25.06.2019, Sopot

TOTO - All In

40 Tours Around The Sun DVD
40 Tours Around The Sun

Nowa płyta TOTO
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© 2002-2020 Julia Stoff

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wywiady > wywiad 28

28. Wywiad z Lee Sklarem z marca 2007r.

Where and how did your history with Toto begin? Where and how did you get to know them?

I've known Steve [Lukather] since I think he was 19 years old. We did one of his first recording sessions in Los Angeles he did as a studio guitar player. With Simon I did some records over the years and Greg I also worked with over the years. The only person in the band I have never worked with before - even though I've known about him - is Bobby. This is also my first chance to meet Tony. But we have different "pieces" of history together over the years.

So have you played with each other in Los Angeles over the years or do you "just" know each other.

The most work I have done is with Steve [Lukather] and that was always in studio projects. We´ve never really had the chance to play live together, other than on a couple of very small occassions. So this is pretty much a new adventure for me with these guys, but I´m loving it as we have a great time together.

How and when did he get involved in Toto Network as this is a pretty new thing for musicians?

The thing that happened is that Scott Page is a very, very dear friend of mine and I've know Scott for many many years and for maybe the last 5 or 6 years at least he has been telling me about this new technology that he and his partners were working on. And when they decided to start testing this technology having been friends with TOTO for so many years himself - so all this goes back to Jeff as Jeff has been the one who held all of this together - Scott kept telling me about this and he said "look, we are putting up this site, would you like to be a correspondent and work with us on it"? And I said "this sounds great to me, let´s see what it is all about". That´s been probably a good year now that we've been doing that where I has been sitting there, throwing in content and being involved. And the kind of last thing I ever expected was to find myself sitting here right now with the guys. That´s quite contentious to be putting little movies out and jokes and kind of being involved at that level. It´s kind of a very large circle that we just travel.

It´s funny that you have ended up on the other site now...

It´s very very strange, I have very mixed feelings about this whole thing. Because I am very proud and happy and excited to be out here with the guys and I am terribly sad that it´s because Mike isn´t feeling well right now. I told them - when they called and asked me if I would do this because we have been in the Studio doing Steve's record - and they said "could you do this?" And I said "I am here as long as you need me". If suddenly Mike feels good in 6 weeks and says "Get outa here, I'm back" I am going. If he needs a year, I will give him a year, whatever it takes. To me the most important thing is that he get back to a 100% feeling good again. I mean I consider this is his band, I haven´t joined TOTO I am helping out during a time of duress for the group. And I am glad I was able to do that for them.

So now you have done a couple of shows with the band. Is your approach the same as on the first show or have you already altered stuff.

I think now it´s getting comfortable. The first couple of shows I was - we only had 2 rehearsals for this - so the first few shows, I was quite nervous in terms of just don´t screw up and try to play the songs. Now it´s starting to settle down where I can now start to play more than think more. And certainly when you are standing there and look over your shoulder and Simon Phillips is sitting there it doesn´t get much easier than that. He is such a delight for a bass player to play with, his vive and his facility are so wonderful. It makes my job really easy on that level. I think Manchester was the first night I have really felt like "I played the show." I didn't get through the show I actually played the show and it was a great feeling.

Do you still think you will change and develop things during the tour or is it's now at the level where you think this is how it´s to play.

I don´t think that I have ever played a show on any tour or anything I have ever done where I feel "this is it". I am always try something every night all the way up to the last night of a tour. We do that with Phil Collins too, we are experimenting all the time because there are several things you always have to remember. One thing is, it might be your 100th show, but it´s that audiences first show that night you always have to play with that in mind, but you also have to try to keep yourself entertained. When your are dealing with musicians of this calibre, nobody settles for anything, they are always pushing and try new things and sometimes you screw up but you screw up because your are trying and not because your are getting lazy. So I anticipate that the set itself is set, but I think the performance of it will be different all the time. Because if you are getting a show like this, there´s a lot of sound cues, a lot of lighting cues, so you can´t be real loose about it, like "let´s not do that song, let´s do this song". Most big tours, like when I do Phil's, it's the same way, we rehearse and come up with what we think is really an entertaining, good set and that´s what we play, maybe change 1 song during the course of a tour. And this set feels great, this show is really a handful. It's a....... Simon and I look at each other at the end of the show and we are wet, it´s like "wow, this is a killer" ... from his solo on it´s like you are running a marathon. It´s exciting, I never get pushed like this. I keep telling them, "kick me as hard as you want, I will kick you right back".

It´s said that you only had 5 days to learn the set, is that true?

Pretty much.

This is really hard to believe...

Well, I always tend to work best under pressure and that was as much pressure as I have ever felt. I mean, it´s not like B.B.King calling you to come up and play the blues which I wouldn´t take lightly, but still that´s pretty much 3 chords on the songs. But the first time they sent me their performance from japan last year so I would know what the set was and I sat and listened to it and I thought "oh my god". Because having known the guys as long as I have I know what their songs were, it´s hard stuff, it´s hard music and there is a lot of thought in the writing and whenever I was driving to a recording session I`ve been playing these CDs in the radio in my truck while I was going to do other things as I still have all my other work going on in L.A. too so I would come home sometimes maybe 10 o'clock at night and I sit there until 3 in the morning with headphones practicing and it became a challenge but I promised them I am gonna do this and so I'm gonna do it and they seem very happy with how it's going so I don´t disappoint anybody.

No, all the fans are also so happy, they praise your praying...

That´s great, I haven´t seen any reviews.

Oh, they are fantastic, you really should check them out.

Oh I will ...

So have you already had any funny experiences or stories to tell on tour?

Every day is a funny experience with these guys. Especially Luke. He is like... he is a funny man. On one hand you are dealing with maybe the worlds biggest kid, but on the other hand you are daling with a deeply thoughtfull introspective, kind, and gifted person, to me he is really entertaining just because he's such a dichotomy on many levels.

But each day we all get up in the morning and start laughing when we see each other and having a good time. One of the blessings of this is that it´s a great group of people to be around. I have been on tours with some people soon as you see them in the morning you go "Oh god..." Personalities are personalities. This group is blessed with a group of guys that all really care for each other and it shows interest travelling together and being on the bus being in airplanes together, there´s no ego involved or anything and to me that´s a real blessing. This is a hard enough job at it´s best, but when you start adding those kind of bad elements to it then it just becomes you kinda go "I'd rather stay home and work in your garden" and this kind of thing. But nothing earth-shattering yet in terms of stories, if there are any I`ll contact you and we will post them on the site. I may have to edit them first.

So how would you compare playing live with TOTO to other acts you have toured with especially Phil Collins, which is also a huge production.

Well, what I like about this, the thing I am enjoying is, it´s small. I mean the production is big but the band is small. And it´s been a long time... the first final farewell tour I was doing with Phil has been 17 people in the band. And then I have been touring with another singer, Lyle Lovett in the States, and there´s 18 in that band. It´s kinda really nice to be out with a small group of guys, there´s more of a chance to dig in. You don´t have to be so completely defined because of so many parts. Production-wise this feels like any of those shows. The crew is very very good, very proffessional and that makes life very easy. And it´s fun for me because Luke´s guitar tech on this tour, Jeff Banks, when I started with Phil he was with Phil. So suddenly I walk in and I have seen the guy I have toured 15 or 18 years ago. It´s a great bunch of people, and Frank, the caterer... my biggest fear is getting fat on this tour. If you have a bad caterer it´s really easy to loose weight but this guy is fantastic... you have to push away from the table, otherwise you would be eating for an hour, and you'd have to be carried onto the stage like Jabba the Hut. It´s great....everything about this... this is as good as this business can be as far as I`m concerned.

You are doing a lot of sessions, do you prefer going out live with a band or do you like being in the studio. Like being able to get home.

I think, if I can get it balance, that´s the best but if somebody came to me and said "you have to make a choice either be on tour for the rest of your life or recording" I would take touring. I like playing for people. It was different many years ago in the studio. You would go in and recording with a room full of musicians and everybody was kicking ideas around and trading ideas and evolving and developing songs. Now I spend most of my time going to people's houses and they´ve got their pro-tools rig and I am just overdubbing bass on stuff they´ve got. The energy and the excitement that was once there isn´t there. It occassionally is like we did Rod Stewarts last record, a classic rock covers and we cut that all live, live band, Rod sang live, and we all looked at each other and said, "This is the way it used to be." It was really exciting, fun, you got really experiments in the studio but I love an audience, I love playing live, so if I had to make a choice, that´s what I would take for sure. But in the studio for Luke's record, we had a great time. And I am playing with Abe Jr. on the drums who I know since he´s a little kid, he´s not a little kid anymore, he´s a big man and Luke, I mean there´s so much talent in this guy, it´s sick... and pretty insane.

But this is a musicians' record, so I guess it´s very different from the usual industry records that are put out these days.

Yeah, it´s not the kind of formula stuff like the flavour of the month record. This is the kind of thing. I mean it could be from an audience standpoint if they allow it to be because it´s very accessible, but from a record that musicians enjoy I think it´s great. Because what he does...every guitar player in the world you ever talk to, as soon as you say Steve´s name, it´s a reference, that comes with it, just like Steve Vai, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, there is this core of "the top guys" and he certainly is right in that top group so I feel really privileged that he called me to work on his record, he has the choice of every bass player in the world.

He knows you are the best probably.....

I am very honoured by the relationship...

So, for the musicians among the TOTO fans, can you tell us a little bit about your equipment you are using?

11 years ago I met a guy at the NAMM trade show in Los Angeles. His name is Sheldon Dingwall and he is from Saskatoons, Saskatchuan, Canada, and he came up to me in the hallway and he handed me a bass and said "would you try one of my basses" and as soon as I picked it up I fell in love with it.
There´s a man in California named Ralph Nowaks and he came up with a concept that they called the Nowaks Fan Fret and what it is is rather than the frets are being parallel on the bass they are sort of parallel in the center and then they spread out so that - I have a 5 string - so that my B string is 37 inches but the G String is 35. And the whole concept behind that is to treat it like a piano. On a piano high strings are short and low strings are long. And as soon as I picked it up it was like "this makes total sense". I have my old 4 string that I use in the studio most of the time but this thing has become my main road instrument and if need a 5 string in the studio it´s what I use. I´ve got actually 2 of his basses out here, one´s a backup in case anything happens. And then I have been dealing for a number of years with an amplifier company called Euphonic Audio. And they are from Princeton, New Jersey. And I have an amp called IM 800, it´s a power amp, I have two of them in the rack, one is a backup in case anything happens. And I am using 3 cabinetts, 2 of them have a single 12 and the other one has two 10´s. And I love their stuff, it sounds very hi-fi it´s not the kind of bass that´s big and booming and fills up everything, it´s very very defined. And then I use, we're blending "Groove Tube Brick"???? that´s a microphone that I'm using as a brick box, and then we're also blending that with a Direct SOMETHING amplifier. And...we are using that one to get a little more fingersound than the other one. But that´s Front of House so I am not gonna hear that, so I don't know what's going on. I throw my trust in the house mixer.

I don´t have any pedals in the line or anything like that, it´s just the bass, the cord, and the amplifier that´s pretty much it... I try to keep it as simple as I can, life is too complicated -- no need to make the bass complicated.
And I use, just to finish it off, I use GHS makes the strings that I use and they're stainless steel they called Super Steel Round SOMETHING. For the bass guys out there, I use a 40/58/80/102 and I think it´s a123 for the gauges on the strings and I have to order them special because of the lengths are unusual on them so I contact GHS and tell them I need if for the Dingwall???? and that´s what I get from them.

And my strat is the best guitar I ever used, and it´s a company in I think from Washington called Eyeland they made the best strats in the world.

So you are using the 4 string mostly in studio and the 5 string on the road, is there a special reason for that?

Well, like with these guys, a great deal of the songs, or the the performance I heard Mike was using a 5-string so I felt I have to use it because that´s what he´s using. I've tried to get as close to Mikes part as I can and then put my personality in to it but for the sake of the band I wanted to be as close as I could so that they wouldn´t be hearing anything jarring that was totally different to them. And for the audience too, they kind of know in their head what they want the stuff to sound like cause they live this music so much so I tried to get as close as I could. I tend to be not so much let me say old school, but I really love 4-string and my 4 string has a tuner on it so I drop my E string to a D string. But I always had a 5-string with me in the studio, I usually carry a bunch of different basses to the studio. I have a Hoffner, a Yamaha, a fretless, a few acoustics, and things like that

I tend to judge by the song. As soon as I hear the song, then I know which bass I wanna use on it. But my old 4-string is just rich and warm and I`ve probably used it on 90% of everything I have done in all these years with it and it´s like finding old slippers in the back and it´s like "oh god, that feels good". It´s covered with autographs, and the horn that comes on the bass, right at that horn there´s a Jeff Porcaro signature, there´s Carlos Vega, Larry London, all these drummers I´ve loved... kinda go to work and hold it every day, pretty great.

So you've worked quite a lot with Jeff back then.

Yeah, especially through the 80´s, we did hundreds of records together. I used to write in my calender if there´s a lot of projects, I don´t even know what the project was, but I will write Jeff if I knew he was on the date. He was one of my favourite people in the world. If I knew that I was gonna be spending the day with him I never cared, we did some of the worst records together and had the best time. He was a blessing both as a musician and as a human being. No single day goes by that I don´t think about him and I go to where he is buried quite a bit. There's a bench there, and I sit there quietly by myself and reflect a bit and tell him how much I miss him.

Is it a weird feeling for you now to play Jeffs songs with Simon or does it feel comfortable you know because Simon is a great drummer in his own respect who doesn't try to copy Jeff.

Oh, Simon is Simon. No it´s not strange, especially under these circumstances cause I never ever played these songs with Jeff. My feelings with Jeff go to a completely other place. The only live things we ever did together was two radio personalities in Los Angeles called Mark & Brian. They have a live show and every year they do a christmas show on 5 a.m. at the Hollywood Palladium. And it would be me and Jeff and Scott Page and Skunk Baxter, Steve Lukather, all these guys, Tower Power of Horns and we all get together and backed up all the different people that would have come in to this crazy show that we would do. And that was pretty much the only chance to play live together. Jeff and I mainly worked in the studio together. But in terms of TOTO the only drummer I played with was Simon. I mean I can listen to the old songs, but I can´t think about that, I think about what Simon´s doing. And certainly if you working on a scale from 1 to 10, Jeff and Simon are sitting right there at the 10. Simon is as good as drummer as any drummer on the face of this planet. Better than 99%, in that very thin cream at the top. I mean I sit there, when he takes his solo you just go "That's unbelievable". His facility is so staggering... It´s lots of chops but with taste because I know of guys with lot´s of chops and you hear them for one minute and you're sleeping as it´s boring but he is not boring, he is quite entertaining and a funny funny funny man, a real character.

Now you´ve played on so many records, so many different styles all this different music, what do you like to listen to personally when ou are driving in your car or so.

Talk Radio. Just to keep myself angry. Because most of it it´s so bad. (laughs) No, I really tend to listen to classical music more than anything. Like if I have a long drive to do, I love to put on Appalacian Spring or something, Erin Copeland , Wagner. Chopin, I don´t care. I was classically trained when I was five years old and I find I can really get lost. But I still love and drive around and listen to Hendrix and Cream and Clapton. I feel blessed that my career has taking me into almost every genre of music. I really enjoy it all, it depends on your mood. Sometimes I just put the radio on and if I hear some Country it´s good, I enjoy Polka Music if it´s done well, why not, it´s all music. I am very broad, very eclectic, in my taste. But if someone says "Who´s that?" I don´t know who it is. It´s only enjoying, that´s all I care about it.

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