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In our new interview Steve Lukather talks about his Christmas album "SantaMental" and his future plans.
How did you get the idea of doing a Christmas record?
It wasn't my idea, it was Elliot Scheiner who came to me. He has a record company with Al Schmitt, they have a small jazz label and he asked "Do you wanna do a Christmas record?" I was like "What about me reminds you of Santa Claus?" [Laughter] It was a wild card, I invited a bunch of my friends to do it and we had to do it quickly, it was low budget, so I pulled every favor I had and six days later I had a Christmas record. Jeff Babko did the arrangements and it was really a lot of fun.
How did you pick the traditional Christmas songs for the album? Were these songs kind of all-time favorite Christmas tunes of yours?
Some of them had to be the songs that everybody knows but we just tried to reharmonize them, changed the grooves and wrote solo sections. I did a couple of humorous ones, you know, Sammy is one of my favorites. And Edgar Winter is on Winter Wonderland, living in an Edgar Winter Wonderland [laughter]. It's just silly, I wrote a couple of Christmas songs for a laugh. I didn't wanna do a Kenny G Christmas, you know what I mean? I couldn't do it. There would be no point in it.
Why did you decide to add two original songs to the album?
They wanted us to write some new Christmas songs, which is very hard...
That's the next question actually, what's the approach of writing a Christmas song? Is it harder than writing any other kind of music?
The hardest part is getting the Christmas bulbs off my ass [laughter]. It is difficult, very difficult... you know, you just kinda do it. It's a big challenge but I didn't have enough time to really think about it. My wife came up with the title "SantaMental" and I'm on the cover with a strait-jacket... [laughter] It's funny because the Japanese don't celebrate Christmas and they wanted to change the cover. They didn't want me dressed like Santa.
How did you choose the musicians on the album?
Friends... all friends. I cast it. I figured Eddie's gonna play on this one, this is right for him... I picked all the guys for the right tune so they would play in their style and do it in one take. You know, nobody could afford to pay all these guys, so it's like I play on their records, they play on mine, that's the way it works.
But you did the majority of the songs and the arrangements with Jeff Babko?
Yes, I needed somebody to do the record with, who had the time to do it, and I just grabbed Jeff. He's a brilliant musician. He's the hottest young cat in LA right now. I predict great things for him.
Did you have a concept of how the songs were supposed to sound and be arranged before you started recording or was it kind of a huge jam session?
No, we specifically wrote stuff out. The solo parts were improvisation, but all the melodies and harmonies were all very much worked out. We wrote out parts for everybody to read so we could go on fast. We didn't have time to have the cats sit down and spend three hours learning a Christmas song. Read the paper, let's groove...
What are your next plans? Are you going to do another solo album?
No, I'm gonna be busy with TOTO next year. I'll probably do another record with Larry down the line. I don't know when, schedules allow, whatever things might happen.

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