25.06.2019, Sopot

TOTO - All In

40 Tours Around The Sun DVD
40 Tours Around The Sun

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wywiady > wywiad 26

26. Wywiad z Simonem Phillipsem, z sierpnia 2006r

Simon, with the release of Falling In Between and the subsequent tour, you’ve been hard at work for the better part of a year. Now, 6 months after the release and right in the midst of the tour’s summer leg, how are you feeling?

Well, right now, we are just coming to the end of a 10 week run. It’s been quite a busy year. I started work on this tour on January 11th, and there was a lot of technical stuff to prepare, and I got into that pretty quickly. When we do new songs off any record, we have to get all of the sounds off the multi-tracks, figure out the arrangements, sort out the lyrics …. And of course, then we had rehearsals, as the first gig was February 24th, so yeah, we’ve been going at it pretty hard. Also from a personal point of view, I had a son in June, so every time I went home after the tour, it wasn’t…the most relaxing time, especially the 2 weeks we had off before he was born and especially the 2 weeks after he was born. And then all of the sudden I was leaving home to start this tour and I’m on a plane.

I wouldn’t say the tour has been horrendously busy in terms of back to back shows; it’s the fact that it’s over such a long period of time. It’s a long show; the full show is just over 2 hours, and everything is starting to catch up with us a bit now, and we’re all pretty tired.

But otherwise, we are very pleased with the way that all the gigs have gone, especially in Germany. The German shows have all been really good, and I just talked to our management about the fact we felt that we made all the right choices with regards to the type of gigs that we did accept and the gigs that we declined. I would say that there was one show in Germany that maybe I was a little concerned about. I thought it was too small and I thought we shouldn’t have played it, but all the other shows have been fantastic. So I am very happy... but tired.

Do you feel kind of blessed that you have the chance to travel the world and play live, or is it sometimes like a burden if you have so many shows in a row or so many months in a row.

You know I still love it, I still love it very much. Yes, it gets a bit much sometimes. I guess, the only thing I have problem with playing live is the repetition. We are always playing the same songs. And you would think, that even going out on a jazz tour, like when I go out with my Fusion band or Jazz band, you would think that might be better… It’s not. It’s the same thing; you are still playing the same songs, even if there is more room to improvise. It’s funny that when you play shows night after night, sometimes that improvisation gets too planned out. I love playing when we haven’t played for 4 weeks. And sometimes even though I may be a little out of practice and even if I haven’t touched a drum kit, there is something about playing where it is all very fresh and new.

So, has TOTO considered changing the set, or would it be too difficult because of the pre-programmed lights, etc?

If it were my band and I were running the show, I would do that. Just like The Who do. When we did The Who tour, every night we had a different set list. I mean there was a skeleton set list of course, but every night, nobody would know what the set was until Pete and Roger had discussed it.

That sounds like it could work very well with Toto, especially considering the vast library of material.

Absolutely. But there’s a couple of people in the band who are just not very flexible when it comes to that sort of thing, and they love it to be exactly the same every night. But I would change it. Definitely. I’d say, “Hey guys, let’s do this one tonight.” But you’ve got to be in the right frame of mind and you’ve got to have played those songs not too long ago. But, yeah, I would love that.

How would this work in terms of equipment and effects? Toto is a very technical band; could this fact make it more difficult to play all of these different songs seemingly at random?

No, as I said, as long as we prepare for it, it’s no problem. Same with the sound engineer, same with the lighting designer, if you’ve got good people, it’s just a question of wanting to do it. If you want to do it, it would be absolutely no problem. But that’s the thing about touring, the repetition, night after night…. but I have to say I still love touring and the travelling, especially to new or out of the way places.

As you were recording the album, were you considering which of the new songs would work best for the tour, or was the recording process itself a completely independent process?

Totally independent. I mean, sometimes I think “oh, this song will sound really good live”, but really that’s it. It’s all about the record, producing the record. Some people might think “how are we going to do that live?” and my answer is “it’s a record; it’s totally different to live.” You will figure it out. If you want to do this song or that song, you will find a way. Because it’s different when you watch a band and you have a visual to when you put the phones on or sit in front of the speakers and listen, just like when you watch a movie or music video. There‘s a lot of stuff that you can get away with audiowise that you would notice if there were audio only. So no, I never really think about how it would be live. I just concentrate on the album.

So the set list decision was made later then, when you started rehearsals?

No, actually before rehearsing, we usually figure out the set list so we know which songs to learn. Because you have to remember that some of the songs we hadn’t played, like “Falling in Between.” We hadn’t played that since March the year before, so nearly one year later we’ve got to figure out how we are going to do this song. So we sit down and listen to the CD write down some chords and figure out how to play it again.

In fact for this tour, Luke and I had quite a few conversations before we came to a consensus about what songs we thought would work. Before we met, I sat down and put together a set list, and I started with a skeleton of the ones that I thought we have to do, ones that I thought we should do, and ones we should stop playing because we did them on the last tour. Luke came up to the studio, and I said, “Here’s a set list,” and Luke looked at it, and he was kind of amused and said, “Whoa, okay, interesting, that’s good.” The only grey area was that I knew that we wanted to do a medley, and that was the thing I left empty. I said to Luke “This is your job, you come up with some ideas for that,” and he said “Okay, great” and he immediately came up with something. I put the songs from the CDs in Pro Tools, messed around with them, and together we came up with an arrangement, and suddenly we had a set list before starting rehearsals.

It’s always a good thing to have a clear idea and a vision in your mind about what kind of set you want to play, and we pretty much agreed about all the songs we should do off the new record. Some of the band wanted to do other songs, but I said “Hey look, I don’t think this is really going to work live.” Sometimes we rehearse it, we can play it the first show, and we decide to dump it. You just kind to get a feeling of which songs will work live.

So does this happen a lot? You’ll pick a song, rehearse it, put it in the set, but then after the first show, it just doesn’t work anymore?

Sometimes, yes, but on this tour, we didn’t change one thing, except we were going to do “Spiritual Man.” We actually filmed Dave, and had him up on the screen and it was all prepared and ready to go. However, we had a technical problem and it didn’t quite work out. Unfortunately, other people got involved, and I was trying to mastermind it, but there were just too many people editing it, and in the end, it just didn’t sync up. And when we got to Hammersmith, we rehearsed it and Luke actually was the one who said “hey guys, I am really worried about this, I think this is wrong.” And you know what, funny enough I was caught up in the technical production of the tour, and I was kind of relieved and I said “I have no problem with that.” We were a little behind in our production. Andy Doig, the lighting guy, was behind in his programming for the first show, and we just thought “let’s make it easier on ourselves, we’ll bring it back if we need to.” That’s the only change we made. The rest of the set list is exactly the same. Just the ending of the show we changed as it didn’t work. Sometimes we do a shorter set, but otherwise, that first set list just seemed to work and I am very pleased about it.

So you had “Africa” at an earlier time of the show in the first place?

No, no, we always had it at the end of the show, it’s just how we ended it.

This was a brilliant idea, slowly leaving the stage one at a time.

That was just a concept I had and I wanted to finish the show in a different way. But we couldn’t quite get the ending right - we tried it but it didn’t work. We had a couple of other ideas, and I suddenly thought “maybe we should just do it this way, let’s just go very simple” and it worked, and everyone loves it. It’s a different way to end a show but I am happy that everybody, especially Luke, went with it.

Some people have noticed some changes in your drum kit for this tour

Oh yes they have, haven’t they!

Can you explain to us what you have changed and why you made the changes?

Well, the only changes really are the cymbal setup and the type of cymbals I am using. I think that’s it. First of all, I used to use all A-Customs by Zildjian. We’ve been working on a new prototype cymbal which is a lot more like the 60`s and 70’s vintage Zildjians. Due to the manufacturing process, pretty much anything in the world now, especially instruments, are different. One of the reasons is, they have to be different because the laws have changed, laws of waste, laws of energy. Also demand, they make a lot more now, there is a lot more automation involved.

So therefore I’ve noticed the change in cymbals. A lot of the cymbals I own are actually quite old. Unlike some drummers, I don’t use lots of new cymbals. I prefer my old sets. I take care of them, and I very rarely break a cymbal. We try to keep them nice and clean, but they are quite old. Consequently, when I get new cymbals, they are just so different. I’ve been complaining a little bit to Zildjian about this, so they’ve decided to come up with a new range of cymbals which are more like the old ones of the late 60’s.

They came up with some prototypes and the best way to test them is to use them. And they are different, sometimes I miss a certain sound that I get from the A-customs, but they have something else to offer, so that’s kind of the reason for changing. In a sense, I am field testing at the moment.

And also I changed the set up a little bit. I just do that occasionally. Funny enough, right now it’s like I used to have it long time ago like in the 70’s and early 80’s.

That’s really the only change. I decided to put the Falling In Between symbols on a white head on the front of the bass drums just to keep the theme of Falling in Between a little bit more apparent, and I think it’s cool, even though it’s only the real fans who really pay attention who know what those two signs mean, so it’s kind of cool to see how fans are really into it… and the only other thing I am using on this tour is a new signature snare drum which will come out next year which is a wooden drum.

Well, people notice even the smallest changes

Yes, I was amazed about it…it’s great, I mean I would have noticed those changes when I was a kid. I noticed every little change that Billy Cobham made to his drum kit so I guess it’s the same.

14 years ago, Jeff Porcaro died. When you were asked to join the band, did you ever believe that you’d be with them permanently, now 14 years later?

No, not at all. You’ve got to remember, back then nobody in the band knew what the hell was going to happen. I don’t think anybody really thought that the band would continue. When I stepped in to those rehearsals in August or September, as far as I was concerned I was literally just filling in for those 3 months just to get this tour done and promote the record.

In addition, I was going through an enormously stressful personal time. I was just about to start divorce proceedings, I had left England, which I was going to do anyway. So there was an awful lot going on personally so in a way when I was thinking about whether I should do the tour, it very much had to do with getting me away from reality for a bit. It was so unexpected, of course a lovely chance to play in a wonderful band with great musicians. And do something a little bit different. It was a very interesting time actually, but no, I had no idea that the guys were considering continuing, that they were considering continuing with me, and no, I would not have thought 14 years later I would be in the position I am in the band now.

And what was the situation in 1993, when they actually asked you to stay as a regular member? At that point you probably knew that they had plans for another studio record and wanted to continue with the band.

Funny enough, it was only about 2 or 3 weeks into the tour when Mike started making overtures about me joining the band – to me. And I think while the tour went on and as everybody became more comfortable with how it sounded I think the other guys realized that it was working.

And the fans were very positive about everything

In a way that was probably the thing I least expected. I was doing what I do, which was learning new music and playing it. I have been in that situation many, many times, especially filling in for another drummer, but I had done that before too, especially with The Who.

What I didn’t take into consideration were the fans and the fanbase. I had a little bit of it with The Who, but it wasn’t so profound maybe because the Who shows were much bigger as we were playing to 50-60.000 a night. And apart from recognizing the first two rows at every concert, you had very little contact with fans as there was a lot of security that kept them away. I mean they were outside the hotel and stuff, but I couldn’t believe the amount of dedicated fans that this band (TOTO) had. And I think when we first arrived in Rotterdam, which I think was the third show of the Kingdom of Desire tour I was like “whoa!” I hadn’t anticipated this and I was a little bit nervous, as all these guys were probably following the band for years and are very big Jeff fans. But I felt like I was pretty readily accepted, and I had a lot of fans over here anyway from previous stuff, so maybe some people came to see TOTO who maybe hadn’t seen them before. A lot of fans who would come to see this band would probably come to see the stuff I have done, because if you are into music I think they would have probably recognized me from a Mike Oldfield concert or Pete Townsend. But it was certainly something I hadn’t thought about. I was so concentrated on playing the show, learning the music, doing the job, and knowing it was really tough for the other guys, especially since the band was so tight-knitted too and is more of a family than other bands. So I just tried to concentrate on doing the best I could to make the whole vibe as good as I could for everybody. But I think by the end of that tour, I had a pretty good idea that they wanted to carry on. It just was not official. And they wanted to do some more shows, the US, South America, and they finally said, “Well, we want you to be in the band.” And I thought that this is fantastic. There’s a lot of things I loved about the way the band operated, management and Martin Cole, our tour manager, the crew and I was very impressed about the whole organization. So I thought “yeah, you know what, that’s maybe the thing you should do” and it was great.

How do you explain the fact that TOTO is very big in Europe and Asia but has hard times in the English speaking countries like UK, USA or Australia.

Oh boy, the million dollar question. Here’s the thing. It’s a bit of a knock-on effect. The band toured the states in the early times but not that much from what I understand. The band was broken in Europe from what I understand in Holland., mainly with the help of Alfred Lagarde.

So there was a lot of help from radio stations and the record companies were a lot more helpful in Europe in the different countries too. In the States, after those Grammys were won, there was some problem with some of the people in the band and people in the record company. What happens is that people leave record companies and others come in. And I think there was a lot of political bullshit and a bit of personal stuff, maybe a grudge or something, so Sony, or Epic at that time, in the States decided to try to bury the band. Without the help of the record company in the States you are finished, in the traditional sense. It’s changing now a bit but you really don’t have much of a chance. The band started coming over to Europe and based on the success of radio play and the couple of hits over here, they started playing more shows and bigger shows and they kept coming back and building this wonderful fan base. So I think it just dropped off in the States.

And why did it never really work out in the UK?

The UK follows the States in terms of musical things. If it’s cool in the States it’s probably cool in the UK. The UK likes to think of itself not as Europe, especially in musical terms. Even if the UK does produce some of the worst…best…worst boy bands in the world and some of the kind of bubblegum music, but generally it likes to follow the trends of the US, especially when it comes to rock bands. And therefore if it’s not happening in the States, it probably won’t happen in the UK as it’s not cool.
But if you are doing shows in the UK, they are usually sold out and a lot of UK fans often wonder why you don’t play there more. We can’t sell tickets over there like we can in Europe. When we do a UK show, it’s very carefully and strategically planned.

And it works for this one show, but it won’t work for 10 more?

Yes. The reason we didn’t do another show this year was that we weren’t actually convinced we could sell out 2 shows. Like Manchester and London. If we are playing a bigger place in London, we needed to make sure that this one is a really good seller. And the festival thing, for some reason we just don’t get asked to do the more festival type of shows over there. Yeah, we have a fan base in England, but it’s not enough, unfortunately. Also, because of that, it becomes a logistical problem, it becomes a very expensive problem for us, to have all the equipment, the trucks, crew, etc. then everything and everybody has to get on a ferry to get over to Europe. It slows down the way of getting to Europe and therefore the costs go up. It’s a decision, unfortunately, our management knows it’s not really going to work. Unfortunately it’s a bit of the chicken and egg thing. We can probably do 2 shows, but on this tour we felt best to do just one, however we will probably do another show in the UK next year. I hope so.

And presumably that’s also the problem with Australia, shipping the crew and equipment and everything down under.

It really, really is. It doesn’t really pay off. The reason we could do Australia the last tour was that we were fairly close. Do we make any money out of those two shows? No, we cover our expenses. We really don’t make any money, we just break even. We wanted to do these shows as we did in 1992, so we did them. And we did two large clubs and, boy, were they sold out and we had two great shows. But in order to make money we need to do a lot more shows over there and we need to pull more people then and we’ve got to be somewhere close so that the shipping is not too high. It’s tough.

After you joined Toto, it was more an on and off thing. You did solo projects and tours, as did Luke. This has certainly changed over the last 5 or 6 years, as Toto has been very active. Now we’re hearing Toto have started scheduling dates for 2007 for the 30th Anniversary. Was turning all of your focus to Toto a conscious decision, or did it just happen that way?

No. You know what it is, it’s really the state of the music business. The music business has changed. None of us are really doing any sessions to speak of. Luke and I probably do the most sessions out of the band, and Greg as well, as that’s been his business for a long time. For us, really, the only thing now we do that we can earn a living at is Toto. I run a studio in LA, and it’s REALLY tough. Even though I would much prefer to have the time, certainly, to continue doing some solo records and other things, it just doesn’t make any financial sense. So we’ve got to a state where Toto is “our thing.” There are hardly any sessions any more in LA, Nashville, or New York. It’s come to a much smaller circle, there are less records being made. Budgets are atrociously low – laughable, in fact. You just throw up your hands and say, “I can’t do it!” Not for that kind of money. I mean, it doesn’t even pay for the cost of the studio! So, really, in that scenario, Toto is the only thing we have that really earns a decent living. On the other side, funnily enough, demand has grown. Even our management is baffled at some of the offers we’re getting now, they are the best offers we’ve ever had. We’re actually even having to turn down stuff! We just can’t do it because we’re already booked.

We’ve had half-hearted conversations about moving to Europe, because, really, this is where we do our work. My wife is European, I wouldn’t mind having a house somewhere in Europe and spending a little more time here. And politically, the way the States is going…. it’s not like it used to be. LA is still lovely, and I love the fact that some of the greatest musicians in the world live here, but it’s just not the same. As a place to live in, it’s really changing. And politically, it’s a mess. I don’t like the way it’s becoming so isolated from the rest of the world. I’m a little bit disappointed. I’m hoping that’s going to change and we’ll get some one else into office to shake America up. So…. Europe, there’s a lot more work for us over here.

Luke and I are the only ones that have a solo career, but it still doesn’t make any sense. I put together a tour a few years ago, but I had to cancel it because the offers weren’t paying for the cost of the tour! Prices went up, wages went up, trucking, busses….yet offers were lower. Both tours I did I subsidized, and I know Luke did too. I know a lot of people loved it and we had a great time. Same with the records… It’s a shame. But, I still want to do it from a creative point. But, that’s the reality. So we’ve committed to make Toto our main gig.

So you have thought of solo projects?

Oh, absolutely. It’s all in my head. I even know who I want on the records! And where to do it. But first of all, I have to write material, and that will take a while, at least a few months, and I’d really need to concentrate on it. I can’t do it with all of this touring going on. I do want to record in different towns. I want to go to New York and use some New York musicians. Get some European musicians, and make it more like a “world record.” I really have a concept and idea. It’s just a question of time, financing, and marketing. I don’t think in the future the album, as we know it, is going to exist. So what do you do? Record a couple of tunes and put them on the Net? I don’t want to do all that work and have it disappear in a few months.

You know, with Falling In Between, we spent 10 months making that record. Where is it now? It did very well by today’s standards, but by yesterday’s standards, dismal. So it’s very difficult to know what’s going on in terms of selling music. I think it’s a great album, one of our best. I’ve seen reviews that say it’s the best since Toto IV, but I wish that the sales would reflect that. It’s weird, it just didn’t really have a shelf life.

You know, the way radio has changed so much and the play time is limited, maybe people just don’t know about it.

Yeah. I mean, I know the record will be around for a long time. We’ll look back and it will still be good music. But I wish there were a way to promote a little bit more. It’s been great for the tour, of course, though. The gigs in Germany have been very well attended. You know, how much did that have to do with us doing Wetten Dass, I don’t know.

I think that was really important, not only for the tour, but for the album sales going up for a few weeks.

Didn’t help that much, actually. Maybe a couple of thousand more copies.

Well, there were 16 Million people watching that show, and I bet 90% didn’t even know that Toto were still around. It’s not the Toto audience that it needed to reach.

You know, I’ve heard some interesting things about that show. Because we tried to do something different, we tried to do it live. And some people complained that the sound wasn’t that great, and I thought it really was. And people have said, “Did you play that live?” But a lot of people are not used to hearing Africa with Greg, or especially, with Dave singing it NOW. They’re used to it from 25 years ago. But this is a point we need to make. It DOESN’T sound like that anymore. If I’d had my own way, I would have only played Bottom of Your Soul. But, we were requested to play 2 of the older songs as well. But I’m not sure if the mentality of that was right. Does it matter if people know who the band are? Maybe if it was just the new song, people would have just loved that – maybe it wouldn’t matter that we’ve been around forever.

I also think it would have been better to just play Bottom of Your Soul. It wasn’t necessary to play the old stuff.

I think its’ just better to promote it as a new song, and if people know the band or not, it doesn’t matter. But THEY asked, they requested it. But, it’s very difficult to know what to do all the time, and sometimes we might make the wrong decision.

But getting back to the attendance, in Germany, everyone knows the new songs. They’re all singing Bottom of Your Soul and King of the World. So I guess we’re doing something right.

You’ve worked with Derek Sherinian on his new album – writing, and producing. Would you like to do more of that?

Oh, absolutely! I miss it tremendously. Like I was saying with the live music, the repetitive nature of it, it’s not creative. I love going into the studio and creating something new music, recording, producing, etc. I wish I could spend 6 months touring and 6 months at home. That would be ideal. The last few years it has been impossible. And Derek was asking me to do a lot more than that. I think I mixed 3 and a half songs. I was trying to do 4, and I just didn’t have time. I did what I could, and it just happened that the mixes came together really quickly and they were sounding good very quickly as well. But I started a 4th mix, and I told Derek that that was all I had time for and that he needed to finish it off. The 3 that I did I really enjoyed, and it was really fun. I’d love to do more and with other artists as well. If I have the time.

Are there any plans to re-release any of your old albums because a lot of them are out of print right now.

Oh, yes there are. Well, I do and I don’t. I have all of the rights to the records now, but I refuse to put them out until I have someone who can really invest in some marketing and get them out there. But really, I haven’t had time to do it. I started putting the first record together. It’s not mastered yet, but it’s sequenced. The artwork is almost done. But, it’s all in a pile in the office. I get home and I’m exhausted – I just don’t have the energy. I really want a record company to come and ask to re-release all that stuff. But I just don’t have the time, the energy, or the knowledge to do all that stuff. I like building and making the music; I don’t like selling or marketing it. The only new thing that’s come out is this DVD I did, and it actually came up for an award at the annual DVD awards. It was nominated in 2 sections. Video Independent Label and Audio Independent Label. That was really cool that it got that far. It’s a great sounding DVD. It’s a pretty good looking DVD, but the concept of it was not as a performance DVD. It wasn’t live in front of an audience, it was more live in the studio. From a video perspective, a few things could have been better, but from the audio side, it sounds great.

Do you think that’s the future? 5.1 rather than stereo?

I really wish it were, because I love surround sound. But unfortunately, it’s kind of dying a death already. Surround for theatre is fine, but for music only, it’s a small market. Real audiophile buffs are not into it yet – they still want 2 speakers, and vinyl. I’d love to be doing 5.1 stuff, as that’s what my studio is configured to do. I was hoping to do a lot more of that, but so far, I don’t really see it. I thought it would have a lot bigger impact than it really does. At the end of the day, not that many people really have surround systems. It’s really surprising.

The market is still too small?

Yep, but there is a small market of people – lawyers, doctors, etc – who REALLY need content and who are total fanatics. That’s who we make this stuff for. It’s really confusing, and I’m not sure where the business is going as far as that scenario. But I’m disappointed in it. I had hoped it would catch on. It really sounds fantastic, and it gives you a whole new perspective on the music.

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