Styx still rockin’ in paradise

Summer and Styx are beginning to be synonymous.

The veteran rockers are back on the road with a newly launched tour that pairs them with ’80s radio monsters Def Leppard, with whom they toured in 2007, and opener Tesla (Styx lands in the middle performance slot) and visits Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood on Sunday.

Guitarist-singer James “J.Y.” Young said the band’s hourlong set will include the classics from Styx’s record-setting string of four consecutive triple-platinum albums between 1977 and 1981. That means you’re certain to hear “Renegade,” “Come Sail Away” and “Too Much Time on My Hands.”

Young, who resides in Chicago, and singer-guitarist Tommy Shaw, now based in Nashville, Tenn., lead the lineup, which includes drummer Todd Sucherman (since 1995), singer Lawrence Gowan (since 1999), bassist-guitarist Ricky Phillips (since 2003) and often, founding bassist Chuck Panozzo when his health allows.

Talking on consecutive mornings last week from the Bahamas, where Styx was performing a few shows before kicking off the tour with Def Leppard, Shaw and Young, both self-proclaimed fans of sunrises at this point in their careers, chatted about the band’s extensive career.

Their memories of playing Atlanta:

Shaw: “It was at the Fox where we had our first gold album presented to us, for ‘The Grand Illusion.’”

Young: “I think the first time we played Atlanta was at the Electric Ballroom. We were opening for Joe Cocker in some out of the way places, but we had a night off in between so on our night off we played the Ballroom. We also did a Toys for Tots benefit show in 1976 (at the Omni) with Boston. It was the time when Boston had broken out and (yet) we were headlining. Our goal was always to knock off the headliners (laughs)!”

On determining who to tour with each summer:

Shaw: “There’s this thing people say — it’s not necessarily how good you are, it’s all about the hang. And that’s true because 20 hours of the day it’s the hang … I’d love to play with Bad Company again, we always enjoyed working with them. I’d bet we play with REO Speedwagon and Foreigner again, too.”

Young: “We did some shows with Aerosmith way back when. I’d love to go back and do some touring with them. The Who is a band I would have loved to be on a bill with; I was very influenced by them.”

On being on the road almost every year:

Shaw: “Hotels have gotten so much better in the last 20 years. When I think back to some of the places we’d stay with the sunken mattress and springs creaking. … But I never looked at this as a job, but as job deferral. This is something that I did for free until people said, we’ll give you money to do this … I don’t know if that day will ever come (when we retire). I understand people retiring from jobs they were doing just to make a living, and they didn’t necessarily look forward to — that’s what you retire from. What am I going to do that I enjoy more than this?”

Young: “The concerts are one of the greatest joys of my life aside from being home with my family. It’s the ugliness of modern-day travel that’s the work. I get paid to leave my house and be away half the year. Real life interferes with rock ‘n’ roll sometimes — that’s where the angst comes in from this life. But the concerts wash those things away. It’s a great reset button.”

On the possibility of new Styx music:

Shaw: “We’re always working on new stuff. (The new music) is in the embryonic stages, but it has to take a break when you go on the road. We don’t know when or even if we’ll continue with it. It has to be right. You never stop writing or producing. If we do something, we want it to be really special. It’s just finding the time out here.”

On Styx’s longevity:

Young: “I’m amazed at the repeat customers that we have and the profound impact this music has had — certainly in North America, but I hear from people far, far away that say how much our music has meant to them. There’s clearly a growing part of our audience that is under 30, which is crazy because we haven’t had a gold album since 1991 and a platinum one in 30 years, so these people weren’t even born for our heyday, and yet our music is resonating with them.”

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For more of the interviews with Young and Shaw, visit The Music Scene blog at AJC.com.

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