In The Style Of Steve Lukather

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

Today we meet on the road a man who would be legendary simply because of the fact that he has played live with artists such as Paul McCartney, Ringo, and Aretha Franklin, for having recorded guitar work on the best records of Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Donna Summer, or for having cut and shared phrasing with some of his 6-string friends like Eric Clapton, Chet Atkins, and Carlos Santana... with just this small sample of his resumé, we can see that we are talking about a real boss in the business, but he also decided to form a band that has sold more than 40 million albums, called Toto. Today we are talking about one of the most complete guitarists in the last 40 years: Steve Lukather.    

He began his professional career back in the late 70s with a Gibson ES-335
plugged directly into a Fender Deluxe Reverb Blackface. But of course we were at the 80s doorstep and that signal so classic to begin with would have to be complimented with a good arsenal of effects which, as Lukather himself keeps reminding everyone  so that people don’t keep harping on it, was exactly what the producers of the day asked him for: more processed sounds.

Later we will talk about those sounds and the pedals he used to get them, but first we will unpack the collection of guitars that have passed through his hands and the ones we have heard on his records. He has always considered himself a Les Paul man, and that is why his first 2 guitars were a
1971 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe and a ‘58 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. Indeed it didn’t take him long to obtain a Gibson Les Paul Standard from 1960, which according to him he sold recently for a fortune, and we can’t leave out his own Gibson Les Paul Standard ‘burst’ from 1959, that some people say he baptised as ‘Rosanna Burst’.

And that’s that as far as his ‘collector’ guitars, not too many now because he has sold quite a lot over the years, Why commit such sacrilege? Well because the people at Music Man
made him very happy with his own customised model: the Ernie Ball Music Man Luke model and the Ernie Ball Music Man LIII. As he himself describes this hybrid of a Strat with a Les Paul with which he has been feeling quite at home for many years.

Now for those effects that we’ve left on the shelf. Most of the bad reviews he has received over the years, especially since the 80s started to fall from fashion (it’s a matter of time that they will be back again), are focused on that his sounds were always based on adding more and more effects to a clean signal shaped by guitar and amp, an opinion we agree with although it might unfair to get involved in this now that 35 years have passed since those sounds screamed at us... If there is a general purge of the sounds of the ‘80s’ tit should at least start with the producer who decided that the drums had to be electronic and sampled; Lukather, with a lot or little effect, at least played like the devil. Some of the effects we can find on his pedalboard are: the MXR Uni-Vibe, the Toneconcepts Distillery Luke, the Boss FV-500L, the Xotic SP, the Strymon Bluesky, the Tc Electronics Flash Back, the Gurus Echosex 2, the Strymon Lex, and the Digitech Hardwir DL-8.  

The amp we saw him use in these last few years, with nothing less than 3 heads onstage is the Bogner Ecstacy 101B.

We return to the eternal debate about vintage or new once again. Steve Lukather has it clear; he supports the sound with the latest generation of gear and leaves the old junk at home... although in this particular case and knowing the sound that has always characterised Lukather’s best, it doesn’t surprise us much that he keeps trying new pedals that are on the market. It was always part of his signature.