City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
left to right:  Chuck Panozzo, Ricky Phillips, Todd Sucherman, Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young, Lawrence Gowan Photo Credit: Rick Diamond

Featured Article

51 Years Of STYX

Article by Jason & Jahna Eichel

Photography by Jason Powell, Rick Diamond, Todd Gallopo, Styx

Originally published in Loveland & South Lifestyle

Styx is an American rock band that was formed in Chicago in 1972. The band is best known for their hit songs "Come Sail Away," "Mr. Roboto," and "Renegade," all of which have become rock radio staples. 

Styx's early music was a mix of hard rock and progressive rock, and they gained a following through constant touring and the release of several successful albums, including "The Grand Illusion" and "Pieces of Eight." 

Styx has sold over 30 million records worldwide and has been recognized with several awards and accolades for their contributions to rock music. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, and continue to inspire and entertain fans with their enduring sound and passionate performances. We were elated to find they were coming to Northern Colorado during this tour with a show scheduled at the Budweiser Events Center on February 23rd. We were honored to be able to sit down with Lawrence Gowan and talk about the band's love of Colorado, the Colorado Avalanche Hockey Team, the love of local communities in general and the band's 51 years of making awe-inspiring music. Read on...

LS: We’ve been telling some of our readers and partners that we have an upcoming interview with Styx and you guys have a lot of fans out here in Colorado. Which is probably why you guys are playing at 4 different venues in Colorado including Budweiser Events Center in Loveland on Thursday, Feb. 23. Are there any memorable experiences about Colorado from past visits?

LG: The shows that stand out for us are the 20 years of shows at Red Rocks. It’s so unique on planet earth that such a venue exists and it feels like a very exclusive experience and seals the Colorado experience in our minds. Another great memory we recall is playing with the Colorado Symphony orchestra there! 

LS: Tell us about the band’s Rock to the Rescue charity and what it does to help communities across America. How do you decide who the money goes to?

LG: Rock to the Rescue is something that came about in early 2002 that were stemmed from a series of concerts to raise aid for the victims and families of 911 for 3 years and then revived the mission 5 years later to serve the worthy local causes of the towns we visit. Often enough funds are raised by auctioning off a signed guitar.  

These various cities and towns have supported Styx music for over 5 decades now, it's the 51st year of the band's existence. This is a tiny way we can acknowledge that we are connected and it's a small gesture to connect us to these communities in a deeper way.

LS: We were listening to the new song Reveries, and although the song has a modern sound due to its great production, it still sounds very much like a classic Styx song that can blend in with songs from any of the albums from the past. Is that something you are conscious of when you’re writing and recording new material or does it just happen naturally when you guys play together?

LG: We listen to the classic records and extensively analyzed what makes the classic sound of STYX just that. So when we are writing something new it can have a modern feel lyrically to connect to the modern world but sonically we try to connect it to the classic rock sound that people love so much.

We do it this way for people who've been with the band since the beginning but we also do it for the younger people who weren't even born when these classic albums were made. Yet they love that sound and that way of production and that whole way of putting music together.

At our core it's a band, it's an assemble that has a certain sound that we try to replicate and continue on. If it's going to fit into the set alongside songs like “Come Sail Away” and “Blue Collar Man” it's going to have to connect in a seamless way to that era of music and at the same time speak to people in the current timeframe. 

LS: What has the crowd reaction been like when they hear the new songs?

LG: We found an effective way to integrate new material into the classics, a new piece will come up to segue into a song from the past. People who've loved the band for a long time sometimes think a new song is one from the past that they haven’t heard before. We integrate it…Here's a good example, (the song) "Sound The Alarm" Tommy Shaw sings that song and dovetails it straight into "Crystal Ball" seamlessly without you knowing it's connected to the other. The songs are 46 years apart but one sort of compliments the other and that's the way we build that in.

Chuck and I do a moment in the show where we do a new piece of music called "Lost at Sea" and that immediately flows straight into "Come Sail Away". There are ways we construct the show where you really don't know what era we are jumping into.

LS: You've just given us some of the exciting details for the show but are there any other surprises in the setlist for people that may have seen one of your recent tours that you could share with us?

LG: Every STYX show you are definitely going to hear every song you expect to hear, like "Grand Illusion", "Fooling Yourself", "Too Much Time On Your Hands", and "Lady".  Those are in every setlist so the audience can have confidence knowing that those classic songs they've known for half a century are going to be in the show.

The rest of the show is a surprise, I often don't know what's going to be in the show until the sound check! We have so many choices of great songs to play that people have known for years. I like being surprised when we walk on stage and go “Oh great we are doing these 3 or 4  tonight!"

LS: Does mixing in new material along with the classic fan favorites help keep it exciting for you guys?

LG: It does, it keeps me connected to the overall material and we have to alter things just a little bit every night. Something special and unexpected happens during every single show Jahna to be quite honest. But it’s impossible to predict until the moment it happens. We throw in something unexpected and get a great reaction for it.

LS: From what we’ve read, Crash of the Crown is not a “concept album” like many of your previous albums. However, with song titles such as “The Fight of our lives”, “Save us from ourselves”, and “Sound the Alarm” it feels like there’s a certain theme or message to this album nonetheless. Although some of the tone and topics may feel dark and serious, there’s an overall optimistic feel to the lyrics that makes them sound like they were meant to inspire. Is it important for Styx’s music to have a positive message and feeling?

LG: It’s funny we began this record in late 2019, we had to stop in 2020. I don’t know if you noticed but there was a whole thing that stopped the world for awhile. After the 3rd month of the lockdown and pandemic, we said we better listen to the album and figure out what to do next when this whole thing is over. 

Much to our surprise, we noticed so many of the songs and ultimately all the ones we put in the record hit the theme of renewal, renewal after a cataclysmic event. It must have been a sense in the air that something imminent was approaching. Sometimes as songwriters or even artists, in general, you can kind of sense the spirit that's in the air of whats coming and you write in a way that's connected to that.

We found it very curious that we had written these songs that hinted at this theme of renewal after a cataclysmic event and it was then we realized the album has a theme to it. It's weary of the situation but yet still hopeful and positive about the ultimate outcome. That’s where the crash of the crown came from and then coincidentally "crown" in Spanish is "corona" and we found that very weird that there was that connection as well. We had no insight into that at all we just felt things were shifting and things would be positive in the end especially if the world had the new STYX album to listen to!

LS: When it comes to writing “concept albums” what comes first the overall theme/concept or does it start with individual songs that start to weave together and form a storyline?

LG: Great question, because usually you’ve written one song and you may have done 3 or 4 others. Another one comes along and you realize "oh wait a minute" there seems to be a connection between this one and the one we did 2 or 3 songs ago, there is something complementary between the two.

An example, the album "The Mission" from 2017.  We were invited by NASA to witness the arrival of the spacecraft called "The New Horizon" as it arrived in Pluto on July 5th, 2014.  Out of that Tommy came up with a song called "Mission to Mars". It was a cute little song, I thought it was a good tune we should learn. Another song arrived that he was working on with our producer and the two just seemed kind of connected. Then we got together with producer Willy Evankovic and did the song "Radio Silence" and suddenly there was a theme of space adventure and exploration that eventually became "The Mission." The whole idea where they go on a NASA-led mission to Mars where instead of coming back to earth they continue on and go as far as they can go. That was the general theme and we connected all the songs to that. 

The songs kind of says to us "Come in this direction keep coming this way". Then other songs begin to connect to them in a rather esoteric way but ultimately they hang together as one complete statement. 

 LS: Your previous album 2017’s “The Mission” is about a manned mission to Mars in the year 2033 and the 1983 album Kilroy Was Here also touched on futuristic concepts. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about the future and what place do you think rock music has in the future of music?

LG: That's another great one! ! I remember even as a kid in 1969 with all the predictions “rock is dead” and then a bunch of songs in the 1970s, Jethro Tull and The Who on the death of the rock age.

Here we are in 2023 I believe it is and rock music did not turn out to be the transient experience we were led to believe back then. Proof of that; On any given night half our audience was not even born when these rock albums were made. They are singing along and you look at that from the stage and you say "Huh, I guess we were wrong this is the big musical statement of the last half of the 20th century". People are still relating to these songs and seeing themselves in the little narratives that go through them and they are every bit as alive now as they ever were. 

I don't know as far as the future goes, I have a feeling rock music will be played 100 years from now, just like Jazz is still played 100 years after. Or the fact that people just saw The Nutcracker and that was from the 1800s! I'm beginning to see there is a certain longevity that seems to be there when a great musical movement has established itself as rock music has. 

LS: Any final thoughts you'd like to share?

LG: Music enriches your life so much. To have music that you love, and be central to your life on earth is a much greater way to go through life! This is everything I wanted to be when I was a kid and I am very lucky that somehow it worked out! 

I can’t wait to get on stage tonight, it's weird, it doesn't wash away, it's still very exciting, this band has been around 51 years and we will look at thousands of people tonight with big smiles on their faces and that's a feeling to feel really fortunate to experience in your life and we get to experience it 100 times a year! 

  • left to right:  Chuck Panozzo, Ricky Phillips, Todd Sucherman, Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young, Lawrence Gowan Photo Credit: Rick Diamond
  • left to right: James “JY” Young, Chuck Panozzo, Lawrence Gowan, Tommy Shaw, Todd Sucherman, Ricky Phillips Courtesy of Todd Gallopo and Styx
  • left to right:  Lawrence Gowan, Chuck Panozzo, Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young, Ricky Phillips, Todd Sucherman Photo Credit: Jason Powell

"I can’t wait to get on stage tonight, it's weird, it doesn't wash away, it's still very exciting, this band has been around 51 years and we will look at thousands of people tonight with big smiles on their faces and that's a feeling to feel really fortunate to experience in your life and we get to experience it 100 times a year!" Lawrence Gowan