Concert Preview: STYX
FALLSVIEW CASINO: Sept. 29th, 30th & October 1st

     QUEEN OF SPADES…..Arena Rock Renegades STYX will once again stake their three night stand inside the spectacular State of the Art Avalon Theatre inside the Falls View Casino in Niagara Falls, Canada.
     It’s hard to imagine it’s been nearly four decades since STYX was formed in the Chicago as they continue to be a Tour De Force throughout the year; they just finished up a summer tour with Progressive Rock legends YES.
     It hasn’t always been the “Best of Times” for the “Blue Collar Band” but the resilient rockers have survived trials, tribulations & tragedy with co-founding member CHUCK PANOZZO & longtime bandmates JAMES “JY” YOUNG & TOMMY SHAW steering the ship through storms that would have capsized most vessels. The past decade as seen the Band enjoying some smooth sailing as they nurture their past while managing to blossom musically with the additions of Drummer TODD SUCHERMAN & Bassist RICKY PHILLIPS along with our neighbor from North of the Border the enchanting LAWRENCE GOWAN.
     When the Scottish Born Canadian breed musician joined STYX in 1999 he stepped into a celebrated group of players that had successfully weaved their epic three part harmonies, combo crunching guitar chords & spellbinding keyboards into a theatrical spectacle rivaling that of QUEEN. Even today, people have been inspired by Styx to find guitar teachers with the hopes of playing music like them.
     GOWAN stepped away from the legendary solo persona that garnered him a plethora of awards in his own right as he seamlessly synthesized his keyboard prowess & sonic voice into the already established Band. Whether it’s the transcendent musicianship he brings to the Band or the spirit that is GOWAN he has become a “Cornerstone” member of STYX ever since.
     The Rock Rapport caught up with LAWRENCE last week as STYX was getting set to Rock the Chapparal Center in Midland, Texas.

Ross CAT- Hello LAWRENCE as always Thanks once again for taking time out from your extremely busy schedule for the Rock Rapport.

GOWAN- Certainly Ross always a treat to speak with you.

Ross CAT- As always there’s so much to cover with yourself & STYX; lets begin with an honor bestowed upon you this past spring from your hometown of Scarborough Ontario, you were inducted into the Walk of Fame talk about when that means to GOWAN.

GOWAN- I know people in Buffalo are aware that Toronto is a massive city with the largest borough being in Scarborough which has a population of well over a million people and were I happened to grow up after moving there from Glasgow, Scotland as a boy.
     Last year I got this message through the office that the Walk of Fame committee wanted to talk to me about my induction to which I was ridiculously honored. I say that because it’s not the type of thing I’ve ever put any thought into; after it all sank in I thought WOW has it really been that long, do I actually qualify. (Laughter)
     All kidding aside it truly is a great honor, the thing I like about this particular accolade is that they don’t just honor entertainers or athletes they honor people from all walks of life who’ve made significant contributions to society. One physician made great strides in cataract surgery while a plastic surgeon became a strong proponent of donating their spare time to helping the less fortunate afford surgery to repair things like cleft pallet & burn victims.
     Quite frankly I thought to myself what the hell am I doing here, needless to say being honored along side such wonderful human beings was very humbling to say the least.

Ross CAT-While your hands may not have physically touched persons in despair or need your music has obviously touched their spirit & souls in times of need; so don’t sell your musical contributions short my friend.

GOWAN- It’s funny you do find out how much music permeates in peoples lives & just how much it means to them. There are countless times when I get to speak with fans that tell me “I saw you play here or when I got this record it helped me through a crisis in my life”. So yeah when I’m lucky enough to participate in such events as that I’m reminded just how much music means to people.

Ross CAT- As someone whose gifted as a songwriter & performer like yourself what does it take to stir your soul musically?

GOWAN- I guess as a musician I certainly listen to music differently, during my downtime I like to shut down the analytical side of the brain when listening to something to see if I’m enjoying it or not. For me the ultimate test is if something is getting you up the spine; I tend to be more straight forward when I hear something I like I don’t really care if it’s the paradigm of what I’m supposed to like, whatever that means. That’s the beauty about music you can thing you’re an expert but what it really comes down to is what emotional level does the music register with people. As a writer it’s a vibe that you try to send out there that you hope meets a receptive body.

Ross CAT--A very cool twist to the ceremony had the Randolph Academy Choir singing “Strange Animal”, now that must have sent a tingle down your spine.

GOWAN- Absolutely that was the highlight of the day for me a very memorable moment. It was a total surprise to me as they flash mobbed it coming in from all angles it b Black T-shirts & Jeans and sang “Strange Animal” & “Criminal Mind”.

Ross CAT- Before we get into the STYX shows this weekend lets dabble a little more into your solo career. In 2010 you released GOWAN “The Return of the Strange Animal” CD/DVD which marked the 25th anniversary of the celebrated master piece.
     After almost thirteen years in STYX most fans are aware of your solo success do you think the CD/DVD & the recent award bestowed upon you have heightened that awareness?

GOWAN- I think so, all the border cities in the Northeast have so much in common as far as cultural references so places like Buffalo knew of my music. What I did notice after the release of “The Return of the Strange Animal” and the subsequent live shows I did in Niagara Falls was the abundance of STYX fans in the audience that would have never come to a GOWAN show had I not been in the Band for as long as I have. To have those fans embrace me in a new way was really great; knowing that STYX fans wanted to delve a little deeper into my musical past and get a point of reference as to how I ended up being in the Band is really gratifying.

Ross CAT- The release also spawned a couple of sold out weekends at the aforementioned Falls View Casino; tell us about what it felt like bringing those songs alive again after really only performing a few of those gems with STYX since joining the Band in 1999?

GOWAN- It’s amazing how much I enjoyed revisiting those songs again and seeing the new faces some of them in their early 20’s wearing GOWAN T-Shirts really digging it that’s was surprising considering they hadn’t even been born when the record was recorded. (Laughter)

Ross CAT- While STYX is one of the few Arena Rockers who tour beyond the Summer Shed Season; can we look forward to some more solo dates from GOWAN in 2012?

GOWAN- That’s a very real possibility both the guys in the Band and STYX Management are really in tune to those kinds of things especially with TOMMY & I; they’ve really encouraged us to continue to pursue our other musical missions & passions whenever possible.

Ross CAT- While your contributions to STYX both live and in the studio are extensive tell us about what it was like to awaken the “Strange Animal” and perform a two-hour solo set after all those years?

GOWAN- Your absolutely right about that; I Love the fact that I am a front man in STYX for part of the night that’s really the strength of the Band, in fact at certain points of the night we all get step up & take the lead for a little while that’s what makes being part of this brotherhood such a joy.
That being said I had a long standing career were I had to carry the weight on stage for a few hours each night so to answer your question; YES it was really invigorating to be able to revisit that once again and to breath some new life into songs that mean so much to myself and to share them with some old friends while making some new ones.
     I really enjoyed stretching things out both musically & physically, the 80’s were definitely a physical decade which allowed you to get away with things that may not go over as well in today’s live setting.
     While I consider myself to be in fairly good shape, constant touring demands that of you; I will say probably the biggest change I made was realizing that no matter how much I want to tell myself that I can run around and jump off Speakers, Amps & Drum Risers the reality is I can only do so for shorter durations.
     Luckily my affinity for playing Guitar has taken up some of those moments during the set, I’ve had two incredible teachers the last thirteen years in JY & TOMMY so that’s given me the confidence to implement that into the show which is a more visceral way for me to reengage with those songs.

Ross CAT- You brought along a special guest on the solo gigs TODD SUCHERMAN as everyone knows also is the drummer for STYX, was he tuned to your solo material before rehearsals started?

GOWAN- It just made sense since I’ve played with TODD longer than any other drummer in my career, when he listened to the Album he immediately said “I’ll do this”. Being the consummate professional he is he learned the JERRY MAROTTA parts beat for beat, while implementing the intangible elements that TODD brings to the table as a musician.

Ross CAT- Now lets get into the STYX weekend @ the Falls View Casino; the Band has taken up residency annually the past few years everyone must be VIP high rollers by now.

GOWAN- Yeah it’s just such a great venue for us to play, it’s the smallest show we do all year so we really enjoy the intimacy it brings between the Band & the Audience. Having Niagara Falls as a backdrop raises the stakes even more so to speak; while you & I grew up nearby there are people who realize how exotic it is and travel from all over the world for these particular shows.
     Truth be told we all really look forward to these dates obviously for me it’s a homecoming; for the other guys it’s the only time we get to play multiple nights which allows us to be a little more creative with all the various aspects of our show.
     Since we did the Album side tour last year playing “Grand Illusion” & “Pieces of Eight” in their entirety it’s allowed us to expand on our set list.

Ross CAT- That’s a perfect segue to my next question will we be seeing a DVD release of that tour for those who couldn’t catch those epic performances live?

GOWAN –Yes as a matter of fact that’s in the works right now, it’s being edited the powers that be are going through the process of picking out the best live versions, camera angles things of that nature, that should be ready later this year.

Ross CAT- As a performer doing the Album sides must be a challenging venture, I assume that some of the songs from those two Records have either been played live sparingly or in some cases not at all, tell us about putting that show together?

GOWAN- That’s absolutely correct JY is the ultimate STYX scholar when it comes to the history of the Band; there were several songs that had never before been performed on stage. To take some of those pieces of music and play them in order is an entirely different approach. It slots a song like “Come Sail Away” forth in the set when normally it’s part of the big explosion at the end of a STYX show. There’s a different kind of discipline that comes into play in order to play those Records live to make fans feel the Album experience & yet have the Band right in front of them.
     I feel that in a lot of ways it was kind of the pinnacle of what we’ve amassed as a Band over the last thirteen years. To be able to do a show like that and have it go so well has elevated everything we’ve done as a Band since. We have such a crazy wealth of material to draw from and the confidence & validation form our fans to know we can pull off “Castle Walls” or “Sing for the Day” on any given night within any set list and make it work.
     It really is quite amazing to be able to walk out of the dressing room some fifteen minutes before show time and look at the set list and say Yeah we’re playing “Queen of Spades”, as an artist challenging its imperative to challenge yourself and to keep the creative juices flowing.

Ross CAT - It was just recently announced @ that Eagle Rock Entertainment will be releasing STYX Regeneration Volumes 1 & 2 on Oct. 4th. Those were originally only sold @ STYX shows last year but it seems the fans have spoken & the songs will be released in a double disc format.
     Like “Come Sail Away” on Vol. 1; Vol. 2 includes a rebirth of the track “Queen of Spades” featuring GOWAN sinking his claws into the lead vocals tell us about adding your dynamic to the songs.

GOWAN- Well you know it’s a slippery slope basically I try to forget that the songs were ever recorded in the past and approach it as a fresh piece of music. At the same time I’m referring back to the original track to make sure I’m not losing any of the vital sounds or the essence of the original energy. Ultimately we try to strike this amazing balance; especially for me more than any other member of the Band because TOMMY’S recreating is own original tracking so he has that to reference back to. The new element to the classic songs is the inclusion of my voice yet I don’t want it to be so new that people can’t relate to the original STYX sound.

Ross CAT- While DENNIS De YOUNG will forever be recognized as a major contributing member to these amazing songs you’ve brought an entirely different live dynamic to the Band as both a vocalist & keyboardist .

GOWAN- You’re absolutely right about DENNIS he was a major part of that era of the STYX. This is a different era for this Band & several other Classic Rock Bands have grappled with the idea they can continue on with different members & musical ideals. Many Bands have gone through changes for various reasons especially in recent years; even a Band as famous as the ROLLING STONES for example, who I’m still a really big fan of, you see RONNIE WOOD up there it’s very odd to think Wow that was once BRAIN JONES playing those parts and he was such an integral part of that group.
     There are so many Bands that have had to withstand & whether those types of situations many continue to expand & blossom musically, there a lot of people that feel that way about STYX and there are some that cling to the past & will never let it go; there is no right or wrong both opinions are most certainly viable ones.
     The best part about the situation I’m in is that the signature sound to STYX is the three part harmony; when I do have the opportunity to take lead vocals I just try to sound like myself & sing the songs that DENNIS sang as sincerely as I can at that moment.

Ross CAT- Obviously what the Band has done still works at a very high level; it’s rare for a Classic Rock Band to tour as extensively as STYX does year round, most Bands from that era tour during the summer months or in combo packages.

GOWAN- It is unusual and we are very aware of how fortunate we are to have the supportive fan base that we do. For us it’s necessary, it’s part of the vital life that these songs take in a live setting.
     Most importantly I think it’s why we still like each other so much as people after all these years, we share so many triumphs that we have those moments to lean on to remind us that combined this Band is a formidable force. We are very lucky because we are all people & players that are invigorated by touring, which isn’t always the case in many Bands.
     I love the fact that I woke up in Texas this morning and tomorrow I’ll wake up in Salt Lake City then the next day in Vegas after that we work our way back East to spend the weekend with our fans in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Ross CAT- Lets get back to the new STYX Regeneration Vol. 1 & II double disc which drops on October 4th; the Band gets to break out a couple of DAMN YANKEES classics “Coming of Age” & “High Enough” featuring the great TOMMY SHAW; as our friend Terry Gibson put it those songs have been “Styxified”.

GOWAN- Yeah it’s a blast playing them, TOMMY wanted to add those to our live shows which we did; we wanted to do something unusual for the Vol. 2 disc so it made sense to record STYX versions of those great songs. That’s something I never really envisioned doing but man when I saw how well the songs went over live for both the Band & our fans I knew it was a good idea to add them to the Regeneration Record.

     The Rock Rapport as always would like to our Longtime Friend LAWRENCE GOWAN for his time; we would also like to Thank Terry Gibson from the STYX Media Relations Department for hooking us up like he always does.
     Check out for upcoming Tour Dates & to get your copy of STYX Regeneration Vo. 1 & Vol. 2 out next Tuesday October 4th.

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