By Jeb Wright
Dennis DeYoung is back with a live album that celebrates the music of Styx…all of Styx. Yeah, that’s right, even the stuff written by (gasp) other members of Styx—like Tommy Shaw. And it’s damn time!
If Styx without DeYoung still prances on stage and sings “Come Sail Away” and “Lady” then why shouldn’t DeYoung without Styx belt out “Blue Collar Man,” Renegade” or “Foolin’ Yourself”? Well, there is one reason…Dennis can’t belt that stuff out and make it sound right. He’s just fine on “Suite Madam Blue” but we don’t want to hear him do “Crystal Ball.” Enter August Zadra.
August was discovered singing and playing the Shaw era tunes on the modern day classic rock replacement player training ground known as YouTube. Dennis saw Zadra and knew this could be the guy and, in fact, he was. Zadra can sing, play and he looks like a golden haired rock god to boot! DeYoung brought the man onboard and resurrected the entire Styx catalog!
It is not just the Shaw penned Styx songs that make Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx Live in Los Angeles a huge hit, as Dennis performs the Styx songs, his Styx songs, that Styx won’t play including “Show Me the Way,” “Mr. Roboto” and “Babe.” He also kicks his rocking songs in the backside as well and sounds amazing doing it.
This is truly a night of Styx music that will satisfy any fan from any era. The only thing better would be guys named Shaw, Young and DeYoung together on the same stage!
In the interview that follows Dennis opens up about his decision to play the songs that he has left dormant for many years, as well as schooling this writer on how a band pays for a tour and what a bitch it can be to get visual rights to one of your ex-band’s songs.
Jeb: Originally Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx Live in Los Angeles was not done just for a Frontiers Records release. This was for a television show.
Dennis: I will tell you the story. It began with AXS-TV coming to us and asking me if I wanted to play live from the Grammy museum. As much as I would have liked to have done that, it is usually done acoustically. My manager, Tim Orchard, and I liked the opportunity to demonstrate who I am in the traditional Styx rock idiom. I said ‘idiom,’ not ‘idiot’.
AXS had recently done John Forgerty and Ringo [Starr] at the El Ray [Theater]. We decided we wanted to do it that way. Seeing the rock side—which is what I do—is important in so far as the previous DVD was the orchestra show, which was grand, but it was not a representation of what I do most of the time, which is what you see on this DVD.
We went there, and Frontiers was interested in a DVD of the acoustic show. We told them we were going to switch over and do it for the traditional Styx rock audience and they were thrilled. Our acoustic show is really entertaining and it is really fun to hear that stuff. But “Layla” would have never been a hit if he would have released the second version first.
Jeb: What made that song was the Duane Allman slide at the end.
Dennis: It was written to be a song like that. Many of the Styx songs were absolutely written to be songs like that. As wonderful as the acoustic show can be, as it is a completely different look at the music, I was bound and determined that we get the rock thing done.
Jeb: This performance includes the Tommy Shaw songs that were in Styx.
Dennis: That is due to August Zadra.
Jeb: I have seen some of the clips online featuring him singing and playing Tommy’s songs.
Dennis: You can’t judge any of that YouTube shit. It is hard to imagine musician’s wanting to be judged by YouTube. I kept telling people, “You don’t know what this is.”
Jeb: Tell me about where you found August.
Dennis: Four years ago, my bass player is quitting and he was the one who sang the high harmonies. I am looking for a bass player who sings high. I am going to go on with the same bunch of guys and just go on doing what I am doing because that’s the kind of cat I am. My son calls me at 12:30 at night and he says, “Wake up, old man.”
I go downstairs and get on the computer and there is August Zadra in a cover band in L.A. called The Grand Illusion. I look at that and I think, “Is that for real?” because he’s nailing it. I had Tim call him up and August thought it was bullshit. He thought one of his friends was playing a joke on him.
We flew him here and we talked, and I said, “Let’s do some stuff.” He was nervous. I recognized it and I said, “I’m hungry. Let’s go have some lunch.” We went and ate and talked for about an hour. We came back and we started playing and I knew he was the cat.
If it were not for him, I would not have done this. Next, I went out and I handpicked guys to make this band the band that would authentically replicate the music and the spirit of Styx. Without that component, without somebody who could do justice to that music, then I would have never done it. I can sing all of that stuff, every one of those songs I can sing pretty good as Dennis DeYoung, but that’s not the deal. You need the guitar player out there who’s got the shit and can sound like those records and he does that. Once again, nobody is Dennis DeYoung and nobody is Tommy Shaw except those guys.
Dennis: I will let you say “but.” You can’t have them together on the same stage, but this is pretty good.
Jeb: I like seeing you playing those iconic keyboard parts on those songs once again. As a fan of Styx, it really is cool to see you doing that.
Dennis: I just went downstairs and I looked at the old albums and apparently I was the one who played on all of them [laughter].
Jeb: Seriously, what took you so long to do this?
Dennis: I think in the original band you had three guys who could perform as lead singers and do their thing. Styx was a very entertaining band to see live. When I first put my band together to do the orchestra shows, the guys that I hired were mostly studio players who I knew would do a fine job of duplicating the music with an orchestra. I thought it was important that I be out front and singing. Otherwise, I thought the show would be a little bit too static if I was back behind a huge bank of keyboards. As you know, keyboard players don’t prance around the stage, they have to stay in one spot.
When I started doing the rock shows, I kept the same band for a lot of years; a lot of the time only using one guitar player. Styx is a two guitar player band, and so I slowly transformed back into a two guitar band. It wasn’t until about four years ago when I decided that August Zadra would certainly play those songs that I wasn’t going to sing with such confidence and authenticity that I could go back and play the keyboards. There was going to be someone out there singing and doing something entertaining and it won’t all fall on my shoulders. We added August and Jimmy, two wonderful guitar players out front, so I feel confident at going back to my role of playing the keyboards. As you notice, I play primarily on the songs that August sings because I am not needed out there.
Jeb: Was it fun to go back and play songs like “Blue Collar Man” and “Fooin’ Yourself?” What about “Crystal Ball”? That song is so ‘Tommy Shaw’ that I imagine some fans might be hesitant to have you do that.
Dennis: You listened to it. What did you think?
Jeb: It sounds damn good, I have to admit.
Dennis: I didn’t jump out and try to do this in the very beginning. What I did was four years ago decide to put together a band that would recreate the sound and the spirit of the band. This is not just about me playing my songs. It is about that thing. So, when I had the confidence to do that, I just felt that we could do any song. I would listen to him sing it and think, “Ok, he can do that one.” When it came right down to it, he can do all of the ones that we needed him to do, and what it told me was that this is really what the fans want.
You can go on any site… there will be a small group of diehards who will say, “We love the new band better. Who needs Dennis? He was a poo-poo face.” There will be an equally, and I would say more than an equal amount... Look, I will say that anyone who is a fan of the band that has a brain cell in their head wants us all there. If you’re a fan of the Beatles, or you’re a fan of Journey- I don’t care what the band is- if it is possible to see the original guys together, then that is what the fans want and they have said it over and over again. It is just not possible.
Jeb: That is true and it is a good point. They don’t play some of the biggest hits.
Dennis: They don’t play “Babe” and they don’t play “Best of Times” or “Mr. Roboto” or “Show Me the Way” or “Don’t Let It End.” These were hit records. This is not a criticism; it is just a statement of fact.
Jeb: The show just sounds amazing. The mix is perfect. When you got the final product were you pleased? Were you happy to hear this stuff back? In some ways, this is a mid-1980’s Styx concert in some ways.
Dennis: When you have to do the work in balancing everything, seventeen tracks is a lot of stuff and you have to listen to it and you have to figure out which way to go. I didn’t exhale until I saw the two minute promo clip that Frontiers put together where there is a bunch of excerpts from the songs and I am talking about them. When I saw that I said, “Hmmm, yeah, well, ehhhhh…that was pretty good.”
The “Lorelei” thing came on USA Today and I was like, “That’s good.” I am listening to it on my computer, which is hooked up to some pretty nice speakers… so many people listen to music now in what I would consider in the most unflattering situations. I don’t mix this stuff on the shit you’re listening to it on [laughter]. I’m from the old school and I’m just trying to make it sound good on speakers. You remember those things? They were these boxes that sit on the floor and music comes out of them. When I watched that and it translated on the computer, then I said, “Mission accomplished.”
The hardest thing to do when mixing a live album is to make it sound live. I think my number one goal was---once again, this was all mixed to picture. The CD turned out good, and it is a miracle because I mixed it to picture, and they are two different things. What your eye tells you is different than what your ear tells you. When you look at something, there is an expectation of what it should sound like by the environment you’re looking at it in. It is just the way that it works, and it is a very odd phenomenon. I didn’t have the time to do two separate mixes.
“Rockin’ the Paradise” and “Too Much Time” are the only two mixed to audio only. There is difficulty in getting the rights to songs. There is a whole thing you have to go through to get the rights to any song that doesn’t belong to me. I couldn’t get the rights for “Rockin’ the Paradise,” so that is why it is not on the video. The other ones I was able to get, and “Too Much Time” was the last one I was able to get. I didn’t think I was going to be able to get it, but it happened at the last minute, which was a great thing to happen at the very end of this process and I was very grateful to be able to do that.
Jeb: Explain how that works. Why is that song any different than the others?
Dennis: It is very complicated. Let me explain this to you. You see people talking about stuff like this on the Internet all the time and they know nothing. People spout stuff all the time on the Internet and I have to keep from getting myself up off the floor from laughing myself silly. It used to be that this kind of conversation was limited to the local tavern not anymore.
Here is how it works: You or anyone else in the world can record any song ever written by anybody on a record or CD. As long as it is just recorded music then you can do that, as long as you don’t change the lyrics or the chords appreciatively. In order to put it into another medium such as film, TV commercials or a Broadway musical, any time it appears in another medium then it is up to the songwriter or songwriters to grant permission- that is how it works. Let me be more clear, because it is not always up to the songwriter, it is up to the publisher.
Sometimes songwriters have control over their copyrights. The Beatles never did. Those things are up to the publisher to use in any way they saw fit. Some artists got smarter and that is why some of the compositions that I have written I control completely, and some I do not. The ones that I do not are in the hands of the publishing company as to whether they will give you what is called a synch license to synch music up to picture, and that is how it works.
Jeb: Those two songs are on the same album so what is the big deal?
Dennis: It is a synch right and a synch fee has to be paid, and it has to be negotiated and it is a very long and arduous process; it is not like magic. Many people who write things think that somehow, incorrectly, that these things happen magically. They do not.
I am very grateful and thankful to have the opportunity to record those great songs all in one package so Styx fans can have that. The night we did it, I was trying to decide if we should do “Born for Adventure” because I have the rights to do that one. We’ve got a great arrangement for “Born for Adventure,” but at the last minute I chicken-shitted out. It is my one regret on this package. All of the people are out there, and it is a one shoot situation, and all of the cameras are out there and there is no real rehearsal. I just didn’t want to risk it. I felt risk-adverse, and now I am sad I didn’t do it, but it is still a pretty good collection of songs.
Jeb: As a live album, the set list works very well... Even the track listing and the song order ebbs and flows and makes the show flow well.
Dennis: A set list is the second most important thing you can do in a performance. The first important thing you can do in a performance is to have the songs to play. You can take the same set of songs and put them in a different order and the feel of the show will be completely different. There is an art to having an arch to a performance.
AC/DC does not have this problem, as they have no arch. They start at a level and it stays. They do that thing that they do, but bands that are eclectic in their songwriting, a band that has some rockers and some ballads… you have to be very careful, because if you don’t get it right, then there will be more pee breaks than you want. “I am going to get a beer. I will be back.” You want to keep them spellbound.
Jeb: It does work; I am not kissing your butt. We’ve done enough interviews that I would still talk about it if I didn’t think it was good. To be honest, I am very satisfied with this effort.
Dennis: I am glad to hear that and that has been one hundred percent across the board from anybody who has seen this thing. They have said that it is very satisfying and they love the energy in the performance. The joy that this band has in the performance of these songs is not faked. There is no ‘going through the motions’. These guys like each other as people, and they love playing these songs together on stage, and that is what comes across on the video.
Jeb: Is it bittersweet that Styx used to be that way and now you had to get a new band to get back to this feeling?
Dennis: Every day that I take a breath... I gave my entire life to that band. I thought about that band 24/7 for as long as I could remember. It was my whole professional life. If you followed my solo career, then you will see that I never gave a quarter of the energy to my solo career that I did to Styx. I never wanted a solo career. I like being in bands. Consequently, when I look at this, yeah, I mean, you know, Styx was that important and that vital in my life. There is no way that you can simply walk away from it. It is there every day, because I am obviously in competition with the thing that I was very instrumental in creating… am I not? I am in competition with myself. For the fans, there are two choices when they fly the friendly skies. It’s bad enough that I have to worry about Foreigner; I have to worry about my former band mates as well. We are all grabbing at the same pie and we are trying to get our slice.
Jeb: At the same time, this is not just you playing music. This is a band, yet it says your name and not a band name.
Dennis: By contract it has to say that.
Jeb: You are not a dumb guy; you must have a method to your madness…
Dennis: I wish I had a method to my madness. I just make stuff up as I go along, that’s all I’ve ever done. Even the idea of doing these shows came to me originally when Tim Orchard called me up out of the clear blue sky and wanted me to do the orchestra shows. I wasn’t going to do that.
He was a promoter at the time and he is my manager now. He said, “I will put the money together to do it as I think you’ll sell some tickets here in Chicago.” That is how I started this whole thing. I had just been relieved of my position in Styx and six months later he called me up and asked me if I wanted to do this. I didn’t even have a job, and I wasn’t even looking for work. What has happened to me in my solo career over the last 14 years has surprised me at every turn. I didn’t really go after it. Tim dragged me through the entire thing kicking and screaming because I kept telling him, “Who the hell wants to see me?” I couldn’t be convinced that anyone would want to come and see me by myself.
In my solo career I never toured. I thought, “I have no history. Who is going to want to see me?” Let’s face it, Mick Jagger is a bigger name than Dennis DeYoung… that appears to be so. If Mick Jagger goes to your town to play a Mick Jagger concert he is going to play a nice 2000 to 3000 seat hall. If he comes in with the [Rolling] Stones he is going to play the Enormo Dome.
People don’t confuse Mick Jagger with the Stones and they certainly don’t confuse Dennis DeYoung with the name Styx. Those are brand names, the Rolling Stones and Styx, and people have come to expect something from that. As I ventured out on my own, I thought, “This is never going to work.” That was my belief. It was not false modesty; I kept telling everyone at every turn that they had to be crazy. The first live album that sold so well in Canada, Tim twisted my arm to record the show as I wasn’t going to do that. We have to put up our own money for this as there is no record company anymore. I said, “I’m not going to waste any money on Dennis DeYoung. Who the hell is he?” Tim convinced me to do it. This has all been a bit of shock and a surprise to me.
Jeb: Is this a band, or is it your band? Are you a member of the band or the leader of the band? How does this work? Are they hired to play, or is there a creative back and forth thing?
Dennis: My band. Well, I bring the guys in and I say, “Here is the template. It’s not that tricky. Here are the songs as they were recorded.” We look at the 1996 tour, as that is what the band is all about. I tell them, “We want to capture that.” I allow them flexibility in what they play to an extent. We don’t want to get so far off course that we don’t deliver what people are expecting. As far as creativity and interaction, yes, we do some things that Styx didn’t do. We come up with different ways of doing different songs but essentially we stick to the template that is proven to be successful. There isn’t any collaboration because there isn’t any need for it.
If we ever do an album together than that will be a different story. Jimmy Leahey played guitar on 100 Years from Now. He played acoustic and lead on there. We had collaboration on that. Kyle Woodring who was the drummer then, may he lay in peace, and the band I had then had input because that was all new material.
Let’s face it, everybody knows what the Styx songs sound like and it is my responsibility, in my opinion, to give them that. People say they want new music, but then they don’t go buy it, so it is all bullshit as far as I am concerned. The diehards will buy it and I appreciate them. I tell them when I meet them, “Thanks a lot. Now go away because I can’t have a career based on you.” They don’t want to hear that and they think I am arrogant, but it’s true. We all want to be masters of our own domain. We want to do whatever comes to our mind creatively, but there is a thing called ‘an audience’. You know what you call a band without an audience? You call them ‘homeless.’
Jeb: You addressed it in the show. Times are a bitch out there... Try making money writing about music.
Dennis: Let me just tell you this, and I think we’ve had this discussion before and I don’t think you were a part of this group. All of the imbeciles in the rock press that hailed the digital revolutions with file sharing and all of that as the ‘final straw against the man’, who were the record companies, I said, “You must be crazy. Do you understand what is going to happen?” You just wait, this next decade will be the end of the end of the end of the old business model. Musicians cannot subsist on live performances alone, because in order to get people to come to your concerts they have to have knowledge of your music, which is what radio and video used to do. Now, when you’ve got a million choices, which the Internet is, you don’t have any choices. Nobody can decipher amongst millions. You get too much shit sent to you and you can’t possibly deal with it all. Every Mook can now make a record. I say that with great respect to all the Mooks.
Jeb: You told me once that you were lucky to just exist in the right time.
Dennis: I lived at the greatest time in mankind to be a musician, never before and never after have so many cats and chicks had the opportunities that we had.
Jeb: You are entering a stage in your career that is new in the rock realm. Are you able to reflect back on things? Are you sad the way the industry is, or does it make you mad, or is it just the way it is?
Dennis: I’m sad for the future. I can’t be mad because I got mine. I would be a pig at the trough if I was mad. I’ve gotten mine, but it’s everybody else coming forward that has to be concerned. Ultimately, and I can be wrong but I don’t see any way out of it, ultimately it is the consumer who will lose. There is something to be said for the collective… the best way I can say this is to say this: Seventy-Four million people watched the Beatles and that just ain’t happening ever again. There is no collective zeitgeist.
People will still be making music but there is no way that people, by and large, can make livings at it. I used to read that they will make their money on the road. How? The people that write this shit have never put together the sheet for the accountants to figure out what this all costs. Who puts the stuff on the stage? Who pays for the meals? Where is the hotel? The numbers don’t work. You have a lot of bands touring from the old days because you know their music. There are not tons of young bands touring all the time. Will you tell me what that is about? It’s because they can’t afford it. If they make a little money off of publishing and their records then they have a little cash in their pockets and they are willing to risk it.
Styx funded every one of our tours. We risked it. We went and got a loan and we put the money out there. Everybody did that. Where do you think the money came from? You think we pulled it out of our ass?
Jeb: I thought it came from the record company.
Dennis: No way. Once in a while record companies would give you some tour support, but no way. No, that’s a misconception. Record companies were in the business of records, not putting up money for tours. Listen to me, write this down…bands, at least we did, had to go to the bank and we had to float a loan. We would mark down on the calendar on what show out of the hundred shows you would do, that that loan would be paid off.
Jeb: I was not aware of that.
Dennis: That’s called risk. In order to take that risk- we were able to take that risk- because we were selling some records. Somebody was sending us some checks in the mail so we could have a life.
Jeb: You don’t need money off of Live in Los Angeles as you have a good life…
Dennis: I don’t intend to get any either [laughter].
Jeb: Why bother then? Why do it? What is your goal to do this?
Dennis: In this case, it was imperative for me to express to all of the Styx fans, “Do you see that guy? That is that guy. In case you’ve forgotten, this is who I am and this is who I was.” That was the motivation to do this, to have the opportunity to dispel any and all discussion to the contrary.
Jeb: It is my opinion this performance is really alive. It is damn good.
Dennis: Just go online and watch the clip of “Grand Illusion” and you will see what I am talking about. You saw the old band didn’t you?
Jeb: I saw you with that band at The Moondance Jam in Minnesota.
Dennis: That is a different band than I have today. That was the band that was hired to do the orchestra shows and then we would get a few rock shows thrown in and Moondance was one of them. We only had one guitar player on that stage at Moondance. This is very different from that.
Jeb: In 2014, the lyrics to your songs are very important to today’s world. I am not talking about the love songs because love is timeless. I am talking about “Grand Illusion” and “Best of Times.”
Dennis: Look at the “Rockin’ the Paradise” lyrics.
Jeb: I don’t know if you realize this, but they are spot on in today’s world.
Dennis: You want to know why? I think it has something to do with what is true then is still true today. Listen to the lyrics to “Show Me the Way” for god sakes. “You wake up this morning and turn on the news.” The world that we live in and the world I was talking about then somehow none of that has changed. I am not sure why, but maybe in a hundred years from now it will be the same.
Maybe some of these lyrics that I tapped into were just human nature. I was writing about situations that I thought might have been unique to a time period, but they turned out not to be. I spent a lot of my career talking about America both metaphorically and literally. The country doesn’t seem that much different to me; only worse. Here is what I mean by worse: I look at our country right now and it is the world, but I see things through the eyes of Americans first and foremost. I see a country, dare I say this, which is so self-absorbed with the façade, with the way that you look... A country so self-absorbed with being entertained to death. I am concerned. I shouldn’t be, because I am part of that system that provides people’s entertainment. Never in my wildest imagination did I image a world where people would have to be constantly diverted from the realities of life. That is not only with music, just look at drug use...
Some people say that drug use is down and so on and so forth, but the loss of good paying jobs in this country has really hurt this country in so many ways. Once again, the same reason that I was able to have a long and fruitful career was due to the business model that was really constructed after World War II, when the entire world was in shambles and we were the leader and had no competition; that world is gone. That is what is happening in this country. People want to blame many different things, but it really is, more than anything, the lack of decent paying jobs for the vast majority of people in this country. They are being forced by overseas competition to confront a new reality, and the American Dream as it was once purported to exist, has become more and more difficult for the average person to see his way clear to achieve and I worry about it.
I always say I should write a song called “Everybody is looking down.” I shouldn’t say this as everyone will be writing in. Everyone is looking down at their phones. Nobody is looking up. Metaphorically, we are also not looking up, we are looking down. There is nothing in that phone that is worth that shit, including “Come Sail Away.” This sounds like heresy to not listen to my music. I am not saying that. What I am saying is that everyone needs a balance.
I fear that technology has made us machines to save our lives, machines de humanize. From Mr. Roboto, the problem is plain to see: too much technology. It seems true to me. I could be dead wrong, but I don’t even carry a cell phone as I am afraid Jeb Wright might call me. I can see the trap of the Internet, easily. That can become reality to you, because the places you can go on the Internet are astounding. The things that you can absorb is crazy.
I just came up with this theory, and I don’t know if you even want to print this because it’s a crazy theory. Dog ownership had gone through the roof over the last ten or fifteen years. Both things, having dogs and being on the Internet keep us from having too much interaction with other humans. Young people have dogs instead of children. Dogs are great because you feed them and you have unconditional love. Human beings are a piece of work. As I’ve said, technology puts too much power in the hands of individuals, and trust me Jeb, I’ve met some individuals that shouldn’t have all that power, including me. This is my theory… Every day you wake up---here are two things that dawn on me. Here is the news flash tomorrow on CNN: Today Jones Widgets just announced that it was NOT hacked. That will be the news of the day, which business was not hacked. It’s insanity.
Jeb: It is in line with the Roboto concept.
Dennis: The problem with Kilroy was that it didn’t have “Renegade” on it. It would have been a hit. All we needed was “Renegade.” Here is a song about banning rock and roll, as I look back on it, who was the asshole that decided that without some big rock songs on that, and we didn’t have it. I was overwhelmed with the coming trend in music in 1982 and 1983; the music business was changing radically. Being a keyboard player, I was somewhat swept away with all of the techno stuff. It was the thing, and being the keyboard player I went, “Hey look, I can be a star too.” No longer did we have to put up with all of these guitar players.
Jeb: I appreciate your honesty. I do respect what you do. A lot of people who like the harder rock side of Styx like to sell you down the river. I tell people that they should hold on, because I’ve interviewed nearly every member of Styx multiple times and that there is something about DeYoung that is very interesting. Does that make you feel weird I would describe you like that?
Dennis: I take it as a compliment. Here is what it is: I was a Beatles fan. They were slave to no fashion. They wrote whatever damn song they liked and in whatever style they wanted, and they put it on their records… and the only judgment was if it was a good song. That is me.
I love AC/DC, particularly with Bon Scott. I love a good hard rock song. I love anything that is great. I cannot be a slave to one style of music. It is just not who I am. I could give a shit about the style. If it is good then it is good. There are those, and I know this for a fact, they like one thing. I don’t denigrate them for that, but that is just not me.
If I was writing “Whole Lotta Love” or if I was writing “All Right Now” or I was writing “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” they would have been on the records. I wasn’t capable of it. It isn’t that I didn’t want to. You know what I wrote? I wrote “Lady” and I wrote “Come Sail Away” and those don’t suck. That is what I do.
What was good about Styx is that we had guys who did some of the other stuff. I am a man that if you looked at the scope of my songwriting I am only interested in the song. There was a time that I wanted to belong to a particular club, and that was kind of like the full prog rock guys. We were never genuine prog rockers. I like European classical music and the way it can integrate into rock music, I enjoy it. I love singing “The Girls Got Rhythm.” Really. I can do a fairly good Bon Scott for like sixteen bars and then I have to go to the throat doctor. That’s my take. The songs that you got from me that people really like are generally one of two kinds: they are proggy or they are ballady. That’s me, that’s what I do good. I wasn’t in the mood to be shoving down mediocre rock songs down people’s throats to achieve some homogeneity. I wasn’t into that. I was interested in one thing, and that was getting the best song I could get onto a record.
Jeb: Let’s end with something about this album. When you see this concert and you watch yourself and this is a look back at your career, what really comes to mind? Looking back over the career at this point with this new product coming out, what do you ponder upon?
Dennis: Unfortunately, I never thought I would have to have mixed feelings, but it is impossible not to in some way. I look at that catalog of work and I feel very proud of what we were able to do. I think at no time should anyone ever, for any reason, besmirch that. We weren’t the Beatles. We are not in the top echelon of all of the top rock bands ever created, but we were solid. We stood for something, lyrically… I think our lyrics are vastly underrated. There were other bands who have terrific songs and are still very popular, but they are essentially singing about love or having sex after the show. It is either a rock and roll song about one of those things.
We had our loves songs. I am the guy who wrote them. There was so much more to the band than that, and I feel proud of that fact. We stood for something that I thought was positive. When you come to my show, and I can’t speak for the other guys, but when you went to a Styx show you left feeling good. We were life-affirming as a band. Life is so hard that we can use life affirmation from time to time and we need that from our performers, as well as to have them tell us things suck.
Jeb: This is a personal question from me. Are you now able to walk away and think, “This is my career now… I am not in the band Styx.” Are you okay with that?
Dennis: [long pause] I guess to quote Tommy Shaw, “Never say never.”