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Candid Q&A with Styx frontman Gowan

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The Canadian Strange Animal who has a Criminal Mind, Lawrence Gowan will be doing a tour this week in Quebec and Ontario. Gowan, of course, scored hit songs and albums one after another in the ’80s and early ’90s. Thanks to an opening slot for Styx at the Bell Centre in Montreal he was then asked to join the band and will be celebrating his 20th year as a member in 2019. In between the last few dates on the current Styx tour and his upcoming Gowan tour he was nice enough to give me a call. 

Curtains Up: Thanks so much for the call. Let’s get to it. I and others are so excited you are doing this tour of Quebec and Ontario. What brought this about?  

Gowan: We get an overview of the year from our manager.  He always knows I’ve said, “If there’s any break in the schedule let’s put on some Gowan shows and do them.”  

gowan guitarIt all started back in 2010 when Styx played Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls. The guy who runs that place said they were getting a lot of requests for a Gowan show and he really thought they could put on a few shows. We spoke with our manager to squeeze it in and did. We ended up doing about seven shows there over the next few years and more with Styx also. That really began the return of Strange Animal. 

For this tour, we were finishing up some Styx shows and he asked me if I wanted to start a Gowan tour two days later. I said we could if we rehearse, which we did in late January. So that’s it. I just heard that six of the nine shows we are doing have sold-out and two more are expected to sell out in the next 24 hours. It couldn’t be better. We are really excited about it. 

That’s awesome! So who can we expect to see in your touring band with you this time around?

Gowan: In this incarnation of the band we have my brother Terry on bass. He was with me from 85 until 1990 and he’s also been with me on every Gowan tour since 2010. Since he’s been with me in the 80’s it’s a nice tie in. We have on guitar Bob McAlpine who was with me for Strange Animal and Great Dirty World tours 85. 86., 87. The new person we have in the band is a girl named Shahi. She’s a great soul singer from Toronto. Then there’s Ryan Bovaird who’ll be playing keyboards and synthesizers.  Of course, we have Todd Sucherman of Styx on drums, who just won best classic rock drummer in Modern Drummer magazine. Sucherman will also be giving a three-hour master class for only $200 at Kosa Academy in Montreal the day after the St Eustache show.  https://www.kosamusic.com/kosa-academy/    

todd2

I do believe Quebec is the province that’s supported your career in Canada more than any other.                                                                                                                                                   

Gowan: That is actually true. Strange Animal is a triple platinum record. The record company told me that 30% of the sales came from Quebec, which means it went platinum in Quebec alone.


gowan kiltYou also had the live solo acoustic album that was done in Quebec. Is there ever a chance you’ll put out a full band live album? 

Gowan: I record all the shows so it’s certainly not out of the question. The problem with that is in order to do a proper live album you need to devote the time to proper post-production. Usually, I finish a solo tour and go right back on the road with Styx. While it’s not impossible I just don’t see when I could get to do it.

We spoke in past interviews about how A Criminal Mind keeps coming back all the time. Now it’s having another resurgence by four lovely ladies from Laval, StringKatz. 

Gowan: I know isn’t that great? I’d like to thank you, Ron, for bringing them to my attention. I like them very much. I love orchestral versions of my music. I use to tour in the ’90s with a string quartet. So, first of all, it was nice to hear what the SringKatz did and it was done so well. It’s good timing also because the single A Criminal Mind just went platinum last year. It’s always been a gold single but last year it finally went platinum which is pretty rare for a single to do in Canada.

(Editorial side note – If you loved the StringKatz version of A Criminal Mind as much as Gowan did make sure to enjoy more of their music from the debut album Dream Out which is available on Spotify or Archambault Music. Keep updated on the StringKatz by joining their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/StringKatz/)

Gowan:  I just got a new publishing deal with Ole records and we’re about to release A Criminal Mind comic book. The entire song will be done in comic book format. A 40-page high-quality comic. When you open the centrepiece it will have a fold out with the piano music to A Criminal Mind. It’s taken almost two years to get the whole thing done. It’s going to the printer in about a week and will come out within a month. On this tour, we’ll be taking pre-orders for people who want to get their Criminal Mind comic book.

That is so cool. You might remember I gave you a Captain Canuck comic book last year. You’re a comic book fan yourself. 

Gowan: I do remember that. You know, Ron, A Criminal Mind was the first video to make use of comic animation. Someone at MuchMusic had told me that A-Ha had already shot a video for Take On Me. Then they saw A Criminal Mind and thought it was a great idea and redid their video with animation. A lot of people think A-Ha preceded mine but it did not.

I know we’re here talking about your solo shows but I had to mention the recent show Styx did in Vegas where you performed your current album, The Mission in its entirety. the feedback from the band and fans was that it blew everyone’s minds away. Are there any plans to do more shows where Styx will perform The Mission in its entirety? 

STYX The Mission CoverGowan: We absolutely have to. So many of the fans regard it in their top five favourite Styx albums. The one show we did in Vegas where The Mission was done in its entirety was supposed to be it. We had huge video screens and some special footage from NASA that we used to carry people through the adventure. In my 20 years with Styx this album The Mission is the pinnacle of what we’ve done. We really believe in it and we’re playing songs from it ever since it came out. It’s the only album by a classic rock band that survived over a year on the classic rock charts on Billboard. This album keeps finding new ears. It keeps adding to the legacy of this band. We’re on such a high right now we can’t wait to do another full Mission show or maybe even a mini-tour.

So let me ask you if you are stranded on a desert island for life what would be your top three desert island discs?  

Gowan: Oh Ron how can you ask me that (laughing)? The first thing I’d do if I’m on a deserted island is to make sure I have a record player. (laughing) A solar-powered floatation record player. Now that we got that out of the way. I’m going to have to pick the records that made me happy the most, otherwise, I’m going to overthink this too much.

thI’m going to have to go with The Beatles Sgt. Pepper at the top of my list. As a kid hearing that for the first time it made my world go from black and white into vivid colour as it did for anyone at that time. I’m going to go with a double album that way I get an extra record, so I’d have to say Goodbye Yellow Brick Road from Elton John. Then I’m really torn because it’s either got to be Yes, Genesis or Queen. It really comes down to a three-way tie between Close to the Edge from Yes, A Night at the Opera by Queen, and uh… even for Genesis, it’s going to be a tie between Selling England by the Pound and Trick of the Tail. I either get Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins and I can’t choose. Here’s what’s going to happen I need you to to be with me on that island with your three desert island discs.

Well I already know what they would be. I’d go with Bruce Springsteen Live 75-85, The Who Quadrophenia, and for a third choice, I’d have to go with Prince Sign O the Times.

Gowan: All excellent choices there.  I also want to pick Quadrophenia (sings Can you see the real me!)

We spoke previously about Wolf Cop and  Wolf Cop 2 even. Do you want to do more acting? 

MV5BYmMxNTJmZDItZGYyNC00NmNjLWIyY2QtMWJhNGNkYzY2YzM3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTgxODYwMjY@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,658,1000_AL_Gowan: I’ve done two more films since Wolf Cop. You’re going to love this. I did a film called Side Boob. It won best independent movie at the Toronto Film Festival. I play myself in the film. It’s about a guy today who lives a lot of his life based on the philosophies of albums that came out in the ’80s. One of the albums he lives his life by is Great Dirty World. There’s a great scene in the film where he meets this girl from England and starts explaining how Great Dirty World changed his life and talks about songs from it like Moonlight Desires specifically. I end up appearing to him on the dance floor.

The other movie I’m in is called She Never Died. I play a modern-day version of the grim reaper, in which I wear a top hat. It’s a sequel to a film called He Never Died with Henry Rollins. He’s not in the sequel because this has a female lead role. In it, I go to visit this girl who wants me to take her life because she’s cursed with immortality. I’d love to do more films. It’s a fun little recess from what I normally do.

Since we’re talking about films do you have any favourite movies?  

Gowan: There’s so many. I think the movie I go back to more than any other is Goodfellas. Another movie that always puts a smile on my face is Back to the Future. If I had to pick the third one probably A Hard Day’s Night.

If they were going to make a movie on the life of Gowan, who would you like to see portray you in a film? 

Gowan: Wesley Snipes (laughing hard).

For Gowan concert dates and tickets, visit www.gowan.org.

gowan and ron

 

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