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Interview: Toto’s Steve Porcaro on their anniversary

Toto celebrate their 40th anniversary with UK tour dates in April 2018.

Celebrating forty years as a band, Toto are currently gearing up for the release of their 40 Trips Around The Sun greatest hits collection, and the UK leg of their world tour kicking off in early April.

The band will be releasing a collection of 17 tracks on the 9 February 2018. As well as their universally popular songs Africa, Hold The Line, and Rosanna, the band have delved into their 14 album catalogue to handpick their biggest hits. The release includes previously unreleased tracks Spanish Sea, Alone and Struck By Lightning, alongside the remastered classics.

 

Steve Porcaro co-founded Toto in 1976 with drummer and brother Jeff Porcaro, vocalist and guitarist Steve Lukather, and keyboardist David Paich, among others. The band soon welcomed the third Porcaro sibling Mike Porcaro on bass, defining the line-up in the 1980s. Toto core members Steve Porcaro, Lukather, Paich and vocalist Joseph Williams have now teamed up with production duo Elliot Scheiner and Gavin Lurssen to work on the release.

Although Steve Porcaro parted ways with Toto in the late 1980s to focus on his studio work, which saw him work alongside the likes of Michael Jackson and Don Henley and go on to work on film and TV scoring, he rejoined the band in 2010. As well as annual tours, he worked on the release of their most recent studio album Toto XIV.

As they now prepare to tour the UK in celebration of their 40 year history, we caught up with Porcaro to find out more about the band’s legacy, his time with Toto, his illustrious career, and what fans can expect from the forthcoming tour dates.


Looking back on your time in Toto, what does the band mean to you?

Toto is home for me. It was where my career was initially heading, and it was such a great first band to have been in. I had my fill of it for a while and took a 27 year break from the band, but here I am back again for the last 8 years or so.

What was it that brought you back?

Steve Lukather and I had been hanging out and my brother Mike was ill, so Steve just turned to me one day and asked if I wanted to do a one off tour to benefit my brother, and I said sure. It was just for a summer, so I said why not. That tour then led to us doing it the next summer.

I was in the middle of scoring a television show, Justified, here in the states but they said they would tour around my schedule, and they did for the next three or four years. So every summer I would go out with Toto and the rest of the year I’d work on my television show. It worked out great.

It was the flexibility that kept you going?

This last go round, yes. They weren’t really going into the studio, it was just a touring thing at that point. So it worked out fine. Then during my last season of Justified they wanted to go back in and record Toto XIV, which I was very much involved with after the initial tracks were laid down. I’ve been kind of full time with Toto ever since.

How did it feel to have that new Toto music out?

It still feels great. The thing is everybody is still on their game. I personally feel like I’m writing the best stuff I ever have. I could be deluding myself but that’s the feeling I have in my head every day. I feel like a lot of the bullsh*t in my life is out of the way and I can focus better than I could before.

Do you think your experience outside of Toto has helped that?

Absolutely, in a huge way. That’s always been the thing with Toto; we’ve always worked with other people. Even in the middle of our career, we’d all be doing sessions for other people. We’d always bring those experiences to the table with Toto.

On your new release, there are some rediscovered unfinished tracks. How was it working on those?

I had done it before on my solo album. It was a demo of mine that I had brought to Toto. We originally recorded it with my brother Jeff on drums and my brother Mike on bass, but it never worked as a Toto song. There was never room for any guitar part, and the lyrics weren’t done. The song wasn’t finished. It was just this thing I had.

I took it out the warehouse and finished the song. I finished the lyrics and edited the song, and was able to use all their songs. It was really cool that I was able to have my [departed] brothers play on my solo album.

While Toto doesn’t have a huge amount of material in the vaults, there were always some tracks that we hadn’t finished. It was always a matter of lyrics for us. Whichever songs had finished lyrics ended up on the albums. There were a few things that were really strong tracks, but they just were never finished. That’s the stuff that we’re talking about.

It was so much fun to work on them. It was just a fab time working on those tracks. We all had big smiles on our faces. It felt like we were working with Jeff a little bit. We had his spirit in the studio again.

 

How are you feeling about the world tour?

I’m very excited about it. There’s going to be some very deep cuts, a lot of stuff that has never been played live from all of the different albums. It’s going to be a treat for the people who are used to hearing the similar stuff.

I mean of course we’ll be playing the big hits, but Toto only had three really huge hits, Africa, Rosanna and Hold The Line. Depending on what part of the world you’re talking about, some things were huge hits in one place but never charted in other places.

So this tour is going to be very different, we are really looking forward to it.

Was it important to do things differently this time around?

Yeah, we listened to the fans on social media. We do like to pay attention to what the fans want. It’s always a hard choice between an accessible show where you’re really worried about the casual listener, and what the hardcore fan would love to hear.

Because it’s the anniversary we are playing stuff from a lot of different records, a lot of records that we’ve completely ignored in the past.

Was it challenging to learn those songs live?

As we speak! What I’m doing right now is trying to remember them. I don’t mind because they are all great tunes, but the workload if very intense. Especially for me, I’m always trying to figure out a way to pull off something we did on the record that isn’t so easy live. I love to rise to those challenges and to use the technology for good.

 

What are you personally looking forward to about being back on tour?

Just to play again, and to see the fans. I love the two hours on stage; it’s what we live for. It’s such an amazing thing to be able to do, to have that many people gather and hear your music. It feels great.

Outside of Toto you’ve had a very successful career. What’s been your highlight?

We just had that great run in the 80s where I worked with Michael Jackson and Don Henley. Things were just clicking. That was a great period. I always look back at that fondly.

But I’ve come to see every period as very important, special and unique in its own way. I’m a studio rat, I love being in the studio. I love working on records but I also love working in film. There’s something about being alone in a studio with all the equipment, and being able to do what you want, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m so fortunate to be able to have made it as my career.

But as much as I love being in the studio, I’m eternally grateful to Lukather and the guys for pulling me back out. I do love performing love. I get to do something I’m good at, and I enjoy it. It’s like a puzzle I’m good at.


Toto will be touring the UK on the following dates:

1 April 2018 – Royal Albert Hall, London
2 April 2018 – Bridgwater Hall, Manchester
4 April 2018 – Vicar Street, Dublin
5 April 2018 – Vicar Street, Dublin
7 April 2018 – Waterfront Hall Auditorium, Belfast
8 April 2018 – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

Tickets for Toto’s 40th anniversary tour are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.

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