By Darryl Sterdan, Postmedia Network
Gowan might not have a criminal mind — but he does have two musical ones.
First and perhaps foremost, the Toronto singer has spent the last 17 years as the frontman for American arena rock mainstays Styx. But when he’s not belting out ’70s and ’80s classics like “Lady,” “Come Sail Away” and “Lorelei” for them, he returns to his own intermittent solo career. And not surprisingly, switching hats is sometimes easier said than done.
“They are very different entities in a lot of ways,” the 59-year-old Gowan (first name: Lawrence) agrees. “I use a different set of gears with Styx than I do with my solo shows. When I’m singing a song like Grand Illusion at a Styx show, there’s a certain bravado of those lyrics that’s a stark contrast to the more internalized and idiosyncratic lyrics of (solo) songs like Strange Animal or Criminal Mind. I have to put my voice in a different place and shift my mindset accordingly.”
These days, he’s shifting more frequently: Along with his Styx gig, the Can-Rock vet is celebrating the digital reissue of two albums from his back catalogue — 1990’s Lost Brotherhood and 1993’s ‘… but you can call me Larry.’ In keeping with his yin-yang creative life, they’re contrasting affairs: The first maintains the synth-heavy prog-rock sound most listeners associate with him, while the latter is an artistic curveball that’s as unpretentious as its title, trading electronics and grandeur for guitar-based singer-songwriter rock.
After hitting the National Post Sessions studio to give us a live sample of his wares, the quick-witted vocalist called up from one of Styx’s 112 concerts this year to chat about Norma Desmond’s beauty tips, yadda-yaddaing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and that time his mullet failed him.
Q: It must be cool to have these two albums back in circulation again.
A: Yeah! There are only six Gowan albums in total. Four of them have been on iTunes for at least 10 years. And there’s a greatest hits record that does include a few of the songs on this album. But to finally have these two available in their entirety is significant. Particularly in light of the fact that on Lost Brotherhood, (Rush’s) Alex Lifeson is the featured guitarist — and he’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame now, 26 years after that record came out.
Q: And it’s all due to that guest spot.
A: (Laughs) I think it is. Entirely. You can draw a line straight back to there and you’ll see that was the turning point in his career — that solo in Lost Brotherhood. And it’s what led him to that riveting speech he gave at the Hall of Fame induction.
Read more and watch Gowan perform with Ricky Tillo at nationalpost.com!