Toto’s Steve Lukather still a rocking force

For more of the interview with Steve Lukather, visit The Music Scene blog at AJC.com.


CONCERT PREVIEW

Michael McDonald and Toto

8 p.m. Friday. $56-$96. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499, www.foxtheatre.org.

“If I were any better, I’d burst into flames.”

And so goes the greeting from Steve Lukather — founding member of Toto, master session guitarist, sometime-member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band and one of the happiest dudes around.

Lukather, who is a proud fourth-generation Californian — “But only when I’m not touring” — is an irrepressible spirit.

His history is with Toto, whose radio-friendly hits “Hold the Line,” “Rosanna” and “Africa” are still heard regularly in a dentist’s office near you.

But as well, Lukather is one of the most sought-after session guitarists in existence, having worked with Paul McCartney, Olivia Newton-John, Richard Marx, George Benson, Bob Seger, Cher, Michael Jackson, Roger Waters and an encyclopedia’s worth of other musical luminaries.

He’s also won five Grammy Awards for his efforts.

Now on a break from his current stint in the All-Starr Band, Lukather and the rest of Toto (David Paich, Steve Porcaro and Joe Williams, among other members) will join old friend Michael McDonald for a concert Friday at the Fox Theatre.

In a recent pingponging conversation, Lukather chatted about Starr, Toto’s 35th anniversary and the band’s new record.

Q: You’ve been with Ringo this summer and that tour picks back up in October. What’s it like playing with him?

A: Ringo is in the gym for an hour and a half every freaking day. This guy has more energy than my 27-year-old son. He's the same fast and funny cat that he was in "A Hard Day's Night." He's infectious to be around. I love this guy, I adore this cat! I'm gonna be 57 — I'd be dead if I stayed at it like I was, but it was all part of the process — but now I look at a guy (Ringo) who is 74, and if I live right and I have some luck, that's how I see myself at 74. I'm having so much fun. I appreciate it more. I come out of bed swinging every day.

Q: You’ve played with so many people that I would imagine the segue from the All-Starr Band to Toto is pretty seamless.

A: Toto, we go back to high school … 42 years. We've all known each other since we were 15.

Q: Some of you guys and Michael McDonald worked together in the studio in the ‘80s, but this is the first time you’re touring together.

A: We all have a great sense of humor about ourselves. I was a "Family Guy" and "South Park" character. I laugh at that (stuff). You become a part of pop culture, that's a success. We get all the jokes. That will be good for the between-song banter. I like to make fun of us. We've gotten better, which is the good news, instead of getting worse, so that's good.

But this tour is basically the hits with Michael, maybe some deeper cuts, probably doing 80 minutes. With Michael, we want to give the people what they want to hear. But next year, with the new album, and when we go around the world, we’ll do some of the new stuff.

Q: I thought you recently said that Toto would never record another new album. When did that sentiment change?

A: We got back together to help (former Toto bassist) Mike (Porcaro), who has ALS, one of the most cruel diseases out there. We started having fun with playing again and a new album was born out of some litigation (stuff). The lawsuit changed our minds about doing music. We've been working about six months on it. I said if we're going to do this, let's do it really well. For a bunch of older cats, how many of us get a chance to do this again?

Q: You just released a Toto 35th anniversary DVD and CD. How did you decide to record it in Poland?

A: Poland seemed interesting. Europe is a big, strong place for us. The venue seemed right from a technical standpoint and we recorded the one show, put it out and it went No. 1 all over the world. When it happened organically like that, it freaked us out, and we thought … we might have a shot at this again.

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