In 1976, Jeff Porcaro and David Paich, who played together in different high school bands and already are acclaimed studio musicians, decided to form a new band. By Steve Lukather, Jeff’s younger brother Steve Porcaro, singer Bobby Kimball and bassist David Hungate joining them, the band Toto was born. In September 1977, their first self-titled album was released and the debut single „Hold The Line“ rapidly climbed the charts. 1982 marked the most successful year in the career of Toto with their album „Toto IV“, containing their well known hits „Rosanna“, „Africa“ and „I Won’t Hold You Back“. In 1986 Joseph Williams joined them as their new singer and with him they released the two successful albums „Fahrenheit“ and „The Seventh One“. In 1988, Toto embarks on another world tour, followed by Joseph Williams leaving the band. But the Toto story continues in the 90’s as well as in the 00’s. In 2008 the band broke up, but on February 26, 2010, they reunited for a brief summer tour throughout Europe to benefit Mike Porcaro, who suffers from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). The lineup featured David Paich, Steve Lukather, Steve Porcaro, Simon Phillips, Joseph Williams and special guest Nathan East. Now in March 2015 Toto released a new album titled „Toto XIV“. Being on tour with „Toto XIV“, they will have a concert on Friday 29th of May at the Rochkhal in Esch/Alzette and for this occasion their singer Joseph Williams was ready to answer some of our questions.
Hello Joseph and thanks for taking your time for this interview. How are you?
Hi, thanks I’m fine, just at home now in California and working a bit on my house. That’s my main occupation at the moment.
How did the decision to get back together for the anniversary tour come together?
Well, the guys and me, we know each other already since the 70’s, so we never really lost touch. Our ways crossed many times over the years, as we are working sometimes in the same projects together, outside of Toto, as session musicians. In 2010 Steve Lukather (guitarist of Toto) phoned me and asked if I want to join the band again as a full time singer and I didn’t hesitate a minute. Then we went on tour and now we are all excited about our new album „XIV“.
What’s your favourite memory from the songwriting or recording process from your new album “XIV”?
The highlight for me is always the singing as you can imagine, but I like also the process of the songwriting. You sit down, start to work on the melodies, you write the lyrics and then it’s just a great feeling when you’ve finished the song. I mean it’s beautiful to know you’ve created something.
Toto has always been much more popular outside of the States, can you explain why?
It’s mainly because of our management. After the enormous success of the album „Toto IV“ (1982), they focused on booking the band to tour more in Europe and Asia than in the USA. So I guess people in the US lost a bit track of Toto.
Many people always see Toto as a Pop/Rock band, but there are so many different elements in your music like progressive, soul, jazz or world music. Would you agree on that?
Yes, absolutely. I mean we all come from so many different musical directions. Me for example I work a lot on soundtrack music while Steve Lukather goes more in the rock/blues direction. So when we come back together as Toto everybody brings a piece of his solo work experience with and that’s why our music develops in so many directions.
The music industry changed a lot over the last years. People download MP3s, listen to music over streaming providers and there has been the revival of the vinyl records. How do you see that development?
First of all I must say that due to the fact that people download a lot or are listening to music over streaming providers, the sales have gone down, that’s for sure. So touring is now the main element for a band, but it has already been very important in the 70’s. But what we as Toto can always rely on is that we have a very loyal fan base and they will always buy our albums. I also think that this whole vinyl revival movement is a very important development, because people are listening again with more attention to the music. I mean you sit down, you see the beautiful artwork, you read the credits and you listen to the music in a row, rather than just to a few songs. That’s also how you are supposed to listen to an album. Even my daughter who didn’t grow up with vinyl records bought recently a record player. There are many young people out there buying vinyl again, which is a good sign for the future.
The American novelist Philip Roth once said that amateurs are waiting for an inspiration while professionals sit down working hard. Do you agree?
That’s exactly how I see it. You know I learned a lot from my father, he was a hard working man and so am I. Writing music is my job, so I also take it as one. I get up in the morning and I start to write songs, like everybody else gets up and goes to their working place. I don’t see much difference in it. What has changed over the years are my lyrics, nowadays I am inspired by different topics than I was when I was young.
Any last word to our readers?
I am very happy to see you at the concert and a big thank you to our fans, because without them we wouldn’t be where we are now.
Thank you very much for your time and best wishes for the future!
(Interview by Mike Dostert)