Dennis DeYoung says goodbye by going back to where it all began

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Latest news heard here first at American songwriter: Dennis DeYoung goes back on his promise that his recently released album 26 East, Vol. 2 will be his last. However, he has one condition: “I will make another album if Beviglia buys 250,000 of the latter,” he promises. “I got my prize.”

Okay, maybe this writer doesn’t have the financial means to deal with DeYoung’s condition. But rest assured, this is no retirement for DeYoung, who will continue to tour and occasionally release new songs as he writes them. If this is the last long-running statement from the former Styx frontman, 26 East, Vol. 2 is a truly grandiose way out, an intoxicating mix of anthemic rockers, touching ballads and, yes, even some proggy depth like the early days.

In a sprawling interview, DeYoung recounts American songwriter how much the outpouring of support he received for the two volumes of 26 East (the first one came out last year) meant for him. “First and foremost, all the people who aspire to do these things, to try to get the approval that they never thought they would get from one or both of their parents, or whoever raised them, to try to fill a need or a hole in themselves, be it real or imagined, ”he says. “Seeking the approval, the reinforcement, the love they never felt. And that is why people aspire to great heights.

“Without fans, you are in your basement. It’s that easy for me. I don’t think I have consciously treated a fan in a mean way in my life when they first met me. I do my best to be aware that without their support I’m a frustrated school teacher and musician and a guy who sits all day wondering why he never got what he thought deserve life. These people have erased all these thoughts from my mind, which is a huge thing. “

DeYoung originally believed he was only going to make one grand finale until his record label owner requested a follow-up. This caused him to rethink how he would distribute the material he had in the hopper.

“I have had seven songs written, recorded and mixed from Volume 1, “he said.” I had to split them up. I had to keep some songs that I thought were wonderful from the first album, because you couldn’t preview them. I didn’t want to read these reviews: ‘Dennis’ 2nd volume, he should have stopped after Volume 1. ‘ So I divided them. And this is just a guessing game. Then I wrote four songs during the pandemic. All I was trying to do, and that’s all I ever did, was just write the best song in the allotted time.

“The subject of music: He’s an old jerk who won’t talk to you in twenty years. He won’t say, “Don’t wait for the heroes. Because I said that when I was young. Now I will think about it. I will try to put into music and words the things that I believe I have learned and the things that are still a mystery to which I will never know the answers. That’s all I tried to do. And I thought it would be nice to have some good melodies.

Love songs have always been one of DeYoung’s strong points, and they are well represented on Flight. 2, although he insists that only one on the album was written to pay tribute to Suzanne, his wife for over 50 years. “’Your Saving Grace’, although dedicated to my wife, it’s not a love song,” he explains. “My wife saved me at a time when I needed to be saved. But when I wrote this song, it was dedicated to the concept of a higher power. It can be taken both ways. We want to be saved. We feel small, insignificant, incapable. I sat down to write my take on “Let It Be”. There were a lot of permutations. But my wife played that role for me on Earth.

“Made For Each Other”, however, was written, without a doubt, for his wife. “And I told him it was the last one, so don’t bother me,” he jokes.

DeYoung also tackles the madness of modern humanity on songs like “Little Did We Know” and “Isle Of Misanthrope”. He explains his concerns, especially with regard to social networks: “We are broken. Humanity is broken. I will say it. It’s not social media connectivity. It is anonymity. It allows human beings to act with their worst angels. It’s a global audience.

“I tried to run a campaign that says bring the fight back. You say something, tell me, and I’ll punch you in the face if I don’t like it, and you can hit me back. It will stop this kind of thing. But now there is no more risk. The consequence of action is what all religion is based on. That’s how we keep those big-brained monkeys from killing each other. Now it’s a melee. Technology has made this happen.

Yet DeYoung does not abandon us. “Human beings are such a mysterious bunch,” he marvels. “When people say the dumbest, self-defeating things and lead lives that support these self-defeating tendencies, then turn around and rush into a building that is collapsing or burning to save people they don’t know. It’s too much for my old brain. I find it difficult to put these concepts together.

While most of the material on the album came naturally, DeYoung wrote a mindful track to capture the vibe of Styx’s ambitious origins. “The only song where I said, ‘Ok, I’m going to sit down and do that specifically’ was ‘Isle Of Misanthrope,’ he explains. “Due to Styx’s rather tortured history and my unceremonious outing, it took that fanbase and pulled it apart. You have a small minority in the middle that will say they love both the new and the the old one. And you have camps that seem to hate one or the other. It’s a tragedy for me personally to imagine that Styx fans hate me or hate Tommy (Shaw). That’s one thing. disgusting to live with.

“So I said ‘It’s 1975. What would you do?’ And I wrote ‘Isle Of Misanthrope.’ From Wooden Nickel records and the first four A&M albums. I went there and did that.

DeYoung went even further on “Hello Goodbye”, paying homage to the Beatles while also referencing his early musical fumbles with brothers (and future members of the Styx) Chuck and John Panozzo. “That’s how it went, 26 East,” he said, referring to their roots in Roseland, Illinois. “This basement. Three people. Me playing the accordion. Chuck was hardly a guitarist. And John was a good drummer. We were there. That’s how it turned into this thing.

And to come full circle, DeYoung closes this one album swan song with “GIF”, which is essentially a brief cover of Styx’s classic “The Grand Illusion”. He was struck by how these words, written about 45 years ago, fit the present occasion. “What I’m saying there, ‘Deep down inside we are all the same’, these are the last words I sing in my recorded career,” he says. “I couldn’t make up my mind to do better. “

As for his former band, who still have an active recording and touring career, DeYoung just wants some fans to stop trying to pit one entity against the other. “I’ve said this from the start, when I first saw this kind of thing happen in the 2000s, when the fan base was just going after other people,” he says. “I asked them please stop doing this. It’s heartbreaking for me. Look forward to the music we have created. We all know that the music we love is created by imperfect people. These are the things they are trying to create, they are trying to rearrange the world and their little part to make it perfect.

“Styx is a four letter word. That’s all it is now for me. It has come to represent too many things, in my opinion. It’s just a word. It’s a legal term now. The only thing fans should care about, whether I’m creating it or others are creating it, is the music. Put all the other stuff aside. If you hear something that I’m doing that you love or that they are doing that you love, that’s all you need to know. After all, our goal has always been to make people happy.

DeYoung is also happy that his music, both old and new, means so much to so many people, even though those meanings sometimes diverge from his original intention. “We played ‘Come Sail Away’ at my father’s funeral,” he says. “And when I wrote it, I couldn’t imagine it was a funeral song. It was a song about desire and hope. Is there a bigger compliment for choosing this song for someone you love as they take the next step? I can’t think about it.

“You sometimes read fan comments on YouTube and say, ‘Well that’s completely wrong,’” he laughs. “But then you stop and say it doesn’t matter. Because it’s not mine, it’s theirs.

Photo by Kristie Mayfair Schram

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