Former STYX vocalist Dennis DeYoung recently spoke with Brian Casey of the Muncie, Indiana radio station Max 93.5. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the late, unexpected success of STYX's now-classic single "Lady":
Dennis: "It was written originally for the first album in '72, but the fellow at the record company, who showed such great judgment in almost everything, said, 'We'll keep that for the second album.' It was released and it was a complete failure as a single... We recorded two more albums, and then we were going up to promote our fourth album up to [radio station] WLS. We were going to see WDAI at the time in Chicago, which was the FM station, to see if they'd play something from [1974's] 'Man Of Miracles'. We just thought we'd drop an album off at WLS. They're not going to see us — it's like trying get a visitation with the pope in those days. They said, 'Oh, STYX. Come in. [Program director] Jim Smith wants to see you'... He called us in said, 'I'm not going to play anything from 'Man Of Miracles', but I'm going to play 'Lady' tonight, and I'm going to play it once a night because I think it's a hit.' He did, and that's why I'm talking to you all these years later."
On the title track of 1977's "The Grand Illusion":
Dennis: "I'd seen a movie by Jean Renoir about trench warfare in World War I. I just loved the title. The title of that movie has nothing with the title of our album. I started to think about, 'Would it be kosher to tell the audience — all those young kids who are looking to buy records and looked at guys like us in rock n' roll to give them some guidance and entertainment in their life — maybe I'll come clean and tell them that in this country, in capitalism, everyone's trying to sell you something. That's the whole basis of it. I told them right there in the song, 'Don't be fooled by the radio and the TV and the magazines, because like them, we are trying to sell you something. We are an illusion that we create for your entertainment and possibly edification.' It's how people's motives to make you feel that your life is somehow inferior or not as good as it should be, their motive is simply to make a barter — you give them your cash, and they'll give you whatever product they're selling... I was telling them, 'We're creating an illusion.' I don't think any other rock band ever did anything like that."
Dennis: "I convinced the guys in the band that we were going to be the best band in the world. Even when we weren't, I believed it and I said it, and it's important. To be successful in your life, you have to be convinced in your own mind that you have the ability to accomplish your goals... You have to have the confidence that you've got something of value to [offer] people. I was the cheerleader. I was always at the front. I was the defender of the realm. When the White Walkers tried to get us, I would stand there and fight them... In '83, Tommy Shaw decided that he was interested in pursuing his own solo career, and he quit the band. That kind of left us shocked and in limbo. The other three guys wanted to replace Tommy and go forward. I just thought that was a bad idea. I believed – and I still believe today — that there was a certain amount of magic not only between the five of us, but particularly between Shaw and myself."
On "Mr. Roboto":
Dennis: "A million people bought the single, and the album sold two million copies. [Hits] don't grow on trees. Plus, 'Mr. Roboto' somehow, magically, wiggled its way into the culture. If you say 'Domo arigato' to people, they're apt to go, 'Mr. Roboto'. My feelings are, it was foolish not for [STYX] to have been playing it for the last 20 years, in the same way I think it was a terrible mistake they made by replacing me. What do you think the number one thing 90 percent of all STYX fans want to see? It's not like we're incapable. We are all capable, but it's Tommy's and JY's decision... But these things happen. The positive thing about it is, I've had this rather unexpected and successful solo career, one I never really aspired to, yet still, here I am. I'm 72 years old, and I'm not even in the band I helped make famous, and people are coming to see me. I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet."
On his forthcoming solo album, which will feature several collaborations with SURVIVOR vocalist Jim Peterik:
Dennis: "Jim and I wrote about seven songs together, and I wrote another six by myself. He's the one that encouraged me to make another album. I was not in the frame of mind to do it, considering the difficulties of the music business for rock 'n' roll music these days. I thought it was pointless, but he told me that the world really needed my songs. I told him, 'Have the world send me an email. I want to make sure.'"
On the modern music industry:
Dennis: "I feel bad for young musicians. I lived at the greatest time in the history of mankind to be a musician. These people trying to break in now, music has been deemed — in my opinion — financially worthless to the people who create it. When people say, 'Music should be free,' I think I agree with them, and I say, 'Along with radial tires, mortgage payments and bananas'... In some ways, everything that the digital revolution has done to music has been to, in some ways, make music have less value. When you bought an album or a CD or a cassette back in the day, and you didn't like it — you [liked] one song on it and you thought it was crap — you didn't throw it away. You stored it. Now, if you don't like it, you delete it immediately because it's meaningless to you, because it's not real. It's not in your hand; it's not an object; it's not something tangible. That is, in fact, the way I view the disposable nature of music these days. More and more people are listening; fewer and fewer are paying. I'm not saying you've got to make musicians millionaires, but you've got to give them something to they can make a living."
DeYoung — who fronted STYX from 1970 to 1999 — continues to celebrate 2017's 40 th anniversary of "The Grand Illusion" by performing the album in concert in its entirety.