. Everybody came in prepared and ready to work. There wasn't much conversation on how to play the songs. We already knew. It was really great. There were only a few little things to work out. It was just about playing together and understanding how to support Luke."
Reggie: If fans want to find out a little more about you how can they do that?
Eric: "My web site is ericvalentine.net and if you want to buy my music it's on iTunes. The name of the record is Eric Valentine "Jazz Impressions". I also produce artists, I've produced Kevin Whalum the brother of legendary saxaphonist Kirk Whalum. It's basically an All-Star record with George Duke. It's a pretty good record. I'm also working on a couple of other projects. A Rock record with this band called Rock Stars and Presidents. I'm also planning to a record with Steve (Weingart), as soon as we find some time to make it happen. Now that we'll be on a bus together we should have some time. We can have some conversations about the record."
Reggie: Are you looking forward to the Tour?
Eric: "I'm so excited. I've never been to Europe before. I'm looking forward to going to a lot of new places. I'm ready to get into that. It's going to be pretty cool."
Reggie: You've almost completed two weeks of Tour rehearsals. You have some new faces & some familiar faces in your new band. How has it gone so far?/p>
Luke: "I'm having a great time. We're just down to details now. Everybody knows the stuff. We're just kinda tweaking the vocal stuff now. It's all real there's nothing going on anywhere there other than what's up on stage. It's kinda like a 70's band mentality as far as that goes. This band could show up and play on rented gear anywhere around the world and be able to do it! It's kinda low tech as opposed to where I come from. The Toto deal was really high tech. A lot of people, a lot of shit like drum loops and you had to stay with the click. I didn't want to do that this time. I wanted to do it old school. It's a little rawer but at the same time it's fuckin' real! That's what's REALLY important to me!"
Reggie: With the announcement about Toto a lot has been said about it ending. But I think of it as the start of something new and exciting instead of something ending. What are your thoughts?
Luke: "Most people have been really cool about it. This is all news. It's been in the newspapers. I'm getting calls. It's traveled all over the World. Mark & Brian (Nationally syndicated Radio Hosts from Los Angeles Radio station KLOS) called me. Some guy called up KLOS crying about Toto. It's like, man where was all the love when we were together (laughing)? But then there's always the shitty remarks like 'I thought they were done in the 80's!' or 'who cares?' Or some of the fans are mad at me because they think I broke up the band or something like that when I was just the first one to come out with it. Yes there were some issues. But there will ALWAYS be issues when you have a corporation like that, that long. But there's no personal problems with the members or the guys, I have nothing but love for the cats. This is not a malicious,hateful break up. It's really important for people to understand that. I just felt that it had run it's course. What's next? I'm going to be replaced and they're going to send out a fake Toto? The writing was on the wall. This is not new to the guys in the band. I didn't break it up without telling them. Before the last Tour we had a big fallout over some business. We didn't agree at all. It was just me on one side and everybody else on the other. And as the only standing original member I said WOW if that's how you guys really feel then it really is time for this to go. I called up Paich and talked to him about it. I talked to Mike and Steve Porcaro, the guys I grew up with and started this thing. They were like it's way overdue for you to put this to bed. So I just made the first move. So people think I just all of a sudden picked up and told everybody to fuck off and left. That's NOT the case at ALL!"
Reggie: It really hasn't been Toto for a couple of years now. Great players, great cats in Sklar and Phillinganes but just not Toto.
Luke: "It was the greatest Toto cover band ever! That's all I can say. They're some of the greatest musicians out there but it did change the sound. There's no question about it. I really noticed it when Paich and Joseph (Williams) came back out on the gig and we used horns and stuff like that. THAT sounded like the band. Dave has a unique touch. No offense to Greg or anything, he did a teriffic job. But he is a different flavor. A different presence."
Reggie: If you go and see Deep Purple with Don Airey instead of Jon Lord, both great players, just different there's a huge difference in the sound.
Luke: "There would be a difference, you're right. You know what I mean. Dave as the principal started the band with Jeff (Porcaro) and then grabbed me and Steve (Porcaro) and went from there. We used to jam in High School there man. There's NOBODY left from High School there man! That's really hard for me. I understood when Mike was still there and Paich was still there it was still somewhat Toto. I don't mind people filling in. But when it became there was nobody left but me, it didn't feel right anymore. We'd been working REALLY hard. 26 MONTHS out hard! Do you know what I mean? There were some management issues. Some things went wrong. Went pear shaped I should say. I just went WOW! I gotta get outta here!"
"I had the advantage of having a record in the can. I figured if there ever was a good time to do it was now. I'm 50 years old. I don't want to end up in Jackpot, Nv, again playing fuckin' Toto hits to a bunch of high rolling drunks. I just didn't see that. When I go out on my own I'm playing smaller places. But I'm not gonna play Rosanna, Africa, Hold the Line and the ballads. I'm not going to do that. You heard the set today. There's just enough of a little taste in there for everybody. For the diehards. Do you know what I mean?"
Reggie: You're calling this the "No Jazz Tour". What's the thought behind that?
Luke: "We are going to jam but we're not going to be playing fusion B-Bop. We will jam in the context of a modern day jam band. We're not going to be taking it out doing 30 minute solos or anything like that. There's a lot of songs in the set from every facet of my career outside of Toto. There will be a few little Toto hints, nods to my past. If I was going to go out and play Rosanna, Africa and Hold the Line, then why would I break up the band? Or why would the band fall apart? It gets kinda redundant to me. Those songs have been really good to us. They're signature songs. They get played everyday on the radio. It's just time for me to move on. I got really sad. It wasn't so much anybody personally. I was just looking around going this is not right. I'd wake up by myself in the morning in a hotel room going this is NOT where I want to be. This is not what I want to do."
"The machine got so huge. It took so many people to put on a Toto Show that we weren't making enough money. You know what I mean? It's just like what the fuck? I can make that kinda dough on my own playing smaller places. I got young cats that are really on fire, that really want to be here. I don't have to deal with anybody else's opinion because the buck stops here."
Reggie: That leads me to my next question. What's the difference having your name on the marquee instead of a band name?
Luke: "I would hope that the Toto fans would come out and see me. I've gotten some really kind letters. They found me on the internet through the Network or the message boards where they left me some nice messages except for a couple. One guy said he'd buy the new record but he wouldn't come see me play unless Simon was playing drums. It's like come on man this isn't a personal thing against Simon. Not at ALL! He was one of the most understanding cats in the whole band, really. Bobby sent me nothing but congratulatory messages and notes. He's going to be out there doing all those songs. He's going to be doing this stuff until he drops. He's doing Russia. He's doing places I never got to go. He gets a pickup band and makes a shitload of money. If that's what he wants to do then hats off to him. It used to piss me off in the old days. The band's not together anymore. If that's how he needs to make a living then I'm sure he was going to do that anyway."
"It's a part of my past. I'm real proud of my past. I thought we made some great records despite the negativity by some people or the lack of understanding. Another thing that got misconstrued was when I said that the U.S had turned it's back on us. I think some people who live in the United States took offense to that. I didn't mean it like that. I REALLY want to articulate what I meant by that. What I meant by that is that we didn't get any support from radio, promoters and record companies. We were held hostage. We couldn't get out. So then people just forgot about us when we went on the road in the United States besides from the fans that really knew our music. To the casual fan we were just an oldies act. I don't want to be in an oldies revue man. I'd rather play smaller places. Play what I want to play with great players."
"I'm doing a pretty extensive Tour of the United States. I'll show you some things that I've got. There's ALWAYS going to be some clown that's gonna stand up and yell Hold the Line! I'm gonna have to deal with that. I'm going to try and promote myself without using the "T" word. But eventually some of the places get a hold of your name and formerly of doesn't really come in. It's Steve Lukather "of Toto" and a lot of people show up in thinking there gonna hear me playing the hits and I'm NOT going to do it!"
Reggie: Steve Weingart was just telling us the story about how he did a gig with Keith Howland and Tris Imboden and they showed up at the gig and it said "Chicago" on the Marquee!
Luke: "A lot of promoters especially when you're playing in smaller places are not necessarily the most reputable people. It used to happen to Kimball all the time when he was out of the band. It wasn't really his fault. It used to piss us off. It's part of my past and people just need to understand it. If they're coming out to expect to hear those songs then don't bother. I'm going to make somebody go out and make that fucking announcement if I have to! I don't have that problem in Japan or anywhere else in the world but the United States. I've done solo tours everywhere else and no one has ever done it. Maybe some drunk in the back screams it out as a joke and I laugh. I go guys come on man. That's my OTHER job!"
Reggie: Is there anything else you wanted to add?
Luke: "The set list will come out soon enough. With the internet it will be all over the place by the first night. Things are going to ebb and flow. I got this set list together. I wanna get the band real tight with this. I may pull this and add this as time goes on. Since we only had a couple of weeks rehearsal. We started a brand new band from scratch. I wanted to get a very specific thing. We made a change. Tony (Spinner) wasn't available for the tour. We agreed to part as pals and it all worked out for the best man."
"Ricky Z. was a friend of Carlitos. He already knew half the shit. It's fulfilling that slot. I have a lot of guitar parts and I need that high voice. I'm not using samples or any of that other modern day 'Don't pay any attention to the man behind the curtain, bullshit.' It is what it is, you know? A lot of people come to expect the real slick double vocals that EVERYBODY on the fucking planet does now, including people you would never expect. I know where the bodies are buried for that shit! Believe me! All the production people and crew guys go from one tour to the next. And everybody knows everybody.But O.K. people cheat sometimes. I don't want to cheat. This is it. If I make a mistake or I sing a little bit out of tune, that's how it is. It's LIVE music! The band's getting really great. I'm getting really confident that were going to pull this off. I just want to get in front of a crowd and do it and see the reaction."
Reggie: We're not far away. About a week (from June 13th).
Luke: "I hope so. It's going to be a long two years. I'll tell you what, the dates keep rolling in. I'm gonna get a shot here in the States. I just hope people come out and support me. I'm not going to bill it as 'Mr. Toto' or anything. I was very specific with my P.R. people. Steve Lukather, guitar, whatever however they are going to bill it."
Reggie: My friend Vince Gill went through that after he left Pure Prairie League. It was Vince Gill formerly of Pure Prairie League. He used to say that was my old band 'formerly of'.
Luke: "Well, ya. Hello! I'm going through the same shit as Vince did. But you know gradually people will come around. We're already almost sold out in Japan and we're almost six months out! And, we're playing 2,000 seat theaters. People know what to expect there. In Europe it's pretty much the same thing. Here I really want to give this a shot on my own and see what happens. I'm really conservative where I'm playing. It's going to be real intimate 400 or 500 seater's. I really just wanna get out there. I'm a little nervous that they booked a couple casinos because they really hose you down for the ol' Toto stuff. What can I say? As long as the people know before they get there. Listen tell the promoter, tell the manager of the building that I ain't gonna play those songs. You just better be prepared for it. Unless some guy in a fuckin gorilla suit comes out with a machine gun and says you ARE playing Hold the Line, hahaha!"
Reggie Boyle, Stevelukather.com, June 15th 2008