Editor’s Note: This was definitely a year in the making, but it was an absolute honor talking with Lawrence Gowan of Styx. Styx is one of those bands that certainly needs no introduction at all. They are a band that has amassed some amazing hits and even more memorable albums. Who can forget their comeback of 1999 when it seemed like they were on every single commercial? They also performed the Super Bowl, an astronaut from NASA named a moon after the iconic rock band, and are capturing a whole new generation of fans with their music. Fans can check out the latest news and happenings on Styx at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Hi Lawrence, how are you today?
Lawrence: It’s great, great to speak with you again, I am here at the St. Louis arch, it’s a beautiful day, and now I get to talk to you!
Madness To Creation: What are some of your favorite traveling moments while on tour?
Lawrence: I love exploring America because I’m not American, America is still(after 20 years of touring with Styx), is such an exotic place to be. At the same time, I feel extremely welcome at the same time I feel remiss of it, I love that vibe. The other thing that I enjoy are American museums, they are so well done. The other day, we were at the Henry Ford Museum, they had the Presidential car for Roosevelt, and the car that Kennedy was in when he was assassinated, fascinating piece of Americana that I’m always aware of and I love to explore.
Madness To Creation: Did you get an eerie vibe when you saw the car that President Kennedy was assassinated in?
Lawrence: Of course! In Dallas, we walked that site many, many times. In fact, several years ago I read a Stephen King book called “11/22/63”, which is the day of the assassination and the day I also turned 70 years old, but I’m kind of a history buff. I feel like not that much time has passed, but it had that much of an impact on our whole life.
Madness To Creation: Do you think that there’s more to the story on the Kennedy Assassination, or do you believe the official “single bullet” story that was released by the government?
Lawrence: That’s an ongoing debate, at one point I was once a very heavy conspiracy theorist, a believer of it all, since then there has been no credible evidence coming forward of what actually happened, I believe that there was a lone gunman with that interest in killing Kennedy, and not one person has come forward yet, but I don’t want to take our discussion to far down that road, just because the most recent time that I was in Dallas, there was a fellow from there that was there and he swore up and down that there were gunshots from other areas, and he was there on that day, he was 13 years old. We all know some things from a different angle, but I still believe that it was a single gunman.
Madness To Creation: Let’s switch gears here, I could go either way on the Kennedy Assassination. How has the tour with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Tesla been going so far?
Lawrence: It has been an absolute blast! Just an absolute blast to be out with both bands, what a fantastic night of classic rock for four hours straight of songs that people know and sing, they’re just wonderful to have backstage with us. There are musicians that have made a profound impact on those people, what great company to be in!
Madness To Creation: You’ve been with Styx for years and years, what has been one moment that defines your time with them? If you could only pick one.
Lawrence: I think that there has been a collection of defining moments. I would say both times that we have played at the Super Bowl were pretty spectacular as far as that feeling of being on top of the world. Being a Canadian with a British background, playing at the Wembley Arena in London was an incredible highlight. The day that I joined the band, that’s still a highlight. It wasn’t a recent event, it was something that happened 20 years ago now.
Madness To Creation: What do you feel that the other band members such as Tommy Shaw bring to Styx?
Lawrence: They bring an attitude that is completely simpatico with how I feel about things as far as playing live, putting on an epic rock show, and how to continue to elevate the level of it and the intensity of it for an audience. On a daily basis, trying to find ways to make a Styx show everything that it could possibly be. Being in a band on a bus, traveling with like-minded people, that’s been an experience and a joy, they love what they do.
Madness To Creation: What is the most important thing about sustaining yourself as a musician?
Lawrence: You have to have a sustainable passion for music. Without it, you won’t be able to survive for too long, we play music because it enriches our lives, the grind and the drive to make it every single day, and to follow that, that is the most important factor.
Madness To Creation: What amazes me about Styx is how it reaches the younger generation and you all did that with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, what were some takeaways with that experience?
Lawrence: We first played with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra in 2006 and that was right around the time that we began to notice that the younger people were becoming very enamored with classic rock and in particular with Styx. From that day forward, it became increasingly evident that our audience was becoming younger not older, it was a beautiful surprise for us to embrace, and that amazes us because out of our records, they’ve been listening to our latest record “The Mission” the most. We discovered with their energy, enthusiasm, and devotion, it brought that dedication, and our music is ageless, and being around younger people who have the same passion and enthusiasm that we did was incredibly uplifting.
“Renegade” Styx with Contemporary Youth Orchestra
Madness To Creation: What is the importance of music education in your view?
Lawrence: It’s been noted that music at both ends of life, it’s been documented, noted, and scientifically proven that music does all kinds of phenomenal things to the brain, and that is the organ that we are trying to stimulate the most in education, music is a language that once you perceive and understand it, you open up the abstract side of your brain, and its in that area that all of the brain begins to get immersed. Music also helps with those that suffer from mental disorders of different varieties. Music stimulates the mind, regenerates, and reconnects profound memories from the past, which helps in music therapy. With that music is a stimulant for the brain and it’s one of the most vital things that education should be focused on, and to take that away is very shortsighted.
Madness To Creation: You brought up earlier that Styx’s music has reached a younger audience, was that evident in the release of “The Mission”?
Lawrence: Very much so because with the younger faction of people, they were wearing most “The Mission” t-shirts, although people of all ages were wearing them and it’s amazing how they have embraced the album and they have become concurrent with the band in the last 10 to 12 years or so, so this new album is concurrent with their lives and they have grown up with the incarnation of the band, we see their enthusiasm really being at the forefront.
Madness To Creation: What is the message behind the “Gone Gone Gone” song and how did you get the collaboration with NASA on there?
Lawrence: NASA invited us on July 5th, 2014 for us to witness the arrival of a spacecraft on the planet Pluto, it took them nine years to get there. The reason that we were invited is because one of the scientists discovered a fifth moon orbiting Pluto and obviously when discovered, it had no name, and they decided to name it Styx, it turned out that they really loved the band. We had to attend, I’ve gone to NASA many times. Shortly after that, there was a song called “Mission To Mars”, we wanted to make that part of the story, so the song before the record, there was an underlying story, of these NASA men going through the greatest voyage in the history of mankind. So the song “Gone Gone Gone” is based on the storyline that they’re leaving and to never to return, that’s the sendoff song so to speak.
Madness To Creation: On July 27th, you’ve reissued “The Mission” album, besides it being 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, what are a couple of things fans can expect from it?
Lawrence: The one cool thing is that the 5.1 surround sound, most people have that set up in their TV sets and it’s not that complex anymore, the 5.1 surround sound, people are going to love listening to it. In addition to that, we have the visuals to go along with the songs, most of it is put together with space footage and planetary footage, and with the surround sound, when people heard the record, they loved it, and we decided to put a video together to promote NASA.
Madness To Creation: What is the plans for Styx now that the tour wrapped up?
Lawrence: We are going to take a couple of weeks of a break to recharge, then we finish the summer playing a lot of the summer fairs and hit up some of the smaller cities that we don’t plan to hit on the megatour.
Madness To Creation: Do you all plan on playing “Mr. Roboto”?
Lawrence: It’s going over so well that I can’t see us stop playing it anytime soon.
Madness To Creation: Last question, what is the one thing that you want to perfect in your craft?
Lawrence: That’s an endless pursuit. There are so many classical pieces that I’d love to learn to play, that’s a much deeper world that I would love to delve into in my life, there’s an endless variety of things to do there. There are other instruments that I’d love to learn to play better. I’d like to play better guitar, I want to be a better songwriter and a better composer, just want to keep continuing until I can’t do this no more.
Check Styx out on tour:
Thursday, August 2nd- Centennial Terrace in Toledo, Ohio
Friday, August 3rd- Sands Steel Stage at PNC Plaza in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (w/Joan Jett & The Blackhearts)
Saturday, August 4th- Ohio Expo Center & State Fair in Columbus, Ohio
Saturday, August 18th- Antelope Valley Fair in Lancaster, California
Sunday, August 19th- Redding Civic Auditorium in Redding, California
Thursday, August 23rd- Tulalip Amphitheatre in Marysville, Washington
Friday, August 24th- LB Day Amphitheatre in Salem, Oregon
Friday, September 28th- Agua Caliente Casino Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, California
Sunday, September 30th- California Center For The Arts in Escondido, California
Tuesday, October 2nd- City National Civic in San Jose, California
Friday, October 5th- Harrah’s South Shore Showroom in Stateline, Nevada
Saturday, October 6th- Star of the Desert Arena in Primm, Nevada
For tickets and further information on any of the shows listed above, click here.