Styx Q&A: Rock legends headline final night of fair events

Thursday, September 11, 2008

@SL_body_copy_ragged:Styx has been rockin 'n' rolling for almost 40 years. The band, made up of current members James "J.Y." Young (guitar), Tommy Shaw (guitar), Todd Sucherman (drums), Lawrence Gowan (vocals and keyboard), Ricky Phillips (bass) and Chuck Panozzo (bass), rarely stops moving from stage to stage. The band will move on to the Grandstand stage at the SEMO District Fair 8 p.m. Saturday. SE Live caught up to legendary guitarist and founding member James "J.Y." Young to see what's in store for Styx.

James Samons: I'll just start out with the obvious question: How's it feel to be the only remaining original member of Styx?

James "JY" Young: Well, actually, John Panozzo is still sort of a part-time participant in what we do. In basketball parlance, which I know coming from Missouri you can figure this out, he's sort of the "Sixth Man."

He's not well enough to really be there, so he can't be the starting bass player, but when he does come out we sort of save him for about two-thirds of the way through the game and then bring him in and he gives us a lift and plays on the last three of the last four songs. So he's still with us, but I am the only guy who has done every album and every show.

JS: Speaking of Panozzo, I hear he also still performs on albums on occasion.

JY: Yeah, typically whenever we do a record he's at least on there a little bit and maybe finds his way into some background vocals. And he'll play maybe one bass part per record.

JS: Now do you keep in contact with any of the other original members?

JY: The only other one who walks the face of the earth, Dennis DeYoung, I haven't spoken to since 1999.

JS: You're from Chicago, so I guess playing in the Midwest is pretty familiar to you.

JY: The core of the band's popularity is probably within a seven- to eight-hundred-mile radius of downtown Chicago. And St. Louis has been one of our five most popular cities forever, and it's the site of the biggest show we ever headlined, which was Busch Stadium about 30 years ago today. Maybe it was in July.

So we're well-known in the Midwest and we always enjoy coming back and performing there.

JS: You know you guys have been around for a while, entertaining people for 40 years now.

JY: 36.

JS: Thirty-six, yeah, what would you say some of the band's greatest accomplishments are?

JY: Well, I think four triple-platinum albums in a row. We were the first group to really do that. The first artist to ever do three million copies — four releases in a row from '77 through '81 starting with "The Grand Illusion" and ending with "Paradise Theater."

The Beatles and Stones, their legend looms much larger than ours does. ... But we really sort of hit our stride in a big way and part of it was that the sale of records to young people dramatically grew in the '70s. In the '60s people sold a lot more singles than they did albums

So we've got that going for us, and we've had an album in the top 50 in four different decades — the '70s, '80s and '90s. And with our "Big Bang Theory" back in 2005 we charted a No. 46. That speaks to the longevity of the band.

Our music somehow has withstood the test of time, and some of that is just great writing and great record producing. And, you know, who would've ever guessed that we would have such an impact so many years later? It's a blessing and a joy for us and we're all about the joy of live performance these days.

JS: Speaking about that, how your music has stood the test of time? Music has definitely changed from when Styx began in 1970. What do you think is good about the change of music now and maybe not so good?

JY: The reality is that each generation wants to have sort of it's own type of music that it uniquely identifies with and typically that music is different from that generation's parents music.

And so the rock of the 50s certainly evolved into a different kind of thing from Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis to the Beatles and the Stones and Hendrix, that's very different. And with the 70s you've got Styx and Kansas and Boston and Journey and Peter Frampton and things like that and in the 80s you've got the police and U2 and Def Leppard the 90s you've got Metallica, Nickelback and everything that came along after they stopped playing the hair bands on MTV and the new millennium is an even different thing.

We're having the time of our lives 36 years into this program.

JS: Of course everyone pretty much knows what Styx has done in the past. Can you give me an idea of what's going on for the band in the future?

JY: Well we're planning on doing some new recordings and whether or not those will come out as an album or if those will come out one track at a time, reverting to sort of like it was in the 50s when artists released 45 rpm singles and then when you had enough of those that made an impact you'd put them together on a record.

That's sort of the inclination as to what we're supposed to do. We may wind up doing a record, but we're so busy on the road. There's a demand for us out there, and honestly, it's really the only way we're able to reach new.

And we think that's the best way for us to reach the audience with just how great this band is and help set the table for when we do feel we have the track or the two or three tracks that we want to run with.

We don't see any rush in putting out new music. But we're having fun with our computers and our cameras, and we're putting together our own videos and our own movies or whatever with our own soundtrack. So we're more and more a multimedia thing and if people go to our website styxworld.com, you'll see some of the things we've put together which are really great and fun and they give people a sense of what the band is about.

We love live performing and that kind of reinforces the past and to some degree the present, but we're still working creatively toward the future and eventually there will be something that you can download or buy that will be something new and interesting from us I just can't promise you when.

JS: What can people expect when they go to a Styx live performance?

JY: Well, we like to concentrate on what I like to call — at least for your dad's generation — the soundtrack to his glorious misspent youth.

We really like to give the audience what they want, so basically it's going to be a heck of a lot of songs. Some of the hits we don't play, but most of them we do and some of the great rock songs we play and there may be one new song that sneaks in there. It's just going to be the rockin side of Styx at its very best.

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