An Interview with Dennis DeYoung of Styx
This Pop Stops feature interview was originally published in the The Star Newspapers in the Summer of 1996

STYX

Reunites to restage Paradise Theatre show

It's been a dozen years since the full cast of Styx hit the stage together, but starting May 21st in Michigan (coming to Tinley Park's World Theatre on June 14), the full band of Dennis DeYoung, Tommy Shaw, James Young and John and Chuck Panozzo are returning to the road for 56-city summer tour.

But this isn't just any old reunion tour of canned hits. In an interview last month, DeYoung revealed that the band is pulling out the stops and revisiting one of their best concepts and tours: this summer's reunion tour will be titled "The Return To The Paradise Theatre."

"Hey, if they can do revivals of shows in the theatre, why not in rock?" DeYoung asks, noting that the old sets are being polished off and rebuilt for the show. DeYoung, Shaw and Young made the rounds of Chicago radio and TV outlets last week to announce the reunion. Tickets for the World Theatre show went on sale in April.

The south side Chicago quintet had a phenomenal run of multiplatinum albums in the late '70s, chalking up hits like "Babe," "Lady," "Come Sail Away," and "Renegade," through a string of classics like 1977's The Grand Illusion, 1978's Pieces of Eight and 1979's Cornerstone. The following year brought one of the band's most popular pieces, the concept album Paradise Theatre, which yielded two top 10 hits in DeYoung's "The Best of Times" and Shaw's "Too Much Time On My Hands." In 1983 Styx released Kilroy Was Here, another concept album which found the band playing the tour as if it were a stage show: they performed the entire concert in stage "roles" and even shot a short film played before concerts dramatizing the album's conceit — that the "musical majority" had banned rock 'n' roll.

Following the grueling Kilroy tour, the band took time off for solo projects. DeYoung hit big with the title track from his Desert Moon, and Shaw did the same with Girls With Guns. James Young also released a hard rock album with Jan Hammer. But DeYoung's and Shaw's subsequent solo projects didn't find the chart acceptance of their initial forays, and eventually Shaw joined Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent and Nightranger's Jack Blades. DeYoung called Styx back together for 1990's Edge of the Century, but Shaw's commitment to Damn Yankees kept him from the project. Glen Burtnik stepped in to fill the gap, and the revived, Shawless Styx placed two more top 40 hits before going back into hibernation while DeYoung took to the stage in a different role: as Pontius Pilate in the long-running revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.

"We've been trying to do this since 1990," DeYoung admits of the reunion with Shaw. "When Tommy was ready, I had a solo album to finish, and then he got in Damn Yankees and that was the end of it. But then last fall when we released the Greatest Hits album, we did a few TV appearances with me, Tommy and JY and all the agencies started calling to see if we were back together. So we talked about it. People really seemed to want to see these guys together!"

DeYoung was finishing the staging of Q-Modo, a musical he wrote based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, over the winter (the soundtrack for the as-yet unopened show may be available to purchase at the band's shows this summer). But in February, he signed on to the concept of pulling Styx back together for a full-blown tour. The band also recorded two new songs, both co-written by former Stygian, Burtnik.

"Even when Styx was at the height of its fame, I don't think I've ever been this busy," DeYoung laughs, describing the hasty preparations for the tour, the recording of the two new songs, and the preparations for bringing his Q-Modo to the stage sometime in the next year. "But I can't tell you how exciting this is. That people still want to see these guys...still amazes me."

DeYoung sounds psyched about the new songs the reformed band has recorded, both of which will be available on a Greatest Hits Part II set in June. He watches for my reaction (positive) as he pops in a tape and previews the first new song, "Little Susie," a blues-rock jam that turns up the guitars louder than the band has since the mid-'70s. It's a lyrical rhythmfest sung by Shaw, and should do well for the band at rock radio (though, admittedly, not on Q-101!). The other new track, "It Takes Love To Make Love," is a perfect pop vocal exercise for the band that proved that three-part harmonies were meant to go with rock 'n' roll.

"We made some good music and it was a pleasurable experience to do it," enthuses DeYoung. "Let's face it," he adds. "When certain people are in a room, they do something different from anyone else."

Does this revived enthusiasm for working with the full Styx mean an entire album of new material may follow the tour?

"Absolutely," DeYoung nods. "We'll let the hits album come out and do the tour...and then make decisions on where we'll go."

 


 

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