The Mission is classic rock giant Styx’s 16th studio album and their first disc of new material in more than 14 years.
The concept album—which will be released June 16—is an adventurous, 43-minute thrill ride chronicling the trials, tribulations and ultimate triumphs of the first manned mission to Mars in 2033.
From the hopeful drive and classic Styx sound on tracks like “Gone Gone Gone” and “Hundred Million Miles” to the stargazing machinations of “Locomotive” and the elegiac optimism of the closing track, “Mission to Mars,” The Mission succeeds in delivering the good from a band that continues to fire on all cylinders more than 45 years after signing their first recording contract.
Styx features Tommy Shaw (guitars/vocals), Lawrence Gowan (keyboards/vocals), James “JY” Young (guitar/vocals), Todd Sucherman (drums), Ricky Phillips (bass) and Chuck Panozzo (bass).
I recently spoke with Shaw and Young about The Mission, music and the band’s upcoming United We Rock Tour with REO Speedwagon and Don Felder.
It’s been more than 14 years since Styx’s last studio album, Cyclorama. How did The Mission begin?
SHAW: Things have changed so much in just the past decade. It used to be you’d spend a lot of time in the studio and then go out and tour for three months. Now, it’s in a way that’s favorable to having band like us recording again. Even though radio has disappeared, so many different ways to get to your fans have opened up. It made sense for us to get back into the recording business again.
YOUNG: We also knew we were coming up on the 40th anniversary of The Grand Illusion, which for me was our most productive, progressive time frame and our most successful as well. There’s elements of that album as well as Pieces of Eight on this record.
What was the songwriting process like?
SHAW: For me, the best songs are the ones that come to you. It’s like you just walked into a room and they were already playing on a radio. This album started out as a little acorn that fell to the ground and took root. That acorn [“Mission to Mars”] was an idea that came to me in a dressing room playing around on a warm-up amp. It had a setting with a little echo and I started playing this guitar riff. I liked it and recorded it on my phone and then later built a demo around it. One thing Styx is good about is talking about things you’re going through in life. No matter what the subject is, there’s always a human element to it. That’s when I realized this was something Styx could do.
What can you tell me about “Gone Gone Gone”?
SHAW: That was another dressing-room idea. James Young is one of these guys where you always have to pay attention when he first puts his guitar on, because a lot of times he’ll spew these amazing ideas out when he’s warming up. It’s like they come out of thin air. He had been playing this riff for a few days, and I finally asked him to show me how to play it. So, we started playing it together and then Lawrence walked into the room and he said, “Alright, somebody make this into a song!” We knew all along that this had to be the [album’s] opening song. It’s the perfect way to open the album and start the show.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Tommy Shaw and JY Young Here