By Darren Paltrowitz - Downtown Magazine NYC
Wildly-popular for decades, Styx is in rare company as one of the world’s top rock bands. In addition to their 16 U.S. Top 40 hit singles, the Illinois band released five consecutive multi-platinum albums between 1977 and 1981. Hits continued into the 1980s and 1990s – including the often-licensed “Mr. Roboto,” power ballad “Don’t Let It End,” and the Gulf War anthem “Show Me The Way” – even though Styx only released five studio albums over the past 30-odd years.
Fast-forwarding to 2016, “classic” era members Tommy Shaw and James “J.Y.” Young continue to lead Styx, while founding bassist Chuck Panozzo still tours on a part-time basis; Ricky Phillips, formerly of The Babys and Bad English, handles bass duties otherwise. Rounding out the Styx lineup are vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lawrence Gowan and drummer Todd Sucherman, who both co-wrote most of the songs on 2003’s Cyclorama. These days, Styx still seems to be on the road more often than not.
When I spoke to Lawrence, the group had just launched another leg of its arena tour with Def Leppard and Tesla. Unfortunately a week or so before their Barclays Center show — scheduled for Feb. 16 — Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliott was saddled with laryngitis, which postponed the Brooklyn appearance, among other dates. Fortunately that New York date has not yet been rescheduled; Def Leppard is set for Jul. 11 at Jones Beach, however.
Lawrence — who is almost into his 19th year as a member of Styx — turned out to be one of the most pleasant interview subjects I have encountered. He is not only willing to answer anything asked of him, often doing so in a humorous way, but he also asks questions back to you. He is also full of anecdotes and references, briefly discussing Better Call Saul and the keyboard-playing of Rick Wakeman during our chat. For those who haven’t seen Lawrence’s “spinning keyboard” setup, it deserves your attention.
Arguably more interesting than the theatrics of Lawrence’s keyboard, however, is that he had a major solo career prior to his joining Styx. Lawrence won two Junos – which are essentially Canadian Grammys – in the 1980s, in addition to the National Achievement Award from the Society Of Composers, Authors, And Music Publishers Of Canada in 1998. His songs have been covered and/or sampled by an interesting array of artists, Akon among them.
I’m very aware of your massive solo career prior to joining Styx. Had you played in New York prior to joining Styx?
Lawrence Gowan: I did a full tour of America, I opened for Tears For Fears in 1985. I do recall playing somewhere in the surrounding area of New York City, but we never played in New York City. I think we played in New Jersey, I remember being disappointed, I thought for sure we’d get to play at Madison Square Garden. (laughs)
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