STYX bassist Ricky Phillips has confirmed that the band is far along in the songwriting process for the follow-up to "The Mission". Released in June 2017, that disc marked STYX's first new LP in 14 years. It was recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, co-produced and co-written with Will Evankovich, a longtime collaborator of Tommy Shaw's in the SHAW/BLADES band and who also plays with THE GUESS WHO.
Asked by Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio if there are plans for STYX to release more new music, Phillips said (hear audio below): "I think so. We had witnessed people putting out records that we thought were good, of our peers — major bands — and they were kind of going nowhere. So we thought part of that was part of maybe the exercise of abstaining. And I'm so glad that we just pushed through that and actually went in and spent the money — we spent way too much money [making 'The Mission']. [Laughs] But we don't know how to record any other way. And that was another part of it — we had to really want it badly, because it does cost a lot of money to do a STYX record. We don't hold back and we record it on two-inch tape. We had to strap two two-inch machines together. Nobody records on two-inch tape anymore, but we wanted it to sound like that real great vintage quality of yesterday, of all the other STYX records that were so big… We really wanted to go deep and do it right. And when it came out sounding as good as it does, it kind of opened up that question you just presented to me, and that is that, 'Let's do another one.' And I think there's already ideas flowing. And as soon as we find a break — probably more towards the end of the year — we'll probably start formulating those ideas a little deeper. But, yeah, it's in motion."
Pressed about why it is important for STYX to keep writing and releasing new music, Phillips said: "Probably selfish reasons, because it's certainly not a monetary reason. I think we record records now — we didn't for 14 years, and we realized we wanted to make a record. We had things to say. We're all songwriters, and we've been kind of looking at it... Everybody's going, 'Oh, it doesn't make sense. It won't sell.' Back in the day, if you didn't sell, what's a gold record? Five hundred thousand. And anything less than that was really a failure. Well, now, you'd be lucky to sell fifty thousand. And so we thought, 'What's the point? It's gonna cost a lot of money.' After years of that, we went, 'Wait a minute. C'mon. What did you just play? That's awesome. Is that a song yet?' We're still songwriters, so we've all been collecting all these ideas over the years. And Tommy came up with the concept for the mission to Mars that is supposed to happen in the year 2033, and it just developed and developed, and it got bigger and better. And the next thing I know, we're learning the material and developing it and now we're in Blackbird in Nashville and we're recording it, and it sounds pretty damn good. And I'm going, 'Wow! This isn't just exercising something for our own egos. This is actually really…' We all kind of, at different times, were realizing, 'Man, this is good!' And everybody was so pent up and just waiting to show what they can do, and ideas were flowing."
He continued: "Our chemistry in STYX is pretty strong. We see each other more than we see our own families, and we have a really strong unity amongst us — it's 'all for one, one for all' kind of thing. We have a little bit of tension at certain points, if somebody really wants to fight for point, but there's very little of that. And if somebody is going for that, you know that they're doing it for a reason, so you listen. And if it pans out, you throw something in, and it does always become sort of a group effort. But when 'The Mission' was done and I sat back and listened to it, hearing it then for the first time — because it's all moving parts till it's mixed and it's handed to you — now all of a sudden, it's actually a body of work and the sequence of songs has already been chosen. And here it is — it's in an album cover; it's got all the credits on it; it's the real deal. I think that's the first time you really hear it, because you know there's no changing it — it's done."
This past May, Shaw told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that STYX was working on music for the follow-up to "The Mission". "We went for 14 years without creating a new album because we didn't think there was a place for it," he said. "Turns out there was a place for it. There's no pressure, [but] we want to get it done. I think if we get three more songs we really like that fit, we can move to the next level… We're pretty far along in the process."
STYX's current lineup features founding members, singer-guitarist James "J.Y." Young and bassist Chuck Panozzo, longtime member Shaw and more recent members, drummer Todd Sucherman, Phillips and keyboardist-singer Lawrence Gowan.