Mention the band Toto and the distinctive sound of their 1982 hit single, Africa comes to mind.

The opening riff's brassy sound coupled with the line, "I hear the drums echoing tonight" conjures up memories.

Yet 36 years after the initial release, and more than four decades since forming, the American rock band has no thoughts of slowing down. Just ask founding member and guitarist Steve Lukather.

Read more: Full house: 120,000 people expected to flock to concerts and cricket
The legendary TOTO is coming to New Zealand


Speaking to Hawke's Bay Today from Kansas City, ahead of his band's Napier gig on January 10, the 60-year-old is doing just that, spending his brief time off touring with fellow music royalty Ringo Starr.

"We are having fun with all sorts of different weird things in our life, the way life is done and we are very grateful and fortunate to have all this happen to us at this particular time in our life. We are ready for it."

His life has arguably come full circle. From listening to the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show as a "single-digit young boy" to now working with some of the band's legends, he is
living his childhood dream.

"I mean what are the odds of a kid from North Hollywood, Los Angeles, going the distance and being part of the 50th anniversary is something. That's the reason why I started playing music in the first place."

His first ever memoir, jointly written by himself and acclaimed author Paul Rees, is titled The Gospel According To Luke and will be released worldwide on September 18.

"I went through a two year period making this book and I had to cut out a whole bunch from it and some other things from lawsuits and stuff so I had to be careful. It was a trip," he laughed.

Since he began his career as a young teenager in America, writing songs with his childhood friends, Lukather believes music has ventured far from its roots.

"It's become more background noise to multitasking then it was when I was a kid. When a new record came out; the world would stop that day and we would sit in somebody's house - whoever had the best stereo system - and sit in the middle of the two speakers and listen and discuss and listen again and go over the album notes and get out the guitar and start playing it, and discuss and play some more. Music was everything. Now it is just not as important as it used to be.


"When I was growing up where everyone was trying to outdo each other by being more outrageous and sounding more different, now there is a homogeneous sameness to it all."

When asked what song means the most to him, he is at a loss for words. And with countless albums to date and a collection of songs that could take days to listen to, it is not an easy decision.

"Wow man, you're talking about 450 songs or something like that. It is like a gigantic book, or encyclopedia.

"From recording our first demos in January 1977; I remember the date, to present day, everything we have been through; emotionally, spiritually, the good, bad and ugly of life, the highs, the lows, the losses, the gains - all the s**t we took for lack of a better word and we are still here.

"I just think that there is something that keeps us together, to keep doing what we're doing. I can't really put my finger on it other than each record is like a little snapshot of my life at that particular moment, the way I play, the way I sound, the way I wrote, the way I sing, I can hear it.

For their soon-to-be-released All In Limited-Edition Box Set on October 12, Lukather reminisces on how they listened to each album in chronological order.

"It was very enlightening and we laughed a lot, we shed a few tears and remembered a lot of stuff in a lot of different ways.

"There was a certain realisation of the body of work at the end of it and we just looked at each other like we really did all of that. There were only a few things that made us wince real bad but most of it was like yeah this stuff is pretty good, especially considering the era and when we re-mastered it, it sounds like we remixed the whole thing.

"It's got so much more energy, you hear parts you couldn't hear before and it really kind of gave us a reinvigorated energy to come back out and do the old material, plus write some new stuff."

It is not the first time Lukather has been to New Zealand, having graced the stage in the 90s and early 2000 and he is eager to come back.

"You kidding me? It's been way too long. We are ready to come down and rip it open and looking forward to seeing some old friends, making some new friends ... We get to kind of do the best of both worlds and play in front a lot of different kinds of people which I think is going to be great both sides of the fence."

However, this time, he hopes to spend more time exploring the different areas of the country.

"I'm hoping to have a little bit more time to go around the country, so I get to see what the real beauty of your country is all about."

His career is littered with high points that the humble musician finds hard to comprehend.

When asked what he hopes to be remembered as, he quips, "I was a good father, I was a nice guy, pretty good guitar player and funny as hell."

Toto will perform at Church Road Winery, Napier, on January 10.