Dennis De Young Interview
I’ve always had a soft spot for the music of STYX. They are the perennial underdogs, writing massively popular songs during their ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, and I have received much joy fun poking fun at their legacy over the years on this blog. The time has finally come for me to answer for my sins, as I sit down with STYX front man and chief songwriter for the band at a little coffee shop outside of downtown Sacramento. Dennis is getting ready to perform a sold out solo show at a local high school gymnasium and has generously agreed to talk to The Nightmare. Truth be told I am a little nervous. I’ve heard the guy has a sense of humor about himself and his former band, but I don’t know. I’ve been pretty tough on him over the years.
E: Hi Dennis, how are you?
Dennis: I’m fine, thanks for asking. Before we start I feel the need to tell you I read your blog and…
E: The Bogus Band Bio. Yes, well, that was all done as a homage and I hope that you can see that I…
D: Relax man, I’m fine with it. I found it funny. You didn’t skewer me as much as the others, but I wouldn’t have minded if you had. The part about “JY’s KY” had me rolling. The history at the beginning was kind of long winded, wasn’t it? (Editors Note: He is talking about the very first post on this site, which was a totally made up account of the rise and fall of Dennis’ former band, STYX. CLICK HERE to read the whole, damn thing).
E: Yes, quite.
D: But overall I found it immensely entertaining. I am very aware of the wake of criticism my former band has left on the rock and roll landscape, but I truly believe that we did something special, something lasting, during our heyday. By the way, did you know that the original title of the song Lady (from STYX II, their ‘breakout’ song) was actually Larry?
E: Really? Because…
D: No. Of course not. But you should have used that for your little story, it would have made it better.
E: (laughing) You’re right, it would have. So let’s talk a little bit of that legacy you speak of. In the 70’s, starting with The Grand Illusion, you couldn’t be touched; you were as massive as they come. Then you released Babe, which of course was a monster hit and a song that was played at every high school dance at least twice up until about 1984 or so. It was such a big departure from your prog rock beginnings. Did you have to fight to get the song on Cornerstone?
D: Oh, you bet, especially Tommy and James. They fought it; they thought it was the wrong direction.
E: But now, in hindsight, if you hadn’t have gone in this, shall I say, more theatrical direction, you wouldn’t have been half as popular as you became, right? Did you feel vindicated when Babe became such a smash?
D: Yes. And no. The tide turned, of course, in my favor, for a while, and I can tell you JY and Shaw cashed every one of the royalty checks they got for the Cornerstone album. Yes, it gave me more decision making power but it also made life in the studio and on the road very, very difficult.
E: How so?
D: Well, at the beginning it was just little things, you know? Like once, Tommy super glued all of the black keys on my baby grand; and another time JY shaved my left eye brow into a lightning bolt. But then things started escalating. The Panozzo Brothers (the rhythm section) decided it would be funny to slip one of those anti- shoplifting strips into the lining of my favorite jacket. Long story short, I was arresting for shoplifting at a K-Mart in Wyoming and spent a night in jail. Another time Tommy stuck a bumper sticker that said “Caution! Driver Masturbating!” on the bumper of my Benz. I didn’t find it for 2 months. For all that time I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why people were honking and making those rude hand gestures! It could have been worse, I suppose.
E: Let’s talk about the critics.
D: Oh, must we?
E: I think it’s important in order to fully understand the whole story, don’t you? I read a review of Kilroy Was Here a while back that started off by quoting Dante’s Inferno. It stated, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”. Obviously, they didn’t care for it. Critics, as a rule, have always had a hard time understanding the appeal of STYX. Why do you suppose that is, Dennis?
D: Jealousy? Ha, I don’t know, I guess critics have always hated progressive music and, even more than that, popular music. It’s like that 2 word review of Spinal Tap’s Shark Sandwich album, isn’t it? “Shit Sandwich”. It doesn’t matter. Not anymore.
E: In doing my research for my little Bogus Band Bio I read that you developed an aversion to light, and are now almost 100% nocturnal. Is this true.
D: Yes, pretty much. I can go out during the day but if I do I have to wear these special sunglasses, the kind that Yoko Ono used to wear, but thicker. I look like a buffoon, especially with my snow white hair, kind of like the mad twin of Phil Spector, so naturally I try to avoid daylight.
E: I know you’ve got to go, Dennis, and I want to tell you how much I appreciate your time and your sense of humor. Lastly, is there any chance the original surviving line-up of STYX would get back together?
D: Nada, my friend. Kilroy has left the building.
NOTE: Of course the preceding interview was false. I never met with Mr. De Young, he never played a solo gig at a high school gym, never responded to any of my dumb-ass questions. I had a few sips of wine last night and banged out this phony interview in about 5 minutes, and I am sure it shows. But what the hell, right? I may or may not have an actual chance to interview Dennis in the future, as his mother in law lives fairly close and has contacted me fairly recently. Truth be told, I would love to sit down with the guy. My brother tells me he is on the radio in San Diego, and has a very real sense of humor and does not take himself seriously as well. STYX were an important part of growing up for me, and while their music veers towards the corny side STYX remains a definite guilty pleasure. As bizarre as this sounds their music never fails to make me smile.