Gary James' Interview With Bobby Kimball Of
Toto




Just three years ago, six studio musicians banded together called themselves Toto and proceeded to blow the whole world away with their own brand of Rock 'n' Roll. That first album produced three hits: "Hold The Line", "I'll Supply The Love" and "Georgy Porgy". Toto's second LP "Hydra" saw the release of the single "99" climb high on all the charts. "Turn Back" was Toto's 1981 offering that went Top Five in Japan and the Scandanavian countries.

Toto interviews are rare to come by, so we takes real pride in presenting this conversation with Toto's lead vocalist, Mr. Bobby Kimball.

Q - "Hold The Line" was a rocker, "99" was on the soft side. How would you describe "Turn Back"?

A - The album is actually an in-betweener. On the first album we were mainly shooting for singles because what do you get out of a brand new, unheard of band? You get to hear them on the radio. You have no concept of what they look like. The first concept of 'em is through your ears, so we basically shot for all singles or as many as we could get. On the second album we decided to stretch out a bit. We had more "album cuts" per se, which that early in a new group's career, I don't think works too good. Obviously not too good.

Q - Why do you say that? "99" was a hit for the group.

A - Yeah, but you know that's like one song out of a whole album, that did fairly decent. Now on this album, "Turn Back", we sort of went back to our original mode, but not all the way. We still have a little stretching out on this album. However we did stay a little more regimented as on the first album. We've got quite a bit of growth behind us between now and that first album. That kind of shows through. It's single oriented but we did stretch out a bit. It's in between our first and second album. It should have been our second album actually.

Q - Did you ever hear Millie Jackson's version of "Hold The Line"?

A - No, I didn't. I like her a lot but I didn't know she did "Hold The Line". I will definitely make it a point of picking up that album and listening to it. I tell you, I did hear a version of "Hold The Line" cut by a German group. I gotta tell you they obviously must've written out the parts, note for note. They copied Lukather'a guitar solo verbatim, and all of my vocal innuendos. Everything was the same. It was really freaking me out. I enjoyed it, it was really different to me of course in German. I had a little fun with it.

Q - When you're not recording or touring, where does the money come from to live on?

A - God, we're gettin' to money. This is not a business you know. (laughs) Oh it is. The income...we're basically studio musicians. We started out that way and there's a lot of money in playing behind other artists. Not only is there a lot of money, but there's a lot of musical satisfaction in getting in that variety of emotion.

Q - Do you play any musical instruments?

A - Yes. I play keyboards. I do sing background vocals. I've sung with Streisand. I did Steve Cropper's album. I don't know, lots of people, Chevy Chase, Diana Ross, Leo Sayer. It's really a gas to sing background vocals 'cause I sing usually with some very gifted singers. Basically we all write and other individuals do our tunes. I just wrote a tune I've submitted to Aretha Franklin this week, that I really hope she does. Oh yes, and we all do session work, so that's the income basis for when we're off the road, plus we have a corporation we pay ourselves out of.

Q - How do you handle any resentment that might come your way from musicians who don't think Toto has "paid their dues" as a group?

A - I don't. You know it's none of our business what somebody else feels about what I'm doing. It's their problem. I came from Louisiana. I busted my bottom for twenty-two, twenty three years, playing in dumpy clubs, making nothing. I starved for a long time. It was a drag. So nobody can tell me about the hard times, baby. I've been there and back a few times.

Q - Why do you have two keyboard players?

A - Well, we have five keyboard players 'cause everybody in the band plays very decent keyboard except for our drummer. Well, these two guys have built up one of the most expensive and largest synthesizer banks in the world, so that's why we have two keyboard players.

Q - Where did Columbia Records spot Toto?

A - We were in Studio 55 getting our band together. Columbia got wind of this group of musicians who were getting together and had been quite successful as back-up musicians for other artists. They got hold of some of our tapes through musician friends of Columbia and sent a representative down to listen to it. I guess they dug it.

Q - Who thought of that name Toto?

A - Whoever wrote The Wizard of Oz. (L.Frank Baum in 1899) Jeff and David were sitting around watching The Wizard of Oz one day. They started the concept of getting a group together, 'cause they'd been on so many albums as a team. Jeff and David were sitting in a living room watching The Wizard of Oz and they saw this little dog run out and kind of fell into the simplicity of the name Toto. A couple of letters, a couple of syllables. It's an easy name to relate to, so they just plugged it into a band and we made the concept, a different thing other than a little dog.

Q - When are you going to tour?

A - Actually touring at the moment doesn't seem to be such a lucrative idea for most bands because of the market and the industry. We're gonna go back into the studio and cut another album this year, actually in about another six weeks. We're gearing up for it right now. I must say, it's gonna be a killer!


© Gary James. All rights reserved.


Toto
Photo from Gary James' Press Kit Collection


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