Steve Porcaro goes inside Toto’s new music: ‘It was a Toto first’

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Toto’s Steve Porcaro joins Preston Frazier for a Something Else! Sitdown focusing on the expanded 40 Trips Around the Sun greatest-hits package, more new music and how a key moment on his recent solo project impacted the band …

PRESTON FRAZIER: Steve, thanks for taking the time out of your schedule. I know you are about to kick of Toto’s 40 Trips Around the Sun tour.
STEVE PORCARO: Actually, we’ve just finished rehearsals. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and playing some of the newer stuff from the new Greatest Hits: 40 Trips Around The Sun album, and classic Toto. It’s quite a challenging set list this year.

PRESTON FRAZIER: You recorded three new songs for the greatest-hits album.
STEVE PORCARO: No, actually, those are ones we picked from a batch of nine songs we did. We did four brand new songs and, at the same time, we took five tracks from the vaults which had my brother Jeff on drums. Three had my brother Mike on bass, and two had David Hungate on bass. We finished the tunes. We had the basic tracks but the melody, form and choruses weren’t finished. We finished them like they were brand new tunes. We did all nine at the same time.
The record company decided to put out the first three on the greatest hits, 40 Trips Around the Sun.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Are here plans for the remaining songs?
STEVE PORCARO: Yes, they will be on an upcoming comprehensive box set which will be released in July.

PRESTON FRAZIER: “Alone” and “Spanish Sea” have been released, while another new song comes out on February 9 as part of 40 Trips Around the Sun. Tell us how “Alone” come about.
STEVE PORCARO: It was one of the four we wrote as a group, nose to nose. Luke [ Steve Lukather] is kind of a technophobe. He’s used to having an engineer or a second guy to handle the recording. David [Paich], Joe [Joseph Williams] and myself are used to acting as our own engineer and recording ourselves. The four of us in the room together, with absolutely no one else, added a different dynamic: No assistant, no second engineer, just the four of us. We used either my place or David Paich’s place. Joseph and I handled the engineering chores. Joseph did most of it. I did a lot of the synth stuff at my house, and a little vocal stuff here. The song “Alone” was just the four of us in a room. Most of the songs didn’t have anything written before we hit the studio. It was just in the studio nose-to-nose writing and recorded by us. We just used Capitol [Studios] to record the drums.

PRESTON FRAZIER: So “Alone” didn’t come from The Seventh One sessions?
STEVE PORCARO: No, not at all. That would be “Spanish Sea.” “Alone” was totally new.

PRESTON FRAZIER: The four of you had never written like that before?
STEVE PORCARO: No, not like that, never. It was a Toto first.

PRESTON FRAZIER: “Alone” has Luke on bass and Vinnie [Colaiuta] on drums?
STEVE PORCARO: Yes, Luke laid down the bass. We used a drum machine during the writing process, and replaced it with Vinnie Colaiuta. We recorded him at Capitol Studios. That’s the only thing we needed to do outside our studios.

PRESTON FRAZIER: So, “Spanish Sea” has Jeff on drums and Mike on bass. What else did you take from the original recording?
STEVE PORCARO: Pretty much all that was there. You know Preston, they got the idea from me and my album, Someday / Somehow. I had used basic tracks Jeff and Mike did for a few of my Toto contributions that were not released. I had done a demo at home, but those songs were actually official Toto sessions. I had all of Jeff drums and Mike’s bass. They saw that these worked. We started thinking about all these tracks that were never completed. Also, we always have a wealth of new material, so no one ever said, “Hey what about that old tune.” There was never any looking back, really.

PRESTON FRAZIER: And the groove is unmistakably Jeff and Mike Porcaro.
STEVE PORCARO: Yeah!

PRESTON FRAZIER: How did you come up with the new synths parts?
STEVE PORCARO: The solo section was all new and done by me recently. The working title was “Puffy.” for some strange reason. It become “Spanish Sea.”

PRESTON FRAZIER: “Struck By Lightning,” the third track, comes out on 40 Trips Around the Sun. I haven’t heard it yet. What’s the origin of that song?
STEVE PORCARO: It was brand new. Luke had a strong, tough guitar lick. Hey, it’s good. You are also going to like my song “Chase the Rain,” which will be on the box set which includes the Columbia years remastered.

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