Lawrence Gowan of Styx: ‘Rock Was the Gigantic Musical Statement of the Last Half of the 20th Century’

2018-07-06

Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Rick Diamond

Lawrence Gowan of Styx chats with Anne Erickson in this new, in-depth interview

The guys of Styx have been rocking it for more than three decades, selling more than 30 million albums worldwide and earning loyal fans in the process. Songs such as “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade” and “The Best of Times” are celebrated rock hits that withstand the test of time.

Now, Styx – which features Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitars), James “JY” Young (vocals, guitars), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums) and Ricky Phillips (bass) — are on the road for a co-headlining tour with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. Tesla opens the run.

Gowan spoke with Anne Erickson before the band’s tour stop tonight (July 6) in the Detroit area. They talked about the band’s recent move to bring “Mr. Roboto” back into the set, the state of modern rock music and more.

Styx’s latest album, “The Mission,” dropped in June of 2017. For more on Styx, visit Styxworld.com.

Anne Erickson: Good to talk with you, Lawrence! It’s really great that you’ve brought “Mr. Roboto” back into the Styx set. What does it feel like to perform that song on this tour?

Lawrence Gowan: I thoroughly enjoy performing it, as does everyone else. I’m really enjoying singing it. I like the character that’s portrayed in the song. It has that built-in rock drama to it, and I gravitate towards that. Now, I am in my 20th year with the band at this point, so I wasn’t around when they first performed this in the 1980s, but this is the first time they are performing it as a band onstage. Back then, Dennis Young sang it to a backing track, and then the band came on, so we learned it, it was great to have the entire band learn it…

We’re at a point now where the song has withstood the test of time. It’s a very pressing song, but it’s also very entertaining. It has a built-in entertainment value, that we felt it’s dumb for us to ignore it, and that’s why we’re playing it.

People are beyond excited that you’re playing “Mr. Roboto” again. What do you think it is about this song that strikes a chord with fans?

The phenomenon, to me and all of us, is that now, half of the audience we play to on any given night are under 30 years of age, and they have become more and more the voices that we listen to. They were the ones that were the most enthusiastic when we put out “The Mission” last year. We see more and more T-shirts on the younger factions of the audience, and the cool thing with them is that they never had to live through deciding whether “Mr. Roboto” was a good idea or a band idea back on the early ’80s, when Styx switched their sound to the more techno-influenced sound. Instead, they just hear it as part of the Styx legacy, and they enjoy it and jump up and down when we play it.

What do you think of the statement that “rock is dead?” People say that all the time, but when I go to shows, the amphitheaters are packed, and my feeling is that rock is alive and well.

I would go along with your assessment, Anne. I’ve lived long enough to hear rock be pronounced dead probably every decade since the ’60s! (Laughs) The first time I heard it was proclaimed as dead was the ’60s, and then the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. What is undeniable is that rock music was the gigantic musical statement of the last half of the 20th century. There’s no getting past that. It was the music that had more effect on the planet more than any other type of music, and people are still drawn to it.

What’s ahead for Styx?

We’re pushing “The Mission” and playing as many songs as we can in the shows, and we’re preparing to probably put together a short tour where we’ll play that album in its entirety. And the 5.1 version of “The Mission” is coming out July 27, which has a visual and video component, too. So, there’s a lot of new things like that surrounding “The Mission,” and it’s what we’re focused on right now. Plus, we still have probably 40 or 50 shows this year.

It’s exciting to hear Styx might do a tour to perform “The Mission” in full.

Yeah! We’re just looking for the opportunity and time to do that and pick what cities we’ll do it in. We’ll probably pair with another classic Styx album with it—probably “Grand Illusion” or “Pieces of Eight” or “Paradise Theatre.”

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