Lords of Metal Interview
Sometimes you have to do an interview with a new band you just did a good review about but sometimes you can do Q&A with a star you really admire and who is one of your idols. My love for the band Toto is sometimes so extreme that on some occasions it brings me little conflicts with my Lords-chief. Like he says, sometimes I am more acting like a fan as a professional journalist. I am not ashamed of that, yes, the main reason I do this job is that I am a big music fan. Especially Toto is down deep in my heart and I will take any occasion to help them promote whatever for the friendship I get back. Last year I did an interview with Steve Lukather it was my personal highlight. Since then I mail on a regular base with him and never he feels too much to get back to me. I even have an invitation for one of his shows in my pocket when he comes on a solo-tour. This is one of my biggest dreams that will come true.
Text: Eddy Meuwese
A couple of Sundays ago I was surfing the net when it hit me. I was very surprised there was another Toto guy also coming to Europe for a single performance. More surprisingly was the fact that this performance would be almost in my backyard in a place called Lobberich in Germany, not so far for me to travel. I am talking about Bobby Kimball, singer in the band; he came to Germany to do some guest singing with some friends of him, The Real Groove Band. This all took place in a beautiful castle, the perfect ambience for an ideal night of passionate music. All about this show you will find somewhere else on this site, at this spot I will keep it only to the great conversation I had with this friendly man.
Hi Bobby, first of all thank you for giving me this chance to this interview. First I like to introduce you to my readers a bit more. I would love to hear from you at which age your interest for music began, who taught you to sing and which music and artists influenced you to do so?
Well I started playing piano when I was four years old, had a band when I was eight and I started to playing clubs professionally when I was twelve.
Did your parents support your choice to be a musician?
Actually they really loved it but because I was playing clubs I had to have a note signed by both of my parents saying that it was okay for me going into these nightclubs. Normally all this would be illegal.
Where you already recording-artist before Toto with another band or did all started with Toto?
Actually I always have been in a band since I was eight years old, on a success-level like this Toto was the first band but before that when I first came to I came to Los Angeles (I was living in Louisiana at that time) I started to play with these guys from the original Three Dogs Night band. When their singer left they stayed together but did look for another vocalist. The name of that band was SS Fools and I stayed with them for about one and a half year until I met the guys from Toto.
Did you meet the Toto guys in the clubs?
I met them Jeff Porcaro, David Paich and David Hungate when I was touring with S.S. Fools and even though we had a deal with CBS Records, one day this band just split up. So I was free again and I was looking for something to do. Then the phone call from David Paich came as a blessing, he asked me if I was interested in joining Toto and I said absolutely. I was about twenty-six years old back then.
So you are in fact one of the original members.
Yes, it was right after Jeff, David and David had been recording with Bozz Scaggs, they did the ‘Silk Degrees’ album. Then they started with Toto.
When you held the first real album in your hand on which you did sing, what was happening inside you, what was your reaction?
That would be the SS Fools album and it was fantastic, and although it did not sell that well it still brought us lots of work. It was a great album and still it is.
And the real first success, how did that feel?
That was 1978 and we were not ready for it yet. We wrote and recorded that album in the studio. The next thing they told us that we had to go on tour now. We were really not ready to do a tour; we were still trying to get things together. Our first big concert was with Peter Frampton in the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu. To get ready for that we first went to this small Hawaiian Island called Kauai and we played there for about two weeks to prepare us for that big show. We choose that practicing place because not so many people would go there and our goal was that not to many people would see us at the rehearsal concerts, we did not want that. We just wanted to work on our set there. We played in the Kauai Resort Hotel that period, it was one of those times we had the most fun. When we were listening to the radio over there we noticed ‘Hold The Line’ was on the number two spot in the charts. We felt fantastic when did hear that. It gave us the feeling that Toto has become ?bullet-proof’, hahaha, something like that never could hurt you.
And than the money came in?
Yeah, lot of money, lot’s of fame and many many many ‘friends’, hahaha.
I guess it was a painful situation for you when you were not in the band anymore?
That was a very hard period for me, I felt like a mind running around without a body and I am sure the rest of Toto felt like a body running around without a mind. I knew I did belong in that band and I think deep in their minds they knew the same thing. I think it is very hard to be in a position to have to replace someone who is the original. Than I would think for instance now, if we were in a position that we had to replace someone like Steven Lukather, I would not feel to go on with Toto anymore.
Can you describe me the day the guys from Toto asked you back, what was your first reaction, who did the asking?
It was Steve Lukather who did ask me back in 1999. Steve and I started emailing each other (God bless Bill Gates for that, hahaha) and the next thing you know they asked me to come in and do some singing for new numbers for the XX album. So I went in and did that and after that they asked me to come along on the ‘Mindfields’ tour.
And what did go through your mind then?
Yes, I am back, hahaha. It was fantastic and for sure one of the best times of my live as well one of the worst times of my live was when I had to leave the band. You really learn to appreciate something when you first have lost it.
What is your all-time favourite Toto album and song?
My favourite Toto album? The one we are working on right now.
I am not kidding, I am serious. This one is fascinating! It is complete departure of what we normally do. We are all writing it and is very different as far as what everyone is going to expect. They are going to expect music from the eighties but this going to be updates, this is Toto today! It is really great; we have Greg Phillinganes, David Paich and Steve Porcaro all three playing on this album. Three keyboard-players.
Greg is now the newest official member of Toto, what made the band decide to do this at this time?
Well, he was definitely the choice we all had, he was the guy. For instance he sings very well, he sings like Stevie Wonder when he wants to and plays practically better then all the keyboard-players out there. We are very lucky to have him; he is a real class act and an amazing person. And he replaces David Paich really good when he is not touring with us.
Is David doing well then?
Yeah, David is doing very well, but he doesn’t want to tour so much anymore. It’s hard on tour.
Can you describe the style of the new album?
No I can’t, hahaha, I tell you why. It is just one of things you have to hear! It’s a brand new style. I tell you this, this album is as different as when the first Toto record came out and people heard that sound. It is that different but the playing… it is better. We have all the new technical capabilities, the pro-tools and this gives you a big step up. You know, if you are a new artist or a fairly decent artist, with pro-tools you can make yourself sound really good. But when you are a band like Toto with everyone REALLY knows how to play and REALLY knows how to operate this pro-tools shit it gives us a chance to show the world what we can do. This new album is just fascinating, wait and see!
You started recording back in February and you are still on the job right now. Meanwhile all you guys did solo-shows, clinics, Toto-shows and more. Is this a good way to work on an album do you prefer to do all studio-work in one period without all the other stuff in between?
Oh yeah, we allow each other our freedoms and be ourselves. You know, no one would tell Steve Lukather: “no, you can do your solo-tour” and no one would tell me that I can do this show tonight with this Real Groove Band. These guys are friends of mine and I have a great time playing with them. But I don’t want to go out and play Toto songs. That is reserved to do with those I love most, that’s the guys in Toto, that’s were that music belongs.
But is it not disturbing working like this?
No really not. You know I also want to do a solo-CD but I don’t want anything to conflict with everything that is happening with Toto.
So Toto is the most important for you?
Yes, the first one on the list.
By the way, I would like to know where the recordings of the album finds place?
Simon bought a studio a remodelled it back in January and Toto started in February; we were the first band to record there. He bought that studio from Sheila E.
Do you guys all live in the near distance of that studio?
I think we all are, yes. David Paich lives about twenty minutes from the studio, I am about eight minutes from the studio away, and it’s right in the centre of everyone.
I really like for you to describe a regular recording day from the time you wake up till you go to bed in the evening?
I wake up about six ‘o clock every morning, I like to get up early. I have a lot of things going on in my house. Especially now with the new album happening, I like to stand up early and start writing on some lyrics, then go to the gym and work for a while and do all my daily morning things and we all try to get to the studio supposedly about twelve but most of the times it turns out to be one, hahaha. And then we will work on till somewhere between twelve and six at night. It’s a long time for concentrating it is.
Which record-company is going to release the album?
No other companies?
Well, we have a meeting next week about that, maybe Steve can tell you more when you meet him on his tour. We will be a little bit further into that then.
Yes, and Steve told me that when he comes over he can bring some new sounds with him for me to hear.
Actually what we are looking for, we are talking to several distributors.
You played all over the world; can you describe the differences between audiences from Europe, the USA and Japan?
And South America!
I hear that the fans in Japan are really crazy.
They are different in different ways, they all love our sound. We find that people either don’t like our band or they are crazy for our band, hahaha. You know, there is no middle ground.
When I see images of Japanese fans, I see them screaming and crying and stuff.
Oh yeah, it is totally nuts out there.
And this is different than in America?
No, we have some really crazy fans in America, for instance, we played in New York City at the B.B. Kings club a few weeks ago for two sets on one night and it was just totally nuts, the people were really crazy.
Yeah, I love that club, my wife and I did see a show of The Manhattans a few years ago in the B.B. Kings club, and the ambience was just so cool there. All people sitting at tables having diner or just with a bottle of wine.
Yeah, it is very fun to play there.
What would be one of your best memories of your time with Toto?
I think probably the Grammy’s in 1983, we were nominated for nine Grammy’s and we ended up walking away with seven Grammy’s. No one had ever won seven of them at that time. But Michael Jackson won eight of those the next year with the Thriller’ album but Toto did those tracks, hahaha.
If you ever do another solo-album and you could choose all your favourite musicians who would you like to ask?
I can choose almost anybody I want but I want to be very careful with that because every one of the songs has a different quality to it. I want to use Jeff Babko on keyboards and some others; I have several drummers picked out. I have spoken with Joey Heredia, you know, the drummer who will be playing with Steve on his upcoming tour. I don’t know, for each song I have to pick out the musicians.
And on guitar maybe this guy from Sweden, Tommy?
Tommy Denander? No, I have enough guitar-players right here in Los Angeles.
But you worked with him on the ‘Radioactive’ album.
Yes he asked me to come in, actually I wrote a couple of the songs.
Also on his new one?
No I am now talking about his first one.
What do you think about the Internet, is it a blessing to mankind?
In one-way, yes. In another, no!
The power of the downloading has been one of the killers of the industry but in another way you reach millions people that you normally would not. So we are left to make the money as a live-band and that is our main income. That’s because we are not making the money necessary on selling the CD’s.
What would you like to say to the people who get your work for free instead of buying the original media?
Hahaha, you know, how can I belittle one guy for doing it as several million others are doing it? What do you tell ‘em, you go ahead with it. You cannot stop it.
Your voive is so powerful, it’s your tool, are you never afraid to catch a cold or so?
Always, but it is not a fear, it is something I guard myself up against. I take really good care against this. Because a cold could kill a week of a tour and that could possible kill all the profit for a tour. So it is just not allowed to get a cold. I don’t think that way, I tell myself: “it won’t happen” and it doesn’t. Hahaha, it is not allowed.
Just a little fun now at this part of this interview. I talked to Steve by email, I told him I was going to interview you and asked him what he would like to ask you if he was the interviewer.
Okay, go ahead, hahaha, I can’t wait to hear this. It has something to do with dirty underwear, right? Hahaha.
I had to ask you if you are as well hung as Vin Diesel?
Hung??? Hahaha. You tell him, after twenty-seven years of playing together he doesn’t know? Hahaha. You know, what I want to ask him is: “Steve, how do you know how hung Vin Diesel is?” Hahaha…
He is a great guy.
I followed your recent online chat and you… (and Steve came in too)
Yes, of course he would, hahaha.
…where talking about Koi fishes. Is this your great other hobby?
Yes it is. Actually we are doing this now for three years and I love it. We have a six thousand gallon pond. It is fascinating; we have some really beautiful fish.
Who takes care of them when you are on the road?
My girlfriend, she really knows a lot about fish and I am learning a lot as well. We have a business; we sell Koi fish and Koi fish-products and stuff like that.
I think that is a great way to get your peace I guess?
Yes, that is one of the main things about this hobby. You know, the Koi fish are just like pets; we named each and all of them. There is one of them that comes out of the water and kisses me.
And that one is called Luke?
Hahaha, no that one is Willow.
Again some more fun questions. If they put you on a deserted island and you only could bring three things, what would those be?
Britney Spears, hahaha. Not for singing though. Three things huh? Wow, how big is this island? Well, like this shed we are in for instance.
Okay, I guess the Ferrari is out of the question; there is no gasoline, hahaha
(At this time some of the musicians pass through) “He Bobby, doing an interview?”
Yes it’s okay; you want to say a couple of words?
(Everyone is laughing now.)
Man, this question is tough, it is really tough. You know, when you are end up on an island, you will appreciate any three things you have, hahaha. It doesn’t matter what they are.
Sorry for this strange question but I just felt like asking it. A few weeks ago you played in that Casino in Ontario, how were these shows and did you also did some gambling in your spare time?
Yes, it was a five thousand seater and we played two nights there. It was packed, a great thing to do and we had a lot of fun. I won 1500 Dollars with blackjack, hahaha.
If you had the chance to have one phone call to heaven and speak to Jeff Porcaro, what would you like to ask or tell him right now?
You know, I did not get a chance to see Jeff before he died because I was out of the band. I have to ask him what that fucking blonds name was (Bobby is laughing his ass of now- Eddy) I last saw him with, she was beautiful. No, I am just kidding now, hahaha. No actually, If I would catch Jeff in heaven, ah…
You would tell him about the new Toto record or so?
No, I would not even do that because I am sure he is listening, I am sure he is already here now, hahaha, they told me this castle was haunted, hahaha. I just wanted to know if things were really okay between me and him because we were at odds with each other when I left the band, it was kind of a drag. When my mother called me I was in Ibiza, my mother called me and told me Jeff had passed away, man it broke my heart. I cried like a baby. I mean, not only had the industry lost the best drummer in the world and I lost a friend. He was such a great drumming creator. An amazing guy.
To really end it would be fun if you if you could apply the following question to all your fellow band-members: How do you see …. as a musician?
Oh man, Steve Lukather is one of the most dedicated, in-depth personalities with a guitar. You know, he does a lot’s of things that people have never heard. He is maybe one of the best there is at what he does.
Mike is a groove guy, Mike has steady timing and he kind of brings everything down to the lowest common denominating world. Where everybody can communicate on a one to one level. You know, Mike is some one who sees something and absolutely calls it like it is. You know, everyone is running around screaming: “that looks green”, “Yeah, it is a shade of green but it is not quit green”. Then Mike would say: “That’s fucking green”. Hahaha you know, he is the one who does that. He brings everything to the perfect timing.
He is like the father of the band?
He is grounded, he is very grounded, and he has quit a few children. You know, being a father, he has that kind of image in the band.
Simon is our technical wizard; he is the mastermind behind Toto when it comes to the technical portion. And also he puts together all those things like for instance the music that plays when we are coming on stage, he puts together all of these. And all these drum-loop things, he is in control of the timing of this band.
He is the Magician?
He is a musicians-magician.
David Paich, he is our original wizard on writing. He had the power in creating hits. He is an amazing keyboard-player, you know I play keyboards as well but not around David. Hahaha!
Greg, the newest member:
Probably one of the best there is, you know he has been with Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton you name it. Everyone who is anyone has been there with him. You know whom you played with doesn’t make you a great musician; he is just a fascinating talent. He knows so much of the keyboard and he has perfect pitch. So, he is one of the best there is.
There is one left, how do you see Bobby Kimball as a musician?
Oh, hahaha, very very lucky to be with a band like Toto. I would consider anyone who got to that band very lucky but especially me. You know, I am just a kid from Louisiana who got a break and felt in the right thing at the right time and I love these guys, you know. Okay, now I really have to do my sound-check if there is anymore.