How Toto’s David Paich returned to making music

For most of his career, Toto’s David Paich has played on other people’s records and piled up credits on around 2,000 albums – although he joke admitted recently that this number may not be accurate.

Regardless of the total, Paich’s session work has won six Grammy Awards while helping to sell countless millions of albums. With Toto, the statistics are more concrete: 17 albums and 40 million in album sales and over three billion streams to date. He had a hand in all three of their biggest hits,”Africa,” “Rosanna“and”Hold the line.”

His solo debut Forgotten toys began life when Paich belatedly took the time to go through his songwriting archives and finished some survivors who had been waiting for a home. Naturally, a good number of his Toto bandmates are present, while he has also made some other friends, including Michael McDonald and earlier Eagles guitarist Don Felder.

I know you must be pretty excited about this new album.
It feels great. It’s like having a child, but not. I’m just really excited. I haven’t been this excited since we released ours first record. I feel giddy like I’m in my teenage years again. It’s great and it’s a great feeling of completion and accomplishment. It’s a feeling that I was able to do something during COVID months you know spend my time to spend. The journey was the most rewarding part of it so far. Getting to work with all these friends of mine 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 price on this album, player-wise?
Steve Jordan plays on “Queen Charade”. He joined in [Rolling] Stone about a week after he played my course so I was very lucky to get him on it.

Listen to David Paich’s ‘Queen Charade’

How did you first meet Steve?
I used to do sessions with Steve. I met him at one Don Henley record [The End of the Innocence]. They had double drummers I think. I think it was him and Jeff [Porcaro]. We started working together. I did the Funk Brothers with him. He started having me do Emmy shows with him, which he was musical director, and I was kind of co-musical director with him on the Emmys for two years. We always keep in touch musically and socially. He is one of my closest friends. I love him dearly and he did not let me down. He gave it the living touch.

It seems like the process for this album started pretty naturally with you just listening to things.
It is true. You just start going through the old material or bits and pieces and finding things. It is also difficult when you make a transition with your studies. My study constantly goes from analogue to digital. It’s all digital now. So you grab these old analog tapes that have been sitting around and you digitize them. Suddenly you realize there are little gems in there. Little forgotten toys that you’ve forgotten about that might come true.

Were there any things here song-wise that you had a personal connection to?
“Lucy,” the jazz song that closes the record: My dad was a jazz pianist, so I followed in his footsteps. I could have a little reunion. My dad made a lot of records with Mel Torme back in the 50’s and they were classic records. I met his son and thought it would be a good idea to bring him in to recreate some of that Paich/Torme magic. He didn’t let me down.

Listen to David Paich’s ‘Lucy’

You, Steve Lukather and Joseph Williams have all worked on albums, and although 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’re not trying to make Toto records. It’s easy because whoever’s running the show just goes in their general direction. I was inspired by Ringo Starr. When he made his first albums as a solo artist, they were the first he got John Lennon and George Harrison. So I kind of used that as a blueprint for how far I could go in bringing my friends on my record, you know? They are such craftsmen as musicians that they can chameleon and fit any situation they find themselves in, playing-wise. It’s a win-win situation.

I think people were worried when you stepped away from touring with Toto due to your health. How are you feeling at this time?
My health is very good at this time. I had been on tour. We had gone on a three-month trip to the coldest areas of the like, Norway, Sweden, Finland and also Germany. It was just a cold winter. In addition to everyone on the bus being sick with some kind of flu or whatever, my health began to decline on the road. When you get older and travel by bus for two months at a time, it’s hard to do. I had some other issues that I don’t want to go into, but I just had to take some time off. It was time for me to take some time off and get over the road.

“Spirit of the Moonrise” has a cool mystical prog vibe. What is the origin of it?
The riff in the chorus [Paich imitates the riff], I had when I started. I’ve always been a big one Fleetwood Mac love I liked the tempos they got, these up tempos, so I wanted to incorporate that into the song. I ended up writing the verses and that song just came together. It was really fun to make a song that feels like that. I brought in Mike McDonald and also Steve Lukather, who just played beautiful guitar on it.

Listen to David Paich’s ‘Spirit of the Moonrise’

Did you meet Mike through Steely Dan circle? How did you two originally connect?
I met Mike before that. He came out of St. Louis. Jeff Porcaro called me and he says, “You’ve got to hear this guy sing.” I think he sang in a bowling alley. They had turned a bowling alley into a nightclub and he was singing there. He was just incredible. It was like a young Ray Charles. [Guitarist] Jeff [“Skunk” Baxter] got him the Steely Dan gig and then I think Jeff Baxter had worked with the Doobies so he recruited him to Doobie Brothers and there I am [got to know him]. I worked with him on the Doobies album Livin’ On the Fault LineWhich one Ted Templeman produced. I learned a lot about producing from that album with Ted and Michael McDonald.

What did you find out from being around the Steely Dan guys?
They were perfectionists. They cast musicians and let them do some of what they do. That’s the beauty of 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 a lot of fun in the studio. Jeff Porcaro and I got it; many people did not understand it. I certainly got that [it that] these are hardcore New Yorkers. They shuddered a bit – they’d look out of the corner of their eye when they talk about LA and stuff with a little bit of cynicism in it. But they are master musicians. I can’t say enough about the influence they’ve had on music. They are so different from everyone else. That’s what I wanted Toto to do, if you want something a little different, there’s something over here. It’s not necessarily better or worse than anything else, but it’s just a little different for someone who wants something a little different. I think Steely Dan fits that category as well, although I’m not comparing us to them. It was just trying to be different. I learned that from Steely Dan.

Listen to Paul McCartney Duet with Michael Jackson on ‘The Girl is Mine’

What was the most interesting thing for you to see Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney do their thing?
How masterful they are at what they do, which is singing and performing. The two live in refined air. It’s just amazing. I mean, McCartney, there’s no one better. He has made so many hit records and is the greatest singer. Him and Michael together were pure magic. We jammed a little while we were getting sounds, so we jammed on a couple of Motown songs. Paul would sing a few lines, but then Michael would answer him. Michael just wanted to kill it and make a couple Stevie Wonder songs and stuff like that. It was a pinch-me moment 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 when it came to sitting down to work with them on the event?
It definitely gave me a sense of how they used to work with George Martin – because George Martin was in the room on Paul’s behalf. When we laid out the diagram, he was the guy standing over my shoulder saying, “Why don’t you do this?” Or “It would be nice if you modulate at the end of this” or “put some dynamics into this section here.” He gave me little hidden clues about what to add to the session. His scores just came out and you can get all his manuscript scores for all of them The Beatles plates, so I just ordered that. I can’t say enough about him.

Have you continued to work on things beyond this EP? Did the process light a fire for you creatively?
Yes, I have been working. Lukather has made a new solo album. I’ve helped him and Joe with that. I’m also just trying to write and keep my head clear and keep practicing and keep becoming the musician I want to be.

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