It’s been approximately 14 years since Styx released a new studio album. Their ‘mission’ is finally accomplished with their newest album entitled, “The Mission.” It’s a concept album with a twist. The story is about an astronaut and his mission to Mars and his adventures while traveling to the mysterious red planet and through the universe. One of the first singles from the album is called, "Gone, Gone Gone!"

I had the exclusive opportunity to speak with the legendary rock star, Tommy Shaw himself about the new album and tour this summer. Styx has millions of fans all over the world and they love to keep them happy with their innovative shows.

Their current tour begins on June 27 this year and ends on March 5, 2018.

Tommy Shaw discusses 'The Mission'

Suzanne Rothberg: Your new album, “The Mission” is your first studio album in 14 years. Was the band always fascinated with space and the universe and I heard that there’s even a planet named after the band?

Tommy Shaw: The fifth moon around Pluto was named after us by a guy that discovered it named Mark Showalter. We met all the people at the mission controls where the mission took nine years to get to here from Pluto. We just happened to be in the area the day they had their fly-by we got to see a real picture of Pluto.

That’s where we met Mark Showalter—he’s part of the Southwest Research Institute. The one who dreamed up the whole mission is Alan Stern; he’s the Principal Investigator.

He imagined it, he got funding from NASA for it; he put together the theme for the rockets that he wanted just to create all the hardware to get it from here to there and it’s still going. Alan became a good friend to have as a resource and we went along trying to refine our story. It started out as just a ‘Mission to Mars.’ But then after meeting the people who did the ‘New Horizons’ project, we said what if we went far from Mars and went to Pluto—and incorporate that into our story; and the mission is ongoing.

We went to different places in our minds to get the story right and then we had help which was awesome!

It started out as just a ‘Mission to Mars.’ But then after meeting the people who did the ‘New Horizons’ project, we said what if we went far from Mars and went to Pluto—and incorporate that into our story; and the mission is ongoing. We went to different places in our minds to get the story right and then we had help which was awesome!

Suzanne Rothberg: Do you have a favorite track off of the new album?

Tommy Shaw: I love it from top to bottom. I love every song and the songs stand on their own. If you want to know more about the album and how it all connects, all the information is there in the album packaging.

Suzanne Rothberg: How long did the album take to produce?

Tommy Shaw: If you add up the time, it wasn’t that long—but during that time we were playing between 100-120 shows a year. It took three years but it’s been finished for a few months now.

Suzanne Rothberg: The album was recorded in three different studios?

Tommy Shaw: Yes, it was created in three different studios. When we finally did the master recordings we did it at Blackbird Studios and my studio.

Suzanne Rothberg: The band has their own label, ‘Alpha Dog.’ How did that come about?

Tommy Shaw: Well, it’s done through Universal -- they have our whole catalog -- and that’s just how you do things these days. You have your own imprint and you get to run that part of it; record labels are not in high-rises filled with staff like they used to be. Now you become the producer of the record; but you have the larger company that handles the distribution and the bigger jobs.

Styx: Then and now

Suzanne Rothberg:: Are you happier with the current band line-up now than the former band line-up?

Tommy Shaw: I’d say we’re a ‘happier’ band now. We had a good creative thing in the very beginning but there was a difference of opinion on direction. Even though we functioned and were successful in the earlier band, I wouldn’t say we were a ‘happy band.’ Now, we’re older and we’re all on the same page and we appreciate what we have, so now I’d say we’re definitely happier.

Suzanne Rothberg: Do you think Lawrence Gowan sounds a little bit like Dennis De Young?

Tommy Shaw: No, but he can sing the songs in the same register and that’s what we were looking for. When Dennis left, we went out looking for somebody to sound like him and we got one or two people that sounded exactly like him! I remember JY standing in my studio, this guy sent us a tape of himself singing some of our songs. But that didn’t seem like the way to go in the future.

When Peter Gabriel left Genesis and Phil Collins took over; they didn’t sound anything alike. They both sounded great! I just thought it was better to have somebody be themselves rather than be somebody else. And Lawrence Gowan was already a star in Canada. I much prefer Lawrence taking over.

Suzanne Rothberg: You’ll be touring the Northeast area. Will there be some more New York dates added?

Tommy Shaw: I don’t know. It may just be what it is. I think we’re doing about 30 shows.

Suzanne Rothberg: In some of the shows you’re teaming up with REO Speedwagon. I know they have been a great addition to your shows in the past. Do you think you will play with another 80s band like Guns ‘N’ Roses?

Tommy Shaw: The promoters are so good at knowing who the target audiences are and who might be a ‘wild card’ for things that would work, so we leave that to them. Guns ‘N’ Roses might be great. We’re a rock band, we’re always wide open. I remember when I was in Damn Yankees, right about the time they made their first record. They used to come to one of our shows, they became huge!

Suzanne Rothberg: Are there any solo projects from you?

Tommy Shaw: There’s always something. It’s like we never stop creating. I did a live solo with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra; ten years ago, Styx did a DVD with them. They asked me to do a solo symphony show. At one point, I may do another solo record but it’s nice having just one thing to think about right now.

Suzanne Rothberg: The album, “The Mission” has been very well received and you’ve gotten very positive reviews from it so far since it was released on June 16.

Tommy Shaw: They were the best reviews we’ve ever gotten on any album. We’re shocked and we don’t really know how to take it. We love the album and we are hoping people love it as much as we do; they’re saying the things we’d hope they would say.

Suzanne Rothberg: Anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Tommy Shaw: Thank you so much for embracing this new album. It was really done for the fans. We wanted this to connect this to a favorite Styx album because we were going to insert an album right after “Pieces of Eight.” Then we took that and just ran with it and we did it all analog; the same sounds. We used the analog synthesizer and a tape machine and you have to go through all that trouble to use that stuff but once we got on that path we got used to it. So, it’s got that sound that goes with our earlier albums.

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