Ricky Phillips is no stranger to world of rock music. Over his 30+ year career Phillips has played bass for a number of successful groups. He is probably best known for holding down the low end for the legendary classic rock band Styx. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Ricky recently about the bands current tour with Reo Speedwagon and Ted Nugent as well as about the bands recent Blu-Ray release titled “Styx: Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight- Live”.
Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the bands current tour with Reo Speedwagon and Ted Nugent?
Ricky Phillips: Both Styx and Reo Speedwagon have some incredible history that goes way back. We are both from Illinois and have toured together before but this is the first one we have done together in about 3 or 4 years. We did do some one off shows here and there but the idea came up to put us together and have Ted Nugent open. It is sort of a collaboration of Mid-West rock bands. The attendance at these shows has just been amazing. When you go out each year you never know what the shows will be like. The first leg of the tour went well and was sort of business as usual. This second leg has been sold out every night which just blew us away. It’s really crazy how it’s caught on. This success may lead to us doing a similar tour sometime next year. The fans seem to really enjoy the line up and if you think about it each group is quite different so we are trying to put a different slant on mid-west rock.
AL: What has been the biggest difference in the crowds as of late?
RP: There are so many young people now that have discovered classic rock bands. They seem to be at a point in their music listening lives where they are looking for what came before. We are those guys. When I and the rest of the guys in the band were younger and at this point we were heavily influenced by the British music movement. From there we looked back and found artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Guys like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were into these acts so we started searching them out as well. It is pretty cool seeing these new young faces as they watch and sing along. We have a great cross section of fans.
AL: Can you tell us about the DVD/Blu-Ray the band recently released?
RP: The “Styx: Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight- Live” came out really great. The Blu-Ray did amazing and I couldn’t believe how many people were waiting for that. I think we were actually number 2 in sales for the first couple weeks on Amazon.com. Those two albums go together so well that the discs came out beautifully. Doing those shows was like going back the vinyl era where you dropped the needle and boom the music kicks in. We did each album in its entirety the way it was recorded so fans could have that feeling of knowing what the next song is. They could get wrapped up in the songs. We would then take an intermission and come back and play “Pieces of Eight”. It was just so much fun. When we first did those records and you were trying to get them on the radio you would pack one side with what you thought were going to be the hits. You were trying to foresee the future. When you do a live concert things are exactly the opposite. You generally start with the B cuts then the hits and close out with your encores. It was a bizarre way to do a live show like an album but it seemed to work really well. The Blu-Ray version of the show is definitely the way to see it.
AL: Was it hard going back and playing some of the material that you hadn’t played in awhile?
RP: At first it was a little tough. We worked pretty hard on the material and once we got in to it we knew we weren’t turning back. We did a lot of switching off between vocals parts as there are just so many stacked vocal parts on those albums. We even threw a microphone back to our drummer Todd Sucherman who is a great singer. Getting those extra voices were crucial and probably the biggest challenge. We like challenges like that and we welcomed it. Things turned out really well.
AL: VH1 recently did a re-mastered episode of the “Styx: Behind the Music” episode. What was it like having to delve once again back in to the bands history?
RP: Personally I am not a fan of those kinds of shows. I am a bit of a weirdo. I don’t like people knowing my bands business. I liked the concept of not knowing about a band until you went and saw them live. You might see a picture or two of a band in a magazine or something but that was about it. I loved that mystique. Watching these types of shows is a little difficult. I know fans like them and we are in a different age now. With reality television and things I guess these types of shows fit right in. The episode is pretty well represented I think. They shot some footage of me while I was in England and I was a little afraid to watch the show. After seeing I thought it was good and gladthat it was out there for fans to see how the band came about and how we have evolved.
AL: What other plans are in the works for the band?
RP: The band will continue to tour and live its daily life. As that happens things are always evolving and stuff start to tell their own stories. We have been writing new material and talking about getting it recorded for some time. I have started to hear more and more about it as of late. We may find some time in our schedules to actually do that. For us it’s really about the touring business. After this tour wraps up I think we have about a week off and then we go back out doing “An Evening with Styx”. I kind of know what parts of the country we will be in but I don’t know the exact venues.