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INTERVIEW: LAWRENCE GOWAN of STYX – August 2018

| 7 August 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “STYX is giving their loyal fans a whammy with a new release in July – the highly anticipated reissue of their critically acclaimed first new studio album in 14 years, THE MISSION, on July 27 via Alpha Dog 2T/UMe. The two-disc package will include a CD of the original album, as well as a Blu-ray of THE MISSION mixed in 5.1 Surround Sound by singer/guitarist TOMMY SHAW and producer Will Evankovich accompanied by stunning visualizations for each of the album’s 14 songs based on the album artwork. Other extras on the Blu-ray include: “The Making of The Mission Documentary” of exclusive interviews of SHAW and Evankovich, four music videos—“Gone Gone Gone” (official video), “Gone Gone Gone” (video created by NASA), “Radio Silence” (lyric video) and “Radio Silence” (live video from Syracuse, NY)—and three hi-res audio playback modes.”  Just days after that release (and the day after checking out the bands killer show in Toledo, OH) I was able to grab some time with keyboardist / vocalist Lawrence Gowan to discuss the disc, the tour, and so much more…

Toddstar: Lawrence, thank you so much for taking time out, and especially for helping correct my calendar faux pas.

Lawrence: Oh, don’t be upset. It’s fine. We’re in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, playing tonight. I had a pile of interviews last night, but you’re my only one today. It’s fine. It looks like it’s going to rain out so I’m going to postpone my walk.

Toddstar: Well, there you go. Well you’re going to postpone your walk, but you got your exercise in last night. Let’s start by talking about the Toledo show. You guys really tore it up at Centennial Terrace, last night.

Lawrence: Oh yeah, were you at the show?

Toddstar: If you looked down in the pit for the first couple songs, I was the lone photographer wandering around.

Lawrence: Yes, I did, I saw you there. Fantastic. Oh good. It’s funny, these kind of summer unique venues, like last night, and the night before, we were in Grand Rapids, another pretty unique venue that was a real garden, with a gigantic green house with carnivorous plants and all kinds of things, but just a fantastic venue similar to last night. Both nights, just extremely enjoyable. They really are everything that’s summer. You can imagine, it’s just perfect, perfect night, perfect audience. Sound was great. How was sound for you down front there?

Toddstar: It was amazing. It was one of the better shows I’ve heard. About a year ago, when we talked last, it was just after your show at Pine Knob last year, where I thought you guys were on fire. But, you guys just get better every time.

Lawrence: Well, we actually try to figure out, constantly, it’s never off our mind how we can make the show 1% better. And if we can achieve that every once a month, I guess that accumulates to maybe 10% better every year. So, if you haven’t seen us in a couple of years, that would account for it. I’m fortunate to be in a band where every guy is thinking the same way as far as how can I make this better with what I’m doing, how can I make a suggestion that gets our brains heading into fresh territory, And how to continually reinvent and reinvigorate what it is we’re doing?

Toddstar: It’s amazing to watch you guys year after year after year. It’s like you guys are becoming not only better musicians or a more finely tuned musical machine, that is Styx. It’s almost like you guys are more friends every year. The banter gets better and more fun to watch as an audience member and a fan. To see you guys talking to each other on stage even.

Lawrence: I think that’s another unique aspect of it, Todd, is we really so enjoy each other’s company and that’s the other level of connection that we have, is that no one takes this even slightly for granted and we really do derive great benefits from this shared experience. Yeah, you’re very accurate in that appraisal. Shoot, was that a thought that went through my mind about that. Yeah, I know what it is, yeah. We were listening to the new 5.1 remix of The Mission, last night. It occurs to me now, that the bands I love most, and I guess, why I love being in this band so much is once a band has kind of achieved this level where they speak as one voice, so the disparate parts of the band are all kind of integrated, so into each other’s pocket, so to speak, that it gives a voice that’s beyond any one individual member. It has to be that manner of performing, of generating the feel that you saw last night. I think we really past that mark quite a while ago but that continues to be more and more finely tuned, the more we do it.

Toddstar: As a fan, it’s just fun to watch a band truly enjoy their time on stage with each other. So often, you don’t see that.

Lawrence: I know. I’m always disappointed when I don’t see that. When I look at old footage of some other bands that I love, you can really sense that there’s this true shared magic that their all plugged into, to see that dissipate is unfortunate. It’s part of life but for some reason, in this band that hasn’t happened.

Toddstar: I, for one, am glad for that. You mentioned The Mission 5.1. Let’s talk about that a little bit. You took what I think is probably a top three Styx album and remixed, remastered, played, tweaked,  and revamped the sound a little bit. What’s your take on the album remix. What did it add for you?

Lawrence: Well, funny enough. When you listen to an album when it’s done, it is its own entity and you begin to kind of accept and embrace what it is as a stereo mix. You always have this moment of somewhat detachment in that it’s like, well, that’s what it amounted to. And very often, in the case of this album, I really liked it. I was really happy with it. However, the 5.1 is more like the experience of making the record, if that makes any sense. It sounds like you’re inside it the way that I was inside it and each member was inside it, making it. It’s actually more accurate to the musician’s experience of making the record. That’s what I look for. That’s what I really find enjoyable when we sit down and listen to it as a band. I just found out right away. We’ve all got smiles on our faces and it’s probably because this is how it felt to make the record. This is how it felt when we finally got it right and felt like this is really worthwhile.

Toddstar: You guys are still using some of the material from the new album. You guys are still promoting it. I love the fact that another show has come and gone and it’s “Gone, Gone, Gone,” so to speak. I love that you guys still kick of shows with that. And you’re dropping “Radio Silence” in there. And you’re dropping “The Greater Good” in there and you even get your instrumental with “Khedive.” Are there any other songs on that album that you would love to bring to life on the live stage?

Lawrence: Well, yeah. The goal of the moment, with our record now, beyond this release, is to do a collection of shows. Maybe we’ll do three or four, maybe as many as six or eight, of the entire record. I really look forward to that, more than anything. I think “Red Storm” is the one I really want to play because I got the big synth solo at the end of it. I have my little tip of the hat to keep you interested in a way. “Red Storm” would be one, also “Time May Bend,” I really enjoy doing the vocal on that one and I love the time signature of it and the ending to that where we go into that “Ten Thousand Ways To Be Wrong.” That moves to the forefront for me quite often. We were playing, and we will bring back “Locomotive,” which might be my individually favorite song on the record. Actually last year, we played that one quite a few times but then “Radio Silence” kind of eclipsed it for a while, so I want to bring that back. Really, I want to play the entire record but I guess if I was to pick one, it would be “Red Storm.”

Toddstar: There’s always so much going on in Styx World. Other than this and the possibility of you guys doing a run of shows where you’re doing the album, what’s next on the horizon for you guys? Are you guys even looking for that next hurdle?

Lawrence: We do tend to look at the overall calendar when our manager brings in the plans for the next twelve months, it’s funny, we really want to look at the next six months and in that time period, we’re thinking about what the band should do next. For example, at this time last year, the notion of us touring with Joan Jett was first kind of floated. We thought about that and realized this is a different type of act than we toured with in the past, so we all decided to go for it because it continues to broaden our avenues. That’s at the forefront of our thinking. What’s going to cast the net a little bit wider, in the next six months? We usually don’t think a whole year ahead. In that time, new ideas are constantly bubbling up and if we get so dedicated to those ideas we’ll wind up making another record. And I think the success of The Mission has really reignited that notion of us making new music because we just realize that there’s so many people out there that love the band, that do want to hear new stuff. You saw it last night. You see younger people in the audience. The Mission is as important a record to them as Grand Illusion because it’s concurrent with their time and it sounds like what they love about classic rock. We’re far more feeling like it’s incumbent upon us to keep making new music. That it’s not a worthless endeavor, mainly because there’s so many younger people now that want to hear the band continue on and do creative things. Beyond that, there’s not much that we ever think about other than that. It’s how do we all make the show, what do we do to make it more interesting in the next chapter. That’s really it. And that can take all kinds of shape.

Toddstar: You’re always busy, Lawrence, and I always appreciate your time, but I have one more for you before I cut you loose, if you don’t mind. Last year, just after we spoke, you had some dates coming up and I was out of the country so I missed them but you made it to Sarnia last November. Any plans on bringing a Gowan show back out near Detroit?

Lawrence: Okay. Yes. I’m so glad you asked that, Todd. Just over a month from now, on the seventh of September, we’ll do a Gowan show at Caesars in Windsor. Styx has played there three times. The last time I was in there, the people that booked the room and all that, said ‘we are getting more and more people inquiring if there’s ever going to be a Gowan show here.’ I said, well, you give me a date, we’ll give it to our manager and let’s see if we can spot it in there. So, September 7th. As soon as I finish tonight and tomorrow night, I’m straight home and we’re straight into rehearsals for that. That’s an exciting thing on the near horizon, for me.

Toddstar: Any thought of solo material?

Lawrence: I have been recording solo stuff and every time I’m  tempted to just throw it out there I’m reluctant because all so much going on in Styx-land that I don’t want to put out solo material that I’m not kind of present to properly promote. I would look at it like, if we were to take, say, four to six months of some sort of hiatus, I’m ready to go. I’m ready to put something out there and do what I can to promote it. That’s an ongoing thing, as well, but I have to say, at the moment, as far as recording new material it’s Styx and I’m fine on that agenda, mainly because The Mission.

Toddstar: Again Lawrence, such a pleasure, such an honor as a fan. A couple more phone calls and I’ll consider you more of a friend than anything.

Lawrence: Well, that’s cool. That’s cool. Hey, listen, you got my number. If you want to go to that Windsor show, it’s just across the river, as you know. Give me a buzz and let me know. I’d love you to see the show and bring your camera.

Toddstar: That’d be awesome. Thank you so much Lawrence. We’ll talk to you between now and September 7th and make sure I get there.

Lawrence: Okay man. Thank you, Todd.

STYX LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

GOWAN LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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