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Steve Lukather


"It’s the greatest thing in the world to be able to have something to express yourself besides your mouth... which usually gets you in trouble anyway. Shut up and play the guitar."

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Steve: I did a session for a guy named Phil O'Kelsey in Studio 3A with United Western in 1970 ... early '76, I think was my first real recording union. I don't think the record even came out. After meeting these guys, Jeff Porcaro called me, and he goes, "Come down to Studio 55. Richard Perry's studio for Diana Ross. We need a guitar player now. Get in the car and come now."

Steve: I'm going ... I'm still at my parent's house. I go, "Holy shit. Yeah, okay. I'll be there." I grab a little amp, and a couple effects and the guitar and ran.

Steve: I had this lofty dream. Everyone said, "Oh you've got a billion in one chance of making it." And my answer to that was always, "I'm going to be that guy." My dad asked me that when I was nine. I told him what I wanted to do. He goes, "This is a crazy dream man. What if it doesn't happen?" I go, "there's no way it's not going to happen." And he patted me on the head. And I had that kind of drive at nine years old.

Steve: When I started getting a feedback, playing in front of an audience, we played at the fifth grade graduation, place went ape shit. There was screaming, we felt like ... we were like this is what it feels like. And it was the greatest high I've ever had in my life. It's the only moments when I'm on stage for the two hours or whatever it is, that life stops and I'm just focusing on this and the music and getting that across. You disappear in it. It's the greatest thing in the world, to be able to have something to express yourself besides your mouth, which usually gets everybody in trouble anyway. Shut up and play the guitar. I believe Mr. Zappa said that best.

Steve: Ernie Ball's strings, they were the only Slinkys. I just remember the pink pack my whole life. I'd do odds jobs so I could afford a new set of strings. And there was a local music store called Valley Music, and I used to drive my bike there, my Schwinn Stingray, and throw down for a couple of picks and new set of strings to put on my shitty, thrifty drugstore guitar.

Steve: The Toto thing started happening right after the Boz thing or actually right before the Boz thing, in the midst of that whole thing in the beginning of 1977, to the end of '77. '77 was the real breakout year for me. The band got signed, the session thing started happening, the Boz Scaggs gig happened and I was just 19, 20 years old maybe. And that was ... I blink and here I am, 2019.

Steve: David Foster turned me onto Quincy Jones when I was 23 years old. I'd been working a lot with David at that time. Quincy had just come off, Off The Wall and he was getting ready to start his album The Dude. And I played all the guitars on that. And he took a shine to me, and he says I'm doing Michael's next record, I want you on it. I said, "Stop, I'd be honored." And I was thrilled. That's me going ...

Steve: That's all me man. I played bass on that too. Nobody knows that. Eddie gets all the love. I'm just kidding. We tease each other about that all the time.

Steve: Every day I'm motivated. I have a stack of books like this in my office. I have the guitar plugged into a little practice amp in my thing, and I practice every morning. I get up, take my kids to school, come back home, coffee, the place is quiet, got my dog, and I practice. It's like meditation. I want to learn. The days of trying to be the fastest gun in the west, are so far behind me man. There's little kids that play better than me, but I try and refine, find a new note, find a new thing.

Steve: I really do love these things man. I love being a guitar player. I mean, god I've got written musician on my tax returns since 1975 and that was a lofty dream, and I managed to bullshit my way through it. So thanks to everybody else who helped me do that.

Steve: Some of the songs I play in my band I've been playing for 43 years. So I've been around the block, trying to do it weirder every time and then I'm back to, well let's play it like the record. And I'm going, well that's okay, I did that. You never stop, is the point. There's never a point where you're a musician and you go, well, I've got it now. Let's see what's on TV. But because there's always something to inspire and want you to push. There's a drive that's inside of you, that's ... I can't put it into words really. You just either ... you can understand that or you don't. Most guitar players understand the compulsion that we have.

Steve: But man, this has been the greatest thing I could've ever imagined having the gift of being able to hold this and make a living doing it and express myself as a human being through it. As much of a wise ass as I've been known to be, this thing shows a sensitive side, that I can just be angry, happy, humorous and really sad. And this guitar, same guitar, is so expressive with the things you can do with it if you spend a little time learning how to do it, you find your own way with it. But I don't know what I'd do without this thing. That's really the truth.