Styx forges new music for fans

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Styx was a regular on the album and singles charts.

With songs like “Babe,” “Come Sail Away,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Mr. Roboto,” and so on and so on, the original works of Styx clearly struck a chord with the public.

Then something happened.

New music stopped flowing from the band, which comes to Stamford on May 23. Their last album of new songs was 2003’s “Cyclorama.”

Styx, which is now Tommy Shaw, James Young, Lawrence Gowan, Chuck Panozzo, Ricky Phillips, and Todd Sucherman, opted to put the focus on their catalogue as they toured year after year. Questions from press and fans about new music typically were sidestepped.

The decision to record new music wasn’t the result of a lack of material, said Gowan. There was plenty of material, he said. New music is the lifeblood of a band, said Gowan. In sound checks, he said the band typically would try out songs in process.

But still no music was being recorded, said Gowan.

Then Tommy Shaw came in with a couple of new songs, said Gowan. And those songs broke the logjam.

Finally, Styx prepared a new album for release. The result was 2017’s “The Mission.”

When Universal Music heard “The Mission,” said Gowan. “They flipped.”

“We kind of knew there was something there,” said Gowan of the record, which tapped into the classic rock sound of Styx before the pop hits. The record company response confirmed the band’s suspicions about the record.

Fans gravitated to the new album as well, said Gowan. “The Mission” settled in on the Billboard classic rock charts for a year, said keyboardist. As Styx toured with the record, more and more fans would sing along to the new tracks. The group even sold out a show in Las Vegas where they played “The Mission” from beginning to end. (Surprisingly, said Gowan, many of the fans in the Vegas show were under the age of 30, too young to have discovered the band in their “Paradise Theater” days.)

Gowan, who was a solo artist before joining Styx (and continues to record as a solo artist) said recording new music is important to him. But the wait for new music was a long one for a late addition to the group. Yes, he played on 2003’s “Cyclorama.” But then there was nothing for 14 years. (“Big Bang Theory” in 2005 found the group recording only cover songs.)

Gowan said he started prodding the guys to record new music about six years into his tenure. But, as a democracy, the entity of Styx felt the best use of their time and the best way to extend the life of the band was through touring — not recording.

“I understood,” said Gowan.

Secretly, however, said Gowan, he was still hoping and thinking to himself, “Come one guys, we still have some fuel in the tank.”

And then Shaw walked in with the songs that became “The Mission,” and Styx was back in the recording studio again, said Gowan.

Styx is known for playing arenas, In fact, they were considered one of the biggest proponents of arena rock.

But when Styx comes to Stamford, they will be playing a theater, The Palace.

These days, said Gowan, Styx plays venues of various sizes. And the band will adapt its stage show for each setting.

When they do a smaller theater like the Palace, Gowan said the band will play a much more extended show. The band also pulls in deep tracks like “Man in the Wilderness” from “The Grand Illusion” and “Crystal Ball” from the album of the same name.

One song that has made a return to Styx’s playlist is “Mr. Roboto.”

For a good number of years, the song, although it was one of the band’s biggest hits, was absent from the group’s musical plate.

Although Gowan wasn’t in the group at the time the band toured behind its “Kilroy was Here” album, he understands that it was a tough time for the group. “Mr. Roboto” brought up bad memories.

But Gowan loved “Mr. Roboto” and he did what he could through the years to get it back in the set even if it was only a brief cameo during other song.

During a tour with Joan Jett, Gowan said, “Mr. Roboto“ was finally dusted off by the band and given an injection of rock and roll.

At first, said Gowan, audiences were divided as to whether or not they should enjoy “Mr. Roboto’s” return. After all, it was a guilty pleasure for years. But now, the song is embraced. And when the first notes sound, said Gowan, the cheers erupt.

“Mr. Roboto,” said Gowan, is “doing well.”

Styx performs Thursday, May 23 at 8 p.m. at the Palace Theatre, 61 Atlantic St., Stamford. For tickets, go to TheatreStamford.org.

For more information, go to StyxWorld.org.

Styx is coming to The Palace Theatre in Stamford on May 23.