We chat to Steve Lukather from Toto ahead of his Jazz Fest gig


Ahead of the band’s Dubai Jazz Fest performance tomorrow night, the lovely Steve Lukather, aka ‘Luke’ from Toto, talks to What’s On about what he hopes to achieve with his music, and why the Dubai audience will get the best version of Toto ever.

Toto will join Santana, Chris Botti & Sting, David Gray, James and more at the weekend-long event.

What can we expect from your upcoming show in Dubai? I think you’ll see a 1000% better version of our band. Not that it was bad last time, it’s just that we have different energies now. And we have Joseph Williams singing with us again, who was our high school buddy and worked on some of our multi-Platinum records. That, mixed in with having Steve Porcaro and David Paiche back, and you’re getting more of the original guys.

So you can expect a killer set list with our big hits… deep cuts… jamming… new music from Toto XIV. Hopefully they’re going to let us play the full two hour show. The band is playing better than ever. We’re excited, we’re energised, and I think you’re going to see the best version of Toto 2016. It may even be the best live version of us that we’ve ever had out on the road.


The last time you were in Dubai was for your sold out show in 2007. What are you looking forward to about coming back? I’m looking forward to bringing a bunch of my brothers to see this beautiful, melting pot of a city. It’s such an amazing place, with people of all various cultures – it’s a really unique place on planet earth. I had a really positive experience there, and I look forward to enjoying it now from a new perspective. I used to be a lot crazier back when I was younger but now, everyone in this band is so healthy and focused.

You’ve been together for four decades now. What keeps you going after all these years? We’re high school friends; we’re like brothers. I’ve known these guys for 43 years of my life. We’ve been through every good and bad time and only a family of brothers can understand what that’s all about.

Plus, we’ve been a part of the biggest albums in history, like Michael Jackson’s Thriller. If you put together the work of all the guys that have been in our band, you’re looking at 5,000 albums with our names on it. Everybody from three out of the four Beatles, to Miles Davies, to Aretha Franklin, to Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, jamming with Van Halen on stage – we’ve had a chance to work with and play with. I could name-check all day long and never repeat myself.

Your fan base is so multigenerational too. You seem to have lasted longer than a lot of your peers who’ve fallen by the wayside. Everyone’s showing a renewed interest: musicians are sampling us, people are making videos. The actress Kristen Bell (and her husband Dax Shepherd) made a music video of Africa, and it’s getting millions of hits every day. We’re even on a Family Guy episode!

We get musicians, we get younger musicians, we get people who found us by listening to classic rock radio, and people who grew up listening to us and now bring their kids to our shows. It’s pretty funny – you listen to an 80s channel and every song has at least one of us on it.

What do you think it is about your music that’s so universally appealing? I don’t know. I’m just happy to still have a job! In all seriousness, I’ve had the most amazing life, and I’m so grateful for it. I mean, I’m in a band with Ringo Starr as well as Toto, so how much cooler could my life be? [He’s in Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band.]

We’ve outlived every trendy kind of thing, we’ve seen MTV come and go, then the studio musician thing came in, and it was some of the best times of my life; never knowing which band I was going to be working with from day to day, being a part of history. Music just isn’t made that way anymore.

It’s kind of neat that we’ve managed to ride the wave to this point. I never thought we’d get 40 years out of this. I thought if we got ten years, it would be amazing! I mean, there was no such thing as Classic Rock when we started.

Here’s another of their absolute classics…

You’ve got so many crowd pleasers that I know people are excited to hear… Oh don’t worry! We’re gonna play them all. Well, most of them anyway. Obviously we’ve got to play the biggest ones. If we didn’t play Africa, people would lose their minds.

People would riot, I think. I would personally riot. Don’t worry. We’ve got hundreds of songs we could play, and we don’t like to repeat ourselves. But we’ll play a lot of songs off the biggest hits records and a lot of our older songs too.

What can we expect from Toto in the future? I think we’re going to make it to the 40th anniversary in 2018. We’ve renewed our relationship with Sony Records, so we’re going to go back and re-master and retool some of our very early records. And we’re going to make some new music for our reboot, 40th anniversary version of past and present. And there’ll be a huge world tour. You know, it’s still in the early stages of planning. I’m working on an autobiography, which will be out by then. Steve Piccaro is working on his first ever solo album. A lot of us are doing these interesting things leading up to this milestone which we could never have imagined, which is the 40th anniversary. And after that, who knows? I thought we’d be flying around in cars by now, so you can’t tell what the future’s going to bring.

I’m praying that the world becomes a safer, more peaceful place, because it’s kind of crazy right now. And the one thing about us, is that we come with goodwill, love and respect in our hearts for all people, and that’s important.

Music is a great uniter of people, and if there was ever a message that our band has – we’re not a political band. What we bring is our music, and if that’ll make people dance and smile and forget a little bit about the insanity of the world for a bit, then we’ve done our job. It may sound corny, but I’m hanging on to it.

That’s fine by us…

Dubai Jazz Fest from February 24 to 26

Dubai Media City Ampitheatre. Tickets are on sale now and cost from Dhs395 for regular standing to Dhs795 for golden circle, Dhs995 for fan pit and Dhs1,450 for VIP. For more information, visit www.dubaijazzfest.com.