Interviewed on September 11, 2012
By: Joseph Suto
Todd Sucherman is widely known in the music world as the drummer of Styx. Todd and the band recently finished up the Midwest Rock N Roll Express Summer Tour with REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent. Styx are gearing up for a fall run and hit the Fallsview Casino for a three night stand from October 4-6. Todd also recently did a few shows with fellow Styx bandmate Lawrence Gowan who played the same Fallsview Casino last month for three sold out solo shows. We talked to Todd about touring, his influences as well as other interesting things. Take a look.
RSC: Other than performing with Styx, you recently did some more dates with Lawrence’s (Gowan) solo tour. How did the shows go and are there other any other artists you tour with?
Todd Sucherman: It was great doing Lawrence’s shows in fact I enjoyed playing that music. Also when your in a band like Styx where you do 100 dates a year it feels very good to play other music and to play with some other people. It helps keep you fresh that when I return to Styx I feel fresh and renewed. As far as playing with other people, things come up in the schedule when there’s openings. That’s sort of the exciting thing. I never know what is going to be around the bend or who might call. Most of those things end up being recording sessions I do mostly in the studio in my house. So those calls come in as they come in. As of right now I have nothing on the books.
RSC: Styx is perhaps one of very few bands who has three members who can perform solo shows. Has there been any discussion where perhaps Tommy, Lawrence and JY do a few shows where they all play a set each of solo material then perhaps come jamming out a few Styx tunes as an encore?
TS: No that’s never been really discussed. Styx as an entity is quite a large one at that, I’m not sure anyone‘s solo efforts would trump the success with the name brand of Styx being on the ticket. Though that’s an interesting idea I never heard that kicked around before.
RSC: Who were your major influences as a drummer and are there any young drummers today that grab your attention?
TS: I was lucky to be born the youngest in a musical family. My father was a drummer so I was interested in drums and the music literally from the time I was an infant. So my father was my first influence. I had two older brothers that played bass and keyboards respectively. It was cool to grow up with two older Brothers to hand me records. I really listened to everything and everybody. I grew up with a Jazz influence from my father and I also grew up in the era of rock. I knew that versatility was the key to being able to work as a musician. I didn’t want to be a rock musician or a rock star or whatever. I wanted to be a working musician. All the influences that I listened to were important whether it be Count Basie or Led Zeppelin or Myles Davis or The Who. The Beatles or whatever funk was happening, Tower Of Power, I just devoured records. So everybody was an influence really. As far as young drummers today, yeah there’s sort of too numerous to count. I keep seeing guys clips on YouTube of young players that are quite incredible. For me Vinny Colaiuta, Steve Smith and Tony Williams, who is a great jazz drummer sort of the father of great drumming, that makes me crack up when I hear it because it’s so hip and beautiful and musical.
RSC: When you started playing on the Return To Paradise tour…did you ever think you would still be going strong with the band in 2012?
TS: Oh absolutely not. When I did that first tour I thought it was gonna be one tour. When that four month run ended in September of 1996, when I said goodbye to those guys, I literally thought I might not ever see these guys again, and boy little did I know. It’s been a wonderful 16 year ride. I couldn’t have fathomed that I would still be here with these guys.
RSC: The medley Styx did a few years back that featured parts of 18 songs? Tell us about how it all came about? Was that something you had come up with? Will we see it again in the future at some point?
TS: I arranged the whole thing actually, that had to be around…2002 or 2003, the internet was still seemingly fresh. And I still used to listen to opinions of fans on the internet and everyone seemed to want certain songs in the set. And you know how you can’t please everybody all the time? Well, that was my attempt at pleasing everybody all the time. So one Sunday afternoon I sat down with all the records and started thinking about what little bits could we do from certain songs. I wanted to put it together in medley that flowed, that made musical sense. It wasn’t like cut and paste and jamming in bits that didn’t belong there. They had to flow melodically, harmonically and had to be in correct keys going from one to another. I pretty much devised the whole arrangement on one lazy Sunday afternoon at home. I put a rough edit together on an old DAT tape and played it for the guys in the band saying I had this idea. My edits were crude and it didn’t make a lot of sense. There was an icy silence when I got done playing it for them. I said trust me it’s gonna work. So we actually started to put it together, it was fun to see the light bulbs in their heads go off. OK yeah this is going to work. We ended up doing it for three years until I think everyone got tired of playing a fourteen minute song with eighteen songs in it in the middle of the set. So it was retired somewhere around 2006. But of course in my efforts to please everybody all the time, all it did was make some of the hardcore fans angry that there’s only thirty-seconds played of this song or a minute played of this song, or I wish I could hear the whole piece. And so I realized you truly cannot please everybody all the time (laughs), it’s never been accomplished by anybody ever.
RSC: Over the last decade you’ve been a part of several different tour packages. Are there any bands that you haven’t toured with that you’d like to do a joint tour with in the future.
TS: Hmm….good question. I think just a Styx/Journey would be a slam dunk. Promoters seem to like a three band bill but I’d be happy to open up for the Who any day-they rarely ever use openers. That’s the exciting thing about being in a band you never know what’s gonna be happening, never know who we’re gonna be out with next year. I just feel very fortunate at least for me personally, to tour with a lot of bands whose records I had as a kid growing up. I travel in a traveling circus with the soundtrack to my youth practically so I just kind of take it as it comes.
RSC: Do you have a most memorable concert that stands out that you were a part of?
TS: So many things are going through my mind right now. I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of amazing experiences. One in the forefront of my mind right now is I got to play a charity event with Brian Wilson at Carnegie Hall. Sting, James Taylor and Billy Joel on the same stage at Carnegie Hall. That in my mind was a colossal evening. With Styx that’s sort of the amazing thing with these guys is that every gig is important. Whether we are playing at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles or in a field in Nebraska everyone leaves it all out on the stage. I think that’s why I’ve been in this band for sixteen years is because these guys wanna play, they never phone it in, they never walk through the motions. Because that’s not how I am. I wanna play with guys that are gonna go put hundred percent all the time. We try to make every show that great show
Special Thanks to Amanda Cagan for setting up this interview for us!!