RETURN TO THE PARADISE THEATER
Throughout the 70s and early 80s, one of the bands that dominated the airwaves was the Chicago based Styx. The band had a distinct style all its own. The magic and chemistry that propelled songs up the charts, like "Lady," "Mademoiselle," "Blue Collar Man," "Renegade," "Babe" and "Too Much Time On My Hands" was created by an incredible team of musicians. Now Styx is back together again and on the road with the Return To The Paradise Theater tour featuring the band's favorite lineup, Dennis DeYoung (vocals), James "JY" Young (guitar), Tommy Shaw (guitar, vocals), and Chuck Panozzo (bass). John Panozzo (drummer), unfortunately will not be with the band in concert due to a sports injury, but is still very much part of this great lineup. Initial response to the announcement of the tour was phenomenal. Shows have been selling out everywhere for a glimpse of this great band. Long in the planning, this reunion is not a fluke, but something that the band has wanted to do for years, but with the schedules of the guys and their individual solo projects and band projects made it hard for them to just jump into. Back for a great summer tour, back with a new greatest hits album, Greatest Hits: Volume I and soon to be released this summer, Greatest Hits: Volume 2.
Music News caught up with James "JY" Young to find out a little more about the reunion and how it feels to have the Styx family back together again.
What led the band to reform for this tour?
The whole thing that we did in 1983, I think, was a combination of everything we had worked for up to that point in time. We both creatively, professionally and somewhat personally had seen enough of one another for the time and I think we all felt the need to go and be with other people and try other things. But soon thereafter, I'd say that after Tommy had done a few solo records, he realized it would be better to put the band back together. We made certain attempts to put everything back together in the late 80's. It didn't all work out because Dennis had a solo record when Tommy was waiting around for something else to happen. Finally, when Dennis was ready to do a Styx album, Tommy had made a commitment to Ted Nugent, and when you made a commitment to Ted you have to take it seriously. Ted likes to bring a little bit of Texas everywhere he goes even though he's from Michigan. So, we didn't quite connect when we got back together in '91 with Tommy and it has just taken this long for there to be a break in the Damn Yankees' schedule. And the catalyst here in recent terms was that we did a greatest hits for A&M a year ago, Styx Greatest Hits I. We wanted to get the track "Lady," which we had originally recorded for another record label prior to going to A&M, and the other record label would not license it to A&M for the purposes of this compilation. Every time you make a record for a major company there is always a re-recording restriction. It's like if you make a record and you see it's going well, you can't go out and record it for somebody else. There is like a five or ten year restriction on doing something like that. But, in this case it had been more than ten years since we recorded "Lady" originally, so we just re-recorded it. Dennis and I called Tommy up and he said yeah, he'd love to come out. It just felt so good to be back together singing these songs. We did some national television stuff to promote that and that felt great. Then Warner Brothers took a little bit of a left turn and became much more committed to the rock, alternative side of things. Even though Damn Yankees has a guaranteed contract there, Warner didn't feel like they fit in, so they're trying to work out what the future will be for Damn Yankees and Warner Brothers. While all that is being worked out Tommy called up last October 15 and said "Hey, let's go out and do 50 shows with Styx next summer." And I said "Hey, let me call Dennis." Having just figured out how to do three way calling on my phone I said "Hey watch this shit." I had just been talking to Dennis the night before, second guessing a bunch of stuff that we'd made collectively over the years, so I figured he was ready for this one and sure enough, the three of us kind of made a pact and called up the Panozzos and here we go.
I understand that you're missing one of the Panozzos.
Yeah, sadly John, who loves hockey, has an old hockey shoulder injury which he, in a Philly way, reinjured seriously while away from playing the drums. His surgeon now says he has to keep it immobilized so he is not available to us at this time.
Were all five of you on the two new songs on the album?
Actually, John played on the pop song, and the rock track, our new, or replacement drummer I should say, Todd Sucherman played, and this is a young fellow who is out on tour with us.
Is the chemistry there, the old magic that you had? Is it like walking off the stage thirteen years ago and walking back on the stage the following night?
Well, some ways it's like walking back on stage earlier than that because there was a certain sense when we were performing, sort of around the time of The Grand Illusion, which was kind of a breakthrough for us as a progressive rock act, internationally shall we say, there was a sense at that time of an exhilaration with new found success. You know we've been away from this, away from each other for so long, that there is that same exhilaration from way back then. Without, sort of, that scar tissue that seems to build up over the years.
I know that everybody or almost everybody in the band has their own projects they will be returning to. Will we still see an original Styx album in the future?
Well, it will be intense to record another complete Styx record with Tommy Shaw, Dennis DeYoung, myself, and the Panozzo brothers as soon as it makes sense. Tommy does still have a commitment to the Damn Yankees and that commitment will probably be fulfilled in the next 12 months after this tour stops. But in the meantime we will be able to get together in the odd weeks and the time that Dennis has between projects, the time that I have between things to get together and start putting stuff together and with an eye toward maybe 1997 for another Styx studio album and another tour like this.
Every group is made up of different personalities, one might be the heart of the group, the other might be the soul of the group. How would you, and the individual members of Styx, just what do they bring to the group?
Well, I would say that Dennis is a man that has an incredible will and an incredible drive. Just in terms of his commitment and dedication to that whole thing, success and his commitment to excellence. Tommy Shaw is an incredible performer, an incredible creative mind and a guy who is an incredible complement to Dennis' talent. I am the hard rock guy who focuses more on the power of the music and the sound, and Dennis is more the power song. I love heavy rock and things with that sort of rock attitude. Dennis and Tommy are much more into melody than I am. I am into the power thing, and the combined elements of those three songwriting minds and arranging minds, along with the backbone and support and foundation that the Panozzo brothers provide, and also their arranging insights and their perception of the whole thing; it is just an incredibly well balanced group of creative people that have done some wonderful stuff.
When you did your last concert with Tommy thirteen years ago and you walked off the stage, how did you look back at that last evening or the last show?
It was a very bittersweet thing at that time, because no matter what anyone thought, it bought their ability to go forward and succeed on their own. I always felt like the individuals here had seen the greatest success they would ever see as a collective. I wished everyone well in the things they would do, but I always thought that the band would get back together and I always said it in almost every interview I did at some point. I really felt this balanced approach to doing a Styx project, kind of like Phil Collins. He will do a Genesis record then he'll do a few things on his own. Then there is always another Genesis record. And I have always felt that there is room with this band to creatively do such a thing, so fortunately that is the case.
From what I understand it took you two or three albums before you got the breakthrough that you needed.
For Styx, it took four albums before we had our first hit song, and it was really not until The Grand Illusion that the whole thing connected in a national and international way. It takes time to build a career. Now I think that MTV makes it harder to build a career, because they dictate taste on a national basis. They are like a national monopolistic radio station. They get behind an artist and the artist can sell millions of records, then if the next one comes out and they don't think that is what they are going for this season, then it can be something they banged the living daylights out of a year before, they're not going to touch it the next year. And boom, someone goes from selling seven million records to a couple thousand. So, MTV giveth and MTV taketh away. And the beautiful thing about Styx is that it took us a long time to build our career through touring, radio airplay, personal appearances and showing up and meeting people, building friendships and relationships with people in the industry. And that type of foundation that our career was built on does not go away, regardless of what an MTV does, and I think the fact that we have been off MTV now for easily five years is good.
Well, I've probably taken up enough of your time, especially since you're on your cellular phone.
Roaming on my cellular phone I might add.
Thank you very much for calling us.
Music News magazine, July 1996
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