On Friday, August 24, Styx will return to Boise. Today, the Boise Music Examiner spoke to vocalist Lawrence Gowan about the band’s current tour, when fans can expect a new solo album and new Styx music, his passion for Hockey and NASA, and what he loves about Boise.
Styx features Gowan, Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitars), James “JY” Young (vocals, guitars), Todd Sucherman (drums) and Ricky Phillips (bass), along with the occasional surprise appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo.
Gowan was headlining arenas and recording multi-platinum records in his home country of Canada when Styx asked him to step into the keyboard and singing role for the band. That was 14 years ago and Gowan hasn’t looked back since.
His energy and enthusiasm on stage are contagious and Gowan was quick to share the three artists from whom he drew his performance influences from and what drives him every night:
“Elton John—what he could do with a piano… Rick Wakeman from Yes. Just seeing what an incredible musician he is and what he brought to the stage as far the theatrics that suddenly rock took on. And Freddie Mercury of course, and what’s achievable for a piano player that gets to be a frontman occasionally. I think those three were, and still are, among the greatest inspirations I’ve had to want to do this. Then to get a chance to be in a legendary American rock band – to have done that now for 14 years – it’s still not something I take lightly. I’m still in touch with that person that I was when I first dreamed of doing something like this.”
Despite his heavy touring schedule with Styx, Gowan still has the desire to make his solo records. In 2010 he released “Return of the Strange Animal”, a 25th anniversary remaster of his classic “Strange Animal” record. It’s been 17 years since his last solo effort, and I asked him when fans might expect a new album.
“We’re about halfway through at the moment, doing another Gowan record. I kind of felt compelled to do it with Tommy [Shaw] doing the blue grass record, “The Great Divide” – fantastic record. These little projects we do outside the band, in the brief little time we have off the road, they’re important. They help to inform what comes back to the band again and what makes Styx great. I mean Tommy – it’s amazing—he was a tremendous guitar player when he joined the band. But after doing that solo record, his guitar playing went to yet another level because he had to re-engage himself in a fresh discipline that taught him so much about guitar playing that he did not know.”
It has been a near decade since Styx released a new album of original material as well and Lawrence shared that it is a difficult conundrum for the band. He admitted they would love to take six months off to record a new record, but their non-stop touring schedule gives them scant free time to get in the studio to do it.
“We spend a lot of time in the dressing room and we bring up all kinds of new material, and play through things. And we go ‘oh this is gonna be great.’ We sock it away and we have the material ready to go, it just needs the time commitment and the fortitude after playing over 100 shows a year to see it through. What I think is most likely is that we’re going to record songs one at a time now.”
While so many other bands often skirt Boise for years at a time, Styx keep coming back every year. Something Idaho fans are very appreciative of.
“We love playing Boise. That’s one of my favorite towns to walk through. I love walking that whole downtown area. Fantastic music store there – couple of them actually. I love the vibe of that place. I look forward to it. I’d feel like I really missed something if we didn’t try to get back there every year.”
Lawrence also talked about some of his passions outside of music, which song the band hasn’t played in a dozen years that’s going back in the set, and much more. Listen to the entire interview in the video box at left and pick up your tickets and see Styx at the Western Idaho Fair on August 24.