How Toto’s David Paich Returned to Music
For most of his career, Toto’s David Paich played on other people’s records, racking up credits on around 2,000 albums – although he jokingly admitted recently that this figure might not be accurate.
Regardless of the total, Paich’s session work has won six Grammy Awards and helped sell countless millions of albums. With Toto, the statistics are more concrete: 17 albums and 40 million albums sold and more than three billion streams to date. He participated in their three biggest hits, “Africa”, “Rosanna” and “Stay on the line.”
His solo debut Forgotten toys began life as Paich belatedly took the time to sift through his songwriting archives, finishing off some stragglers who were waiting for a home. Naturally, a good number of his Toto bandmates are in attendance, while he’s also enlisted other friends, including Michael McDonald and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder.
I know you must be very excited about this new album.
He feels good. It’s like having a child, but no. I’m really excited. I haven’t been this excited since we released our first record. I feel dizzy, like I’m a teenager again. It’s great and it’s a good feeling of closure and accomplishment. It’s the feeling that I was able to do something during the months of COVID, you know, put my time to good use. The trip has been the most rewarding part so far. Working with all those friends and colleagues and having a one-on-one relationship in the studio. [I got to] using musicians that I wouldn’t normally get to use on a regular album that I would make. It was a labor of love and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Who was your most valuable player on this album?
Steve Jordan playing on “Queen Charade”. He joined the [Rolling] Stones about a week after he played on my track, so I was very lucky to have him on that track.
Listen to “Queen Charade” by David Paich
How did you first meet Steve?
I used to do sessions with Steve. I met him on a Don Henley record [The End of the Innocence]. They had double beaters, I think. I think it was him and Jeff [Porcaro]. We started working together. I did the Funk Brothers with him. He started getting me to do the Emmys shows with him, where he was the musical director and I was kind of co-musical director with him at the Emmys for two years. We still stay in touch musically and socially. He’s one of my closest friends. I love him very much and he hasn’t let me down. He gave it that lively touch.
It seems that the process for this album started quite naturally, by just listening to things.
It’s true. You just start going over old material or little bits and pieces, finding stuff. It’s also difficult when you’re transitioning with your studio. My studio is constantly switching from analog to digital. Everything is now digital. So you get those old analog tapes lying around and digitize them. All of a sudden you realize that there are little gems in there. Little forgotten toys that you forgot that could eventually come to fruition.
Were there things here song-wise that you had a personal attachment to?
“Lucy,” the jazz song that ends the record: My father was a jazz pianist, so I followed in his footsteps. I was able to do a small meeting. My dad did a lot of records with Mel Torme in the 50s and they were classic records. I met his son and thought it would be a good idea to get him to do some of that Paich/Torme magic again. He didn’t let me down.
Listen to “Lucy” by David Paich
You, Steve Lukather and Joseph Williams have all worked on albums and while the songs could have gone on a Toto album, we got three records instead.
It’s interesting and we’ve talked about it – because when we’re together we try not to make Toto records. It’s easy, because whoever’s running the show, it’s just going in their general direction. I was inspired by Ringo Starr. When he made his first albums as a solo artist, the first people he enlisted were John Lennon and George Harrison. So I kind of used that as a blueprint for how far I could go, getting my friends on my case, you know? They are such craftsmen as musicians that they can chameleonize and adapt to any situation they find themselves in, in terms of playing. It’s a win-win situation.
I think people were worried when you stopped touring with Toto because of your health. How are you doing at this point?
My health is very good at this point. I was on tour. We had done a three-month tour in the coldest regions like Norway, Sweden, Finland and also Germany. It was just a freezing winter. Along with everyone being sick on the bus with some sort of flu or other, my health started to decline on the road. When you get older, traveling by bus for two months straight is hard to do. I had other issues that I don’t want to go into, but just had to take some time off. It was time for me to take some time off and recover from the road.
“Spirit of the Moonrise” has a cool mystical prog vibe. What are its origins?
The riff in the chorus [Paich imitates the riff], I had that when I started. I’ve always been a big fan of Fleetwood Macs. I liked the tempos they get, those high tempos, so I wanted to incorporate that into the song. I ended up writing the verses and this song fell into place. It was a lot of fun to do a song like that. I brought in Mike McDonald and also Steve Lukather, who just played some nice guitar on it.
Listen to “Spirit of the Moonrise” by David Paich
Did you meet Mike through the Steely Dan circle? How did you connect originally?
I met Mike before that. He came out of Saint-Louis. Jeff Porcaro called me up and he said, “You gotta hear this guy sing. I think he was singing in a bowling alley. They had turned a bowling alley into a nightclub and he was singing there. He was just amazing. It was like a young Ray Charles. [Guitarist] I f [“Skunk” Baxter] got him the gig with Steely Dan and then I think Jeff Baxter had worked with the Doobies so he recruited him to the Doobie Brothers and that’s when I [got to know him]. I worked with him on the Doobies album Living on the fault line, produced by Ted Templeman. I learned a lot about the production of this album with Ted and Michael McDonald.
What did you learn from being with the Steely Dan guys?
They were perfectionists. They choose musicians and let them do a bit of what they do. That’s the good thing about Steely Dan, if you hire the right players, the player will instinctively know what to do. They always had this cynical sense of humor that was very funny in the studio. Jeff Porcaro and I get it; many people did not understand it. I definitely [it that] they are die-hard New Yorkers. They sort of winced – they watched out of the corner of their eye when they talked about LA and stuff with a bit of cynicism in it. But they are master musicians. I can’t say enough about the impact they had on the music. They are so different from the others. That’s what I wanted Toto to do, if you want something a little different here’s something here. It’s not necessarily better or worse than anything, but it’s just slightly different, for someone who wants something a little different. I think Steely Dan falls into that category as well, although I don’t compare myself to them. It was just trying to be different. That’s what I learned from Steely Dan.
Listen to Paul McCartney’s duet with Michael Jackson on “The Girl is Mine”
What’s been the most interesting thing for you, watching Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney do their thing?
How masterful they are at what they do, which is to sing and play. These two live in thin air. It’s just amazing. I mean, McCartney, there’s nobody better. He has made so many hit records and is the greatest singer. Him and Michael together was pure magic. We were able to jam a bit while we were getting some sounds, so we jammed to a few Motown songs. Paul would sing a few lines, but then Michael would answer him. Michael would just kill it, doing a few Stevie Wonder songs and stuff like that. It was a pinch moment for me, I was in the studio with George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. Definitely off my bucket list.
How much did that help you sit down to work with them on the arrangement?
It definitely gave me an idea of how they worked with George Martin – because George Martin was in the room on Paul’s behalf. When we presented the painting, it was the guy standing over my shoulder saying, “Why don’t you do that?” Or “Might be nice if you mod at the end of this” or “put some dynamics in this section here.” He was kind of giving me hidden clues about what to add to the session. His sheet music just came out and you can get all his handwritten sheet music for all Beatles records so I just ordered this. I can’t say enough about him.
Did you continue to work on stuff beyond this EP? Has the process lit a fire for you creatively?
Yeah, I worked. Lukather is preparing a new solo album. I helped him and Joe with that. I’m just trying to write too and keep my head cool and keep practicing, and keep becoming the musician that I want to be.
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