James (J.Y.) Young was always the hard rock voice of Styx. While keyboardist Dennis DeYoung was renowned for his plaintive ballads, and guitarist Tommy Shaw was known best for his sprightly pop/rock presentations, it was left to J.Y. to give the band a solid rock-and-roll backbone. Recently, the tall, blond axe slinger released his first solo LP, City Slicker, and we had the chance to talk to him about life on his own and the future of Styx.
Hit Parader: J.Y., you took a rather interesting road with City Slicker, releasing it on a small independent record label instead of one of the major companies. Why?
J.Y.: I'm lucky to be in the position where I can do what I want musically. Working with Styx, and being part of recording four consecutive triple platinum albums, gave me both the financial and artistic base that allowed me to be in control of my career. Releasing the record on an independent label gave me the chance to try some things that I wouldn't have been able to do if I signed to a major label.
HP: How would you say City Slicker differs from your work with Styx?
J.Y.: It's a little bluesier than anything I did with Styx, and it's probably a little more experimental. There are a lot of keyboards on the album, so that adds a slightly different element as well.
HP: Didn't Jan Hammer play on the album?
J.Y.: Yeah, he produced the album as well. He's incredible to work with. He really knows how to work in the studio, and he's a great musician as well. A few months back I wanted him to go on the road with me, but then he got involved with Miami Vice and that takes up most of his time. He lays down the soundtrack to each week's show, and that takes him three or four days.
HP: But you're still planning on going on tour?
J.Y.: I'd like to. It hasn't been finalized yet, but I've got the band pretty much together, so I figure landing an opening slot on someone's tour shouldn't be that tough. After all, I've got a pretty good track record, and I hope most people remember who I am.
HP: Let's talk about Styx for a minute. What's the band's status?
J.Y.: We're like a married couple. We're not divorced - we're not even separated. It's more like we're just taking separate vacations. I think that after a while, we'll all get back together again and make some music. I'm not saying that it's going to be tomorrow or next week, but I'm sure it will happen.
HP: Do you stay in touch with the guys in the band?
J.Y.: It's more that we have mutual friends who keep us informed of what everybody else is up to. The only one I haven't actually spoken to for a while is Tommy, but that's just because of our schedules. I can assure you that there are no hard feelings between any of us. We just decided we needed some time off to expand our musical horizons. That's what we've been doing. As soon as we've tested our wings, and know they work, we'll be happy to return to the nest.
HP: How do you view the work that Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw have done on their own?
J.Y.: I think it's very representative of their abilities. I know those guys so well that I sometimes think I know everything they can do. I'm as pleased as anybody when they come up with something that surprises even me.
HP: You've always been characterized as the metalhead of Styx. How do you react to that?
J.Y.: It's true. I always liked people like Ozzy and Judas Priest, and I also felt the need to balance out some of the softer elements in the band. I never felt Styx did enough hard rock. But that's what solo albums are for. We each can step out and live out our musical fantasies. It's a nice feeling to have.