Dennis DeYoung - Road Report
by Allan Hirt
Originally appearing in Keyboard magazine, September, 1996
This article is ã 1996, 1999 Allan Hirt and cannot be copied, altered, or reproduced without my permission.
This is the original picture/title from the Keyboard article. The pictures were taken by me, and I will be posting more exclusive pictures to this site when I have a chance.
Although many people think Styx disbanded after the 1983 album Kilroy Was Here, truth is they never left the music scene. In the words of Styx's keyboardist/vocalist Dennis DeYoung, "Tomorrow's headlines are going to be ... are you ready? 'Rock Band Doesn't Break Up!'"
DeYoung founded Styx nearly 30 years ago with twin brothers John Panozzo on drums and Chuck Panozzo on bass. Guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw, who joined in 1975, left the group after the Kilroy tour. The band dropped it into low gear during the late '80s - DeYoung released three solo albums during that perioud - but they did release Edge Of The Century in 1991, which yielded the hit single "Show Me The Way." Shaw returned to the lineup after a 12-year absence to record a new version of "Lady" for 1995's Greatest Hits collection, and the vibe was so positive, he rejoined for the current "Return to the Paradise Theater" tour. "We're singing and playing better than ever, about that there is no question," remarks DeYoung.
Styx recently released Greatest Hits Part 2, with two new songs: the ballad "It Takes Love to Make Love" and "Little Suzie," a rocker in the Styx tradition. "I thought our task was to go to the heart of that period musically," says DeYoung about "Little Suzie." "I said, 'Tommy, we have to come up with a song that's in that Pieces of Eight, Grand Illusion period. We'll go at it like that - make it open, because all our rock in those days sounded like guys in a room playing.' And that's how I went toward the producing of this one."
The songs performed on the tour span the entire career of Styx, and DeYoung's equipment reflects this as well. "What I'm using on this tour is the [Oberheim] OB-8A. It's just a knocked-down version of the original because you can't get those; it's hard to find the originals. I still have mine, but they're old and they're not reliable. But nothing makes that sound. So I have one of those for all that Styx stuff that people associate with the band."
According to DeYoung's keyboard tech, Dan Farago, Dennis also uses a Korg T1 controller MIDIed to several modules in his rack. The rack includes Furman power/light modules, an Electro-Voice P1250 power amp, a Mackie 3204 mixer, a Digital Music MX8 patch bay, Roland MKS-20, MKS-70, and D-550 modules, a Lexicon PCM-70 effects processor, and four Yamaha TX816s, which are used to create what DeYoung refers to as his "infamous Rhodes sound." DeYoung switches his own patches onstage with the T1.
"And then I have what appears to be a Yamaha grand piano, but it's actually a shell with a [Korg] SG-1D inside. I took my old Yamaha in for repair, but they said it really wasn't worth repairing. I love acoustic pianos, but you know, when people are playing loud onstage ... We used to have to completely foam the inside of the piano. And there was always a feedback problem because I sit next to the bass. So I just went with the sampling grand, and people don't know."
Another key component of DeYoung's keyboard setup is the organ. "My B-3, which is a mother, has been in storage for 15 years. I don't even know if it works. There's nothing like a B-3 and a Leslie. Nothing. I'm disappointed on this tour, because I have some good organ sounds, but, you just can't do that on MIDI. I mean, it just doesn't work the same way." At the time of the interview, MIDI modules were being used for organ sounds, but after the tour started, DeYoung and Farago auditioned the Hammond XB-2 and immediately added it to the setup, along with a Leslie. DeYoung also plays an accordion for a small unplugged set.
All of DeYoung's keyboards are sent through the EV power amp into Toa speakers. He controls his onstage volume with a Morley volume pedal, and the sound is sent to the Mackie 3204, where Farago can control the volume going out to the house. To ensure that DeYoung is always up and running, Farago carries a spare for both the OB-8A and T1.
DeYoung is not only busy with Styx. He recently completed a musical based on Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and recorded and released a CD of the original music on which he sings all of the principal male roles. The musical is now in the workshop stage and is due to go up in early 1997.
After 12 studio albums with Styx, one live album, four solo albums, a musical, two new Styx songs, as well as a tour, Dennis DeYoung shows no signs of slowing. "I feel very fortunate at this point in my life to have all these things happening. I can honestly say that 25 years ago I never imagined it would last five years. I just see myself as a guy who goes in his back room and tries to put notes and words together to express his feelings. That's all it really is. And whatever happens beyond that, sometimes it takes on a life of its own."