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Advice > Industry Interviews > Q&A With Session Guitarist Steve Lukather

Q&A With Session Guitarist Steve Lukather

 

STUDIO SESSION WORK

Q&A WITH GUITARIST STEVE LUKATHER

Copyright Bobby Borg 2003, 2008

 

On the topic of sessions, you can’t ask for a better musician to interview than guitarist Steve Lukather.  Recording approximately 700 records over the last 22 years, Steve has worked with “everyone who is anyone” such as: Miles Davis, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson—not forgetting his work as a member of the multi-platinum rock group, Toto.   Here’s what Steve had to say about his experiences in the studio:

 

Steve Lukather:  It’s hard to break in.  I was in the right place at the right time.  I had lots of friends that put themselves on the line for me and I showed up and did a decent job.  You need to have a good sound, be chameleon-like, and be able to fit right in.  Your personality has a lot to do with it too.  I’ve seen great players come in with an attitude and people are like, “lose this cat.”

 

 

Q: What accounts for having long- term success?

 

S.L: Word of mouth is the only way to do it.  If you play on a hit record or play a solo that sticks out, people will ask, “who is that guy?”  When I joined the group Toto, our reputation as a band led to producers hiring two or three of us at one time.  We sounded like a band full of young guys instead of a bunch of old session guys.  You begin to form relationships with producers that will hire you on everything they do over a period of time.  I did everything that Quincy Jones recorded between 1981 and 1985.

 

 

Q: Do you read music?

 

S.L:  Yes, you have to have some knowledge about what’s happening unless they hire you for your particular style, and that’s more of a specialist thing.  That doesn’t happen that much in the session “scene.” 

 

 

Q: So, is there room for creativity or is someone telling you what to play? 

 

S.L: A good producer has an idea of what he wants, but your interpretation is important.

 

 

Q:  How about equipment?

 

S.L:  All you need is a guitar, an amp, and a couple of stomp boxes to offer some variety to the sound.  I use a studio rental company that sets up all of my stuff and maintains my guitars.

 

 

Q:  Are you Union affiliated?

 

S.L:  I was a member and it turned out to be the biggest waste of money. I mean, I guess it was helpful earlier in my career because the union goes after any employer that doesn’t pay you. The people I work with now are not going to screw me and I don't really have to worry about their pension fund either; I've done pretty well for myself. Note: readers should know not that current union members include: Metallica, Alanis Morissette, Quincy Jones, Melissa Etheridge, Kenny G., Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Stevie Nicks, Axl Rose, and many more.

 

 

Q:  Is it difficult for a session player to make the transition into being an artist?

 

S.L:  If you’re a good singer or a good instrumentalist, and you write good songs, then you could probably be a good artist.  The advantage is that you make enough connections if your in the studio scene long enough that people will give you the time of day.  I was lucky because I’ve done it all.  Now I’m making the step towards producing albums and other stuff, because after awhile you hit a brick wall—you can only be the number one session cat for so long.

 

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Warning: This material is copyright registered by Bobby Borg ©2003, 2008. All rights reserved. If you copy material from this web site, for use in any printed or electronic media, please ask permission of Bobby Borg first by email at bborg@bobbyborg.com. All credits, links to bobbyborg.com, and copyright notices must be posted.

 

 

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