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Steve Lukather on His New Album ‘Transition’ and the Insidious Nature Of Internet ‘Haters’

Steve Lukather
Rob Shanahan/ Mascot Label Group

When you think about the busiest guys in the music business, Steve Lukather could probably beat every single one of them (or certainly most of them) with the musical resume that he has accumulated in over 35 years of working in the industry.

Sure, there were gold and platinum albums with Toto — the songs you know, like ‘Hold The Line,’ ‘Rosanna,’ ‘Africa’ and many more. But Lukather was also very busy co-writing hits for other artists (for example, ‘Talk To Ya Later’ by the Tubes) and most of all, he was playing guitar.

Lukather played a lot — doing session work on thousands of albums, including Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and additional album work for Cheap Trick, Eric Clapton, Elton John and Meat Loaf, just to name a few. His career path has brought the chance to work with three out of the four Beatles — and that alone might be enough for most musicians to hang their hat on, but Luke (as his friends call him) keeps pushing.

Transition’ is his newly released solo album, the third release from the veteran guitarist in a prolific streak which began in 2008 with the release of ‘Ever Changing Times’ — an album that brought Lukather back to the United States for his first concerts as a solo artist.

Nearly 25 years after the release of his first solo album, Lukather seems very comfortable in his own skin. ‘Transition’ is merely the latest chapter in Lukather’s massive body of work, but he’s justifiably very proud of it. Ultimate Classic Rock had a good discussion about the new album with the always colorful guitar veteran, and dug through some of his back pages as well.

You know, with the pacing of your album releases in the past few years, this album almost feels like the completion of a trilogy to me. There’s a feeling of connection between the three that to my ears, makes them all hang together pretty well. At the same time, I know behind the scenes, you’ve been undergoing an interesting progression with your life as you’ve made each one of these albums.

That’s funny that you mention that, because somebody else pointed that out and I thought about it and I went, “You know, I think that makes perfect sense.” The last three albums, this is the culmination of everything I’ve gone through emotionally, physically and all the rest of it to this point. So it’s just funny that you would say that. I guess that’s cool . . . I don’t know! I didn’t really consciously think about it. Maybe subconsciously it snuck in there.

How does it feel to you? Because it seems like there’s a connecting factor between the three albums that makes them all hang together pretty well.

Well, I think I found my way as a solo artist. You know, a lot of times guys like me have their band or whatever and then you have these vanity projects on the side that are like, “I’m going to do an all-blues record or I’m going to do an all-fusion record or an instrumental record,” to sort of jump off the tracks and do something different.

But I’ve been making solo records for 25 years, so this is not really a hobby thing for me. Being that my old band doesn’t record new material at this point for many reasons, this is where I get it out. I think that instead of jumping sideways all of the time that I really found that okay, this is the direction that I want to go in. I think there’s a lot of guys that do instrumental guitar music better than I’ll ever do that.

But at the same time, I’m a fan of it, so I always throw a few little bits and pieces like that on a record. This is just me finding my way, and I think I’m feeling really comfortable now as a singer and a writer and an artist to stand on my own outside of things that I’ve done in the past.

Can you share a little bit about the process for this one and where your head was at after making the previous two albums, as far as what you wanted to do?

I finished the last record ['All's Well That Ends Well'] with a guy named CJ Vanston, co-writer/co-producer/mixer/keyboardist extraordinaire and we had a connection, man — we just clicked. He bailed me out and mixed the last record, and he had written half the record at least, and when I went into this one I said, “We have such a strong connection, why don’t we just start here, the two of us and see what comes.” I had every intention of writing songs and then getting everyone together in the studio like I always do and everybody plays live.

Well this time, when we wrote the stuff, from the first chord or time my hands hit the fretboard and his hit a keyboard, we were recording onto Pro Tools and we kept everything. Every note was the very first germ of an idea. What would happen is we’d just play and throw up a little drum thing just to play to and once we found a little riff or something we liked, which ironically, the way we wrote the album is the way it is sequenced on the record.

The first song was ‘Judgment Day,’ so we started there and we had nothing when we came in, and then at the end of the day, we had the basic form and melody. And then I went home and then CJ would stay up late, because he’s a single kind of guy and he likes to work late. I don’t, anymore.

I’d come back and he’d have all this really cool atmospheric keyboard stuff. I would maybe double my part and I’d go, “Man, this is sounding really good, there’s no need to do this again.” You know, sometimes if you had that original spark of an idea, you could re-record it and play it exactly the same but it doesn’t have the same vibe, you know what I mean?

Oh yeah.

So I go, “Well, why don’t we just keep all of this sh– and then we’ll just overdub real bass, real drums and other people on this,” because I’ve gotta have real people connecting with the music, you know? The machines are a great tool, but they’re certainly not a replacement for the real thing. So I didn’t keep any drum machines or any synth bass parts — those have all been re-recorded by real people. Everything else, we just left it [and] it was like casting a movie. I go, “I’m going to use my live band on a bunch of this stuff and I’m going to use a lot of friends and maybe some interesting new people,” and that’s kind of what happened.

As we wrote the songs — first one was done and the second one was ‘Creep Motel’ — you know, some of this stuff we’d have sort of a sequence and something to play to, and it just organically fell into place, and what you’ve got is the whole record. Me and CJ did a whole bunch of stuff; vocals, keyboards, guitar — keeper stuff — and then we’d overdub drums and bass, depending on the tracks, so that when the guys came in to play on it, they’re actually hearing the songs, so they really knew where the holes were and where to play, and it was a great luxury to be able to cast it like that.

A lot of times, you cut a track and it’s half-written and you don’t know [where it’s going], and people kind of play over the vocal [part], and they don’t really know where that’s at because it hasn’t been written yet, but this time I didn’t have to do that. It turned out really well.

You got Chad Smith on this album.

I just ran into him. You know, we both live in L.A. I’m a big fan and he’s an old friend. I’ve always wanted to do something with him and I ran into him and he goes, “What are you doing?” And I go, “I’m working on a record,” and he goes, “Well, come on.” So I said, “Well, come down tomorrow night,” and he showed up, and he played great. He played on the song ‘Right The Wrong’ that I co-wrote with my son Trev and CJ. It was already put together and he just came in and did like two incredible performances and we just kept it, and it was great to get that energy on there.

There’s different guys [like Chad] that I hadn’t worked with before — it was big fun.

Chad is such a powerhouse drummer.

He really is, and his takes were like a performance. He really gave it everything, and it was really fun to watch and I was just smiling, going, “Wow, that’s very cool that he did that for me.”

For ‘Creep Motel,’ between you and CJ and Fee Waybill, who gets the award for naming that song?

Oh, Fee. I’ve been writing songs with Fee since the first one we ever wrote together, which was ‘Talk To Ya Later,’ which was a hit for the Tubes in 1980. We’ve been friends ever since. We write and on every record, I’ve gotta have some Fee on it. But he gets it and the thing is, there’s not a lot of places where you can write lyrics like that.

I’m not trying to make a pop record that’s going to have a Top 40 single. I’ve thrown up my arms at that sh–, you know. I’m just making music that I dig as an art, because I enjoy the process of big, overblown, over-the-top productions that nobody does anymore with real people. Because I’ve gotta do this for my soul. And then it’s fun to go out and play ‘Hold the Line’ in the summer — as long as I’ve got somewhere to get some new sh– out, I’m happy.

But, you know, ‘Creep Motel,’ I just tell him what’s on my mind. The ‘Creep Motel,’ that’s about all of the internet haters. All of the people that just sit in front of the computer, and it’s so ridiculous now that it’s funny. I mean, it’s like what’s next — you’re going to walk into a room and there will be a holograph of a like or dislike button floating next to you and if you get too many dislikes by people pointing at you on the dislike side, you get thrown out of the room? It’s just so insidious.

So we’re just kind of making fun of people that do that. And to be honest with you, I was really hurt by people like that. When I was coming out of my own personal drama/fog/lowest point of my life, people would send me things like a bad performance — when I was down and out and I was drinking too much and sh– , there are some really sub-par performances that I didn’t know I was being filmed, and sh– just got away from me. I had a really tough time in my life, what can I tell you? 36 years on the road and I tripped and fell down the stairs, and the world laughed at me and pointed fingers at me, so to have to relive that like a f—ing human pinata is really hard.

My shrink would say that watching and reading that sh– is like the equivalent of somebody taking a razor blade and cutting themself. It’s like okay, I’m sorry, I had a bad time, a lot of personal issues — death in the family, divorce and just a lot of personal sh– I’d rather not get into that just dragged my ass down for a few years. It was like 2003 to 2009. 2004 and 2009 were really horrendous times in my life and unfortunately, you play how you feel.

If you feel like sh– and you’re angry . . . I’m not saying every night was bad, but they capture a couple of bad nights and people glom onto the bad night as opposed to the good night and throw it in your face for all of eternity.

I’m not the only one who’s had a few bad nights. I mean, it used to be, you have a bad night, you’d leave it in the building. Now, everywhere you go, there’s a camera on you. It’s beyond Orwellian.

With YouTube, everybody knows about it five minutes later, for sure.

And then they put, “At one minute and thirty-six seconds, look at that out of tune note or look, he played a sloppy note. You suck, you’re fat, you’re ugly, your hair looks stupid.” They put up sh– from 1979 or 1983 — the MTV horrific years, where they tried to dress you up like a f—in’ clown, you know? You know, when I came up, I didn’t realize you had to be an actor too. I was still trying to work on the music part and then they turned us all into this machine. Stamp ‘em out. If you don’t look right, you don’t get the airtime. It kind of f—ed everything up.

I’ve been reading that recent MTV book that came out . . .

Oh f— that. First off, f— that guy and f— that book. Like all they wanted to talk about was how much drugs was going on and allegedly they said that one of the guys from Toto was forcing the assistants to go out and get coke. They didn’t name any names — they just throw that sh– in there for commentary and I f—in’ went crazy on this guy. I went, “How f—in’ dare you say that sh–, man? Name a name – who did that? You tell me who!”

You can’t just throw that sh– in there like it was a throwaway statement. I’m not saying that we were innocent — we were far from innocent, but when it came time to doing the gig, we weren’t a bunch of f—in’ drooling cokeheads, you know?

I mean, how did I do f—in’ 2,000 records and be in a rock and roll band if I was coked as bad as they say we were? Everybody was doing drugs back then, okay? This a–hole, because the MTV trendy Rolling Stone mentality is that we suck, they just want to make fun of us. And I was tricked into doing an interview with this c—t, and all he wanted to talk about was this sh–.

From what I’m hearing on these last few albums, it seems to me like because you’re not splitting your time between this and making albums with Toto, you have a better focus.

You know, I’d like to think I’m getting better at doing this after 36 years. But I’m certainly more focused, man. I get up at 5:30 in the morning every day and I practice and I write and I work out. I’m a different guy, you know? And I’m a better person. I’m refining what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get better at it, I mean, I still really care. I may be 55 years old, but as long as I don’t walk by a mirror, I’m still f—in’ 18. I’ve got this great job and this great life that I get to be creative and do all of these things and it pays my rent, you know? Really, it pays several people’s rent at this point. [Laughs].

But I blink and a year goes by and all of the sudden, I look back and I didn’t waste my time — I did all of this cool stuff all around the world and used the opportunities and gifts that I’ve been given to its fullest. I will make another record and I will do other stuff, but right now, I’m kind of like, “Wow, did this year really just rip by and now next year, I jump back on.” Sh–, in mid-January I start rehearsing with my solo band, and then I’m out with Ringo [Starr] in February, and then back out with my solo stuff until May, and then rehearse Toto’s 35th anniversary through September, and then go back out with Ringo again and then go back out solo in ‘14, so I’m kind of booked up through 2015. At that point, I might take a look at making another record.

Working with Ringo seems like it had some good spillover for you, as far as guys like Gregg Bissonette and Richard Page who wound up on this record.

Well, Richard and I go back to the ‘70s — I played on the Pages record, before Mr. Mister. We tried to to get Richard in our band at one point. I’m a big huge Richard Page fan. He’s a monster singer and a monster writer and a great cat. Bis and I go back 30 years. Those guys got me on the Ringo gig and now Ringo’s become a dear friend, you know.

Wow, it’s a trip just to kind of go full circle with that, because I started with the Beatles and now here I am in a band with Ringo and I get texts from him and he’s the sweetest guy. He’s been a huge inspiration to me as a human being, just how to carry yourself — this guy is 72 years old and he looks like he is 40.

Oh, it’s crazy.

He’s smart, funny and he’s f—in’ Ringo! What can I say? Without those four guys, there would be none of us! People say they’re not so sure if Ringo is a great drummer or not, but man, ask any drummer — there wouldn’t be Neil Peart without Ringo. There wouldn’t be Billy Cobham. You know what I mean? Ringo inspired a whole generation of people to pick up the instrument. What people do with it afterwards, they made their own and they’re brilliant. But you know what I’m saying? I’m sitting there jamming in sound check and all of the sudden Bissonette starts playing ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ and I start playing the riff, and then Ringo starts playing, and all of the sudden you turn around and you realize that it feels . . . that’s the real sh–, right there.

I mean, I can play a Hendrix lick for you, but it ain’t gonna sound like Jimi. But Jimi played it and you go, “F—-.” When you get the real guy to play it, it has a different feeling. If I was smiling any wider, my face would have cracked. He’s a very, very soulful beautiful cat, man. I want to be like him when I grow up.

It has to be interesting for Bissonette to pick up sticks in front of Ringo…

There’s not a bigger f—in’ Ringo/Beatles fan on the planet than Bissonette, man. I mean, he  knows the lyrics to the B-B-sides, you know? I mean, it’s unbelievable — it’s stuff you forgot about. He’s into it and it’s great to see it.

For you, I would think that as a guitar player, it must have been intimidating to pick up a guitar next to Eric Clapton. What was that experience like?

You know, honestly, that was one of the few times that I kind of froze up a little bit. I kind of talked my way onto the session, because I wanted to meet Eric, my childhood hero. The first time, he was very intimidating, yeah. Because you don’t want to go in there and be a showoff: “Oh yeah, let me show you my sh–,” you know? You go in with respect and reverence, you know what I mean? And Eric was really sweet.

So I just played a little teeny rhythm part — I didn’t really do much at all, because I didn’t want to be . . . I just wanted to hang out. I got a great picture of him and I sitting on a thing and he’s smiling. I haven’t gotten a chance to play with him since. I would really like to have another go at that one. Maybe perhaps someday.

Have you had other situations that made you freeze up similarly?

Well yeah, so Jeff Beck and [Carlos] Santana, we did this thing years ago and I was so nervous that I overplayed a little bit and that’s one of those scenarios where the f—in’ internet critics just have a field day with it. The recording of it, I had effects and dry signal and they took just the effects signal and that’s what ended up on the TV show, so that’s what’s followed me around since 1986 as my “sound.” In ‘86, everybody was tapping and playing all over the top and sh– like that. Now by today’s standards, it’s like looking at a picture of me with a stupid pastel MTV outfit on, you go, “Oh my God, that’s embarrassing.”

But you’re sitting there playing with two masters like that and I was the young kid thrown in to jam and I was nervous and I overplayed. At the time, I didn’t really think much of it. I didn’t think it would follow me around for all of eternity. As styles change and things change, people often look at this sh– on the internet like it happened last year or last week. It’s like dude, that was how long ago? Almost 30 years ago? C’mon, man — give a brother a break! What were you doing 30 years ago, you know? They throw you on the f—in’ stage and there’s Carlos Santana and Jeff Beck in front of 15 thousand people with Jan Hammer and Simon Phillips and I was so nervous that I f—in’ [overplayed] and it was a jam. There was no rehearsal!

But I mean, it was a wonderful experience, until I got beaten to death [by the internet critics]. I don’t even read it or look at it. There’s supposed to be one showing, never to be seen again — well, good luck with that sh–. These kids that take pictures of their d–ks and pass it around on Twitter, they don’t realize that when they’re looking for a job, when they’re adults, the first thing that pops up is a picture of their d—. We live in this severely Orwellian society where people want to look at your Facebook. I’m glad I don’t have to get a job for somebody — that would suck! I mean, it’s unbelievable. What’s going to happen in like 200 years, you’re going to punch in my name and boom! Some embarrassing moment will pop up first. Fortunately, I was smart enough to never make a sex tape or take pictures of my rig . . . and I’m not talking about my guitar rig! [Laughs].

People do stupid sh–, man, in drunken moments. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of those on the internet and I’m rather embarrassed about that, but I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs and I haven’t in years. So I’m much better for that, but what can I say? These mistakes live forever and I have to laugh at it too, really. I can’t sit there and go, “Oh, nobody likes me.” I’m not going to do that either. But there should be some sort of statute of limitations, like, “Okay, you can take it down now.” 250 thousand people think I’m a f—in’ dick, that’s great. Beautiful. Merry Christmas.

Working on Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ album, was that your first encounter with Paul McCartney?

That was my first McCartney experience and then he invited [Toto drummer] Jeff Porcaro and I to go back to England to work on a movie [‘Give My Regards To Broad Street’] that he was doing, so we were able to hang with him and George Martin and Geoff Emerick — the whole Beatles team. I got to play the intro to ‘Strawberry Fields’ on the real Mellotron that made the [original] record and it was an unbelievable experience.

He and Linda were the best. I’ve run into him a couple of times through the years and he’s always such a great cat. And then I became friends with George [Harrison] later, but that’s a whole other story.

Oh did you really?

Well yeah, George ended up playing at the Jeff Porcaro tribute after Jeff passed in 1992, and so I have a picture on my wall of the two of us playing together. He was my first guitar hero. We became friends and he’d come over to the house and hang.

It’s interesting looking at your sessions and how the ‘Thriller’ record for example, opened the door for you to work with McCartney. But going in reverse, what opened the door for you to work on ‘Thriller?’

I was doing all of Quincy’s [Quincy Jones] stuff. I had done ‘The Dude’ record which was up for a Grammy the year before. David Foster is the one who brought me in and introduced me to Quincy and said, “You’ve got to use this guy,” and for about four years, I did everything that Quincy did. Michael was coming off of the success of ‘Off The Wall,’ and some of the other guys in my band worked on that, so I got brought in. Michael called me on the phone one morning and I was like hungover and sh– and he was like, “Hi Steve, this is Michael Jackson,” and I was like, “F— off,” and I hung up. I thought it was one of my friends just f—in’ with me and it turned out to really be Michael.

Quincy’s office called and said, “Oh, you should probably call him back — that was really Michael,” and that was pretty funny. I called him back and I go, “Oh man, I’m really sorry,” and he said, “That happens all of the time,” and he’s laughing. Everybody knew that if you were on that record, you had reached the A [level] session guy thing — that was the record to be on. Quincy was doing Michael’s follow-up and to be on that was a big deal.

I spent a lot of time in there and believe it or not, Toto had a lot to do with that record, even though nobody blows any smoke up our asses about it. Everybody gets all of this anniversary love and we get nothing, and we were all over the record. I mean, ‘Human Nature’ is a Toto song with all of us playing, written and arranged by us and Michael singing. ‘Beat It’ was Jeff Porcaro and me — I played everything, bass, all of the guitar parts except for the solo. Michael, Jeff and me — and then the McCartney duet too. And then the other guys were all over the record as well.

I was going to ask you, how accurate the credits were on that record as far as reflecting the contributions that you guys made.

There’s no details or anything, there’s just our names on the songs. But I can tell you what happened and that’s what happened. It’s a long story, actually, but putting ‘Beat It’ back together again, after Eddie [Van Halen] cut the two inch tape, because it wouldn’t sync back up again. Me and Jeff had to put that f—in’ thing together. It was like Frankenstein. Michael’s lead vocal, Eddie’s solo and Michael hitting two and four on a drum case. No click tracks, nothing. Quincy was like, “You’ve got to put this back together for me, man. I can’t lose Michael’s lead vocal and Eddie’s solo.” So we did.

What was the key to making that work in the moment?

Jeff Porcaro’s unbelievable time. Once he laid down the groove — which only took a couple of takes for him — then I had something to play to, and then we built it up, and then I went back and worked with Quincy and Michael on the subsequent other rhythm guitar parts after all of the riffs were done and the bass part was all done.

Eddie’s a longtime friend of yours. When did you first come in contact?

I always heard about this guy Van Halen, even when we were still kids. I mean, my high school band was me and MIke Landau, John Pierce and all of these guys. We auditioned for Gazzari’s and Van Halen was the headlining band. I’d always heard about Eddie and I didn’t know him, but they were the headlining band. We got the gig until they found out that we were underage and then they un-hired us. So I never got the chance to meet him, but then we’d hear about each other.

When their first album came out, we were working on our first album and David Paich walks in and goes, “Hey, I got something for you,” and I go, “What’s that?” And he goes, “Yeah, check this out,” and he played ‘Eruption’ for me, and I think there was a dead silence in the room. I thought, ‘Wow, man, what the f— was that?’ That was everyone’s first reaction when they first heard that, it was like, “What the f–k was that?” It was insane. It was a game-changer.

We did this show in L.A., the California World Music Festival and Toto, we had our first hit record, ‘Hold The Line’ was out, and we were on and Van Halen was on, and that was the first time we actually kind of met. And then he called me up one night and said come out to the house, and it turns out we live near each other, and we’ve been close friends ever since. I love him and Al [Van Halen drummer Alex Van Halen] to death, man.

You’ve had the chance to guest on some of their stuff. What did you glean from the experience, being in the studio with those guys?

Well, I just sang some background vocals. I’d just be hanging out and they’d go, “All right, we need another voice — come out here.” But I never played on anything — what the f— do they need me for? But we’re just friends. I’d drop by on the way home as I’m coming up the canyon and they’d be recording and they’d drag me in. Their process isn’t much different than mine, but the end result is the end result, man. It’s one of the greatest rock and roll bands. And I’ve seen every incarnation.

I got to play with them live a couple of times — I may be the only guitar player that ever played live with them and sat in. At the Cabo Wabo, and I played with them in Texas somewhere, and then Eddie’s played with us. Ed’s played on a few of my records, and they don’t do that. He doesn’t do that.

I tried to get Al to play on my record but [he said], “Man, you know I don’t do that,” and I go, “Alex, we’ve been friends for 35 years, come on and play on a track for me for f–k’s sake.” And he said, “No no no, can’t do it,” and I’m like, “Wow, man, c’mon.” He’s just never played with anybody but his brother. It will probably go down that that’s the way it’s going to be forever. It’s kind of like my ex-wife has never had a McDonald’s hamburger and she’s 41 years old. It’s like, why start now?

When I saw you here in Cleveland a few years back for the ‘Ever Changing Times’ tour, it had been about 20 years I think, since you had been in Cleveland with Toto.

Yeah, I think the last time that I played there was the Les Paul tribute where I was invited to play at that. But as Toto or a solo artist, I’d like to think we’re going to get back. We’ve got new management and new agents, and we’re going to be touring the United States in August and September. We’re trying to figure out who to go out with. There’s a couple of options. We put our feet in the water. We still do big business overseas. We do 15 to 30 thousand people in these headlining festivals. People show up and they like us.

The United States has always been an Achilles’ heel, because we were held hostage by a label that wouldn’t release our records or release us and so consequently, everybody just thought, ‘Okay, they disappeared,’ and we were relegated to the “where are they now” factor. Meanwhile everywhere else in the world, we’re still very much a valid act. We don’t really do much — we broke up and I quit in ‘07 because I was looking around onstage going, “Where’s my high school friends?” And then [Toto bassist] Mike Porcaro got ALS and it’s really a tough way to go out, man. That’s a bad one.

So Paich called me and he said, “We gotta do something to help Mike and the family,” so in 2010 we went back out with Joseph Williams, Steve Porcaro, myself and Paich fronting it and Simon Phillips and Nathan East, bass and drums respectively. We went out and it was a great success. We gave Mike a bunch of bread and we had so much fun that we said, “Well, we can do this in the summertimes,” because everybody else has pretty big schedules outside of [the band]. We’re not doing the Toto, “Oh, let’s get back on album/tour/album/tour” [cycle]. It’s just something that we go out for a couple of months and have a great time and make some dough, and everybody wins. Mike and his family get sorted out and we have some laughs.

Could there be another Toto album?

Well, we’ve got two lawsuits going — people saying that they own us — and I can’t really talk about that much. Let me just tell you something — litigation sucks! It’s mean, it’s needless and it’s a nuisance. It’s just awful. I’m hoping that we can get through this, but right now, we thought we could get out of it. But it will be impossible for us to do anything new until that’s all sorted out. We’re certainly not motivated to at that point.

What about solo shows in the U.S., is that going to happen?

I’m going to try to do that. I’m trying to pair up with somebody if it makes sense. I’m going to do a few things this year and probably more next year.

You’re working on a book — when do you see that coming out?

How do you condense 36 years, 2,000 albums — not even talking about the Toto sh-t — into 250 pages or something like that? I’m doing it with my friend Lonn Friend, who was the editor of RIP Magazine. We went to high school together. He’s a dear old friend of mine, so he’s kind of helping me through. Because I don’t want to do the, “When I was seven, I got my first guitar blah blah blah, fall asleep.” On the other hand, I’m not going to go talking about the darker side of rock and roll. I want to talk about it, but I want it to be humorous and fun and a fast, fun read, something you’d want to read on an airplane. You sit in bed, crackin’ up and go, “Wow, that’s interesting, I didn’t know that when Elton did this, this is the process of who was there and who played on what,” and how some of these happy accidents really occurred. That’s the thing, fun stories of me working with all of these different legendary people.

Lonn’s great — I read the two books that he wrote about himself, so I’ll look forward to reading that.

He mentions me a couple of times in those books! We knew each other since we were 14,15 years old and you’ve gotta have somebody to trust. I can sit down and write it, but I think he’s going to make it more interesting and I can trust him. No matter what I say, I have the right of the final edit, because I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus. I’m not a mean, awful person, you know?

I’ve certainly been thrown under the bus, like that MTV book threw us all under the bus. I called the guy out on it and he just told me to f— off, and you wonder why people don’t want to deal with journalists all of the time. Everybody’s gotta hold their hands a little closer these days, because everything you say can be taken out of context and made into Wikipedia [entries] somewhere. And I’ve tried to take sh– off my own Wikipedia, because I never said that — that’s not true, but, “Oh, yes it is, it was in a magazine article.” Well f—in’ A — that doesn’t mean it’s true!

What have we not covered that you want people to know about?

I just had a great year. I got to work and do the G3 thing with [Joe] Satriani, [Steve] Vai and [Dream Theater's John] Petrucci. Talk about legendary, incredible guitar players.

Was that your first G3 experience?

I’d played with all of those guys at one point or another, but I’d never done G3 and that was a really neat thing to cross off my bucket list of things that I’ve done. I love them all so much. They’re such brilliant musicians and great people. It was humbling to be around them, believe me. And they made me feel at home and, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun, and they treated me great.

Ringo of course was a super highlight, and I’m going to continue on with that, and I’ve got my record and the 35th anniversary of my high school band! 40th anniversary if you count high school.

For a high school band, you guys have done all right.

[Laughs] Yeah, not bad for a bunch of old queens from the valley!

Next: Toto File Suit Over Unpaid Digital Royalties

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