Saturday, September 24, 2011

Styx's Lawrence Gowan: Mystery Man in a ... 'Mystery Van'?

Lawrence Gowan performs during Styx's "The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight" tour. (Photo: Jason Powell
 (Editor's note: This interview was conducted on Sept. 16, 2011, and published after Styx's appearance at USANA Amphitheatre in West Valley City, Utah, on Sept. 23.)

If you’ve ever seen Styx keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan in concert, one thing should be readily apparent: Dude’s got a great sense of humor.

If it wasn’t immediately obvious from his early days in Styx – he replaced original frontman Dennis DeYoung in 1999 – when he would periodically roam the stage with a Polaroid camera taking instant photos of his bandmates performing and hand them out to the crowd as souvenirs, then it became more so over the years as he added further flamboyant stage antics and often hilarious pre-song banter to his onstage repertoire.

In several previous interviews, I’ve also never known him to be lacking for a witty quip to any question that deserved one. Which is why I knew I was on safe ground to try and have a little fun with him in our latest interview.

With that in mind, I reached out to two of his Styx bandmates in advance, guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw and drummer Todd Sucherman, searching for inside questions that might momentarily knock Gowan off his game. Both delivered excellent queries that yielded vastly different responses.

Shaw’s question, regarding a certain recent reoccurring antic that kept cracking the pair up on stage, provided the lead section of my concert advance story for the Daily Herald. (You can read that story HERE.) The question was posed in a way that Gowan did not recognize it as a red herring, but his answer touched on some of the behind-the-curtain-type things band members do on stage to keep things fun and entertaining for themselves.

The fact he didn’t recognize Shaw’s question as an inside parry allowed Sucherman’s suggestion to score a direct hit. Gowan’s immediate response to a reference of “Dr. Starlight” was to have none at all. The couple seconds of complete silence on the other end of the phone was priceless. And listening to him stammer his way through the next few sentences, while obviously trying to figure out how the information might have reached me, was a fun interviewing moment.

Gowan’s humor is also evident in the nightly lyric quiz he throws at the audience where he belts out a well-known line from a rock classic -- Led Zep’s “Black Dog,” Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” are staples -- and exhorts the audience to sing out the ensuing words. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to put him to the test on some lyrics of my choosing. He started strong out of the gate, but then stumbled down the stretch. Ironically, he failed to recognize the lyrics to an old-favorite Styx song – one in which he gets to strap on an electric guitar on the extremely rare occasions it makes its way into the setlist.

I had the chance to chat with Gowan after the band’s Salt Lake show and we shared some laughs over the inside questions and lyric quiz results. His great sense of humor makes him eminently teaseable – a rare quality indeed -- but he certainly gives as good as he gets.

Many bands of Styx’s era have made key personnel changes over the years, with varying degrees of success. It’s a tricky proposition whenever a major vocalist is involved – especially when deciding whether to pursue the best talent available or search solely for a sound-alike.

Styx – which also features guitarist/vocalist James “J.Y.” Young, bassist Ricky Phillips and part-time bassist Chuck Panozzo -- chose the former option with Gowan, a popular solo artist in Canada, and by so doing, scored a direct hit of its own. The strength of that decision has been validated on stages across the country over 100 nights a year since 1999.

Here’s hoping you enjoy my latest interview with the “Strange Animal.”

DOUG FOX: Well, you’ll be playing in Salt Lake a week from today [Sept. 23] with a group I’m not sure if you’re actually familiar with, it’s a band called REO Speedwagon ... ever heard of them?

LAWRENCE GOWAN: Ah, you know what, my knowledge of rock is deep enough that I have heard of REO Speedwagon.

DF: OK, I wasn’t sure if you’ve ever done any shows with them or anything.

GOWAN: Once or twice. As I recall, there might be about 11 million people who are familiar with one of their records (laughs). We’ve toured so much with those guys ... it’s funny, the kind of rapport we’ve built up with them over the initial years, particularly when we were out touring with other acts, is the kind of rapport we’ve built up now with Foreigner, with Boston and other bands who really have embraced the double-bill concept and know that people absolutely love it, and they can sense the kind of, what do you call it, the symbiotic thing that goes on between the bands, it actually enhances the night.

DF: Now every summer you guys are always part of a co-headlining package, like you’re just mentioning all these other bands that you’ve gone on tour with. As you are a part of those, No. 1, do you have the time, and secondly, do you take the time to go check out the other bands at all and see what they’re up to and what they’re doing?

GOWAN: Yes, we always do because we want to see what kind of state they’re in (laughs). Basically we like to know how the audiences are reacting to the other bands that are out there. We’re very much, we want to give people a great night’s entertainment of rock because it bodes well for us when we come back. So, for example, I would go out and watch Def Leppard, I’d be thoroughly entertained, and I loved watching their audience. I realized a lot of their audience, had never seen Styx before and were suddenly becoming Styx fans. So that’s one very good band and we got on tremendously well with those guys. So it was great for both bands. I remember Joe Elliott telling J.Y. that one of the first concerts he ever saw [was Styx] — I think it was in Newcastle, no that’s wrong, it was Sheffield, of course, that’s where they’re from — back in ’77 and how much he liked Styx. So I mean, that’s another great thing, it just kind of builds a great kind of comradery that ends up elevating that tour. I remember by the end of that tour everything was on full cylinders, to the point that at the end of the tour, I know that Joe was wearing a coat that J.Y. gave him, Sav [bassist Rick Savage] gave me his bass. I gave him the coat that I wore at the Super Bowl, he wore it onstage for the next couple of years. So, you know, it’s like that. I mean, I knew their show extremely well, in fact, I got to where I was, because I was playing guitar backstage so much, driving J.Y. and Tommy completely insane with my guitar affections. It’s funny because to learn some Def Leppard songs, Phil Collen would show me some licks before the show. So it’s fantastic to have the actual guy from the actual band who played the actual lick on the record show you how it’s played.

DF: That would be very unique.

GOWAN: So it’s things like that. And I guess, for me, I went out and watched Yes this summer, more than any other band we’ve ever been out with, because that takes me back to when I was 15 years old and just really completely immersed myself in progressive rock — and Yes was the band for me. And so to be on tour with those guys and to hear those songs every single night was a fantastic experience. It connected me with the 15-year-old who still very much, hopefully, is in every night on stage. So, anyway, that’s the connection.

DF: Well, you’re good because you just wiped out about five of my questions just by covering those bases ...

GOWAN: My answers, Doug, are so long-winded, you just go in there and pick something that sounds like an intelligible sentence and use it (laughs).

DF: One thing you mentioned just sparked another memory for me when you were talking about Def Leppard and them showing you the guitar licks and things like that, but back when you toured with Def Leppard and Foreigner, I actually had the opportunity to interview Tommy, Mick Jones and Vivian Campbell ...

GOWAN: Oh? All at the same time? Great!

DF: Not together, but all before that tour, in separate interviews.

GOWAN: OK, yeah.

DF: And so what I did was, I wanted to ask each of the guitarists if they could get up onstage with the two other bands, what song would they love to play, as a guitarist, of the other bands’ music. And both Tommy and Mick each had songs for the other groups, but when I got to Vivian — of course, Foreigner was one of his big bands growing up and he played with Lou Gramm in a side project [Shadow King], he said, “You know, I’m really not that familiar with Styx, and I couldn’t tell you what that song would be.” By the end of the tour, though, or even a few nights in, he probably would have realized he knew a lot more about you guys and figured out a song he’d like to do that on.

GOWAN: Absolutely. That’s quite likely.

DF: About REO specifically, what are some of the things that make it so the two bands have such an affinity for one another?

GOWAN: Well, it obviously pre-dates my time in Styx, really. Although I’m well into my 13th year with the band and this year is the year that they were touting the fact that this lineup has played more shows as Styx than any previous lineup, so that’s a big deal. But still, you’d have to put REO Speedwagon ... the Chicago, I guess you could call it rivalry I suppose, when REO and Styx were out at the same time. Probably, and I’m surmising a lot of this because I wasn’t there for it, but there was probably a bit of mutual respect mixed in with a bit of mutual rivalry, mixed in with trying to outdo the other band in some way, I suppose. I’m guessing that. Now, that takes a different form when you’ve been around and had a successful career for over a quarter of a century. That transforms into something else, but the pride thing still exists, definitely. Look at the fact that Tommy and Kevin [Cronin] wrote that song a couple of years ago.

DF: “Can’t Stop Rockin’.”

GOWAN: Yeah “Can’t Stop Rockin’.”

DF: There you go again, I was just going to ask you about that (laughs).

GOWAN: There’s all that connection between the two bands. Sorry, but what was the actual nature of your original question?

DF: Specific things that make your pairing with REO special, maybe the way the bands interact ...

GOWAN: Oh, they’re the only band that we’ve ever done the two-bands-onstage thing with. You know, people out on stage playing all at the same time.

DF: With Todd playing the fake guitar?

GOWAN: Right. Smashed after about three shows. That’s how much he loves The Who. Anyway, yeah, so there’s that, and they’re the only other band we’ve ever gone into the studio with. I mean there were 10 of us in the studio one day, 11 of us actually, Chuck was there, too. So, yeah, that’s the only other band that we’ve done that with, so we have a close affinity and whatever happens on the night we play Salt Lake City, who knows. We might take advantage of the fact that we’ll eat up every single minute that we can with playing as many, you know, Styx classics as possible, as they will do the same thing with their REO [hits]. You can never say for sure what’s going to happen.

DF: Do you know if there are any plans to play “Can’t Stop Rockin’ ” when you get together?

GOWAN: I do not know. It’s the kind of thing that I can never say for sure because I feel if I say, “Yeah it’s going to happen” like we’re planning on it, at the last minute it will be scrapped and you’ll be like, “What’s going on?” (laughs) Or vice versa.

DF: So there’s a possibility, but who knows?

GOWAN: Yeah, there’s always a possibility.
The members of Styx. (Photo: Ash Newell)

DF: Now with Styx, you guys play so many shows every year that I imagine things come very naturally on stage for you now. You’ve been playing together for so long and every element seems to fit together in its proper place. But are there things you still work on, just little things that you still critique or tweak in the never-ending effort to play a perfect show?

GOWAN: The funniest question, the most common question bands get asked, particularly bands playing a lot of material that’s 25 years old, is “Don’t you get tired of playing the same song?” Now that’s a question you get when a song is 2 or 3 years old, let alone 25 or more. It’s funny, the reason, at least for us, and I’m on stage with five other very like-minded people, every opportunity that you play a song in front of an audience is another chance to engage. It’s not the notes that you’re necessarily playing, it’s the fact that there’s an emotion that exists in that moment with that audience on that stage in that city and with those other musicians on stage. The opportunity is there to kind of lift that song higher than you have in the past in some way. And sometimes these can be extremely subtle ways that eventually amount to something really quite outstanding. It’s the tiny, little nuances that are within each song, between the notes, you know, in the breath in between lyric lines, the taking in of what the audience is kind of pushing back your way, that suddenly makes it take on a life of its own. And it’s not a tough thing, even though we might play “Foolin’ Yourself” a hundred times a year on a hundred stages. Each time there are things that you just ... first of all you can’t take your eye off the ball because the song changes gears so many times, and second of all, like lyrically and musically there’s a lift that happens if you’re ready for it every single night. And that’s the challenge for musicians, be ready for where the lifting, exhilarating moments are and try to make everything of them that you can. And that’s how you play it. Once again, I’ve drifted so far from the question I can’t imagine what it was.

DF: You’ve actually tapped into something that I think is the essence of what most people who go to concerts, at least I know it is for me, but we love going and thinking that the show that we’re seeing that night is somehow as special to the people who are playing it as it is to us being there, and it’s somehow different and unique in its own way.

GOWAN: And that’s a feeling that, luckily, I’m in a band of guys that are onstage where that same emotion is being sought out every single night. Yes, I do remember what you were asking, are there little things we tighten up here and there. It’s ongoing, never-ending ... it will never end — it can’t. And you know something? The moment it does that, you can hear it from the band immediately. It’s so crazy evident to an audience when a band is just simply hitting switches, you know what I mean, instead of engaging with the musical capacity of something. So, yeah, we continue to do that, and I can’t really foresee a time when we wouldn’t be doing that because this is the type of people we are and that’s what we bring to the stage.

DF: OK, for example, can you tell me about this inside thing that you and Tommy have had going on these last few shows where you keep cracking each other up?

GOWAN: Oh my ... we try to avoid the inside jokes on stage in some ways because the audience should be in on it to some degree. But because we spend so much time together, it’s almost impossible sometimes. So I happened to tell Tommy a couple weeks ago, I mean there’s always some little thing floating around that snowballs into an inside, inside, inside joke and try as we might to keep that off the stage, there are moments when it’s just invariably going to rear its head and it’s usually when we’re on the same mike, usually in “Miss America.” Usually not in “Lady” because that’s too early in the show usually for us to be playing any games with. But even in “Lady” we won’t make any eye contact because of the latest thing. And the latest thing, I can tell you was just this bizarre dream I had where Tommy came up to me before a show and described how he wanted me to play this particular song. It was in E flat. And he showed me, in the dream, showed me how my posture should be like for this part. Well, that just kind of stuck with me. And just before we walked onstage, I went, “You know what’s funny? I had this dream last night where you showed me this certain posture on this thing in E flat.” Well, he cracked up. Well, of course, oh no, that means the moment we come together onstage he’s going to definitely, there’s going to be a flicker of the eye that’s going to go, “Hey, remember that stupid dream?” By the time we get to Salt Lake City it will probably become something else, some other little thing. and, you know, it’s funny. These seem like the most insignificant and superfluous, and meaningless things and yet, they can be part of what’s really the glue, the joie de vivre that comes into the performance. So, hey, only a person like you I think would pick up on that. Some people that have seen the show a few hundred times would pick up on that sort of thing. Other people out there just go, “What a strange bunch of people!” (laughs)

DF: Well, we’ll have to keep an eye out for that next week.

GOWAN: You almost feel dumb revealing these things, but just think of it as an inside thing you could have with your family that only you understand. And it blurts out when you’re in the most public of places. “I hope that doesn’t happen on stage.” And we try to make a musical moment of it. That’s the difference.

Lawrence Gowan at USANA Amphitheatre on Sept. 23, 2011. (Photo: Doug Fox)

DF: Last summer we talked prior to the beginning of “The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight” tour and I know out here in the West we’re kind of feeling a bit neglected because we didn’t get to see any of that.

GOWAN: OK, right I know. J.Y. has said that. We have not done that show yet west of the Mississippi and it’s time we did.

DF: Yeah, I was just going to ask, I’ve heard some rumblings that maybe next year that might happen. I just wanted to check and see if there was anything new to report on that.

GOWAN: Well, we’re all really proud of that show and the DVD is coming out later on this year of us doing it in Memphis, and we almost didn’t want to burn ourselves out on it too quickly. We did 22 of them, and we actually reprised it a couple weeks ago in Atlantic City. But it’s a different type of staging, it’s a different type of screen content and everything. It’s a completely different mindset to do that show because, for example, “Come Sail Away” comes fourth in the night, you know what I mean? It’s the fourth song on that record. So it’s almost like we want to meter that out judiciously, you know what I mean? We definitely would like to play it all and completely on the western side of America, but more likely it could be next year. It could very well be next year because we’ll be promoting that DVD. I hope it is. It’s yet another piece of the tapestry that makes up this band and hopefully we will do it at some point. We couldn’t do it on this one because this is a double bill.

DF: Are you still able to find time to work in a few of those songs into the setlist, though, that you hadn’t been playing regularly from those two albums?

GOWAN: It’s funny, Doug, after we did it in Atlantic City, even the next night, you’re like, “Oh, come on, we’ve got to play one or two of these.” I know we started doing “Pieces of Eight” and we did “Sing for the Day,” and so we went a little bit deeper in album tracks for the next good number of shows after that. It’s quite possible that may happen in Salt Lake City but I stay out of the setlist thing. I used to get completely involved, and it’s best if I just leave it to Tommy and J.Y. because they have the best sense of what we should be playing anyway.

DF: Well I have a setlist request for you where you need to interject yourself, but I’ll bring it up a little later.

GOWAN: OK. All right.

DF: But first, because we started to talk about some of the upcoming projects you guys have in the pipeline with the DVD you have coming out and the release of “Regeneration I and II” being released together, what I’m really wanting to know is when can we expect the completion of “Dr. Starlight”?

GOWAN: (Pause) Oh my ... ! That’s incredible that you would even bring that up. Oh my ...  (laughs)! Holy crap! Wow! Now where did you hear of that? How did you ... what do you know? I’ve got to find out your information here.

DF: I’ve got to come clean — I had an inside source tell me that’s what I should ask you.

GOWAN: It’s a fantastic source whoever it is. Is he a Deep Throat type of individual, I guess? In the Watergate sense not in the ...

DF: Yeah. He sits behind you every night.

GOWAN: (Pause, then laughter.) That would be him. It would be him. OK.

DF: Honestly, I don’t know anything about it except I tried to find out, and I found some old song from Rhinegold, was it?

GOWAN: Rhinegold, yeah. Rhinegold is the first opera in the ring cycle by Wagner, yes. A dreamy, classically based thing and, you know, I have all kinds of other little musical projects that pique my interest when I’m sitting in a hotel room somewhere and once I got out some of my oldest stuff that was never even recorded and the guy that sits behind me went, “Hey, what’s that?” So, you know, (laughing) there’s all kinds of little things like that. Actually the thing I’m most focused on right now is that next year, when I do my little solo run, because I’ve done that in the last year, I’ve done seven solo shows in Canada, you know, that’s where my records were sold, and a good number of Styx fans made the pilgrimage there, that’s what’s involved in that. And it’s a different type of show, it’s the entire career that I had prior to joining Styx. Last year I did the 25th anniversary of an album I had called “Strange Animal,” which was a No. 1 album in Canada and had three songs go to No. 1 and it was a triple platinum record, and so we did the 25th anniversary of that, played the entire album and people really responded well.

DF: Yeah, I read good things about that.

GOWAN: Yeah, good. So next year is the 25th of an album called “Great Dirty World,” but particularly there’s a song called “Moonlight Desires,” which is a No. 1 video and song in Canada. So I’m working on a conceptual thing that revolves around that. Because I was an ’80s video act, known as that very much in Canada, I kind of elevate that as much as possible too (laughs) in the live show. So that’s mainly what’s gotten my focus at this time. But, hey, listen. “Dr Starlight,” it still bugs me that it hasn’t been properly done, [so] who knows?

DF: Maybe it will show up in the middle of “Miss America” some night?

GOWAN: Fantastic question, though, I mean, that shocks the hell out of me that Doug Fox from Salt Lake City asks about that piece of music.

DF: Well, he did say you would be freaked out by that!

GOWAN: I am freaked out! Yeah.

DF: In the past when we’ve talked, and in other interviews I’ve seen, as far as your tenure in the band, you’ve enjoyed drawing on the David Lee Roth-Sammy Hagar comparison ...

GOWAN: I like that comparison, yeah ... (laughs) go ahead.

DF: I’m wondering now in light of the current lineup of Van Halen, does that alter your view on that comparison at all?

GOWAN: (Laughs) OK, so what’s the current ...

DF: Well, David Lee Roth is back ...

GOWAN: Back in the band. Does it alter it, no, it doesn’t alter it at all. Another good comparison would be (laughs) ... you know, there really are no comparisons. I mean, I try to draw these analogies so that, I think the most difficult thing for people to understand is why Styx didn’t go the way of other bands who had to get new members, because invariably if you’re around for a quarter of a century, you’re probably going to need a blood transfusion of some description at some point, and sometimes it’s more drastic than others. Styx chose not to go with somebody who sounds like any previous member of the band. It’s not that I’m avoiding saying Dennis’ name — he made a tremendous contribution to the band, but I just don’t sound like him and I don’t play like him, and to some people that’s part of why the band has continued on because it kind of acknowledges his contribution to the band and it also acknowledges John Panozzo’s and John Curulewiski’s contribution to the band and even Glen Burtnik’s with the fact that he was such a great stage presence with the group. So we are the culmination of everyone who has been in the band in the past, but we are different people now. I mean, Ricky plays Chuck Panozzo’s parts on stage, but he plays them like Ricky Phillips, invariably. I can only do my own interpretation of the songs, and really it comes down to whether the audiences are accepting of that or not. And, you know, I guess at this point, the majority of them have been very accepting of it, and they understand that that’s how a band often has to continue or they cease to exist.

DF: Right.

GOWAN: So that’s the situation here, and I love the fact that when I first joined the band, the first words out of Tommy’s mouth were, when we were about to sing together, it was, “Hey, don’t play a Styx song here, play that song ‘A Criminal Mind.’ ” And then at the end of it, he said, “We should make that a Styx song.” And we’ve done it on a couple of live things. We did it on that “CYO” thing, which I thought was a great thing. That, to me, was an indication that they understand that you really don’t replace anyone in a band. That doesn’t exist. And I think that’s part of why the public has a tough time with it sometimes, is when they see someone as a replacement, but it’s not that. The continuation of the band depended on them making a change. So it’s a change they made and that’s it. For Van Halen it’s a completely different situation as to what their politics were and the same thing with Genesis and the same thing with countless other bands that have had to deal with this. That’s where it stands.

DF: Well the whole Dennis DeYoung comparison, I’ve written it before and told a lot of people who’ve asked me, I love the main incarnation of Styx before, so there’s no slight at all, but to me, the band now is such a fantastic live band, and your contributions obviously are a big part of that ... to me you bring much more of a rock performer element to the live show.

GOWAN: And that’s part of the schism that took place. They really became of two different musical minds, and that’s understandable and there’s nothing wrong with that. And in order to address that you may have to go through some painful times — and they did. And they came to the conclusion that it was best to change the band.

DF: Right. And another thing I think that you really add is like an element of humor ...

GOWAN: Oh, OK. (laughs)

DF: So, to me, while there’s always going to be the inevitable comparisons, it’s obvious, like you just said, you never really set out to replace Dennis, but were more intent on just incorporating your own talents.

GOWAN: Yeah, exactly. I was far more interested, and every day I feel like I joined a great band. There is no replacing anyone in any band — really ever. It’s just the way it changes. I mean, did Ron Wood replace Brian Jones? No. Of course, it’s easier for the public to accept when someone has left the planet, I suppose. But really, when particular musical differences are really ingrained and become, to some members they become a real sticking point, a band has to make a change. And this band made a change. And it’s so long ago now, it’s hard for me to even ... there’s so many old pictures of us now, you know? So it really feels like ... and the other thing is Dennis is out there playing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking both. I love it when people say, “I saw the band in the past and I loved it then, [and] I love it now.” And there are more Styx fans.

DF: Now when I mentioned sense of humor, there are little things that are noticeable, but one of them that I really like is the lyrical song quiz that you give the audience before launching into a certain seafaring number ...

GOWAN: Yeah.

DF: So I was wondering if I could turn the tables on you a bit and give you a quick test of lyrics?

GOWAN: Shoot!

DF: I’m afraid these will be too easy. “She’s got electric boots ... ”

GOWAN: “A mohair suit.”

DF: Yes.

GOWAN: “I read it in a magazine.”

DF: OK (laughs). “What’s a poor boy to do ... ”

GOWAN: Oh, that’s ... uh ...

DF: I’m going north of the border. I’m going to Canada.

GOWAN: Oh, OK. I know the line so well, but I can’t get it. You’ve got to sing it.

DF: (Semi-sings) “What’s a poor boy to do ... when he’s falling in love with you.” Does that sound familiar?

GOWAN: Yeah it does. Who is that by?

DF: That’s Loverboy, “Take Me to the Top.”

GOWAN: (Laughs) I’m sorry! I lose, I failed on the second question.

DF: OK ... “Jumped into a taxi, bent the boot, hit the back.”

GOWAN: Nope, I don’t know that.

DF: That’s Peter Frampton, “Do You Feel Like We Do.”


DF: “I’m your mystery man in a ... ”

GOWAN: Mystery van? (laughs)

DF: “I’m your mystery man in a gold Lincoln ... ”


DF: “Midnight Ride?”

GOWAN: You got me. (Laughs, then suddenly realizes it's a Styx song.) Oh, it’s J.Y.’s! Oh, I love doing that one. I love playing “Midnight Ride,” that’s actually funny [to not recognize it].

DF: That’s the one last question I had for you, that I mentioned earlier that I wanted to talk about a setlist thing?

GOWAN: Yeah.

DF: For more than 10 years, it’s been my personal mission to see the full “Midnight Ride” in concert again. And I mention it to J.Y. every time I see him, and he always smiles and laughs. But then I thought, “Why not go to the guy who actually gets to play guitar on that song, he probably has a lot of fun.”

GOWAN: I love ... when I see “Midnight Ride” ... you know, we haven’t done it in a couple years, but when I used to see it right in the setlist I was elated because I took it as a tremendous vote of approval that my guitar playing was good enough to hack through those few chords behind, of course, Tommy and J.Y. And I loved playing that on stage, just loved it, you know, for that reason alone, plus I love the way J.Y. sings that. Actually, the J.Y. song I hope we do, and I love and I wish we’d do more of, is from “Pieces of Eight.” It’s “Great White Hope.”


GOWAN: I absolutely love that song. I don’t get to play guitar on it, but that’s J.Y.’s personality, it’s so front and center and so strong. I see that as kind of where he was going when he was writing “Midnight Ride,” and worked his way up to that. But anyway, “Midnight Ride.”

DF: Tommy has said he loves playing it, Todd says he loves playing it, you love it ...

GOWAN: Yeah, everyone does.

DF: Does J.Y. not like playing it? I can’t figure it out (laughs).

GOWAN: I don’t know. One thing I know about Styx is you’ll never completely discern what J.Y. is thinking at any given time. And I learned that early on. Never kind of assume anything from the guy because he will surprise you every time. So he may suddenly go, “I want to do ‘Midnight Ride.’ And then on a night when four other guys are going, “Hey, let’s do ‘Midnight Ride,’ ” he’ll go, “I don’t want to do it.” So I have no idea. To try to unravel the mysteries of J.Y. ... well, if we ever do, it would probably be the end of the band.

DF: Well, you could just interject and say there’s been a request to see more of your guitar playing live!

GOWAN: That’s fine. Not a problem. I’ll say we’ve got to get “Midnight Ride” in there, definitely.

DF: I told him, “If I just get one more time, I could die a happy man (laughs).”

GOWAN: Exactly. Yeah, let’s do it!