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TOTO 2003

For more than 4 years, Tony Spinner has been on the road with TOTO, doing backing vocals and playing guitar. Currently he's also doing the lead vocals on "Stop Loving You" which is very much acclaimed by the fans. So we thought it was about time to learn a little more about him.

We met Tony during TOTO's summer tour in Karlsruhe on July 5th 2003 and talked about his experiences with TOTO as well as his musical background and his own projects.
How did your joining TOTO for the Mindfields Tour come about?
Through a friend of mine named Greg Morrow. He's a session drummer in Nashville. He was working for, I think, Clint Black at that time, and Martin Cole was managing him. He was saying that TOTO needed some background singers. Greg told me about it, so I said "Great! They flew me in and tried me out, and said "You're in."
So it was a real audition?
Yes, a real audition. It was about ten minutes in front of Dave's keyboard. Dave said "Can you hit this note", and I did. That happened a few times, so after I hit all the notes, he said "OK."
Do you know how many people they auditioned?
There were maybe four. Two other guys were there when I auditioned.
Do you know why TOTO picked you? Did they tell you?
Hmm... Probably because I can sing the high stuff. And I wasn't very nervous. One of the other guys was very nervous, so...
Did you have any prior connections with TOTO?
No. My first connection with TOTO was a school talent show. My band played "Johnny B. Goode" and "California Man" by Cheap Trick. And the band that won the talent show did "I'll Supply The Love". So it was like "Arghhh! TOTO got me!" [laughs] It was weird.
Were you a fan of TOTO's music or their playing? What prompted you to join them?
Actually, I didn't have one TOTO record. The one thing that I remember the most was thinking that the guitar player doing the solo for Rosanna at the end... that guy was really good! I had no idea they had all these hits until I went in audition and they were playing all that. "They wrote that?", "And they wrote that?", "And they wrote that?" So I was really impressed... after I saw them [laughs].
So why did you audition if you didn't really know TOTO?
Well, my friend Greg told me they were looking for background singers and I said "Well, I'm really not a singer, I'm a guitar player," but he said "You should do it. Get connections! You might meet somebody. At least go down." But I thought "Hmm, I'm not a singer." I yell, I don't sing!
Well, you sound great on "Stop Loving You"...
I'm learning to sing with these guys. But when I do my own thing, I just yell. I'm more worried about my guitar. So I'm very surprised that I got the gig [laughs].
Since last year you've been doing the lead vocals on "Stop Loving You". Is it a special thing to get some more exposure? Or are you more nervous than before?
It's really cool, I wanna do more! [laughs]. That's a hard song to sing. I had a lot of trouble with that. I think I maybe got to sing it twice, or attempt to sing it twice!, before we were gonna do it that night. And I couldn't do it. I was messing it all up. I was embarrassed. It took me probably 5 gigs before I had the confidence. It was a hard time. The phrasing is really weird. And Dave said "I want you to sing the phrasing exactly like Joseph did." You see, he's a singer, and I don't sing, so it was really hard for me. But now I can do it without thinking about it. Plus remembering all the words, you know.
Would you consider singing more songs?
Oh yeah, I'd love to. Now, of course with Bobby in the band they don't need another singer. Bobby can do it all. That's also very nice of Bobby to let me do that.
You've been on the road with TOTO for more than 4 years now. Are there any special moments you could share with us, or funny things that happened?
Yeah - Lukather - 25 hours a day [laughs]. What can I say? What a guy... [laughs]
Anything specific about Luke you want to share with us?
Oh yeah, the first tour we did, we were somewhere, I don't remember if it was Sweden or Germany, it was a big outdoor festival and it was my birthday. And I hadn't told anybody for a certain reason! But apparently Luke had managed to find it out anyway. When he introduced me on stage he came up to me, handed me his guitar and said "Play something." I was going like "Wow," I felt so honored he let me use his gear, so I started playing and all of a sudden I realized that the guitar sound was totally out of tune. The audience noticed that too and they went like "What is this guy doing there?" but I knew this was not me playing. I stepped on the pedals and everything, but it even got worse and I didn't know what was going on. It was totally embarrassing. Then after the show I found out that Luke had his guitar tech Rick Britton hide behind the stage playing that out of tune guitar and controlling the pedals. Oh well, but I got over it [laughs].
Yes, that's Luke...
Yeah, Luke, he's a mess, man. He's always pulling jokes. There's never a dull moment. You know him [laughs].
What is your musical background? It seems from the solos you play during the introduction that you are very blues influenced. So what kind of music do you play as a solo artist?
My stuff is rock and blues. That's what I grew up with. My dad had Ray Charles records, and Elvis and Muddy Waters, all the blues stuff. I grew up listening to that and then the rock stuff came from like Creedence Clearwater Revival, that kind of stuff, Chuck Berry... So this is were I come from. I love Stevie Ray Vaughn for example. What I play now is basically blues-rock, very down to earth, very simple but from the heart. That's how I am and this comes from me.
You've made three solo records. Are they all blues-rock?
The first album is mainly rock. The second is more blues, but I don't like that album actually. I like maybe 2 or 3 songs that are great, but the rest... I was forced to do certain things, I couldn't do what I wanted, so my heart isn't really in it. So don't buy that album! When I was offered to do another album I first thought, why should I do that, if I don't get to do the music I want to do anyway. There's no point. But then I got full control over the album, I could do whatever I wanted and that was great. It's my best album. It's really blues-rock from the heart.
So what can we expect from the new solo record that you're working on?
My new songs are mainly pop music. I like pop music and I wanted to do some pop songs. There's ballads and everything. I've completely finished 4 songs already that I recorded with Paul Gilbert at his studio. Then I have tons of other stuff, enough material for two records actually, but it's not finished to be released. I recorded the tracks at my house with me playing drums and bass. I'm neither a drummer nor a bass player, so that still has to be worked on. I want to do it with another drum and bass player so it'll sound better, somebody who's playing better than me [laughs]. I'm not connected to a record label right now, so I don't know when I'll finally put the album together and release it. We'll see.
So you're just waiting for an opportunity to put it out? You don't have any real plans or a time frame?
Yeah, people tell me all the time to put it on the internet, put it on the TOTO website, you know...
Sure, just produce it and sell it on the internet!
Yeah, well, we'll see...
You have your own live band in the United States. Where do you normally play?
We do gigs that I try to schedule around the TOTO dates. We mainly play around Arkansas. We go like maybe as far as 4 hours.
Do you play the songs from your albums with your band?
Yes, we play my songs, but also covers. We play a lot of Hendrix stuff too.
Very special thanks to Tony Spinner! Check out more information on Tony at
© 2003