James “JY” Young from Styx Talks “That Metal Show,” Lebron James and Ted Nugent’s Fling With the Secret Service – Interview

Growing up I’d say I was a very casual Styx fan in that I knew they sang “Come Sail Away,” because it was on some compilation CD I had. I knew the other songs, I just had no idea Styx sang them. Then I met my wife who claimed her favorite band was Styx. Thanks to my wife, “Behing the Music,” Adam Sandler and “South Park” my love for Styx has grown. James “JY” Young has always been my favorite member, Tommy Shaw gets credit for bringing the heavy to Styx, but look at JY and tell me he’s not the real reason, so when I got the chance to sit down with James “JY” Young from Styx I was excited.

 Listen to it here:


 Zoiks! Currently you’re out on the road with REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent.

 JY: That is true.

 Z!: Bands have always gone on cohead-ling tours, but over the last ten years it seems like the veteran bands have really taken it to a new level. Where did the idea for the Midwest Rock and Roll express come from?

 JY: Well I’m not really sure who hatched that particular title, but the idea of Styx and REO touring together began to make incredible sense as early as 1999 when we wound up both with CAA as our booking agent and there’s just a natural synergy between two bands that have both had number one albums in 1981. We are clearly sort of the soundtrack to the glorious misspent youth of the baby boom generation and Ted’s a guy, that I mean, my partner Tommy Shaw was in Damn Yankees with Ted for a few years back, late 80s early 90s, Dave Amato who has been the guitarist in REO for the last twenty years since the departure of Gary Richrath, Dave Amato spent four or five years working with Ted as second guitarist to him in Ted’s band back in the 80’s, and so all these guys, we’re all kind of connected and I didn’t know Ted well, but he is a character as we all know, and he doesn’t go quietly through life. He makes a big noise wherever her goes, and so I think the idea that Styx and REO had toured sort of every three years, we’d gone on a major tour, and done well with it, and we just thought we needed a third act to kind of make it happen and the notion of Ted being involved, I don’t know who hatched that, but I think there’s some genius there, and while it caused a little bit of a left turn early on when Ted seemed like secret service was gonna take him off in handcuffs, but ultimately it just is a great idea. I love Ted Nugent, personally, musically, and I may not agree with his politics in their entirety, but he’s entitled to speak his mind as a private citizen as long as he doesn’t yell fire in a crowded theater or threaten to shoot the president, and I was told by the secret service they don’t think the president is in any danger unless he puts on some antler cap in which case Ted may just mistake him for a deer (laughs).

 Z!: What can fans expect from these shows?

 JY: Well, since we have to get three bands on and off the stage and performing in the space in four hours, it really does take, we’re kind of limited to not completely the greatest hits, but it’s gonna be mostly everyone putting their best foot forward, and we’re digging deep for a couple of deep tracks we haven’t played in awhile just to change it up from what we’ve done in previous years, but pretty much people want to hear “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man” and “Come Sail Away” and “Too Much Time on My Hands,” and they’re gonna hear it.

 Z!: You mentioned earlier that you guys are all, there’s some sort of connection between the three acts. Is there any chance for any all-star jams during a tour like this?

 JY: Well it never really, there was some loose talk initially about it, and then, Ted and the secret service thing put a left turn on us here trying to, you know you sort of need some advance planning to get this stuff done, and that kind of shut down all advance planning. We wondered if Ted was gonna be out of jail, and so it’s just, but Ted has a very different set up than the rest of us, and I don’t know. I don’t rule it out, but we’re not a long tour, and Ted himself, I think he’s busy doing, he does seminars and all kinds of other things apart from his time on the stage, during the day so he doesn’t have a lot of time to do these sort of things, but I don’t rule it out, but I think at this moment, I haven’t gotten wind of anybody hatching and making this happen yet, but if it did come it would probably come from Tommy and Ted putting their heads together and figuring something out.

 Z!: What’s been your bands, and really all these bands, keys to long term success? Is it just great songs that just get rediscovered over the years or what do you think it is?

 JY: I think it’s a combination of great songs and of just bands being known for putting on great shows. You cannot digitize what happens at a rock concert, the feeling that a person gets sitting amongst seven thousand people as there will be Sunday night in Northern Iowa or I’m calling you from today St. Louis where there are going to be seventeen thousand people at the bigger venue there. You can’t, seventeen thousand people, it’s like being at a football game, it’s fun watching it on television at home, and you might get to see a little bit more of the detail of it, but there’s just an energy to go to Soldier Field and watch a Bears game when something good happens, it’s like being at the Roman Coliseum I’d imagine for a gladiator battle. There’s just something, there’s an energy that happens when you get all those people together and Styx or REO or Ted Nugent are on stage that can’t be duplicated. I like to think it’s kind of it is the soundtrack people’s gloriousness at least from the baby boom, it kind of takes people back to a different time in their lives, particularly in these difficult economic times with jobs and housing and the international economy and being all sort of not in the easiest spaces or the best of times by far, people need a place to go and escape from all the negative stuff that they have to deal with in their own personal lives and collectively in our nation and in this planet for that matter, and the rock concert where it’s somewhere over, north of 100 decibels is just kind of a great place to go do it.

 Z!: I also thinks that your music kind of spans different generations, I mean I’m in my 30s, and I’m a big fan. My wife’s favorite band is Styx. Do you see a lot of wide variety of generations at your shows?

JY: Every night Tommy kind of samples the audience and goes who is here seeing their first Styx show and it’s always at least 15-20%. Sometimes depending on where we’re at, it can be as high as half the audience has never seen the band before and a lot of those people are under the age of 25. It’s kind of amazing.

Z!: Do you ever sit back and think about what you accomplish and that you’re somebody’s favorite band and people hold your music up against your favorite music? How do you process something like that?

 JY: Well it’s sort of impossible to really completely fathom it because in order to create great things you have to sort of be very self critical because you only want greatness from yourself. I mean, Lebron James today, obviously, he had to reevaluate himself over the span of years to finally figure out what it took from him to sort of get the teammates around him motivated to a level and inspired to a level where they could help him accomplish his goal of doing that, and really in the rock band thing it’s the same thing where you have to look at our bandmates and go how can we make this next record better? How can we make this next performance we do a little bit better than the last one? It’s really sort of humbling. Lebron seemed humbled to me last night when he said. It wasn’t about me, me, me, me, me, I did all this. Michael Jordan didn’t get it done until he realized the same thing, so I sort I’m a big fan sports fan, and I kind of learn from that. It’s all about team and not only did the guys on stage, but everybody’s that there supports the people around us to sort of make sure that we have access to everything that’s cutting edge that we can possibly, to do what we do, and it’s just, it’s an ongoing thing to sit here and reflect on what we accomplished, we did the best we could every doggone day and we never gave up! And tenacity, just ask Jack Black, Tenacious D.

 Z!: Throughout your whole career, you’ve really made a name for yourselves as a live band. You have such an amazing back catalog of work, but at the same time I know you guys have got to be constantly writing on your own. You had your new song ”Difference in the World” on the “Regeneration” Album. Is there a chance we’ll get a new Styx album in the future?

 JY: Well I think, we had a long discussion about this very thing yesterday, and it was a short discussion and a short band meeting, but nonetheless, we realize we have to at least put out a track here or a track there most of the bands of our genre whose success was 20-30 years ago can’t really get arrested to radio these days and you look to the Rolling Stone and Paul McCartney who are giant concert acts, what did McCartney do two or three at Wrigley field recently, and the Stones always come and do at least one at Soldier Field if not two, those bands, even the Stones don’t really get air play on their new music or McCartney, and so it’s sort of a daunting thing to take a year off the road to make a record when we really feel as if we shine so brightly on the concert stage and it’s a way for us to really convert people because as I’ve said earlier in this conversation I believe, is that what we do can’t be digitized, and so our goal is to be out there. Now, does that mean we’re never gonna record again? No, absolutely not. We’re overflowing in a way with ideas, but we’ve gotta sort of get together and get the right thing going and there’s just been a lot of side trips taken here and sort of after kind of giving up on it, having the biggest airplay item Styx has had in the last, in the new millennium is our cover version of “I am the Walrus” which got played on classic rock radio because the Beatles are a classic band and Styx is a classic band and we did a hell of a job on it obviously because people loved it when they heard it. It was actually Greg Solk who was in the program director of the Loop in Chicago who heard us play and said give me a copy of that and I’ll put it on the air, and we were just playing it to have fun, we never thought of recording it so we had to go out and record the thing and we recorded it on my 13” Macintosh with the protools junior, and we used to love the sophisticated equipment to get the multi-track recording done in there, but nonetheless it was just a little portable apple computer that that was recording on so making another record is something we will create the music, we will record new music, and we will really enjoy having the power to make your own videos is really there with still cameras with HD capabilities and video capabilities is kind of crazy, and we’ve got some great editors and stuff that do all the visual stuff that you see behind our show and if anyone has, well people should be made aware as well as this conversation the fact that we do have a great new DVD out which is “Great Illusion Piece of Eight” album performed live by the band in their entirety which the closest we really came to you guys was, well we did play in Maryville and Waukegan back in 2010 and we videotaped it in Memphis later that year, but it just was released this year. It’s available at Amazon, it’s available at Best Buy, it’s available on our website, styxworld.com, and people should check that out, but putting out a new song and making our own video for something that we are capable of doing and will do.

 Z!: Do you kind of embrace that new, the way the music industry has turned or is it more frustrating? Like you said you played those two albums beginning to end and you were kind of known as a concept album band, do you embrace the new way it’s going?

 JY: I think the train left the station a long time ago and if you don’t want to travel on that train you really have no other option so is it ideal, I mean do we like the old system? I mean, we succeeded using the old system so, and I preach flexibility and adaptability to everybody in the band and crew and the world is changing faster than it ever has, and I personally do not have a Facebook account or a MySpace account or a twitter account, I don’t care for any of those things. I do have e-mail, but of course we have a great website like I said www.styxworld.com, but personally I use it for what I deem necessary for my ongoing survival and the rest I leave up to the Kardashians. Weren’t they on Star Trek before they actually had a reality show? (laughs)

 Z!: I have no idea where they came from. One of my favorite shows on TV right now is “That Metal Show,” I know you guys were on it recently, or in the last year, what was that experience like, especially when you got a guy like Vinnie Paul from Pantera talking about how big of a Styx fan he is?

JY: It was crazy good for Tommy and I to be there because in many ways, Styx is, there is a heavy rock side to this band, there’s “Renegade,” there’s “Blue Collar Man,” there’s “Miss America,” “Midnight Ride,” there’s a bunch of heavy rock songs that came from myself and Tommy, and so we are viewed as legitimate in that regard and certainly the skill level of the band at this stage with Todd Sucherman on drums, god rest and god bless John Panozzo who left this planet in 1996, but Todd who has been our drummer ever since who was voted number one rock drummer in the reader’s poll of modern drummer magazine back in 2009 and I think he was number two last year behind Rush’s drummer, so we just have an incredible live band here and people are, we have the same respect for those bands as they have for us, and so it was great to have him there. It was great to hang out with Steve Stevens cuz I think he’s a great guitar player and I’ve never met him before. I’m a Billy Idol fan, and so it was fun to be accepted on there as I believed we would be, and I’ve had a lot of guys tell me they really enjoyed seeing us on there.

 Z!: Cool. That’s all I had. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this with us.

JY: My pleasure.

BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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