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The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Interview-Todd-Sucherman-Styx-July-2011

INTERVIEW - TODD SUCHERMAN, STYX

 

By Todd Jolicouer

 

 

Toddstar: Todd thanks so much for taking the time out for The Rockpit. We really appreciate it.


Todd Sucherman: No problem, thanks for taking your time to do it.


Toddstar: Well, let’s get right to what part of this tour is exciting for me: the Regeneration discs. The band recorded and released Regeneration Volume 1 last year and rumor has it you have a Volume 2 under your belts. How did you guys decide now was the time to put together these collections of re-recorded greatest hits?


Todd Sucherman: So it’s, uh, the whole thing actually started when we were asked to re-record a couple songs for the game Rock Band. A lot of bands need to do this because in the early stages of their careers they sign over rights to the label. Well, later on the label will license the songs and make them available, but the band doesn’t see any of the reward. Once we recorded the tracks for the video game, we looked at the catalog and discovered we could record pretty much anything we wanted. It was a fun thing to do.


Toddstar: Oh, cool, cool. Now again, I mentioned a possibility of a volume 2. Is that actually coming to fruition?


Todd Sucherman: Oh Yeah, it’s actually being mastered as we speak. I’m not sure of a release date but it should be, I imagine, coming up sometime in the next few months.


Toddstar: Yeah, I would imagine probably coinciding with the tour.


Todd Sucherman: Ah, I can’t verify that but that sounds like it would be a good idea.


Toddstar: (Laughing) Ok, well the tour, let’s start with that. Quite a bill - Styx & Yes, out on the road together.


Todd Sucherman: Yeah, we’re really excited about it. As of the date of this interview, we have not played any shows or met those guys yet, but really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a great night of music and for me to tour with all these bands, like Yes, over the years; it’s like hanging out with my childhood record collection. You know, it’s for me personally, it’s an incredible thing and I’m looking forward to getting out on the road with those guys.


Toddstar: Cool. Well stepping away from Styx for a moment and turning more towards Todd, you’re a drummer’s drummer. You attended Berkley. You have certainly made your mark doing a million side projects. You have a progressive style of drumming. Was that formed, like you said, your childhood musical experience or were you more of like the typically straight head rock kind of guy? What’s your background as far as your tastes?


Todd Sucherman: Actually, my background comes from a Jazz base perspective, but I also grew up in the era of Rock & Roll. So to me growing up, the youngest in a musical family, it was just music - there wasn’t so much labeling going on. There could be Led Zeppelin coming from one room, Myles Davis coming from another room, and even Beethoven, you know what I mean? There was just all different kinds of music being played in our household, which was a great. It was a great way to grow up. So I just always wanted to be a working musician and versatility was always the key, so having a depth of knowledge of various genres of music was essential and is something I have prided myself on, but definitely progressive rock was certainly in there with bands like Yes, Genesis, and the like, those were all bands that were important in my formative years.

 


Toddstar: Who would have thought when you formed your first band with your two brothers, you would be headlining and playing huge arenas?


Todd Sucherman: It certainly was always, hopefully the plan but just I never could have dreamt that I would have been in a band that I saw 3 times as a kid growing up, whose songs were in the repertoire of those other bands I was in. You know, to play shows with Journey, which was a huge band for me growing up was incredible. Steve Smith, their drummer in their heyday, was one of my heroes and has since become a friend. But yeah, I couldn’t have possibly imagined any of this so it certainly is not; it hasn’t been a boring life. It’s been quite wonderful.


Toddstar: I bet. You mentioned Steve Smith. I believe you guys actually learned or studied underneath a similar instructor, didn’t you?


Todd Sucherman: Well Steve went to Berkley as did I and at the time he studied with Gary Chaffee, who I sought out when I went to Berklee in Boston. Gary Chafee was no longer teaching at Berkley, but he was teaching privately in town, so I sought him out and I was able to study with him for about 7 months, which was a conceptually amazing experience. Great teachers have a way of breaking things down and explaining things so it kind of, you know, clearing your vision to see what’s at the root of things and Gary was an amazing teacher. Because of Steve Smith and another of my favorites Vinnie Colaiuta, that’s why I tried to find him and study with him.


Toddstar: Gotcha, gotcha. Well moving a little bit forward again, I’ll eventually come back to Styx, but you are so interesting. You, actually, played with a band that I really enjoy – Spinal Tap. Can you tell me a little bit about that?


Todd Sucherman: Well, I’ve known C.J. Vanston, who’s their musical director and keyboardist in addition to doing all the music to Christopher Guest movies. I’ve known him for quite a while. He called me a bunch to play with them and I never could because I was always on the road. The first time I did work with them was back in 2000 which was The Tonight Show. I got to play “Stonehenge.” They had little people, an 18 inch monument - the whole deal. That was definitely a career highlight. Though the years the gig has belonged to Gregg Bissonette. Gregg called me in the summer of 2008 because he couldn’t do a couple TV shows in New York. It just so happened it was during a week-long break in the summer, which I never have by the way, but it just coincided perfectly. I said, “Yes, I can do it” so I did a couple shows in 2008. Interesting thing about those guys is that they take their musicianship quite seriously. They are all very earnest musicians and it’s funny to see them working with their guitars & amps. Listening to them uttering “I don’t like this” about certain things or trying to get the right tone. They’re pretty serious about it, those guys can play. They’re also consummate professionals, amazing gentleman, and it’s just a firing squad of comedy around those guys. They’re so fast and witty, um, I end up just kind of giggling like an idiot (Laughing) around them but they’re total gentleman.


Toddstar: That’s good to know. Well, again moving back to Styx. With these two versions, Regenerations Volume 1 & 2 - if you had to pick what would be your favorite Styx song that you’ve re-recorded, what would it be? Not only from a music stand point, but also as a fan?


Todd Sucherman: I suppose I have a soft spot in my heart for anything from the “Grand Illusion” record, because that was the first record that I went and bought by the band. To narrow that down, there’s something about the song “Fooling Yourself” that I always find, uh, interesting and challenging to play. Plus it’s an uplifting song and form wise; it has a lot of interesting sections. The song goes from - the time signatures go from 12/8 to 4/4 to 7/4 and back to 12/8, so it’s very interesting form for a song that was, you know, a radio-friendly song. Yeah, there is something special about that song to me, it’s one I always enjoy playing.


Toddstar: It would be in my top 3 actually, so that’s a good choice in my book. Also, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I read somewhere that Chuck (Panozzo) actually came to the studio and played on that for the re-recording.


Todd Sucherman: Yes, he did. I was not there for that section, but he did, yeah.

 


Toddstar: What’s it like to have him come out and guest with you guys when he can make it out on the road?


Todd Sucherman: It’s always fun to have Chuck out. He’s out with us quite a bit and he picks and chooses when he feels like coming out, so he’s sort of honorary in that way, but it’s always great to have him out. When he does, there are six of us on stage to have the energy, rather than five.


Toddstar: Well I asked you your favorite song to re-record. Would that same song be your favorite to play live, or is there just another song that stands out because of the crowd and the interaction?


Todd Sucherman: I get asked what my favorite song is and it’s kind of a hard thing to answer because there are always core songs that will always be on the set list, but it’s always nice to add and change up the set list through out the weeks. So, whatever is sort of new and fresh on the set list is always fun to do, but there’s something about “Fooling Yourself” that sort of gets me every time.


Toddstar: Well, I actually liked your first half of the answer better because normally somebody will just regurgitate what they think people want to know is the favorite song, whereas your saying whatever just hasn’t been played 20 nights in a row is my favorite. (Laughing)


Todd Sucherman: Yeah, I mean, having hits is a good problem to have and when you have hits, you know, you have to play as many of them as possible. When you see the reaction in the faces of the crowd when you play these songs, any notion of “uh, this is the 30th time I’ve played this song in the last 5 weeks” go away because it sort of gets reborn every night because there’s a palpable energy of emotions and excitement that we see on a nightly basis and it definitely carries us through. Like I said, the songs are reborn every time we play them, partially because of that.


Toddstar: Very good. I know you’re busy, so I’m going to wrap up with just a couple more questions. If you weren’t playing drums, what would you be doing?


Todd Sucherman: I would be floundering aimlessly on this planet. I can’t even really even entertain the notion of answering that question, because I was drawn to the drums since I was an infant. I was in love with them from my earliest memories. You know, not to sound self-important or cliché, but the drums sort of chose me, not the other way around. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play. I can’t remember learning how to play. It just always was and I never wanted it to be an astronaut or a fireman. I always knew I was going to do this. My first year at Berklee in Boston it dawned on me one night that pretty much everyone else there did not have that experience. Everyone else there had an epiphany at some point when they decided “I’m going to be a musician” or “I’m want to try to be a trumpet player or sax player or a guitarist.” After several adult beverages, I sort of wandered the halls just asking people, “Hey, when did you know that you wanted to be a musician? When did you realize that, you’re like, I want to do this for the rest of my life and I’m gonna spend a lot of money to go to a great music school?” I was intrigued with everyone’s answers, because that was a sensation that I didn’t have. I knew I was always going to do this. May have been a longer answer than you were looking for but…


Toddstar: No, I’d rather have a longer answer than a 2 second answer. I’d rather have a little insight into you, you know, this isn’t just about Styx. This is about you because you are part of Styx now. It creates you being who you are and creates part of who Styx is now and forever. So, it’s nice to have that insight.
Todd Sucherman: Well, alright, I can keep going. (Laughing)


Toddstar: (Laughing) Let’s shift gears, away from Styx for a minute, or any other side projects you’ve worked on. If there was one body of music, not necessarily just one song or album, but a body of music…if you want to be specific great, that you didn’t have a hand in but you look back and say “ Man, I wish I could have written that or played that or been in the room when they recorded it.” What would it be?


Todd Sucherman: That’s a hard question because I’m such a lover of music that it’s impossible to answer.


Toddstar: That’s the first I ever had someone tell me that.


Todd Sucherman: Well, I think it would have been interesting to hang in the mobile truck while the Who recorded their album in 1973. It’s really hard to say because I… when I listen to music, I really lose myself in the emotional content first and foremost. If I really become enamored with something, then I’m sort of more interested in the factual background of the piece. So anytime I play them, then you step into a recording studio, where things that I know and love and have reverence for, took place, it always stops me in my tracks and I think about… we played Wembley Arena recently and I thought of all the things that have happened there and this one live U2 recording that I had that was recorded in 1984. I’m standing there on the stage at sound check, looking at the walls, the seats, and the posts of this building. I can remember being in high school, getting my driver’s license, and driving around listening to that recording and here I am standing up in the building that reverberated with the sounds of that very performance. I do kind of get into that sort of trippy aspect alone in my own private thoughts.


Toddstar: Well, cool. I hope you have that same trippy sensation July 20th in Detroit when I see you guys at what used to be Pine Knob.

 


Todd Sucherman: It still is Pine Knob, isn’t it? Isn’t that what they call it, Pine Knob?


Toddstar: You know what, it will forever be Pine Knob in my mind, but it’s funny the older I get the less I hear Pine Knob. (Laughing)


Todd Sucherman: Well, we have to keep that alive because it has there’s more reverence for a place like that than whatever bank center, cellular phone amphitheater, best buy pavilion, you know? I come from Chicago, so Wrigley Field is Wrigley Field. Even thou Wrigley, who was in fact…the company, the gum company that had Wrigley Field, you still say “That’s Wrigley Field.” If you’re a Cellular, Bank One ...Oh my goodness.


Toddstar: Allstate Arena or whatever it is these days.


Todd Sucherman: Yeah, it’s run by Verizon now.


Toddstar: Exactly. (Laughing) Well, let me wrap it up with one last question. Todd, what’s the meaning of life?


Todd Sucherman: What’s the meaning of life? I would have to divert you to the theme song from the movie of the same name, “Monty Python.”


Toddstar: Very cool. Great reference.


Todd Sucherman: The song explains it all. Gotta love the music based answer, but art is life. I heard a quote recently and I’m paraphrasing, but I should have memorized a quote in its entirety. I guess Winston Churchill during World War II was under fire for not cutting funding for arts & he replied, “What are we fighting for?” So I’m kind of, of that belief. I can’t believe I just, uh, please don’t make that seem like I just compared myself to Winston Churchill. (Laughing)


Toddstar: (Laughing) Not at all Todd, not at all.


Todd Sucherman: “This dude was fricken crazy. Winston Churchill? What a self-important jerk.”


Toddstar: (Laughing) No, actually you’ve been quite the gentleman to speak to. It’s been a pleasure.


Todd Sucherman: Well, likewise, man it has been a pleasure. I hope you enjoy the show at PINE KNOB. (emphasis here to show the emphasis in his voice)


Toddstar: Well again, thank you so much for taking the time out for the Rockpit and we’ll see you July 20th.


Todd Sucherman: Alright man, you have a great day.