Toto's Steve Lukather Says the Band "Loved" Its South Park Cameo
It's rare to get a rock star on the phone at 9 a.m. on a Saturday. It's even rarer when it's actually an hour earlier where he is. Yet the phone rings, and there's Toto's veteran guitarist, singer, and songwriter Steve Lukather himself on the line, eager to dispel any notion that there's a groggy, hungover hedonist reticent to chat at this early hour.
Photo by Daniele Dalledonne via Flickr cc
"Oh man, I get up early every day," he insists, sounding remarkably chipper though it's not even midmorning. "I've been up for an hour and a half already. I go to bed, I work, I play, and I'm in bed again by midnight. Listen man, the days of being a fool and staying up all night are way behind me. Besides, I'm also used to it. I've got two little kids at home."
We've caught up with one of Toto's prime principals in Oklahoma, where the band's just played a sold-out show the night before. Lukather -- or Luke, as his friends call him -- has been out on the road with the band for the past couple of weeks, following a tour he did earlier this year with Ringo's All Starr Band. Toto will continue on the road for another month or so, and then in October, Lukather will rejoin Ringo for another round of shows that should take him into the new year.
While it seems like a heavy schedule, Lukather -- an acclaimed and highly celebrated player in his own right -- claims he hasn't tired of the road yet, even after 35 years of playing ever-ready radio hits with Toto, serving as one of Ringo's regulars, participating in the G3 tour with pals Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and occasionally even on his own.
"This is what I do," he says of his succession of steady gigs. "I go out there with a guitar around my neck and people scream. Fucking A! Who wouldn't want that? Besides, we travel pretty well. It's not like I'm bouncing around in the back of a van eating bologna sandwiches and drinking cheap beer. Yeah, it can be a little tough sometimes, but if you take care of yourself, it can be a great life. What am I supposed to do -- sit at home watching Jeopardy and eating bon-bons?"
If Lukather effuses enthusiasm, there's good reason. Toto is currently celebrating its 35th anniversary with four original members still in the fold: Lukather, vocalist/keyboardist David Paich, keyboardist Steve Porcaro, and bassist David Hungate, along with longtime vocalist Joseph Williams, newly recruited drummers Keith Carlock, Shannon Forrest, and backing vocalists Mabvuto Carpenter and Jenny Douglas-McRae.
Audiences still clamoring for the songs that became staples throughout the late '70s and well into the '80s. Those tunes are still famously familiar -- "99," "Africa," "Rosanna," "Hold the Line" -- all seemingly tailor-made for easy-listening bliss, with elements of jazz, rock, and a progressive posture all tossed in for good measure. Along the way, they've racked up sales of 35 million albums, reaped multiple Grammys and, as individuals, performed on a combined 5,000 albums aside from their own efforts, guesting with the likes of Paul McCartney, Ringo, Michael Jackson, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Paul Simon, Van Halen, Steely Dan, Boz Skaggs, and Eric Clapton, among many others.
It's a mind-blowing list of accomplishments they've achieved both individually and collectively, offering ample reason for Lukather to be proud. Toto's also touting a new CD and DVD, 35th Anniversary: Live in Poland, a concert compendium of the band's hits and album tracks recorded in June 2013 before a sold-out audience of rabid fans in Lodz Poland's Atlas Arena.
"Things are really going great," Lukather beams. "Nobody feels beat down. We don't have to sing three octaves down. Nobody hates anybody. We really do love each other. We're like brothers, and we're still having a blast. It feels like brand new. We're getting rave reviews, and we're in a really good place right now. Everything seems to be working for us. We're working on a new record, and I'm still having a bunch of laughs with my high school buddies. Everything's so positive. You'd think after all this time, we'd be burned out and have some sort of chip on our shoulders. But that's hardly the case. In fact, it's quite the opposite."