Cool Hand Luke

9 July 2012 | 11:59 am | Reza Nasseri

Last year my band opened for Joe at some festivals, and he asked me to join them on the tour and I said, “Gee man do you think I’m the right guy?”,

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Most will know Steve Lukather as the lead guitarist from late-'70s/early-'80s pop-rock machine Toto. Despite a string of massive international hits such as Rosanna, Africa, and Hold The Line, the band polarised people. You either loved them or derided them and there didn't seem to be too many in the middle ground. In terms of Lukather's career achievements however, Toto accounts for a mere fraction of the work he has done. His bio lists around 2,000 recording sessions including solo projects, soundtracks, work with Michael Jackson, Cheap Trick, Aretha Franklin, Boz Scaggs, Elton John, Joni Mitchell and the list goes on. Lukather was recently in Australia playing alongside Joe Satriani and Steve Vai in the latest version of the travelling guitar orgy known as G3.

Hi Luke, how did you end up on the Australian G3 tour?

Last year my band opened for Joe at some festivals, and he asked me to join them on the tour and I said, “Gee man do you think I'm the right guy?”, because they've played with some truly incredible cats. I'm a bit of a wildcard, which is kind of neat because when you have three guys that are full on it's pretty intense. So I said, I'm gonna go for this.

I had a look at your back catalogue of work on your website (, and I couldn't even count the number of albums you've been on.

Ha ha, they tell me it's something like two thousand, but I don't sit around thinking about it. I spend a lot of time on the road these days because that's where the business is. I'm jumping from tour to tour. I'm doing G3, then playing with Ringo (Starr), which I'm deeply honourned to be a part of, then I'm doing Toto in the fall, then I'm doing a solo tour when my new album comes out, then it's Toto's 35th anniversary next year, as well as a lot of one-off “Wildcard” things which are a lot of fun.

Right now what are you using in terms of gear?

I have a pretty simple setup where I just use Bogner amps, along with my new Musicman guitars, the Luke L3s. They're a new version that use non-active pickups, bigger bodies that sound more organic, as well as some stompboxes, nothing really major.

So what do you think would be the most important stompbox or rack effect in your arsenal at the moment?

I'd have to say I like a little delay for the throw, especially when you're playing soft, 'ballady' things. If I had to give it all up and just keep one pedal it'd be the delay pedal.

What delay pedal have you got?

Oh man I've tried them all and am still searching. I used to like the Lexicons when I was using digital (pedals), but I don't do that any more. The (Digitech) Hardwire ones sound pretty good, and the old Boss pedals sound very good too. It's not just to vary the sound either it's to add a little depth, when you play a sweet note it gives it a bit of vibe, it carries it a little bit. I don't wanna squash it up and cover up the articulation, I just wanna give it a little love. Back in the '80s, it started getting ridiculous, I'd use a little or too much on one hit record and then all of a sudden everybody wanted to start using them. It was like eating too much sugar, at first it tastes good and then you wanna throw up. I'm anti all that shit right now but somehow it still follows me around. Some companies would approach me with pedals that say Luke on it because they couldn't spell my last name, and it'd be like some flanger/echo/return/send, and I'd be like “Do you assholes actually think I sound like that?”

Steve, you've been one of the most productive musicians in a wide variety of genres over the past 35 years, is there any advice you can pass along to people wanting to make a living out of music?

Well I like to be busy, I like to be doing stuff, so at the end of my life before I take my last breath I can go “You know what? I didn't waste my life”. As a working musician the session scene has gone, the live music scene is primarily DJs, and signing to a major label and releasing a platinum record will make you a hundred dollars, so you sign your life away to the devil. The good news is it's changing. I think we're at a period where the pendulum is going to swing around. Kids are discovering vinyl again, people are getting out and rediscovering the live experience, and people know what's fake and what's real now. So stick to your guns, practice, don't take no for an answer, stay off the hard drugs and have a good time.