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Toto back out on tour

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For over three decades, Toto have enjoyed overwhelming success, releasing 18 albums and selling more than 35 million copies. With hits like "Hold the Line", "Roseanna" and "Africa" under their belt, Toto has guaranteed their relevance.

Over the years, each band member has doubled as a session musician and combined they have contributed to more than 5,000 albums with combined worldwide sales totaling over half a billion copies.

Last year they headed out on a 35th anniversary tour and released their live album/dvd, The 35th Anniversary Tour-Live In Poland.

Toto kicked off another North American tour this tour where they are co-headlining with Michael McDonald.

The tour will be making a stop in Windsor at the Caesar Windsor casino on Sunday, August 31.

Recently, I caught up with Toto founder/keyboardist David Paich who was happy to talk about the tour, the band's new album and reflecting on their years together.

Q: Are you looking forward to getting back out on the road?

David: I am. It's been awhile.

Q: What can people coming out to the shows expect?

David: Well they're gonna hear some of their favorite hits and they're gonna hear some more obscure things too. There will be some of the progressive rock stuff so yeah, there's gonna be a few surprises.

Q: You are co-headlining with Michael McDonald. How did that come about?

David: Well we've been friends with Mike for years. We've played on some of his records and he's played on some of ours. We've just been musical colleagues for years. We've always talked about trying to do something on the road together. So we ended up having the same managers as him and they said why don't we make it a reality. We tried it last summer and it was really fun and successful and we thought let's try it again.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about this tour?

David: I think just going out and playing with my friends and my colleagues that I grew up with. My buds that I grew up in high school with: Steve Lukather, Steve Porcaro and Joe Williams, and also seeing a good friend, who is our original bass player, David Hungate. He is going to be joining us for the tour as well.

Q: You've been celebrating your 35th anniversary together as a band. What has been your best moment as a part of the band?

David: I think just the fact that we made it this far. We can't believe it's been thirty-five years and that we still have all these fans out there. We actually made a dream come true for us. There's so many people that we love and appreciate. Toto has kind of been the soundtrack for a lot of people's lives out there. I mean we go out and there are people who have named their child after one of our songs or gotten married to one of them. It's really kind of great the way a band's music helps fans commune with the artist in the live arena.

Q: What was the original goal when you started the band?

David: Well we kind of tried to do what we're doing here now but we never thought it would last this long. I mean maybe ten years is a good stretch for a band and twenty is like asking too much but to be in the 35th year is crazy. I mean there's Bruce Springsteen and The Stones, who are on their fiftieth and I mean we were kids when they started! I mean we grew up with The Beatles and now Steve Lukather has been touring with Ringo Starr. It's kind of a pinch me moment. We've had a lot of those; we're living the dream.

Q: Is there still a goal left out there for the band?

David: I think it's just to keep making better music and to reach larger audiences. To just increase our demographics and our audiences, particularly people thirty and younger. Over in Europe people of all ages come and see us there. Personally, I'd like to get more into doing stuff for films and tv. I'd like to stretch out into doing more songs for films.

Q: You've gone through a number of lineup changes over the years but you've always seemed to make it work. What is it about this band that keeps you going?

David: I think it's been the fact that the core guys are still here. The ones that were in high school together. We're still buds and everybody's healthy and we're playing and writing better as far as I'm concerned. I'm looking forward to this new album that we're working on. We are one of those bands that gets along very well. We share the same sense of humor, which is sophomoric at times. The people who sometimes come out with us also are friends. Unfortunately, our bass player, Mike Porcaro, was stricken with ALS so we've been doing ALS awareness tours the last few years and some friends have come along with us. Nathan East filled in for Mike out on tour with us. So we have friends who are kind of honorary Toto members and join us in times of need. They are always in the wing to help us.

Q: The band is known for its charity work. Are you currently involved with anything right now?

David: Yeah I'm doing work with Fallen Heroes, which is for police and firemen down here in the L.A.. They work for families of policemen and firemen who are killed in the line of duty. They help provide scholarships and support money in the Oakland area. I've got a few fundraisers for melanoma cancer and again, we're always trying to raise money on our tours for ALS.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the new album that Toto is working on?

David: It's really exciting. It's kind of like the early days when we did our first album. I think we've raised the bar as far as song writing goes for Toto. We've got some nice progressive stuff in this one. It's also got some real Toto-sounding stuff. It just sounds like us. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised.

Q: Do you have a release date?

David: No but sometime in early spring.

Q: Toto has so much material and so many hits that have to be worked into a setlist but is there one song that you never get tired of playing?

David: I would have to say probably "Africa". It always has something that is spellbinding about it. We always seem to commune with the crowd on that one. It's got a kind of sing-a-long chant there. It's kind of a very special song for me because I wrote it with my best friend, Jeff Porcaro [Toto drummer who passed away in 1992]. It's always different every night.

Q: You guys change up your setlist a lot. It must be nice to have the wealth of material to draw from.

David: It is nice to be able to break it up after you've been touring for years. We like to reach out to our fans on Facebook and ask them what they want to hear and what songs they haven't heard in awhile. We try to get interactive with our fans.

Q: You have always managed to keep up with the times as a band. What do you think has been the best things you've done to keep fan awareness up?

David: I think it's staying in constant contact with them with things like Facebook. We talk to our fans and we go on the road and we do VIP things where we welcome the fans to watch our sound check. We owe it all pretty much to our fans. They're why we're still around. Otherwise we'd still be rehearsing in our garage in the Valley area. The technology has put us into direct contact with our fans. They let us know what they like and what they don't like.

Q: What is the hardest thing about being in the music business?

David: The business part of it. The music side is so much fun and exhilarating and there is so much passion but when it comes down to the economics of it and the faction of people who are in the music business for the money aspect and not in it for the music, it's rough. We try to keep a nice balance between that because even Mozart had to get paid! I can't be the complaining, whining artist here. We are very lucky that people will pay us to do our art. We are very fortunate.

Q: Do you have any advice for new artist trying to navigate things?

David: Yeah, don't give up! There's a lot of negativity out there and there's a lot of competition but believe in yourself. That's all I have to tell you. Just believe in yourself. Those are words Michael Jackson used to tell me all of the time.

Q: Speaking of which, you have worked with a who's who of the music business over the years and always seem to be collaborating with someone. Are you working on anything currently?

David: I am! I just finished an album for a sixteen year old avant jazz guitarist that's coming out August 4. He's managed by Quincy Jones and his name is Andreas Varady. He's a Hungarian guitar player who is amazing and plays like George Benson. In fact, he opened for Benson over in Paris. He will be at the Blue Note in New York on August 4 for his debut. It's an album party I think. I think people are going to hear a lot about this kid. He's amazing. I've gotten a chance to work with a lot of great musicians.

Q: How do you juggle it all?

David: [laughs] Well it's scheduling really. Believe it or not, I thought I'd be working less at this point in my life but I'm working more than ever with Toto and everything. Thank god we have the technology with the iPhones and the iPads and stuff to help us kind of be our own secretary with scheduling and all that. It's really just organized thinking. Even for some of us disorganized people.

Q: Do you have a favorite place to play live?

David: Well of course there's nothing like Paris but last year I added Poland to that. It was incredible when we played there. I just can't say enough about the fans there. It was just total mania and it was so much fun. Every time you play a place like that, it's like playing for the first time. It keeps us young. We were really happy with how the DVD came out.

Q: You talked about wanting to expand your audience. What would you tell someone who has had no Toto exposure?

David: We're a bunch of old dudes trying to find relevance in the modern times. [laughing] No, just kidding! I would just say guys that are serious musicians but don't take ourselves too seriously. We still like to have fun and play rock and roll but we try to challenge ourselves and are just always serious about doing our music. We've got really great musicians. When we do put out records I think that they stand repeated listening.

Q: Final words?

David: Yes, I want to thank all of our fans that have been out there all these years. I want to welcome all of our new fans that are going to hear us for the first time. Maybe when we're touring this year. I hope everybody gets the chance to hear our new album. We look forward to coming to your town and seeing you.

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