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Styx founding member Dennis DeYoung on his final studio album

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Dennis DeYoung, former lead vocalist and founding member of the band Styx, has just issued what he says is his final solo studio album. “26 East Vol. 2,” (Frontiers Records) the companion to 2020’s “26 East Vol. 1” is titled after his Chicago-area childhood street address.

At age 15, DeYoung formed a musical trio with two friends who lived across the street, Chuck and John Panozzo. They formed the nucleus for the group that became Styx in 1970. The band went on to score 8 top 10 hit singles, seven of which were written and sung by DeYoung, who parted ways with Styx in 1999. He recorded 13 albums with the band, four which have achieved multi-platinum status, selling more than three million copies each.

“26 East, Vol. 2” offers a mix of rockers, ballads, and progressive rock, much like the mid-to-late ‘70s albums he recorded with his former band. DeYoung wrote a number of the tunes and also collaborated with Jim Peterik, founding member of the bands Survivor and The Ides of March. DeYoung credits Peterik’s “talent and encouragement and prodding” as the driving force in convincing him to record his final albums.

Guitarist Tom Morello of the band Rage Against the Machine appears on the album’s latest single, “The Last Guitar Hero.”

As an homage to the group DeYoung calls his greatest influence, the album art is a nod to the The Beatles’ first Capitol Records release, “Meet the Beatles.” During an interview with The Maine Edge, DeYoung rhapsodized at length about the group’s effect on his life, summarized in his new album’s opening cut, “Hello Goodbye,” an original song packed with references to the Fab Four.

As for his decision to stop recording studio albums, DeYoung offered an explanation on his social media pages using the latest release by The Who to illustrate a point. DeYoung says he’s a fan of the band but only recently learned of the existence of the group’s latest album. The record he references, 2019’s “Who” LP, was well received critically and even managed to hit #2 on the Billboard albums chart but sold only a fraction of the amount that earlier titles by the band moved.

“Wait, The Who have a new record?” DeYoung wrote on April 29. “And therein lies the problem all musicians now face. If me, a real fan, isn’t even aware of this record, why should anyone be?”

During the following interview, which aired on BIG 104 FM, DeYoung discusses his new album, his love for The Beatles, and his offer to rejoin Styx for a single tour. DeYoung has concert dates on his itinerary for this fall with his solo band but says he’s taking a wait and see approach when it comes to those shows.

The Maine Edge: My favorite cut on “26 East, Vol. 2” is the opening song “Hello Goodbye,” not a cover of that Beatles song but an original packed with Beatles references, both lyrical and musical. You must have felt like a kid in a candy store putting that song together, it’s so cool.

Dennis DeYoung: It’s my favorite song on the album too. It kind of pays tribute to that early “A Hard Day’s Night” era. I took some song titles from throughout their career and wove them into a story about what it was like to be a fan and how they changed the world for so many billions of people, really.

I mix my music myself and when I finished mixing this track, I was all by myself, and I literally jumped up and started running around and screaming “I did it!” because I was so happy. Those guys meant everything to me.

The Maine Edge: Beatles fans will recognize the album art for “26 East, Vol 2” as an homage to “Meet The Beatles,” their first Capitol Records release in America. Considering your love of the band, and the Fab Four-inspired opening cut, “Hello Goodbye,” it’s a nice touch.

Dennis DeYoung: Thanks, it’s either an homage or a rip-off, I’m not sure which (laughs). You know, the real reason I formed my band is because I was tired of waiting for Paul McCartney to call me (laughs).

The Maine Edge: You’ve packed a lot of diverse styles on this record. Was a double album originally planned?

Dennis DeYoung: Yes, my label wanted two separate releases. We put out “26 East, Vol. 1” last year, but I saved some of my favorite songs from the sessions for “Vol. 2.” It’s a pretty eclectic record. Most of it is like the traditional Styx songs you would have heard in the middle-to-late ‘70s but there are a couple of things on there that are unique to me. One is a song called “Your Saving Grace” and another is the latest single – “The Last Guitar Hero” – which features Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine. You can go to YouTube right now and see that video and also the first single “The Isle of Misanthrope.”

The Maine Edge: Tom Morello must have been thrilled that you wanted him on your final record. How did that collaboration come about?

Dennis DeYoung: I met Tom at an Adam Sandler Christmas/Hanukkah shindig about four years ago. I was surprised to find out he was such a big Styx fan, though he told me KISS was the first band he loved which I get. He’d seen us on the Paradise Theatre tour (1981) and the “Kilroy Was Here” tour (1983). He said he dug “Mr. Roboto” and he was so nice I thought of him when it came to find to find the right guitar player to play on the aptly titled “The Last Guitar Hero.” I call Tom “the great Houdini.” He was the last guy, I think, to do something truly unique with the guitar. I sent him the song, he said he loved it, he played on it, we made the video and there you go. It was really that easy.

The Maine Edge: The first single, “The Isle of Misanthrope,” will remind listeners of a lot of those early prog-rock Styx epics. What can tell you me about that song?

Dennis DeYoung: Well, a misanthrope is somebody who theoretically hates everybody (laughs). With everything we’ve been through in the last 14 months with the pandemic and the political situation here in our country, we’ve seen the absolute best in human beings in our first responders, our doctors and nurses – the people who’ve sacrificed to save lives. And we’ve seen the very worst in people who are constantly appearing to hate, hate, hate. “I hate this one because he doesn’t think like me, I hate this one, what’s wrong with that one? Who eats the thin crust pizza? Who prefers deep dish?” They’re arguing about everything.

I wondered if we’ve become an island of misanthropes where we join little cliques with our own ideology, our own dogma, whatever it is. I don’t care if it’s religious, political or social, if it’s a biker gang or a sock hop. Who cares? Deep inside we’re all the same which is what I said on “The Grand Illusion” album years ago. We’re human beings and I would’ve thought that going through something like this would have clearly taught us that we all face the same kinds of things and we’re on a planet in a universe we really don’t know much about. In that song, I’m trying to say it would serve us much better to have a little more humility and a little less hubris. Just step back and realize that all empires built will someday burn. No matter how highfalutin we think we are, we’re just tiny specks whizzing through the universe. The video for that song is an interesting romp through the history of humankind.

The Maine Edge: You’ve said that you would welcome a return to Styx for one tour which I think the fans would overwhelmingly support. You’re open to it, the fans want it, I don’t understand why it hasn’t happened.

Dennis DeYoung: I don’t understand it either. People say “Dennis, you should just bury the hatchet.” I don’t have a hatchet to bury. I’ve been saying for the last five or six years – just one more tour for the fans. I don’t want to be back in the band permanently – let Tommy (Shaw) and J.Y. (James Young) do what they want to do. How about one more chance for the fans to see Larry, Moe, Curly, and Shemp on the same stage? It would be a thrill for a lot of Styx fans. You’re right – it is what the Styx fans want overwhelmingly. There isn’t a person in the music business who doesn’t know this would be a very successful endeavor. Some feelers were put out through back channels and as far as we heard, Tommy just said no. Don’t send any cards or letters to me kids, I have my bags packed and ready to go.

The Maine Edge: Congratulations on “26 East, Vol. 2.” It’s a very cool record and if this is truly your last album, you have every right to feel proud of it. It’s a remarkable collection of songs that ends your studio career on a high note.

Dennis DeYoung: You know, when I was a kid, playing accordion and Beatle-dreaming, which is how it all started, if you had told me that I would be 74 years old and people would still put me on the radio to talk about the music I was creating, I probably would have had a stroke. It’s just an amazing thing that happened to me. I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan like so many people did in ‘64. I had a little band, just the three of us, and when I saw The Beatles, I said “That’s what I’m gonna do.” The nucleus of that little band went onto become Styx by 1970 and the rest is nearly history. I want to thank all of the people out there listening who were Styx fans or my fans. This final album is giving me a chance to say goodbye to all of the people who’ve truly given me the life that I lead, and it’s pretty doggone nice, so thanks kid.

Last modified on Tuesday, 15 June 2021 17:54

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