Daniel Glass: The record is called “BAM!” My nickname in Royal Crown Revue was Bam Bam. And it’s a sort of, bam! Here it is! We’re coming out swinging and just really going for it.
Cris Cohen: But also, there is a sense of fun to it. It’s attention-grabbing, but also says “we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Daniel Glass: My philosophy is that I consider myself to be an entertainer, in addition to being a (hopefully) well-accomplished musician. And the reason I chose that cover and went in that direction… I wanted to do something fun. Something playful. Something that reflects the joy in the music. We have a go-for-it attitude when we play. We're not afraid to really mix up the material. We're not trying to be anything but ourselves.
I wanted the group to have a very strong identity in what we do, which is really hard to describe. It’s very eclectic. It's based on what we love, and us trying to be in the moment and play music that we enjoy. And hopefully, you'll come along for the ride.
Just as the quality of a song cannot be measured by its chart position, awards, or sales, the quality of your content cannot be measured by social media stats.
Cris Cohen: This might seem a little bit of a stretch, but I would even draw a through line thematically from that experience to the recording of “Crash of the Crown”. In the sense of… you guys were moving along with it, the pandemic hits, suddenly everyone is in their own homes, in different countries. And yet, you guys found a way to record together virtually, and get around this obstacle. Like, “Okay, we can't push through this thing, but how can we get this done in other ways?”
Lawrence Gowan of Styx: So that was the challenge for everyone, everyone on planet Earth. How do we navigate our way through this, with a virus that doesn't care what our intentions are? And the disappointing thing for us, I have to say, was that we had made “The Mission” entirely with all of us in the studio together and had that experience like a band would in the 1970s, a band like Styx, where we're in each other's faces, and our phones are all shut off for five seconds, and we can actually embrace that method of the analog world of how to make music as a band and have it sound like it came from that era.
So we figured all that out, and we had to replicate that on the making of “Crash of the Crown”. We had the songs written, all but two of them, and had started the recording process that way, or at least myself and Tommy Shaw and Will Evankovich, who was our co-writer and producer on both of those records.
And suddenly this interruption happens. And like everyone else, we thought, “Well, it's a drag. We'll have to stop for maybe as much as six weeks, maybe even two months, before we can get back to it.” And at the two-month mark, we thought, oh, once again, not following our script. This could be indefinite.
We went back and we listened to the songs. And we felt, “These songs relate so well to what we -- and probably a lot of people on the planet -- are going through psychologically and the challenges that we're facing. The lyrics really fit with this situation. We have to find a way to do this.”
For myself living in Toronto, I couldn't cross the border anyway. So that was a moot point. So we realized, just like you and I are doing this Zoom thing… I didn't know what this was in February of 2020. At the end of March 2020, I was very familiar with it, and this became a new phenomenal tool for communication. You and I are speaking, we could have this conversation over the phone, but there's something about being able to look you in the eye and see you and get some kind of idea of obviously this guy’s into the Stones, and stuff like that. Like knowing these things, it alters the conversation.
Well, I have a great studio in Toronto, with all this analog gear I bought years ago. And I have a great partner there, Russ Mackey, who's a phenomenal engineer and producer. And Tommy and Will were in Nashville, Todd was in Austin, Texas, JY in Chicago, Ricky was also in Austin. We all figured out how we're going to do this. We used this Zoom medium and a thing called Audiomovers. We pushed through and made the record starting from around late August of 2020 right into about November.
In October, I was done with all of my parts. It got so second nature that it really felt exactly as if we were in the studio together.
And that I think speaks volumes to the adaptability and flexibility of human beings when faced with a challenge like that. We still were able to do the record, to tape and to get all the analog juice in there that needed to be there in order to make it qualify or in some way resonate as a classic rock album. And again, the resilience of Styx. This speaks probably to why this band has endured for half a century. It's 50 years old. And that's just another aspect of how they've navigated it.
How should you handle the changes happening to the social media platforms? I recommend apathy. Seriously.
For one thing, the feeling is mutual. These companies do not care about you. In fact, they work very hard to prove they do not care about you. As proof, I direct you to… well, almost any news story about them in the last decade.
Secondly, if one social site flames out, another one will come along. You can also go retro with websites and newsletters. Some say that means missing out on the attention economy. But really, the attention economy is dominated by people pushing out hate speech, sleazy sales pitches, and borderline pornography. Sometimes all in the same post.
Instead, make something good, something you would like watch or read. There are people who want to see that material too. Good tends to not go viral. Good rarely makes the news. The social media algorithms actively work against good. But somehow good endures. And good is more likely to connect with people who will support your music, your business… you.
I interviewed John Brodeur of Bird Streets. We discussed:
Bird Streets website: https://www.birdstreetsmusic.com/
Lawrence Gowan of Styx: And I’m intrigued this week actually, Cris, because we played Toronto just a few nights ago, about three, four nights ago. It was amazing because it's the same venue that I headlined 12 times (as a solo artist) prior to playing with Styx a few times.
But it was amazing. We played a song from my solo career, a Styx version of “A Criminal Mind”. And to hear the audience respond to that, and the way that Styx presented it, that to me is an amazing way where, if you use that word “cultivating,” it's amazing how we have kind of melded those two aspects of my life together into one moment.
The moment that lasts for about five minutes on stage, but man is it ever… you feel a wave of gratitude, and an acceptance within the band in that moment that is really almost indescribable, as you can hear. I can't describe it.
Cris Cohen: When you say that you recorded these live, just to clarify, I assume you mean everyone playing in the same room at the same time. You recorded at Mark Miller's house even. And again, in the days of all this technology, where everyone can just piece things together in their own individual homes and recording studios, what is it about getting together and actually seeing one another as you play that creates a better sound?
Billy Sheehan of Talas: It's an intangible. I'm not sure exactly what it is. And I believe you can carry on without that. And I've done a lot of records where I'm in another city. But I've played for a long, long time and played a lot of different styles of music, so I'm listening to the drummer anyway. And if I was recording, I would probably be in the control room listening to the playback monitors and playing along like that. Because it's difficult for me to be out in a room with headphones. I really can't hear what I'm doing. So I've done a lot of records like that. Which are, in effect, us not being in the same room technically, but because we're all there, there's a group dynamic that happens with any bunch of creative people. They work off each other and I do believe that you get a better product.
Because right up until you record, things are still in flux. They're still malleable. They're still plastic. They can be moved around, and that's a very important factor. Because many times… I remember doing the “Sink Your Teeth Into That” record (Talas). As the vocalist was at the mic, I would have to say, "Hold on a second." And one song was just particularly too wordy. I just crossed out every other line.
Cris Cohen: [Laughter]
Billy Sheehan: And it made for a much better song. The vocals sat in the track better. He wasn't trying to rush and get all these mouthfuls of words out. So, everything changed throughout that.
When you have a whole bunch of people in a room together working on a piece of music, many factors are at play. And the one I believe that is probably the most noticeable is that interaction and creativity in last-minute changes.