"We always about the details when we recorded.  Every note counted but it was more improvised than you think." - Steve Lukather

Posted: March 23, 2024
TIn the years following Lukather taught himself how to play the guitar. He hung out with older friends who showed him how to play and how to set the chords. At high school he met the Porcaro brothers who were a couple of years older than him. Jeff Porcaro and David Paich were already doing session stuff. "I was self-taught until about 15 and then I started taking lessons with (classical/jazz/country player) Jimmy Wyble. He taught me how to read and I took a lot of other classes, like orchestration.

Photo credit: Masanori Doi Budokan

Perfectionists set unrealistically high expectations for themselves and others. They are quick to find fault and overly critical of mistakes. They tend to procrastinate a project out of their fear of failure. They shrug off compliments and forget to celebrate their success.

When it comes to perfection, it will always become unattainable. However, people strive to accomplish it. Even at all costs to themselves or others. As I examine the definition and the outcome to the mentality of the individual, I do not see an upside to being a perfectionist. The following traits can destroy your potential for success:

  • Unrealistic high expectations
  • Finding fault
  • Critical of mistakes
  • Procrastination
  • Fear of failure
  • Receptive to compliments
  • Embrace or celebrate success.

What is the purpose to achieving goals if you do not have the ability to celebrate when the occur. In fact, embracing achievements will provide you incentive to continue producing with realistic expectations. Of course, there is no harm in wanting to improve upon your abilities. However, you wouldn’t want to do that at the expense of another individual.

One of the topics that you hear about often is “fear of failure”. Everyone is going to fail at some point in their career. What you learn from failing will determine your growth. Criticizing mistakes, is an unproductive form of self-evaluation. It doesn’t do anything to assist you with creative forms of expression. I have worked with artists that failed and continue to fail because of feeling a sense of worthlessness. An evaluation of their thought process determined that they were quick to find fault with themselves. They also defined their successes by what others thought of them. Instead of setting goals and recognizing when they were achieved. That is an opportunity for celebration and embrace compliments.

I can’t imagine if certain artists allowed failure to envelop them, would they be able to progress within the music industry. Over the years, I have interviewed bands and artists that experienced failure for one reason or another. However, the were able to comprehend that failure was part of success. It would also determine the longevity of your career. Failure = Success. That formula doesn’t seem to make sense. But when you dive into the motive behind productivity, the formular is on point.

Our cover guest for this month is Steve Lukather. One of the top guitarists of all time. We want hope to gain some more insight into his thought process to the success he has experienced.


Versatile musician, guitarist, vocalist, composer, producer, and arranger Steve Lukather was born in Los Angeles on October 21 in 1957. Before his father bought him a guitar (a simple Kay acoustic) and a copy of Meet the Beatles at the age of seven, Luke started to play drums and keyboards. "I love keyboards, I write all my songs on keyboards except for the real obvious 'burn' tunes. I find it much easier; you have all these great synth sounds, and you play a C chord, and it's sounds like God, and you start thinking melodies as opposed to chops." (Lukather, 1986).

The guitar and the Beatles album changed the life of the young boy. "Just the sound of it overcame my whole soul, if you want to call it that. I knew that's what I wanted to do. I remember George Harrison played a solo in I saw her standing there and just the sound of the guitar bending and the reverb struck a nerve inside of me." (Lukather, 1993).

In the years following Lukather taught himself how to play the guitar. He hung out with older friends who showed him how to play and how to set the chords. At high school he met the Porcaro brothers who were a couple of years older than him. Jeff Porcaro and David Paich were already doing session stuff. "I was self-taught until about 15 and then I started taking lessons with (classical/jazz/country player) Jimmy Wyble. He taught me how to read and I took a lot of other classes, like orchestration. I wanted to learn. At that point i was really intrigued by the whole session thing. It wasn't something I wanted to do since I was a little kid. I didn't know anything about it until I was in high school. I always thought it was kind of cool to be able to play on all these great artists' records." (Lukather, 1993).

After playing and touring with Boz Scaggs, David Paich and Jeff Porcaro asked Steve Lukather, Bobby Kimball, David Hungate and Steve Porcaro in 1976 to join for their own band Toto. In the meantime, David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, and people like Jay Graydon involved Lukather more and more in the session business. In the late seventies and the eighties Lukather showed himself a first class and first called session musician, who played with everybody on the planet (check out the discography).

In September 1977 Toto released their first album Toto that generated the hit singles Hold the line, I'll supply the love and Georgy Porgy. With the album David Paich and Steve Lukather started a more than 35 years Toto career. As the diagram in this website points out Lukather did some minor contributions to the songwriting in the first years of the Toto career. However, his contributions increased by degrees. "I've been writing songs since I was a kid, but I kind of stopped writing when I joined Toto because Dave had all these incredible tunes. Every day he'd come in and say, 'Dig my new tune' and when he played it, it would be a killer tune.

The year 1982 turned out to be the most successful (commercially) in Toto's and Lukather's career. Lukather, Paich and Jeff and Steve Porcaro contributed heavily to Michael Jackson's Thriller album, that turned out to be the most successful album in music history ever (over 50 million copies). The album Toto IV went platinum, and the hit singles Rosanna and Africa became all time classics. A year later Toto received six golden gramophones at the Grammy Awards in relation to Toto IV and Lukather gained a Grammy for best rhythm & blues song Turn your love around, co-written with Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin.

After touring with Jeff Beck, Simon Phillips, and Carlos Santana in Japan, Lukather released in 1989 his first solo album Lukather, music wises a very heterogeneous album with contributions of lots of musical friends he respected and had worked with: Michael Landau, Danny Kortchmar, Randy Goodrum, Eddie Van Halen, David Paich, Steve Stevens, Jeff Porcaro, Richard Marx etc.

In 1991, right after the departure of Toto's fourth lead singer Jean-Michel Byron, Steve Lukather takes over the role of lead singer in the band. "There's certain techniques that you can learn from professional vocal coaches. I never lost my voice in the all the shows that we did. It was amazing to me. It's like anything else. It's like playing guitar, man. If you haven't played for a while and you pick it up and you start playing all this stuff, after a while your muscles feel tight." (Lukather, 1993).

In view of his musical development, Lukather became more and more open, sensitive, and pure. His voice developed strong and warm, and his guitar sound became more and more direct and sharp, no matter if he's raging or playing tender ballads. All these developments seem to come together on Lukather's contributions to the album Inertia (2001) by Derek Sherinian, with Simon Phillips, Zakk Wylde, Jerry Goodman, and Tom Kennedy. "Derek's cd is probably my best recorded work in my whole career. Simon got the best outta me. It's just me playin thru a 1/12 Marchall with my guitar, no efx, just a little delay from the board. Great cd! I'm very proud of it!" (Lukather, 2001).

In 2004 and 2005 Lukather contributed to new albums and songs of some old musical friends like Van Halen, Joe Cocker, Edgar Winter, Les Paul & Friends, and Tommy Lee. On top of touring with Toto and his own band (with Steve Weingart, Oskar Cartaya and Joey Heredia), Lukather spent alot of time in the studio in 2005 with his Toto mates to record the new Toto album Falling in between, released in 2006 and followed by a major world tour in 2006 and 2007 and the first months of 2008, ending up with a Japan tour together with Boz Scaggs in March 2008, which makes the Toto circle round. Having Greg Phillinganes as an official Toto member, replacing David Paich at the live concerts, Lukather and his Toto mates have given their best for the new album. Lukather: "If this is the last record we ever make (it won’t be, I hope), I can walk away knowing we threw DOWN the best we got.

After the release of his solo album Ever changing times in 2008 Lukather decided to leave Toto, which meant the end of the band, and focus on his solo career. After two years of touring with his own band (Steve Weingart, Eric Valentine & Carlitos del Puerto) he started the recording of his 6th solo album All’s well that ends well in January 2010. The album has been released fall 2010.

During the last weekend of January 2014 Steve Lukather performed with Ringo Starr at the Grammy Awards. The following day, on Monday the 27th, he participated in The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles (Aired on CBS-TV February 9). Luke offers: "This is full circle for me. I started playing the guitar the day I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and now 50 years later I have been so graciously asked to be a part of The Grammy Awards with Ringo alongside playing and being a part of the 50th Anniversary show.

In March 2015 Toto released TOTO XIV, the band’s first album of new material since 2006’s Falling In Between. However, the band personally considered the new album to be the true follow-up to TOTO IV, which made the band global superstars. Toto XIV turned out to be one of their most successful albums ever. It charted all around the world showing the true dedication of their worldwide fans.

Where the years 2015, 2016 and 2017were dominated by touring with Toto, promoting the Toto XIV album and conquering the US market again, and with touring with Ringo Starr & his All Starr Band. The next years Lukather will focus on a new Toto album (after a new agreement with Sony), his autobiography (set for 2018) and touring with Ringo Starr in Europe and with Toto celebrating worldwide Toto's 40th anniversary.

The celebration album (40 years of Toto), due out Feb. 9, 2018, coincides with a world tour whose European leg begins Feb. 11 in Helsinki, Finland, with North American dates slated for the summer. Toto will also be releasing a limited-edition box set featuring remastered versions of all the band's albums and more unreleased material, including 1981-84 tracks recorded with the late members Jeff and Mike Porcaro.

In the 1993 duologue with his good friend Eddie Van Halen Lukather sighed that he would have been more respected as a guitarist if he had just done Toto. That statement has got everything to do with the mind setting of the critics who tried to shadow the musical development of Steve Lukather.

Grammy Awards:
• 1982, Best R&B song: Steve Lukather, Jay Graydon, Bill Champlin (for George Benson) - Turn your love around.
•  1982, Producer of the year: Toto - Toto IV.
•  1982, Album of the year: Toto - Toto IV.
•  1982, Record of the year: Toto - Rosanna.
•  2001, Best pop instrumental album: Larry Carlton & Steve Lukather - No substitutions, live in Osaka.

Edison Award:
• 1999, Lifetime Achievement Award, Toto, Holland.

Musicians Hall of Fame:
• 2009, Toto induction Musicians Hall of Fame, Nashville, USA.

Eddie Christiani Award:
• 2010, Lifetime achievement guitar award, Holland.

Over the past decade, TOTO has had a major renaissance in popularity like few bands at this point in their career.  No individual statistic exhibits this more than achieving the milestone of over 3.4 billion streams at Spotify alone. The total plays of the band’s collected works across all platforms is now approaching five billion. Amongst the most listened to recordings, “Africa” accounts for over one billion streams at Spotify alone.  The song was recertified by the RIAA 8X Platinum.

Individually and collectively, the band’s family tree can be heard on an astonishing 5000 albums that together amass a sales history of a half a billion albums.  Amongst these recordings, NARAS applauded the performances with hundreds of Grammy nominations.   They are pop culture and are one of the few 70’s bands that have endured the changing trends and styles while continuing to remain relevant.

Steve Lukather aka Luke shares, “There is a refreshing, optimistic enthusiasm to step in to the future. As long-tenured members of the band, Joe and I want to be on the road continuing to keep the original legacy of the band alive, bringing the music to our multi-generational fan base.


Guitar Thrills: I personally am thrilled to chat with our special guest today. I have been a fan of Toto for decades. Even more, I have been blown away by the artistic talent of Guitarist Steve Lukather. We have outlined some of his achievements throughout the years. However, there is so much more to what Toto and Steve Lukather has accomplished. There are always character traits by the success of an artist. We try to pinpoint what it is specifically that has helped Steve Lukather succeed in the music industry. 

Guitar Thrills: Hi Steve. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us today. I must admit, an interview with Steve Lukather is on the top of my list of guitarists to interview. Considering the topic of this interview, would you consider yourself a perfectionist? If so, to what degree?

Luke: Thanks for the kind words. 

Well, we always about the details when we recorded.  Every note counted but it was more improvised than you think, and we also got our basic tracks done in 1-3 takes at the most with zero rehearsal. Then we started being more meticulous about every overdub, and the way we layered vocals and mixed. So yes, I suppose in the early days especially. Now I am much looser.  Maybe cause of all the years of experience or getting better at it live especially. Our early records were hard to do live cause we made such huge productions, but now we have it all right so live really sounds good. I suppose all musicians, unless punk musicians, we really tried to get better and make sure the playing and singing are spot on. 

Guitar Thrills: You are an accomplished Guitarist. Did you ever feel like you failed during your career? If not, did you ever have an issue with admitting your mistakes?

Luke: Read my book. It’s all in there. ' The Gospel According to Luke’ (available on Amazon).  I admit all my sins and bad behavior in there about the middle part of my career plus hilarious stuff, that happened. 

Never wild in the studio, but I developed a pretty bad drinking problem that DID mess with my playing, and I am ashamed of that.  And sure, there were a few things I wish I could go back in time and fix but ... I can only learn from personal mistakes and playing mistakes. If you just xerox the same parts in every show for almost five decades, then you’re playing would get stale. We improvise a lot live so... sometimes ya miss and then dick heads post it on youtube and point out every wart with fake names etc.…EVERYONE must deal with this. It’s what the iPhone world is like. I will never understand why people come to a show to see us or anyone live and look thru their viewfinders and miss the ACTUAL show, and then go home and it looks and sounds like shit. Why? But ... I am an old guy now so. hahaha 

Guitar Thrills: What are some of the challenges that you faced early in your career?

Luke: Well as a studio player the pressure of coming up with great parts every day with no rehearsals or demos and sometimes you didn’t even know who the artist was or what style of music... we would be doing that day. As hard as that might seem we all had a blast doing it and that’s why people hired us. Not because of my ability to read music, which we could do, BUT creativity and what WE brought to every song we ever recorded for us and or anyone and creative parts and solos are what they paid us for.  I loved doing it and we could do it fast and every day without blinking. 99% of what we got was chord charts and a few rhythmic notations on it.  All solos were just whatever I wanted to play or heard for the track in 1 -2 takes and it was so much fun. Best times of my life AND having a successful rock band. I have lived my dream times a 1000! I am most grateful every day believe me!

Guitar Thrills: Toto has always been a successful band. Did you ever think about a hiatus from the band, and going on your own? If so, what made you feel that way? 

Luke: Well, the pandemic showed me what sitting in my house for 2 years scared and wondering IF I will ever have a career again woke me up to the fact retirement will never happen for me!  Why? I love my job.  You only retire from a job you hate. I am the luckiest man in show biz. Millions better than me, but I was the fortunate one to get the shot but then after that to parlay it into an almost 50-year career...I will stop when I am dead. Hahaha

Guitar Thrills: It is apparent that Toto is still thriving in the music industry. Even despite the change in music styles, sounds, etc. What has been the reason for your continued success?

Luke: We can’t be out of style of we were never IN style. Haha. We have just stayed IN it and worked thru the years when it was harder as every band that has a long career goes thru ups and downs. We have had both, but I always believed in us no matter what anyone said. Some hate me for keeping the band on the road cause it’s not the original line up. Well, I can’t bring back my brothers that have passed on or are medically unable to tour. If no one showed up I guess we would stop. 

I am a road dog from day one so I can’t imagine NOT doing it. If it was not still successful, I would stop it but it’s quite the opposite now. We are getting a 3rd act in our career which is Rare and hard for a classic rock band to get! We have been enjoying the best success of our career in streaming and live $ so... why stop?  I still LOVE doing it and many young people are digging what we do and it’s a great band now with world class players.  Last thing I would want to do its shit on the legacy.  We have had what... 18 incarnations of the band since we started. Some better than others, aside from the original which can't be beat, but we are playing at a high level and David Paich, and I still run the band with Joe, and I am loving this new band and playing the songs more like the original records. Sometimes we might try stuff that is fun, great players in the past, but for NOW... I want to go back to how the records were played for the most part.  

Guitar Thrills: I believe, making great music from the start of Toto contributed to popularity of the band down to this day. Is there one person that held the band together, or was it a collaborative effort?

Luke: It has always been a collaborative thing and still is, but I am the only guy left who was there when we recorded our first demos in Jan 1977 till present without leaving and coming back. I just believed in us coming back to great success more than some of the guys. I believed in what we are now achieving so I want to take the ride as long as we can. I was built for this life. Some are just not.

Guitar Thrills: If you were growing up now, as an artist, what genre of music would you chose? 

Luke: I would do what I am doing now because I don’t know how to do it any other way. Everyone has different styles and or dreams they wish to follow, and I must say I AM a huge fan of what all the young players are bringing. Astonishing abilities I will never have. I am sure lucky not to have to break into the scene NOW. TOO much pressure.

Guitar Thrills: There have been many artists that have inspired you throughout the years. Some of them have passed away. Do feel an obligation in some way to help ensure their legacy lives on? If so, in what way?

Luke: I am influenced by everything I have ever heard and loved and all the legends we all love. Difference is I was seeing this and hearing this all go down in real time from the first time I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964. My ON switch to life was that night and I still feel that way! We all know the greats from then on and they ALL influenced me. The wild thing is I have gotten to play and work with most of my hero’s. That is beyond a dream come true.

Guitar Thrills: Is there any new bands or artists, that you enjoy listening too?

Luke: I love my son’s new band The Effect.  They are great. Youtube them. My son Trev plays guitar, writes, and produces but they write the music together. They have Nic Collins, Phil Collins’s son on drums, singer Emmett Stang and Steve Maggiora who also tours with us in Toto. Check them out.  Their record is coming soon. There is a LOT of greatness coming from so many young players and bands. I am NOT a musical snob. I love all kinds of music from easy to the most intense levels of musicianship and writing. 

Guitar Thrills: You have had a three-decade long relationship with Music Man. Do you perform with exclusively their signature guitars created via that collaboration? Are there different brands that you use depending upon the environment? Example: Stage vs Studio. 

Steve: ALL Music man all the time for 30 years. Yes, I have vintage guitars, some of which I have sold, but my fave old vintage guitars are still with me. 

Guitar Thrills: I can recall an interview with Eddie Van Halen, where he mentioned that he doesn’t use pedals to distort his sound. The sound comes his style of play, and his guitar. What about you, have you used pedals to get a specific sound? If so, why? 

Steve: Well ...he used some pedals just not distortion pedals. The MXR phaser and flanges and some delay later in his career but yeah ED didn't NEED anything. It was all him. He was magic man...1 of a kind!! ... and a dear, dear friend I miss every day. 

Guitar Thrills: I know that both Toto and Journey are touring together. How did that come about?

Steve: Well, my son is married to Jonathan Cain’s daughter and they kinda of started the ball rolling and then an old promoter friend of both bands Dannny Zelisko pushed for the idea, and it just happened.  It’s been GREAT for our visibility and career in the USA,and I love Journey and Neal Schon is a KILLER player and an old friend. I played on Jonathan’s early demos when I was still a teenager, so we have a history, but this was really caused by who I mentioned, and it has gone so well we have been doing in the in USA for 3 years now. It’s one big happy hang backstage and we all love and respect each other so... it’s a win win. 

Guitar Thrills:  Is there a recent Toto release, or a solo album you would like your fans to know about?

Steve: Our Box set was the last release a few years back. It has done VERY well for us and had 4 new /old songs we finished. Right now, it’s working on the road. Not sure if we will ever do a full album again but maybe a new track or 2... I am open but it is not like the old days where we can stay in the studio for months doing it old school. No budget or return for it sadly...

Ya never know...

Guitar Thrills: Excellent feedback. We enjoyed chatting with you. I know you are busy, and we appreciate your time. Until then, we hope the best for your continued success. 

Steve: Thanks for asking me. I am just so grateful to still be doing this at a high level having a blast doing it. 

Best to all,


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