Steve Lukather

Article excerpt

"MAN, I GRABBED ONE OF THOSE HUGE GARDEN GNOMES FROM THE CASTLE, and I put it on the front seat of our tour bus," exclaimed Steve Lukather, entertaining some Swedish fans who happened to be seated at our table at Benihana in Anaheim, California, during a NAMM 2008 dinner.

"But those are considered national treasures," said one of the young men, who, but a few moment's before, had merely been describing one of his homeland's famous estates.

"Oh, yeah," answered Lukather. "When we got to the border, we were stopped by the army or something. I had to return the gnome and pay a fine. I also had to write a letter of apology to the queen."

Just another road story from one of America's last authentic rock stars.

Steve Lukather is not some phony Ed Hardy-styled action hero representing what Hollywood focus groups consider "rock" in a reality TV world. As a guitarist, he is one of our national treasures. He has performed gazillions of hit-making riffs and solos since 1976, and he still approaches the guitar with all the awe and excitement and passion he felt when his first exposure to the Beatles kicked his ass. He is also a huge personality--a perfect storm of joy-of-life fire, spontaneity, and hilarity. He can party just about any living organism under a park bench (while still being sweet and gracious and totally non-violent), does precisely what he wants to whenever he wants to (without harming other humans, animals, or plants), and, while certain critiques might piss him off a little bit, he knows he has paid enough dues (and garnered enough acclaim) to follow his muse wherever it leads without having to worry too much about how the public might react. And yet, Lukather is modest and self-effacing without a shred of false humility ("I am in awe of greatness, and I'm honored to have been around a lot of it--hoping it might rub off," he says).

This, boys and girls, is how a genuine rock star walks.

Last year, Luke decided to cut his fourth vocal solo album--Ever Changing Times [Ride/Frontiers]--and he retired to room 438 at an L.A.-area Howard Johnson Hotel with some acoustic guitars, a synth, and a crappy cassette deck to write songs with Randy Goodrum, as well as his son Trevor, Stan Lynch, and keyboardist Jeff Babko.

"That's how you write songs that will hold up," says Lukather. "If it works with just a guitar and a voice, then it'll only get better when you add all the cool sounds and other parts."

When the Ever Changing Times project moved to Steakhouse Studios in North Hollywood for actual tracking, those rough demos were the only audio references the other musicians--a crew that included Abe Laboriel, Jr. on drums, Leland Sklar on bass, and Steve Porcaro on keys--were given.

"I wanted the guys to hear a tune for the first time, and react to it in the moment--that's when you get some cool sh*t going down," explains Lukather. "Rehearsals are fine for tours, but they suck the life out of anything you plan to do in the studio. If you trust the musicians' intuition, they will lead the song to the right place. There were some charts for the tunes, and we'd let people fool around with their own ideas a bit before we'd settle into recording, but most of the songs were tracked in one or two takes--and we tracked the basics totally live with everyone in the same room. …