Styx bassist talks panties, tour, music industry

After more than 40 years, Styx is still out on the road and selling out shows. The rock band is currently touring the U.S. and recently released a DVD of their performance on the 2010 “Grand Illusion”/“Pieces of Eight” tour, which featured both albums in their entirety.

Styx is heading down to Miami to perform at the Magic City Casino on March 9, and The Miami Hurricane got the chance to talk to bassist Ricky Phillips about performing live, their new DVD and today’s music industry.

The Miami Hurricane: What’s your favorite part about performing live?

Ricky Phillips: The audience is my favorite part because the audience is always that one extra member in the band that kind of dictates the color of the show. We definitely feed off them. It’s kind of cool to see people out there singing along to the songs. Every night is a little bit different. You never know what direction the show is going to go in.

TMH: It seems like Styx fans can be very supportive, but kind of wild. What’s the craziest fan experience you’ve had?

RP: I remember the first night I ever performed with Styx, there was a line of girls with panties. Some of them had written my name on them and they were hanging them on the neck of my bass. It was sort of a welcoming ritual, which I found to be very interesting. And every night since, you never know what to expect. I remember my nephew came to a show and some girls were hanging panties off the neck of my bass, and my nephew whipped around and looked at his mom and said, “Mommy, that girl just hung her panties on uncle Ricky’s bass.”

TMH: Are there any artists in the music industry today that have impressed you?

RP: Yeah, you know, I like the Black Keys. I mean, they do some cool things and I think that they’re kind of scratching the surface. A guy that I think is a superstar, and this is kind of an obvious, but I kind of discovered him before he had any hit songs, is John Mayer. When John Mayer was just playing guitar in a 3-piece, it reminded me of kind of the Cream, which you know was Eric Clapton’s first band. I don’t know if people realize what an insanely great musician he is and great guitarist. He could be a star if he didn’t sing, just with his guitar playing. And you know, the pop stuff that he’s done and where he’s gone with his career, you know I applaud, it’s not my favorite stuff he does. I kind of like his west commercial material, but hey, he’s able to write hit songs. So you know, good for him. I will say this, there were a lot of years when I couldn’t stand listening to the radio. It was so disappointing. There are a lot of young bands out there right now that I just think are just fantastic and I’m so glad to hear it.

TMH: What would you say is most important for young aspiring musicians to keep in mind?

RP: Well, probably that you are the bottom line for everything and not to get swayed too much by anyone else’s opinion. Find out who you are and stay true to it. I think if you look back at bands that have been around, they all have an identifiable sound and they stuck to it. Also, it’s a long haul for most, so you’ve gotta love it. And you’ve gotta know that it’s in your gut, it’s in your soul, that you couldn’t do anything else because the rewards aren’t obvious. I’ve had times, and if you look at my career it looks like I’ve done a lot of stuff, but there’s been a lot of lean times in between and if I didn’t think the sacrifice was worth it, I would never be talking to you right now.

TMH: How did the idea come about to perform both albums in their entirety for the “Grand Illusion”/“Pieces of Eight” tour and DVD?

RP: You know, we were just trying to find something to do. As I said, we try to do something unique and keep ourselves motivated. And our manager, I believe, Charlie Brusco, had mentioned, “Hey, what about this?” And we all kind of looked around at each other and went, “Wow, that sounds like it’d be cool.” So, we started throwing around ideas and going back and forth, and we decided that we should perform it exactly the way it’s recorded from front to back, do an intermission, come back and do “Pieces of Eight.” So, you’ve got “Grand Illusion” and “Pieces of Eight,” but you’ve also got a 30-foot LED wall behind us, which is running content for each song and transitioning from song to song. It’s kind of a unique and fun experience for the audience. We’re trying to bring back the vinyl experience with the drop of the needle on the record player and then boom, there’s the band.

TMH: What can we expect from a live show on this tour?

RP: I think those who have seen us will recognize some of the things we’re doing. Right now we’re kind of diving into some of the deeper cuts and putting them in the middle of the set, so people can see the depth of Styx. They come, they want to hear the hits, we’re going to give it to them, but also we’ll take them on a little bit of a journey into the deeper cuts within the band.


If You Go

Who: Styx

When: March 9 at 8 p.m.

Where: Magic City Casino, 450 NW 37th Ave., Miami

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