Soundcheck : James Young : Styx singer/guitarist
Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Throughout the existence of Styx, singer-guitarist James Young has been the band's lone constant. During the Chicago band's glory years, 1975 to 1980, Young provided balance for the baroque act. Singer-keyboardist Dennis DeYoung's power ballads were sugary-swet, and Young's rockers were dark and aggressive. “Babe,” “Lady” and “Come Sail Away,” the former's compositions, became massive hits, while the latter's bitter “Miss America” and raucous “Snowblind” earned play on album-oriented rock stations. DeYoung, who's no longer with Styx, is on tour rendering the band's hits, while Styx is on the road offering tunes from its canon.

Ed Condran

STYX, Peter Frampton, Nelson
7 p.m., Thursday, May 6
Blossom Music Center
1145 W. Steels Corners
Tickets: $25-$69.50

Styx has been around for more than 30 years. What is left to prove?
That we're still a vital and vibrant band, which we prove every night we play live.

Unlike many of your peers, who are content to live off old hits, you're still making new albums.
It's something we need to do. We're doing some exciting stuff now that we've left our previous keyboard player at home in 1999.

You're referring to Dennis DeYoung, who was always very different than you and Tommy Shaw.
In the very beginning, Dennis and I were on the same page. He always had different musical tastes than me, but we found common ground. Then Tommy joined the band, and he was so successful as a rocker that Dennis changed a bit. Dennis was looking for a new identity. He started channeling Barry Manilow, which is exactly what I didn't want to do. Dennis wasn't a team player.

Your 1983 album, Mr. Roboto , which essentially splintered the band, was basically a DeYoung solo album.
It was his dream and our nightmare.

You replaced DeYoung with Glen Burtnik. Why did Burtnik quit Styx?
Glen had never been part of a band that toured constantly like we decided to do in 1999. A lot of our rehearsing is in Los Angeles. He wanted to spend more time at home. He's a family guy. He didn't want to miss his kids growing up. He became less happy with the situation and he left.

You were really close to drummer John Panozzo. When he passed away during the mid-'90s, did you ever consider scrapping Styx?
No, because every night that we go onstage we dedicate what we're doing to John. We're doing what he would want us to do. We're doing what we have to do. I've been doing this so long. It's a big part of my life. It's hard to imagine doing anything else.

Is Damn Yankees a potential conflict for Tommy Show, or is that band finished?
Damn Yankees is becoming more and more of a historical footnote. At this stage, if anybody has a chance of getting on contemporary rock radio — I doubt either band does — it would be Styx. Tommy is focusing on Styx.

During your salad days, Styx was lumped into progressive rock. What would you call Styx now, since the band is hardly progressive?
I think we returned to what is known as the progressive-rock mindset. The whole pop side is there. The growling blues aspect is there, but I think if you had to label us, we're a progressive-rock band.

How do you showcase new material when most of your fans just want to hear the hits?
You have to structure and pace the show in the right way. My own strategy, which has been adopted by the band, is to play a hit song everybody knows and loves. Then you play a new song. The best thing you can do is play three very familiar songs and then throw in an up- tempo new song that rocks. That way you won't lose them. It's like feeding a dog a pill. You stick it in with a sweet treat, and it all goes down and the dog will love it.

At some point, every band calls it a day, except the Rolling Stones. When will you write a final chapter for Styx and leave the prog-rock world to the Dream Theaters?
I don't think about the end of this band. I can't think that way. All I know is that we love being out there watching the fans going crazy, singing along with us. It's a wonderful reaffirmation for us and our body of work. We're thrilled that the fans want us, and we're not going to go away.

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