Monday, February 10, 2014

Styx's Lawrence Gowan: This Interview's Got No Title (Just Words and a Tune)

Master of his domain: Lawrence Gowan, he of the spinning keyboard, performs in 2012. (Daily Herald photo)

Peyton and Eli Manning may have bragged about having football on their phone in a popular DIRECTV commercial, but I recently enjoyed a "Lawrence Gowan does 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' solo concert" on my phone.

This spur-of-the-moment, one-off performance, as it were, stemmed from a discussion the Styx keyboardist/vocalist and I had engaged in last fall, leading up to the 40th anniversary of the original release of that seminal Elton John album. I had reached out to Gowan in the hopes of enlisting his participation in a little exercise I was undertaking that would rank the 17 individual songs on the double album from top to bottom.

While time commitments kept him from supplying his own full rankings, he did quickly fire off his top three choices ("Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Harmony," in that order, for those scoring at home) and offer some of his own personal views on the album -- which, coincidentally, just so happened to play a big impact on his musical destiny, steering him away from guitar and toward an ever-revolving career in keyboards. It was obvious from the depth and breadth of his immediate analysis that the album was indeed one with which he held a special connection. (Incidentally, you can take the "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" ranking challenge HERE.)

So it was that when we began our current interview, coinciding with a pair of local Styx shows on Feb. 8 in Wendover and tonight in Richfield, Gowan playfully jumped into a couple songs from the album with the traveling keyboard in his hotel room from Spokane, Wash. It wasn't exactly "In Kilt Tonight," but it was indeed a rare treat.

The interview started with him tinkling the ivories to the title track and closed with some strains from "Bennie and the Jets." In between, we touched on several subjects that I hope swerve far away from the same tired handful of questions that always seem to dog the man who took over for Styx co-founder Dennis DeYoung.

Well, see for yourself ...

LAWRENCE GOWAN: Well, how've you been?

DOUG FOX: Good, it's great to talk with you again.

GOWAN: Well, you too, Doug.

DF: Where are you calling from today?

GOWAN: I’m in Spokane, Washington. Not far from you. I have a quick little song I want to play you before we go any further. You ready? (The somewhat muffled keyboard strains of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” come through the phone.) "When are you gonna come down, when are you going to land?" (laughs). Did you hear that? 

DF: I could! But can you do the intro to "Love Lies Bleeding"?

GOWAN: OK, let’s turn it up a little bit here and see if you can hear this. (Plays near the beginning of "Love Lies Bleeding.) "The roses in the window box are tilted to one side. Everything about this house was born to grow and die." ... I haven’t played it in a while ... "A year ago to this very day ... if I don't change the pace, I can't face another day. And love lies bleeding in my hands. It kills me to think of you with another man. I was playing rock 'n' roll and you were just a fan, but my guitar couldn't hold you so I split the band. Love lies bleeding in my hands." ... That actually comes back pretty quick! 

DF: I was going to say, is that all spur of the moment -- I bet you haven’t done that for a long time?
GOWAN: Well, there were a couple of (screwed) up chords but ... That was a very ... I wanted to talk to you in depth about it, but I had so many interviews last year, Doug. I’ve been doing so many of them now. 

DF: I’ve noticed that, yeah.

GOWAN: I’ve been doing a lot of them, so I just didn’t have time to really give that ("Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" ranking) the proper attention that it deserves because that was, as I said to you before, that was a pivotal record for me. For me, it was “Close to the Edge” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” that made me really decide to put the guitar aside, to put the guitar down and say, “OK, I want to be a piano player.” It was really those two records. And actually a couple of The Guess Who records as well. But those culminated in me saying, “No, I really want to be a piano player.” That and the fact that the band I was in in high school, I was in a couple bands, but the one that I played piano in got booked a lot more. (laughs) The universe tries to tell you something! 

DF: When I first asked you about that, and you jumped in with the analysis you did right off the bat, I’m like, “OK,” like you said, “this is obviously a pivotal album for you, too.” What was so fun for me was to actually sit down and try and rank them, because so many songs — it’s like, if you asked me to pick my next five favorite songs, you know, you can kind of do that, but when you’re trying to pick between one or two that were right close to each other, it was almost impossible. But it was fun. So I figured you’d have fun doing that.

GOWAN: Yeah, absolutely. It was fantastic. I listened to it over and over. Songs that weren’t the singles like “Danny Bailey” or “Social Disease” or “Harmony” for sure ... 

DF: Or  “Grey Seal” ...

GOWAN: “Grey Seal” — oh. I do remember that. 

DF: That’s got a great keyboard opening.

GOWAN: Oh, let me see ... now you’ve got me (starts playing the keyboard opening to "Grey Seal" flawlessly) ... I remember this because it’s in D ... (sings) "Why’s it never light on my lawn." (He plays it three times as if trying to remember the next part.) 

DF: "Why does it rain and never say good day to the newborn?"

GOWAN: Yeah, fantastic! You know something? I think about a month ago, I heard a band doing a cover of that -- but they left out, they didn’t use the chorus at all. They didn’t do, “Tell me Grey Seal, how does it feel to be so wise.” They just did the verses. And I don’t know what band it was. It was in the airport, and I heard it on the speakers, and I was like, “That’s not Elton.” All of a sudden I was like, “Where’s the chorus?” But anyway ... 

DF: It’s amazing to me that you could just launch right into that and play it perfectly.

GOWAN: It’s seminal in my formation of playing. Those two albums, it was Elton and (Rick) Wakeman at that time that suddenly changed my mind, and then later Keith Emerson and Tony Banks, and even last night I was listening to some Robert Lamm, that choppy way of playing the piano I thought was really cool. Maybe one day in the future we’ll get into that. In fact, I just remembered, in December there was a guy in Toronto, I did a charity show with Saga, and there was a guy there who I’ve known for years, who asked if I would consider doing a concert of just “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” play it with a band, yeah. I had to dismiss it, because I would love to, but I’ve got about 130 Styx shows I’ve got to do in 2014, but maybe we’ll talk about it in another year or so. 

DF: That would be a great idea.

GOWAN: Yeah, now that I think about it, that could be kind of a cool thing. I don’t see Elton himself doing that, although he should. But the songs are very high, they’re very vocally challenging, you know? Other than Candle in the Wind, it’s in the top of his register, with "Sister Can’t Twist" ... Anyway, we’re going down this hole for three hours if we get started. (laughs) 

DF: One more question, because as you were singing "Love Lies Bleeding" I was reminded of this, and I wonder if you’ve noticed. This is something, I’ve never interviewed Elton, but if I ever did, this is one thing I would ask him, is, originally that lyric is “I can’t face another day,” but somewhere along the way he’s changed it to, “I can’t last another day.” And that’s how he’s done it ever since “Here and There,” you know the live album? And I’ve always wanted to know, “What made you change that? Because I’ve always loved 'face' and I wonder why you changed it to 'last’?”

GOWAN: Probably either he’s forgotten and nobody has the guts to tell him, which I would put my money on that, but you never know why a guy would do something like that. 

DF: It’s just one of those curiosities I have.

GOWAN: I know. It’s because fans like us, we know the minutia of it because it’s possibly even more meaningful to us than it is to him, 

DF: Right.

GOWAN: So that’s the dilemma. 

DF: Well, like you said, I could discuss this for hours, that would be a blast. ... I’ve just been sitting here now, for some strange reason, running “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” songs through my head.

GOWAN: Ah, that’s a good one.
Lawrence Gowan on "The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight" tour in 2010. (Courtesy photo)
DF: And I was sitting here thinking, “This is what I love about my job” — not only do I now have you singing “Yellow Brick Road” on tape, but previously I have Jack Blades singing “Madman Across the Water” songs on tape, because we were discussing that album because it was a favorite of both him and Tommy (Shaw).

GOWAN: Yeah, Madman’s a great album. Yeah. Great song. 

DF: And I’ve noticed that you’ve been getting “Tiny Dancer” into your (in-concert) song lyric test recently.

GOWAN: I have. Actually last night I played, what was it last night, it was “Rocket Man.” I try to revolve it a little bit. You kind of have to go with the most widely spread songs that people know the choruses of when I’m doing the College of Rock Knowledge. 

DF: Because if you ever did, “The roses in the window box are tilted to one side,” there’d at least be some of us that would jump in on that.

GOWAN: There would definitely be some of you, and some of you may be scratching at your head. I think it all just comes down to how much it’s made it into the popular culture, you know?. I mean, that album of course at the time was, almost everyone knows, it’s “Bennie and the Jets,” and “Candle in the Wind” from that album, and I play “Saturday Night’s (Alright for Fightin’)” -- usually on a Saturday. So now that you’ve said that -- I’d better put that in tonight.
DF: And Saturday is when you’ll be in Wendover.

GOWAN: Oh, Wendover’s a Saturday night? I’d better remember that next week.  

DF: OK, well let’s jump in here. So, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to contain your excitement, but you’ve got two Utah shows coming up in the next 10 days ...
GOWAN: I love coming to Utah. I love Salt Lake City. It’s one of the most beautiful places, both on the ground and from the air. I love when we fly in there, especially around Salt Lake City. It just looks like another planet, Salt Lake itself and that surrounding area. I don’t recall anywhere else on Earth I’ve ever seen that is like it. 

DF: You’ve played Wendover quite a few times already, but then two days later you’re playing in a town called Richfield, about two hours south of us. So when you play smaller towns like that, what do you do during the day? I know you like to get out and circulate among the people, but do you get recognized often? What do you like to do, how do you work that?

GOWAN: Particularly if it’s a town we haven’t played before or haven’t played in the last 12 or 15 years. No, I like to be out and walk as much of the town as I can and just absorb something about my surroundings before the show. The show always goes better if I’ve done that during the day. It’s not possible all days on the road because obviously some nights we arrive just a couple hours before showtime, but if the opportunity is there, that is something I always try to take advantage of, and I think it really helps me — remember I’m the one foreign guy in this band, and America is still an exotic place to me! (laughs) So I like picking up on some local colloquialism or something like that. It just makes me feel like I’ve connected to the place in a weird way. To me, it’s as simple as going to a coffee show and just hearing a couple of local people talk, it just gives me a better feeling about the whole day.  

DF: So let’s discuss some relatively current news. It was just recently announced that you will be heavily participating in the new Carnival Live Concert Series.

GOWAN: I just heard that myself. 

DF: In fact, I think you’ll be doing the very first show. Is this the next wave of concert experiences for you guys?

GOWAN: And you definitely mean that when you say “wave” right? 

DF: Yeah, that was on purpose. (laughs)

GOWAN: I know that Foxy mind of yours. (laughs) Yeah, it’s funny, we did that about five years ago, because I think our stipulation was that we would play the concert when the ship is docked. And that worked out great because the venue on board was exactly capable, it was as if you were in any theater anywhere in the world, because it was that large and sounded great, and the staff was tremendous. But I think that’s the way we’re approaching it is that we’re doing it when the ship is in harbor and so we come onboard for a day and basically do it exactly as if we were doing a gig. For people who are traveling, who are on that ship, I think that’s a pretty great thing to be able to see Styx or Yes or Kiss, or some great band. But as far as staying on the ship, I don’t think that’s part of it for us anyway. 

DF: From what I’ve read, I believe you’re correct on that. But there are some, I think you do back-to-back shows, there’s one in Los Angeles it seems like, you have shows on back-to-back days but on two different ships. Like one ship may be just leaving, and one ship may be getting back in, I don’t know the particulars but it seemed kind of that way.

GOWAN: It’s better for the bands, and it’s great for the audience obviously. They come into port and get to see one of their favorite bands. 

DF: So, what’s the latest on “Dr. Starlight”?

GOWAN: The latest is I hesitate to talk too much about it, because it’s a solo thing I’m working on. And it has a history because before I’d made any records, it was the most popular, and in some cases the most controversial, thing that I ever put on stage with my first band, and it was in the era when Styx was on top of the world, and I was really just starting and trying to do something very in that progressive rock school. So it’s been an ongoing thing between Styx-intensive tours, that’s what I’ve been working on. It’s definitely been a fun thing. I’ve got great players on it. I’ve got back with Jerry Marotta and Tony Levin, and we spent some time in Woodstock, New York, recording, and the majority of it’s being done in Toronto, and it really is fantastic. We’ve got some great art work and all kinds of good things. I’m very proud of it, and one day I hope that Doug Fox holds a copy of it in his hand. 

DF: Well, I hope so. I’ve been a fan of the Dr. Starlight and Watchmaker Facebook pages.

GOWAN: Yeah I brought those up basically for any old Rhinegold fans that remember it. It’s because my inner space geek needs a place to express himself, you know? So anytime someone sends me something particularly directed at space or any old pictures of Rhinegold performing that little rock opera, yeah, it was a way to kind of put a few people on, on that level and just tell them that this is what I’m hacking away at when I’m off the road from Styx. 

DF: I just wanted you to know that I hadn’t forgotten about it and was curious how it was coming along.

GOWAN: That’s fantastic. You know, you’re one of the first people that ever asked me about it about three or four years ago, and it kind of stunned me. 

DF: That was fun.

GOWAN: It stuns me because, yeah, Todd (Sucherman) knew about it, and Todd actually plays on it as well. It’s coming along really well, and one day I hope you get a chance to review it. And when you do, please be kind. (laughs) 

DF: Well, I look forward to it. Hey, are we ever going to get to hear “Criminal Mind” again in the Lower 48?

GOWAN: I certainly hope so. We played it quite a lot last year because we played a good number of shows in Canada, and people, in Canada anyway, have really embraced the Styx version of the song. It happens quite often that when I’m shaking people’s hands at the end of the night, they yell out, “You should play ‘A Criminal Mind.’ ” You know, the only problem with that is that there are these monster Styx songs that are waiting in the wings to be played and, quite frankly, as much as I love ‘A Criminal Mind,’ I also love when we play “One With Everything,” you know? That was a group-writing adventure that I think has really stayed with a good number of the newer followers of the band. So I love it just as much when we play that song, maybe even more. But I do hope we play “A Criminal Mind” again somewhere here and that people take note that it was a song and a hit long before it was a TV show. (laughs) 

DF: I know you were thrilled when one of the first things that happened when you joined the band was that they wanted to play “Criminal Mind.” What was that process like for you — taking one of your solo songs and giving it the Styx treatment, with the rocked-up guitars and also, I thought Todd’s drumming was stellar on that? 

GOWAN: Well, speaking of Todd, he plays that song two ways — he plays it the Styx way and at my solo shows he’s played it the Jerry Marotta way. And that’s the version most people are familiar with in Canada. One thing I learned early on playing with Styx is that everyone is going to carve out their own part to it anyway. So I was surprised even at first when Tommy brought out the mandolin, and then J.Y. wanted to do that key change in the middle for the guitar solo, transitioning from G minor down to E minor. So great things happen if you kind of sit back and let everybody — this is a band that’s powerful enough that if you just sit back and wait, everyone will carve out their own take on it, and it will rise up and have a life of its own. So I loved watching that happen and I really enjoy playing our version as much as the solo version. So that’s how I feel. 

DF: Burning question here — do you still have the Polaroid camera? And where is it?

GOWAN: I have the Polaroid camera. The Polaroid film, however, is in short supply. However, I have been told that it is back in commission. My only real excuse is that I’m having so much fun doing my Go-Pro at the end of shows. In fact, I just posted a video, Doug, before I got on the phone with you. ... The Go-Pro is fantastic, and then all of the people, particularly up front in the show, obviously, get a chance to see themselves a day or two later, to remind themselves of what kind of time they had a couple nights ago — if they’re having trouble remembering. So I really like doing that. Just for the pure analog joy of it I should bring back the Polaroid at some point. 

DF: Good, I was just wondering about that. As one of the lead singers in a band, I know it’s important that you find a connection with the lyrics in some way, you know, what you’re singing, that you have some kind of inner connection with that to really help it come out right. I know this probably has an ebb and flow over time depending on what’s going in your life or whatever, but I’m curious, especially in your case when most of these lyrics you weren’t there, you know, when they were written, but is there a lyric right now that you are singing every night that is really resonating with you or connecting with you right now.

GOWAN: Absolutely. Let’s start from when I joined the band, because when I joined, it was never brought up to me to try to emulate or in any way replicate the sound of the original recordings of the songs, but rather, I remember the time I sang “Lady” or “Grand Illusion,” J.Y. said, “I like the way you’re singing these songs. It’s a different take on them, but they work for me.” And that’s part of how I got into the band. And since that time, particularly when we did “Regeneration,” it’s funny when we did our current lineup version of “Come Sail Away,” I mean, I hear the original version and I hear someone who is very much a young man who, to my ears, sounds very hopeful and optimistic about the future. And when I hear my version, the version with me on it, I hear more of my melancholy Irish side, sounding like someone who’s continuing on the voyage but has had to leave a lot of things behind in order to do this. I just hear the inflection that way, anyway. So that’s my own little interpretation. So when I do that song, that’s how the words strike me, that the journey is bittersweet. There are tremendous moments of triumph and there are tremendous moments of sadness at having to leave things behind in order for the voyage to continue. So that’s just my own kind of overly dramatic way of looking at that one particular song. Lately, what do I really enjoy singing? I think “Pieces of Eight” is a tremendous song that I enjoy singing. You know, I’m not all that materialistic a person to begin with — I have my weaknesses, you know when it comes to Steinways and Mellotrons, and things like that. (laughs) I think we found that we started playing that right around the time the economy was faltering and I could relate to it in that way. And now that things seem to be looking more hopeful, it’s fun that I can relate to it in another way as well. Somehow it obviously affects people’s lives but you can’t necessarily allow it to affect your overall happiness. You somehow have to manage your way through despite the economic peaks or valleys. And I find that to be a point of the song to sing, and it grabs me that way. And the fun song recently, you know, the last couple years, has been singing “I’m OK.” And I have to say, in the last year, since we’ve put “Rockin’ the Paradise” into the encore, that’s just a joy. That’s a physical challenge to be able to run around that much and singing that song at that point in the night. But it really does feel like I’m in the “Paradise Theatre” every single night — I’m not joking about that. The audience converts the place into a “Paradise Theatre.” That’s my own interpretation anyway. So, yeah, those would be the ones. 

DF: That’s cool insight, I enjoy that. Because a lot of that, I think, the audience kind of absorbs it without really necessarily thinking about it or realizing it. So it’s interesting to get your thoughts on that and see how that all comes together.

GOWAN: I enjoy doing other people’s material, I always have. My latest live recording I put out, that “Gowan: In Kilt Tonight,” at the end of the show I did “Somebody to Love” by Freddie Mercury and Queen. And I love doing that one as well. I have a different way of approaching it, or a different way of interpreting those lyrics than Freddie Mercury would have had. Listen, there’s been times in my life when one of my biggest songs in Canada is a song called “Strange Animal,” and I’ve heard some misinterpretations of that lyric that I think are better than what the actual song is written about. So I always keep that in mind and think this is part of the way that I can personalize and bring into the moment some of these great Styx songs that were obviously such a strong factor in the band’s history before I joined. 

DF: I love talking with musicians about how they open a concert because to me that’s really a magical moment.

GOWAN: It is. 

DF: You know, the lights go out, there’s this surge of energy that goes through the crowd — and those moments in the dark before the band actually starts playing. To me that’s kind of a magical time. There’s almost nothing better. And you guys do one of the best jobs at opening because you have that pre-video that plays and it gets to the end and it crescendos up to the top and then there’s that pause. And about 90 percent of the time, I’d say, what happens is you get to play the first live notes of any Styx show — and you get to launch into one of the coolest organ riffs that’s ever been written. What’s that like for you? Are you ever tempted to hold that pause out longer and not start right away? You always start right on cue, but are you ever tempted to hold it out? (laughs)

GOWAN: I am tempted to hold it out, quite honestly, yes. ... It is one of the coolest riffs to open a show with — you’re talking about “Blue Collar Man,” I presume, the organ riff? 

DF: Yes.

GOWAN: So part of me wants to allow that little extended pause before launching into it, and the other part of me is kind of eager to get going with it. And then I’m responsible to the other four musicians on stage to not trip them up and have them go, “Hey, what the hell is going on over there?” So I launch into it in the expected fashion. 

DF: As long as you think about it, that’s good enough for me.

GOWAN: It does strike me, every night. A little surge of electricity runs through my body and it’s not always the static that sometimes comes banging from the mic. It’s a very charged moment, it really is.  

Styx guitarists James "J.Y." Young and Tommy Shaw at the Covey Center in 2012. (Daily Herald photo)

DF: I guess this next question comes from, it's kind of inspired from when you last played here at the Covey Center (in Provo) at the end of 2012, and it was James Young's birthday ...

DF: We were talking to him after the show, and we brought up the solo at the end of "Queen of Spades." And he said something like, "You know, it was kind of running through my mind. I think I want to play a little Hendrix right here. Should I or shouldn't I?" And he's like, "Why not, it's my birthday -- so I did!" And so I'm wondering, in the course of a show, I mean, you guys are so dialed in musically as a live band, but from night to night, where do you find moments of spontaneity in the show itself, whether it be in the music or the presentation of it? Are there those moments every night? Do you look for them? Do they happen naturally? How does that work?
GOWAN: Yes, absolutely. We do look for them and they do happen naturally and they're not always necessarily obvious to the audience, but those moments are part of what make us enjoy the fact that ... when you're asked, "How can you play the same song nearly 2,000 times and still get something out of it," it's for two reasons. One, each time is another opportunity to try to get it right. You're in different circumstances in front of different people, and it's a different day, and the song means something different on that day if you're open to reflecting on that. But within the song, and it can be just within a few bars -- I'll give you the perfect example. About two weeks ago, (well) Tommy plays a tremendous solo every night in "Crystal Ball." But one night, who knows why, there was something absolutely, almost other-worldly about how he played that solo. You know, what happened and how the amps fed back a little bit on that night, and how the sustain worked and how the vibratos were in there -- but it made me take notice right away and go, immediately after the show, I said, "That solo in 'Crystal Ball' … " I mentioned it to him right after the show, and sure enough, within a minute or so, Libby Ray, our lighting director, she comes backstage a few times just to give us a few notes, and she immediately said, "That 'Crystal Ball' solo tonight was absolutely off the chart, it was outstanding." And it's funny, she noticed it from the back of the house. OK, so she's at the back of the house with the headphones on, calling spot cues and stuff, and she noticed it. And I noticed it standing 3 feet from him, you know what I mean? So, it's those things that I can't quite tell you what it is, because we're not playing jazz up there, we're very faithful to the records, you know? But there are marginal opportunities that spark the performance every single night, and they come along every single night -- and I happen to be in a band that takes note of that, and that's very rare. That's very, very rare. It's one of the things that I love about being part of this is that each guy on stage gets that. They see an opportunity, they're not just playing the notes and going through it because they know the song. They're looking for opportunities within the song to elevate it to a level it's never, perhaps, been before. 

 DF: That's cool. Do you remember what town that was in? 

GOWAN: I do not. (laughs) 

DF: I'd like to go to YouTube and look it up. (laughs) 

GOWAN: I know. I wish I could give you one. I'll tell you one and I'm sure it would be one of three other ones. (laughs) 

DF: It's a mystery then. OK, you touched on it briefly there when you mentioned that you get asked about playing the same song night after night. I'd like to switch things around and put you in the interviewer's chair for a minute. What questions would you like to come up with, that you could answer, rather than the same several that you always get. Can we turn the tables around a little bit?.
GOWAN: You can turn the tables entirely. ... Doug Fox, I'm going to ask you this. When you were a teenager, OK, and I'm assuming you went to a lot of concerts, right? 

DF: Yes. 

GOWAN: When was the moment, in what concert, when was the moment that you realized, "I have to be connected to music in some way for the rest of my life? I cannot just let this be mere entertainment, it has to be something that I'm connected to every day for the rest of my life." Where was that moment? And what concert? 

DF: Well, I can tell you, the first thing that jumps to mind, and it's funny how much it ties back into where we started this conversation, but it was my very first concert, Elton John at Dodger Stadium. 

GOWAN: Oh, wow! You were at that show? 

DF: Yeah, that was my very first concert ever. 

GOWAN: Oh my ... you started off small! (laughs) 

DF: Yeah. (laughs) The thing was, being that that was the first show, when I started going to other shows, I started expecting the same thing. For example, Elton played for three hours and played three separate encores type of a thing. My very second show only lasted like an hour and a half. I'm like, "What the heck, what's going on here? I'd planned a three-hour evening!" And here's the thing I take away, where I kind of knew -- looking back later, I didn't necessarily know at the time, and that was your question – but as I look back on it I realize that was a seminal moment in my concert life that kind of led to all this. But for whatever reason, I took a notebook to the concert and wrote down every song. And I'd never been to a concert, I didn't know if you did this or didn't do this -- it's just I felt the need or the urge that I needed to document what was happening so I could remember it later.

Gowan checks out my notebook from the Dodger Stadium show.
GOWAN: That's great. That is very common. Usually in your life -- I remember a good friend of mine, that actually was my lawyer for a number of years, he said, that you'll notice that you wind up being something you did as a kid, as an adolescent, that seemed completely of no immediate value, something that just didn't seem to make sense at the time but you just did it anyway. That's probably what you'll wind up doing for the rest of your life. Isn't that amazing? 

DF: Yeah. And then, of course, the first time seeing Van Halen was a giant moment for me. 

GOWAN: Ah, really? 

DF: Yeah, but I'm wondering what question would you like to answer that you don't ever really get asked? 

GOWAN: Oh, I see, you want it coming from that angle as well? 

DF: I liked your angle, it threw me for a bit of a loop. I like that. (laughs) 

GOWAN: What don't I get asked that I should be asked more? ... Let me think now ... 

DF: While you're thinking, let me just kind of explain what gave me this idea. Because I read a lot of the interviews that you do, over the Internet, and as you mentioned earlier, you're doing a lot more of them right now, and I kind of cringe at some of the questions ... and it's not like they're bad questions, but they're questions that have been answered over and over. Just from your standpoint, I imagine, hey, it's got to be tough to answer these same ones -- replacing your predecessor, whether Styx has a new album coming out, what it's like to play the same songs every night. You know, those type of things. And so I just wondered, what are the questions going through your mind, "Man, I wish I could talk about this, but nobody asks me about that"? 

GOWAN: Well, I always like to try to make the point, and regardless of the question, and sometimes the questions are very obtuse in how they're presented, but the point I've been trying to make, particularly in these interviews I've been doing the last four or five years ... one of the things that I love about being in the band, one of the many things I love about being in Styx is that I can feel that this band is the culmination of everyone who has ever been a member of it. They're very astute people, musically speaking, and also within the music business. And I think that, you know, there have been 10 people who have ever walked the planet who've been a member of Styx. And I see the band today as being a culmination of all that combined effort, even though there are only six remaining members, including Chuck (Panozzo)  in the gigs that he can make it. There are six remaining members, but I think in each era of the band, the band has found a way to be at the top of their game. And I think that's exactly where we are today. And that's the point that I'd like to see made more often, particularly when you see TV specials about the band or people try to bring up some of the ancient history and the past animosity that may have existed. There's something bigger here. And what's bigger is the band is great today and has always found a way to be great in the past. It's the culmination of all that that makes the band what it is today. And I kind of felt that when I saw the Rolling Stones last year. I think I felt it really profoundly when I realized, Brian Jones was the original guitar player and it was his band. (laughs) Right? So he's not a forgotten man. He's someone who's part of the legacy of what this band was. As was Mick Taylor. As was Billy Preston. As was Nicky Hopkins. Oh my ... Ian Stewart ... such a fantastic part of the Rolling Stones has been the great piano players they've had along the way as well. And now it's Chuck Leavell. So I see that as part of what makes a band great and able to withstand so many changes is the fact that within every era they found a way to have the right person in that place. So that's not necessarily a question, but it's a point that I'd love people to hear more succinctly like that. 

DF: And now they will. 

GOWAN: There you go. 

DF: And I was thinking, I'd be remiss when I was talking about big concert moments if I didn't mention the first Styx show I saw, which was the "Pieces of Eight" tour, so they opened with "Great White Hope." 

GOWAN: Right. 

DF: But they also played "Midnight Ride" in there. And that was a moment I've never forgotten and I keep hoping for again. 

GOWAN: Well, I love that one because I get to play guitar on it. 

DF: In fact, I was going to say, if you have the guitar there, you should play part of that one. 

GOWAN: Sorry, you get the piano version of it. (Plays part of “Midnight Ride” on keyboard in the background.) It's just not the same is it? (laughs) 

DF: No, but that's cool.
GOWAN: (Starts playing piano parts to "Bennie and the Jets" ... )
DF: I'm just going to let you hang up, because I'm going to keep listening to your playing!
GOWAN: Well, Doug Fox, shake it loose. ... Talk to you later!
DF: Goodbye.
GOWAN: Bye. 

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