• Ron RoXtar*

The Annual Lawrence Gowan interview 2016

Ron : Larry, it was great seeing STYX in Malone which was your first time playing there. How was it for you guys?

Gowan : Yeah well I didn’t realize how close it was to the Canadian border. I heard voices in the audience speaking french and figured a lot of people from Quebec were there so I tested a little bit of my half french and got a great reaction. I think a quarter of the audience must have been from Quebec.

Ron : What is it that makes STYX such a good live act?

Gowan : Well, we do it an awful lot. Last year we did a 116 shows. This year we cut it down to 112.. We’re just very adept at putting on a pretty epic rock show. Then when you factor in all the material STYX has and the history we are able to amass on stage as a pretty formable team. I’m on stage and i’m just as entertained as anyone in the audience about what’s going on. We’re just a band of guys who love providing that for our audience and where we feel most connected to our lives.

I think a great rock show is the best form of entertainment I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Ron : So who was the best live act you’ve ever seen?

Gowan : That’’s really difficult to answer since  there’s been so many. There were a few nights I saw Peter Gabriel where I was completely overwhelmed. Pink Floyd did the same thing for me. I have seen Springsteen and it just blew my mind. The energy he has it’s hard to even imagine it. I saw Elton John in the 70’s and that was one of the greatest nights of my life. The first couple of times I saw Yes they were so powerful they could transport you into a completely different realm of existence. Then there’s Genesis with Phil Collins.

Ron : The last STYX album, Cyclorama was definitely the band’s best album since Pieces of Eight. Is there a new album in the works?

Gowan : There is nothing imminent. Although we’re always recording. We’re trying to figure out when we could possibly put a new album out and I have a feeling it will happen sooner rather than later. It’s just a matter of when.

You know, Ron, the main thing right now is we just released this new Live at the Orleans DVD. There’s some live stuff in there along with plenty of behind the scenes stuff with the crew and life with the band on the road. It’s sort of a different perspective.

You know when we arrive at an arena and everything is magically there, Well there is just so much logistics that go into bringing our show from one town to another. The DVD focuses on how we are able to accomplish all of that.

Ron : Any new solo albums from yourself on the horizon?

Gowan : I actually have been working on a solo album for a few years now, but again it falls into that category of when. I am just so busy with STYX and our schedule. I don’t want to just put it out there for the sake of putting something out there without properly supporting it. So I am going to have to leave it there so to speak until the time is right. I hate to be so vague about it ,but I can assure you there are some things going on and one day they will come to the surface.

Ron : Speaking of solo product your full back catalogue of music is finally available on iTunes. How is that going for you?

Gowan : I am just so pleased with it. I’m getting response from people who never even knew it. it’s mainly been two albums Lost Brotherhood and You Can Call Me Larry that were tied up in all kinds of legal red tape that had to be dug through. I am so happy with the response and iTunes even featured me on their front page. It’s been a great reaction. Finally people are listening to these records and in particular songs that were not hits like Moonchild’s Psychedelic Holiday which I played on some recent solo dates I had.

Ron : On some recent solo dates you changed band members what was the reason behind that?

Gowan : The opportunities you have as a solo artist are that you can change the line up of the live band. It’s not something necessary to do, but when I do that and we play it’s like something new comes to light that is fresh and new.

Just this year Ricky Tillo the guitarist for Lady Gaga was in Toronto and available. My brother whose been in the band forever and Divine Brown said to me “You know Ricky’s in town and would be great for us.” They worked with him previously and so I called and asked him to be in my touring band and couldn’t resist the opportunity to have him in it.

Then in my most recent shows the line up has changed yet again. I had Divine Brown on vocals and now I have this girl named, Sate and she’s got a new album out. She’s a very hip singer with some good videos. It’s really good, Ron, you should check her out.

Ron : Okay I will. Thanks for the tip.

(Note : I did check out Sate and she’s… great!)

Ron : Is there something you look back on as a highlight in both your solo career and as a member of STYX?

Gowan : There are so many if I had to look back, well you know there’s my song A Criminal

Mind. It really changed my life twice. I went from pretty much being this obscure artist to having a song people knew so well all across Canada. Then when I went to join STYX and went over to Tommy’s house basically to see how our voices sounded together, the first thing he said to me was “Play A Criminal Mind first. I want to hear you play that.” So I did and he pulled out a mandolin and starting playing along to it. He turned to JY and said “We got to make that a STYX song.” I thought it was amazing that this one song has changed my life twice. Once as a solo artist and then as I was joining the band, STYX. So in my solo career that would be my stand out point because it was just something for me that was so phenomenal in music. That song has really stood the test of time. We played it recently in Lewiston and just to see the reaction we got from people it really is phenomenal.

In my solo career a real highlight was when I played this place called Ontario Place. That moment in 1985 of playing to such a massive audience and for three nights that still sticks me really strongly, you know?

As far as playing with STYX is concerned I’d have to say twice we’ve played the Super Bowl. Just being on the field playing there. It was kind of surreal.

Ron : Speaking of joining STYX when you were growing up was there any band that you dreamed of being a part of?

Gowan : Oh of course! Those are childhood fantasies that I think every musician has and funnily enough they extend well into your adult life.

I’m a piano player so I’d have to say, Billy Preston was one of those for me. Here’s a guy who played with the Beatles. He was the first guy who made me think “Wow, he’s a solo artist but then he gets to play with the Beatles.”  I met him a few times and even got to tell him that. I’d have to say Nicky Hopkins is another one for me. He played with the Rolling Stones. I’d have to add in there, Queen. Just seeing Freddie Mercury up there. I would love to be on stage to feel that kind of energy or just to play the piano while he sings.

In 1998 my publicist was convinced that some major band would see me and realize I could fit in with them. It wasn’t that long afterwards I got a call from STYX asking me if I would join the band. So then it was like “Okay I think the universe is trying to tell me something here.”

A lot of these bands take on the role of super heroes so you can’t help but want to join them on their quest.

Ron : Since you mentioned super heroes, if you were to go to Comiccon and dress up in cosplay, who would you does up as?

Gowan : Oh man, what a great question and really tough one to answer. Well there is a Canadian film called Wolf Cop and in it they use my song Moonlight Desires in a pivotal scene actually. So I’d probably go to Comicon as someone from Wolf Cop. They are making a Wolf Cop 2 which I should be involved with a little bit.

Ron : Oh I’d love to hear about your involvement with that.

Gowan : I won’t say anything about it now though because those guys will have a whole publicity thing going on. Tell you what though, Ron, when it gets closer to the release of it I’d love to talk to you more about it then. How’s that sound?

Ron : Perfect. Let’s set it up.

Gowan : Yeah, let’s do that. But getting back to your question about Comicon and who I would dress up as… I’d have to say for the moment Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. Just call me Jon Snow or maybe Khaleesi although I don’t think I could do her outfit justice. (Laughing)

Ron : I wanted to get your feedback on of course another Cnadian act, The Tragically Hip. Did you get to watch the final show on CBC and do you have any thoughts to share about it?

Gowan : What a tremendous concert they put on to begin with. I saw the Hip really early on in their career and I’ve met Rob Baker and Paul Langlois at some other functions. Watching this concert they put on I was thoroughly entertained. They were under such pressure and showed amazing poise and grace.

They put on such a show with all the pressure knowing that Gord Downie is facing with his own mortality. That has to be the toughest thing for any of us to face but he’s in a place that only he can understand. When he spoke instead of speaking about himself he spoke about other causes he believes in. At the end of the day they did what I love which is to put on a great rock show which one third of the country watched. This was a moment when the band connected on such a colossal level with their audience. They’re a pretty great band.

Ron : What about the upcoming residency STYX has in Vegas with Eagle alumni, Don Felder?

Gowan : Yeah that’s going to be exciting. We’ve dome shows with Don Felder in the past. It’s a fun thing he does where gets up there and rolls out 10 of the biggest Eagles songs and the audience can sing along to every word. It’s going to be pretty special.

Ron : Will you be including some different songs in the STYX setlist?

Gowan : Right, well the thing is there are some songs we have to play every night like Come Sail Away, Renegade, Blue Collar Man, Grand Illusion. These are songs that people come to hear and rightly so. However there are some changes in the setlist like we played Pieces of Eight just the other night. We might do Lorelei one night or like we did in Malone playing Suite Madame Blue.

Ron : I think my favourite STYX song might be Queen of Spades.

Gowan : Yeah it’s time to bring that one back in. I really do enjoy doing that one and I know the guys in the band love playing it.

Ron : What is your favourite STYX song to perform live?

Gowan : You know, Ron that’s kind of a moving target because it changes from night to night. Like now that you’ve mentioned Queen of Spades I hope we’ll do it tonight.

My feeling is that Renegade is the most fun to play and the reason is because I don’t have to sing lead on it so I get to take a lot in and see how the song affects people and I’m affected the same way. It’s always an emotional high and that’s why I enjoy it so much.

Ron : Well STYX is certainly one of the best live bands out there.

Gowan : Well thank you for saying that, Ron. I agree with that by the way. (Laughing)

Ron RoXtar with Lawrence Gowan in Malone N.Y. Aug 12th 2016

August 28th 2016

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