Since emerging onto the music scene in with their self titled debut, which sported the smash hits Hold the Line and I’ll Supply the Love, Toto were unfairly castigated by a cadre of snobby music writers. Their beef? They were viewed as posters boys for corporate rock, asserting that Toto was a group of faceless studio vets devoid of merit, as if superior musicianship, consummate vocal prowess and commanding songwriting skills were a bad thing.
But now decades later, Toto are having the last laugh. Celebrating their 35th anniversary, the new Live in Poland CD/DVD offers fitting testament to their enduring appeal, its soundtrack teeming with hits and deep album cuts. We spoke with Toto keyboardist and chief songwriter, David Paich, who takes us through over three decades of music making.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Toto is celebrating 35th anniversary as a band, what’s the best part of your continued success?
David Paich: The best part of our continued success is our camaraderie and our friendship and the fun we have. We’ve been friends since high school and it’s not only the music that’s the connective tissue that binds us together, but our wacky sense of humor and being able to do this great thing called music throughout the years.
We’re really blessed and really fortunate to have such great fans out there. They keep wanting us to come out and play.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Toto’s Live in Poland DVD/CD shows off the band in the live arena, how does the group take on a different dimension in a live setting?
David Paich: Well, it’s a great thing. I heard an interview with Sting and he was so right, he said that the records are just blueprints for the real music. When you play songs live it becomes this communion with the audience; there’s this audience participation stuff that comes into play.
Just playing in a 10,000-seat arena, the dynamics, and the acoustic and the ambience and the whole spirit it totally different out there. So it’s a whole lot of fun out there and when you play live you find that there’s certain types of compositions lend themselves to a live presentation even better than they do on a record. Listen to Better World on record and it’s very dynamic but when you play that live it’s just epic when you hear the crowd singing along and ten thousand people chanting with you.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Toto has been hard to categorize; on the new DVD it shows off the group’s wide range: you’re adept at rockers, pop, prog rock, ballads AND jazz-inflected tunes.
David Paich: Well, it’s been a real journey with this band. Because of the diverse musicianship in the band we’re able to play all these different kinds of music; pretty much whatever comes to mind for us. It’s been a blessing and a curse. We’re able to do these poppy kinds of things but our souls were much more into the prog thing, which was more alternative, progressive rock stuff. We were way influenced by bands like Yes and Genesis and Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the early days. So the new DVD allows everybody to see this other side of the band.
You have songs like Better World and Hydra and Home of the Brave. We wanted to show 35 years of not just our hits but we also wanted to do some of the fans favorite cuts off some of the albums over the years. We polled our fans and asked them, “What songs would you guys like to hear after 35 years?”
Again, it’s been about the fans; without them we wouldn’t be here.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Toto has always been much more popular outside of the States, can you explain why?
David Paich: I think it’s because we toured a lot more outside of America. The reason we did that is when you have a band of this caliber of musicianship, the kind of show we were trying to do was along the lines of a group like Genesis or Pink Floyd. We certainly didn’t have the money to put on huge shows but we wanted to put on the biggest little show we possibly could with lights and staging. So we had to go where we could economically afford to take all of our gear. We had tons of instruments, especially back in the day.
We were carrying a nine-foot grand piano and Hammond organs and modular synthesizers not unlike ELP, which cost money. So it was more affordable with the offers that we were getting from Europe and Japan to play bigger places over there. And we started out playing big places over there, which was really fun. In America it’s kind of a pecking order and we did that with other bands and other artists like Boz Scaggs and Seals and Crofts. But America is so huge and you have to hit all these secondary markets and then hit all the main cities, which we’d done in our youth touring with all these artists.
So we thought maybe if we went abroad and established ourselves it would help us coming back over here. It’s taken so many years but we’re finally back here doing out thing with our DVD (laughs) and it seems to be pretty popular now. It was number one at Amazon on so I think people are rediscovering us right now in the United States.
Rock Cellar Magazine: You mentioned Boz Scaggs. You co-wrote two of Boz Scaggs’ biggest hits, Lowdown and Lido. Tell us about that collaboration.
David Paich: Well, that was just magical. I was lucky enough to be put together with him by our drummer, Jeff Porcaro, who had been working with Boz. Boz had been producing a guitarist who’d been with the Allman Brothers named Les Dudek. Boz was looking for someone to co-write an album with and Jeff threw him together with me and I was appreciative of that. It was one of the greatest pairings I’ve ever had an opportunity to work with.
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