Lawrence Gowan Explains Why Styx Started Playing ‘Mr. Roboto’
Styx singer Lawrence Gowan explained why they recently added “Mr. Roboto” to their live set list, saying that they’d been considering it for the past five years.
The band had never performed the song live, although the band's former singer Dennis DeYoung had sung it to backing tapes during Styx's abandoned tour in support of Kilroy Was Here, the 1983 album on which the song appeared. Despite its popularity, "Mr. Roboto" had been avoided because the fallout from the Kilroy era led to the collapse of the band.
DeYoung recently commented on “Mr. Roboto” being performed as part of the current lineup’s encore, calling it “a reversal of fortune from derision and ignominy” and adding that he’d said for years that “people will go bananas when it’s played cause they like it, it’s fun.”
“Believe it or not, that conversation started about five years ago on our bus," Gowan said in a new interview with I’m Music Magazine. "Tommy [Shaw] said, ‘You know, I’d really like to play “Mr. Roboto,” but there’s just so much baggage that we had to go through when we made that record. It ultimately led to the band breaking up, but I actually like that song. I just didn’t like the experience of making that album.’
“Really, it’s the convoluted interpretation of that statement that really has stuck with the band. … It was the experience around that concept record that left the band at odds with each other, but that’s not disparaging of the song. That’s the part that you have to separate from it. I was all for it because for a song like that to last as long as is has with numerous cultural references to it, it’s part of the history of the band.”
Gowan said Shaw and James “JY” Young had struggled to recall what they’d contributed to the song. Drummer Todd Sucherman, who had seen the band on that 1983 tour when he was 13 years old, reminded them that they hadn’t actually played it onstage.
“That was kind of a great moment, because it kind of opened it to ‘In that case, let’s make it a little heavier and add some guitars to it,’ Gowan said. “I intend to sing it with a bit more anger; I love the built in drama of the lyrics. Someone who is forced to hide their identity; I think it’s a great concept. The robots are here to stay, and we’re living with them and with a little bit of fear of just how high they will rise, whether we like it or not. On top of everything else, the song is fun, so why shouldn’t we play it?”
Styx are currently touring North America with dates booked until Oct. 5.