Soundcheck : James Young : Styx Guitarist Thursday, January 20, 2005

A STAPLE OF rock radio in the '70s — particularly in the Midwest, where the band was from — Styx was one of the most popular prog rock bands of the era. But when singer Dennis DeYoung tried to push the act in a more theatrical direction in the '80s, the group split. DeYoung went to Broadway, and Styx carried on without him, first recruiting Glen Burtnik, who has since left the group, to help handle vocals. Perpetually on tour, the band's guitarist James Young called from a tour stop in Redding, California to discuss the group's resilience.

— Jeff Niesel


Styx, Holly Williams
6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 26
House of Blues
308 Euclid Ave.
Tickets: $40-$65

You played here this past summer at Blossom with Peter Frampton and Nelson. Was there anyone under 20 at that show?

  • Well, you know, the crazy thing is that we have a huge and growing audience that is 14, 15, 16 years old. It's hard for me to give you a breakdown. There's a new wave of people into Led Zeppelin and ourselves and Journey. More and more we're seeing a young audience interested in our band. We span the generations. So to answer your question, yes, there were, wearing Pink Floyd T-shirts and vintage Styx shirts.

I know you tour regularly with REO Speedwagon, but if you could tour with one band from say, the '90s or the '00s, who would it be?

  • Evanescence is a band that sounds a lot like Styx. They do a lot the things that made us successful — harmony vocals with heavy guitar underpinnings. They sold four million records, but like us, don't get critical praise. When Creed was together, I thought they had a sense of melody, but the power of guitars were still there. There's two for you.

Would Styx have ever been popular if it kept its original name, TW4?

  • No.

Are all the lawsuits between the band and former singer Dennis DeYoung finally settled, and are you still on speaking terms?

  • Yeah. They were filed in October 2000 and settled in 2001. He hasn't called me, and I haven't called him. I haven't spoken to him since June of 1999. I hear he moved close to my neighborhood, though. I keep expecting to see him at the car wash, but it hasn't happened.

How would you rate him as a Broadway star?

  • Dennis is a talented human being. His aspirations differ from mine and Tommy Shaw's. I'm not really a student of musical theater. I don't know if I could consider myself a judge. The guy can sing. I saw him in Jesus Christ Superstar , and he could carry himself well.

Was Pontius Pilate the perfect role for him?

  • There are more fitting roles, but it was a good one.

What do you think of Eric Cartman's version of “Come Sail Away” on South Park ?

  • I guess imitation of any sort is a form of flattery. We were flattered that they utilized a track. The reality is, I know they're fans. Like many comedians who are insult comics, they make fun of you because they do like you. I thought it was fine.

Have you ever eaten at [original bassist] Chuck Panozzo's hot dog shop?

  • No, I have not.

Billy Bob Thornton sings on your song “Bourgeois Pig.” What'd you think of his breakup with Angelina Jolie?

  • We met Billy after Angelina. He speaks about her fondly. I never talk to him about her. He's talked to me about her. He'll always love her in some way. In many ways, I think he felt unworthy. She's pretty hot.

Tenacious D plays on the tune “Kiss Your Ass Good-bye” with you. How does their song “Tribute” stack up against the great prog-rock anthems of the '70s?

  • I think Jack Black and Kyle Gass are geniuses. I love those guys. It's very cool stuff.

Styx still isn't in the Rock Hall, and very few prog-rock bands are. Why do they get short shrift?

  • Well, I believe in terms of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there's a small group of people who choose who's eligible. It's a controlled decision-making process by people who are biased against prog rock. That's just the way it is. It doesn't bother me. There are great cinematic performances that aren't nominated for awards. The real test is when I take the stage tonight and how people respond. If that's as far as the appreciation goes, then I've done my job, even if 15-20 people sitting in New York don't show their appreciation. I'll probably be in a wheelchair by the time it happens. But I'm a patient guy.


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