“I felt like I was disingenuous the last time we spoke but we had made a pact within the band not to talk about it until it was a definite thing,” says Styx keyboardist Lawrence Gowan as he discussed the recent release of the band’s first original studio album in 14 years called, “The Mission.” “We all talked about it and we thought if we gabbed about the new record that it may alter it in some way; it was a hard year keeping the cork on that bottle (laughs)!”
“The Mission” debuted in the sixth position on the Billboard charts under the “Top Rock Album” category and has landed in multiple other categories as well ranging anywhere from number 11 to number 45. “Let me tell you, that was a happy bunch on the tour bus when those numbers came out,” he stated with a laugh. “We were very happy and collectively we were all like, “Oh my God we hit the charts” and it was honorably and legitimately. I’ve been in this band for a lot of years and this is the best time that I’ve ever had and that goes for the rest of the band too, we all feel that way.”
A short time ago, the band had been invited to NASA to view a new moon which scientists had named, “Styx” and it was around this time that they had been formulating the new album and began pursuing it in earnest. “We had been thinking of making a NASA type record and we’ve kind of done that. Songs such as Tommy’s (Guitarist Shaw), “Mission To Mars,” they definitely have the feel we were going for. One of my favorite Tommy Shaw quotes is, “There’s no reading required in rock” and with the way these tunes are written there’s a story being told for sure. When NASA invited us to view the new moon called, “Styx,” we started thinking about the unmanned craft that was on it’s way through outer space and the close confines inside of it and I found that it kind of paralleled my life as a musician. We think this new album is that way, people can personalize each song.”
The album’s title is straight and to the point and as the unit wanted, it makes a statement. “We’ve been on the road quite often and it’s not always easy to record and write new music. We often talked about it but we actually got serious about it and made it happen. Originally we were going to call it Mission to Mars but then Todd (Drummer Sucherman) said, “We need to call it just, “The Mission” and we all agreed.”
Even original Styx bassist Chuck Panozzo has jumped in on the recording, lending his talents to the track, “Hundred Million Miles from Home.” “We always hold a place for Chuck,” laughed Gowan. “I think he has now played on every Styx record and that’s great! We always enjoy having him aboard.”
“The Mission” was released on June 16 and there is a corresponding tour that goes along with it; once again with REO Speed Wagon and good friend Don Felder. “To this point the tour has followed the script,” said Gowan with satisfaction in his voice. “We toured with REO, it was one of the best summer tours to date; and Don? Our association with Don Felder has been great! We’re cemented together. We actually become his Eagles for five songs, it’s a lot of fun doing them and we absolutely love it and then of course Don comes out and joins us, it gives the fans a chance to see something a bit different and they seem to enjoy it as much as we do.”
One of the first singles off of the new record is, “Gone, Gone, Gone” an upbeat rocker which features Gowan on lead vocal which is a departure from the original plan. “That’s just the nature of Styx. Whoever does the lead vocal fronts the band. I wound up singing it by accident (laughs), although I didn’t write the song. We tried tommy’s vocal first, then Tommy and I together and then me by myself. When I was done, they all said, “You’re it, that’s the one” and I wound up doing the lead vocal. I don’t mind, it’s a nice change and lets me interact with the crowd.”
The “United We Rock” summer tour comes to New Jersey in August with two stops; the first at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City and the U.S. tour finale on August 22 in Holmdel at The PNC Bank Arts Center. Tickets for any of the Styx concerts can be found on their web site at www.styxworld.com along with more information about, “The Mission” and the band.