Interview / Steve Lukather Explores Musical Bridges with New Solo Album

With Bridges, the ninth solo album from Steve Lukather, out now, the MetalTalk offices have been once again captivated by Luke’s exceptional musical versatility burying ourselves in the emotive and technically masterful performances. With Luke seeing “it as a bridge between my solo music and TOTO Music,” we described Bridges as “an AOR Masterpiece…. another songwriting masterclass from one of music’s true gems.” Kahmel Farahani spoke with the legendary guitarist to find out more.

Steve Lukather – Bridges (Mascot Label Group)

Release Date: Out Now

Interview: Kahmel Farahani

The new album Bridges is the successor to I Found The Sun Again, released in 2021. “I was very proud of I Found The Sun Again,” Lukather told MetalTalk, “It did ok, but it didn’t connect with TOTO fans in the sense of where are all the great songs I can supposedly write. I just wanted to play and solo. 

“On Bridges, I purposely laid back on that. I just played it melodic, not too flashy and wrote new songs more in the ’80s vibe. When I say ‘Solo record,’ I definitely don’t do it all myself. I get a lot of help. But for lack of a better way to describe it, it’s a solo record. 

“I called my old friend David Paich and Joseph Williams. We started writing tunes then I brought in my old collaborator Stan Lynch from The Heartbreakers. He writes those crazy funny lyrics. Then I worked with Randy Goodrum on this old-school ballad I had. We just had fun!” 

Steve Lukather - Bridges album cover.
“Bridges is another songwriting masterclass from one of music’s true gems.”

Steve also called on former TOTO members Simon Phillips and Lee Sklar. “I didn’t set out to make a TOTO record without using the name,” he says. “If there’s a familiarity about it, it’s the writing and the style of us playing together, and that’s it. It’s not trying to pull one over on anyone. There’s just a lot of logistics and legal issues around using the name and all this other crazy stuff.

“I mean there’s just not enough money in it to do it like that. So we just ended up playing on each-others solo records because we’ve loved each other since we were 15 years old! It was fun – I set out to make a shameless ’80s record, and that’s what we did. We enjoy working together, and that’s why we do this.”

TOTO will never record another studio album, but live performances are a different kettle of fish. “When we play live, even after all these years, like 46 years later, people still want to hear these old songs and deep album cuts,” Steve says. “We have a lot of material we can do live, and we change it up. But to do something new is purely to scratch an artist’s itch. 

“I spent all my money on the record, and I don’t make anything from it. Those days of selling records and going, wow, look at all the money we’re making, are long behind us. Unless I suppose, you’re in the Top 10 of Spotify, and you have 300 million streams. 

“Somebody told me yesterday this new record has a million streams so far. I don’t know what that means for money, but it means people are listening, and that’s enough.”

I was lucky enough to catch TOTO on the Dogs Of Oz tour in Amsterdam last year. It was a dream come true, and it happened that David Paich made an appearance too.

“Yeah, you never know,” Steve smiles. “David might show up on tour. He can’t do it every day, but he still shows up and plays. We always keep a keyboard on the bus. But he’s still very much involved. If it wasn’t for David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, we wouldn’t be TOTO. 

“So all I’m doing is trying to keep the torch and the music alive. No, it’s not TOTO from 1978. I wish it was, but it’s not possible. It’s all I know how to do. I love this band, and I put my whole life into it. So when it came time to make some new music, I said, well, last time I did a self-indulgent muso record. This time I’m going to do a song record. There were a couple of good songs on that record anyway, but mostly it was for me to jam and play. This time it was the opposite.”

On I Found The Sun Again, there were some big covers. I really enjoyed The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, the title track of Traffic’s 1971 album.

“I really hope Steve Winwood heard that and liked it because it was such a love letter to him and all the guys from that era,” Luke says. “It was just one or two takes then on the record. I hope Steve likes it, but maybe he hates it [laughs]. I hope not.

“I know Joe Walsh dug our version of Welcome To The Club. I’ve been a Joe Walsh fan since the first James Gang record in 1969. Now we work together and I know Joe, he’s just one of the greats. His music and his playing touches me. We used to hang out in the crazy days, and now he’s Ringo Starr’s brother-in-law.

“I’ve jammed with that band, so I do see him now and again. One of the most important musicians in my life, and those James Gang records are desert island records for me. I waited in line in high school to get those records and see them up close. When I do a cover, it’s always a loving homage. I’m never going to do it better, but it’s a love letter.”

You have to wonder if Steve is planning on touring this album or putting some of the songs in TOTO’s setlist. “Well, right now, TOTO is booked solid into 2024, and everything’s going really, really well. I don’t have any plans today, but I won’t rule it out. It’s just a whole other mindset. We’ll look at a new TOTO setlist in 2024.”

I hope Good For You makes a comeback, I say. “Oh! That’s a good idea,” Steve smiles. “I don’t think we ever really played that one live. You know that’s me playing the piano on the record. That’s what happens when David Paich shows up a few hours late. I go, I’ve got something. Let’s cut this. That was a lot of fun to cut that track, and I remember that day well.”

A friend asked me to ask you what you think of modelling amps [modern digital amps that generally use an analogue circuit mixed with a digital circuit to provide you with an amp that can imitate or emulate other famous amp types]

“The thing is, there’s no magic amp or guitar,” Steve said. “I’ve played Eddie Van Halen’s guitars, I’ve played Jeff Beck’s guitars, and I just sound like myself playing a guitar, and vice versa. I mean, a nice instrument you connect with helps, but it’s the magic human and not the magic guitar or amp. 

“I think modelling amps are great to use in your office. If you put it next to a real Bogner and a 4 x 12 cabinet, then the real amp is going to win. But I have a Kemper I’ve used on sessions and records, and it sounds great. 

“Given the choice between the two… ask a woman if she’d rather have a dildo or a real penis [laughs]. I think they’re getting a lot better, and I’m not taking them out of the race yet, but I don’t think they record as well. 

“In fairness, that was a really old one. I’ll try anything. I started out with Fenders, then I went to digi stuff, and I bring some of that stuff out now and again. You get emotionally attached to certain eras, and that’s cool. 

“I just love my Musicman guitars. It’s a workhorse, and it’s a 30-year partnership. They’ve taken care of me so well, and if I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t do it.”

Ringo Starr and The-All Starrs.
Ringo Starr and The All-Starrs. Photo: Mick Sprouse/MetalTalk

As for the future, it’s “TOTO, Ringo, TOTO, Ringo for the next couple of years, and that’s plenty of work for me,” he says. You can read our report of their Richmond, VA, show here.

Any plans for album number 10? “I don’t even know if that’s going to happen,” Steve says, “if I can’t make records the way I want to make records. Like I said, I spent all the money I got on this new record making the record. I didn’t just take an advance and say let’s make a record for five bucks. 

“I tried to take care of everyone and put myself last. I get some publishing, but it’s not enough to retire, I’ll tell you that. I’m a road guy, and I’ll keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore.”

Steve Lukather’s Bridges is available from here.

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