"I'm doing actually really well all things considered," said Styx drummer Todd Sucherman with a hearty laugh as he discussed pandemics, Styx and the trials and tribulations detailed on his first solo effort called, "Last Flight Home."
"Yeah it's sort of a grand experiment to see if I could do something that I wasn't sure that I could do. It came out to the point where I thought, hey I can release this, be proud of it and stand behind it. To be honest, I'm taking this one step at a time; just releasing this record was something like I said I wasn't sure that I'd be able to pull off. So as of now I really have no aspirations of being some sort of singing celebrity and taking this on the road or having people go; hey is he gonna leave the band? I have no aspirations to leave my post as the drummer in Styx or my other duties as a session musician or educator. This was just completely a side project that was fun and exciting to do and I kind of did it in a fairly secret fashion from friends and family and band mates because like I said I wasn't sure that this would actually turn into a reality. So I didn't want to blow the trumpets on something and then kind of crawl back into my shell going nope, sorry, false alarm (laughs); it was fairly secretive through the whole process."
Over his career Sucherman has performed with more "A" list personalities and celebrities than one can count, has received accolades such as being voted "Modern Drummer" magazine's "Best Rock Drummer," Best Progressive Rock Drummer," "Best Classic Rock Drummer," "Best Live Drummer," "Best Recorded Performance," "Best Clinician," "Best Educational DVD" and has either placed or won multiple others but the one thing he hadn't accomplished was not only a solo album but taking on the role of lead vocalist; until now.
"I sang a duet on my wife's first record that I produced in 2007 and that was sort of the first foray into that but I was very, very comfortable in that situation and it was only about five or six lines and I knew that I could pull that off. I had some friends through the years, some old friends believing in me and kind of cajoling me into do something and I'd always assumed probably like most people that would be familiar with what I do that a record that would bear my name would be some sort of drum-centric jazz fusion recording but the reality is that I had just played on the Antoine Fafard "Borromean Odyssey" record which I think is a jazz fusion masterpiece. I played on the Tzan NiKo record "Ascension" so playing difficult challenging instrumental music; that scratch had been itched so to speak. In reality I've always been drawn to songs, melodies, lyrics, a story. Those are the things that kind of affect me on a deeper emotional level than drum pyrotechnics and Olympic musicianship. That's great and that has a part in the world and I enjoy partaking in that but the convergence of how this all came about was very organic and natural. I didn't plan on this to go down the way it did so the fact that it opened up so organically; I just followed the road that was unfolding before me."
Prior to its "unfolding" there were some should I or shouldn't I moments due to the current climate caused by the pandemic sweeping the globe but Sucherman got by with a little help from his friends and social media followers.
"Well it's 10 tracks and the way this whole thing came about is, the record was done, the artwork was done and it was ordered and printed and sent to me and then the COVID - 19 situation hit. I thought to myself, I can't release a record or work a record during a global pandemic and so I had completely indefinitely postponed it. Then I had several dear friends kind of come around and say to me, "You know, it's done you should release it because people need entertainment, people need new music, something to look forward to; even in The Great Depression entertainment was needed, you should think about releasing it" and my wife who was originally thinking, ah yeah, we can't put this out now; when she changed her tune I thought, OK let's see. So I posed a question on all of my social media outlets saying, hey it's done; do I wait for brighter days? Would any of you be interested in new music right now or should I go full steam ahead with this? The responses were 99.9 overwhelmingly positive responses of yes, release it now full steam ahead. So I actually moved up the release date from May 30 to May 2. The 180 gram vinyl won't be pressed and won't be ready until the end of May because that's the schedule that it was on but hard copy CDs are available on my website at Toddsucherman.com and on all of the other digital outlets available in the world as of May 2."
"My collaborator and co-producer JK Harrison really did the majority of the heavy lifting with demos and nuggets and then we put things together. The song "Kindling" is actually a cover from the English band Elbow so that's the one cover on the record. I heard that song and I thought that it was one of the impressionistic-ally romantic songs I'd heard in ages and my wife happened to mention while that song was playing, "You'd sound great on this, if you ever do something you should cover this;" so that was another little germ that stuck in my head so..."
The "Last Flight Home" is rooted in experience and lots of it; it's no mistake that the album and title track reflect the times on the road when things can be a bit frustrating.
"Well, when JK Harrison my collaborator and I wrote the song, "Last Flight Home" it was one of those magic nights where the song came like lightning; back and forth back and forth back and forth and basically the song was done in a half hour," he explained. "If songwriting were only that easy all of the time it would be fantastic but that's why that was a very special evening and that presented itself as well. This clearly is the centerpiece and could very well be track one which it is. In being a road musician for the last 24 years it would always seem that getting home and getting home to my wife and daughter now was always like warfare. It seemed like I could fly out and begin a run no problem but to be able to get home it was a barrage of delayed flights, broken planes, missing crew, inclement weather; whatever the case it was always warfare to get home for some reason. So that song basically encapsulates the feeling of constantly being stuck in an airport, not wanting to be there, just wanting to get home and wondering why it's so damn hard to actually get home (laughs)."
Styx are true warriors of the road and rarely take extended time off the road; so where were they when the virus began to shut down life as we and they know it and could this be a true depiction of "Last Flight Home?"
"We had several dates mid-March to the end of March and we had some dates in April; actually we had dates every month of the year when I think of it; so yes we are always in the middle of it. I was sent on a plane to begin an east coast run on March 12 and I knew in my gut it was going to be canceled and I said to management, please don't put me on a plane if we are going to cancel this and they said, "No as of right now it's all full steam ahead, the promoters are thumbs up and we're gonna go through with this," so I got on a four hour flight from Austin to Philadelphia and I landed only to find 10 texts and 10 messages saying call us, the tour is canceled and we're flying you home right now. So I basically had nine hours in an airplane that day in a mask and gloves which wasn't fun but it's what happened. The powers that be that aren't me decided to pull the shows so that's how it went down; it was a day that I will long remember.
With the album being released on May 2 and the current situation as it is; what are his plans for the record and what can we expect from Styx in the future?
"First plan of action had none of this hit and normal life had continued, I would've recorded all of the drum tracks on the new Styx record in April so that would've been done. I know once this clears up that will be one of the first things to be done and management has assured us that we're not going to do anything until it's safe for everyone. When you've been in a band this long and you've kept by and large most of the crew for years and years and years, it's a 35 person family and no one wants to see anything happen to any one of them because it's a family member. So that's really the first thing, whenever it's safe to do it, that's when we're gonna do it and we look forward to that time. I think in reality it's going to be a lot longer than any of us would like it to be but I'll take a year off to maybe live to 80 years old (laughs). Hey, look; it sucks right? I'd rather be doing this than on the front lines in a gun boat on Normandy Beach, I'd rather be doing this than walking through the desert somewhere and hoping I don't step on a land mine. People are freaking out about this and I understand that some people's economic situations might be dire but you can't make or spend money if you're dead. I've had 24 straight years on the road, I'm kind of a homebody but I realize that I'm fortunate, I've got a wife and a daughter and a little room to move here so I'm having an OK time with it. Would I like things to get back to normal? Absolutely but I'm not going to do anything until it's safe to do so."
To discover more about Todd and "The Last Flight Home" please visit www.Toddsucherman.com.
That's it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week....ROCK ON!
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Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.